The History of the Celtic Hawaiians

The Irish, Scottish, and Welsh, or the Celts, have had a long standing place in the history of Hawaii. In all good fact, there were Celts aboard Captain Cook’s ships. There were also plenty of Ulster Irish, and other Celtic sub groups on other British vessels which arrived in the early days. As more sailors got to know the friendliness of the Islands, they decided to stay and make Hawaii their home. Sadly, we did not hear the lessons of the Huna in those days, and make more of an attempt to know our ancestory. There were no official records kept of who the first Celts were on the Islands. I do know some of my own clan Campbell came many years ago, but we’ll get to that part of the story later.

If you talk to the old Islanders, they can tell you stories of Irish and Scottish people on the islands. In fact, there is even a recorded hula about an Irish-Hawaiian, named Lola O”Brien. I have always founds that find of interesting.

One of the biggest Celtic names in the Islands were the Lewers. Most people who have ever roamed the streets of Waikiki know the street that bears his name, because it runs down to the hotels on the beach. It used to just be called Lewers Road. It went from Alakaua Ave to the home of Robert Lewers. The very posh Halekolani Hotel now stands there. Lewers and Cooke was a big building supply house for years here. Mr. Lewers also holds other interests in the islands.

All right, I cannot take it any longer. It’s time to talk about the Campbells for a moment. Clan Campbell and Mitchell/Galbraith are my ties to the Celtic Nations. James Campbell first landed in Hawaii in 1849, and went into the sugar cane business. He also started a business for artesian wells. You can imagine the excitement that caused in a land that has always had to conserve fresh water. The Campbell family also owned a lot of land to the east and north of Pearl Harbor, and in other areas of the islands, like Maui. In fact, James Campbell married Maui royalty.

Some of the other prominent Celtic people I know of are George Lucas, who founded Honolulu Planning LTD. Francis Hits Swanzy, who headed Theo H. Davies and Company, was from Dublin, Ireland. John Huges, who managed the Oahu Railway and Land Co. for years is also Irish.

Let me add one Irish American to this list also, ya ya. Let me tell you, that Celtic pride still runs deep in the States. Roy C. Kelley came to Hawaii from Highland, California. He was a graduate of the University of Southern California, where he studied to be an architect. He came in 1929 with his wife Estelle. He built his first apartment complex in Hawaii in 1932, during the start of the Depression. Despite the economic hard times, he parlayed his fortune into a family business that included 15 hotels. But his real genius was provided beautiful hotel rooms to people who could not pay top dollar. By adjusting to the times of the Depression, he started a whole new cost conscious travel industry in Hawaii. Mahalo Roy.

Finally, you need to check out the Sons of Erin that still put on a ball and parade in Honolulu each year. They are called the Society of the Friends of St. Patrick. They are a philanthropic and social group that celebrates the Irish side of the Islands. It’s a bleeding shame that Michener didn’t include this group in his novel.

Let me leave you with this wonderful old set of Irish sayings “Slainte chugat. Sin sin, níl aon scéal eile agam.” It means Good health to you. That’s it. I don’t have any other story!

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