Posted by: nancycurteman | November 17, 2020

An Irishman Worked on the Harlem Lyft Bridge

When I visited Cushendun, Northern Ireland to learn about the setting for my novel, Murder on the Emerald Isle, I met many wonderful people. One of them, John Robbin, recently sent me a story about his Great Grandfather. He thought this story might interest me because I’m setting my new novel in Harlem, New York. Here is his piece.

My great Grandfather, William Robbin’s nickname was “Oul’ Harlem.” He was allegedly a member of the “Invincibles,” the elite wing of the IRB, (The Irish Republican Brotherhood) the forerunners of the IRA. The goal of the secret IRB was to establish an independent Irish  Republic. This group was responsible for the “Phoenix Park Murders” and were ruthlessly hunted by the authorities. Through the use of informers those guilty were found and executed. Anger at the informers, the remaining “Invincibles” then went worldwide looking for the informers. It is believed my great grandfather was sent to New York to search for the informers among the Irish people living there.

While in New York, my great grandfather worked on the erection of the Harlem Lyft Bridge before returning to Ireland.He only told his story in his later years. He died in 1933 when my father was about 14 years old. He was I believe 79 years old. My grandfather ( Oul Harlem’s son) died in 1922 at age 34 leaving 3 children, my father and two girls so I think my great grandfathe was a strong influence on my father although he passed when my father was still young. I’m sure my great grandfather would have had a lot of stories to tell.

I really enjoyed learning about the IRB and about the role of John Robbin’s great grandfather in the construction of the famous Harlem Lyft Bridge.  Special appreciation to John Robbin for sharing this story.


  1. Like to read Nancy Curteman’s comments. I have always read her comments. I look forward to reading more,


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