Irish America February / March 2013

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Celebrating 2013 – Derry City of Culture Green-Wood The Last Resting Place of Many Famous Irish Death of Irish Boy Brings About Medical Changes Joe Kennedy’s Hollywood Years The Genealogy Detective Reveals All Brigid: Ireland’s Red-Headed Saint

Day Lewis -

as Abraham Lincoln

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promising Ireland for over 35 years The American Ireland Fund has supported innovative work that preserves Irish culture, counters sectarianism, advances education, strengthens community development and cares for those in need. Today, our Promising Ireland Campaign seeks to raise $140 million for Irish charities by the end of 2013. With charities facing increased demand for services with fewer resources, your support is needed more than ever. So far, over 350 outstanding projects and organizations have received support from the Promising Ireland Campaign. Please join us in Promising Ireland.

We invite you to learn about giving back to the land that has given us so much. Please visit

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Contents February / March 2013 Vol. 28 No. 2




George Bellows and the Ashcan school of artists used many Irish as subjects. By Tom Deignan.

30 CITY OF CULTURE Derry / Londonderry is the UK City of Culture for 2013. Mary Pat Kelly takes a look back at the city’s troubled past and people who refused to give up hope “of a bright new day.”

Celebrity chef Rachel Allen answers questions about her life and work. By Patricia Harty.

58 JOE KENNEDY IN HOLLYWOOD Tom Deignan examines David Nasaw’s book The Patriarch, with an eye to Kennedy’s time in Hollywood.

66 IRELAND’S RED-HAIRED SAINT Saint Brigid was an early Irish feminist and a master brewer, writes Sláinte/Good Cheer columnist Edythe Preet.

34 PORTRAYING LINCOLN Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the greatest actors of our time, as his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s latest biopic shows. Between roles? It’s all about his family. Interview by Patricia Danaher.

68 MY MOTHER THE IMPOSTER Dermot McEvoy does some genealogical sleuthing and discovers his mother was not who he thought she was. He also gives tips on making your own ancestral search easier.

39 GREEN-WOOD CEMETERY From actors to Civil War heroes, many important Irish have been laid to rest in Brooklyn’s famous Green-Wood Cemetery. By Michael Burke.

72 PHOTO ALBUM Patrick Cashin, Jr. discovered a recording made by his father and decided to make a documentary.

48 RORY’S LEGACY How the parents of Rory Staunton, who died of sepsis at age 12, are helping ensure that no other child is felled by this fatal infection. By Kelly Fincham.

52 THE ROOTS DETECTIVE Megan Smolenyak, the genealogist behind such important discoveries as President Obama’s Irish roots and the real identity of Annie Moore, the first immigrant to pass through Ellis Island, talks to Sheila Langan.


First Word Readers Forum Hibernia Irish Eye on Hollywood

62 64 70 74

Books Music Roots Crossword

Cover Photo: Courtesy of Dreamworks

- Guided Factory Tour - Opulent Retail Store - The World’s largest collection of Waterford Crystal

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House of Waterford Crystal The Mall, Waterford City, Ireland Call:+353 (0)51 317 000 E: W:

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{the first word} By Patricia Harty

Finding the Way “First determine that the thing can and shall be done and then we shall find the way.” – Abraham Lincoln s we go to press, we learn that Lincoln received 12 Oscar nominations – more than any other film this year. It’s timely then, that we feature Daniel Day-Lewis on our cover. Day-Lewis is an incredible actor who first came to prominence in a triumph-overadversity movie called My Left Foot, the story of Christy Brown. A Dubliner afflicted with cerebral palsy, despite only being able to move his left foot, Christy Brown became a writer and artist. I won’t spoil Patricia Danaher’s in-depth interview with Day-Lewis by revealing too much here, but it’s enough to say that his portrayal of President Lincoln is such that you forget that there’s an actor involved. You become fully immersed in the drama as the 16th President methodically fights to pass the 13th Amendment, which would abolish slavery. In Lincoln’s day, the amendment was immensely unpopular and faced fierce opposition, but looking back we see that it was necessary. He did what was right. He did what was hard. On January 31, 1865, the 13th Amendment was passed by the House, and soon the bloodiest war in America’s history would be over. Over 650,000 soldiers died during the four years of the conflict, and a fair share of them were Irish. Michael Burke, in his story on Green-Wood Cemetery, introduces us to such colorful Civil War heroes as “Fighting Tom,” General Tom Sweeny from County Cork, and others. We cannot look at our history without marveling at the human spirit. The Irish too were enslaved, Denis O’Brien, founder of Digicel, reminded us in his address at our annual Business 100 awards in December. Thousands of young men and women were sold into slavery by Oliver Cromwell and transported to the Caribbean to work on the sugar and tobacco plantations. In another triumph-over-tragedy story, Mary Pat Kelly writes that Derry City, a place that suffered much during the Troubles, is enjoying “a brand new day” because people put aside their grievances and worked together to make it so. President Lincoln was himself no stranger to tragedy, but he didn’t allow it to lessen his resolve. He deeply mourned the loss of his son Willie, who died at age 11 of typhoid fever. “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth. God has called him home. I know that he is much better off in heaven, but then we loved him so. It is hard, hard to have him die!” he is recorded as having said. It was the second loss of a child for the Lincolns – an elder son had died the year Willie was born.



The grief of losing a child is untenable. Yet, in a story by Kelly Fincham, we see how the parents of one child, Rory Staunton, focused their grief on changing medical procedures so that other children would not suffer the same fate as their 12-year-old son, death by misdiagnosis. “Redemptive truth telling,” Jim Dwyer, who has written about Rory’s case in the New York Times, calls the Stauntons’ campaign. The death of children was very much on our minds during the holidays as we grappled with the horrific massacre of 20 schoolchildren and six adults gunned down by a mentally disturbed man in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14. Since that incident, 400 Americans have died from gunshot wounds. Just two days before Christmas, another man with an assault rifle, a former prisoner who had served time for killing his grandmother, a man who should not have had access to weapons, burned down his house and shot and killed two volunteer firefighters who arrived to put out the blaze. Yet, despite all of these deaths, the country is deeply divided on the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms, with strong emotions on both sides. We have to get through these recent tragedies to a place where senseless assaults can’t happen any more. In the coming days, President Obama and his team have to face down some tough opposition to changing the gun laws. Vice President Joe Biden, as we go to press, is meeting with the very powerful National Rifle Association, who are against tightening the laws on gun control. In addressing the 2nd amendment, we need our political leaders to do what is right, though it be hard. President Lincoln too had many challenges to overcome, including a House divided, before the 13th amendment was passed. Now is the time for fearless leadership. Lincoln changed the course of American history, and the leaders of this generation can do so too. In his words: “First determine that the thing can and shall be done and then we shall find the way.” Instead of participating in an endless debate about whether the gun lobby is too strong, whether the house is too divided, we should look to Lincoln’s example and press forward – recognizing the obstacles, but not permitting them to keep us from making progress. One hundred and fifty years down the line, this will be seen as the necessary moment of our time. The future and the past demand nothing less of us. Mórtas Cine.

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{readers forum} Irish Power & Irish Concern: Denis O’Brien I am very impressed with the person Denis O’Brien is. I was lucky enough to attend the luncheon where he was honored. His way of speaking was informative yet humble, relaxed and funny. He mentioned how the Irish happened to be in the Caribbean – sent out as slaves in the 1600s by Oliver Cromwell to work on the sugar plantations. He’s a great citizen of the world!

I too took a bus tour after many trips to Ireland as a relative, etc. I thoroughly enjoyed the bus for the same reasons you did – no driving down narrow roads on the wrong side left me time to finish my pint. Will you release your song? I’m set with my iTunes ID and/or cash the day it goes on sale. Wonderfully written, I enjoyed your piece. Francis X. Malone Posted online January 2

Irene McLaughlin Narissi Posted online January 8

Arthur Conan Doyle’s Irish Mystery

Girls on a Bus

Tom Deignan investigated the Sherlock Holmes author’s Irish roots

Sheila Langan and Tara Dougherty’s tour of Ireland

The Irish background of Arthur Conan Doyle is explained in great detail – sometimes laborious detail – in The Quest For Sherlock Holmes, a biographical study of ACD by Owen Dudley Edwards. (Penguin Books, 1984.) Terry McGregor Posted on Facebook January 7

Business 100

View from the front of a CIE coach on the Ring of Kerry.

That [story] was absolutely beautiful. Your descriptions were perfect, and I appreciated seeing Ireland through your eyes. It sounds like you had a wonderful trip. I wish you both the best of luck, and many returns to Eire. Jane Grier Habel Posted online December 14

Thoroughly enjoyed reading about your trip. Connected with the experience as a local who has lived, worked, traveled and enjoyed the same roads. Reminds me in an odd way of similar encounters with equally interesting folk on a one-time visit to the US to connect with emigrated roots, in a reverse type scenario. Nicely worded, nice photos. Brendan Connors Posted online December 31

I’m Irish and I want to take that CIE tour just because of the way you wrote up about it, [the] great details of every place you went to, and how you enjoyed it. Hope you come back with more friends next time and give them the experience. Glad you enjoyed it. Fintan McCormack Posted online January 1 8 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013

Rowan Gillespie’s sculptures.

One of the many letters received from Business 100 honorees: Thank you for the wonderful Irish America 2012 Business 100 recognition. I am very proud of my Irish heritage – my mother’s parents and my father’s grandparents were all from Ireland. My mom and I had a fabulous visit to Ireland this summer. I feel very much at home when I am in Ireland. Continued success with Irish America – you make us very proud! Cathy Coughlin Senior Executive Vice President and Global Marketing Officer, AT&T

Visit us online at to leave your comments, or write to us: Send a fax (212-244-3344), e-mail ( or write to Letters, Irish America Magazine, 875 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 201, New York, NY 10001. Letters should include the writer’s name, address and phone number and may be edited for clarity and length.

The Four Irish Nobel Laureates Rowan Gillespie’s busts of Yeats, Shaw, Beckett and Heaney at Boston College: Saw them in person. Impressive. David. Posted online January 9

Corrections: In the June/July issue, the obituary for Murray Lender, former CEO of Lender’s Bagels and vice chairman of the board of trustees of Quinnipiac University, was mistakenly accompanied by a photograph of his younger brother, Marvin, who survives him. Both Lender brothers were instrumental in helping Quinnipiac’s president Dr. John Lahey begin the school’s Ireland’s Great Hunger Special Collection, and, last year, create a permanent home for the Famine art and artifacts at the Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum near Quinnipiac’s campus in Hamden, CT. In the December/January issue, the map of Irish-American senators, congressmen and governors who won in the 2012 election did not include officials at the state level. Irish America has since learned that Ellen Corbett, Democratic Majority Leader for the California State Senate, representing the 10th district, is of Irish descent. Senator Corbett prepares the state resolution to see March recognized as Irish-American Heritage Month.



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Vol.28 No.2 • February / March 2013


Michael Burke

Pride In Our Heritage

Founding Publisher: Niall O’Dowd Co-Founder/Editor-inChief: Patricia Harty Vice President of Marketing: Kate Overbeck Art Director: Marian Fairweather Deputy Editor: Sheila Langan Copy Editor: John Anderson Advertising & Events Coordinator & Music Editor: Tara Dougherty Editorial Assistants: Adam Farley Michelle Meagher Director of Special Projects: Turlough McConnell

IRISH AMERICA 875 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 201, New York NY 10001 TEL: 212-725-2993 FAX: 212-244-3344

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Irish America Magazine ISSN 0884-4240) © by Irish America Inc. Published bi-monthly. Mailing address: P.O. Box 1277, Bellmawr, NJ 08099-5277. Editorial office: 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 201, New York, NY 10001. Telephone: 212-725-2993. Fax: 212-244-3344 E-mail: Subscription rate is $21.95 for one year. Subscription orders: 1-800-582-6642. Subscription queries: 1-800-582-6642, (212) 725-2993, ext. 150. Periodicals postage paid at New York and additional mailing offices. Postmaster please send address changes to Irish America Magazine, P.O. Box 1277, Bellmawr, NJ 08099-5277. IRISH AMERICA IS PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.

Michael Burke recently finished writing a biography of Irish-born writer Fitz-James O’Brien, who was killed in the U.S. Civil War in 1862. He is presently doing research for a biography of Irish-born sculptor Launt Thompson, and is continuing his work on the Irish buried in GreenWood Cemetery. A funeral director in Brooklyn, NY, Michael has been going to Green-Wood for many years. His grandparents were born in Galway and Mayo and came to the United States in the early twentieth century.

Patricia Danaher Patricia Danaher, who interviews Daniel Day-Lewis in this issue, is a writer, journalist and producer based in Los Angeles. She is the only Irish member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and has a vote in the Golden Globes. A longtime political correspondent for UTV, she was awarded a Nieman Fellowship to Harvard University for stories which she broke regarding the Northern Ireland peace process. Patricia's first novel Beyond Belief is published this Spring by Precidio.

Tom Deignan For over a decade, Tom Deignan has written the weekly “Sidewalks” column for The Irish Voice newspaper. He also writes about movies and history for Irish America, and is a monthly columnist and a regular book reviewer for the Newark Star-Ledger and America magazine.

Kelly Fincham Kelly Fincham teaches journalism at Hofstra University in Long Island, where she specializes in social and digital media. A long-time journalist, she has worked in the U.S., Ireland and Australia for 30 years, and was the founding editor at IrishCentral. She became friends with the Staunton family when she worked with The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, founded by Niall O’Dowd and Ciaran Staunton. In this issue she writes about the death of Staunton’s son, Rory, to sepsis, and Ciaran’s mission to change the way hospitals approach the deadly infection.

Mary Pat Kelly Mary Pat Kelly is the author of the historical novel Galway Bay, which is currently being made into a mini-series. Mary Pat wrote and directed the feature film Proud, which focuses on the USS Mason, the first U.S. Navy ship with a predominantly African American crew. She writes about Derry in this issue.




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Pakistani Schoolgirl Activist Wins Tipperary International Peace Award


alala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old Pakistani girl who survived a violent attack by Taliban gunmen in retaliation for her advocacy of girls’ education, is the recipient of the 2012 Tipperary International Peace Award. Yousafzai, a native of the Swat Valley region of Pakistan, gained prominence in 2009 after writing a blog for BBC Urdu chronicling her experience of the Taliban’s ban on girls’ schooling in the Swat Valley. She has since become a noted youth activist, serving as chairperson of the District Child Assembly Swat and receiving Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize. In October, Malala sustained two near-fatal gunshot wounds to the head and neck on her way home from school. After initial care in Pakistan, she was airlifted to the UK for intensive rehabilitation. Yousafzai was discharged from Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham on January 4, and will undergo cranial reconstructive surgery in early February. She and her family are likely to remain in the UK.

Granted annually by the Tipperary Peace Convention, the Tipperary International Peace Award has previously recognized South African president Nelson Mandela, former US president Bill Clinton, and former prime minister of Pakistan the late Benazir Bhutto, and most recently, former President of Ireland Mary McAleese and her husband, Senator Martin McAleese. A date for Yousafzai's award ceremony has yet to be confirmed. In a release, the Tipperary Peace Convention praised Malala’s bravery, stating that “her courage has proved to be an inspiration around the globe.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Indian Congress Leader Sonia Gandhi were among the five other 2012 finalists. Malala is youngest person ever to receive the award. “The right to education is denied to 61 million children of primary school age around the world and the hopes of these children are represented by the courage, determination and by the voice of Malala Yousafzai,” the convention’s release continued. “The Taliban tried and failed to silence her and have instead amplified her voice.” 10 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013

AS IRISH EMIGRATION GROWS, VISA APPLICATIONS INCREASE reland is experiencing levels of emigration unheard of since the Great Famine. According to a study by the Irish Independent, 87,000 people left the country in the twelve months before April 2012 – more than half of them Irish nationals. This amounts to more than 200 people leaving Ireland each day. The greatest number – 16,000 – went to Britain, while the percentage of emigrants bound for Australia and New Zealand increased dramatically. The number of emigrants to Australia increased 33 percent, to 4,938, and the number of work visas New Zealand awarded to Irish people – 4,564 – was up 40 percent from four years ago. Canada issued some 5,293 work visas to Irish people last year, while 662 Irish were granted permanent status. According to the US Office of Immigration Statistics, in 2011, 17,143 Irish people and their families were given temporary work permits (up from 14,000 the year before) and 1,533 Irish qualified for permanent resident status. As the diaspora grows, Ireland diversifies. The country saw a six percent rise in the number of foreigners applying for visas in 2012. Ninety-one percent of the approximately 88,000 applications were approved, with the majority of applicants from India, Russia, China, Nigeria and Turkey. Over 25,000 citizenship cases were decided in 2012, and nearly 115,000 nonEuropean nationals were granted permission to stay in Ireland.The country received 950 requests for asylum – a significant decrease from a high of 11,600 in 2002. There were 2,700 deportations in 2011, 2,260 of which took place at points of entry into Ireland.


Dublin Airport



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{news from ireland} By Sheila Langan

Ireland Begins Six-Month EU Presidency T he New Year marked the start of Ireland’s six-month presidency of the Council of the European Union. The transition began with a ceremony at Dublin Castle on New Year’s Eve, at which Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Táiniste Eamon Gilmore and Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton laid out Ireland’s agenda for the months ahead. Kenny emphasized that the presidency offers Ireland a prime chance to strengthen bonds within the EU, and that it would bring “new hope, new possibility, new confidence to our people. “The Irish presidency in 2013 will be about three crucial words: stability, jobs and growth,” he said, outlining Ireland’s focus for the presidency. “There are real actions to back up those three words. We will be in the business of solution, a recovery country, driving recovery in Europe.” Ireland last held the presidency, which rotates between the EU member countries twice each year, in 2004, in a markedly different financial climate both nationally and throughout the European Union. It was a time of possibility and expansion for the EU, as 10 new countries – Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia – were granted entry into the Union. This time around, only Croatia will have its final monitoring

BELFAST ROCKED BY UNION JACK PROTESTS oyalist protesters in Belfast have been marching against the City Council’s decision that the United Kingdom’s flag, the Union Jack, will no longer be flown above City Hall year-round. The decision, reached by a council vote on December 3, came from a compromise motion proposed by the centrist Alliance Party that the Union Jack would be flown on 17 designated days – including birthdays of the royal family. Nationalists had wanted the flag to be permanently removed from City Hall; loyalists wanted to continue flying it daily. Loyalists have protested most nights since the decision. Despite calls for peaceful action, many have wielded hatchets, sledge hammers and gasoline bombs, and children as young as 10 have been involved in attacks on members of the police force, who have responded with plastic bullets and water cannons. As of January 7, 52 police officers were injured and close to 100 protesters had been arrested. Alliance party members and one journalist reported receiving death threats in the mail. An editorial in the Belfast Telegraph spoke to the general reaction throughout the city: “The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland want no part of this violence. They have endured too much to see the fragile peace snatched away from them.”


report reviewed in anticipation of its accession to the EU in July. Turkey, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia and Serbia will also have a chance to further present their cases for joining. Issues surrounding debt relief, future budgets and the European banking union will loom large, as will questions of trade. As Ireland also recently began its three-year term as part of the European Human Rights Council, human rights strategy is set for the agenda. With the 2015 target for the Millennium Development Goals drawing nearer, the goals will be the subject of an international conference in Dublin in April. The Irish government plans to spend €60 million over the six month period – over one-third less than it spent during the 2004 presidency. It will chair approximately 1,600 meetings of the EU council, 180 of which will take place in Ireland. The government was quick to assert that only buildings it owns will be used, in order to avoid unnecessary costs. The presidency coincides with the 40th anniversary of Ireland’s accession to the EU, or the European Economic Community, as it was called in 1973.

QUIET MAN PUB FOR SALE at Cohan’s bar in Cong, Co. Mayo, where John Wayne and Victor McLaglen brawled and raised pints in John Ford’s The Quiet Man, was recently put up for sale.The asking price is €300,000, and auctioneer Vincent Walsh informed the Irish Independent that the majority of interest thus far is from overseas – the US and the UK in particular. The bar’s current owner is said to be in poor health and eager to sell. Though it moonlighted as the local watering hole in Ford’s 1952 film, until 2008 the space was actually a small, family-run shop. It was purchased in 2004 and opened under new management as a pub in 2008. One unnamed source explained that while many of the film’s devoted fans visit Pat Cohan’s, relatively few stay for a drink.“A lot of film fans who go into Pat Cohan’s don’t spend any money,” he said.“Tourists and fans of the movie often go in, take a few photos, maybe use the bathroom and then leave without buying a pint. And that just doesn’t pay the bills.”





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Emerald: The Color of the New Year



t’s official, the Emerald Isle wins 2013. For the next 12 months, the national color of Hibernia has a new status as the Pantone Color Institute’s 2013 Color of the Year. Called Emerald 17-5641, the color will, according to trend forecasters, be making a strong debut this year everywhere from Le Creuset’s cookery to J. Crew’s jewelry. For an island tempered by its past, Ireland is apparently forever on trend. The transition to 2013’s Emerald from last year’s Color of the Year, a bright orange called Tangerine Tango, nods to the green and orange of the Irish tricolor. In contrast to last year’s choice, aimed at energizing and boosting activity to move forward during a hectic year, the mood of Emerald is said to promote harmony and balance, and to allow more irenic insight. Highlighting Pantone’s choice for 2013, executive director Leatrice Eiseman said in a press release, “As it has throughout history, multifaceted Emerald continues to sparkle and fascinate. Symbolically, Emerald brings a sense of clarity, renewal and rejuvenation, which is so important in today’s complex world.” Just in time for the 2013 Gathering tourism initiative, this announcement puts the spotlight on the Emerald Isle as one of the most verdant destinations, renowned for its multitude of green hues. As Eiseman acknowledged, “Green is the most abundant hue in nature,” and for those heading


Clockwise, from top: Ireland’s lush green landscape; Emerald 17-5641, 2013 Pantone Color of the Year and Tangerine Tango 171463, the 2012 Color of the Year; a green pot from Le Creuset; the Chicago River dyed emerald for St. Patrick’s Day.

home during any part of the year, a tour of the country promises access to the entire spectrum, made famous by Johnny Cash’s hit song “The Forty Shades of Green.” Equally serendipitous for Irish and Irish Americans who may be low on emerald ornament, Pantone has also announced the Sephora + Pantone Universe 2013 Color of the Year beauty collection. The collection is due to hit Sephora stores in the U.S., Sephora in JCP stores, and beginning in March, just in

time for St. Patrick’s Day. The Pantone Color Institute is the global backbone for professional color standards in the design industries, and for more than a decade their Color of the Year has had major impact on which colors appear in fashion, home decor, graphic design and even industrial design. With Emerald as 2013’s Color of the Year, it shouldn’t be surprising if a little more green and lots more attention fly over to Ireland in the months ahead. – A.F.


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Hillary Clinton Visits Ireland and Northern Ireland


Clinton left a heartfelt message in the guest book at Áras an Uachtaráin

s part of one of her last internatimes Ireland faces economically. “The The following day Clinton departed for tional trips as Secretary of State, view from the United States is the Belfast, where she addressed Stormont, Hillary Clinton spent two days in resilience, the hard work, the determinavisited the new Titanic Quarter, and attendIreland at the beginning of December. tion of the Irish people getting up every ed a lunch by the Worldwide Ireland Following visits to Prague and Brussels, day and getting the job done,” she said, Funds, who honored her with a lifetime Clinton landed in Dublin on December 6. and reaffirmed the U.S.’s confidence in its achievement award. Northern Ireland and While in the Irish capital, she Belfast in particular have long participated in the ministerial held a special place in the meeting of the Organization for Secretary of State’s heart since Security and Cooperation in she visited the city in December Europe, delivering a key speech of 1995, one year after the 1994 on U.S. support of human rights ceasefire. Her husband, then action, visited the Áras for a president, was the first U.S. brief meeting with President commander in chief to set foot Michael D. Higgins, spoke with in Northern Ireland. students at Dublin City At the Funds lunch, Clinton University, and gave a joint recalled that visit – one of the press conference with Taoiseach seminal steps in the peace Enda Kenny. process the U.S. would help At the American Embassy in Taoiseach Kenny and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. PHOTO: FINE GAEL broker. “We stood behind a bulDublin, Clinton professed that letproof screen to turn on she was “proud to be here in Ireland, repeconomic partnership with Ireland, highBelfast’s Christmas lights in front of a vast resenting our country and following the lighting the significant fact that U.S. forcrowd that stretched so far I could not even footsteps of President Obama’s incredibly eign investment in Ireland tops $191 bilfind the end of it in any direction,” she successful trip [in 2011].” lion, more than American companies have said. “It was a moment of such hope. With the Taoiseach, she spoke to invested in Brazil, Russia, India, and And it has been that image that has kept America’s appreciation for the difficult China combined. me going through any challenges that have come across my mind when I think about what lies ahead.” At Stormont, standing with First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First n New Years Eve, close to one million revelers gathered in New York’s Times Minister Martin McGuinness, Clinton Square to ring in 2013.The celebration, which was hosted by Allison Hagendorf expressed her dismay at the recent spate of and featured performances by Taylor Swift, “Gangnam Style” singer Psy, and Train, violent protests in Belfast over the decision kicked off at 6:00 p.m., when to fly the Union flag over city hall only on the House of Waterford Crystal special days. “There will always be disRight: The Times Square New Years ball rose to the top of the One agreements in any democratic society,” she Eve ball. Below: Times Square building. said, “but you must not use violence as a Regan Iglesia, vice The crystal ball, which, means of expressing those strong feelings. president of marketdescends along with the count ing at Waterford, The only path forward is a peaceful, demand Waterford down at midnight, is the night’s ocratic one that recognizes the right of othGroup VP, Americas main attraction. A geodesic ers to express their opinions, but not to Michael Craig represphere twelve feet in diameter resort to violence. And there can be no sented the company in Times Square on and weighing 11,875 pounds, it is place in the new Northern Ireland for any New Years Eve. covered with 2,688 Waterford violence.” crystal triangles and lit by In her address at the Funds luncheon, 32,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel Clinton pledged that she would continue to LEDs. Combined, they can support and work with the group in produce a palette of more Northern Ireland once she is a private citithan 16 million vibrant colors zen again. Her term as Secretary of State and billions of patterns. ends with the conclusion of President That’s 2,688 pieces of Irish Obama’s first term in office. With Clinton craftsmanship at the center of back in good health after a blood clot scare one of the world’s largest at the end of December, Northern Ireland New Years celebrations. will surely be taking her up on that offer.

House of Waterford in Times Square





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Brian Kelly Is Coach of the Year


oach Kelly, who led Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish through a perfect season (up until the BCS championship game), was named the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) on December 13. Kelly is the fourth Fighting Irish coach to win the award, following in the footsteps of Ara Parseghian (1964), Lou Holtz (1988) and Charlie Weis (2005). Lenn Robbins, the FWAA president, commended Kelly for his work with the team. “Notre Dame, under Coach Kelly, has returned to national prominence in the college football ranks. This award recognizes that accomplishment for the 2012 season, a season that began with 124 teams vying for an elusive undefeated campaign. Notre Dame was the only bowl-eligible school to accomplish that impressive feat,” he commented. Kelly was selected as the winner among eight finalists: Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, UCLA’s Jim Mora, Penn State’s Bill O’Brien, Georgia’s Mark Richt, Alabama’s Nick Saban, Louisville’s Charlie Strong, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney. Kelly’s Fighting Irish went head-to-head with Saban’s Alabama team in the BCS championship in Miami on January 7, where they encountered an unceremonious end to an otherwise

Brian Kelly, coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

perfect season, losing 14-42. Kelly maintained that despite the disappointment in Miami, the team had come a long way this season, and promised that this was only the beginning. A third-generation Irish American with Boston roots, Kelly worked at Grand Valley State from 1991-2003, Central Michigan from 2004-2006 and Cincinnati from 2007-2009. He was previously named Big East Coach of the Year in 2007, 2008 and 2009, and the American Football Coaches Association Division II Coach of the Year in 2002 and 2003. – S.L.

A Building in Commissioner Kelly’s Name


ew York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly is to have a building at his alma mater Manhattan College named in his honor. The commissioner, the grandson of Irish immigrants, graduated from Manhattan College in 1963. Kelly was the guest of honor at the

building’s groundbreaking ceremony on December 13. The five-story, 70,000 square-foot Raymond W. Kelly ’63 Student Commons, set to open in 2014, will serve as a multi-purpose center. It is the result of a $48 million fundraising campaign, which was launched with a 10million-dollar donation from Kelly’s

The groundbreaking ceremony, with student body president Keelan Ledwidge; Kenneth Rathgeber, chair of the board of trustees; President Brennan O’Donnell; Ray Kelly; Eugene McGrath, chair of the Kelly Student Commons campaign; Development Committee chair Michael Regan; Frederic Salerno, co-chair of the campaign and Professor Lisa Toscano.

classmate Thomas O’Malley, former chairman of the college’s board of trustees and executive chairman of the petroleum supplier PBF Energy Company. Kelly told the New York Post, “There is a grand tradition in America of naming buildings after their benefactors, but it is rare, indeed, that the benefactor provides the single largest gift ever to Manhattan [College] and then suggests that the building be named not after him, but after the police commissioner!” O’Malley explained that Kelly’s work and living legacy of public service is a testament to the college’s emphasis on service. “If we want an example of service to the community, well, he’s the greatest example we can possibly think of,” he said. Commissioner Kelly was inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame, housed in New Ross, Co. Wexford, in March 2012. – S.L. FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013 IRISH AMERICA 15



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{ irish eye on hollywood} By Tom Deignan

Beautiful Creatures, also about a pair of young lovers, explores the consequences of family secrets. Meanwhile, it’s going to be a Happy St. Patrick’s Day for Michael Fassbender, Saoirse Ronan, Dermot Mulroney and Matt O’Leary. All have films opening around March 17.

First there’s Trance, starring Fassbender in addition to James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel and Rosario Dawson. Trance follows a group of thieves who have to figure out what to do when a planned robbery goes bust. Fassbender (who was raised in Kerry by an Irish mother and German father) is becoming one of Hollywood’s hottest leading men. Trance will also be directed by the great Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire), whose parents left Galway for the heavily Irish Catholic neighborhood of Lancashire, England. February 14 is going to be a very “good day” for Irish-born director John Moore. The Dundalk, Louth native – who has directed thrillers such as Behind Enemy Lines (2001), The Omen (2006) and Max Payne (2008) – has directed the latest installment in Bruce Willis’ storied and lucrative Die Hard franchise. The title? A Good Day to Die Hard. This is the fifth film to feature Willis as beleaguered former New York City cop John McClane. This time around, McClane has to track down his son in Russia, where the boy has gotten himself into some trouble. Once in Moscow, McClane becomes ensnared in a terrorist plot. Expect lots of jump-cutting and swift action from Moore, who has made a name for himself as a top-flight director of thrilling scenes. Also in February, Irish Americans Melissa McCarthy (Identity Thief, with Jason Bateman) and Rooney Mara (Side Effects, with Channing Tatum and Jude Law) have films opening. That same month, keep an eye out for Jack O’Connell in Beautiful Creatures, based on the

Also in late March, Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan’s latest film The Host will hit theaters. best selling books by Kami Garcia and Also starring William Hurt and Max Irons, Margaret Stohl. O’Connell has appeared in The Host is based on Twilight author numerous British films, including an adaptaStephanie Myers’ best-selling book. The film tion of the Martina Cole novel, The Runaway, revolves around outer-space parasites who which also starred Alan Cumming. In that film, invade human bodies. Things get complicatO’Connell played Eamonn, the male half of a ed when Melanie Stryder (Ronan) reacts to pair of star-crossed lovers. the parasitic invasion unlike anyone else "Eamonn is half Irish, born in Ireland. I'm around her. Ronan was born to Irish immihalf-Irish, so his heritage was part of what grant parents in the Bronx and raised in interested me,” O’Connell said at the time, notCarlow. She shot to fame in films The Lovely ing the similarities between his own life and his Bones and Hanna, after receiving an Oscar Clockwise from top: Bruce character. nomination for her extraordinary turn in Willis in A Good Day to Die “I was wondering about his accent, because Hard; Saoirse Ronan in The 2007’s Atonement. he was brought up in London, so I guess all of Host; Jack O’Connell. Look for Dermot Mulroney alongside his mates would've influenced him mainly, but Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode in the his dad’s a Dubliner. I was wondering if there would be any March release Stoker, about a family trying to cope with loss [Irish] twang in his accent, and I tried to work some in, but it following a tragic accident. might just register as a bad attempt at cockney!” And finally in March, Irish American Matt O’Leary (who,




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John Gatins, the Irish-American screenwriter of the new Denzel Washington hit Flight.

incidentally, appeared in 2007’s Live Free or Die Hard) is among the stars of Eden. O’Leary, a Chicago native, plays a wild, violent drug addict alongside Beau Bridges in this dark flick, which looks at the grim world of kidnappers who sell their victims into the underground world of sex slavery. As always, Colin Farrell remains busy. He is currently in New York City shooting the star-studded Winter’s Tale. The film, set in the 19th century as well as modern-day Manhattan, also stars Will Smith, Russell Crowe and Irish Americans Jennifer Connelly and Kevin Corrigan. Before Winter’s Tale hits screens, you can see Farrell this April, in the film Dead Man Down. Farrell stars alongside Noomi Rapace, Dominic Cooper and Terrence Howard in the film, about a hit man who is seduced by his intended victim. Finally, in May, Farrell will lend his vocal talents to the animated film Epic. As 2012 drew to a close, two of the most talked-about films were Flight starring Denzel Washington and The Hobbit. Behind the scenes, the Irish played key roles in both of these films. Much of the credit for Flight went to Denzel Washington’s powerful performance and director Robert Zemeckis’ gripping scenes. But when the Critics Choice Award nominations were announced late last year, screenwriter John Gatins finally started receiving credit for a story he’s been working on for over a decade. Gatins, a former actor whose brother George is an accomplished film producer, has told interviewers he is “100% Irish.” His parents met in the Manhattan Irish enclave of Washington Heights. “We were this tight kind of Irish culture,” Gatins said in an interview with Kristopher Tapley of Of his father, a New York City police officer, Gatins added: “He had a great Irish tenor singing voice. He honestly was a performer.” Gatins previously wrote films such as Coach Carter (with Samuel L. Jackson) and Summer Catch. He also directed the 2005 film Dreamer, after starring in several not-so-great films, including (unfortunately) Leprechaun 3. But the brilliant screenplay for Flight – about an alcoholic airline pilot – has catapulted Gatins into show biz royalty. And he is making sure his Irish family is along for the ride.

When Flight was screened at the New York Film Festival, he told one interviewer: “Most of the time when we’re involved in an event, it’s out in L.A. And I’ve worked on a lot of mainstream movies and had a great time . . . But this was very different. To be in New York where my family was watching, and my mom was there – my 75-year-old Irish-Catholic mother from the Bronx!” Gatins has said he’d now like to make a comedy as well as a high school movie, since one of his children is about to enter high school. Meanwhile, Peter Jackson is generally seen as the driving force behind the Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as the recent fantasy smash The Hobbit. Less well known but no less important is Fran Walsh. “Ms. Walsh was born to an Irish family in Wellington,” the New York Times recently noted of the three-time Academy Award winning writer, musician and producer. The paper adds: “Ms. Walsh, 53, is also one of Hollywood’s biggest living mysteries. She rarely grants interviews and refuses to sit for a photograph. Forget walking a red carpet alongside Mr. Jackson. Ms. Walsh has not even allowed her face to be shown on camera when contributing DVD commentary.” With two more Hobbit films to be rolled out – and surely more Academy Award nominations – the world may finally begin to appreciate Fran Walsh’s contributions to these cinematic masterpieces. Pierce Brosnan will star in the international (Danish, Italian and English are spoken in the flick) romance Love Is All You Need. The film is about a cancer-stricken hairdresser (Trine Dyholm) who loses her hair. Her marriage on the rocks, the hairdresser heads off to Italy alone for her daughter’s wedding where she makes a terrible first impression upon a fellow (Brosnan) who may help piece her life back together. Love is All You Need is slated to hit American screens in May.

Finally, as he continues working on the all-star Irish film At Swim-Two Birds with his father Brendan, Domhnall Gleeson is coming into his own as a star. This spring he will appear alongside Rachel McAdams and Bill Nighy in About Time, which explores a family whose men are blessed (or is that cursed?) with the ability to travel back and forth IA through time. FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013 IRISH AMERICA 17



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Left: Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln. Below: Chris O’Dowd and David Rawle in Moone Boy.

Oscars Galore From actors and directors to writers and cinematographers, the Irish are having a very busy show biz awards season. By Tom Deignan


he Oscar nominations were announced on January 10, and Daniel Day-Lewis led the Irish contingent of nominees. It was the fourth nomination for Day-Lewis, who won the coveted Best Actor Academy Award for 2007’s There Will Be Blood, and previously won in 1989 for his portrayal of Christy Brown in Jim Sheridan’s My Left Foot. Day-Lewis has also been nominated for Sheridan’s In the Name of the Father and for playing Bill the Butcher, an anti-Irish bigot in Scorsese’s Gangs of New York. This time around, Day-Lewis was nominated in the Best Actor category for his role as the 16th American president in Lincoln,

Screenplay by the Writers’ Guild of America. Meanwhile, Armagh native Seamus McGarvey earned an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography. McGarvey was behind the camera for Joe Wright’s adaptation of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law, and featuring the Irish Domhnall Gleeson. McGarvey also received an Oscar nomination for shooting Wright’s Atonement in 2007. Finally, in the Short Animated Film category, Irish-born producer Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly has been nominated for Head Over Heels, a comic look at an embittered married couple.

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook. Right: Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey

which is also up for Best Picture. Irish American Bradley Cooper also nabbed a Best Actor nomination for his role in Silver Linings Playbook. Cooper and Day-Lewis are up against Joaquin Phoenix (The Master), Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables) and Denzel Washington (Flight). Speaking of Flight, New York-born Irish American John Gatins received a nomination for the film’s screenplay. Gatins, who’d been working on Flight for years, earned raves for the realism in his script about an alcoholic airline pilot. Gatins was also nominated for Best 18 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013

The Oscar ceremony will be held Sunday, February 24th. Daniel Day-Lewis also headlined the BAFTA nominations – announced by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Day-Lewis – and Bradley Cooper – were nominated for Best Actor BAFTAs. Seamus McGarvey also received a BAFTA nod for Best Cinematography. In addition, Martin McDonagh’s film Seven Psychopaths (starring Colin Farrell, among others) is in the BAFTA running for Best British Film. Seven Psychopaths is up against Skyfall, Les Miserables,

Anna Karenina and Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Finally, nominations for the Irish Film and Television Academy (IFTA) Awards had plenty of big names as well as up-andcomers. Nominated for Best Irish Film are Death of a Superhero, Good Vibrations, Grabbers, Shadow Dancer and What Richard Did. Nominees for Best Screenplay include Seven Psychopaths by Martin McDonagh, who is also up for Best Irish Director. In the lead acting IFTA categories among men and women, Colin Farrell was nominated for Seven Psychopaths, alongside Martin McCann, Ruth Bradley and Anne Marie Duff, among others. Supporting actor nominees include Domhnall Gleeson (Anna Karenina), Ciaran Hinds (The Woman in Black) and Bronagh Gallagher (Grabbers). Top Irish TV shows include RTÉ’s crime drama Love/Hate and Neil Jordan’s The Borgias. The HBO hit Game of Thrones (filmed in Northern Ireland) also received several nominations. Hollywood stars Chris O’Dowd and Deirdre O’Kane earned nods for Supporting Acting roles in Moone Boy, for which O’Dowd also received a writing nomination. Gabriel Byrne, Colm Meaney and Orla Brady also received Irish nominations for their TV work. Irish talent “is resilient and hard-working, producing some of the most diverse, engaging and talked-about Irish dramas, documentaries, feature films . . . and factual programs, and there’s no shortage of new and upcoming Irish creative talent, ready to make their mark on the world stage,” according to IFTA CEO Aine Moriarty.

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Calling all Flynns, O’Malleys and Schweitzenburgs. No matter how much, or how little, Irish you have in you, you’re invited to come and experience The Gathering Ireland 2013. This year-long celebration of Irish culture promises a trip like none other — you can immerse yourself in countless festivals and events, incredible music and art, exhilarating sports and there are thousands of ways to connect with your Irish roots. If you’ve ever wanted to come “home,” there’s never been a better time to do it. Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime chance — be a part of it.

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Recognition for Irish Workers of the Rideau Canal


fter a six-year campaign to secure official recognition for the Irish workers who lost their lives building Canada’s Rideau Canal, author and activist Kevin Dooley was happy to share the news that Canadian Minister for the Environment Peter Kent, whose department oversees Parks Canada, has confirmed that the workers’ legacy will be honored. One hundred and thirty-two miles in length, the Rideau Canal stretches from Montreal, Quebec to Kingston, Ontario. Its construction, from 1826 to 1832, brought thousands of immigrant workers, a great number of whom were Irish, to the Ottawa Valley, forever changing the region’s physical and cultural landscape. Approximately 4,000 laborers toiled each year to bring the canal to completion, and as many as 100,000 people living in the area today are thought to be descendants of the canal workers. When Rideau received its UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2007, Dooley, a Mullingar, Co. Westmeath native who settled in the Ottawa Valley in the late 1970s, formally requested that the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, which has sanctioned other monuments and plaques, including one of the canal’s designer, Lt. Col. John By, recognize the close to 1,000 workers and their family members who died over the course of the canal’s construction. Three years later, his move to nominate the workers for recognition was denied in a letter from HSMBC, stating that what

Above: The locks of the Rideau Canal in Ottawa. Left: A Celtic cross memorial for the Irish workers already in place in Lowertown, Ottawa.

the workers achieved was “a typical and common form of labor at the time. It was not unusual, nor was it remarkable,” and that they were of “no national historic significance.” Following numerous complaints from descendants of the laborers and consistent coverage by the Ottawa Citizen, the HSMBC and Parks Canada agreed to re-consider. Minister Kent’s announcement in early November offered a different take on the merit of the Rideau Canal workers. In a news release, recognized that the laborers “worked in extremely difficult and dangerous conditions, and hundreds paid for it with their lives. “The workers are integral to the story of the Rideau Canal,” he continued, “which is why I decided that the original designation should be expanded to honor their contributions.” For Dooley, who has spearheaded the campaign, the victory is especially meaningful. He told Irish America, “This official designation in recognition of our Irish ancestors who built the early canals and infrastructure in Canada and North America – and paid dearly for it, in blood, sweat and tears – ensures that they will never be forgotten again. They will always be an inspiration to us.” – S.L.

Ireland to Get Its Own Cheers T

he classic American sitcom about the Boston bar where everybody knows your name is set to be rebooted in Irish. In mid-December, the Dublinbased Sideline Productions announced that CBS had granted them permission to develop an Irish version of Cheers for Irish language network TG4. The beloved series, which aired for eleven seasons from 1982 - 1993, centers on a Boston dive owned by former baseball player and recovering alcoholic Sam Malone (Ted Danson), its quirky employees (Shelley Long, Rhea Perlman, Nick Colasanto; later Woody Harrelson and Kirstie Alley) and community of regulars (George Wendt, John Ratzenberger and Kelsey Grammer, to name a few). It ranked 18 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time, published in 2002, and earned a record 111 Emmy nominations. The Irish Cheers will follow a similar plot line and character dynamic to the


American original, but there will be notable differences. Instead of the Irish equivalent, Sláinte, the show is tentatively titled Teach Séan, in reference to the Sam Malone character’s more authentic Irish name. He will be a former GAA hurler rather than a baseball player, and the setting will likely be a rural village instead of a city (though anyone who has seen Cheers shouldn’t be expecting many exterior scenes).

Billy McGrath, Sideline’s creative director, told The Hollywood Reporter that the show would initially focus on the first two seasons of Cheers, “with a view of re-writing and re-versioning 10 to 12 episodes set in a picturesque town in the West of Ireland.” The original Cheers is still syndicated in Ireland, and has been well received there. McGrath told the Boston Globe that he is hopeful the show will translate well into Irish, in terms of both the dialogue and the themes. “We would be able to preserve the richness of the language and the type of camaraderie by switching the tone and the heart of it into the Irish language,” he said. If TG4 approves Sideline’s proposal and funding is secured, filming will likely start in late 2013, aiming for a premiere in early 2014. – S.L.



MARCH 21, 2013


2013 Inductees to be announced

Founded in 2010, the Irish America Hall of Fame honors the extraordinary achievements of Irish-American leaders, from their significant accomplishments and contributions to American society to the personal commitment to safeguarding their Irish heritage and the betterment of Ireland. Visit for more information.

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Irish America’s Annual Business 10


he top Irish-American and Irish-born leaders of the business world were celebrated in New York on December 5, at Irish America’s annual Business 100 awards luncheon. Leading Irish businessman Denis O’Brien, founder of Digicel, delivered the 2012 Keynote Address. The event was held at the Metropolitan Club, which exuded Christmas cheer and put the attendees in holiday spirits. Distinguished guests included former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith, NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Chairman of the American Ireland Fund Loretta Brennan Glucksman, Ambassador Elizabeth Bagley, Consul General Noel Kilkenny and Bill Flynn, chairman emeritus of Mutual of America. Honorees traveled from as far as California, Colorado, Dallas and Chicago to attend. O’Brien’s speech, both profound and relateable, touched on his work with Irish charity Concern Worldwide and their wonderful projects in Haiti and beyond. Speaking to the scope of Ireland’s reach in the world, he recalled meeting with the Prime Minister of Samoa, who, it turned out, had been educated by the Christian Brothers in Aukland, and grew up singing Irish songs and reading Irish literature. O’Brien discussed Digicel’s philosophy in connection with the charitable work he witnessed growing up in Ireland. “What we’re trying to do like many other companies, is have a different brand of capitalism, particularly in regards to very poor countries like Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, and of course, Haiti,” he explained. “If you came from Ireland in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, everyone had a box or a tin for a [charitable] cause, the Lenten campaign, etc. When you go into business after that, it stays with you. We don’t want to be modern-day conquistadors. That would be the opposite of what we want to be.” O’Brien was full of praise for Ireland’s remarkable recovery, calling it the success story of Europe, and pride in the 2013 EU presidency. He also encouraged attendees to visit Ireland in the coming year for The Gathering, with a resounding “There’s never been a better time to go.” ALL PHOTOS BY MARGARET PURCELL RODDY

Irish America Founding Publisher Niall O’Dowd, Denis O’Brien, Ambassador Elizabeth Bagley and Wall Street 50 honoree Michael Brewster of Credit Suisse

Adrian Flannelly, Lynn Bushnell and John Lahey of Quinnipiac University and Aine Sheridan

Honoree Tom Codd of PwC and Roisin Fitzpatrick, Artist of the Light

Honoree Martin Daly of CBS (center) and guests

Hugh Gordon of Coca-Cola, Consul General Noel Kilkenny and Ed Kenney of Mutual of America

Keynote speaker Denis O’Brien and honoree Brian Stack of CIE Tours

Patricia Harty and honoree Kieran Claffey of PwC



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ss 100 Awards Denis O’Brien, NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, honoree Michael Dowling of North Shore-LIJ Health Systems, Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, Ambassador Elizabeth Bagley

Patricia Harty and Niall O’Dowd present Denis O’Brien with the House of Waterford Crystal Kings Bowl

Consul General Noel Kilkenny and wife Hanora O’Dea Kilkenny

Honoree Patrick O’Connor of Starcom with Patricia Harty

Mary O’Shea and Sarah McPhee of Tourism Ireland RIGHT: Honoree George Moore of Ravensdale Capital, Loretta Brennan Glucksman of the American Ireland Fund and Denis O’Brien. BELOW: Joe Quinlan, author Mary Lou Quinlan, Charlotte Moore and Ciaran O’Reilly

Denis O’Brien delivers the keynote address

Honoree Matthew McCrosson of O’Connor Davies LLP, Felicia Amicucci, Daniel Enright McCrosson and Joy Enright McCrosson

Marcie Samartino, honoree John Connolly of Castle Connolly and Charles Connolly

Honoree Trevor Madigan of Facebook, Niall O’Dowd and Tony Condon of UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013 IRISH AMERICA 23



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Paddy at the Met The Ashcan School of artists were a group of realist painters who found inspiration in the seamy side of New York City. Tom Deignan looks at the Irish subjects who provided inspiration to these artists, as the Metropolitan Museum of Art mounts an exhibition of paintings by George Bellows (runs thru Feb. 18), one of the group’s foremost artists. The term Ashcan School was suggested by a drawing by Bellows called “Disappointments of the Ash Can.”


e stares out at you through half-closed eyes. His hair is mussed. His front teeth protrude and his nose and ear appear to have been battered in more than one brawl. His tattered clothes barely hang on his slight frame. His name is Paddy Flannigan and right now, you can find this New York Irish street urchin in the most unlikely of places: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. That’s because Paddy Flannigan is a


realist painting by the great George Bellows, whose work the Met is celebrating through February 18, 2013. Bellows (1882 - 1925) is perhaps best known for his sinewy portraits of prizefighters and boxing matches from the early 20th century. But Bellows — and other members of the so-called “Ashcan school” of artists from the early 20th century – were fascinated by the Irish in both America and Ireland. Paddy Flannigan (from 1908) is

indicative of Bellows’ interest in urban subjects. It’s tempting to see this impoverished child as a lingering testament to Irish poverty in America. But for years critics have noted that there is a strength, even defiance to the boy, who was clearly no stranger to New York’s mean streets. Other Bellows paintings such as the epic New York, Riverfront No. 1, Cliff Dwellers, and Blue Snow, The Battery, capture the horror and beauty of early



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Clockwise from left: Paintings by George Bellows: Paddy Flannigan, 1908. The Cliff Dwellers. 1913. Blue Snow, The Battery 1910. New York, 1911. Cliff Dwellers, 1913.

immigrant and fellow artist Marjorie Organ, Henri made a series of fateful trips to Mayo throughout the decade of the 1910s. He produced a widely-celebrated series of paintings inspired by the people and landscape of Dooagh, Mayo, where Henri eventually purchased a house. “[T]here was only one place outside of New York about which Henri felt strongly enough to purchase a second home, one place away from the city [where] he found such stimulating subjects that he could return to them repeatedly. That place was Ireland,” writes Jonathan Stuhlman, curator of American art at the Mint Museum of Art, in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Mint recently hosted an exhibition entitled From New York to Corrymore: Robert Henri and Ireland. Not surprisingly, another Irish subject who fascinated Henri was his own wife, Marjorie Organ. In 1910, she posed for O in Black With Scarf. It’s a stunning study. The canvas is stark, heavily black, which heightens the effect of Marjorie’s alabaster skin, as do ALL PAINTINGS BY GEORGE BELLOWS COURTESY METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART. her ivory scarf and bold red hair. 20th century New York City, home to so Seventh Street. In McSorley’s Cats, Less well known, however, is Marjorie many real-life Paddy Flannigans. (1928) for example, the bar is crowded Organ’s own portrait of her husband, entiFor decades, American art had been with smoking men wearing bowler hats, tled “Robert Henri in Bed,” featuring the dominated by rural nature scenes. The while the titular felines gravitate to a famous artist looking rumpled in bed, his big city was seen as a crowded, ugly white-haired, mustachioed barman. hands covering his face. place devoid of beauty. The Ashcan Things seem a little more quiet, however, All in all, the George Bellows exhibiartists changed all that. in McSorley’s Bar, (1912) as well as tion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is Like Bellows, John Sloan (1871 – McSorley’s Back Room, from the same a valuable chance to become reacquainted 1951) was also captivated by the New year. with some of the most striking and vibrant York Irish. Some of Sloan’s best-known Perhaps no other Ashcan artist was art ever created – and to see how the Irish work is a series of vivid portraits set in more captivated by the Irish than Robert played a key role in one of America’s most IA the famous Irish pub McSorley’s on East Henri (1865 – 1929). Married to Irish important art movements. FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013 IRISH AMERICA 25

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Those We Lost Charles Durning

races, and the long jump. After graduating, she worked as an escrow officer for the Trans America Title Co., an administrator at the Cascade Canyon School, and as a real estate and business manager. Healy and O’Sullivan met in 1982, and in 1983 took a six-month backpacking trip around the world, visiting New Zealand, Australia, Southeast Asia, India, Kashmir, Abu Dhabi, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, France, and Ireland. She was a dedicated volunteer with Guide Dogs for the Blind, organized visits to local elderly through LITA, cooked meals for the homeless and collected books for bilingual children in nearby San Raphael. In addition to her husband and children, Healy is survived by her mother, sisters Francine and Kate, and a large extended family. – S.L.

1923 – 2012

The man who played the pope, the governor of Texas, Dustin Hoffman’s Tootsie suitor, four different Santa Clauses, and a bumbling Mel Brooks-inspired Nazi colonel has died. Charles Durning, known in the business as the King of Character Actors, died Christmas Eve at his home in Manhattan. He was 89. Born in Highland Falls, NY into an Irish family of ten children, the first years of his life were a struggle. His father, wounded in WWI, could not work, and Charles lost five sisters to smallpox and scarlet fever. Durning eventually joined the Army and was among the first wave to land on Normandy, was wounded in the leg, and became the only member of his unit to survive. Beginning his career in entertainment as an usher in a burlesque theater in Buffalo, NY, he landed a breakout role in 1972 in the award-winning Broadway play That Championship Season. Afterwards, Durning appeared in some of his best known roles, including opposite Robert Redford and Paul Newman in The Sting as a corrupt police detective, an FBI agent bartering with Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon, the comically corrupt governor opposite Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and a Nazi colonel in Mel Brooks’ To Be or Not To Be, the latter two of which garnered him Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor in 1982 and 1983 respectively. He is survived by his children Michele, Douglas, and Jeannine and was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery – A.F.

Maureen Healy 1955 – 2012

A dedicated mother, wife, and charitable worker, Maureen Healy passed away on December 9 at Stanford Medical Center in Stanford, CA, in the company of her husband, Aidan O’Sullivan, and their three children, Fiona, Maeve and Paul. Healy had been diagnosed with an MDS condition in August 2012, and had contracted MAI, a mycrobacterial infection, during treatment. Maureen Healy was born in Rhode Island in 1955 to Ernestine and Charles F. Healy. The family moved to Morocco for three years, where Maureen attended a French school, which began a life-long love of the language. Returning to the US, the family moved to Marin County, California, where Maureen attended Hidden Valley Elementary, Drake High School and College of Marin. During her school years Maureen was a force to be reckoned with in track and field, competing in the 100 and 220 meter 26 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013

Eileen Moran 1952-2012

Eileen Moran, one of the most accomplished and respected visual effects producers in the film industry, died on December 2 in Wellington, New Zealand. She was one of the key talents behind the visual effects of landmark films including James Cameron’s Avatar and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. She was also part of Jackson’s visual effects company, Weta Digital. Moran’s sister Jane Hamill told the New York Times that the cause was cancer. Born Eileen Mary Moran on January 23, 1952 in Queens, New York, she was raised in Lindenhurst, Long Island and studied drama at the State University of New York at New Paltz. After graduating, Moran moved to New York City to enter the acting world, but soon switched to commercial production, where she found her calling in visual effects. She moved to California and was hired by Digital Domain, a special effects company, where she worked on the effects for both acclaimed films and award-winning commercials, including the “Bud,” “Weis,” “Er” frogs. In a 2006 interview with the New York Daily News, Moran said that her favorite commercial was one she made for Guinness, featuring a fish riding a bicycle – a play on the feminist slogan “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” In 2001, Moran relocated to New Zealand and joined Weta Digital to begin work on Lord of the Rings. She most recently worked as a co-producer on Peter Jackson’s latest work, the first installment of the new Hobbit trilogy of films. Moran is survived by her two children, Jack and Ava; by her father, John G. Moran, and by three sisters. – S.L.

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Joseph Murray 1919 - 2012

Dr. Joseph Murray, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, died November 27 at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, the same hospital where he performed the world’s first successful organ transplant in 1954. He was 91 years old. Born in Millford, Massachusetts in 1919, Murray attended the College of the Holy Cross and then Harvard Medical School, graduating in the middle of World War II and joining the Army Medical Corp. Working with wounded soldiers at Valley Forge General Hospital, Murray concentrated on skin grafting techniques and reconstructive surgery, leading him to pioneer new research into how the human body accepts or rejects foreign cells and tissues. Once back in the civilian sector at Brigham and Women’s, Dr. Murray began working with colleagues to develop the techniques used in skin grafting for full organ transplantation. Then, on December 23, 1954, Dr. Murray successfully performed what many in the medical community thought medically questionable, taking a kidney from a healthy 23-year-old man and transplanting it into his identical twin’s ailing body. The procedure resulted in the widespread acceptance and application of his techniques to other organs, including heart, lung, and liver transplants. Dr. Murray continued to research transplant procedures, and also performed the first transplant between non-related patients in 1959, and the first transplant from a cadaver in 1962. After retiring in 1986, Dr. Murray was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1990 for his transplant work and research in immunosuppressive therapies, which have impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands world-wide. Born to a father of Irish and English descent and a mother of Italian heritage, Dr. Murray spent his life deeply rooted in Boston, spending summers on Martha’s Vineyard with his extended family. He is survived by his wife Virginia “Bobby” Murray, six children, and 18 grandchildren. – A.F.

Catherine O’Neill 1942 – 2012

Catherine O’Neill, who founded the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children (now the Women’s Refugee Commission) with actress Liv Ullmann, died in Los Angeles on December 26 at age 70. Her husband, the writer Richard Reeves, told the New York Times that the cause was complications from cancer. Over the course of her varied and distinguished career, O’Neill worked as a social worker, ran for California State Senate and secretary of state, served as finance director of Governor Jerry Brown’s 1976 presidential campaign, and was appointed director of the United Nations Information Center in

Washington, DC, by then UN secretary general Kofi Annan, a position she held from 1999 until her retirement in 2007. She helped found the Women’s Refugee Commission in 1989, after witnessing conditions for women and children in refugee camps in Pakistan as a board member of the International Rescue Committee. The daughter of two Irish immigrants, O’Neill was born Catherine Vesey on July 19, 1942 in New York City. Her father, Patrick Vesey, was a subway conductor, and her mother, Bridget Ruddy Vesey, was a school cafeteria worker. O’Neill graduated from St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn and later received a master’s in social work from Howard University, and a second master’s, in international affairs, from Columbia University. In addition to Reeves, O’Neill is survived by their daughter, Fiona; two sons from her first marriage to Brian O’Neill, Colin and Conor; two stepchildren, Cynthia and Jeffrey Reeves; her sister; and one grandchild. – S.L.

Páidí Ó Sé 1955 – 2012

Gaelic football legend Páidí Ó Sé passed away suddenly in his home in Árd a Bhóthair, Ventry on December 15 at the age of 57, of a suspected heart attack. One of the most recognizable, beloved, and decorated footballers, Ó Sé accumulated eight senior All-Ireland football medals during his ten-year playing career, in addition to two more as manager of the Kerry Páidí Ó Sé, holding the Sam Maguire team. He also led West- cup after the 1985 victory, is pictured meath to its first ever with former Kerry great Paddy Leinster championship “Bawn” Brosnan. title in 2004, his first year managing the team. Irish President Michael D Higgins praised Ó Sé, telling the Irish Times, “Páidi Ó Sé had a reputation that went far beyond his great achievements in sport and far beyond the boundaries of his own beloved country.” Indeed, Ó Sé carried the Kerry green and gold world wide, traveling to Dubai on an all-star GAA exposition trip in 2001. Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin also said in the Times that Ó Sé “personified that spirit of competitive rivalry that is the hallmark of the GAA.” More than a football legend, Ó Sé was a cultural icon. Born in Ventry, in the heart of the Gaeltacht in County Kerry, Ó Sé was a native Irish speaker and “was a well-spring for the stories and the craic,” according to current Kerry captain Dara Ó Cinnéide. “He was Kerry to the core,” Ó Cinnéide continued. Ó Sé is survived by his wife Máire, and children Neasa, Siún and Pádraig Óg, as well as his brother Tomás and his nephews Darragh, Tomás and Marc, all three GAA All-Star footballers IA themselves. – A.F. FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013 IRISH AMERICA 27



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Quote Unquote “I just think being from where we’re from, we’re placed in a very difficult position. I feel Northern Irish and obviously being from Northern Ireland you have a connection to Ireland and a connection to the UK. If I could, and there was a Northern Irish team, I’d play for Northern Ireland. Play for one side or the other, or not play at all because I may upset too many people. . . Those are my three options. I’m considering very carefully.” – Golfer Rory McIlroy in the new BBC documentary Rory: Being Number One

“Way back in the autumn of 2008, the joke in financial circles was that the only difference between Ireland and Iceland was a letter and six months. Now, with the Icelandic banks preparing to issue foreign currency bonds once again, it turns out that the joke was on us.” – Irish financial columnist Dan White in an Irish Independent article comparing the fiscal maneuvers and progress of the Irish and Icelandic economies. December 16

“It was a great night and a great way to say goodbye. Commercially, The Dubliners could go on forever but there comes a point where it’s time to finish.” – Fiddler John Sheahan on The Dubliners’ last-ever live show, at Dublin’s Vicar Street on December 30. The Irish Independent, January 1

– Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III spoke to the Boston Herald about gun control shortly after being sworn in to Congress on January 3

“Disasters such as a euro meltdown and deeper dive into recession did not occur. There is room for optimism. It could have been worse – much worse. That, more than anything else, sums up 2012. The euro did not collapse. The Irish economy did not slump back into recession. Europe’s downturn had limited knock-on effect here.” – Dan O’Brien, Economics Editor of the Irish Times, in his re-cap of 2012, “A Year in Which We Escaped the Worst.” December 28

“They’re good for business . . . They’re the only ones who seem to have any money. It’s the media that gives this town a bad name, not the travellers.” – John Dinnage, a clothing store manager and community council volunteer from Rathkeale, Co. Limerick on the great number of traveller families who gather in the small town for the Christmas holidays. The annual gathering, which sees the town’s population increase from 1,500 to 4,500, was the subject of a New York Times article by Douglas Dalby on December 25 28 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013

“It’s something I certainly feel strongly about. I know there’s been a lot of leadership already on it. I’d love to support those efforts, and if that means taking a strong leadership role, I’d be honored to do it. Obviously this country has had too many moments of late where these horrific tragedies — after which we say ‘never again’ — keep happening. We as a society have to take a long look and say, ‘What can we do to prevent another tragedy from taking place?’”


Special Anniversary Events in 2013 February 26 Gala Dinner Loretta Brennan Glucksman, Honoree Seamus Heaney, Nobel Laureate, Honored Guest April 12-14 The Religious Question in America: A Bicentennial Look at People v. Philips Dramatic Re-enactment of William Sampson’s historic 1813 courtroom arguments before New York City Mayor De Witt Clinton, followed by a Symposium on freedom of religious expression then and now, concluding with an Excursion to the graves of the Judge & the Advocate in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery. October 11 & 12 A memorable weekend of Sean Nós, traditional singing in the Irish language, with special guests from Ireland. October 24-26 The 1757 Bordeaux-Dublin Letters An international conference and exhibition inspired by the recently discovered contents of the mailbag from the ship Two Sisters of Dublin that illuminates eighteenth century Atlantic world history from military, economic, imperial, gender and social perspectives. THE CENTER FOR IRISH & IRISH AMERICAN STUDIES More details at

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The Derry Air is Rich With


A bright, brand-new day dawns for Derry/Londonderry, the UK City of Culture 2013. Story by Mary Pat Kelly




ohn Hume, Derry’s first Catholic MP, sang the Derry Anthem in Oslo when he and David Trimble won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998, and it has since become a staple of the White House St. Patrick’s Day gathering each year in Washington, D.C. At a recent concert in Chicago when Phil Coulter played the opening notes the audience applauded and then sang along. And yet when Luke Kelly of the Dubliners introduced “The Town I Loved So Well” in the early 70’s, it seemed more a lament than a celebration. Because the “happy days” evoked in the first three verses existed only in memory. Present reality was grim. While in the past “our school played ball by the old gas yard wall,” now “the army’s installed by the old gas yard wall, and the damned barbed wire gets higher and higher.” Before, there had always been “music there in that Derry air,” now “the music’s gone” in a town that’s “been brought to its knees.” That’s the Derry I knew in the early ’80’s while making a PBS documentary, To Live For Ireland, about John Hume and the nonviolent political party he led. “Armored cars and bombed-out bars.” No question. The city center had only one restaurant, The Leprechaun, and it closed

at 6:00 p.m. No movie theaters, limited shopping. The Bank of Ireland building was only a façade held in place by pieces of lumber. An evocative mural memorialized the thirteen peaceful marchers killed by British paratroopers on Bloody Sunday, January 30, 1972.

There were checkpoints throughout the city where British soldiers and policemen asked brusque questions. They searched the trunk, my purse, even our film cans. Intimidating. And I was supposedly above the fray, only passing through. One member of our production team saw an



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“In my memory I will always see The town that I have loved so well.” — The Derry Anthem, written by native son Phil Coulter

Opposite page: ‘Hands Across the Divide’ sculpture by Maurice Harron. Left: U2 singer Bono helps David Trimble and John Hume celebrate victory in the island-wide referendum on the Northern Ireland peace agreement. Above: Tourists visit Derry’s city walls.


army patrol walking through a housing estate with weapons drawn and thought someone else must be making a movie too and that these soldiers were actors. On my first election night during the European Parliament contest of 1984 we turned down the road only to be confronted by two men in ski masks pointing their rifles at us. They wanted the car. Our driver, a Derry man, immediately reversed and backed away at 60 miles an hour. The city seemed divided in every way. The Catholic nationalist population lived

primarily on the west bank of the Foyle River, the city side, only a few miles from the Donegal border. The Protestant Unionists resided on the Waterside where roads went east toward Belfast. Walls surrounded the historic city and it sometimes felt as if the Siege of 1689 had never ended. Both communities had internal political divisions and paramilitary forces that claimed to act in their name. Still I met kind, hospitable people on both sides and found that the vast majority of people wanted peace – an end to sectarian killings, to young men lost through internment, to fear. The desire for an ordinary life lived in safety, free from constant tension, was a shared but seemingly impossible dream. Seamus Heaney, winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature, who attended St. Columb’s College in Derry along with Phil Coulter, wrote, “History says don’t


hope on this side of the grave.” And yet in even the darkest days the people showed amazing resilience. As the song says, “Their spirit was bruised, never broken.” There were talent shows at the city’s Guildhall. Every party ended in a singalong. Children learned Irish dancing. Musicians played. Amateur theatrics continued. But all these activities were tinged with regret, a sense that so much was “lost and gone forever.” The song concludes, “I can only pray for a bright, brand-new day in the town I loved so well.” And on January 1, 2013 when Derry began its year as the first ever UK City of Culture, that prayer was answered. The new day has dawned for all the world to see. In fact the sun has been inching its way up over the horizon for the last 20 years. Meetings between John Hume and Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams led the Provisional IRA to declare a cease-fire in 1994. The story of the peace process is rich in heroes on both sides of the Atlantic, with the U.S. government having a more direct influence than ever before. President Bill Clinton and Senator George Mitchell helped bring FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013 IRISH AMERICA 31



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about the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. When the Nobel committee chose John Hume and David Trimble of the Official Unionist Party to share the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize they were affirming what had once been inconceivable – the 80-year-old conflict was heading toward resolution. Derry had survived and now it thrives. Overnight it managed to become a modern city without losing its historic character. So when the British Government announced that one UK city would be selected as the first ever City of Culture, the people of Derry said, “Why not us?” The film produced to support their bid began with Seamus Heaney reciting lines that summed up the moment: “Once in a lifetime / The longed-for tidal wave of justice can rise up / And hope and history rhyme / So hope for a great sea-change / On the far side of revenge.” Differences were not ignored, but the approach was both/and, not either/or. A woman asserts “I am Derry” while an older man says “I am Londonderry.” But it’s the third speaker who expresses what all the people of this city feel about themselves: “I am Legen-derry” says the smiling confident Derry man. The judges got it. Derry won! The New York Times headlined its November 18, 2012 full-page story on the events planned for the City of Culture year “Where Irish Troubles Began The Arts Heal.” Who are the people responsible for this transformation? Pauline Ross (née McLaughlin) is one. Pauline left school at 16 to go to work. She had been taught by Pat Hume, John’s wife, and remembers the future Nobel Peace Prize winner, a teacher himself, coming to pick up Pat “in a green Triumph convertible loaded with their kids.” Pauline got a job in the headquarters of the Derry Credit Union, a movement founded by John Hume. “In some sections of our community,” Pauline remembers, “as many as 60 percent were unemployed. They couldn’t get a bank account let alone borrow money. The Credit Union changed that. I saw our work as the democratization of money.” In 1980 Pauline attended a performance of Brian Friel’s Translations in Derry’s Guildhall that starred Stephen Rea, Liam Neeson and Ray McAnally. Friel, another St. Columb’s graduate, and the award-winning actor Stephen Rea had just founded The Field Day Theatre 32 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013

Company to bring relevant theater to the people of Northern Ireland, and had decided to premiere Friel’s Translations in Derry. Set in 1836, it tells the love story between a British officer surveying Donegal in order to strip away traditional Irish place names and a young Irishspeaking woman whose schoolmaster father was determined to preserve a heritage that stretched back two millennia. Pauline was inspired. This was art democratized! “Now I have always loved drama and music, but when I was growing up only the children of well-to-do families were able to attend live professional performances and be exposed to the arts. Why shouldn’t Derry have a permanent performing arts center that the community felt belonged to them?” Though she was married, had two small children and a full-time job, Pauline entered the University of Ulster, earned her BA, and then began work on her master’s. Her thesis? “How to Start an Arts and Performance Center in Derry.” The British Arts Foundation gave her a £300 planning grant. By this time Pauline had become director of the Orchard Art Gallery in Derry, so she had experience in arts administration. She had written a business plan of which she was very proud. Pauline was also making extra money as a seamstress specializing in First Communion dresses. But one evening she realized she had a dress order she would not be able to complete. Too much schoolwork. She went to her cousin for help. Very Derry, that! Her cousin’s husband, Paul, was in real estate. In chatting with Pauline he learned about her dream. “He asked me if I had any money. I said yes, I have £300 and a great business plan.” “Leave it with me,” he said. “That was Friday. Tuesday a man came to the gallery. Paul had sent him to take me to see a building. He led me to an abandoned school right next to the historic walls of the city. I couldn’t believe it. Here was the perfect space for my imagined Arts Center. ‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph,’ I said, and then looked up. Looking down at me was a statue of St. Joseph himself. This was

St. Joseph’s Primary School. The Sisters of Mercy taught here for over 100 years and the structure itself went back to the 18th century.” The man arranged a bank loan, bought the building, and allowed Pauline to buy it back from him over time. In 1992 The Playhouse, proclaiming “arts in the community together,” opened with a production of Brian Friel’s play The Enemy



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Opposite page: Pauline Ross of The Playhouse. Left: Walking around Derry/ Londonderry. Above: Derry’s Guildhall Clock, which is modeled after Big Ben in London, on the banks of the River Foyle.


Within, based on the life of Derry’s 6thcentury founder St. Columcille. “The building came complete with a guardian angel,” Pauline says. “Sister Aloysius, a Mercy nun and icon painter, was still in residence in an attic room way at the top. She stayed. She was our luck.” There did seem something supernatural in the Playhouse’s ability to go from strength to strength. They attracted patrons such as actors Gabriel Byrne, Niamh, Sinead and Sorcha Cusack, writers like Frank McGuinness and Jennifer Johnston and television star Roma Downey. Most appropriately The Field Day Theatre Company also became a

patron. In 2004 The Playhouse represented Northern Ireland on the BBC show “Restoration” in which millions of pounds are awarded to the most worthy redevelopment scheme for a historical building. The Playhouse reached the finals but didn’t win. But the publicity they got set off such a groundswell that they were able to raise £4.6 million. “The American Ireland Fund helped us and we got letters from all over England and Scotland with £20 notes stuck in them wishing us all the best,” Pauline said. “They wanted to help with our work, reconciliation through the arts. We’ve always been a cross-community endeavor. The

Playhouse is a place where divisions can be explored and then put aside.” In the current “Theater of Witness” program, victims of the Troubles as well as security personnel and ex-combatants tell their stories in ways cathartic for performers and audiences. Walk through the Playhouse and you’ll see members of the Lilliput Theater Company made up of adults with learning disabilities rehearsing for one of their popular tours throughout Northern Ireland. You’ll find Irish dancing and ballet classes. See yoga and tai-chi postures. Watch painters and craftsmen of all kinds. This month (December, 2012) Sam Shepard was giving master classes in acting. Yes, the world has come to The Playhouse. Awards are piling up. Universities have become partners. Artists from other countries torn by conflict have asked to come to Derry and learn how the arts can heal. Pauline hopes to raise enough money to buy the adjoining old convent so she can offer them resources. “We could have a Field Day Library, the Brian Friel Playhouse Studio, the Seamus Heaney Poetry Room, the John Hume Auditorium,” she says. The Playhouse has a full program for 2013. Sam Shepard will premiere a play he wrote on commission. Stephen Rea will direct the Field Day Theatre Company in a series of pieces, and another one of Derry’s sons, the boxer turned actor John Duddy, will make his hometown debut in For Love. So here’s the true power that Derry/Londonderry possesses as the UK City of Culture. Yes, it’s great that the city will host the Turner Prize, the Royal Ballet, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Elvis Costello and the Fleadh Ceol, Ireland’s traditional music festival and all the other wonderful events listed on But other cities could do that. No place else has the backstory that Derry has. And perhaps it doesn’t matter if the hundreds of thousands who are expected to come are aware that the outdoor concert venue was a British Army barracks. And why think too much about what was done with “tanks and guns” to “the town I loved so well?” But remembering the storms the people of this city have come through makes “the bright new days” of 2013 even sweeter. One thing I’ve always noticed about Derry over the last 30 years: The rain can be fierce, but usually there’s a rainbow. IA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013 IRISH AMERICA 33



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of Day-Lewis Brings

Lincoln Alive

In the last decade, Daniel Day-Lewis, one of the greatest actors of our time, has made only five films. But when he chooses to play a part he commits to it fully, as his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s latest biopic exemplifies. Between roles? It’s all about his family, he tells Patricia Danaher.


aniel Day-Lewis is in an extremely good mood. He’s in such high spirits when we meet at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills that, for a moment, I’m almost caught off guard. Dressed in a pair of baggy green combats and a navy bomber jacket, his salt and pepper hair combed upwards in a quiff, he looks like an off-duty detective. He had been in New York for a few weeks, and although it’s a beautifully warm October day in Los Angeles, he’s missing Wicklow and the family as he goes out to do the business for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, in which Day-Lewis undertook the weighty task of portraying one of the most beloved, important and divisive presidents in American history. Thus far, the praise has been resound34 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013

ing. Critics have hailed his slightly weary but determined stature and his high, reedily resonant voice, as have members of the cast and crew. Tony Kushner, who wrote the screenplay, told the New York Times that Day-Lewis’s delivery of Lincoln’s 13th Amendment speech was “One of the greatest things I have ever seen. . . Everyone’s jaw was on the floor.” Day-Lewis received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance and was nominated for the Oscar for Best Actor. Lincoln leads the pack at the Oscars this year, with 12 nominations in all, including Best Picture. Liam Neeson had been slated to play the part for several years, but when his career as an action hero took off after Taken, he eventually told Spielberg to move on. “When I was doing the first Taken, I was kind of preparing for Lincoln. But there comes a time when you’re past your sell-

by date, and I felt like I was at that point seven years ago,” Neeson told me in New York in October. “I was dropping weight when I thought we were getting close to shooting, then when we weren’t, I was putting weight on again. So one day, I called Steven up and said, ‘Steven, please call Daniel DayLewis if you haven’t already done so and give him the part.’ He made the right choice,” said Liam. The multi-Oscar-winning director collaborated very closely with Day-Lewis,



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This page: Daniel Day-Lewis as President Abraham Lincoln. Opposite: Day-Lewis as Lincoln with Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln.

spending chunks of time in Ireland while the script was being developed. “I was in Dublin and in Wicklow a few times working with Daniel and the screenwriter Tony Kushner on the script,” said Spielberg. “We were so thrilled when Daniel signed up to play the role and it was a joy working with him.” Day-Lewis is no fan of interviews, hates

being asked personal questions, which partly explains why he works so selectively as a film actor, making just five films in the last ten years. But it’s also much more because he hates being away from his wife, Rebecca Miller, and their two boys Cashel (10) and Ronan (14). “With Lincoln and with the one I did before that, Nine, I wasn’t able to be with

my family while I was working, and that is one of the reasons why I work less often than I might, because I don’t like to be away,” he tells me. “When they were younger, you could kind of pick them up and put them under your arm and just travel with them. But that’s no longer possible, and I miss them.” Fatherhood is clearly an enduring source of joy for the actor, who also has a 17-year-old son, Gabriel Kane Adjani, whose mother is the French actress Isabelle Adjani. Day-Lewis and Rebecca Miller have been married since 1996, after meeting on the set of The Crucible. His intense admiration for her playwright father, Arthur Miller, has been well documented. Annamoe, County Wicklow has been their home for a long time, and it’s clear what an oasis the village and their home are for him. “In terms of having a confidant, Rebecca is somebody I would discuss everything with,” he readily admits. FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013 IRISH AMERICA 35



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“We have worked together, on her movie Jack and Rose, which was an extremely rewarding experience, but we very often work in separate places. But there’s nothing we don’t share with each other. I’m always fascinated to know what she’s up to on that computer of hers,” he giggles almost coquettishly. “It’s like watching a scientist in a laboratory cooking up some chemical thing!” He jokes that his sons aren’t quite sure what he does for a living, that they think he might be involved in making furniture.

“My 14-year-old boy was asked a couple of years ago what I did and he said, ‘I think he’s in construction.’ So that’s how much they know! I’m not building anything. A few years ago he heard someone on the radio say, ‘Daniel Day-Lewis makes chairs in his spare time.’ He thought that was the funniest thing he’d ever heard, that I was a chair maker.” One of the reasons that Day-Lewis has done so few movies is because he wants to be “available” for his family. “It’s a selfish thing with the work, but I also think that they need me around as well, and I don’t like to be in the position of going from the set, back home to my house and then trying to deal with the bizarre transition. I like to take a lot of time to get ready for any piece of work, and when you go to these great lengths to create a life that’s believable to you, it seems so much stranger to me to jump in and out of it all day long.” His relationship with his father, the 36 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013

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Irish-born English poet laureate Cecil Day-Lewis was an intense and complex one, and no doubt this is in part what informs his own attitude to how he is as a father himself. “I think I’m quite old-fashioned as a father. I’m surprised,” he admits. “I don’t know if all parents surprise themselves to discover the kind of parent they are, as opposed to the parent they imagine themselves to be,” he says, with a self-conscious laugh. “I think I’m very free in a certain kind of way. I was raised, not in a

This page and page opposite, left to right: Jim Sheridan and Daniel Day-Lewis on the set of In the Name of the Father; with Steven Spielberg at the premiere of Lincoln; as Danny Flynn in The Boxer; with Paul Thomas Anderson, who directed Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood; DayLewis as Christy Brown in My Left Foot.

strict way, but my parents believed strongly in certain things and I tend to believe in those same things. I tend to wish that my children will observe the same things that I do, but there’s no guarantee they will.” While talking about his family life makes him relax and open up in a surprising and very tender way, talking about work brings out that intensity for which he is so famous. But the near giddy mood he’s in this morning makes me think there’s been some shift in his psyche since we last met. Au contraire: according to Daniel’s view of himself, it’s the total opposite. He wants to assure me that he sees himself as playful and that he has never been someone who takes himself too seriously.

“It’s imperative to take the work seriously. I mean if anybody is going to spend the money that is spent even on low budget films, you have a responsibility to work seriously. But it’s important that you don’t take yourself seriously. I tend to give the impression that I take myself very seriously, but playfulness is what it’s all about. . . . If the work isn’t that, it’s nothing, even if you’re telling a great story about hard things with great loss and violence.” Still, there’s no denying that he is

renowned in the industry for the grueling Method-style preparation he undergoes for each role. While filming My Left Foot, in which he portrayed Christy Brown, the Irish poet and artist with cerebral palsy, he stayed in his wheelchair between scenes and was fed and cared for by crew members. To get into the mind of Bill the Butcher, his character in Gangs of New York, he took butchering lessons. For the duration of Lincoln, he maintained the president’s voice and accent on and off set, though he still discussed contemporary matters. All this has led to raised eyebrows from some detractors who say it’s just for show, but Day-Lewis, who in the past has been reluctant to discuss his process, is quick to clarify. “You create for yourself the illusion that you can enter the life of the person. I know I am not Abraham Lincoln. I’m not that daft,” he says pointedly, “but I choose to believe for a period of time that I am, and



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I can shut out the voice in me that tells me I’m not. It’s like the simple game of makebelieve we play as children and that some of us never stop playing.” There’s that playfulness again. In addition to immersing himself in his characters’ psyches, Daniel is a thorough researcher. “My approach here was the same as it is for any other piece of work, which is to try to create an understanding for myself, in a very personal way, of a life,” he explained. “In the case of this very well documented life, it began with read-

the energy has to come from you.” Notwithstanding the two Oscars (for My Left Foot and There Will Be Blood), the Golden Globes and the adulation of critics, Day-Lewis’s relationship with his wife and children is a key component in the work that he does, and when he chooses to do it. “There’s no doubt in my mind that what I’m able to contribute to the work has been enriched by everything else that’s going on in my life. The family life, once you have a family, it’s very important that they don’t

doing something else but there’s nothing definite. Sheriff Street [an up-coming movie based on Sheridan’s upbringing in Dublin] is his huge passion these days, so you’d never know.” Annamoe, County Wicklow continues to be the place to which Daniel returns to restore himself (and not make furniture), and he is already looking forward to going home. He likes how people leave him alone and his celebrity is not an issue. “Compared to most people that you meet in the course of your work, I find people

ing. I could be reading about Lincoln for the rest of my life and the next one, so much has been written about him, so I had to choose very carefully the books I read. I had a year to prepare, and at a certain moment, the books are put aside and the real work begins, which is always the same thing – the work of the imagination.” For Daniel, it’s all about knowing when to work, which roles are worth the intense immersion and concentration. “I know myself well enough to know when it’s time, and I think I was blessed with a pretty strong sense of that from an early age, when I didn’t have the luxury of choosing when I was able to work and when I wasn’t. I’ve always felt in all creative fields that it’s much less to do with whatever gifts you might have for that work, and more whether you are compelled to do that work to the exclusion of everything else. I work when I feel the compulsion. The will has to come from you, because

get pushed aside for the sake of a piece of work. And I seem to be able to work with the same intensity and still remain available to my family to the extent I can be.” We’ve been talking for nearly an hour and his boisterous energy seems to be flagging a little, although he’s still in high spirits. I bring up Jim Sheridan, with whom some of his greatest collaborations have taken place and through whom Daniel developed his long and enduring love of Ireland. Their work on My Left Foot, which won him his first Oscar, followed by In the Name of the Father and The Boxer remain some of the work of which he is proudest. So, what are the prospects of the pair reteaming in the future? Mention of Sheridan brings a huge smile. “Of course I would do anything with Jim. We’ve made three great movies together that I’ll always be proud and grateful for. We keep talking about

[in Annamoe] on the whole to be very gracious and unassuming. Even if they do feel the need to say something to you or ask you for a little something, it really is not an intrusion on my life to the extent that it makes any difference whatsoever.” Excited as he is to be returning to life with his family, there is also a part of him that is sad to say goodbye to Lincoln. “I grew to love that man so much that I never wanted to part company with him,” he reflects, “in a way that I never really felt you could have for someone you’ve never met, and it takes time to exorcise the spirit of that character. [I] was reluctant to let go, because after all, [I had] invested a substantial amount of my life in exploring [his], taken some trouble to try and create it and make it live, and it’s very strange to go from one day to the next when all that ceases. But the beautiful thing is, I can now go back to loving Lincoln from the IA other side of the line.” FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013 IRISH AMERICA 37

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Green-Wood Cemetery


From actors to Civil War heroes, many important Irish have been laid to rest in Brooklyn’s famous Green-Wood Cemetery. By Michael Burke


he Green-Wood Cemetery, a National Historic Landmark, covers nearly five hundred acres in Brooklyn, New York. Established in 1838, it was one of the first in the “rural cemeteries” movement, a farsighted plan to replace the antiquated, often unsanitary city churchyards with more hygienic, aesthetically pleasing final resting

places. The driving force behind the establishment of Green-Wood was a small group led by financier and resident of the then-termed “City of Brooklyn,” Henry Evelyn Pierrepont. By the 1860s, the cemetery drew 500,000 visitors a year, second only to Niagara Falls as the most popular attraction in the U.S. Today, Green-Wood is the final resting place of 560,000, and is still

an active cemetery. Its rolling hills and valleys are dotted with ponds and lined with walking paths that bring thousands of visitors a year, from history buffs to bird watchers, who come to see the vast array of birds that live in Green-Wood’s trees. While Green-Wood was never affiliated with any particular church, and from its inception has remained rigorously nonsectarian, it was generally considered a FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013 IRISH AMERICA 39



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The impressive entrance to Green-Wood Cemetery, the last resting place of many notable Irish.

Christian burial place reserved for white Anglo Saxon Protestants of the better classes. Indeed, one of its regulations was that no one executed for a crime or even dying while incarcerated would be permitted burial there. Although he died in the Ludlow Street Jail, the family of William Magear “Boss” Tweed, one of the most infamous characters buried in GreenWood, managed to circumvent this rule. Despite Green-Wood’s English Protestant leanings, numerous Irish-born persons have been laid to rest in its bucolic grounds, many of whom made significant contributions to the development of nineteenth-century New York City and the United States.

Catholics. After joining the United Irishmen he was imprisoned and then banished from Ireland. He traveled throughout Europe (where he was also imprisoned several times) and finally arrived in New York City on July 4, 1806, where he again took up the defense of the oppressed.

Heroes of the People Among the most noteworthy Irish expaWilliam Sampson, the Theobald triates reposing in Green-Wood are William Derry-born Civil Rights Tone, the son of Matilda Tone, widow of United Wolfe Tone attorney Irishmen leader Wolfe Tone, and their son William Theobald Wolfe Tone. Perhaps the most famous of the many William is buried with his wife, Catherine cases Sampson argued was People v. Sampson Tone, and in the plot right next to Philips, or as it became known more popthe Tones lie her parents: the controversial ularly, the “priest penitent privilege” case. civil rights attorney William Sampson and Sampson successfully defended a Jesuit his wife, Grace. priest who was being pressured to reveal William Sampson was born in Derry in what had been disclosed to him in a con1764, studied law in London and soon fessional. The judge who heard this case became an advocate for the disadvantaged, was no less than the Mayor of New York, which in Ireland at that time meant mostly De Witt Clinton, who would go on to 40 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013

become Governor and, coincidentally, later be interred in Green-Wood. Convinced of the legality of Sampson’s argument, Mayor Clinton ruled that Irish Catholics “are protected by the laws and constitution of this country, in the full and free exercise of their religion and this court can never countenance or authorize the application of insult to their faith, or of torture to their consciences.” In 1996, the original Tone monument was restored and rededicated in a ceremony at Green-Wood officiated by then Irish President Mary Robinson.

Captains of Industry Many of the Irish who came to America fleeing poverty and oppression achieved varying degrees of success, some spectacularly so. One little known standout was Charles Michael Higgins. Born in Co. Leitrim in 1854, Higgins emigrated to Brooklyn, New York with his parents in 1860. Although unable to finish formal schooling, he educated himself, became an inventor and founded the internationally successful Charles M. Higgins & Company, manufacturer of India Inks. An active inventor, Higgins went on to be granted twenty-one patents in his career. He took great interest in American history and donated the statue of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, which



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ed and supported. He also supported the Catholic Orphanage in Virginia City, Nevada. Mackay came back East and made another fortune in the transatlantic cable business, managing to reduce the cost of sending a telegram to Europe by two-thirds. Later, his company was the first to lay a cable across the Pacific Ocean. After his death, his wife and son Clarence founded the School of Mines at the University of Nevada in his memory, which the Mackay family continued to support right through the Great Depression. A bronze statue of The Minerva statue and mausoleum of Charles M. Mackay, dressed as a miner, stands Higgins. Born in Co. Leitrim in 1854, Higgins made a in front of the school. In addition, fortune manufacturing India inks a mountain range in Antarctica is stands to this day in front of his maunamed after him. soleum in Green-Wood, on the site of the While the record indicates that the Revolutionary War Battle of Brooklyn. Mackays were basically aboveboard in The statue, erected at the highest elevation their businesses, they nonethein Brooklyn, was positioned to face the less took the precaution of Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. having their mausoleum wired (Despite development, Minerva’s view remains unobstructed to this day.) The unveiling ceremony, on August 27, 1920, the 144th anniversary of the Battle of Brooklyn, was attended by hundreds of prominent New Yorkers, including Governor Al Smith. Across the road from Higgins stands the mausoleum of Marcus Daly, one also born into poverty in Ireland, but who rose to become an extremely wealthy copper mine owner. Daly was unique among mine owners in that he treated his employees fairly and paid them well, a rarity in those days. Not far away, entombed with his family in one of the largest and most elaborate mausoleums in Green-Wood, is John Mackay, one of the “Silver Kings” of mining, whose family emigrated from Silver King John Mackay and the Mackay mausoleum Ireland in 1840, when he was nine years old. Upon completion of his schoolwith electricity and heat (the only one in ing in Brooklyn, Mackay took the advice Green-Wood so equipped), rumored to be of another future Green-Wood resident, an inducement for the clergy to come and Horace Greeley, and went West. It paid pray for their souls. The fund set aside to off, as he managed to amass one of the endow these amenities does so to this day largest fortunes in America through silver and priests continued to say Mass in the mining. tomb until 1954. Mackay’s philanthropy was on the scale of his contemporary Andrew Carnegie, As has often been the case with immigrant though, unlike Carnegie, few know of him groups, many of the nineteenth-century today. One example of his generosity was Irish-born Americans came to prominence the San Francisco Opera, which he found-

The Irish in Theater

in their adopted country through the theater. Many of these theater people, who knew each other in life, are buried in Green-Wood Cemetery. John Brougham’s life and career resembled a roller coaster ride. His father was born into a wealthy and influential AngloIrish family. His mother’s family were impoverished French Huguenot refugees, and his paternal grandfather disowned his son for marrying a “doweryless” woman. The family managed to get along until John’s father died suddenly, leaving his widow and their two sons penniless. Fortunately, her sister had married well, and as she and her husband were childless, they took in the Broughams, and the husband became a surrogate father, raising the boys and paying for their education. After several attempts, John finally made it into Trinity College, where his academic career was lackluster at best. As he described it, “I very soon found out that my impulses were the reverse of studious; and being indolent, except in the pursuit of amusement, as a matter of course, I segregate with ‘birds of a feather,’ individuals as wild, reckless and unreflecting as myself.” He did manage to graduate, but it was at Trinity that he was bitten by the theater bug, from which he never recovered. He drifted to London where he found work on the stage, and never looked back. In 1832, John Brougham arrived in New York City and immediately found work as an actor. He then joined a repertory company that toured the country. His initial success earned him a good deal of money, unusual for an actor in those days. But he lost it all to professional gamblers on a Mississippi River steamboat. Returning to New York City “wiser and poorer,” Brougham became associated with William Burton, an established theater owner for whom he wrote several plays. He then moved on to become the manager of Niblo’s Gardens, a popular theater. Next, he opened his own theater, Brougham’s Lyceum, in 1850. Once again, this venture started out well but soon ran into difficulties involving an unsafe building. The final blow came when a swindle by one of his “friends” left him not only broke, but deeply in debt. He eventually paid off all his debts and moved to London for a while, where he produced several of his own plays. While there, the American Civil War broke out and he was stranded FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013 IRISH AMERICA 41



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in England for the duration. After the war, Brougham returned to New York and continued working in the theater, becoming a fixture in the theatrical and literary life of the city. He kept a diary in which he often commented on life in the theater. These reflections were later adapted to become his autobiography, and in one part he commented on the public’s misconceptions of actors: “As a class, we are laborious, our mornings are devoted to study and rehearsals, our evenings to acting and we haven’t the time to be very wicked. In fact, generally speaking, the vices of the theatrical profession end where the crimes of some of the ministers begin.” In his retirement Brougham became a founder, president, and vicepresident of the Lotos Club, a literary club still active today. After an adventurous life he died peacefully on June 6, 1880 and lies beneath a large stone marked simply, “Brougham.” Another Irishman who did extremely well in the early New York theater world was William Niblo. Born in Ireland in 1798, Niblo came to America as a young man and found work as an apprentice at a coffee house. This was the beginning of a charmed career. He seems to have been possessed of a naturally outgoing and pleasant disposition. Indeed, his obituary in the New York Times, described him as “jovial, kind-hearted and generous almost to a fault.” He also had an inclination toward entrepreneurship, quickly rising through the ranks at the coffee house. Of course, it did him no harm to marry the boss’s daughter. Niblo soon succeeded his father-in-law and expanded the little place into a larger operation called the Bank Coffee House, which enjoyed the patronage of many wealthy merchants of the city. Apparently, providing food and drink to his upscale clientele appealed to Niblo, and the coffee house developed into a successful restaurant. Niblo realized the potential of owning a theater, sold the restaurant, purchased land nearby and opened Niblo’s Gardens, a theater with a saloon attached to it. This innovative venture prospered from the outset, due largely to Niblo’s energy, personality, and advanced management skills. He hired capable people to run his theater, but he still oversaw the entire operation. He was constantly on the lookout for new acts for his venue, which ranged from 42 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013

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John Brougham and his grave-stone, below


vaudeville to complete Italian operas and the newly formed New York Philharmonic, and everything in between. In 1835 Niblo’s Gardens hosted P.T. Barnum’s first Exhibition, and after Niblo’s retirement his Gardens produced what many consider the first musical comedy staged in New York, “The Black Crook,” in 1866. With its extensive use of chorus girls, this show was thought somewhat risqué for legitimate theater at the time. As described in Mark Twain’s review: “The scenery and legs are everything . . . Girls . . . nothing but a wilderness of girls . . . dressed with a meagerness that would make a parasol blush.” Niblo understood to what extent a service business depended on its employees, and so he was an extremely generous

employer, paying everyone who worked for him, in whatever capacity, very well. He even gave some of his long-time employees a pension on retirement, a relatively rare benefit then and now. Niblo’s Gardens attracted all the great names in the theater: Dion Boucicault, another Irish-born actor and playwright; his wife Agnes Robertson, a famous singer of Irish songs; and William Burton, Edwin Forrest, Matilda Heron and Laura Keene, among many others. The theater burned down twice, but each time Niblo replaced it with a bigger and better one. Niblo’s Gardens continued until its final performance on March 23, 1895. Niblo gradually acquired a large art collection and upon retirement devoted his final years to philanthropy, with a particular interest in art museums and churches, even donating a stained glass window to Calvary Episcopal Church, which remains today behind the choir loft with Niblo’s name clearly visible at the bottom. When his beloved wife, Mary, died in 1851, William Niblo began construction on his family mausoleum in Green-Wood Cemetery. The elaborate structure, built alongside a lake, had the unique feature of a large front lawn where the successful restaurateur would host picnics on weekends. Niblo stocked the lake with goldfish and, as all the lakes in Green-Wood are connected, soon all the lakes had goldfish. Their descendants thrive there today. William Niblo died peacefully on August 21, 1878 at the advanced age of 80, and despite his extensive philanthropy, left

The tomb of William Niblo, an Irish immigrant who became a rich merchant and theater owner


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an estate of approximately $150,000. After the customary bequests to family, friends, and charities he left a final bequest to Green-Wood Cemetery of $5,000 for the future maintenance of his family mausoleum. Among the most noteworthy Irish expatriates reposing in Green-Wood is Matilda Heron – a famous actress in her day, with an erratic career and an equally erratic personal life. Born in Labby Vale, Draperstown, County Derry, on December 1, 1830, Heron emigrated to America with her family sometime in the 1840’s, arriving in Philadelphia. They quickly prospered, with her father soon owning a lumber mill and her older brother, Alexander, going into the steamship business, eventually establishing the Heron Line of Schooners. When Matilda’s father died, Alexander became patriarch of the clan. Matilda had always wanted to go into the theater, an ambition of which he did not approve. Eventually, however, she got her way, studying acting and making her debut at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. She was soon performing in various cities, appearing in John Brougham’s adaptation of Dickens’ Dombey and Son, in which she was seen by Thomas Hamblin, manager of the Bowery Theatre. Hamblin offered her a job in New York, where her career took off. Matilda had a unique acting style for the time, which could be called “natural.” She was not given to exaggerated gestures or overdone speaking. This endeared her to many of the more discerning critics of the day. With her career moving along, Matilda decided to try her luck in California. The West was still frontier, and many residents were eager for whatever art and culture they could find, so it was attractive to theater people from the East. Matilda had a difficult journey, her manager dying on the way, and she arrived in San Francisco alone and broke. Her reputation preceded her, however, especially among the large Irish community. She became an overnight sensation, but soon foolishly married one of her biggest fans, a young Irish American district attorney with political aspirations named Henry Herbert Byrne. The marriage started to fail almost immediately and she left for New York. From there she went to France, intending to hone her acting skills. She was at this time estranged from her brother, which distressed her as they had always been close as children. An uncorroborated

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story of their reconciliation survives, according to which she was attending a performance when she was tapped on the shoulder and heard, “Tilly, that’s a play that would make your fortune, if you would translate it for America.” She turned and saw her brother. On that auspicious day, two life-changing events occurred: she and Alexander ended their



who was devoted to her and stayed close to her throughout her illness and death. Despite her two marriages Matilda always maintained that she was a devout Catholic and received the last rites. However, she requested that her funeral take place at the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in Manhattan, generally known as “The Little Church Around the Corner.” The church was packed to overflowing and the pallbearers had difficulty carrying her coffin through the dense crowd. Her coffin bore two nameplates: “Matilda Agnes Heron, died March 7, 1877 aged 46 years” and another, simply: “Camille.” Matilda’s daughter went on to become the well-known actress, Bijou Heron. She married the Broadway producer Henry Miller, for whom the Henry Miller Theater was named. Their son, Gilbert Miller, went on to become one of the most successful Broadway producers, putting on nearly one hundred hit plays before dying at age

Matilda Heron, an Irish-born American actress

estrangement and she discovered the play that would bring her stardom and success. The play was La Dame aux Camelias by Alexander Dumas, fils (illegitimate son of Alexander Dumas). It was based on a true story involving a courtesan. Matilda translated it, toned it down somewhat, and brought it to New York, where it was enthusiastically received. It was said that in her career she earned $150,000 from this play alone. But while her career was soaring, her marriage was declining, and she soon filed for divorce. Matilda was scarcely out of one bad marriage, however, when she began another. Robert Stoepel, a wellknown composer and conductor, pursued her relentlessly, soon winning her hand. Matilda was the recipient of bad legal advice and married Stoepel thinking her divorce from Byrne was final when it was not, making her a bigamist. Soon all three were at war, mostly over money, mostly Matilda’s. Byrne died and she left Stoepel, but her health declined. Stoepel and Matilda had a daughter, Helene (nicknamed Bijou by her mother)

Bijou Heron

85 in 1966. Thus, Matilda Heron, born in Ireland, established one of the wealthiest and most successful Broadway dynasties in New York. She lies buried under an elaborate Celtic Cross in a beautiful section of Green-Wood, along with her daughter, Bijou, and her husband, Henry, and also, curiously, Robert Stoepel. Another actress who did very well on the New York stage was Ada Rehan. Born Delia Crehan in 1859 in Limerick, she was brought to Brooklyn by her parents at age five. She had an early inclination for the theater, which her parents encouraged. In her first role she was mistakenly billed as Ada C. Rehan, but she liked the name and continued to use it, dropping the “C.” As Ada Rehan, she rose quickly in the FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013 IRISH AMERICA 43



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John Singer Sargent’s portrait of Ada Rehan METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART

in one of his plays specifically with her in mind. Her full-length portrait, by John Singer Sargent, is in the permanent collection of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Rehan retired from the theater in 1905, and spent much time in her cottage in Ireland. Never having married, she died peacefully in New York in 1916 after a long and happy career. On her grave in Green-Wood is placed a large cross with “Ada Rehan” carved on it. Far more turbulent was the personal and professional life of Eliza Gilbert. Gilbert was born in Grange, Co. Sligo in February 1821. Her mother, Eliza Oliver, was the daughter of the local landlord Charles Silver Oliver, Esq. M.P. and Mary Green, a laundress. Her father, Edward Gilbert, was a British Army officer stationed in Cork. After a tempestuous childhood in Ireland, India, and England,

theater and soon became the protégé of the highly successful impresario Augustin Daly. She stayed with him for most of her career, performing in New The actress York and London, doing both Lola Montez Shakespeare (her favorite role was Kate in The Taming of The Shrew) and contemporary plays, mostly comedies, in which she also excelled. Indeed, Ada was so popular that she became Sarah Bernhardt’s chief rival, and while in London, Oscar Wilde was said to have written a part

Eliza settled in London but, in need of an occupation, went to Spain to study dancing. Eliza Gilbert left London and Lola Montez, stage dancer, actress and courtesan, returned. Much has been written about Lola’s extravagant life in Europe, where she had an affair with Franz Liszt and later became 44 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013

mistress to Ludwig I of Bavaria, who named her Countess of Landsfeld. But what is less well-known is her transformation while performing in America. Despite being panned by almost all the critics, she became a well paid dancer, more what we would call a “performance artist,” with the bulk of her audiences young men. On the way back from a successful tour of Australia, Frank Folland, her paramour and the leading man of her theater troupe, fell overboard and drowned. While Lola had nothing to do with his death, it apparently affected her deeply. Upon arrival back in America, she gave up her wild ways and sold her extensive jewelry collection to help Folland’s family. In 1857, Lola began what was to be the most successful phase of her career, lecturing. She came under the influence of some Universalist ministers, and her lectures were hailed as uplifting, many focusing on women’s issues of the time. She also wrote several best-selling books for women, a number of which are still in print today. Lola returned to Ireland as part of a lecture tour including England and Scotland, and was enthusiastically received everywhere, especially in Cork and Limerick, where she partly grew up. She returned to New York and continued to lecture, but died suddenly of pneumonia on January 17, 1861, just shy of her 40th birthday. Her marble stone at Green-Wood deteriorated and was replaced with a granite stone not long ago.

Civil War Heroes Michael Fitz-James O’Brien was one of the most well-known characters in pre Civil War New York but is virtually unknown today. O’Brien was born in Cork in 1826 to a wealthy Catholic family. Upon attaining his majority, O’Brien inherited his maternal grandfather’s entire estate, some eight thousand pounds, a very large amount at that time. Unfortunately, the newly rich O’Brien immediately departed for London, where he went through the entire sum in two years. He arrived in New York in 1851 and made a precarious living writing. Over the course of ten years he published approximately four hundred stories, poems and articles, two hit plays, and several translations. Despite this output, O’Brien managed to find time for an ample social life, including the theater, balls, and bar room brawls. He became the first columnist in New York, writing “The Man About



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Town” column for Harper’s President of the Examining Board Weekly, and then for the New for officers. Briscoe was supYork Picayune. An outspoken posedly dismissed from the social and theater critic, he army for stealing, but this was both loved and hated. was not mentioned in his At the outbreak of the obituary in the New York Civil War, O’Brien joined Times and it is curious that the Union Army, was he would have been given a wounded in battle, and died government job after the war on April 6, 1862 in Maryland. with that on his record. He He never married, and his only died in 1869. living relatives were his mother Another Irish-born general, and stepfather. Although they Samuel Graham, was born in were both wealthy people, his Fitz-James O’Brien Belfast in 1813. Graham also body lay in Green-Wood’s receiving vault joined the Union Army at the beginning of for fourteen years before he was interred the war, and for his meritorious service at there in 1874. The responsible party’s Harper’s Ferry in 1864 was promoted to name is unrecorded. Brigadier General. Graham died in 1884. O’Brien was far from the only IrishJames Lawlor Kiernan had a brief but born New Yorker to fight in the Civil War interesting life. Born in Mount Bellew, and eventually end up in Green-Wood. County Galway, he came to America after Numerous Irish heroes, veterans of the most deadly armed conflict in our nation’s history, lie buried within its fences, among them four generals. One of these is James C. Briscoe, born in Willmount, Co. Kilkenny, in 1834. Briscoe graduated from Trinity College and came to America in 1854, where he became a civil engineer. At the outbreak of the Civil War he joined the First New York Volunteers and put his engineering skills to work. He rose through the ranks and, having distinguished himself at the capture of Petersburg, was brevetted General. James Lawlor Briscoe was wounded several times, and at Kiernan the close of the war was appointed

attending Trinity College to study medicine at the fledgling New York School of Medicine. He practiced medicine and also published the New York Medical Journal from 1859 to 1861, and when the war began was commissioned as an army surgeon. By choice he became an infantry officer and was severely wounded in the Battle of Port Gibson, where he was mistakenly left for dead but subsequently captured by the Confederates. He managed to escape from military prison and rejoin the Union forces. President Lincoln himself then appointed Kiernan Brigadier General in 1863 and he served out the remainder of the war in that capacity. Afterwards he was appointed consul to the Chinese city of Chinkiang, but had to return after a few months due to failing health, the result of his wounds. Kiernan returned to his medical practice but died in 1869 at age 32. The most flamboyant of all the Irish-born generals, however, must be Brigadier General Thomas Sweeny, known as “Fighting Tom” and “The Hero of Shiloh.” Sweeny came to America as a child with his widowed mother. He expressed an early interest in the military, and as soon as he came of age joined the army. He served heroically in the Mexican War where he lost his right arm. This seeming disability failed to derail his military career, and Sweeny remained in the army into the Civil War, where he managed to be wounded in just about FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013 IRISH AMERICA 45



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Young Irelanders movement of 1848, memorialized in Green-Wood. One is Patrick O’Donohue, who was convicted of treason in an Irish court for his part in the uprising, sentenced to death, but instead was given life imprisonment in Van Dieman’s Land, where he founded Australia’s first Irish-themed newspaper. He escaped and made his way to Brooklyn, New York where he died in 1854 and is buried under a large flat stone which bears his name, date of death, a cross, and the words “Irish Rebel,” all clearly visible after over 150 years. Another legend, who was both an Irish patriot and an American Civil War hero, is Thomas Francis Meagher, who was born in Waterford City, of which his father was mayor. Meagher was prominent in the Young Irelander Rebellion and was sentenced with O’Donohue, and sent to Van Dieman’s Land, and, like him, he escaped. He arrived in New


every battle in which he fought (in one battle he was shot three times). Indeed, after one encounter in which Sweeny wasn’t wounded, General Grant jokingly declared that it therefore couldn’t count as a battle. Sweeny served with distinction, always at the head of his troops. He would lead them into battle with his rifle in his left hand and his horse’s reins in his teeth. After the war he retired, but he had one last battle to fight. The Fenians named him their Secretary of War, and he participated in the doomed invasion of Canada. This ill-planned fiasco landed most of its leaders in jail, but Sweeny was soon released and reinstated in the Army. In 1870 he retired to his home in New York, where he died of old age in 1892. A bronze bust of Sweeny, done posthumously by Irish-American sculptor James Kelly in 1914, was recently given to Green-Wood Cemetery and will soon be placed in front of his grave. There are two Irish patriots, part of the 46 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013

Green-Wood’s Civil War Memorial

York City where he established a successful law practice and at the outbreak of the Civil War helped establish the Irish Brigade and became their General, leading them through many of the most difficult battles of the war. After the war, while serving as Acting Governor of the Territory of Montana, Meagher drowned in the Missouri River under unexplained

circumstances, and his body was never recovered. A Veterans Administration marker issued in his name by the United States Government has been placed at the Green-Wood resting place of his widow, Elizabeth Townsend Meagher, one of the founders of Catholic Charities. GreenWood is working on erecting a more fitting memorial at the site to honor Meagher’s service to both Ireland and America. The sketches presented here are a few of the many Irish people who overcame obstacles, sometimes seemingly insurmountable, to achieve great success and make lasting contributions to their adopted country. Unfortunately, for many of them, these accomplishments remain virtually unknown today. Though diverse in their pursuits, what they all had in common was a seeming inability to accept defeat. Awareness of their lives and legacies, and those of numerous others like them, is important to the understanding of the history of the Irish in America. Green-Wood Cemetery is proud of its longstanding connection with the Irish; in fact, through the cooperation of local Irish organizations, a monument has been erected close by the grave of Matilda Tone, on which are engraved the names of twenty-eight Irish-born soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for their adopted country in the Korean War and who, on October 30, 2003, were made citizens of the United States by a Special Act of IA Congress. Green-Wood Cemetery is located in the Greenwood Heights section of Brooklyn, a few blocks below Prospect Park. Guided tours on foot and via trolley are available, and the cemetery is open to visitors seven days a week. When Hurricane Sandy swept through the region at the end of October, almost 300 of Green-Wood’s 8,000 trees were felled, damaging some of the cemetery’s oldest statues and memorials. Green-Wood is working actively to remove the debris and restore the grounds and statuary. For more information, or to donate to Green-Wood’s preservation fund and Hurricane Sandy restoration, visit www. or call 718-768-7300.

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Rory’s Legacy The parents of Rory Staunton, a brilliant and passionate Irish-American boy who died of sepsis at age 12, are on a mission to make sure that no other child is felled by this fatal infection. By Kelly Fincham


f I’d known about sepsis, I would have looked for sepsis,” says Orlaith Staunton whose 12-yearold son Rory died on April 1, 2012 from the deadly medical condition. “I knew about meningitis, I checked him for meningitis, I checked him for a bug bite, but I didn’t know about sepsis.” Rory died at NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan five days after cutting his elbow during an indoor basketball game at school on Wednesday, March 28. He became ill overnight and Orlaith brought him to the pediatrician on Thursday, March 29. Despite finding with classic signs of sepsis (low blood pressure, pain, fever and mottled skin), the pediatrician did not see that Rory was already in the throes of what would prove to be an overwhelming, toxic response to a strep infection in his bloodstream, most likely acquired through the cut to his elbow. The pediatrician diagnosed a stomach bug and referred the family to the ER at Langone. There, the ER doctor concurred with the mistaken diagnosis and sent Rory home. This inability to revisit the initial


diagnosis was recently singled out by Forbes as a major factor in medical errors. “Once the physician made a diagnosis, she or he did not revisit it or challenge it.” In addition, the doctors sent Rory home without reviewing his lab results, which showed massive numbers of immature white blood cells in his system — a known sepsis indicator. Rory was readmitted to Langone ICU on Friday, March 30 where a different rotation of ER doctors could see he was gravely ill. But it was too late. Rory died at 6.29 p.m. on Sunday, April 1, 2012. His sweat was still warm as his parents cradled his body. “We had never heard of the word sepsis until our son was dead. If we had been able to ask, ‘is this sepsis?’ he could have been treated,” says his father, Ciaran. “We didn’t even know sepsis existed. I didn’t know sepsis could kill our child until it was too late.” His parents were also unaware of the lab report until the hospital bill arrived at the house the following week. “The bill arrived with Rory’s mass cards,” says Ciaran. Orlaith, originally from Drogheda in

County Louth, and Ciaran, originally from Westport in County Mayo, and their 11-year-old daughter Kathleen have spent the past 10 months trying to adjust to life without Rory. From their home in Sunnyside, Queens, they have also spent the past 10 months shaking the U.S. medical establishment from head to toe in an effort to make sepsis, like meningitis and heart attacks, part of an automatic checklist for patients and medical providers. “Orlaith knew to check Rory for meningitis. And we know how many lives have been saved by prompt treatment of meningitis. We want people to know sepsis is a killer,” says Ciaran. “Sepsis killed our son.” Sepsis is an extremely serious condition caused by the body’s devastating immune response to infection. The body produces chemicals to fight the infection, in Rory’s case Group A Strep, but chemicals themselves cause widespread inflammation which can fatally damage the organs. It is a common but almost virtually unknown killer. It is the single biggest cause of death in U.S. intensive care units



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Orlaith, Rory, Kathleen and Ciaran Staunton.


and kills 200,000 Americans each year, more than lung cancer, stroke and breast cancer combined. Yet a 2010 report found that 70 percent of Americans did not know about sepsis. Dr. Kevin J. Tracey, president of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, which commissioned that report, says an early warning sepsis checklist is long overdue. Speaking to The New York Times in 2010, Tracey said awareness was key to reducing sepsis fatalities and that it could be identified with a simple checklist. “If someone has an infection on the arm or leg, and then develops a fever, or starts to feel sick all over,” he said, “someone should say, ‘I’m concerned about sepsis.’ ” Two years later, despite Rory’s displaying exactly those symptoms, the Stauntons would lose their son because the initial attending physicians were not concerned about sepsis. The Stauntons have lobbied state, federal and local officials to put such a checklist in place. “We want parents, doctors and medical workers across the U.S.

to stop and say “Could this be sepsis?,” says Ciaran. They accomplished a major step towards this goal in January when New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo cited Rory’s case as the catalyst for sweeping new sepsis policies in New York hospitals. The New York Times reported that Rory’s death could save up to 8,000 lives a year in the state alone. The new policies include a countdown clock to begin treatment within an hour of diagnosis and requires regulators to develop new procedures for parents to “play a meaningful and informed role” in decisions about their children’s care. Both initiatives are a direct legacy of Rory’s tragic death. Ciaran says he hopes other state governors and federal agencies will follow suit. “These measures will make the difference whether people live or die, and Cuomo is clearly saying that he wants to see people living,” he says. At the Feinstein Institute, Dr. Tracey believes the Stauntons will change the world. Speaking to Jim Dwyer at The New York Times in December 2012, Dr. Tracey said: “We are with sepsis where

we were with heart attack in the early 1980s. If you don’t think of it as a possibility, this story can happen again and again. This case could change the world.” Dwyer — who has written five articles on Rory’s case and knows the Stauntons — agrees. He says Rory’s story could transform the medical establishment. “There can be a kind of vindictive truth telling and a kind of a redemptive truth telling and I think that one of the things that have come out of this terrible, terrible episode is that Ciaran and Orlaith have moved the world forward with their redemptive truth telling,” he says. Dwyer met Rory in the summer of 2011 when the family stayed at his house in the Poconos. He described Rory as “one of those people who you would never forget, even after one meeting. I knew I would never forget him and I would say the same about his sister Kathleen. Two powerful young people.” Like many who know the Stauntons, Dwyer was shocked at Rory’s death, and the speed and the severity of his decline. Dwyer says it was a worst-case nightmare of bad decisions and bad luck. “Every single possible bad thing that FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013 IRISH AMERICA 49



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“There aren’t even any words to describe what has happened to us,” says Ciaran. “We have words for orphans and widows but no words for parents who lose their child.”

could happen, happened, to Rory and resulted in accelerating his decline. Nobody intervened when intervention might have helped. Every time there was a chance to do something for Rory there were steps that weren’t taken and people who didn’t know that there was a problem. “A healthy 12-year-old boy dying on any occasion would be shocking but to die in one of the country’s leading medical centers is just...” Dwyer’s voice trails off. Since Rory’s death, the Stauntons have set up The Rory Staunton Foundation and created a Facebook presence to raise awareness about sepsis. They have appeared on The Today Show and Dr Oz, and radio and TV shows overseas. They decided to go public on their private trauma to try and ensure that no other parent or family has to walk in their shoes. “There aren’t even any words to describe what has happened to us,” says Ciaran. “We have words for orphans and widows but no words for parents who lose their child.” Ciaran Staunton is well known in the Irish American community for his involvement in immigration, care for the elderly and the Irish peace process. So long a campaigner for others, today he campaigns in honor of his son. He is driven by the knowledge that Rory would have wanted them to do this. “Rory would have been the first one fighting this battle,” he says. “He hated injustice on any scale.” Rory’s story has touched hundreds of thousands of people. There were so many comments (1,659) on Dwyer’s first New York Times piece, “An Infection, Unnoticed, Turns Unstoppable,” that Dwyer himself weighed in. “It was the first time I got involved in back and forth with comments,” he says. “There were over a million hits on that first story about Rory and there was such 50 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013

a vigorous debate going on between medical and non-medical people. It was one of those stories that really shifted the ground and was one of the highest ever in reader reaction.” The publicity has already saved lives as parents around the country look at their sick children and ask “Could this be sepsis?” “One woman wrote to us to say that her 12-year-old son was standing next to her at the pool because of Rory,” says Ciaran.

stayed with him — “the Staunton family lost 25 percent of their family to sepsis.” In November 2012, Ciaran spoke at the fifth international conference on medical errors at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Maryland. One of the organizers, Dr. Gordon Schiff, said that Rory’s story was so compelling that they added a special session to focus on his case. Orlaith says she wants to see a clear communication path between the doctor in charge and the parents or guardians. “Pediatric emergency rooms are scary places for children and Ciaran Staunton (left) family,” she says. “Parents need presenting to have a clear communication Rory's story at channel available to them. They the Fifth need to be informed as to who is International Diagnostic Error the doctor in charge of their in Medicine child’s care, what blood tests or conference at other tests have been ordered, Johns Hopkins medical their results, the diagnosis being school,with made and any other possible diagconference nosis being considered and what organizers Dr. change in the patient’s condition David Toker Newman and would require that they return Dr. Gordon immediately to the ED. They also Schiff. need to be given a telephone number for follow-up questions should changes they are concerned about take place.” For Ciaran, the alternative is unthinkable. “We don’t want any other families sitting on The Today Show explaining how their son died.” Dwyer says Orlaith and Ciaran’s efforts to raise awareness about sepsis and work for change in the pediatric ER are inspirational. The Stauntons are also working on a “There is nothing we can do that will Discovery Channel documentary about redeem the death of Rory, but Orlaith and medical errors with Sully Sullenberger, Ciaran have vindicated a powerful sense the “Miracle on the Hudson” pilot. This of justice and right and wrong and fairness last is particularly poignant. Sully was that was evident in Rory even as a young Rory’s “ultimate hero,” says Orlaith. “He boy,” Dwyer says. kept his book beside his bed.” “They say that children teach their parRory’s story has been highlighted at ents, and Rory’s lessons for Orlaith and major conferences in the U.S. including Ciaran have shown him to be the powerful an invitational sepsis symposium led by and wise instructor he was destined to be the New York State health commissioner in life. He has fulfilled some of his destiny Nirav Shah in October 2012. Shah said in the work that Orlaith and Ciaran have IA later that one statistic from that day has done.”



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Calling Up


The Ancestors world. There are now a myriad of television programs (such as Who Do You Think You Are, for which Megan has worked) devoted to exploring the roots of everyone from average Joes to A-list celebrities. As Smolenyak has experienced directly from her discoveries concerning Annie Moore and the roots of Barack and Michelle Obama, genealogy can be front-page news. This also means that when people want to know things, they want to know them quickly. Far from a On a bright and blustery mornquiet routine of flipping through ing we strolled through the Irish dusty records, Megan’s work Hunger Memorial in Manhatinvolves hours of finely-tuned tan’s Battery Park, chatting digital and physical research; about her heritage and the parcold calls to living relatives; ticular challenges faced by Irish DNA testing; networking and Americans trying to uncover enlisting the help of fellow their roots. Over lunch at the genealogists around the world. Liberty Grill, with Ellis Island, Once, she told me, while conthe Statue of Liberty and Jersey Megan Smolenyak ducting research for a celebrity City (where, coincidentally, her mother’s round of Top Chef, she found herself clockIrish relatives settled) just beyond the patio ing 19.5-hour work days. Still, she wouldrailing, she shared stories of her key Irish n’t trade if for anything. “I’m really fortucases and passion for her work. nate to love what I do. I don’t care if the Megan’s life is a testament to how popuhours are flying by. It’s time well spent, lar genealogy has become in the last few solving mysteries for a living. If I weren’t decades, during which she said a “perfect me, I’d probably want to be – well, me.” storm of circumstances” led to the mainSmolenyak can say this with absolute streaming of the field. The Internet and the confidence as she had a whole other profesdigitization of records and indexes have sional life before returning to genealogy, played a major role, as has the potential for her original passion. Perhaps her deep connection opened up by social networking interest in roots stems from her childhood sites, through which people can reach out spent in so many places. Her father worked to distant relatives in far corners of the with the U.S. Army, so the family moved

Digital archives, DNA testing and increased interest have made finding ancestors easier than ever before. But tracing one’s roots – especially Irish roots – is still no easy task. Megan Smolenyak^2 is the genealogist behind such important discoveries as President Obama’s Irish roots and the real identity of Annie Moore, the first immigrant to pass through Ellis Island. It’s time consuming, tedious work. But Smolenyak^2 (more about that later) wouldn’t trade it for anything. Interview by Sheila Langan. ur ancestors are lucky that Megan Smolenyak is on their side. A genealogical detective with a 95% success rate (that’s over the course of thirteen years and thousands of family trees), Smolenyak takes on cases big and small, high profile and not, for commission and out of her own interest. She has consulted for everyone from and Top Chef to the FBI and NCIS. She traces the roots of celebrities and figures from history. She also founded Unclaimed Persons, a volunteer group through which genealogists volunteer to help coroners identify next-of-kin, and she works with the U.S. army in its efforts to repatriate soldiers who died abroad in World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam. Over the summer, Megan, who lives in southern New Jersey, came up to New York to talk about her research and her latest book, Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing, which gives an in-depth look at some of her most fascinating cases to date.





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Left to right: Annie Moore and her brothers, Philip and Anthony, at Ellis Island, January 1, 1892; Front: Cian Higgins (11) holds his school’s attendance record from the 1900s with the name of his ancestor, Private Thomas Costello, who was lost fighting for America in WWI. Back: Tommie Costello, another relative, and John Joe Higgins; Smolenyak with President Obama in Dublin, May 2011.



around frequently. Megan was born in France, lived in England as a child, and then moved to the Washington D.C. area, Kansas, and different parts of New Jersey. “I’m told I spoke French before I spoke English, but I don’t recall it at all,” she mused. “I had a British accent the first time I visited Ireland, when I was 9. No one believed my sister and I were American!” Her interest in genealogy was piqued in 6th grade, when a homework assignment prompted her to find the origins of her surname. On a large map, the students had to paste their names over the countries their ancestors came from. Megan, who has paternal roots in Slovakia, recalls “basically having the whole Soviet Union to myself. That was the first time I realized there was something different about my heritage, so that started me on [genealogy]. I was that twisted little kid saving up money to buy copies of death certificates. When I was living in the D.C. area, I couldn’t wait to turn 16 – not to get my license, but because that’s how old you had to be to go to the National Archives without an adult.” She continued to do genealogy work throughout college in D.C., but at that point it wasn’t yet a field in which one could make a full living. Instead, she became an international marketing consultant, a job that took her all over the world. Despite a grueling itinerary – she was, at one point, averaging nine months each year outside of the U.S. – Smolenyak made time while at home to pursue genealogy work and another side interest, producing local access TV. When she wanted to try a new career path in production, a documentarian she knew connected her with a team from PBS. Though genealogy wasn’t on the agenda for the meeting, they spoke briefly about Ancestors, a genealogy program on the net-

work, and Megan expressed her interest in the field. Just a few months after that, the series’ lead researcher dropped out of the project, and Megan was asked to step in. She flew out to Provo, Utah, where the series was based, and in a whirlwind quickly researched leads, put questions to the then-budding online genealogical community, and called in all the favors she could. The result was 13 rich stories for the series, which aired in 2000, and many more that didn’t make the cut. Megan felt that they still deserved to be told, and from these she wrote her first book. While on tour, she met the colonel who runs the Army’s Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, and he enlisted her help in identifying soldiers who were killed in action abroad. As Megan put it, “things just kept snowballing from there, and one opportunity led to the next.” It was also thanks to genealogy that she met her husband. All Smolenyaks trace their ancestry to one village, Osturna, in present-day Slovakia. Megan connected with various Smolenyaks over the years, and in 1996 they organized a reunion in Osturna. One Smolenyak, another enthusiastic researcher, introduced Megan to his first cousin, Brian Smolenyak. Megan and Brian wed in 2001 in New Zealand. They do not share a common Smolenyak ancestor – DNA testing showed that they aren’t related through that branch of the family at all. But the coincidence is all the more fantastic when you add in Megan’s line of work. After they married, she faced a dilemma about what to do with her name since, as she explained, most professional female genealogists use their full names. More than wanting to avoid an onslaught of kissing cousins quips (which she confirmed she gets all the time) she was apprehensive that people would think it was a gimmick. With a new book on its way to

publication, she had to make a decision, and in the end it was the writing that inspired her to move on with it. “The irony is that the book was called Honoring Your Ancestors, and there I was, too afraid to use my full name and represent my and my husband’s families.” She decided to save eight letters and square her name, writing it “Smolenyak^2.”“I’m just glad I found one who spelled it the same way!” she joked. While Megan knows the detailed history of her Slovak roots, her Irish ancestors have been harder to pin down. Her greatgrandmother Ellen Nelligan emigrated from Dromlegagh, Co. Kerry during the famine, and she has traced her Murphy and Shields branches to Cork and Ballymena, Co. Antrim, respectively. “My earliest branch are the Murphys from Cork. I grew up with stories about hedge schools on the River Lee,” she said. “But try to find a Murphy from Cork who came to the U.S. in the 1830s. It’s tough. I have more luck with other people’s families and not much time to research my own roots, sort of a ‘the shoemakers kids have no shoes’ case.” Having witnessed many people’s frustration trying to map their Irish heritage, I found it reassuring to hear that even master genealogists encounter obstacles. Megan confirmed that, while digital records have made things easier, many Irish Americans have a particularly tough time. “After African-American genealogy, it’s one of the hardest. Between the 1922 fire [in Dublin’s Four Courts, which destroyed years of Census records], Catholicism being more or less illegal, and government registration [of births, deaths and marriages] not starting ’til 1864, it can be very difficult,” she explained, especially for people whose ancestors left during the famine. “The most helpful thing is to find out the townland or parish your ancestor came from,” she advised. From there you can explore local records, which may contain clues unavailable elsewhere. Proud of her Irish heritage, Megan admitted that she takes a special interest in cases involving Irish ancestry. “I like the surprise Irish,” she said, “I always look for them when researching celebrities.” A few Irish surprises she found include Beyoncé, FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013 IRISH AMERICA 53


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whose Irish ancestor immigrated to New Orleans; Katy Perry, who has roots in Eyrecourt, Co. Galway; Barry Manilow, who is 1/4 Irish; and Stephen Colbert, who, despite the French last name, is 15/16 Irish. Her track record testifies to a vested interest in Irish roots. She has brought to light some of the most important Irish genealogical discoveries of the past decade. One army case she was assigned to concerned Private Thomas D. Costello, a WWI soldier who was found in Bois de Bonvaux, France. Costello’s case was somewhat unique in that he was an Irish immigrant. Born in Galway in 1892, he came to America with three siblings, and Megan was able to track down his great-grandnephew, who traveled from Maine to attend Private Costello’s final burial at Arlington National Cemetery on July 10, 2010. The following year, from the 1901 and 1911 Irish Censuses online, she found more living relatives in Costello’s hometown of Tuam, Co. Galway. With the help of a local genealogist, John Joe Higgins, she confirmed that a Tom Costello still living in Tuam was the soldier’s great-grandnephew. It also turned out that John Joe’s wife was Private Costello’s second cousin twice removed, and that their grandson, Cian, goes to the same school Costello attended. In 2007, during the Democratic primaries, she researched the candidates’ backgrounds, and her findings were released by, where she was chief family historian. The fact that then-candidate Barack Obama’s maternal third greatgrandfather was Irish sparked the media’s interest, so Megan persevered to find out where in Ireland Falmouth Kearney had been born. As we now know, it was Moneygall, Co. Offaly, the small, sleepy town President Obama visited in May 2011. “Back when I did the research in 2007, I wasn’t really thinking forward,” Megan recalled. “I know the whole classic pint-in -the-pub moment past U.S. presidents [with Irish roots] have had, but you just don’t think when you’re doing research that that’s going to be the result.” Smolenyak was invited to both Moneygall and to hear Obama’s speech in Dublin. 54 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013



Lord Mayor of Cork, Mick O’Connell, and Catherine O’Connell with Megan, signing the guest book at a reception honoring her Annie Moore discovery; Funeral of WWI soldier Thomas Costello (originally from Tuam), Arlington National Cemetery, July 2010.

She and her sister Stacy opted for the latter, and it was there that Barack and Michelle Obama thanked her personally for discovering his Irish heritage. “It was a good time to be American in Ireland!” Megan recalled. “My sister was running around telling people who I was, and strangers were shaking my hand. The Is Féidir Linn message was very important, and it was incredible to be part of that buoyancy. Even if I hadn’t had anything to do with it, it would have been fun to be there. Any excuse to visit Ireland.” Then, of course, there’s Annie Moore, who holds a special place in Megan’s heart. An Irish girl from Co. Cork, Annie was the first immigrant to pass through Ellis Island. At 17 years old, she arrived on the Nevada on January 1, 1892, with her younger brothers Philip and Anthony. Her story received renewed interest in 1992, during Ellis Island’s centennial and restoration, and her relatives came forth to talk about her legacy. The only problem was that their Annie had been born in Illinois. Megan shared this glaring discrepancy with the genealogical community in 2006, and offered a $1,000 reward to whomever could come up with proof of the real Annie. A few weeks later they had identified the real Annie and her living descendants, and had even found her grave – an unmarked stone in Calvary Cemetery, Queens. Annie received proper commemoration in the U.S. and her home town, Cobh, Co. Cork. Despite the happy ending, Megan’s work with Annie isn’t done. During the memorial service for Annie in 2006, which drew Irish dignitaries and Annie’s descendants from across the U.S., one relative presented Megan with what she thought could be a photo of Annie, Philip and Anthony at Ellis Island. Another relative had found it in the Ellis Island archives. It had no caption, but they thought it might be Annie. From their own albums, the family was able to dig up two additional photos – one of Annie as a young woman, and another of her near the end of her life in 1924, at age 50. The great and careful lengths that Megan

went to in order to figure out whether all three photos show the same person are detailed in Hey, America. In short, a range of forensic artists, historic photo analysts and other experts agree. When she presented her findings to Ellis Island, she was told that the photo could not be of Annie. Despite evidence pointing otherwise, an official maintains that the photo is of the on-shore Barge Office, where Annie never set foot. But Megan isn’t giving up on seeing the photo acknowledged. For her, it’s not a question of being right, but of what having a photo of that seminal moment would mean. “It’s an iconic image, one of those photos that should be in textbooks. We’re a nation of immigrants, so unless you’re Native American, Annie represents you. She’s an accidental symbol, but she’s a real symbol of the immigrant dream. “The other reason I’m so adamant,” she continued, “is because it could inspire a lot of young people. Kids don’t often get to see other kids making history, and to see Annie there with her two brothers, that’s the kind of thing that could get a lot of kids really excited about the past. . . . It’s an uphill battle, and after all these years I think Annie will decide when she’s done with me.” Speaking with Smolenyak, it’s clear that while she enjoys the mystery and the hunt, there’s also an almost spiritual element to finding these lost histories and helping people better understand who they are and where they come from. “I think it’s important to know about your history,” she agreed, “In tough times, when you learn what your ancestors endured, it really does give you a sense of hope and strength to know their blood is flowing in your veins.” Of equal importance, she also believes that knowing our ancestors can alter how we see ourselves in the world. “Genealogy is ultimately about connections, and it doesn’t hurt, especially in today’s world, to remind people that we’re all related. That’s very ‘kumbaya-ish,’ but it’s true. And it’s nice to emphasize the ties instead of the IA things that separate people.”

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{what are you like?} By Patricia Harty

Rachel Allen R

achel Allen was brought up in Dublin and at eighteen left to study at the prestigious Ballymaloe Cookery School in County Cork. Today, she not only teaches at the school but writes regular features for national publications, presents highly acclaimed TV programs and writes UK bestselling cookbooks. Currently, her TV show BAKE is shown on The Cooking Channel, and her new cookbook, Rachel’s Irish Family Food: 120 Classic Recipes from My Home to Yours is available from HarperCollins on February 19. Rachel lives near the sea in County Cork, Ireland with her husband and three beautiful children. What is your current state of mind? Happy.

Your hidden talent? It’s hidden from me too if I have one!

Your greatest extravagance? Food. And the odd pair of fabulous shoes!

Where do you go to think? I run on the beach by our house in County Cork.

Who is your hero? My parents.

Qualities you seek in friends? Loyalty and a great sense of fun.

What is on your bedside table? A lot of books that I’ll read when I get the time.

Your typical day? I don’t have one. One day I might be testing and writing recipes at home in the morning before giving an afternoon demonstration at Ballymaloe Cookery School, then heading home to cook supper and get our children’s homework finished. The next day could see me getting up at 4:30 a.m. to catch the first flight to London for a day of filming before catching the evening flight home to a supper with my family cooked by my husband.

What was your first job? Working in my mum’s boutique, which was a great Saturday job when I was a teenager. Your earliest memory? Standing on a chair baking with my big sister and my mum. Best advice ever received? You won’t shine any brighter by blowing out someone else’s flame. Long plane rides – do you chat? No, I love to take the time to think and to read one of the books from the pile beside my bed.


places in the world I have yet to see, so my favorite travel destination is always the next one on the list! Best opening in a piece of music? “Under Pressure” by Queen. Favorite film clip? I loved the opening sequence to the latest James Bond film Skyfall. What drives you? It doesn’t take much to drive me, I’m quite naturally driven and full of energy. Most embarrassing moment? Most embarrassing moment? I was giving a demonstration for 200 people in Singapore last September and I preheated my frying pan for too long, so when I added in the eggs for my omelette the pan went on fire! Luckily we put it out quickly, but it was quite embarrassing.

Your perfect day? Skiing on a sunny mountain with my husband and children with a delicious mid-piste Alpine lunch.

Favorite place? Back home on the farm at Ballymaloe in Ireland.

Favorite travel destination? I’m so fortunate with my job that I do get to travel a lot and there are so many

Favorite sound? Happy chatter with friends and family around our kitchen table at home.



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Favorite smell? Roast chicken cooking away in the oven. It always reminds me of home. Favorite flavor? Vanilla. Most frequently used spice? The spice I love to use most has got to be cumin, in everything from cooling cucumber raita to roast leg of lamb. What’s your go-to comfort food? Roast chicken, see above. Favorite drink? A great gin and tonic with a slice of cucumber and lime. How have the last few years affect-

ed Ireland’s “food revolution”? There’s been a huge rise in fantastic artisan food producers and even more emphasis on eating local and being proud of our wonderful produce. How many cooks in the kitchen is too many? I’m good with working in a team, so once there’s enough space (and not too many egos!) then the more the merrier.

September 2013. What’s your most distinguishing characteristic? People say I’m bubbly, so maybe that! What do you deplore in others? Lack of manners. What’s your motto? The glass is always half full.

What question do you wish someone would ask you? Would you like a free ticket to the Bahamas?

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing what you are doing? Designing shoes!

What are you working on? A new book all about great nutritious food which is set for release in

What are you like? I hope I’m a great wife, loving mother and loyal friend. IA




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Joe Kennedy – THE

HOLLYWOOD YEARS Movie columnist Tom Deignan examines David Nasaw’s book The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy with an eye to Kennedy’s time in Hollywood.


he year was 1926, a year before Charles Lindbergh would make his heralded flight across the Atlantic. And so, when a 38-year-old Joseph P. Kennedy made his first trip to Hollywood, a train would have to do. Kennedy’s grandparents, Patrick Kennedy and Bridget Murphy, had also traveled thousands of miles to chase a dream, from New Ross, Co. Wexford, to Boston. But they had traveled in dire conditions, at a time when treacherous vessels were called “coffin ships” and cholera was referred to by some in Boston as “the natural death of the Irish.” Joseph P. Kennedy knew little of such conditions. He was a successful and wealthy businessman with extensive political connections. And yet, as David Nasaw makes clear in his brilliant new biography The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy (The Penguin Press), Kennedy was no stranger to anti-Irish bigotry in Brahmin Boston. “As an Irish Catholic from East Boston, Kennedy has always known that he would have to forge his own path into Boston business and banking circles,” writes Nasaw, who was granted unprecedented access to Kennedy family archives in order to write this book. 58 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013

A True American Though Kennedy attended Boston Latin School as well as Harvard (where less than 10 percent of the students were Catholic, according to Nasaw), uppercrust “proper Bostonians” still looked down upon Irish Catholics like him, especially those whose fathers made a fortune in the disreputable businesses of

saloons and Democratic ward politics. Perhaps this is one reason Hollywood beckoned for Kennedy. Whereas Boston was a rigid town, stratified by class and ethnicity, Hollywood had no established order. In fact, as Nasaw notes, Hollywood was one place Kennedy could seem unimpeachably “American.” And Kennedy was more than willing to exploit this fact, even if he was playing on the kind of bigotry native Bostonians employed against the Irish. Either way, the publication of Nasaw’s magisterial biography presents a valuable opportunity to revisit Joe Kennedy’s years in Hollywood. As Cari Beauchamp wrote in her 2009 book Joseph P. Kennedy Presents: His Hollywood Years, “Precious little was mentioned [in Kennedy’s 1969 obituaries] about his time in Hollywood, let alone his unique impact on the film business.” This even though by the time Joseph P. Kennedy had made a name for himself in Tinseltown, he was a millionaire, had embarked on a notorious love affair with one of Hollywood’s top leading ladies, and led film companies through an era of unprecedented social and technological change.

“Drawn to Show Business” “From childhood, when he put on patriotic pageants in his backyard, through Harvard, where he and his classmates spent as much time as they could at the theater . . . Kennedy had always . . . been



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drawn to show business,” Nasaw writes. In 1917, while trying to make a name for himself in banking, Kennedy was introduced to comedy star Fred Stone, whose films were flopping at the box office. Kennedy helped fund and organize a new production company designed to reverse Stone’s fortunes. “Kennedy had found the perfect vehicle for his ambitions as a banker and financier, the picture business,” Nasaw writes. Early attempts by Kennedy to produce films starring beloved Red Sox baseball player (and future Yankee) Babe Ruth failed, so Kennedy focused on distributing and exhibiting films, forming Columbia Films in 1919. “As you know, I have made a particular study of this motion picture business, with the idea that sooner or later the motion picture companies would need someone from the banking business who was familiar with the motion picture business,” Kennedy later wrote, positioning himself as the perfect mogul, with experience on both the financial and

artistic side of the film world. At this point, the movie business still had a heavy presence on the East Coast, with film companies centered in New York, Boston and elsewhere. “While the movies were produced in Hollywood . . . it was in New York City that the major decisions were made,” Nasaw writes, later adding: “With no ties to Hollywood or Broadway, Kennedy had figured how to use his outsider status to his advantage.”

Ethnic Tensions In Hollywood, Joe Kennedy proved he was not above exploiting the ethnic suspicions of middle America – the very people who, at times, viewed Catholics as suspect. (The Ku Klux Klan would become a major political factor in the later 1920s, spreading fear of a papal takeover of America if Al Smith won the presidency in 1928.) The early 1920s saw cries for reform in Hollywood, which was seen as a pit of obscenity and indecency. (Sound familiar?) Films with titles such as The

Restless Sex and Luring Lips led critics to view films as a corrupting influence. Many, as Nasaw writes, “felt the industry was not to be trusted because it was controlled by unscrupulous, money-hungry, immoral Jews.” Many Jewish immigrants did indeed play prominent roles in the film business, partly because they, too, had faced discrimination in other fields. Either way, a fine upstanding Midwestern Protestant named Will Hays had been hired to upgrade the morals of Hollywood. The infamous “Hays Code” laid down the guidelines for Hollywood in the decades that would follow. For now, Kennedy viewed the show biz morals crisis as “a godsend because it gave him the opportunity to ride to the rescue as a white knight,” Nasaw writes.

Wooing a Starlet In February of 1926, Kennedy was part of a group that acquired the FBO film company for over a million dollars. Months later, he touted the moral purity of his top star Fred Thomson (and his FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013 IRISH AMERICA 59



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sidekick horse Silver King) in their next movie The Two-Gun Man. Kennedy went on to say he wanted to make “American films for Americans.” He also used his Harvard connections to lure key Hollywood insiders to present a series of lectures at his alma mater. This was a classic Kennedy maneuver, in that everyone involved benefitted. The moguls, largely the undereducated children of immigrants, were welcomed at an esteemed university. Harvard, meanwhile, could surely count on donations from these wealthy men. Above all, Kennedy networked with industry big shots who had every right to be wary of this newcomer to Hollywood. By now there were seven Kennedy children back home. However, Kennedy’s new role as Hollywood mogul meant he “spent most of the week away from home,” Nasaw writes. In November of 1927, a Hollywood acquaintance called asking if Kennedy would be willing to meet a star whose career needed to be “placed in proper hands.” Her name was Gloria Swanson. She’d recently been voted third top movie star, behind only Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. Soon enough, Kennedy was wooing Swanson – who herself was married – and promising to make an “important picture” for her. Kennedy, thus far, had made a name for himself as a shrewd handler of money, whose success generally came from low-budget genre movies. Now, he wanted to make the leap into prestige pictures, and he had his eye on one of the most prestigious – and notoriously difficult – directors: Erich von Stroheim. Just as Kennedy was looking to pair Swanson and von Stroheim, another important film opened up. The Jazz Singer, released in 1927, proved that sound films were the wave of the future. Hollywood was undergoing a radical moral and technological transformation, and Joe Kennedy had to figure out how to survive.

A Multimillionaire He certainly seemed well positioned. By 1928, he “was running three large entertainment companies,” Nasaw writes. All FBO films now proudly blared “Joseph P. Kennedy presents,” and in a two-week span that spring, the L.A. Times, Time magazine and the New York Times all ran lengthy, flattering profiles of Kennedy. Among Kennedy’s great strengths was 60 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013

his ability to spot inefficiencies in order to maximize profits for his companies. And Kennedy was not done wheeling and dealing. When bidders came along, looking to buy chunks of his entertainment properties, he was willing to sell for the right price. Kennedy “had entered the industry a rich man, but he departed a multimillionaire with more than enough money in his and Rose’s accounts and the children’s trust funds to support them all for the rest of their lives.” Even after the stock market crash in 1929, which brought on the Great

with a film called The Trespasser. This one was a “talkie,” and it was clear that the era of the silent film was over. By 1933, thanks to Jimmy Cagney’s Irish- American gangster epics and the creation of the Catholic Legion of Decency, the crackdown on Hollywood immorality had begun in earnest. Through all of this tumult, Joe Kennedy managed not only to survive but to thrive. He had been a major player in Hollywood during this crucial period when show biz morals, technology and – thanks to Kennedy – business practices had changed drastically.

Kennedy “had entered the industry a rich man, but he departed a multimillionaire.” Depression, Kennedy had amassed what would amount to over $20 million in today’s purchasing power.

Queen Kelly But there was still the Swanson-von Stroheim picture to make. Filming began in November, 1928, and the working title for the silent film was Queen Kelly, in which Swanson was to play a poor Irish convent girl. Von Stroheim lived up to his reputation for difficulty, and in an ironic twist, Kennedy who was supposed to help clean up Hollywood seemed to be making a film that would offend many. “Halfway through Queen Kelly,” Thomas Maier writes in The Kennedys: America’s Emerald Kings, “it became obvious to both Swanson and Kennedy that their star director . . . had structured the film around scenes that would never get past [censors].” Maier adds: “Kennedy decided to fire von Stroheim and can the film.” Different versions of the film would eventually be shown around the world, and later in the U.S. But perhaps the most famous scenes in Queen Kelly are those that appear briefly in Billy Wilder’s classic 1950 film Sunset Boulevard. The film’s stars? Gloria Swanson, as an aging movie star, and Erich von Stroheim as her former director. Kennedy and Swanson later had a hit

Did Kennedy ever intend to leave his wife for Swanson? Not likely. For all of his philandering, Kennedy was committed to his family. He also knew that, as a Catholic, divorce was unlikely. (As Nasaw writes, Kennedy “believed you could wipe the slate clean just by going to confession.”) Swanson and Kennedy remained friends, though she turned bitter towards him later in life when she ran low on money, believing Kennedy had gotten much more than she out of their professional and personal relationship. Meanwhile, for most of her life, Rose Kennedy chose not to acknowledge her husband’s wandering eye, and even sent gifts to Gloria Swanson’s children at Christmas in 1929. By now, Kennedy “had no desire to go back to Hollywood and reestablish himself as a studio head,” according to Nasaw. As the Depression worsened, Kennedy began to fear that the capitalist system under which he thrived was threatened. And even though he supported Herbert Hoover in 1928, he joined FDR’s cause in 1932. “Having joined the campaign,” Nasaw writes, “Kennedy fought to find a place for himself on the inside.” Washington was calling. The next formidable chapter in Joseph P. Kennedy’s life was under way. IA

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{ review of books}

Recently published books of Irish and Irish-American interest.

Recommended The Famine Plot


im Pat Coogan, the author of many seminal works including The IRA: A History and biographies of Michael Collins and Eamon De Valera, is one of Ireland’s most famous and essential modern historians. Brilliant, controversy-inspiring and painstakingly researched, his writing is also nothing if not to the point, and in his latest issue, The Famine Plot, his point is this: The British leadership at the time of the famine were responsible, and this is something Irish historians (not to mention the Irish as a whole) have taken far too long to fully recognize. Coogan outlines the horrific straight facts of the Famine – from 1845, when the potato blight first struck, to 1852, Ireland experienced a population decline of over two million lost to death and emigration – numbers that, as much as we repeat them, we should never grow blasé about. He outlines Lord Trevelyan’s many harsh measures and examines the popularity of the belief, at the time, that the Catholic Irish were getting what they deserved. He hails Tony Blair’s famous 1997 apology as not only changing the perception of the Famine within England, but also of changing the way the Irish viewed their own history – opening a window to examine the thorny questions of blame and remembrance. While the Irish in America actively sought to commemorate the famine, the Irish in Ireland had for many years been downplaying its effects. Even scholars approached it with a “colonial cringe.” In addition, Coogan seeks to determine the lasting effects the famine years had on Irish culture. Aside from the unavoidable legacies of poverty, population decline and emigration, he highlights a helplessness stemming from Ireland’s total lack of a government at the time of the famine. Unable to do anything to help itself, Ireland had to “rely for its sustenance on the droppings from the table of a wealthy neighbor.” From this he draws a startling but apt connection to Ireland’s current dependence on the EU and the IMF. “The famine bell


does not merely toll for those who died during the nineteenth century,” he writes, “it has resonance for those who live in the 21st.” In writing The Famine Plot, Coogan is urging the Irish in the 21st century to take a clear-eyed look at the past and understand how it resonates today. It is an important and masterful work. – S.L. (Palgrave Macmillan / $28.00 / 278 pages)

auditory landscapes in this book that ground his poems as localities and discrete histories, ranging from the resignation of a president to observations on a scarecrow. Montague’s verse is easy to read and easier to enjoy, for its sonic complexities beg oration, or as he says himself in the titular poem, “Read poetry aloud, it can be such fun!” — A.F. (Wake Forest University Press / $12.95 / 64 pages)


Speech Lessons

Circles Around the Sun

his is John Montague’s thirteenth book of poetry since 1959. Born in Brooklyn during the Depression but raised in County Tyrone, Montague became president of Poetry Ireland in 1979 and was chosen as Ireland’s first Professor of Poetry in 1998. In his latest collection there is nothing short of revelry in history, language, and the process of excavating where we come from as human beings. Speech Lessons, as the title may indicate, revolves around the sounds of words, place names, and their ability to conjure deeper meanings within the memory and their influence on our growth. In the crowning poem of the collection, “In My Grandfather’s Mansion,” Montague fictionalizes a dialogue between himself and his namesake grandfather, John Montague, Justice of the Peace. Debating the temporal disparity between when the two Montagues lived through the conceit of the family house in Co. Tyrone, the poem is a dialogical meditation on family relations, religion, old age, and what it means to be an Irish Montague. Here, the “speech lessons” of the collection’s title become more than the literal learning how to talk, but broaden to encompass language as a tool to understand our histories and who we are as members of varied communities: as part of a family, as part of a nationality, as a Catholic, an emigrant, an artist, or a child and an adult. Taking immense sonic joy in the names of Irish places, French phrases, and the sound of natural speech, Montague creates

ike McCloskey, the eldest child of Nita and Jack McCloskey (a former basketball coach and general manager of the Detroit Pistons), was a golden boy in his youth. As a toddler, he is beautiful, snuggling up to his mother on the cover of Ladies Home Journal. In high school he is smart, cool (if a bit introverted), the star of the basketball team, and has a gorgeous girlfriend. At Duke, where he attends college on an academic scholarship, things start to slip away. He quits basketball, he takes acid, but he’s still functional. After college, he can’t settle, can’t hold a job. Friends gradually fade away. He has his first psychotic episode and is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. This is the Mike that his sister Molly, fourteen years younger, remembers most from growing up. Between his phases of wandering and hospitalization, he lives on the couch at their parents’ house in Oregon. Molly and her friend, not really realizing what they are doing, have fun aggravating his paranoia by ringing the doorbell and running away. After various attempts at getting back into the world, not ill enough to be permanently hospitalized, Mike joins a house in Portland where he tolerates his housemates and spends most days at a nearby coffee shop. Those are the facts of his life, carefully detailed in Molly McCloskey’s memoir Circles Around the Sun, published in October. Here, years of research, soul searching, and interviews with family members, friends and distant acquaintances behind her, McCloskey (who now works as a writer and journalist in Dublin)





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takes an unsparing look at everything leading up to and following Mike’s diagnosis: their family, their childhood, the isolation of schizophrenia. Alongside this she reflects on her own struggles with alcoholism and paralyzing anxiety; the fear that what happened to Mike might happen to her. One of the toughest but most penetrating passages concerns her unraveling while living isolated in Sligo, two nearby pubs “the lodestones” of her existence, and the eventual forgiving of the self that came with sobriety. To call the book a form of amends is to simplify what McCloskey has achieved. But poring over the pages, one can’t help but think about the difference between the Molly who played tricks on her brother as a child and the one who wrote this brave, beautiful and completely consuming account of his life and illness. How far she has come, and how much she has given. – S.L. (The Overlook Press / $24.95 / 240 pages)

Fiction This Is the Way


avin Corbett’s second book, This Is the Way, is ostensibly set in contemporary Dublin, but jumps around space and time with beguiling ease. These shifts, which might be cause for concern in the hands of a lesser writer, serve Corbett’s ends well in this novel about the Irish community of travellers, told through the voice of Anthony Sonaghan. Anthony, the twentysomething child of two long-feuding travelling families, the Sonaghans and the Gillaroos, has moved to Dublin and “settled,” forsaking his travelling heritage. But when his uncle Arthur shows up, missing a thumb, they embark on a series of hijinks that take them deeper into Anthony’s roots and the families’ shared animosity, creating fodder for Corbett’s vividly described scenes of modern Dublin life and, moreover, Anthony’s delicious narration. Anthony narrates the novel in his natural voice, forgoing commas, quotation marks, and “standard” English grammar, solidifying his as a voice that is sure to

stick with readers long after the final page. It is evident that in Anthony’s voice, Corbett seeks to actively deconstruct the barrier between spoken word and printed text through such a unique, if at times muddled, prose style. Such confusion, however, is precisely the point because it highlights the dialect in which Corbett writes and our unfamiliarity with seeing on the page what is usually a verbal difference. If this creates a difficulty in reading the book as a whole, it is one out of which springs oral fluidity, urgency, the sound of sense (if not always total understanding), and delight in the subtle tonalities of Corbett’s unique style. – A.F. (Faber and Faber / $26.00 / 230 pages)

Instead, he has been living a few miles away all these years, at a grim Catholic orphanage. It is not giving much away to say that Marian tells her family about Adrian, as the heart of The Whipping Club concerns the Ellis family’s struggle to give their son the life he should have had in the first place, though it may be too late for him to fully assimilate into their lives. This is a captivating and confident debut, brimming with the promise of more to come. – S.L. (T.S. Poetry Press / $14.95 / 310 pages)

Mystery Ratlines

The Whipping Club


irst-time novelist Deborah Henry burst on to the literary scene last summer with The Whipping Club. Henry, who spent two years working on the novel in Fairfield University’s MFA program, rapidly garnered acclaim, with The Whipping Club receiving a coveted spot on Oprah’s Summer Reading List. After a glowing initial review, Kirkus went on to name it one of the Best Books of 2012. Painstakingly researched and intensely moving, it tells the story of Marian McKeever, a young schoolteacher in 1960s Dublin. Very much in love, Marian and Ben Ellis, a journalist, plan to wed despite their differences in religion – she is Catholic; he is Jewish. Then Marian learns that she is pregnant, and, fearing that an unexpected child will make things even more difficult for her and Ben, she decides not to tell him, and leaves the city to have her baby at the Castleboro Mother Baby Home, where she gives it up for adoption and a better life in the U.S. Ten years go by, and Marian and Ben are happily married with a daughter, Johanna, when a nurse from Castleboro, attempting to ease her conscience, contacts Marian with the news that her son, Adrian, was never sent to America.


or Lieutenant Albert Ryan, a career military man, being a soldier is all he knows and following orders is just another day in his life. But what happens when Ryan is faced with the choice between following orders or following his conscience? Northern Irish author Stuart Neville’s latest book, Ratlines, is an engrossing mystery set in Ireland in 1963. Since WWII, Ireland has quietly allowed foreign nationals, including German Nazis, to take asylum. Many prosper and live peaceful lives. But when the former Nazis are suddenly being targeted and killed, Lieutenant Ryan, an investigator for the Irish Intelligence, is ordered to find out at whose hands these Nazis are falling. In so doing, Ryan finds he is not only compromising his conscience and life, but also the lives of his loved ones, and all to protect Otto Skorenzy, a dangerous man, supposedly one of Hitler’s favorite officers, responsible for the deaths of countless innocent lives during the war. Ryan, a hero you want to root for, is faced with a tough question: should those who don’t deserve it be protected? Ratlines is a well written and masterfully plotted tale of betrayal and loyalty, love and trust, and a brilliant blending of historic plotlines we wouldn’t expect to see brought together. – M.M. (SoHo Press / $26.95 / 354 pages) FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013 IRISH AMERICA 63



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{music reviews} By Tara Dougherty

Declan Sinnott I love the noise it makes t age 61, Declan Sinnott, has released his debut solo album, I Love the Noise It Makes. Any trad fan will have heard Sinnott before, whether they know it or not. Sinnott has played guitar for Mary Black, Christy Moore and the list goes on. This album shines a different light on Sinnott than fans are accustomed to: the spotlight. Apart from some songwriting collaborations with Owen O’Brien, I Love the Noise It Makes is a solo record in the strictest sense. Performed and produced by only Declan Sinnott, the record’s intention is to do that which Sinnott seems to have been avoiding in his 40-year career. But it seems the time was finally right and listeners will be delighted to hear Sinnott’s unbridled perspective for the first time. A masterful guitarist in the Celtic world, Sinnott blends and blurs the lines acoustic and electric throughout the record, while surprisingly abandoning the traditional Irish folk sound almost entirely. I Love the Noise it Makes is very much a pop album, exploring elements of blues guitar in the title track as well as reflecting the Americana folk vocal harmonies in “I See the World from Here.” His arrangements feel like tributes to the long list of influences that have crafted his sound in his decades-long career. Start to finish, the collection of tracks are a complex portrait of Sinnott’s own musical tastes making it not only enjoyable to listen to but fascinating to piece together.


The seasoned vocalist that McCormack is, her sound is confident and driving throughout the record; however, the choices she makes are not always the wisest for her range. Most noticeably in the opening track “Crazyman Michael,” McCormack’s vocals can border upon shrill. The instrumental breaks are often a welcome relaxation. In “Mar a Tha (The Way It Is)” McCormack shines, her voice reflecting that clarity fans have grown to adore from her. While overall, McCormack’s vocals are an engaging element, the true magic of the record comes in the instrumental dance between harp and violin. In almost every track the harp fluctuates from being a luscious landscape for McCormack’s vocal storyline to being a dazzling and captivating narrative of its own.

Alyth McCormack & Triona Marshall • Red Gold

Celtic Thunder • Voyage I & II

oth veteran musicians whose friendship and now professional kinship began during their years touring with The Chieftains, vocalist Alyth McCormack and harpist Triona Marshall released Red Gold late last year, their first collaborative effort as a duo. Triona Marshall has a resume a mile long and has worked with everyone from Ry Cooder to James Galway and Cara Butler. The Portloaise native is one of Ireland’s premier harpists and proves with this record that her ear for arrangement and understanding of subtlety have been fine-tuned to perfection in her lengthy career. McCormack, no slouch herself, has become a household name in traditional Scottish and Irish music. A pure and crystal-clear voice, McCormack has lent her voice to over 23 albums in her career, which have spanned from collections of ancient Gaelic folksongs to contemporary jazz. Red Gold has its moments of brilliance and its share of growing pains.

oyage is the seventh incredibly successful Public Television special by Celtic Thunder, that almost mythic group that blends the theatrics of the stage with the beautiful melodies of some of Ireland’s most booming voices. In anticipation of the Voyage tour, the group released this CD-DVD set which takes its viewers and listeners on a journey with Celtic Thunder inside of their performances. The set is like a front row seat to the culture phenomenon that Celtic Thunder has become. Even after losing their golden boy Damien McGinty to Glee fame, the group maintains its youthful appeal with newcomer Emmett Cahill joining the ranks. The collection, in classic Celtic Thunder fashion, includes several solo numbers for each member and a track list that ranges from the thrilling Irish language “Dulaman” to an endearing rendition of Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” It’s a collectors item for any Thunder fans and a worthwhile watch/listen for any newcomers. IA






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{sláinte} By Edythe Preet

Forty Shades o Brigid – Ireland’s red-haired saint – was one of history’s liberated women.


veryone knows that in Ireland one will encounter willed that when the Druid attempted to marry her off, she “forty shades of green.” Lesser realized is that anothrefused, choosing instead to devote her life to charity and be er band of the spectrum also occurs in a multitude of baptized by a man named Patrick who was preaching the teachhues: Red. While the former abounds in the lush verings of a new faith, Christianity, throughout Ireland. dant landscape, the latter crowns the heads of more Legend holds that on one Imbolc, Brigid placed her foot in a than 420,000 Irish men, women and spring outside the village of children. Liscannor by the Cliffs of Moher in Ranging in hue from strawberry County Clare. Waters warmed; blonde, burnt orange and bright copper weather improved. Cows filled with to rich auburn and deep burgundy, red milk; butter production expanded. To is the rarest natural hair color in this day, pilgrims gather at humans and occurs in hardly more than Liscannor’s well on February 1, now one percent of the world’s population. celebrated as Brigid’s Feast Day, to In Ireland, however, the percentage beseech the saint’s blessing. jumps to 10 percent. Saint Brigid was warm-hearted, It is no wonder, then, that the ancient hospitable, and one of history’s liberIrish divine pantheon included a redated women. She traveled widely, haired goddess. Her name was Brid. entertained with charm and grace, According to myth, Brid was born fulland, like modern successful women, grown at sunrise in a house ablaze with was an excellent business manager light. A fiery column reached from her who could outwit even the cagiest flame-red curls into the heavens. chieftain. Beside the cottage flowed a stream A favorite story concerns the whose waters had power to cure. On its founding of her abbey in Kildare. It banks grew healing plants. In the passeems Brigid had acquired such a ture grazed a red-eared cow whose reputation for good works that the sweet milk never ran dry. Brid, the local king was obliged to reward her. goddess of fire, was the patroness of To prove his magnanimity, he offered hearth and home, smiths and forges, Brigid as much land as her mantle healers and herbs, poets and language. could cover. With a knowing smile, Druid priests lit fires in Brid’s name St. Brigid with her herding staff and Brigid’s the good woman spread her cloak on on the Celtic feast of Imbolc (February cross. the ground. Much to the chieftain’s 1st) beseeching the goddess for an dismay, the garment grew until it covearly spring. Druids revered the oak, because, of all trees in the ered the entire hill! forest, it alone could survive a lightning strike. Priestesses tendThe abbey became a way station for the weary traveler, and ed a perpetual flame dedicated to Brid in an oak grove on a hill its abbess, known for being as caring of starving dogs as hungry in Leinster (now known as Kildare, or “Place of the Oak”). beggars, was miraculously able to feed multitudes with very litA Russian proverb warns: “There was never a saint with red tle. Like her mentor, Saint Patrick, she was fond of ale and is hair.” Evidently the story of Ireland’s patroness, Saint Brigid, is reputed to have been the best brewer in the land. She also kept unknown there. the best dairy, where her red-eared cows gave more and better For centuries, women, especially those born with red hair, milk than any other herd. were named Brid, Bridgid or Bridget in honor of the goddess. In The monastery has been added to many times during the interapproximately 435 A.D., one red-haired little girl who had been vening millennia. In the 11th century a Norman round tower was sired by a Celtic chieftain to a slave girl was foster raised by a built. Made of unmortared stone, the 108-foot tower is the tallest Druid priest. This Brigid was beautiful, gifted, and so strongof its kind in Ireland and still stands in silent vigil over the sur-




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s of Red rounding countryside. Six hundred years ago, a cathedral was built over the crumbling monastery, but during the 16th century its walls were blown out by invading English artillery fire. For two hundred years Saint Brigid’s lay crumbling and neglected. Between 1860 and 1895, a massive restoration project expanded the ancient structure. At that time, stained glass windows that illuminate the interior yet today were installed. Each portrayal of Brigid bears Druid symbols: oak trees and the goddess Brid’s sacred fire. These days, the customs of Saint Brigid’s feast interweave with rituals from pre-Christian times. A Brigid’s Cross made from new straw is hung above the door, and the old one is burned in the hearth. Once, the cross symbolized hope for a successful harvest. Now it invokes the Saint’s blessing. Whether the evening meal be fish, beef or fowl it is always accompanied with Boxty Cakes, plenty of fresh butter and tall glasses of creamy buttermilk. In very traditional Irish homes, two devout practices are still observed. A strip of cloth called Brat Bhride (Brigid’s Mantle) is hung outside the door. A loaf of oat bread baked in the shape of a cross and a sheaf of straw are left on the windowsill. For on that one night, Brid travels again through the land with her red-eared cow bestowing blessings on those who remember IA the old ways. Sláinte! Note: In the United States, largely due to massive emigrations from Ireland, it is estimated that 2–6 percent of the population has red hair. This would give the U.S. the largest population of redheads in the world, at 6 to 18 million.


Boxty Cakes 1 1 1⁄2 1 1 1

cup leftover mashed potatoes cups grated raw potatoes cup flour egg tablespoon milk salt and pepper Butter for frying

Toss the grated potatoes with flour in a large bowl (first use a paper towel to squeeze out excess water). Stir in mashed potatoes until combined. In a small bowl, beat egg with milk; mix into the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Form potato mixture into 2-inch patties. Fry in melted butter in a medium frying pan until golden brown on both sides, approximately 4 minutes per side. Drain on a paper towel and keep hot in a 200F oven while making all the patties. Serve with fried eggs and bacon for breakfast, or with smoked salmon and crème fraiche for brunch or an elegant appetizer. Makes six servings. – Personal recipe

The Irish Redhead Convention


ed hair genes, discovered in 1997, are associated with pigmentation receptors found on chromosome 16 in human DNA. The genetic mutation, which enhances the body’s ability to retain heat and produce Vitamin D under low light conditions, is theorized to have evolved in far northern climes where sunlight is scarce. It is estimated that up to 46 percent of the Irish population carries

the recessive gene. Redheads have light eye colors and fair skin, freckle easily, and are sensitive to ultraviolet light. They are highly susceptible to developing skin maladies, especially skin cancer, when exposed for prolonged periods to strong sun. Begun as whimsy in the family pub of red-haired siblings Joleen and Denis Cronin,The Irish Redhead Convention will take place for the 4th year running

on August 24 2013 in the beautiful sailing village of Crosshaven, County Cork. For information on the festival, which includes RED-gistration for all Redheads, Redhead Competitions, Red Hair Dyeing, Carrot Tossing Championships, and a Ginger Chef Cook-off plus a ton more of Red Hot Events, visit All proceeds are donated to the Irish Cancer Society.




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{Family Research} By Dermot McEvoy

My Mother the Imposter A search through Dermot McEvoy’s family history revealed an eye-opening secret. Here’s what he discovered, plus a guide to researching your own Irish ancestors.


ary Josephine Kavanagh was born in Dublin on March 18, 1907. She was my mother, or so I thought, until I discovered that Mary Josephine Kavanagh died three months after she was born on June 24, 1907. Who, exactly, was my mother, the woman using the name Mary Josephine Kavanagh? She died in 1989 so I couldn’t ask her. The mystery began when I discovered the Irish Census of 1911 online and found my grandparents, Joseph Kavanagh and Rosanna (née Conway) Kavanagh. My grandparents married in 1900 and the census showed that they had six children, five of whom were alive in 1911. A search for my maternal great-grandmother, Bridget O’Brien Kavanagh, showed that she died in 1898. The Glasnevin Trust website showed that she was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery – Ireland’s largest, situated on Finglas Road, Dublin. The search also showed that an infant, Mary Josephine Kavanagh, was buried in the same family plot. I returned to the Census of 1911 and found “Mary,” aged three. According to all official documentation, Mary Josephine, my mother, would have been four in 1911. Back at the Glasnevin General Research Room Office on Lower Abbey Street in Dublin, I went to the 1908 Births Book and cross-referenced Kavanagh with my grandmother’s maiden name, Conway. The records showed that on May 18, 1908 a girl, “Bridget,” was born to my grandmother at the Rotunda Hospital. Could this “Bridget” be my mother, known to all as “Mary”? As best I can discern, my mother, Bridget Kavanagh, known as Mary in the 1911 Census, innocently took on her dead sister’s identity. Losing a child in those years was not uncommon. If my mother knew about Mary Josephine she certainly never mentioned it. My grandmother died of tuberculosis in 1915 and my mother was put in an orphanage in Sandymount while her younger brother, Dick, was placed in a separate orphanage for boys. My grandfather kept 68 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013

the two older boys, Joseph and Frank, at home. With the advent of the War of Independence my grandfather and his two sons were involved in the IRA, with the two boys going “on the run” in the Dublin Mountains.

One of my mother’s last memories of her father was being taken by him to view the body of the Irish revolutionary leader Michael Collins as it lay in state in Dublin’s City Hall in 1922. My grandfather died in January 1924 from injuries he received at the hands of the Black and Tans, the notorious auxiliary police brought in to suppress the rebellion. Soon afterwards, my mother escaped the orphanage and went to work in a tobacconist shop in Bray, a seaside town not far from Dublin, where she began a lifelong addiction to her beloved cigarettes. Later she worked as a servant for various Anglo-Irish families before settling in the Dublin suburb of Foxrock, as a cook for a Mrs. Darley, whose neighbors were the Becketts – the family of the writer Samuel Beckett. My mother met and married my father Dermot McEvoy, who was a Land Stewart

at a farm in Seapoint, Donabate, Co. Dublin. He immigrated to New York in 1953 and found work as a building superintendent and a plumber in Greenwich Village. My mother and I followed in 1954. Perhaps it was at this time that my mother applied for her birth certificate and was mistakenly given her dead sister’s. In any case, she became Mary Josephine Kavanagh, born in 1907. A fact that is stated on both her Irish and her American passport. Scampering around the Internet I found a birth notation for a Bridget Mary Kavanagh of North Dublin in the spring of 1908 on the Mormon website Unfortunately, no parents were listed so it’s impossible to know if this was my mother. But it might show that “Mary” was part of her name from the time of her baptism, making the transition from “Bridget” to “Mary” within the family more natural. I look forward to finding my mother’s baptismal certificate, and the only place to do that is in person at the National Library in Dublin, where the microfiche should provide the final piece to my family puzzle.


y mother died on May 2, 1989 in New York City. She is buried in the family plot in Glasnevin Cemetery, and her name is recorded on the same headstone as that of her mother, father, and brothers Charlie and Joseph. The inscription reads “Mary Kavanagh: March 18, 1907 – May 2, 1989.” The headstone was erected by my uncle Dick in 1961, on his only trip back to Ireland. Dick is buried in the Bronx. I hope one day to add the name Mary Josephine Kavanagh to the headstone as a tribute to the infant sister whose name my mother carried throughout her life. IRISH GENEALOGY TOOLS • Step One: The Census The National Archives of Ireland provide many important services – all of them free. Foremost among these services are



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the Censuses of 1901 and 1911, the last surviving censuses administered by the British government. All counties are included. You can access both censuses at The information provided includes names, addresses, occupations, religion and literacy (“can read and write”), whether Gaelic (referred to as “Irish” in Ireland) is spoken, and number of children born and number of children living. The form is signed by the head of the household, perhaps giving you a first look at the penmanship of your great-great-grandfather. • Step Two: Parish Records Another invaluable service provided by the National Archives is the Parish Records, with free access available at Parish records include baptismal information and, to a lesser extent, marriage and death information. Currently available are Carlow (COI), Cork and Ross (RC), Dublin (COI, PRESBY, RC) and Kerry (COI, RC). Updates are ongoing. It is also possible, in certain circumstances, to print out the actual page about the baptism or marriage. The National Library of Ireland ( located in Dublin at 2/3 Kildare Street, just down the street from the Shelbourne Hotel, offers microfilm copies of Catholic Parish Registers and the Tithe Applotment Books, online access to Griffiths Primary Valuation of Property and many printed resources such as newspapers and trade directories. The Genealogy Advisory Service is available free of charge to all personal callers to the Library who wish to research their family history in Ireland. (Check website for seasonal hours and other genealogical services.) Another excellent, free service, provided by the Mormon Church, is called Family Search (, which claims to be the world’s largest genealogy organization. It is through this service that I found the birth and death dates of many of my relatives, which I later turned into birth/death/marriages certificates in Dublin. • Step Three: Cemeteries If you know where your people are buried, cemeteries contain a wealth of family information, specifically, birth and death dates on headstones. More detailed information can often be found in records located in cemetery offices.

In Dublin, the newly built Glasnevin Trust Museum offers a fascinating look at Ireland’s foremost cemetery (take a taxi or the #9 or #83 bus from the city center – a fifteen minute ride – and ask the driver to let you out near the cemetery). Tours commence at 2:30 p.m. daily. Charge is €6 (approximately $8.50). The tour includes entrance into Daniel O’Connell’s tomb (it is considered “lucky” to touch his coffin), a visit to the appropriately named “Republican Plot” where many famous Irish revolutionaries are buried, plus visits to the graves of patriots Eamon de Valera and Michael Collins. But the biggest service offered by the Glasnevin Trust is its fantastic website (, which gives access to the names of almost all who have been buried at Glasnevin from 1828 to the present (over a million people). A preliminary search is free and a detailed search of the grave is available for approximately $4.25 – $11.25). This service is invaluable because it provides a list of everyone in a particular grave. Often, names were not recorded on the headstone. • Step Four: General Register Office Research Room The bad news is that GRO Research Room is not Internet friendly (only rudimentary information is available at The good news is that if you go there in person they have all the information you’ll ever need. How to find it: The General Register Office Research Room of the Department of Social and Family Affairs is located in Dublin at Block 7, Irish Life Shopping Mall, 3rd floor, Lower Abbey Street (it can be entered through Northumberland Square). This is at the end of Abbey Street, near the Customs House and about two blocks east of the Abbey Theatre. Finding this place is the most difficult obstacle. Hours are daily, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Once inside, you will have access to all births/deaths/marriages in Ireland from 1864 onward (and non-Catholic marriages from 1845). It is approximately $28 for a day-long search of all the indexes; a particular search is €2. Once you find your rel-

ative there is a €4 certificate photocopy fee with a maximum of 5 photocopies per person per day. A day of fruitful research will run you a maximum of $56. The staff is extremely professional and helpful. Instant genealogical gratification! • Step Five: Irish in the British Military and the Guinness Brewery Many Dublin Irish joined the military from the 19th century through the Great War. My great-uncle Charlie Conway (my maternal grandmother’s brother) was one of these men. He served twenty years in the British military and he also worked at the Guinness Brewery as a policeman for thirty years, and is a member of Guinness’ Honour Roll of Employees who served in His Majesty’s Naval, Military and Air Forces, 1914 – 1918. The Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association ( is a valuable resource service run by Seán Connolly on the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. The British Army WWI regiment was one of the five Irish regiments disbanded by the British following the signing of the treaty in December 1921, which created the Irish Free State. Another source of information is the Guinness Archive ( If you had a relative who was an employee of Guinness it is possible to make an appointment to view their employment record. (I found that my great Uncle Charlie won first prize for keeping his uniform in good order during 1904. On the other hand, on June 10, 1910 he was “found asleep when on duty at the basement stairs of Market Street Storehouse,” and “severely reprimanded by Mr. Phillips.”) The Guinness Archives are located at the Guinness Storehouse – which, ironically, was Uncle Charlie’s beat – off James’ Street, the same building where the Guinness tour is conducted. IA Dermot McEvoy is the author of several books. He is currently working on The 13th Apostle: A Novel of a Dublin Family (Skyhorse Publishing), which is loosely based on his mother’s family. He can be reached at FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013 IRISH AMERICA 69



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{roots} By Adam Farley

Clan Gatherings Clans are getting together this year. The following Clan Gatherings are an easy way to experience The Gathering while rooting yourself in a shared clan history. Plus, it’s a great excuse to skip over to Ireland and connect with people around the world who share your name, your mother’s name, or even your mother’s father’s grandmother’s name.


o find a comprehensive listing of the 2013 Irish clan gatherings, visit

Many are still being planned based on input and interest generated, so if you are at all intrigued, be sure to let the clan organizers know through the site. If you don’t see your clan here or on the website, it’s not too late to plan your own.

MAY 22-26 The first of the major clan gatherings is the International Gathering of the O’Neill Clans, promising walking tours of Armagh, a visit to the Hill of the O’Neill in Dungannon, and a final day in Dublin. Partnering with Brack Tours to ease the cost of traveling internationally, this is an exclusive opportunity for O’Neills to head abroad for a long weekend. Dungannon, Co. Tyrone; Armagh; Dublin.

MAY 30-JUNE 4 The Power Clan Gathering and the Power Clan Battles converge in Co. Waterford. Be part of the worldwide Power DNA project or join in the Power clan’s reenactment of the battle to take Waterford City. With guided tours of the Power clan strongholds including the Power clan’s ancestral home Dunhill Castle. Once again it seems, out of that house will all the Powers of Ireland descend. Dunhill Castle, Dunhill, Co. Waterford.

JUNE 21-22; JULY 20 The Home of the First McGraths is explored twice in 2013. IslandMcGrath House in Co. Clare, built from the stone of McGrath Castle, is the ancestral home of the 70 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013

McGraths and was their primary stronghold for over 500 years. Tours will show the importance of the clan in the history of ancient Ireland. Lunch will be provided. IslandMcGrath House, Clarecastle, Co. Clare.

JUNE 28-JULY 2 Abbey Tours hosts the Fitzgerald Clan Gathering on an eight-day exclusive coach tour titled “Chronicles of the Fitzgerald Clan,” detailing Ireland’s Fitzgerald history. Also included are three genealogy workshops and personal help for those who want to do more research on their own. Begins in Dublin, ends at Desmond Fitzgerald Castle, Adare, Co. Limerick. A shorter Fitzgerald Gathering tour is also available, see and

JULY 2-8 The O’Sullivan Glengarriff Gathering promises to be a spectacle. As O’Sullivan is the third most common Irish name, the crowd itself might be worth the trip. Glengarriff, Co. Cork.

the world, and explore the reasons for these divergences through a heritage project. With gallery exhibitions, comedy and music shows, walking tours of the Rock of Cashel and Holycross Abbey, and a designated “fun day,” the Ryan gathering may have the most diverse schedule of the year. The Source Arts Center, Thurles, Co. Tipperary.

AUGUST 5-9 A guided coach tour through O’Donnell territory in County Donegal, the O’Donnell Clan Gathering 2013 lets you see all of the northernmost county in the country. Includes a talk titled, “The O’Donnell Family from 1607 to the Present.” Begins at the Central Hotel, Donegal, Co. Donegal.

AUGUST 9-11 All variants of the name are welcome at the MacCormaic Clan Gathering. With over 170,000 of you out there, this event might have been cause for kings to worry in other times. As the oldest documented clan name, dating back over 2,000 years, it’s no wonder the MacCormaic diaspora is so large. Dublin Street, Kildare, Co. Kildare. facebook. com/maccormaic

AUGUST 19-24 JULY 25-28 You might even see Pierce at the Brosnan Clan Gathering in Castleisland. Taking place during the East Kerry Roots Festival, the Brosnan clan is set to reclaim its ancient influence over the Brosna area (from which we get Brosnan) with walks, talks, and organized workshops. Castleisland, Co. Kerry.

AUGUST 2-4 The International Ryan Gathering 2013 seeks to bring together all 428 variations of the “Ryan” name from across

Elect and inaugurate your new Clan Chieftain at the Reilly/O’Reilly International Clan Gathering. One of the most unique experiences you’ll have as an O’Reilly clan member, you won’t want to miss this opportunity to participate in the ancient tradition of your ancestors. Talks and tours also included. Cavan, Co. Cavan. IA If you’d like to see your clan gathering listed in Irish America, email with the details.

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{photo album} Family Pictures

The Autobiography of P



Patrick Cashin photographed in Brooklyn, 1999.


atrick Cashin recorded his autobiography on March 8, 1971, his 60th birthday. In 13 minutes and 20 seconds of cassette tape, he tells his life story with pride and a humble directness. “March 8th, 1971,” he begins. “The Autobiography of Patrick Cashin. To my wife, Ellen, my daughter Theresa, and my sons, Patrick, Thomas, Michael and James.” He goes from his birth on a farm in townland of Rossmore, in the parish of Gortletteragh in County Leitrim, Ireland, to his 1930 voyage to New York on the S.S. Baltic; from his work as a train dispatcher with the New York City Transit Authority to his wedding to Galway girl Ellen Fallon, and concludes by reading the prayer of St. Therese of Lisieux, which he says he has recited every night before going to sleep since he was a small child. “I do wish that each of you would memorize this prayer and say it faithfully every day. If you do that, I know that it will bring you great consolation,” he concludes. “With all my love. From Dad.” His story is best heard in his own voice – careful and considered, quiet but sure, an Irish accent mellowed by 40 years of living in America. And it is available, on YouTube, where Patrick, Jr. posted it in March 2011, brought beautifully to life with images from his father’s past. Cashin, a photographer with the Metropolitan Transit Authority, discovered the autobiography after his father’s death on March 9, 2001, a day after he turned 91. Cleaning out his father’s old desk in the basement of their family home in Brooklyn, he found an unmarked audiocassette. Fortunately, he thought twice before throwing it out, and a few years later set the autobiography to music and added old family photographs. The result is no mere slideshow. The camera zooms, documentary style, from face to face in each photo as the elder Patrick introduces his brothers and sisters. There’s video footage of subway tracks from 1930, the year he started working with the IRT as a ticket collector. There are shots of the bread lines his job helped him avoid in Depression-era New York. Later,

y father died in 2001, and like everyone who has to go through that, I was faced with going through his things, his belongings. I was down in our basement sorting through his desk when I found an unmarked cassette. I was just about to throw it out when I said ‘You know, let me just see if there’s anything on this.’ I put it in a cassette player and all of a sudden his voice started coming out. It was 30 years after he had recorded it, and it was just amazing. “As I kept digging in the drawer I found the script. So this wasn’t just whatever came into his head, he actually sat down and wrote a script, and read it as he was recording. He had made some changes, but there’s no doubt that he wanted this to be found and passed on. “I listened to it a couple of times and I just knew that I had to do something with it, but I wasn’t sure how at the time, so it sat with me for about four years. “At the time, Ken Burns had come out with his Civil War series, so it wasn’t hard to figure out that I could make something in the same kind of format. My father had


Cashin family photo, c. 1923, Ireland. Back row, left to right: John, James, Maria, Thomas and Patrick. Front row: Matthew, Mary and Thomas, Jr.

flickering color video shows Ellen and three of their children walking happily down a tree-lined street in Brooklyn. Here, Patrick Cashin, Jr. tells the story behind this labor of love:

written the script for me with the cassette, so the hard part was really done, and he had kept all his old pictures – of the family, of Ireland, of their old house and their new house, even of his old school master.



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f Patrick Cashin Patrick Cashin working in the fields of the family farm, 1938.

Patrick’s three brothers, James, Matthew and Tommy, c. 1930.

He kept his old mass cards too, so I was able to copy photos off of those. He had hours and hours of Super 8 film, but all of it was bad – the cameras were new then and he had no idea how to shoot, so it was mostly people’s feet and the film was moving too fast. I got maybe 30 useable seconds out of hours and hours of film. “My siblings and cousins got together some of the old pictures that they had lying around. I made calls and got as many old photos as I could from relatives on both sides of the family. If he mentioned it at all in the audio cassette, I tried to find it. It was very interesting to get out there and hunt them down, to find the exact right photo for a specific sentence. “One of the things that I hope people will get from this is to save those old pictures, because they are so valuable to the next generation. You’ve got to be able to log them. My father, he wrote on the backs of each photo who it was of and when it was taken. He was very good about that. But there were still a lot of pictures where I couldn’t identify the people, and my mother didn’t know who they were, so I had to sit down with older relatives, go through the photos and write it down.

Keep track of it, because once they’re gone it’s all ‘Who’s that?’ and you have no way of really knowing. “For the score, I went to the public library and listened to The Chieftains and some flute music and picked two or three songs that I liked. There was a lot of staying up late until about 2:00 in the morning. It took me about 6 months to edit it, to get it all together. “My brother has an annual event, which we call his Irish lunch. Everyone gets together and he serves food, and there’s singing and Irish dancing. Donnie Golden has attended, Joanie Madden from Cherish the Ladies, the lead dancer of Australian Riverdance and a couple of his friends, two guys from Albany who are phenomenal musicians, so there’s live music, and everyone just has a great time. It’s a chance for everyone in the family, friends and relatives, to get together – a good Irish reunion. The film was first shown there about 5 or 6 years ago when I finished it.

My mother was still alive at the time, so she got to see it. Some cousins took it back to Ireland, and I started getting emails from other cousins who had no idea about their relatives in the States. They learned a lot from it. It brought people together. “When I first started working on it, my original idea was just to make something for my kids to remember their grandfather by. But as I was editing, I realized this was a lot bigger than that. I just think, like I said, that people should realize the treasures they have – photos that are lying at the bottom of drawers, in cabinets, the old pictures and the old photographs – and to keep track of them and save them, digitize them. “It would be such a shame to have them fade away, or lose them, and to lose your heritage. And that applies to everybody, no IA matter where you’re from.” --To watch Patrick Cashin, An Irish-American Story, visit:

Please send photographs along with your name, address, phone number, and a brief description, to Sheila Langan at Irish America, 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 201, New York, NY 10001. If photos are irreplaceable, then please send a good quality reproduction or e-mail the picture at 300 dpi resolution to No photocopies, please. We will pay $65 for each submission that we select. FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013 IRISH AMERICA 73



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{crossword} By Darina Molloy

ACROSS 1 5 7 10 12 13 14 15 18 20 22 25

27 29 31 32 35 36 37 38

Connaught county (9) Tipperary town (6) See 31 across (4) A common winter ailment (9) See 38 across (2, 5) Tanzanian mountain where 36 across died (11) The _____: James Joyce short story became Abbey play recently (4) The _____: Ireland’s year-long reunion (9) Vomiting bug (9) ___ Guevara (3) Selina _____: author of hit memoir on ‘big house’ life in Ireland (8) (& 2 down, & 5 down, & 35 across) This festive song hit one million in sales on the 25th anniversary of its release (9) Coastal Gaeltacht town on a Mayo peninsula (9) See 24 down (2, 5) (& 7 across) Hit Irish TV show about Dublin gangsters (4) See 37 across (6) See 25 across (4) (& 9 down) Irish mountain climber who died tragically in January (3) (& 32 across) Mrs. Chris O’Dowd (4) (& 12 across) Meath TD who took his life in December (5)

DOWN 2 3 4 5 6 8 9 11

See 25 across (2) ____ & Abel (4) See 23 down (2, 8) See 25 across (3) Longford town (7) To do with, or caused by, heat (7) See 36 across (2, 6) _____ Came a Spider. James Patterson novel (5) 13 Amazon’s e-reader (6)

16 “I will arise and go now / And go to _________” (WB Yeats) (9) 17 A musical comedy stage production, popular in Ireland and UK at Christmas time (9) 19 Used for extra emphasis (4) 21 The _____: New LOTR movie (6) 22 Take hold of roughly (4) 23 (& 4 down) Donegal GAA manager (3) 24 (& 29 across) NY-based actor and writer (7) 26 Clever or sly, as Gaeilge (4) 28 (& 34 down) Dublin rocker who rang in the New Year celebrations (6)

Win a subscription to Irish America magazine Please send your completed crossword puzzle to Irish America, 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 201, New York, NY 10001, to arrive no later than March 15, 2013. A winner will be drawn from among all correct entries. If there are no correct solutions, the prize will be awarded for the completed puzzle which comes closest in the opinion of our staff. Winner’s name will be published along with the solution in our next issue. Xerox copies are acceptable. Winner of the DEC./JAN. Crossword: Anne Sullivan Miscoski, Blountville, TN 74 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013

30 Ronnie _____: recently married Rolling Stone (4) 33 To pull or tug, usually with rope or chain (3) 34 See 28 down (3)

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Love it again and again. Enjoy the Coke. Recycle the bottle. ©2013 The Coca-Cola Company. “Coca-Cola,” the Dynamic Ribbon, “Coke” and the Contour Bottle design are registered trademarks of The Coca-Cola Company.

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