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COLIN FARRELL ANJELICA HUSTON AL PACINO HALL OF FAME /HOLLYWOOD SPECIAL : MARTIN MCDONAGH ROMA DOWNEY

IRISH AMERICA APRIL/MAY 2012

CANADA $4.95 U.S. $3.95

Kevin Roche: America’s Irish Architect

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PLUS: THE IRISH ON THE TITANIC

DISPLAY UNTIL MAY. 31, 2012

THE CHIEFTAINS AT 50 JOSEPH O’CONNOR THE FENIAN INVASION OF CANADA


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Contents April/May 2012 Vol. 27 No. 3

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86 FEATURES 34 PAINTING THE BURREN American artist Andy Weeks found inspiration in his recent trip to the rocky terrain of Co. Clare.

38 “BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME” The town of New Ross, Co. Wexford, which houses the Irish America Hall of Fame, will play host to the inaugural Irish America Day on the 4th of July.

43 HALL OF FAME The 2012 inductees into the Irish America Hall of fame are profiled in this special feature.

52 AMERICA’S IRISH ARCHITECT Hall of Fame inductee Kevin Roche talks about his prolific career, which spans over 60 years and has produced such landmarks as the Dublin Conference Center and the Ford Foundation building.

58 HOLLYWOOD SPECIAL Interviews with Anjelica Huston, Martin McDonagh, Colin Farrell, Al Pacino and Roma Downey.

72 THE CHIEFTAINS Ireland’s number one traditional group celebrates its 50-year anniversary with the release of a new album. By Michael Quinlin.

76 THE FENIAN INVASION The American Fenians invaded Canada in 1866, in a bid to end British rule in Ireland, and sparked tensions between the U.S. and England. By Dan Murphy.

COVER PHOTO: BY NATHAN BENN

80 JOSEPH O’CONNOR The author of Star of the Sea and Redemption Falls talks to Sheila Langan about his new novel, Ghost Light, and his interest in the Irish diaspora.

84 WHAT ARE YOU LIKE? Irish writer Kevin Barry answers questions about his work and lifestyle.

86 THE IRISH ON THE TITANIC Maureen Murphy explores the story of the thirdclass Irish passengers on the Titanic – some were survivors, others were heroes and victims.

90 THE NEW IRISH SONGWRITER Tara Dougherty talks to emerging musician James Vincent McMorrow, who records and writes at the same time.

96 BARNEY ROSSET 1922-2012 He helped change the course of publishing in the United States by championing avant-garde writers and beat poets. In this story from our archive, we remember Barney Rosset.

DEPARTMENTS 10 14 16 83 92

Readers Forum News Hibernia Roots Music Reviews

94 100 102 104 106

Book Reviews Sláinte Crossword Family Album Last Word


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Vol.27 No.3 • April / May 2012

By Patricia Harty

IRISH AMERICA

Ties that Bind

“Nostalgia for Ireland sweeps over me often, not just when I’m working with an Irish cast. I love Ireland and I miss it very much.” – John Huston e’ve had quite a year (at Irish America we measure time from March to March). In March 2011 we hosted our inaugural Hall of Fame luncheon in New York City, and later that year opened our Irish America Hall of Fame in New Ross, Co. Wexford. It was a defining moment for the magazine – a bringing back home the story of the American Irish – who they are, and what they had achieved. And the story continues in this issue with the profiles of our 2012 inductees, including architect Kevin Roche who graces our cover. This issue is also chock full of Irish culture, heritage, music, and an added touch of glamour from a cast of Hollywood personalities, including Anjelica Huston whom I was especially pleased to interview because Irish America’s links to the Huston family go way back. It was around this time of year in 1987 when a phone call from John Huston gave the Irish America team a much needed boost. Money was tight. The economy was in the doldrums with 19 percent unemployment back home and Black Monday, the second worst stockmarket crash in history, looming in the U.S. In short, it was a miserable time, and friends and family and advisors told us we were crazy to think that we could keep the magazine afloat. But John Huston was making the James Joyce short story “The Dead” into a movie and we somehow found the resources

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Allegra Huston, Tony Huston and University of Galway President Dr. Jim Browne at the presentation of John Huston’s archives to the university. 6 IRISH AMERICA APRIL / MAY 2012

Mórtas Cine Pride In Our Heritage

Founding Publisher: Niall O’Dowd Co-Founder/Editor-in-Chief: Patricia Harty Vice President of Marketing: Kate Overbeck

to send writer Tom English to visit the set in Los Angeles. Tom returned with the news that Huston was going to call the office to do a follow-up interview. (I can still picture myself in that office, or what passed for an office — two desks and a paste-up table that we rented from David and Roberta, a nice Jewish couple who owned a graphics company.) On the appointed day, I hovered near the phone wanting to be the one to pick up. I’ll never forget Huston’s voice on the other end of the line. The great old director was on oxygen all the time back then, but his voice sounded strong and deep as we chatted. I was struck by the fact that he didn’t have an assistant put him through but had picked up the phone and called himself. It really meant something that someone of Huston’s stature believed in us. It was the boost we needed, that I personally needed, to keep going. Last year, when the Huston children donated their father’s papers to the University of Galway, that issue of Irish America with his image on the cover was part of the archive. I couldn’t have been more proud. Huston, who died a couple of months after his interview ran in the magazine, had a love affair with Ireland that lasted 20 years. His final lovelettter was The Dead, his last movie, which he made with the help of his children – his son Tony who wrote the screenplay and his daughter Anjelica who played Gretta Conroy and brought such sweet sadness to the role. It’s an exquisite piece of work, and a great gift to the Irish nation. This year, we wanted to do something special to honor people like Huston and others who have done so much for Ireland, and so on July 4 the inaugural Irish America Day will take place in New Ross, Co. Wexford, and we will induct John Huston and several other great Irish Americans who have passed on into our Irish America Hall of Fame. Come and join the festivities. We promise that it will be a great celebration of the ties that bind our two countries. Mórtas Cine.

Art Director: Marian Fairweather Deputy Editor: Sheila Langan Copy Editor: John Anderson Advertising & Events Coordinator: Tara Dougherty Ad Design & Production Genevieve McCarthy Director of Special Projects: Turlough McConnell Financial Controller: Kevin M. Mangan Editorial Assistants: Molly Ferns Catherine Davis

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

Subscriptions: 1-800-582-6642 E-MAIL: irishamag@aol.com www.irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine ISSN 08844240) © 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 Email: Irishamag@aol.com. 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.


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{contributors} Patricia Danaher, pictured here with Al Pacino, is a writer, journalist and film producer based in Los Angeles. She is the only Irish member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association with 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. She is developing a movie on the Irish-born hellraiser Mother Jones. Sheila Langan, Irish America’s deputy editor, is a first-generation American with an Irish passport and a love of Irish literature. She has interviewed actors Gabriel Byrne and Brendan Gleeson, Booker Prize-winning authors John Banville and Anne Enright, and fashion designer Nanette Lepore. Sheila is a graduate of Bard College in Annandale on Hudson, NY, where she completed a thesis on the role of visual art in John Banville’s novels. In this issue she interviews architect and Hall of Fame inductee Kevin Roche, and the Irish novelist Joseph O’Connor.

Dan Murphy is a freelance writer living in Buffalo, NY. A former newspaper reporter and editor, he has written for several sports and entertainment magazines. He has written four books on Western New York history, including his latest, Nickel City Drafts: A Drinking History of Buffalo, NY. He graduated from Canisius College with a major in English Literature and a minor in Irish Studies. In this issue he writes about the Fenian invasion of Canada in 1866. Maureen Murphy is Hofstra University’s Joseph Dionne Professor of Teaching, Leadership and Learning. She is an assistant director of the Yeats Summer School in Sligo and the director of the Great Irish Famine curriculum for schools in New York State. The author of over 100 articles and book chapters, Maureen was the only American to serve on the editorial board of the Dictionary of Irish Biography. In this issue, she writes about the Titanic’s Irish passengers.

Michael Quinlin, who writes about The Chieftains’ 50th anniversary, is founder and president of the Boston Irish Tourism Association, a membership group formed in 2000 to promote Irish-American culture and small businesses to the tourism industry. He is author of Irish Boston and editor of Classic Irish Stories, and is a longstanding member of the Boston chapter of Comhaltas. Mike lives in Milton, Massachusetts with his wife, Colette, and son Devin. 8 IRISH AMERICA APRIL / MAY 2012

Andy Weeks, whose paintings of the Burren are featured in this issue, earned his BFA from The Atlanta College of Art in 2000.There, he received The Atlanta College of Art Board of Director’s Award and the Gene Alcott Scholarship. He earned his MFA at Pratt Institute in 2007. He exhibits throughout the U.S. and was recently awarded the E. Allen Womack Memorial Award. Andy teaches Art and Art History at the Notre Dame School in Manhattan and resides in Maplewood, NJ with his wife and dog.


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{readers forum} Martin Hayes: Rhythm and Strings Reading with pleasure Tara Dougherty’s in-depth interview with Martin Hayes in your February/March issue, I relived a moving experience, which demonstrates the power and magic of Martin’s music. About thirteen years ago, my then four-year-old granddaughter, Jacqueline, was playing with her toys in a back room of my house while I was listening to Martin Hayes’ CD Live in Seattle. When the tune “Port na bPucai” was playing, I turned around to observe Jackie standing with her arms outstretched and a look of awe on her face. She asked me, “What is that?” I have never heard anything so beautiful in my whole life! I will never forget that moment and its demonstration of the power of beautiful music played by a great musician. John Maloney Fremont, California

Restoring the “Quiet Man” Cottage I believe it is so important to have the cottage restored where it is. Since I was young I have been fascinated with the film. I have been in Cong a number of times and the countryside just brings me back, and I just stand and recreate the scenes in my head, picturing all the wonderful actors who walked the same ground. Amazing. Ronnie Agnew, posted online

My son Ryan and I sought out the cottage when in Ireland and were very disappointed that it had fallen onto hard times. We both want to help. Deborah J. Burton, posted online

I was in Cong this past June, and was most disappointed that the actual cottage was not accessible or intact. I was shocked. The White O’Morn cottage that Sean Thronton had such fond memories of is what brings him back to Ireland! I would really love if it could be restored, especially as you say, in Maureen’s lifetime! Sandi Stokton, posted online

Breaking the Silence: The Irish and Drink Garett O’Connor is a man of many talents and admitted faults, compassion should be his middle name. One virtue is his great sense of humor and as is said “angels can fly because they take themselves lightly” and he is one hell of an angel. Thank you Garrett for your service to humanity.

A Sober St. Patrick’s Day Remember the brouhaha last year when Mayor Bloomberg made his miscalculated joke about drunken Irish on St. Patrick’s Day? (Irishcentral.com broke what became an international story.) I was there, but I couldn’t find it in my heart to share in the outrage. Amid predictable tut-tutting about the stereotype, the underlying national trauma of addiction remained unaddressed. Who wants to confront the epidemic of Irish alcohol abuse and its enabling culture on both sides of the Atlantic? From the perspective of a recovering alcoholic, I just want to run from St. Patrick’s Day, not to mention the streets dripping with green beer – and just who turned on that faucet, I wonder? So it was with relief that I recently learned of plans for a Sober St. Patrick celebration in New York City. “We are not a glum lot,” say the organizers. Really? Is it possible to have fun without alcohol? For decades, everything fun for me involved drinking, and the people in my life liked to drink the way I did. As the saying goes, we had the craic (nothing to do with illegal substances!). When the drinking had to stop, this Irishwoman believed myself exiled to some purgatory where there wouldn’t be any more laughs. “There’ll be no jollification,” as the fella said. Happily, I was misinformed. I really like the idea of having a special event on this holiday to celebrate our shared heritage in a safe and inclusive environment,” says Noel Kilkenny, Ireland’s Consul General in New York. With his ongoing support, the organizers hope to make this family-friendly party an annual event. I couldn’t be happier that leadership in the recovery community is at last challenging one of the most pernicious images of Ireland. Congratulations to television executive William Spencer Reilly for making this new kind of party happen.“Reclaiming the true spirit of the day is what this is all about,” says Mr. Reilly. “And, for those people NOT in recovery, our message isn’t that we are against drinking on St Patrick’s Day; it’s that we want this holiday to be more about enjoying the beauty of Irish culture.” – Ruth Riddick Details and tickets are available from the website www.soberstpatricksday.org/. Venue: Regis High School, 60 East 85th Street (Park & Madison), NYC. Time: 3-7 p.m. mended for his unflinching search into his own alcoholic legacy – and his eventual courage in breaking away from the tribal and familial cycle. Jack Summer, posted online

David slew Goliath with a slingshot and a stone. O’Connor is slaying an even mightier foe with his pen – addiction!

Malachy McCourt, posted online

Peg Greenwood, posted online

[“Breaking the Silence: the Irish and Drink”] is a strikingly honest and insightful analysis of alcoholism, which for the Irish derives both from the culture and from the DNA. A gift for some, a curse for others – and so few can honestly assess to which group they belong. Dr. O’Connor is indeed to be com-

This is a powerful article, ancient and contemporary, academic and personal, deeply selfless, and a wake up call to the problem of addiction in the Irish diaspora. Thank you for such honesty and compassion. I will share this profound article with many people.

10 IRISH AMERICA APRIL / MAY 2012

Jimmy Smallhorne, posted online


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Ireland, Land of Enchantment What a beautiful post by Heidi Boyd about Ireland. It is like no other place on earth. The landscapes, the food, the drink, the people, and the mystical energy of Ireland created a festival for all of my senses and kept me enraptured for two weeks straight. There is a mystical energy about Ireland, and no matter how long I spend living in America, I always know that Ireland is my spiritual home – always has been and always will be. Thanks for sharing such a lovely, heart-warming piece, with a deep appreciation for Ireland and her people.

realize that I was the one who did the hauling to the post office. Now, when I look back, I see that she made me part of the giving back. And in so doing, she instilled in me a sense and love for Ireland that so many of our modern day immigrants have failed to pass on to their children, never imbuing in them a love and concern for their heritage. How will the children of today’s diaspora be able to contribute, if the diaspora themselves do not first demonstrate their love for Ireland? Dr. Richard O’Connell Ed.D., proud son of one of the Waldorf’s hat check ladies, Eileen Taylor O’Connell from Bedford Row, Limerick, Ireland

Mairead, Irish-American Mom. Posted online

As I sit here with tears running down my cheeks I know exactly the feelings you’re expressing. While I do have an Irish connection by blood (still haven’t found them but think I’m getting closer) there is a true sense of coming home as you move thru the country. I fought it at first thinking I was ‘willing’ it but then all of a sudden there was no other explanation for the feelings that flowed from deep in my soul. I was home. A month of that lovely country wasn’t enough and I do plan to return very soon. I cannot imagine the rest of my life without seeing that beautiful country and her kind, welcoming people again. Nell, posted online

Heidi, you put into the most beautiful words exactly how I felt on my first trip to Ireland. I was with my mother and a tour group and we had a fantastic ten days. Last summer I returned by myself for a 16-day trip of no itinerary and only a few must-sees again. Your words capture my love as well for Ireland and the people especially! I visited the Aran Islands and fell in love with them, Tralee, Galway and many, many small towns, pubs and people along the way. I will return soon and may try to make Ireland my new home. Thank you for putting into words so true that I could never seem to express to family and friends back in America Cindy Williams, posted online

The Magic of the Diaspora Patricia Harty’s column, “The Magic of the Diaspora,” made me think of my mother when she was an old, blind, Limerick lady who often waited for me to visit and sit by her side so that she could tell me about her Ireland. All I had to do was to mention Fines, Todds, Roaches, and the other stores on O’Connell Street and she would be off reminiscing about her beloved Limerick, her childhood and her wishful shopping days along her dream boulevard. My mother’s life was that of giving back, never forgetting her roots, never letting go of the precious memories of her city. She was part of the diaspora, and during the Second World War, as so many Irish immigrants did, she sent packages to her seven brothers and sisters back in Ireland. Years later on my visits to Ireland they would proclaim her greatness. Never once did they

Irish Sculptors Led the Way in Remembering the American Civil War Michael Quinlin’s magnificent article on the Irish sculptors’ role in the creation of the Civil War Memorials is a vindication of the Irish Heritage Council’s exhibits during the nation’s Bicentennial and 41st International Eucharistic Congress. Our presentation, which included 42 artists, 22 sculptors and 10 architects, was its central theme, and sad to say, it was initially met with incredulity and even hostility by some of Irish background, because it defied some preconceived stereotypes. Yet when one considers the Irish illuminated manuscripts of the Dark Ages, it is not surprising that this artistic genius manifested itself in an atmosphere where its creativity was appreciated and sought after, as evidenced by the frequency of the commissions and their financial aspects. Congratulations, Mr. Quinlin, for your excellent presentation. William J. Brennan President, Irish Heritage Council

CORRECTIONS: •An article on director John Ford’s legacy in the Feb./Mar. issue incorrectly stated that John Wayne won an Academy Award for his role in The Quiet Man. His only Academy Award was for playing Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. • Cardinal John P. Foley, whose obituary ran in the Feb./Mar. issue, graduated from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, PA – not from St. John’s University. • A piece in the Hibernia section of the Dec./Jan. issue on the dig site at Duffy’s Cut named Rev. Dr. Frank Watson as the leader of the work at the site. The student crew of excavators from nearby Immaculata University is actually led by his twin brother, Dr. William Watson, who is chairman of the history department.

Visit us online at Irishamerica.com to leave your comments, or write to us: Irish America Magazine, Suite 201 875 Avenue of the Americas, New York NY 10001 Comments and letters may be edited for clarity and length. APRIL / MAY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 11


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PEOPLE

| HERITAGE | EVENTS | ARTS | ENTERTAINMENT

Leap Year Proposals in Ireland

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n addition to happening only once every four years, February 29 is a lucky day for women who wish to propose to their significant others. A fairly dubious legend has it that St. Bridget, fielding complaints from women whose suitors were too timid to propose, asked St. Patrick to grant women the right to propose. It is said that St. Patrick named February 29 the day when women were

SCIENCE RESEARCH RECEIVES BOOST FROM THE GOVERNMENT n a continuing effort to create more jobs and help growing compaIresearch nies, the Irish government has agreed to make 14 areas of scientific targets for improvement. The 14 research areas will receive the bulk of a € 500 million national science budget from state agencies. The 14 research areas, which include “future networks and communications” and “food for health,” were identified in 2010 by a group of academics, civil servants and industry members in a document entitled Report of the Research Prioritization Steering Group. The document was approved on February 21 by Richard Bruton, Irish Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, and was made a formal part of the government’s science policy. The report was publicly released on March 1 at Dublin’s Science Gallery. Jim O’Hara, the former general manager of Intel Ireland and the chair of the prioritization group said, “The areas are quite broad, but provide a degree of focus that will help prioritize spending.” In addition, the report recommended six technology research areas: biomedical science, nanotechnology, advanced materials, microelectronics, photonics and software engineering. Irish Minister of State for Research Sean Sherlock will chair the action group that will oversee the budget distribution. – M.F.

55 BEDROOM DONEGAL HOTEL SOLD FOR 650,000 EUROS

T allowed to do so. Some versions of the tale hold that any man who rejected a woman’s proposal had to buy her a silk gown, while others claim that it was 12 pairs of gloves, one for each month of the year. In keeping with this tradition, at least three confirmed proposals by Irish women took place this leap day, and it doesn’t look like any of them will be receiving silk gowns or gloves as compensation. Martina Connolly, a 38-year-old woman from Dublin, proposed to Derek McGill, her partner of 22 years, during the half time break at a football match between Ireland and Hungary. With the help of local radio presenters Aidan Power and Claire Sloan, Connolly brought McGill onto the field at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium, where she popped the question in front of an audience of nearly 50,000. He accepted. Ireland’s South East Radio Station held a competition that gave listeners a chance to propose live on the air. Maeve Jordan of Co. Louth got a “yes” from her significant other, Philip Woods, as did Niamh Murphy of New Ross. Her boyfriend, Declan Gardiner, replied, “Ah sure, go on then.” – S.L. 14 IRISH AMERICA APRIL / MAY 2012

he Sandhouse Hotel, a charming property that boasts 55 bedrooms and views of Donegal Bay, was, at one point, on the market with an asking price of €4.5 million. However, in late February when the distressed property went up for auction, it failed to garner more than its low reserve price of €650,000. Though that result doesn’t bode well for similar properties on the market, the man who made the winning bid had a special cause to celebrate. Paul Driver has managed the hotel for 20 years and is thrilled to be its new owner. When asked by the Irish Times if he was surprised by the lack of interest in the hotel, Driver replied “No, I was delighted.” – S.L.


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{news from ireland} Fionnula Flanagan Receives Lifetime Achievement Award at the “Irish Oscars” GETTY IMAGES

egendary Irish actress Fionnula Flanagan was presented L with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Irish Film and Television Awards (IFTAs) in Dublin, on February 11. The

IRELAND PASSES INTERNET COPYRIGHT LAW ontroversy over Internet censorship, specifically the United States’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which failed to pass earlier this year after protests and a Wikipedia blackout, has reached Ireland.The Irish government passed a copyright legislation on February 29. The law, called “Irish Sopa” by critics, allows copyright holders legal action against Internet providers with access to websites that contain free copyrighted material.The law was heavily backed by the Irish Recorded Music Association. Internet freedom groups, like Stop SOPA Ireland, claim that the legislation is akin to censorship.The group has an online petition, which has amassed 80,000 signatures since the end of January. Critics fear that the law might have a major effect on the growth of online businesses in Ireland, and believe that the law is too open-ended. Sean Sherlock, Minister of State for Research and Innovation who signed the legislation, agreed that it should be “more detailed.” Still, Sherlock said the law was necessary “to ensure compliance under E.U. law” and further “urged all interested parties to focus now on making Ireland a model of international best practice for innovation, and ensuring that our copyright laws facilitate the achievement of this goal.” He stressed that the government had no intention of restricting the freedom of Irish Internet users. – M.F.

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award, presented by Irish President Michael D. Higgins, was given in recognition of her accomplished and varied career as an actor, which spans over 50 years and continues to thrive. Trained at Dublin’s Abbey Theater, Flanagan first gained international note for her stage work, particularly her interpretation of Joyce’s Molly Bloom, which she honed to a fine art when she wrote and starred in James Joyce’s Women. She went on to the world of film, starring in such gems as Some Mother’s Son, The Others, and Waking Ned Devine. In television, her résumé has included a diverse range of productions, including Star Trek, Lost and Brotherhood. President Higgins called Flanagan “a true master of her craft.” Flanagan said that it had been “a long, long journey, but a great one,” and reminisced about her childhood in Dublin. The icing on the cake: Flanagan won a second award, snagging the IFTA for best supporting actress, for her role as Brendan Gleeson’s ailing mother in the 2011 hit The Guard. – S.L.

WARMEST IRISH WINTER IN YEARS s reported by the Irish National Meteorological Service and Met Eireann forecasters, February 29 marked the official end of winter in Ireland. According to records throughout Ireland, the 2011/2012 winter season has been the mildest in years. Both Shannon airport and Belmullet station recorded this past season as the mildest winter in 23 years. Knock airport recorded a seasonal temperature mean of 5.5 degrees celsius, or 41.9 degrees fahrenheit, the highest since 1996.The coldest temperature recorded by the Valentia Observatory in Co. Kerry, a station for Met Eireann, was a

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mere 1.7 degrees celsius, or 35 degrees fahrenheit. Never reaching below freezing, this marked the highest minimum temperature recorded at Valentia since the winter of 1939. In all of Ireland, the highest temperature of this winter was recorded on February 23 at Phoenix Park in Dublin: 15 degrees celsius, or 59 degrees fahrenheit. The coldest temperature was recorded on February 2 at Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, reaching a mild -6.3 degrees celsius, or 20.6 degrees fahrenheit. Ireland’s mild winter weather was very

similar to the mild season also experienced in the U.S., and was a great departure from last year’s cold spell, which caused pipes across the country to freeze and burst. – M.F. APRIL / MAY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 15


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Riverdance Winds Down in the U.S. t’s been almost 16 years since Riverdance first premiered in North America at Radio City Music Hall in New York. The premiere was followed by an 18-month Broadway run at the Gershwin Theater, and then yearly U.S. and Canada tours. But the end is near for the North American leg of the Irish dance and music show, which has been seen by almost 22 million people and is estimated to have grossed $1.6 billion worldwide. Currently on their final 82-city North American tour, Riverdance concludes in Vienna, VA this June. Julian Erskine, the show’s senior executive producer, announced to the Associated Press on February 20 that the show would end this summer. “It’s certainly emotional to be saying goodbye,” said Erskine, who saw his last North American production

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this past October in Costa Mesa, CA. As emotional as it might be for Erskine, members of the cast are certainly dreading the goodbye. The show includes six principal dancers, eighteen troupe dancers, a five-piece live band, a flamenco dancer and two American tap dancers. Currently, the cast includes Padraic Moyles, a principal dancer who first joined Riverdance in 1997, and met his wife and co-star Niamh O’Connor. “Anybody who joins the show from here on out and doesn’t get the opportunity to perform it in America, will be missing out on something,” said Moyles. “I hope that someday, whether it’s 10 years from now, it does come back so that people get to experience that reaction again.”

Met Acquires Saint-Gaudens Statuette of Lincoln

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he Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City recently acquired a 40-1/2-inch-high full-figure statuette of Abraham Lincoln. The bronze cast is a rare authorized reproduction – one of only 16 – of the large bronze monument that Irish-born sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens created for Lincoln Park in Chicago in 1887. Abraham Lincoln, the Man (Standing Lincoln) was one of a limited number authorized by the artist under the terms of his estate, and was cast between 1911 and the early 1920s by Tiffany Studios and Gorham Manufacturing. Augustus Saint-Gaudens was born in Dublin on March 1, 1848 to a French father and Irish mother, Mary McGuinness of Longford. Forced out of Ireland by the famine, Saint-Gaudens’ family eventually moved to New York City. There, he apprenticed as a cameo cutter before moving to Paris as a teenager to study at Ecole des Beaux-Arts. His first major work, a sculpture of Admiral David Glasgow Farragut, was unveiled at Madison Square Garden in 1881, to high praise. Saint-Gaudens’ most famous sculpture is the Colonel Robert Gould Shaw Memorial in Boston, a tribute to Boston’s 54th allblack infantry regiment, which took him fourteen years to complete. Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of the Museum, commented,“Lincoln is the quintessential American icon, and Saint-Gaudens has long held a special place in our collection. Of course, the portrait has particular significance for the Met; a museum founded in the wake of the American Civil War. It is an ideal addition to our collections.” – C.D.

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Just because Riverdance is concluding in North America does not mean that there’s a dying interest. Erskine and organizers of the show argue the opposite, that there’s a growing interest. New markets in South America, India and China beckon the tour companies. China is among the top new audiences Riverdance will turn towards. While visiting Ireland recently, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping was treated to a showing of Riverdance. His visit was hailed a success, and in an interview he stated, “The Chinese people cherish friendly sentiment towards this country. Riverdance has many Chinese fans. Theaters are packed every time the show comes to China.” – M.F.

Kennedys Transfer Ownership of Hyannis Home he Kennedy family has transferred ownership of their T mythic Hyannis Port home to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute For the United States Senate, to be used as a study center. The 9,055-square-foot, 21-room house will host educational seminars, and will allow limited visits by the public. The $5.5 million waterfront property sits at the center of the Massachusetts compound, over which the Kennedy family still maintains ownership. Senator Kennedy had left the property to his widow, Vicki, but made it known that he hoped for it to be someday used as a center for academic and political figures to meet and discuss policy issues. “From our earliest discussions about the EMK Institute, Teddy and I dreamed of a place that would encourage public engagement and inspire political leadership in future generations,’’ Vicki Kennedy explained, in a statement announcing the transfer. The Institute noted that the transaction, “fulfills a promise made by Senator Kennedy to his mother Rose that the home be preserved for charitable use.’’– C.D.


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The Promising Ireland Fund T

he American Ireland Fund marked 30 years as an organization on February 16 at the 2012 Emerald Isle Dinner Dance. The event took place in Palm Beach, at Florida’s famous The Breakers resort, and honored the American Ireland Fund’s Palm Beach board members Christopher Condron, Lore Dodge, Sheila O’Malley Fuchs, Lesley King Grenier, James Higgins, Michael F. Jackson, Michele Kessler, Hillie Mahoney, Jack Manning, Tom Quick and Robert Reynolds. Proceeds went towards the “Promising Ireland” campaign, which was launched earlier this year and has set a goal to raise $100 million by the end of 2013. The campaign has already raised over $80 million. Wilbur Ross, chairman and CEO of WL Ross & Co. and chairman for Invesco Private Capital, was presented with AIF’s Business Leadership Award for “providing the intangible benefit of boosting Ireland’s reputaWilbur Ross and Kieran tion and morale at home,” McLoughlin. said Kieran McLoughlin, President and CEO of the Worldwide Ireland Fund.

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inemagic, the Belfast-based international film and television festival for young people, held its third annual Los Angeles festival February 20-25. Pierce Brosnan, a Cinemagic patron, helped to launch the festival on its opening night at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica. Cinemagic chief executive Joan Burney Keatings traveled from Northern Ireland for the festival and was joined by ten teenagers from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. In partnership with a variety of companies, including The Jim Henson Company, Walt Disney Animation Studios and HBO, the six-day festival hosted a series of screenings, workshops, lectures and events aimed at bringing young people from a multitude of backgrounds together through their love of film.

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PHOTO CREDIT: JAMES HIGGINS.

ew England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, whose paternal ancestors emigrated from counties Cork and Cavan, returned to his California roots on February 23, attending a fundraiser at his alma mater, Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo. The annual event, called Fund a Dream, raises money to provide students with financial aid.This year marked its most successful by far, with $785,000 raised in one night – nearly as much as the $800,000 the event had collectively raised since 2005. Brady, who was voted Best Athlete during his senior year, got the ball rolling by pledging $100,000. The school’s chaplain, Father Joe Bradley, commented “What I admire Tom Brady, right, with classmate John most is that Kirby ‘95, Serra’s assistant athletic director and football coach. when he comes home he’s still Tommy. I respect Tommy’s humility and believe it comes from his faith and his family.” The school’s football stadium will be renamed Brady Family Stadium in the spring.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Bill Clinton, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and Minister Richard Bruton at the Invest in Ireland Forum.

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taying true to a proposal he made last October at the second Global Irish Economic Forum in Dublin, Bill Clinton brought close to two dozen of America’s highest ranking CEOs and key corporate players together for a roundtable discussion on investing in Ireland. Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation Richard Bruton traveled to New York for the roundtable, which took place at New York University on Thursday, February 9, as part of a larger Invest in Ireland forum. The prevailing message of the day was that Ireland is open for business and is looking to its diaspora of 70 million people to participate in its recovery. APRIL / MAY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 17


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St. Patrick’s Day Traditions

Dragon Day at Cornell University, 1907.

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n the morning of March 17, 1853, Archbishop of New York John Hughes addressed a crowd of worshippers at St. Patrick’s Cathedral about the special significance that St. Patrick’s Day had taken on in recent years. He declared: “... the very misfortunes of a temporal kind that have fallen on Ireland have sent forth the children of that unhappy land to every clime and to every latitude, from the north to the south pole; and wherever they are found ... not only do they cherish [the] fond memory of the apostle of their native land, but they propagate it, and make the infection as if it were contagious, so that those who would not otherwise have had any knowledge of St. Patrick become thus desirous to enter into those feelings, and to join in celebrating the anniversary festival of the apostle of Ireland.” This speech was made just a decade after the initial influx of what amounted to over a million impoverished Irish immigrants to America. After this mass exodus from Ireland, through the initial hardships and a long journey to acceptance, a cohesive Irish-American identity began to form and developed an increasingly powerful influence on American culture. Below are some of the most long-standing, interesting and surprising ways St. Patrick’s Day, which was originally just a feast day in Ireland, is celebrated in America. The first-ever St. Patrick’s Day Parade took place not in Ireland, but in the U.S. – in Boston in 1737, organized by a group called the Charitable Irish Society. On St. Patrick’s Day, 1762, Irish soldiers serving in the British Army marched in New York City. In the 1850’s and 1860’s the parade drew an ever-growing audience as Irish-Americans laid claim to a new cultural identity. The New York parade is now the largest in the world.

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The St. Patrick’s Day greening of the Chicago River.

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Montreal has run consecutively since 1824. While the parade in Quebec, which was first held in 1837, was cancelled during WWI and only resumed in 2010. Savannah, Georgia’s parade is second in size only to NYC’s. Events, including the greening of the fountain in Forsyth Park, Tara Feis, and the Celtic Cross Mass and Ceremony, begin two weeks before the 17th. The world’s shortest Saint Patrick’s Day Parade will be held for the ninth time this year, in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It takes place on Hot Springs’ 98-foot-long Bridge Street, capitalizing on the street’s being named by Ripley’s Believe It or Not as “The Shortest Street in the World.” For students at Ithaca’s Cornell University, St. Patrick’s Day is better known as “Dragon Day.” Every year, firstyear architecture students design a dragon several stories high, which is paraded around campus and then ceremoniously set on fire. This tradition can be traced back to the early 1900s, when student Willard Dickerman Straight chose March 17 as the day on which the College of Architecture would celebrate itself. It began with adorning the main architecture building with ostentatious Irish decorations, but grew to involve a large cut-out of the saint being carried around campus, pursued by a 20 ft model serpent. By the 1950s, St. Patrick was out of the equation and the snakes had evolved into dragons. Blue was the color originally associated with St. Patrick, though as the patron saint is believed to have used a shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity, it became a popular symbol of the day, and that symbolism eventually spread to the color green

in general. In addition to the now traditional (if not exactly authentic) green bagels, carnations and beer, some of the more surprising U.S. recipients of green dye include the White House Fountain and the Chicago River. The Chicago tradition began when Stephen M. Bailey, business manager of the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union 110, got the brainwave to experiment with a dye used to detect leaks in the city’s drainage system. On St. Patrick’s Day 1962, 100 lbs. of the dye were pumped into the river, which remained in its festive state for a week. Eventually, 25 lbs. was settled upon as the appropriate amount. Hawaii does not have a very large Irish population – not even when compared to its Pacific Rim neighbors – but its enthusiasm for the 17th is well known. According to local Murphy’s Bar & Grill owner Don Murphy, the Guinness Book of Records has dubbed Honolulu’s Historic Chinatown Block Party, “the single biggest St. Patrick’s Day party any one bar throws in the U.S.” Other Hawaiian Patrick’s Day events are the Corned Beef Musubi Eating Contest and The Emerald Ball at the Japanese Cultural Center, which raises money for the Society of the Friends of St. Patrick. Archbishop Hughes was correct: Irish cheer is infectious. The Irish diaspora turned March 17 into a day of Irish pride and revelry, reviving various folk traditions and creating a new mythology of celebration; one that could be enjoyed by all. This, far and above the beer and the funny hats, is surely the reason why such an ostensibly culture-specific day has taken hold of the most diverse nation in the world. – Catherine Davis


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MacWeeney’s Travellers At Ireland House

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PHOTO: PETER WOLF

n 1965, looking for an image to illustrate the poetry of William Butler Yeats, Dublin-born photographer Alen MacWeeney stumbled into what he calls “a deep pool of hidden Irish culture” – the world of the people known as Travellers – and found himself “lost in their lives and stories” for almost six years. MacWeeney, collaborating with actress Aedin Moloney, brought that hidden world to exuberant life recently at New York University’s Glucksman Ireland House, where he wove his blunt, evocative images with the music and stories he collected 50 years ago into an evening of illumination about the people he encountered in camps outside Dublin. It became his job, he told the audience, to “represent their struggle.” Sharing affectionate memories of the people in his now famous images, MacWeeney said it was his camera and tape recorder that first earned him an entree into their ranks. Soon he was a trusted friend, finding himself surrounded by 30 people in a hut as he recorded a storyteller. He witnessed, “completely by chance,” how modernizing influences in the late ’60s, like the dole and increased automobile traffic, transformed the traditional Traveller way of life. Despite his outsider status, “Nothing in their behavior ever made me uncomfortable. They never asked anything of me.” A rapt Ireland House audience heard a recording of Johnny Cassidy, a rapid-fire storyteller who recounted his tales while sitting up in bed. Moloney, founder and artistic director of New York’s Fallen Angel Theatre Company, defied all known laws of human breath control as she animated a host of characters – human and supernatural – in a rollicking Traveller tale called “The Grey Headed Norrisey’s Skull.” MacWeeney speculates that American interest in Traveller

PHOTO: ALEN MACWEENEY

culture comes partly from jealousy of “a romantic perception of freedom,” but really is fueled by a fascination with the unknown. The audience that night – like Brooklynite Alexandra Holt who wondered about Travellers in Irish history, or Terry O’Leary of Manhattan who yearned to hear even more “about such a mysterious population” – reflected that strong attraction. Moloney and MacWeeney are hoping to repeat their collaboration and expand this program to include his feature-length BBC/RTE documentary from 2000, along with more stories and music. The photographs, including stories and downloadable music, appear in Irish Travellers, Tinkers No More, a paperback reprint of the 2007 hardcover edition. For more information, see www.alenmacweeney.com and www.fallenangeltheatre.org. – Daphne Wolf

Honorary Degrees for McCann and O’Connor

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wo of Ireland’s leading artists, writer Colum McCann and pianist John O’Connor, were awarded honorary doctorates by the Dublin Institute of Technology.The Institute’s spring graduation took place on February 18, in Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral. DIT president Professor Brian Norton remarked that O’Connor’s and McCann’s “contributions to the arts have enriched our lives and have drawn the attention of the world to the richness of music and literature for which Ireland is so justly recognized.” In the course of their early studies, both McCann and O’Connor attended schools that are now incorporated into DIT – McCann the College of Commerce in Rathmines, which is now DIT, and O’Connor the College of Music, now the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama. – S.L..

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{ irish eye on hollywood} By Tom Deignan

From Southie to the Five Points to Downton Abbey, the Irish are taking over American television! First, the cast for an upcoming series about Irish cops in the Five Points is starting to come together. Dublin-born actor Kevin Ryan has signed on to Copper, the BBC America series set in the grimy wards of 1860s New York, when the streets teemed with Famine immigrants and those very immigrants joined the ranks of the NYPD. Ryan is relatively unknown in the U.S., having appeared on TV in Entourage and Kevin Ryan Days of Our Lives, as well as in the film The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Ryan will play detective Francis McGuire alongside Tom Weston-Jones, who plays Kevin Corcoran. German actress Franke Potente (The Bourne Supremacy) will also star in Copper, which was developed by acclaimed director Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Wag the Dog, the Irish film An Everlasting Piece) as well as Oz’s Tom Fontana and Southland’s Will Rokos. Copper may be Kevin Ryan’s breakout role. Ryan comes from a long line of Irish stonecutters, and even began heading into the family business before taking a shine to the bright lights of show biz. Ryan has numerous upcoming films, including the lead in the thriller Tripping Tommy, and a role in the Irish film Songs for Amy, alongside Patrick Bergin. Speaking of Irish actors who gained wide exposure by appearing in critically-acclaimed cable dramas, let’s catch up with Dubliner Aidan Gillen, best known for playing politician Tommy Carcetti on the gritty HBO series The Wire. Gillen will be appearing in the blockbuster-to-be Dark Knight Rises this summer. Gillen plays a CIA agent in the film, which stars Christian Bale as the famous crime fighter. Gillen, who has also appeared in the HBO drama Game of Thrones, will also be seen in two upcoming films with sharp Irish angles. First there’s Shadow Dancer, which also stars Clive Owen and Gillian Anderson. Shadow Dancer is about an IRA member who begins informing on the group for British intelligence. Then there’s Calvary, also slated to star Brendan Gleeson and Chris O’Dowd (the Irish cop from Bridesmaids – more on him later). Calvary is about a priest who hears something dangerous in the confessional and fears for his life. It was written by John Michael McDonagh, who wrote the acclaimed dark comedy The Guard (also starring Brendan Gleeson), as well as 2003’s Ned Kelly, featuring the late Heath Ledger. If that wasn’t enough, McDonagh just happens to be acclaimed playwright Martin McDonagh’s brother. (More on Martin McDonagh later, as well.) Aidan Gillen. 20 IRISH AMERICA APRIL / MAY 2012

It may be a very British series but the PBS hit Downton Abbey has strong Irish ties. Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary Crawley), Siobhan Finneran (who plays maid Mrs. O’Brien) and Brendan Coyle are among the cast members. Dockery is the daughter of an Irishman from Athlone. Initially a stage actress, she made her television debut in 2005 in the BBC mini-series Fingersmith. Her breakout role as Lady Mary has clearly led to good things, as Dockery recently landed a part in Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina, which will also feature Domhnall Gleeson. Finneran’s father hails from Co. Leitrim. She has made a name for herself mainly in British television and film. Coyle, meanwhile, was born to an Irish father and Scottish mother, both of whom lived for some time in Strabane, Co. Tyrone. Coyle plays John Bates on Abbey, and will also be seen in April’s The Raven, alongside John Cusack. Downton Abbey has proven an unlikely hit with American audiences, and also stars Maggie Smith and Irish-American Elizabeth McGovern. It ended its second season in late February, but has proven a smash hit through Netflix and other online services, as word of mouth has gotten stronger and stronger.

Michelle Dockery, Siobhan Finneran and Elizabeth McGovern.

Also, on the TV front is a show with not quite so much cultural potential. For better or worse, we have all seen some of those reality shows about insane women who are placed into rooms with other insane women and eventually start pulling each others’ hair. Well, a plan is in the works to bring such a concept to South Boston, that famous Irish American redoubt. It all may have started as a simple YouTube spoof – something called The Real Housewives of South Boston had been making the rounds on cyberspace.


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But earlier this year, the TLC network with several characters from announced plans for Southie Pride, a reality Apatow’s hilarious 2007 pregshow focusing on local women and their famnancy comedy Knocked Up. ilies. And – wait for it – the production team Further down the road, behind MTV’s Jersey Shore has been hired to O’Dowd has signed on for the oversee at least eight episodes of Southie 2013 film Sean Carlin Goes Pride. Crazy. “One of the things I love to do is tell a story of people and who they really are,” producer Two generations of Irish SallyAnn Salsano told the Boston Herald. “It talent will be get together for is such a loving core group that I would love the vampire flick Byzantium. Maya Rudolph and Irishman Chris O’Dowd play Neil Jordan and them to tell their story.” Director one of the key couples in Friends with Kids. Oscar nominee Saoirse A TLC press release added: “The people and Ronan will team up for the film, set to be shot in Dublin and streets, and accents, of South Boston — or, Southie — have Wicklow. been the backdrop of hit movies and the focus of best-selling Film producer Alan Moloney proudly told The Hollywood books, and now you’ll meet the city’s real-life characters as Reporter that the Irish Film Board lobbied heavily to have the they celebrate their friendships, battle their rivals, and raise film shot in Ireland to “ensure that the project can be protheir children.” duced in Ireland, bringing with it international investment Thus far, however, Southie is living up to its reputation for and ensuring Irish talent are attached to it.” dismissing outsiders. “We are getting a lot of people shutting Though not yet 20 in real life, Ronan will play a 200-yeardoors in our faces. I can’t tell you the amount of times my old vampire with killer piano skills, which required her to staff has been told to [buzz] off since we have been there,” actually learn to play the instrument. Salsano told the Herald. “The same people that tell me to [buzz] off are the ones I want,” she said. “In order to not be The Ian Palmer documentary Knuckle – about Irish gypsy misrepresented, tell [your story].” bare-knuckle boxers – is being transferred to the American For the record: in case a hometown hero like, say, Mark South for a new HBO series to be written by Trainspotting Wahlberg comes out swinging against this exploitation of author Irvine Welsh. Southie, I have a feeling that Mickey Ward’s loud brood of “Think Fight Club meets the sisters in The Fighter just might Hatfields and the McCoys,” have had something to do with this An early still of Colin Farrell and Welsh recently said of the series concept. Woody Harrelson in Martin which will feature warring IrishMcDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths. American clans. Back to Martin McDonagh… The acclaimed writer and playwright will team up with fellow And finally, everybody’s Irishman Colin Farrell for the favorite Irish TV angel Roma Downey recently announced she upcoming film Seven Psychopaths. will be producing a series for Also starring Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken and Abbie DVD release entitled – fittingly – Cornish, Seven Psychopaths is Little Angels about a writer who gets involved in The series is aimed at a plot to kidnap a dog. preschoolers and combines lesExpect the Farrell-McDonagh sons in ABCs and 123s with Bible stories. “When I was a collaboration to hit the festival circhild, there was a charming cuit in late 2012. This is a reunion nighttime prayer we would for Farrell and McDonagh, who made the highly-underrated say that became the inspiraIn Bruges together. See page 62 for an interview with tion for the series,” Downey McDonagh and Farrell. recently told Parade magazine. “I thought it would be As for Chris O’Dowd, look for him in the April comedy Friends with Kids alongside fellow Irishman Ed Burns, Mad marvelous to have someMen’s Jon Hamm, his partner Jennifer Westfeldt and funny thing reminding children girls Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig. O’Dowd does anoththat they’re always being er comedic turn in the Judd Apatow film This is Forty, which looked after.” See page 70 for Irish America’s interview with IA is slated for a December 2012 release and appears to catch up Downey. APRIL / MAY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 21


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Island of Ireland Gears Up for Titanic Commemoration

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elfast is abuzz in preparation for the upcoming three-week-long Titanic Festival, which will both commemorate the centenary of the sinking of the Belfastbuilt ocean liner and celebrate the eagerlyawaited opening of Titanic Belfast, the centerpiece of city’s revitalized waterfront. The festival, which runs March 31 through April 22, will feature 120 events, including light shows, a commemorative service on the day of the sinking along with the unveiling of a memorial garden, and Titanic Sounds, a concert organized by MTV. The concert marks a victory for Belfast, coming only six months after MTV hosted its wildly popular European Music Awards in the oncetroubled city. As Belfast’s Mayor Niall O Donnghaile told the Belfast Telegraph, “This is such an exciting time for our city and this festival reflects the incredible interest in Titanic.” Ulster American Folk Park near Omagh in Co. Tyrone is hosting an exhibition, Titanic: Window on Emigration, which explores the lives of the Irish immigrants on board the Titanic – their experiences on the ship and the lives they led after making it to New York. It includes 300 artifacts, including personal items that belonged to the Irish passengers, and a detailed recreation of a third-class cabin.

Left: The 2011 Timoney bell ringing memorial in Addergoole, Mayo. Above: Titanic Belfast.

In the Republic, the small parish of Addergoole in Lahardane, Co. Mayo has become the focus of Titanic commemoration. Out of all the towns in Ireland, it had the most citizens on board the Titanic – fourteen in total, only three of whom survived. The town erected a memorial to the Addergoole Fourteen, as they are called, in 2002 and has held an annual bell ringing ceremony since then, tolling the Timoney Bell on the grounds of the town’s St. Patrick’s Church fourteen times at 2:20 a.m. every April 15th, the time of the Titanic’s sinking. The bell remains silent for the rest of the year. This year, the centenary will be marked by Mayo Titanic Cultural Week, from April 8–15. Former Irish president Mary Robinson will speak at the start of the week’s events, a re-enactment of the departure of the Addergoole Fourteen on their journey to Cobh, Co. Cork, the Titanic’s last port of call. The annual Titanic Mass will conclude the week, with a dedication of new stainedglass Titanic Memorial Windows in St. Patrick’s Church. Taoiseach Enda Kenny will then officially open the town’s Titanic Memorial Park, where a time capsule will be buried. – S.L.

Irish Short Wins Big at the Oscars H

uge cheers erupted in the Den Bar on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood when Terry and Oorlagh George’s short movie The Shore won an Oscar for the father-daughter team. Director Jim Sheridan, who has made two Oscar-nominated movies with George – In the Name of the Father and Some Mother’s Son – was among the cheering crowd of about 150 L.A.-based Irish who gathered to watch the show, just down the road from the Kodak theater. “I love working with

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him. Tonight was like my happiest moment ever watching the Oscars, when he won,” Sheridan said. The Shore is a deeply personal story of a father who returns to Northern Ireland after 25 years, with his adult daughter, played by Kerry Condon. It was shot on location at Killough in Co. Down, where Terry George spent much of his childhood. “Our little film was inspired by the people of Northern Ireland, Protestant and Catholic, who – after 30 years of war – sat down, negotiated a peace and proved to the world that the Irish are great talkers. I want to dedicate this to them,” he said, as he accepted his Oscar. He has been nominated twice before, for Hotel Rwanda and In the Name of the Father. The Shore was a family affair. It was produced by his daughter Oorlagh, costume design was by his sister Catherine and his other

son Seamus was second assistant director As the Georges moved between the many post-Oscar parties in Hollywood, the celebration they plan to have at home was foremost on their minds. “I’m going to go back to the Anchor Bar in Killough with the prize and hopefully use it not just to promote the peace process in Northern Ireland, but tourism and everything that’s going on there. I hope that this is a reaffirmation that things have changed there and that we’re trying to move on and that it’s a great place to be,” said Terry George. The Georges later descended on the Den Bar with their Oscar, joining the cast and crew of the other Irish-nominatedshort, Pentecost. The distributor of both movies, Derry O’Brien who flew to L.A. for the Oscars, was jubilant. “I’ve had eight Oscar-nominated movies over the past few years and I’m so thrilled for everyone involved in this one,” he said. – Patricia Danaher


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Those We Lost Frank Carson

David Kelly

1926 – 2012

1929 – 2012

After a long battle with stomach cancer, comedian Frank Carson died at the age of 85 in Blackpool, England. Carson was born on November 6, 1926 to an Irish Italian family. He was raised in Belfast and began his stand-up career after winning ITV’s Opportunity Knocks talent show. He went on to television, appearing in shows like The Good Old Days, The Comedians and Tiswas. He performed for the royal family. He is also remembered for catch phrases like “It’s a cracker!” and “It’s the way I tell ‘em!” Aside from his comedic career, Carson led an active life. He was once mayor of Balbriggan near Dublin. After moving his family to Blackpool, Carson became very involved in charity work, his biggest cause being the integrated education fund. This led to what he considered his greatest achievement, becoming a Knight of St. Gregory. He met Pope John Paul II and was quoted saying, “I was in there for 17 minutes – the priests time it. President Reagan only got 11, so that was nice.” Carson died February 22 surrounded by family in Blackpool. He will be laid to rest in Belfast. He is survived by his wife Ruth, their three children, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. – M.F.

Irish actor David Kelly, best known for his roles as Grandpa Joe in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and as Michael O’Sullivan in Waking Ned Devine (19998), died in Dublin on February 12. He was 82. Kelly had a long and successful career in film, television and on the stage. Educated at Synge Street Christian Brothers school, he was drawn to acting at an early age, appearing on the Gaiety Theatre stage at age 8. Kelly did not gain major acting notoriety until 1959, when he originated the role of Krapp in Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape. Following this, he made the transition from stage to television. In the 1980s, he starred in RTE’s Strumpet City alongside Peter O’Toole. Kelly then went on to BBC’s hit show Ballykissangel (1996-2001). Kelly tended to get cast in small, idiosyncratic film roles throughout his career. His role in Waking Ned Devine was his first major film breakthrough, and he was nominated for a SAG Award. After starring in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Irish Film & Television Academy presented Kelly with the Lifetime Achievement Award. His last cinematic role was in 2007’s Stardust. He leaves behind his wife, Laurie, and their two children David and Miriam. – M.F.

Mike Kelley

Harry Keough

1954 – 2012

1927 – 2012

Contemporary artist Mike Kelley was found dead in his South Pasadena home on February 1, an apparent suicide. He was 57. Kelley is best known for having laid the groundwork of present-day installation art, though he has received critical acclaim for his work in a number of mediums. Born into a Catholic workingclass family in a suburb of Detroit, Kelley became involved with Detroit’s heavy metal subculture during his teen years, eventually performing in the band Destroy All Monsters. His passion for music continued through his time as a graduate student at the California Institute of the Arts, where he first began creating his signature multimedia installations. He was interested in performance art, often using it to explore sadomasochistic and scatological themes, until stage fright eventually forced him to stop performing altogether in 1986. Kelley’s work has served as a source of inspiration throughout the art world, influencing artists as varied as rock band Sonic Youth, Maria Arena Bell (head writer and co-executive producer of The Young and the Restless) and filmmaker John Waters. Kelley is survived by his brother, George. – C.D.

Harry Keough of U.S. soccer fame died in his St. Louis home on February 7. He was 84. Keough was a starting player at the famous 1950 World Cup game, hosted in Brazil, where the Americans defeated England 1-0. This win is considered to be one of the greatest upsets in soccer history. Born to Patrick “Paddy” John Keough and Elizabeth Costley Keough, he grew up in St. Louis when it was the center of United States soccer. After leaving the team in 1957, Keough coached St. Louis University to five NCAA soccer titles. “While his participation on the U.S. team that beat England in the 1950 FIFA World Cup remains a memory that fans around the world treasure,” U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati told ESPN, “it is his lasting contribution to soccer in St. Louis and around the country as a player and a coach that will be his true legacy.” Keough only coached part-time. His day job was at the U.S. Postal Service, where he worked for 36 years. Keough was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1976. He is survived by his wife, Alma, their son Ty – who also played for the American national team – and daughters, Colleen and Peggy. – C.D.

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Judge Frank J. McGarr 1921 – 2012

Frank McGarr, a federal judge, died of complications from Parkinson’s Disease at his home in Downers Grove, Illinois, on January 6. He was just over a month shy of his 91st birthday. Born in Chicago on February 25, 1921, McGarr attended St. Ignatius Prep high school, and received his bachelor’s degree from Loyola University in 1942. He fought in the Navy during WW II, taking leave in 1943 to marry his childhood sweetheart, Margaret. After the war, he returned to school in pursuit of a law degree. Graduating from Loyola in 1950, he remained at the university in a teaching position until being appointed first assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago in 1954. He was nominated to the federal bench in 1970 by President Nixon. After retiring from the bench in 1988, McGarr joined the Chicago law firm of Phelan, Pope, & John. He served as chairman of Governor George Ryan’s Commission on Capital Punishment in the early 2000s. “As a judge, he never took himself too seriously,” his daughter Patricia DiMaria told the Chicago Tribune in January. “He would say, ‘You don’t have honor and intelligence just by putting on a robe.’” He is survived by his wife, five children, a sister, 13 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. – C.D.

John T. “Jack” O’Neill 1935 – 2012

Jack O’Neill, a beloved public spirit in Holyoke, MA, died on February 2. Jack was a 50-year-plus member of the St. Patrick’s Committee of Holyoke, the second largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the U.S. He served as parade president in the 1980s. Born in Holyoke, he was a graduate of Holyoke Catholic High School and the former Hampden College of Pharmacy. Known as “Pharmacy Jack” because there were two Jack O’Neill’s, the other being “Sportscaster Jack,” he operated Oakdale Pharmacy before going to work at Providence Hospital, where he was employed for over 35 years. Jack served his community well and was on many committees over the years. He was the recipient of the O’Connell Award in 1991, and the Rohan Award in 2010. He was a member of Holyoke Lodge of Elks #902 and a proud member of the Beefers’ Club and the B&B. John was a Eucharistic Minister at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, where he also coached in its CYO program, and served on the CYO Board of Directors. He was a Knight of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem and a former member of the Board of Directors of the Holyoke Boys & Girls Club. He was a commissioner for the Holyoke Geriatric Authority Board, and also served as its Chairman. Jack was an avid Yankees, Patriots, and Celtics fan. He was predeceased by son Kevin O’Neill and his second wife, Susan M. O’Neill. He is survived by five children, three grandchildren, a great-granddaughter and several nieces and nephews. – I.N.

Dory Previn 1925 – 2012

Singer-songwriter Dory Previn, who first gained notoriety for her Oscar-nominated collaborations with former husband Andre Previn and went on to enjoy a career as a solo artist, died at home in Southfield, MA on February 14. She is survived by her husband, Joby Baker, three step-children and six step-grandchildren. Born Dorothy Veronica Langan on October 22, 1925 in New

Jersey, she was raised in a troubled IrishCatholic home in Hawthorne, NJ. As she would later recount in her autobiographies Midnight Baby and Bog-trotter: An Autobiography with Lyrics, her father had suffered mental trauma from his time in WWI. He refused to believe that he was her real father and once locked Dory, her mother and siblings in the dining room of their house for four months. After high school, Dory tried her luck singing and working odd jobs in both New York and California, before her work was brought to the attention of MGM producer Arthur Freed, who hired her as a lyricist. It was at MGM that she met composer Andre Previn, who would become her collaborator and husband. Their first album together was called The Leprechauns Are Upon Me. They were nominated for two Oscars, for “The Faraway Part of Town,” sung by Judy Garland in Pepe, and for “Second Chance” from Two for the Seesaw. Their soundtrack to 1967’s The Valley of the Dolls was immensely popular, and Previn was also nominated in 1969 for “Come Saturday Morning,” from The Sterile Cuckoo, starring Liza Minelli. That year Dory experienced a nervous breakdown, which led to several months in a sanitorium. Her marriage with Andre dissolving (he had left her for a rising star named Mia Farrow), Previn sought solace in writing the songs that would form her immensely personal and revealing first solo album, On My Way to Where. She released five other albums throughout the 70s, including the critically acclaimed Mythical Kings and Iguanas and Reflections in a Mud Puddle. Previn married Joby Baker, a painter, in 1986. She and Andre resurrected both their friendship and working relationship, collaborating once again in 1997 on “The Magic Number,” which premiered in New York performed by the New York Philharmonic and soprano Sylvia McNair. – S.L.

Hal Roach 1927 – 2012

Waterford-born comedian Hal Roach, who was sometimes referred to as the “King of Blarney” or the “King of Irish comedy” passed away at the age of 84 in Florida on February 29. Roach, not to be confused with the former Hollywood comedic producer of the same name, was born John Roach on November 4, 1927. He started his career after winning a local talent competition for singing and began touring Ireland as a magician. He eventually moved to comedy. Roach performed for over 60 years and once held the Guinness World Record for longest running engagement as a comedian at the same venue. He worked for 26 consecutive years at Jury’s Cabaret at Jury’s Hotel Ballsbridge in Dublin. He was well known among American tourists visiting Dublin, which led to his becoming an entertainment fixture in Irish-American circles. With his catch phrase “write it down, it’s a good one!” in mind, Roach published several popular books aimed at Irish Americans. He also released several CDs and a DVD set. Roach is survived by his wife, Mary, children Sandra, Terry, Grainne, John and Shane, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. – M.F. IA

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{hibernia} O’Sullivan to Carry Olympic Torch in Dublin

Five Days, Seven Continents

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rish ultra runner Richard Donovan, the only person ever to have run seven marathons on seven continents in less than seven days, broke his own record on Monday, February 6. Unsatisfied with his previous record of five days, 10 hours and eight minutes, he approached this year’s World Marathon Challenge determined to complete the feat of mind-boggling endurance in under five days. He succeeded, finishing in four days, 22 hours and three minutes. Donovan, who has not been to a doctor in years, told the Irish Times in the days leading up to the event that he would not be using any energy supplements other than salt tablets, saying, “I’m keeping it real – I’m not going in some privileged manner. I’m going against all the rules, no special diet, flying economy by myself, bringing whatever I can fit in one bag. I’ll sleep where I can.” The majority of his time was spent traveling, and just one delayed flight could have ruined the entire record

attempt. The sudden and radical changes in climate – he went from subzero temperatures in the Antarctic to the sweltering heat of Australia in less than 120 hours – combined with malnourishment and sheer exhaustion, took such a toll on Donovan’s body that by the time he reached Sydney, he couldn’t keep down food or water. Instead of giving up, he drank a bottle of Heineken. It did the trick, and he finished the last leg of his challenge with time to spare. The 45-year-old father of one is the chairman of UltraRunning Ireland. He has won the Antarctic Ice Marathon, the Inca Trail Marathon, the Everest Challenge Marathon, the Antarctic 100 km and the Himalayan 100-Mile Stage Race, and in April 2002, he successfully completed the first marathon-length run in the North Pole. This year’s World Marathon Challenge took Donovan from Antarctica to Cape Town, South Africa; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Orlando, U.S.A; London, U.K.; Hong Kong, and finally to Sydney. – C.D.

I

rish Olympic champion Sonia O’Sullivan will carry the Olympic torch down Dublin’s O’Connell Street when it visits Ireland’s capital for the first time this summer. O’Sullivan, who won a silver medal for the 5,000-meter run in the Sydney Olympics in 2000, will be the first high–profile Irish sporting figure to be handed the torch. The Olympic Council of Ireland recently confirmed that O’Sullivan would be the Chef de Mission of the Irish Olympic squad in London. On June 6, she will receive the torch in the Garden of Remembrance, where the two-and-ahalf-hour ceremony will begin. O’Sullivan will be joined by dozens of other Irish sports stars of past and present for a nearly seven-and-a-half-mile route. The torch will then be returned to Northern Ireland for the remainder of its journey on the island of Ireland. – S.L.

McIlroy Becomes Number One

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ory McIlroy was hitting 40-yard drives at the age of two. By eight he was the youngest full member of the Holywood Golf Club, which sits just outside of Belfast, and by 11 he was shooting level par around the Club’s par-69 course. It is not entirely by coincidence that McIlroy’s story so closely resembles that of Tiger Woods’ legendary childhood. Growing up in Northern Ireland, he studied Woods’ career and aspired, from a very young age, to emulate the star player. During this year’s Honda Classic at PGA National, which took place on March 4, McIlroy not only claimed victory over his childhood hero (Woods came in tied for second) coming in oneunder-par 69 for a 72-hole total of 12-under 268, but was also named the No. 1 player in the world. At 22, he is the second youngest player to achieve the title – the first being Woods, fifteen years ago. McIlroy told the press,“It was always a dream of mine to become the world No. 1 and the best player in the world or whatever you want to call it, but I didn't know that I would be able to get here this quickly ... Hopefully, I can hold onto it for a little longer.” – C.D. APRIL / MAY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 27


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{hibernia} Irish-American Family Honored by Cystic Fibrosis Foundation or the past 12 years, since discovering that their oldest daughter, Annie, had cystic fibrosis, John and Theresa McMahon of Crestwood, NY, have dedicated themselves to raising money to fight the disease. On April 20th, they will be presented with the 2012 Breath of Life Award by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) at its third annual Black & White Ball, in honor of their outstanding work and commitment to raising CF awareness. The McMahons, who trace their ancestry to Galway, Leitrim and Cavan, have raised nearly $2 million for CFF, the leading nonprofit organization that funds CF research. Fox 5’s Dick Brennan will also be honored. Dick has helped increase awareness of the disease through his news coverage of the McMahons’ annual fundraising event, ‘Plunge for the Cure,’ held in February at Rockaway Beach, NY. This year’s event, at which participants brave the Atlantic’s icy winter waters, raised over $100,000, which was donated to CFF in Annie’s name. Now 15, she is among the cystic fibrosis patients who are benefitting from the newly FDA approved drug, Kalydeco, the first drug to address the G551D gene mutation, which accounts for at least 4% of CF cases in the U.S. To learn more about CF, how to get involved, or support the McMahon family in their fundraising efforts visit: www.cffblackandwhiteball.com

F

Rural Ireland: The Inside Story B

oston College’s McMullen Museum of Art is giving visitors a rare look at the daily lives of Irish country people in the nineteenth century. Once thought to be an unpopular subject among Irish artists in the 1800s, who often focused on the grander “big house” themes and landscapes, the rural Irish population comes to life in this expansive and carefully curated exhibition. Rural Ireland: The Inside Story brings together a wide range of paintings, 65 in all, that depict the interiors of rural houses. Many are on loan from some of the leading galleries in Ireland and Northern Ireland, including the National Gallery of Ireland, Cork’s Crawford Art Gallery and the Ulster Museum, and some have never before been exhibited in the U.S. Together, they provide unique insight Above: Gerard Dillon’s Yellow into the quotidian lives of the country Irish in Bungalow. Top: Aloysius O’Kelly’s the midst of political, social, and religious Mass in a Connemara Cabin turbulence, and during the tough Famine years and the periods of immigration that ensued. Aloysius O’Kelly’s watercolor Mass in a Connemara Cabin, for example, shows a station being held in a rural home. James Brennan’s News From America depicts a young girl reading a letter from a family member who had emigrated to America to the rest of the famach year since 1989, during the last weekend in January, the CIA has ily. Later paintings, like Gerard Dillon’s almost faced-off against the FBI on the golf course at West Palm Beach’s Bear Post-Impressionist Yellow Bungalow, mark a Lakes Country Club, in an amateur spin-off of the Irish Ryder Cup.The turning point in Irish art as they adopted more members of the opposing teams are not, as you might suspect, spooks modern styles and techniques. and g-men; they are the Celtic Irish Americans and the Foreign Born Irish. The paintings are accompanied by a vast colThe tournament is still organized by its co-founders, James Cunniff lection of artifacts from Irish life during this time, (CIA) and Tom Killarney (FBI, from Galway).They met on the driving from work benches and furniture to cooking utenrange at Bear Lakes in 1987, and bonded over their mutual Galway hersils – the very household objects depicted in so itage and the fact that they were born on the same day. many of the paintings. The exhibition also feaIn its first year, the tournament pitted twelve Irish-American golfers tures a re-creation of a typical nineteenth-century against twelve Irish golfers. It has since grown to boast forty-two memhearth, the center of the home. – S.L. bers on each team, with golfers from all over Ireland and America journeying to the Jack Nicklaus-designed course.The weekend begins with a Rural Ireland: The Inside Story runs through practice game and pairings on Thursday, followed by two days of golfing June 3. Visit www.bc.edu/artmuseum for more IA and an evening of dinner and dancing, which in recent years has featured information. Kathy Durkin’s Band from Co. Cavan. – S.L..

Ryder Cup: The CIA vs. The FBI

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{hibernia} SPOTLIGHT ON:

Sue Cischke Ford Motor Company’s highestranking female executive is retiring after 35 years in the business. Cischke, Group Vice President for Sustainability, Environment and Safety, tells Sheila Langan about her love of Ireland, career highlights, and the intuitive cars of the future. There is one particular conversation that Sue Cischke recalls from when, engineering degree in hand, she had just started in the auto industry 35 years ago. “The chief engineer I was working with said to me ‘someday we’ll have women plant managers.’And I said, ‘yes that’s great.’And he says ‘They’ll be in charge of the trim plant ‘cause they’ll know whether the seams are straight or not.” I just wanted to smack him!” she fumed. “But we’ve come a long way since then, that’s for sure.” Cischke herself is proof of that. Long one of the highest-ranking female executives in the field, she has led a distinguished career, ushering in important safety features and advocating industry-changing environmental standards. As the top environmental and safety officer since 2001, she worked to develop Ford's impressive Blueprint for Sustainability, and worked with Congress and the White House to create a national standard for fuel efficiency across the industry, to be fully implemented from 2017 - 2025. As she spoke via phone from her office in Ford’s Deerborn headquarters on one of her last days there, Cischke’s passion for

her job and her Irish roots was very clear. Her Irish grandparents, Marcella Clancy and Martin McInerney, grew up just five miles away from each other in Clare. They both came to America in 1921 on the same ship, the RMS Cedric, but didn’t end up meeting until 1926, at an Irish dance in Detroit. They shared with Cischke many stories of what it was like to be an immigrant at that time. “My grandfather came over with a lot of his buddies and it’s amazing, the stories he would tell. You had to have a certain amount in order to be let into the country, and they didn’t have enough, so all the guys pooled their money, gave it to the first guy, and then found a way to sneak it back down the line,” she said. When her grandmother first arrived, she took the train all the way from New York to Michigan, where she worked in Grosse Point – interestingly enough, in the home of the Dodge family. Cischke first went to Ireland in 1983 to visit her remaining family there. She fondly recalled how difficult it was to find Cree, the small town in Co. Clare where her great-aunt Joan Clancy was still living. Her grandmother had emigrated when her sister was only three, so they barely knew each other. Cischke brought with her a tape containing a recorded message from her grandmother, and made one with her greataunt to bring back. On that first trip, she saw the house where her grandmother had grown up, the building where her grandfa-

ther went to school, and many other important ancestral landmarks. After returning to the U.S., she made a map with all of the key places she visited so that the rest of her family would know their way around when they took their own trips. One of her cousins was so inspired that she brought her son to Cree to make his first communion in the church where their grandfather had been baptized. Cischke has been back to Ireland twice since then, most recently in 2002. She brought her siblings, nieces and nephews with her the last two times so that they could see exactly why her first trip was so wonderful. She plans to return again postretirement, but first she’s going to spend some time with her family in Florida. Later on, she hopes to urge young girls to consider math and science. “I think engineering is just a great career. If they don’t have the early math and science classes, it kind of leaves it off the table as an option, so I’d like to encourage them,” she said. And what does she see for the cars of the not-too-distant future? “We’ll have really great safety features. No flying cars yet, but cars are going to be talking to the other cars with wi-fi transmission and using sight radar so that they can see around corners, avoid accidents, handle congestion and help people re-route to different areas to prevent traffic jams.” The flying cars can wait. What Cischke has set in motion sounds far more important. IA

The RMS Cedric, which took Cischke’s grandparents to the U.S. • Cischke’s great-grandmother’s house. Cree,1983 • With her family in Kinsale, 2002 30 IRISH AMERICA APRIL / MAY 2012


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Quote Unquote “Today’s announcement by PayPal of 1,000 new jobs is great news for Ireland and for the northeast. This is a great signal of confidence in Ireland and in our talented workforce.” –Taoiseach Enda Kenny at a recent press conference with the global online payments firm and subsidiary of eBay, PayPal. The company announced that they would be opening a new operations headquarters in Dundalk, which would begin recruiting new employees by the end of the year.

“I recall my first visit to this country in 2003. At that time one Irish person I met said to me an Irish saying that is ‘good things often come in small packages’ and that person said ‘that is us, that is Ireland.’ We believe Ireland has so many good things to offer.” – Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who visited Ireland in February. His visit was considered a success and many hope it will lead to economic investment in Ireland and cooperation between the two countries.

“The Irish community is fed up nationwide, and the vast Irish organizations we partner with are working to stop these attacks. We will start email, phone, and letter writing campaigns until this merchandise is removed…No other nationality sees the flagrant racist comments, and derogatory shirts, TV commercials, and sales gimmicks by restaurants or bars like the Irish do.” – Tom Wilson and John J. Ragen, chairmen of the Irish Anti-Defamation Federation, in response to merchandise being sold by Urban Outfitters stores in advance of St. Patrick’s Day, depicting the Irish in a derogatory manner.

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“It’s the great discovery he made in his study of the Irish character — the idea of survival as an act of imagination. Against the unacceptability of the void, he pits the howl of irrational humor and the keen…Whatever comes next, after the crash, Ireland will make itself anew. If it’s smart, that is — if it doesn’t insist, like us, on desperately trying to crawl back to the conditions that made the bubble. A century after Synge’s last works were published, he may be the writer Ireland needs.” – John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Pulphead and the recent New York Times Magazine feature “My Debt to Ireland,” in which he describes his return visit to Ireland last year, his interactions with locals of the Aran Islands, Cork and Dublin, and his rediscovery of writer John Millington Synge.

“There’s a real danger of people saying, ‘The child abuse scandal is over. Let’s bury it. Let’s move on... It isn’t over. The protection of children is something that will go on for the rest of our lives and into the future. Because the problems are there.” – Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, in a 60 Minutes interview that aired on March 4, about the child sex abuse scandal in Ireland.


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The Burren Andy Weeks, a New York based artist, finds inspiration in Clare’s rocky landscape.

wo years ago, my wife and I decided to visit Ireland. We were in the process of buying a house outside of New York and we knew that the cost of it all would keep us from traveling for a while. The trip would be our last extravagance before we focused our attention and our money on the little house we now live in. Distracted by the endless tasks involved in making the home purchase, I did not devote much time to researching our trip. I knew I wanted to try every beer I encountered, explore as many towns as I could and appreciate the examples of Medieval architecture that dotted the landscape. The reality of the experience was particularly compelling because I had not prepared myself for what I would see, eat, drink and experience. I love to drive and so I rented a car in Dublin and Elisabeth and I drove south to Kilkenny, on to Killarney and up to Galway. I knew that I would be driving on an unfamiliar side of the road, but I did not prepare myself for the fact that I would be driving on small roads that alternated between the majestic and the absolutely terrifying (very narrow and occasionally on the side of a cliff!). The drive was brilliant and, in contrast to where I was living in Brooklyn, the rolling hills of Ireland were like an endless billowing carpet of green. Everything I saw was stunning but nothing captivated me like the Burren.

T

OPPOSITE PAGE: “The Burren” 28 x 20 Oil on canvas LEFT: “Numinous” 40 x 48 Oil on canvas


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OPPOSITE PAGE: TOP: “Dolmen” 20 x 40 Oil on canvas BOTTOM: “Karst” 48 x 60 Oil on canvas LEFT: “Untitled” 24 x 28 Oil on canvas BELOW: “Through Stone” 24 x 30 Oil on canvas

Not far from Galway, we found ourselves in Clare, driving through this endless, otherworldly rock-covered landscape. The Burren is a cold expanse of limestone pavement positioned against the Atlantic Ocean. My first thought, when everything in view was rock and sky, was of Willem de Kooning. This landscape is a geological masterpiece. I love abstract painting, particularly when it is pared down to simple variables and there is attention paid to scale. De Kooning’s painting The Attic is one of my favorites because it is simple and brilliantly proportioned. The Burren was like The Attic somehow. There were limited variables. Rock. Sky. Water. Unlike The Attic, however, this place was real and I was surrounded by its beauty. A place of great mystery, the Burren made me think of the great Romantic paintings of Caspar Friedrich and the Surrealist interior landscapes of Tanguy. It seemed to me the perfect landscape; powerful, beautiful, dangerous and peaceful. I knew immediately that I would be painting this place. I took hundreds of photographs, did many drawings and over time constructed a series of paintings inspired by one of the great landscapes in the world. Each of my paintings is an attempt to recreate the experience of being in the Burren, that great expanse of stone broken by strangely organized fissures and small stacks of rocks. Like the place, the paintings took on an air of mystery and a IA strange, organized and simple aesthetic.

Andy Weeks was born in 1977 in Stone Mountain, Georgia but spent much of his childhood in England, Egypt and West Africa before returning to the United States. Andy began drawing and painting as a child, and as a high school student he was invited to attend the Governor’s Honors Program at Valdosta State University to study art. He went on to earn his BFA from The Atlanta College of Art in 2000. During this time, he received a number of awards including The Atlanta College of Art Board of Director’s Award and the Gene Alcott Scholarship. Andy earned his MFA (with distinction) at Pratt Institute in 2007. He now exhibits his work throughout the United States and was recently awarded the E. Allen Womack Memorial Award. Andy teaches Art and Art History at the Notre Dame School in Manhattan and currently resides in Maplewood, New Jersey with his wife and dog. See more of his work at www.andyweeks.net APRIL / MAY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 37


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The Dunbrody

“Build It and

Celebrating the Dunbrody Fa and the upcoming inaugural

the longstanding relationship between Ireland and America. To accommodate the increased tourist trade to the area, the New Ross Town Council, with support from Fáilte Ireland, is building a new civic plaza and riverside boardwalk linking the Dunbrody with the John F. Kennedy statue, on the far end of the quay. This will allow visitors to walk from one tourist attraction to another, along the same quays where sailing ships berthed before transporting emigrés to all corners of the world. A podium placed near the JFK statue will hold an audio component that allows visitors to hear the

By Elaine Larkin and Alex Ronan

B

uild it and they will come” may be a modified version of a line from baseball movie Field of Dreams, but it is also reminiscent of Noah and the Ark. In New Ross, Co. Wexford, an unemployment blackspot in the late 1980s, Noah was the volunteer group of local business people who banded together to try and save the town. New Ross is the ancestral home of President John F. Kennedy, and the efforts of this volunteer group resulted in the creation of the John F. Kennedy Trust to commemorate the Kennedy legacy. The plan was to develop a tourist attraction that would highlight the maritime history of the port and make something positive out of the negative aspects of

38 IRISH AMERICA APRIL / MAY 2012

emigration by focusing on the contribution that the Irish had made throughout the world, particularly in North America. Almost 25 years on, it is clear that the “build it and they will come” approach has had a positive effect on the town. New Ross now has its own ark in the form of the Dunbrody, a replica famine ship (an initiative of the JFK Trust), which has had one million visitors since it opened in 2001. In 2011 the National Emigration Centre, housing the Irish America Hall of Fame (in conjunction with Irish America magazine) was opened alongside the Dunbrody and the ship was refurbished. And this year, on July 4, the town of New Ross will host the first ever Irish America Day with a series of events to celebrate

speech he made on the spot in 1963. “Linking the Kennedy statue to the Dunbrody is symbolically important,” explains Sean Reidy, CEO of the John F. Kennedy Trust and manager of the Dunbrody visitor center. Sean has been with the Trust since 1991, when he answered an advertisement for a project manager to develop a “heritage centre.” On accepting the job, he learned from then chairman Paddy Quinn that he would have to raise the money to cover his salary. Undaunted, he approached the task with


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They Will Come”

amine Ship, the Irish Emigration History Centre, the Irish America Hall of Fame, Irish America Day, hosted by the town of New Ross, Co. Wexford

confidence and a personal belief that a reconstructed emigrant ship in the port would make a dramatic visual statement and attract tourism. Paddy and others saw the potential in Sean’s idea and the project attracted financial support from a variety of sources including the National Tourism Development Authority, Fáilte Ireland, and the local community. Paddy went one step further. While the ship was still under construction, he phoned Sean with the news that he had just bought the Five Counties Hotel. “We’re going to need a great hotel for the

These visitors, in turn, stop by the Dunbrody, which they pass entering and leaving the town. The ship also draws visitors from the UK and Europe. In fact, the Dunbrody is one of the first tourist attractions for European coach trips coming through Rosslare. Add to that, a full twenty-five percent of the visitors that are from the U.S. Paddy died just two weeks before the official launch of the new Dunbrody Visitor Centre in July, 2011, but, it’s a consolation to Sean, with whom he shared an enormous bond of friendship and trust, that he lived long enough to see

Left to right:

thousands of people who are Former President that the John F. Kennedy Trust going to come to see the Mary McAleese achieved what it set out to do. visiting the Dunbrody,” he said. “If you look back at 1991, and The hotel, rebranded as the Dunbrody. you were to say, you’re going to The Irish America Brandon House Hotel, sits high Hall of Fame. have a replica famine ship, an on a hill close to the town. It was The Brandon emigration history center, the completely refurbished by Paddy House Hotel. Irish America Hall of Fame, a and his wife, Patricia who added new quayside about to be develmore than 40 bedrooms, bringing the total oped, investment expected in the Kennedy to 78. The pièce de résistance of the Homestead, you would say we have makeover is the multi-million-euro stateachieved everything we could have possiof-the-art spa called the Solas Croí (Irish bly hoped to achieve,” says Sean. But he for “light of the heart”), which attracts and his fellow New Rossers are not ones visitors from all over Ireland. to sit on their laurels.

“We now have 60,000 visitors a year to see the ship. The goal is to increase that figure to 100,000,” he says. Visitors to the Dunbrody receive a firsthand experience of mass emigration at a time when the leavetaking was forever. “They didn’t have tools such as Skype that kept them in touch with their loved ones back home,” says Sean. “If they left, they left for good, but we try to take that story onwards and we follow the progression of the Irish when they arrived in North America and that’s what differentiates the Dunbrody Visitor Centre significantly from other projects.

We carry the story forward, especially in our Irish America Hall of Fame section.” Sean is especially proud of the association with Irish America magazine on the Hall of Fame. “It is particularly appropriate that we should have a national center in New Ross honoring the achievements of Irish emigrants and their descendants, and that it be on the same quayside from which JFK’s great-grandfather Patrick boarded the emigrant ship bound for America. What a remarkable journey from famine emigrant to President of the United States in just three generations,” he says. APRIL / MAY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 39


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The planned Irish America Day, is a further celebration of the enduring ties between America and Ireland. “This inaugural event in a national celebration of our joint heritage that stretches back to the very founding of the United States,” says Sean, who conceived the idea. “Nine signatories of the Declaration of Independence were Irish, and many more risked their lives to defend it, and Irish America Day is an invitation to Irish Americans to come to Wexford on July 4th to celebrate their freedom and independence and their Irish heritage.” Among the many colorful events on that day, will be the induction into the Irish America Hall of Fame of some of the greatest Irish Americans of yesteryear – people who left an indelible mark on the American nation, such as Charles Carroll, signatory to the Declaration of Independence; John Barry, the father of the U.S. Navy; Thomas Francis Meagher, Civil War hero; Eugene O’Neill, literary genius; James Hoban, the architect who designed the White House; Mary (Mother) Jones, labor leader; James Concannon of the Aran Islands who established the Concannon Winery in California in 1883; George M. Cohan, composer; and John Huston, movie director. The July 4th celebrations will end with a gala concert featuring the Three Tenors Ireland in concert at the JFK Arboretum. Sean further explains the reasons behind the celebration. “Given the cyclical nature of our economies and our lives, Ireland is again in a recession that is driving many Irish people to emigrate in search of better life abroad. Forced emigration is again a stark reality for many. And as the Dunbrody and the Irish America Hall of Fame commemorates the lives of those that emigrated many years ago, and celebrates their achievements, and their triumphs over adversity, we would hope that these stories and the lives of the exemplars like JFK, Donald Keough and Michael Flatley can provide an inspiration to the young people of Ireland today to believe that anything is possible and to follow their dreams with hope and determination.” Paddy Quinn, would agree. He wrote 40 IRISH AMERICA APRIL / MAY 2012

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Clockwise: The Spa at the Brandon House Hotel. James Concannon, who will be inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame in New Ross. Sean Reidy, CEO of the JFK Trust, and Michael Flatley at the opening of the Irish America Hall of Fame in July, 2011.

a poem shortly before he passed away that now has pride of place in the Irish America Hall of Fame. The Leavetaking They sought a better life in a distant land From their poverty and strife. All they possessed was courage and hope As they sailed away from the dismal port of Ross

The JFK Memorial in New Ross.

Never again to see their homeland or loved ones. Tears flowed like rivers and prayers abounded From their loved ones left behind broken hearted on the quay. Many did well and many did not when they reached the shores of the new world, But all were willing to take the chance.


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York An initiative of the JFK Trust, New Ross and Irish America Magazine, New With the support of and the New Ross Town Council

Come see the town of New Ross en fete with bunting, flags and red, white and blue!

4th July 2012 • A National Celebration Inaugural Event New Ross, Co Wexford 9:00 am OPENING CEREMONY Formal Raising of the Stars and Stripes and the Tricolour at the JFK Statue, the quay, New Ross, Military Colour Party.

8:00 pm The Three Tenors Ireland in concert at the JFK Arboretum.

10:00 pm Formal lowering of the flags at the 12:00 pm Reading of the Declaration of Independence at The Tholsel New Ross, followed by laying of wreath to those that lost their lives in the 1798 Rebellion in New Ross.

Arboretum after concert.

10:30 pm Fireworks display near the Dunbrody in New Ross.

2:00 pm Boston Tea Party Re-enactment at the Dunbrody Ship.

5:00 pm Irish America Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Irish America Hall of Fame in the Dunbrody Emigration Centre will include such notables of yesteryear as James Hoban, the architect who designed the White House; Mary (Mother) Jones, labor leader and civil rights activist; James Concannon of the Aran Islands who established the Concannon Winery in California in 1883, and director John Huston.

6:00 pm Irish America Day Parade on the quay, featuring: Marching Bands and Majorettes; a Classic Car and a Harley Davidson Bike Rally.

OTHER ATTRACTIONS WILL INCLUDE: Performance by Irish-American comedian Des Bishop at the Brandon House Hotel on the evening of 3rd July 2012. Dixieland and jazz music. Line dancing and hoedown on South Street. American-style barbeque at the Hook Lighthouse Family Day. All-day American Literature Mark Twain Readings in New Ross Library. All week Classic American films at St Michael’s Theatre. Prom night in Brandon House Hotel.

For more information: www.irishamericaday.com

Mature Irish Cheddar Now available in the United States! www.wexfordcreamery.com Call Atalanta Corporation 908-372-6040


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HALL FAME Inductees

Irish America is proud to induct five distinguished new honorees into the Irish America Hall of Fame. From Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who keeps New York City safe, to architect Kevin Roche, who has spent over 60 years creating unique and thoughtful landmarks, their contributions to their respective fields are unforgettable. Like Tom Moran, who worked the night shift as a taxi driver throughout college and now heads the insurance giant Mutual of America, they exemplify just how far hard work and determination can take you. As Irish Americans, they recognize the importance of remembering where they and their ancestors came from, as Dr. John Lahey does with Quinnipiac University’s Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, and they understand the pivotal difference they can make in Ireland’s future, as Loretta Brennan Glucksman has consistently demonstrated in her work with the American Ireland Fund. Congratulations to the 2012 inductees. Mortas Cine.

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HALL FAME

Loretta Brennan

Glucksman Advocate for Ireland

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third-generation Irish American and chairman of the American Ireland Fund, Loretta Brennan Glucksman has worked tirelessly to promote Irish culture and to establish strong ties between America and the island of Ireland. She was raised in an Irish neighborhood in Allentown, PA, the granddaughter of four Irish immigrants. Her maternal grandfather was a miner from Leitrim, who emigrated and settled in Coaldale, PA and was involved with the first unionizing efforts there. Her father worked on the railroad during World War II before joining the Civil Service, first as a mail carrier and then as an office worker. At Allentown Central Catholic High School, she met and fell in love with a young man named Jack Cooney. During their senior year, they each won scholarships to colleges in Philadelphia – she to Chestnut Hill College, where her aunt Sue was the mother superior, and he to the Jesuit St. Joseph’s College. Both worked hard and excelled, and they married in their junior year. They had three children – two sons and a daughter – within four years. After eight years they divorced, but they remained on good terms. In a previous interview with Irish America she referred to Cooney as “one of my dearest friends.” In the midst of this transition, Brennan received a unique opportunity to teach at Trenton State College (now The College of New Jersey). The position offered her a chance to teach while enrolling her children in the school’s early childhood program. Loretta’s career changed in the early

1970s, when New Jersey introduced a new Trenton-based public television station and she was asked to do a book program. She enjoyed the work, and eventually was asked to do a public affairs program, The Thursday Report, which she worked on for over a decade. After television she moved into public relations, first for New Jersey’s Environmental Protection Agency and then for the School Boards Administration. It was in 1984, while working at the latter, that she met Lewis Glucksman, then head of the investment bank Lehman Brothers, through a friend. They had dinner at the Four Seasons, met again the following night, and were together from then on. It was through Lew that she renewed her interest in her Irish heritage. Though she always celebrated St. Patrick’s Day and had known her share of Irish phrases as a child, she had never been to the home of her ancestors. Lew had first visited Ireland when he was in the Navy during World War II and returned as often as possible, out of a love for Irish writers. In 1987, he took Loretta to Ireland for her first visit, which left her “overwhelmed and mesmerized.” Eventually the Glucksmans bought a home in Ireland near Cobh. Sadly, Lew passed away there in 2006. Between 1987 and 2006, the Glucksmans made many unforgettable contributions to Ireland and to the Irish-American community. In 1993, Glucksman Ireland House opened at New York University. The idea for Ireland House came from Lew, who was an active trustee at NYU. Noticing that there were German, French and Latin houses, he made an offer to then-university presi-

By Kristin Romano

dent Jay Oliva to fund a center for Irish studies. Nearly 19 years later, Ireland House offers both undergraduate and graduate classes, and is a leading center of Irish learning, arts and culture. Today, Brennan Glucksman is the co-chair on Ireland House’s advisory board. Following the opening of Ireland House, Brennan Glucksman was honored by the American Ireland Fund. The Glucksmans got involved with the organization as a result, and Brennan Glucksman became president. Her appointment took place right before the peace process, a time when the American Ireland Fund would play a key role in philanthropic efforts to spread peace throughout the island of Ireland. It funded two integrated schools for Catholic and Protestant children in the North, because, as Brennan Glucksman has stated, “it’s so crucial to break down barriers by educating children together.” In total, the Funds have raised over $250 million for Ireland and Irish causes. In addition to her work with the Fund, where she now holds the position of chairman, Brennan Glucksman serves on the boards of The National Gallery of Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork and the Royal Irish Academy. Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern also appointed her to the board of Ireland’s Industrial Development Agency. In these pivotal and difficult times for Ireland, Loretta Brennan Glucksman perseveres as a strong advocate for the country – increasing awareness and interest in Irish history and culture throughout the U.S., and rallying much-needed support. She is a steadfast champion of all things Irish and Irish American. IA

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HALL FAME

Ray

Kelly

New York’s Top Cop

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n ex-marine, former beat cop and the only person ever to serve two, non-consecutive terms as New York City Police Commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly has dedicated his life to serving his country and his city. Born on September 4, 1941 in New York City, Kelly is the youngest of the five children of James Francis Kelly and Elizabeth O’Brien, both first-generation Irish Americans. His father was a milkman and his mother worked as a coat check girl at Macy’s. Kelly grew up on 91st Street and Columbus Avenue before his family moved to Sunnyside, Queens. After graduating from Archbishop Malloy High School in 1959, Kelly went on to Manhattan College. During this time he was also a member of the inaugural class of the New York City Police Cadet Corps. He graduated from Manhattan in 1963 with a B.B.A. and joined the New York City Police Department. Shortly thereafter he accepted a commission to the United States Marine Corps Officer Program. He served on active military duty for three years including a combat tour in Vietnam. He returned to the Police Department in 1966 and entered the New York City Police Academy, graduating with the highest combined average for academics, physical achievement and marksmanship. As the first member of his family to join the police department, Commissioner Kelly had no one to open doors for him. He relied on his own abilities and took advantage of department scholarship programs to advance his career. While working as a uniformed officer and rising through the ranks, he earned a law degree from St. John’s University, a master of 46 IRISH AMERICA APRIL / MAY 2012

laws from New York University School of Law, and a master of public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Working under Police Commissioner Benjamin Ward in the 1980s, Commissioner Kelly was assigned to some of the city’s most troubled precincts and tasked with improving them. Based on his success in these and other challenging assignments, Kelly became a close advisor to Commissioner Ward, who gave him ever increasing responsibilities.. In 1990, Police Commissioner Lee Brown selected Kelly to serve as first deputy commissioner, his second in command. Upon Brown’s departure in October 1992, Mayor David Dinkins appointed Kelly to take his place. Kelly had served in 25 different commands before becoming Police Commissioner. One of the first tasks he undertook was the expansion of minority recruitment in the NYPD. He also reduced felony crimes by 50,000 during his first year in office. In addition, Kelly launched the first major quality of life offensive against the notorious “squeegee men” who were plaguing city motorists at the time. In January 1994, following the change in mayoral administrations, Kelly retired from the NYPD. Ten months later, he was appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve as Director of the International Police Monitors in Haiti. In March 1995, upon his return to the U.S., he retired as a Colonel from the Marine Corps Reserves after thirty years of service. Kelly was then appointed Under Secretary for Enforcement at the U.S. Treasury Department, where he supervised the Department’s enforcement bureaus including the U.S. Customs Service, the U.S. Secret Service, the

By Kristin Romano

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. In 1998, Kelly was appointed Commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service, where he managed the agency’s 20,000 employees and $20 billion in annual revenue. In 2000, he joined Bear Stearns and Co., Inc. as Senior Managing Director of Global Corporate Security. He was in his office in midtown on September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center was attacked. A longtime resident of Battery Park, Commissioner Kelly was motivated by the events of that day to return to public service. He received that opportunity when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg swore him in as New York City Police Commissioner in January 2002. It was clear from the start that his second tenure would be very different. The NYPD found itself on the frontlines of the global fight against terrorism. In response, Commissioner Kelly created the first counterterrorism bureau of any municipal police department in the country. He also established a new global intelligence program and stationed New York City detectives in eleven foreign cities. Despite having 6000 fewer officers and dedicating extensive resources to preventing another terrorist attack, the NYPD has driven crime down by 34% from 2001 levels. Commissioner Kelly has been supported at every stage of his extraordinary career by his devoted wife, Veronica, who he met on Long Island one summer when he was a young lifeguard. Together they raised two sons, James and Greg. Ten years after returning to the role of commissioner, Kelly is still doing what he set out to do back in 1963: serving and IA protecting New York.


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John

Lahey

HALL FAME

Educator & Preserver of Our History By Sheila Langan

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resident of Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut for over 25 years, Dr. John L. Lahey is as dedicated to leadership and education as he is to his Irish ancestry. The burgeoning Quinnipiac campus, its unprecedented Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, and Dr. Lahey’s work with the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee are all testaments to his exceptional commitment and vision. Born and raised in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, Dr. Lahey has roots in Co. Clare on his mother’s side of the family, and in counties Cork and Kerry on his father’s. His paternal grandfather, a stonemason, emigrated from Knockglossmore, Co. Kerry to Canada, eventually settling in New York. Growing up in the very Irish enclave of St. Margaret’s parish, Lahey has often recalled that “it seemed like everyone was Irish.” Even as a boy he was very involved in the Irish community, marching behind Fordham University’s banner in the St. Patrick’s parade, as a student of Fordham Preparatory School. At the University of Dayton in Ohio, he discovered a deep interest in philosophy, earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the field, and met his future wife, Judy, with whom he has two sons. Following his time at Dayton, he went on to complete a PhD in philosophy at the University of Miami. In 1977, after teaching at St. Bernard’s College in Alabama, he returned to New York and earned a second master's degree, this time in academic administration, at Columbia University. Upon graduating, he was hired by Marist University in

Poughkeepsie, NY, where he quickly climbed the administrative ladder, becoming chief operating officer and executive vice president. After ten years at Marist, at only 40 years of age, he became president of Quinnipiac. The transformation Lahey has ushered in during his 25 years at Quinnipiac is nothing short of remarkable, and is a result of his skill as a leader and innovator. During his tenure there, the university’s academic programs, facilities, enrollment, national ranking and prestige have grown at an unprecedented rate. When he started at Quinnipiac in 1987, it was still Quinnipiac College – a small, quiet commuter school with one campus, an endowment of $5 million and an application pool of 1,000. Today it has a bustling student population of over 8,000, with close to 6,000 undergrads, 2,000 graduate students, and 500 enrolled in the law school, which was established under Lahey’s lead. The university now runs three campuses, has an endowment of $277 million, and applications for the incoming class exceed 19,000. Lahey has also had a hand in the athletic teams’ entrance into the NCAA Division I Northeast Conference; the establishment of the highly regarded Quinnipiac Polling Institute; and the Frank H. Netter, MD, School of Medicine, which will open in 2013. The accomplishment closest to his heart and his Irish roots, however, is the creation of Quinnipiac’s Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, which seeks not only to commemorate the people who either died or fled Ireland during the famine, but also to educate the public about An Gorta Mór, to present a comprehensive history of the tragedy and its aftermath.

The focal point of the museum is the extraordinary Lender Family Special Collection. Founded in 2000 following a donation from Marvin and Murray Lender, the collection contains 700 volumes, historic and contemporary texts, and an ever-growing number of works of art that portray or respond to the loss of more than 1.5 million Irish lives between 1845 and 1852. These include pieces by contemporary artists Padraic Reaney, John Behan, Rowan Gillespie, Glenna Goodacre, Niall Bruton and Kieran Tuohy, and period pieces by such artists as James Brenan and Jack B. Yeats. In a 2011 interview with Irish America, when he was honored as Irish American of the Year, Lahey reminisced about carrying the first piece acquired for the collection, Roan Gillespie’s The Victim, with him on a flight back from Ireland. “It’s such a powerful work,” he said. “I didn’t want to let it out of my sight.” Away from Quinnipiac’s campus, Dr. Lahey is a director of the United Illuminating Company, Independence Holding Company, Yale-New Haven Hospital and Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy. In addition, he is vice chairman of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Committee and has been involved with the committee for over 25 years. In 1997, he was honored with the role of Grand Marshal. Of his passion for the NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade, Lahey told Irish America “It allows us to remember, celebrate and pass on to the next generation what it means to be Irish, and what our struggles and accomplishments have been over the past 250 years in this country.” In his own work and life, John Lahey does the very same. IA

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HALL FAME

Tom

Moran

Businessman & Humanitarian By Kristin Romano

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hairman, president and CEO of Mutual of America, Tom Moran was born in 1952 on Staten Island, NY, one of three children of an Irish-Italian-American mother and an IrishAmerican father, with roots in Counties Fermanagh and Tipperary. Moran’s maternal grandfather, Arturo Quaranta, was from outside of Salerno, Italy, and as Moran pointed out in a previous interview with Irish America, he “was a lover of all things Irish, especially Peggy O’Neill,” his wife and Tom’s grandmother. Always a modest man, Moran is quick to give credit to others, beginning with the Sisters who educated him as a young boy. When he first started grammar school, he wasn’t able to speak. However, the nuns of the Daughters of Divine Charity worked with him, and by the time he was in the second grade he was talking. At the age of 14, Moran began his first job as a janitor at his high school. He followed this by working as the french fries man at Nathan’s Hot Dogs, a short-order cook, and a cemetery worker. While attending Manhattan College, he drove a cab during the night shift. Through these diverse work experiences, Moran learned valuable lessons and developed the beliefs that continue to influence his life and work today. After earning his B.S. degree in mathematics, Moran began working at Mutual of America in 1975. Back then, his job was to “paperclip anything that needed to be signed” whenever a pension had been sold. When there were a pile of contracts to be signed, he would bring them to then-president (and 2011 Hall of Fame inductee) Bill Flynn. It was from Flynn

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that he learned another important lesson, about making sure that the people who work for a company, no matter how big or small the role they play, know and feel that they are important. On a personal note, it was at Mutual that he met his wife, Joan, in 1976. The couple married in 1983 and both still work for the company – Moran as president, CEO and chairman, and Joan responsible for the company’s technology. They share a love of family and friends and a passion for philanthropy and volunteerism. Moran, rarely one for the spotlight, has in the past praised Mutual of America for creating an atmosphere of giving within the company, with all employees either actively volunteering for or donating to various causes. Under Moran’s stewardship, Mutual is a sponsor of Public Broadcasting and is corporate underwriter for Bill Moyers’ show. For Moran and Mutual, it is not about completely agreeing with what someone says but about promoting thorough discussions of important issues, which can lead to a better society. Mutual’s influence on Moran is apparent when one looks at the causes he is personally involved with: Abilities, Concern and the Northern Ireland peace process. Tellingly, he never discusses his philanthropic work in terms of what he has done, but rather by discussing what the organizations do. In 1992 Moran became involved with the Abilities Foundation, which works to improve the lives of people with disabilities, and through them he is also involved with the Henry Viscardi School for students with severe physical and medical disabilities. Moran was drawn to these programs due to their shared belief that people with physical disabilities can and should pursue their dreams.

Moran is the chairman of Concern Worldwide (US), an organization founded in 1968 in response to the famine in Biafra. Today, Concern has programs in 28 of the world’s poorest countries, and implements emergency responses to disasters, in addition to targeting poverty and hunger. Moran first became involved as a donor for the organization. His passion for Concern’s mission quickly grew, and he joined the board, eventually becoming the chairman. In this role, he takes an active approach, which has given him the opportunity to travel to Haiti, Rwanda and the Sudan. These intense and important trips have left him even more impressed with and dedicated to Concern’s work. It was through Flynn that Moran’s involvement with the Northern Ireland peace process began. He had first visited Ireland in 1970 and enjoyed his time there, but he credits Flynn and Bill Barry with generating his passion for the country and its future. In his involvement with the peace process, Moran has worked behind the scenes, resulting in strong friendships with those on both sides of the conflict. When he was honored as Irish America’s Irish American of the Year in 2008, accolades were bestowed on him from Ian Paisley, Gerry Adams, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, and Sir Hugh Orde, then-chief Constable of the PSNI, among many others. In addition to these praises, Moran has been awarded numerous honors, including the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, which celebrates “remarkable Americans who exemplify outstanding qualities in both their personal and professional lives, while continuing to preserve the richness of their particular heritage.” It is a fitting IA description of Tom Moran.


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HALL FAME Kevin

Roche

Visionary Architect

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he November 1989 issue of Irish America featured an interview with Kevin Roche, the Irish-born architect famous for shaping the American landscape with his stunningly innovative buildings – corporate, educational and residential – in areas both urban and suburban. It was seven years after he had won the Pritzker Prize, the highest honor in his field, and with a career spanning over 30 years there were many key projects to reflect on, including the Ford Foundation building in New York, the skyscrapers of the U.N. Plaza, California’s Oakland Museum and the geometric Union Carbide Corporation headquarters in Danbury, CT. But, as the article’s lead indicated, Roche was also looking to the future: “In the past 30 years, Kevin Roche has established himself as one of the finest modern architects of his generation. At age 67, he had no thoughts of retirement.” “Architects never retire,” Roche confirmed. Recently speaking over the phone from the Connecticut headquarters of Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo and Associates, Roche laughed when reminded of this. “That was a long time ago,” he said. In the 22 years since then he has worked prolifically, completing impressive original projects such as the Conference Center on the banks of Dublin’s Liffey, the massive Santander Headquarters in Spain and the soaring glass Shiodome in Tokyo’s city center. He has also worked on important renovations, most notably his ongoing work with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Roche is now 90 years of age, and one gets the sense that retirement is still far from his thoughts. There is more work to be done on the Met’s Costume Institute,

By Sheila Langan

and designs are under way for a new Dreyfus building in Washington, D.C. Eamonn Kevin Roche was born in Dublin on June 22, 1922 – the same month that marked the official start of the Irish Civil War. His father, Eamonn Roche, a former IRA organizer in Limerick during the War of Independence, had been a member of the first Dáil and had consequently been imprisoned in England from 19181920. After he returned to Ireland, he aligned himself with DeValera and the antitreatyists, and was then jailed for two more years by the new Irish government. “He was incarcerated twice and went on hunger strike for several months. So he went through it all,” Roche recalled. “I think all of the people at that time were very extraordinary. They risked their lives and many of them were killed. They finally established the country and I think it tends to be forgotten nowadays what it took to establish the independence of the country.” After he was released, the elder Roche moved the family to Mitchelstown, Cork, where he went on to become general manager of Mitchelstown Creamery, one of Ireland’s largest dairy and farm co-operatives. Roche attended Rockwell College in Co. Tipperary, where, he said, he wasn’t a particularly good student. “There were the honor students and then there were the middle students and then there were the barely best students and I fell into the barely best,” he chuckled. Things certainly turned out all right for Roche. Having developed an interest in architecture, he went to study in the small architecture department at University College Dublin, after which he apprenticed with Michael Scott, who was then Ireland’s leading architect. In 1941, he received his first solo commission from his father – a

piggery to house 5,000 hogs. After a brief period in London with modernist Maxwell Fry, in 1948 he decided to pursue a postgraduate degree at the Illinois Institute of Technology, under the guidance of the famous German architect Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe. It was with Mies, whose motto was “less is more,” that Roche’s own vision as an architect began to take shape. As he said in a comprehensive 1985 interview with Francesco Dal Co, “I grew up against a very Catholic background, in which you lived constantly in fear of sin, sin which would destroy one. So one carried the burden of the imminent commission of a fatal error, making the fatal move. What Mies did was to translate this feeling into architectural terms.” His studies at the IIT were cut short when his funds ran dry, as transferring money proved difficult in the post-war environment. After traveling to the West Coast, Roche wound up in New York, where he sought work at the massive United Nations building site. They didn’t have any openings for architects, so he worked as an office boy. Roche hadn’t really planned on staying in America long-term, but an opportunity presented itself. He heard that the famous Eero Saarinen, son of Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, was looking for apprentices. Jumping at the chance, Roche moved to Bloomfield Hills, MI, and began working with Saarinen on the General Motors Technical Center in nearby Warren. As Roche explained in his ’89 interview with Irish America, his work with Saarinen would be pivotal to the course of his career and to his own architectural philosophy which, inspired by Saarinen’s approach, became more humanist. After becoming the firm’s senior design associate in 1954,

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1. Nations Bank Plaza.At 55 stories, it is the tallest building in Atlanta. 2. The headquarters of Santander Central Hispano, in Madrid, Spain.The complex includes parking for 6,000 cars, a school for 400 children of Santander employees and an 18-hole golf course. 3. The Shiodome City Center,Tokyo, Japan. 4. Borland International, Inc. headquarters, Scott’s Valley, California. 5. The Convention Center Dublin at night, with a view of Beckett Bridge. 6. Bouyges world headquarters, France. 7. College Life Insurance Company of America headquarters, also known as The Pyramids. Indianapolis, Indiana. 8. The Museum of Jewish Heritage and Living Memorial to the Holocaust. New York, NY. 9. A conference room in the Ford Foundation building, New York, NY. All photos courtesy of Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo and Associates. 54 IRISH AMERICA APRIL / MAY 2012


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HALL FAME he worked closely with Saarinen on such projects as the St. Louis Arch, Washington, D.C.’s Dulles International Airport and the CBS headquarters in New York. Many of those projects were still under way in 1961 when Saarinen died suddenly, a week after a cancerous growth was discovered in his brain. Roche and John Dinkeloo, the head of production, were named the new partners of the firm, which was in the process of relocating to the East Coast at the time. They carried on, finishing Saarinen’s remaining projects before landing their first major commission as a team, the Oakland Museum in California. They started their own firm, Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo and Associates in 1966. They worked fruitfully together on many prominent commissions that included the Ford Foundation headquarters in New York and the National Aquarium D.C., until Dinkeloo’s death in 1981. Since then, Roche has been the visionary behind such buildings as the Nations Bank Plaza – the tallest building in Atlanta – the Museum of Jewish Heritage in downtown Manhattan and its moving Holocaust Memorial, and New York University’s Kimmel Center for University Life. When told that I had recently been inside that very building, he asked “And were there students sitting on the steps?” There had been. “Well that’s what we wanted them to do. It’s funny how people actually love to sit on them. We got that at the Met too, people love to sit on those steps,” he said, referring to what are some of the most sat upon steps in all of New York City. His interest in that seemingly minute detail of how his design is being enjoyed, long after his part is essentially over, sums up one of the most interesting things about Roche’s work – the heightened awareness he has, whether he is designing a corporate complex or renovating a museum wing, for the way people move throughout a space, how they react to and interact with it. His buildings are modern and innovative, but his vision for them is inspired by the idea of community. “I’ve always been very much interested in the natural environment and the effect it has on our lives. In the architecture we try to always introduce that in some form or another. I think people like to establish a 56 IRISH AMERICA APRIL / MAY 2012

Above:The courtyard of the American Wing, Metropolitan Museum of Art,New York. Left: Aerial view of the Union Carbide Chemical Corporation World Headquarters in Danbury,CT.

community, because humans need that. I think they feel they need to belong to something. It’s the idea of the village. Not that I’d necessarily want to live in a village,” he quickly added. “That doesn’t always happen in a village, but that’s the idea.” Roche and his wife of 49 years, Jane (née Touhy) with whom he has five children and thirteen grandchildren, live in Connecticut, “in an old house surrounded by trees.” They spend many weekends in New York City, where the have “a little apartment and try to catch up on everything that’s going on.” In the same way that he is adept at working in environments both natural and urban, Roche enjoys moving between the two. “Each one has its own virtues and its own advantages and I think that being able to move from one to the other is the ideal situation,” he said. His advice for aspiring young architects, though he knows they face a different time and different challenges than he did when he was starting out, is that “it comes down to a lot of luck, but one thing you’ve got to do is work, work, work. All my life I worked 6 or 7 days a week, 8 or 10 hours a day. You have to do that and keep at it.”

It’s impossible to say whether Roche’s life and career would have taken the same course had he not come to the U.S. In any case, it seems that being on uncertain terrain was one of the things that propelled him forward. “One of the advantages of being an immigrant is that you’re thrown into the fire and you have to fight your way around, whereas if you’re sitting at home you don’t have to do that.” He still occasionally returns to Ireland both for work and to see family. And though he calls himself more or less a mix of the two cultures, his love of America and the charge it gives him are clear. “We’re all very lucky to be here,” he said. “It’s wonderful being Irish but it’s wonderful being here, it’s been a great country to live and work in. The opportunities are still here and there are many, many things that can happen here that we can help to evolve. It’s always on the go, it’s always happening, and you’re never looking back, you’re looking forward to getting on with things. I really don’t like to adhere too much to the idea of looking back and saying ‘I belong to something else.’ I like to look forward, and I have IA great hope for the future here.”


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Anjelica is

Smashing

Anjelica Huston is causing a stir on the new hit series Smash. By Patricia Harty

S

tars aren’t born, they are made” is the tagline for Smash, the new drama series on NBC. Produced by Steven Spielberg, the show revolves around the creation of a Broadway musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe, and showcases Anjelica Huston in her first television series. Huston was born into Hollywood royalty – she is the third generation in her family to win an Academy Award. But she made her own way, honing her talent over many films and a myriad of characters. From the deliciously ghoulish Mortica in The Addams Family, and the edgy con artist Lilly Dillon in The Grifters, to her Oscar-winning role as Maerose in the 1985 film Prizzi’s Honor, which was directed by her father, John Huston, and also starred her then lover Jack Nicholson. Speaking to Irish America just after the premiere of Smash, she talked about embracing television and how as an artist you must continue to grow. “Well, you know everything you do is a learning curve, because in this strange world of entertainment that we live in, no two projects are ever alike. I think that if you’re open, and hopefully as an artist you remain open, it’s going to be different every time out,” she said. In Smash she plays Eileen Rand, a woman who is struggling to reestablish herself as a producer following a breakup with her powerful producer husband. Eileen is a force to be reckoned with but there’s a vulnerability there too,

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which Anjelica says she quite likes. “A lot of people said, ‘Are you playing a bitch?’ And I say, ‘Yeah, she has that capacity but there’s a lot of other things going on as well.’ You know, when you’re playing a producer, particularly a woman who’s operating virtually in a man’s world, she needs to apply the brakes once in a while and get tough, but of course she’s human and she has to be able to sweet talk people and be manipulative, but at the same time she has a personal life and a private life.” And as the character Eileen seeks to find her footing after a long marriage, Anjelica, whose husband, the Mexican sculptor Robert Graham, died at the end of 2008, is also coming to grips with being on her own. “It was unbearable for the first two and a half years,” she admits. “It’s starting to be more conceivable that I can go on with my life but you know it’s a huge change. You’re not prepared for it in any way at all. So my life is very different. I think if I were still married, my life wouldn’t be what it is now. I’d still be in California and I don’t think I would have made this huge move to New York. “It was a big jump for me going into series television, but it was a good time for me to do it. It involves leaving my house in California for long periods of time, but as long as I have my dogs with me I’m happily holed up in my nice apartment here. I love the show. I’m having so much fun working with the cast and crew. They’re just a fantastic group of people, and I love going to work every day.”

But once the filming is over she’ll go back to California. “I have a ranch up in Northern California and I have some horses up there to remind me of Ireland. When I get off work here in March I’ll go up there and play around in the mud a little. I love it.” In conversation, one can’t help but notice that there is still an indelible Irishness to Huston. It’s there in the inflections in her speech and how she says, “I’m grand,” when asked how she’s doing. Born in Santa Monica, California in 1951, she moved to Ireland when she was 18 months old and grew up on her father’s estate, St. Clerans in Galway. In various interviews with Irish America through the years she has stressed how much Ireland means to her. “I always think of Ireland as my real home,” she said, when I first interviewed her in 1991. “I have memories of wonderful long summers with excursions to ruined castles and trips up to Connemara and the fair in Galway. . . . And – just life with one’s pony and one’s animals.” She also spent time on the sets of the films that her father shot in Ireland, including Moby Dick. In one interview with Irish America she recalled “being afraid of Gregory Peck in his big black top hat.” Peck, for his part, recalled in an interview with the magazine in 1995 that he was afraid John Huston was going to kill him in the process of making the movie. Huston insisted on filming in the torrid Atlantic off Ireland’s west coast – where one day the rubber whale Peck was strapped to broke loose putting him in imminent danger. (Peck was rescued but the whale escaped!).


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John Huston loved Ireland and lived there on and off for 20 years. He loved it “because it was wild – and because he loved horses,” Anjelica said. “He loved to hunt. He liked the people. He liked untamed places, and Ireland had a good deal of that.” He also loved Irish literature, especially James Joyce. “Joyce changed his life. He always said he changed his life,” she said. Working with her father on The Dead, the movie adaptation of Joyce’s short story, “was very poignant” because her father was ill. Yet,“everyone was really happy to be working on that film,” she recalled. Of Joyce’s character Gretta, which she played with such suppressed sorrow, she said, “There’s a line of Gretta’s – ‘We used to go out walking in the rain, Gabe. You know the way they do in the country?’ Lines like that are so unmistakably Irish, if you’ve ever spent those long evenings there where it’s light until 11 o’clock at night, and it’s kind of misty and you put on your Wellington boots and go out with the dogs. Whenever I said that line, it always got to me.” The subject matter of Smash also brings reminders of her father, who passed away not long after completing The Dead. “One of the lines in the show pertains to Marilyn’s first movie, Asphalt Jungle, and that was directed by my father.” Marilyn’s last movie, The Misfits, was also directed by John Huston. So her life was very much book ended by John Huston. “It’s funny, these tie-ins. And of course our dialogue is largely about Marilyn and what she was doing and saying, and it all sort of comes full circle,” Anjelica said. Like her father, Anjelica has received accolades for her work as a director, including her adaptation of Dorothy Allison’s novel Bastard Out of Carolina. She also produced, starred in and directed Agnes Brown, a lovely Irish film based on the book The Mammy by Brendan O’Carroll, which was very well received in Ireland but ran into distribution problems in the U.S. “What’s really really nice for me about that movie is the feedback from people. What happened to it is sort of heartbreaking. First of all they took the title away, “The Mammy,” which I thought was a vastly superior title, because in America 60 IRISH AMERICA APRIL / MAY 2012

never came up to par. I think the problem was that we were trying to twist the story into some kind of form that we felt would be good for it but it didn’t want to go there. It’s one of the most famous stories of unrequited love, and with love stories it kind of requires that the love is requited. So it was a difficult one.” She drops over to Ireland as often as she can. “It’s difficult for me because I’m an out of towner and it’s a long way but I like to get there as much as possible.” St. Clerans has been turned into a hotel. Of her visit there she said, “It was sort of like being Alice down the rabbit hole. Every door opened to a different bedroom or bathroom. It was a very dreamlike sensation.”

Top: Anjelica as Eileen Rand holding a photo of Katharine McPhee, a Marilyn hopeful. Above: Christian Borle and Debra Messing, who play writing partners on the show, and Anjelica.

they were afraid it had connotations to the Civil War. Then it was sold from October Films to USA and it virtually just fell through the cracks. They showed it in a letter box theater for four or five days with no title over the door a week before the Oscars, and it broke my heart. But on the other hand, it has a very healthy shelf life particularly in Ireland where they watch it over and over again. So that makes me happy,” she said. Another Irish project that she has wanted to do is a film about Maud Gonne the Irish revolutionary who is celebrated in the poetry and drama of W.B. Yeats. “That’s still an idea I treasure,” she said. “It was terribly hard to find a good screenplay. We made about three or four efforts with different people to come up with something we felt good about, but the scripts just

Does she still have a dream of owning a little piece of property in the west of Ireland that she talked about some years back? “Oh, I still do and maybe that will be more possible in the future,” she said. In the meantime, she and her brother Tony and sister Allegra are very involved with the John Huston Film School at University College, Galway. “It is a lovely thing and I’m so glad it’s there. It provides us at least with the idea that there’s a pocket of home we can go to, somewhere to be received in County Galway. It’s always great to go back, but I’m particularly happy we have that place and the school.” We’re proud of the Huston connection to Ireland, I say. “We’re proud too, and we rely on it. It IA keeps us sane,” she said.


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PHOTOS COURTESY OF BLUEPRINT PICTURES (SEVEN) LIMITED

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McDonagh, Farrell and

7 Psychopaths

Not in Bruges anymore, Martin McDonagh and Colin Farrell speak with Patricia Danaher from the Hollywood set of their latest collaboration, the film Seven Psychopaths.

M

artin McDonagh appears relaxed during the making of his latest movie. Deeply tanned and grinning broadly, he looks more like a man on holiday than someone directing a big feature film in Hollywood, on a set bedecked with high maintenance movie stars. We meet on the set of Seven Psychopaths, the first movie he’s ever made in Los Angeles and which stars Colin Farrell, Tom Waits, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell. The City of Angels has been kind to McDonagh. He picked up his first Oscar here in 2006 for his first short movie, Six Shooter. His second movie, In Bruges, garnered several major nominations, including a Best Screenplay Oscar nod and it won Colin Farrell his first Golden Globe. Now, Los Angeles itself is a character in Seven Psychopaths. The film is an 62 IRISH AMERICA APRIL / MAY 2012

Martin McDonagh

action-comedy about a screenwriter (played by Farrell), who inadvertently gets caught up in the criminal underworld of LA after his friends kidnap a gangster’s beloved Shih Tzu, while he’s trying to write a movie called “Seven Psychopaths.” McDonagh is in his element in all senses. “I love it. It’s been a dream. Just to

make one movie was a dream come true, so it really is a kind of joy to be actually making one in Hollywood,” he says, grinning. “I like having towns as characters in a film. In Bruges was obviously that, but I wanted LA to have the same quality that Bruges did for the last one, and hopefully that’s there. There’s a lot of good stuff here.” Seven Psychopaths was filmed and set in Silverlake, a district of LA synonymous with artists and hipsters. More of the movie takes place in the nearby desert of Joshua Tree, where the characters escape after the madness becomes extreme. McDonagh wrote this movie several years ago, long before he enjoyed the success of In Bruges. He admits freely that he lacked the confidence to make it sooner and wanted to wait until he had more experience under his belt as


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Early stills from Seven Psychopaths, left to right: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell and a much fought over dog. Woody Harrelson and Christopher Walken. A brooding Woody Harrelson.

a director, before taking on Seven Psychopaths. “I’ve had the script for maybe five or six years. I always liked that I had it before the Bruges script. I always knew that it was bigger than the tools I had six years ago, so I always knew that making Bruges would let me know if I had the capacity to do something bigger, that’s more like a jigsaw. After doing In Bruges, I got the confidence to feel like I’d be able to go for it. In this one, there’s a lot more to get one’s head around in so many ways that there weren’t in In Bruges.” Although the locale and the majority of the cast are new, this is the second time that McDonagh has collaborated with Colin Farrell, and there is very clear chemistry and ease between the two men both on the set and in person. “It’s been great working with Colin again. We saw each other in bits and pieces over the past few years, but as soon as we started working together again, it was like having a kind of shorthand with someone. It feels like we’ve known each other a very long time. Hopefully we can match the artistic success of In Bruges with this one.” And is there any chance of he and Farrell ever collaborating on stage? “Maybe in a year or two, we might do something on stage, yeah,” he says smiling broadly and trying to be vague. “It would be great fun to try to do something together in the theater. We’ll see.” McDonagh is also working with Graham Broadbent who produced In Bruges. Much of the funding for this new movie is also coming again from Film Four and British Film Institute, along with CBS Films.

In person, McDonagh is so gentle and calm that it’s at times hard to imagine he’s the same writer who is constantly drawn to dark and violent places. “I’m quite even-tempered really. I’m never even angry, most of the time. The idea for this movie started with a writer wanting to write about seven psychopaths, so even the script is about that attempt. It’s like a snowball within the

“I like going between film and theatre. I’ve never directed theatre, but as the writer, you have 100% control over the script and nothing, not a word, can change without your permission.” story of the script – he gets one, then another, then two more pop up that he didn’t know were already in his life. He wants to write about something he’s seen the other day that’s more about peace and love than it is about violence, and that’s the dichotomy and tension in the story. The Pillowman is in some ways similar to this – stories within stories. “There are elements of the story that are quite true to me, but there’s plenty that isn’t. It’s fun to throw my truths into the mix with things that are completely alien to me. At the heart of it, I guess, is a writer who has written violent stuff, but

who has issues with the whole thing, which is kind of what I do. So there is a truth to it, I guess.” McDonagh has been a sure-footed writer since he first emerged in the mid 1990’s with the Leenane Trilogy. All his work has gone on to Broadway and he has won multiple Tonys. Although he has relatively few screen credits, his reputation as a writer is such that he had no difficulty casting such major names as Christopher Walken (who played the lead in his last play, A Behanding in Spokane) or Tom Waits. When Mickey Rourke stormed off the movie last December, because of eh, creative differences, Woody Harrelson replaced him in a heartbeat. “Woody I’d known for some years. We met in Dublin for some reason. Chris Walken, I think all of us looked up to him as kids and just adored him. We worked together in my play a year and a half ago. And Tom Waits I’ve loved since I was kid. When he showed up on the set, we were all going ‘oh my God, it’s Tom Waits!’” “Tom has a brilliant new album out, and I have to say, it was joyous driving down the streets of LA and seeing Tom’s face advertising his new album and then showing up on set and he’s acting in my movie! It’s kinda crazy. You have to pinch yourself at times like that,” he says, beaming. For all the glory and glamour that is perceived and projected onto the film industry, McDonagh admits that he finds it absolutely draining, and he has no plans to make another movie for a long time after this one wraps. “I like going between film and theatre. I’ve never directed theatre, but as the APRIL / MAY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 63


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writer, you have 100% control over the script and nothing, not a word, can change without your permission. And I’m always in rehearsals. But the sheer workload of making a film is so different. It’s not so much exhausting, but it occupies every single minute of your time for two years, and the intensity of the filming process is pretty phenomenal. “I can’t understand why people do one a year, or even one every two years, especially when you really care about it, like I do this one and like I did the last one. It feels like wrenching something from yourself. I don’t get how people can do it more than every three or four years to be honest.” Could he ever imagine directing someone else’s work? “Never. It’s hard enough trying to keep the rein of your own. I would never work on someone else’s scripts. Each person has only got a certain amount of stories to tell or degrees of passion with which to tell them, so they would always have to be my own scripts.” Given that this is his second major feature, I wonder how much the experience of making In Bruges helped him. “I was a bit more comfortable the first day here, but strangely as it’s gone on, because there is so much more to it, it’s almost more exhausting. That could be because of the city of LA and going out to the desert. In Bruges, we would walk to the set every day and when we wrapped we walked five minutes home. I don’t know how to drive, so that’s a bit tricky in LA! “There are a few action sequences in this movie, which was new for me and I didn’t like doing them very much. The power is always in someone else’s hands, the stunt people, or the special effects people, which is good in some ways. Good or bad, you can’t do anything about it – it’s either going to crash into that thing or it isn’t, explode or not and there’s no impact you can have on it either way. I prefer stuff like working on a small scene with great actors, listening to what they want to do and trying to help in any way I can. That’s what I would prefer film making to be about. I think there will be less stunts and action stuff in the next one, if I do another one.” Michael McDonagh, Martin’s older brother, enjoyed some success and 64 IRISH AMERICA APRIL / MAY 2012

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just returned from a long-overdue trip back to Dublin and he is feeling a few pangs. His first trip home to Ireland in over a year was to visit his family for Christmas. He jetted into Dublin shortly before Christmas with his sister Claudine and his eldest son, James, for a week, taking a short break from filming. McDonagh spent Christmas in Galway. Sporting a short haircut and dressed in a blue v neck t-shirt, Farrell looks relaxed, although he was at work. “Christmas was magic, really, really magic. I absolutely loved it,” he says. “It was way too quick though. It’s the first time I’ve ever broken for Colin Farrell Christmas while doing a job. I had to come back, I was obliged to return to work, otherwise, I’d still be there.” Christmas arrangements are somewhat more complicated these days, now that he’s the father of two boys, eight-year-old James, who has Angelman Syndrome and whose mother is American former model Kim Bordenave, and two-year-old Henry, whose mother is the Polish actress Alicja Bachleda. “It was James’s turn this year – we alternate Christmases and I took him [to Ireland] with me. Henry was in and there really isn’t any sibling rivalry.” Poland.” I let him tell me all this before relating The Farrells are a close knit bunch who a few stories which Brendan Gleeson have been regular visitors to Colin in Los told me about how insanely competitive Angeles in the decade or so since he he found the McDonagh brothers, having moved here. His sister Claudine moved worked with each of them, and Martin here to be closer to her brother during his laughs hard at getting caught. wilder, more self-destructive days “You’re right, that was complete bull“I realize how easy it is for the time to shit!” he laughs. “We’re completely go, if I don’t make the effort to go home competitive, but more in sports than anyin April or in August for a week. It’s realthing, and then insanely so. We play tenly easy for the time to go, with work and nis, but he never wins and he’s always the kids and all. I won’t let that happen angry about it. I’m always better than again. It was way too long – a whole year him, always! But that’s different to the and not to go home, it was too much. My artistic side. We can be at each other’s sister Claudine – we experience a good throats sportswise, but we each want the bit of this together in our own individual other to do brilliantly careerwise. ways – but the two of us were saying, “We don’t tend to read each other’s we’re not going to let a year go by again work too early in the process. We try to without going home.” avoid that. We always knew the other Colin has lived in Los Angeles since one was good. We always had this arro2000, and the city has provided the backgance or self-belief. We knew we were drop to many of the highs and lows of his going to get there individually, so we life in the past eleven years or so. It was didn’t need that support so much.” here that he became a huge international hen Colin Farrell ambles in to star, and it was here too where he almost talk to Irish America, he clearly threw it all away, by giving in to his has home on his mind. He has addictions and demons. Finally, it was

recognition himself last year from his anarchic movie, The Guard, which was nominated for a Golden Globe for Brendan Gleeson as Best Actor in a Comedy. “I’m thrilled for my brother. He’s been writing for years and he inspired me to start writing. It’s great that the floodgates are finally opening for him. I love The Guard. Michael phoned me up at midnight about six or seven months ago saying ‘we’ve just overtaken In Bruges’s box office receipts for an Irish independent movie!’ It was lovely to be a tiny part of its success. We love each other to pieces

W


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also in Los Angeles where he got sober and entered the therapy that brought him back from the edge and allowed him to rehabilitate and salvage his career. It seems as though the City of Angels has at last also started to feel like home to him. “I bought a house here five years ago and I have two kids here, so of course it’s a home of sorts and I love it. I really do. It’s a complicated town and there’s a massive amount of energy here. There’s great live music, great food and some of the nature here is so amazing. It’s kind of spectacular. The sunsets are amazing – you’ve got the ocean on one side and the desert on the other,” he says. “As far as nature goes, it’s really beautiful. Going home to Dublin this year, more than any trip there in the past ten years, we were talking more about just the idea of home and what home means. “I realized that Dublin has a certain capture on my heart that LA will never have. Never. And that’s OK. It’s not sup-

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“The one thing any actor will tell you is how nice it is to have a relationship with a director that’s born of trust, or built around trust. I have that with Martin, who I’ve known for ten years now.”

“The one thing any actor will tell you is how nice it is to have a relationship with a director that’s born of trust, or built around trust. I have that with Martin, who I’ve known for ten years now. I can’t remember the first three or four of those years, but the last six, I remember fairly solidly! “There was a bit of shorthand early on in In Bruges and it was always clear to me what he was looking for. I love his work and his sensibility. I read a decent amount of scripts and Martin’s writing is always so unique, I just fell in love with him as a writer and then as a man,” he says. “When we met up to talk about Seven cars all the time. You don’t bump into Psychopaths, we hadn’t seen each other people, whereas in Dublin, the f--kers are for two years and it was just so easy, having conversations on every street corstraight away. Martin goes off for ner. It’s hilarious.” months or sometimes years of selfBeing back in LA means not only imposed exile from the film industry. being back with both of his sons, but for After this one, I reckon it will be about now it also means Farrell is working another five years!” he jokes. with Martin McDonagh again for the Given the very evident bromance first time since the two of them made In between the two of them and the numbers of Hollywood actors heading to take parts in Broadway plays, I wonder if Farrell would consider taking to the stage, were McDonagh to write a part for him. He grins broadly at the question, hinting that this is indeed something he would consider. “I dunno. He’s the boss. I defer to him,” he says, smirking. “I wouldn’t say no to anything Martin was ever doing. I just love working with him. Frankly though, it would scare the shit out of me. Part of me loves the transient nature of working on a film, going to towns and locations I haven’t experienced before. Also, with a film shoot, it’s a ten or twelve week turnaround and you get to have that Left to right: Abbie Cornish, Colin Farrell, Patricia Danaher, Sam Rockwell and Martin McDonagh experience before you’re on to the next thing. on the set of Seven Psychopaths. “I don’t know for now, but I’d posed to. I don’t feel beholden to Dublin. Bruges three and a half years ago. The be open to it. We’ll see. His mind is so It’s not like I feel guilty for leaving and movie won Farrell his first Golden great and so particular, it would be interall that shit. I just really love it there. The Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy, and esting to see. sense of community there is the one thing proved that he had some comic chops, “Right now, in Seven Psychopaths, I kind of miss here. There’s an openness which had not been seen before and I’m playing a subsidiary of Martin’s at home, you know. I felt perfect in which he has clearly stated he wants to imagination, mixed with elements of his Ireland or in Dublin, because of the opendo more with. own personality and his struggles as a ness and willingness to engage that peoHe spent five months of last year in writer. And of course, he’s got a drinkple have on the streets. Toronto filming Total Recall and it’s ing problem, which is of course a com“Maybe it’s because people don’t walk clear when we meet how happy he is to plete fictionalization. He’s also devilishIA around as much here – they’re in their be reunited with McDonagh. ly handsome!” APRIL / MAY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 65


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Pacino Does The American actor was in Ireland to pick up an award for his documentary on Oscar Wilde’s Salomé. By Patricia Danaher

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l Pacino was back in Ireland in February for a very fond return visit and to be presented with a Volta Lifetime Achievement award by President Michael D. Higgins. Guest of honor at the 10th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, he also screened his documentary Wilde Salomé, part of which was shot in Dublin and which is about Oscar Wilde’s notorious 1891 play. The Oscarwinning actor spent five years making the documentary, his third directing endeavor. It’s the second time Ireland has honored Pacino. In 2006, he received honorary patronage of the University Philosophical Society at Trinity College, during which visit he filmed some of the scenes in this documentary. Before this latest visit, I sat down with him at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, where he waxed philosophically on life, the universe and his beloved profession. A generally warm and engaging character, he was in good form, playful and engaged, looking forward to returning to Ireland. As though testing me and looking for a response, one minute he’s delivering fiercely intense stares from those penetrating brown eyes that suggest a low tolerance for the media, then seconds later he’s all flirtatious charm, full of chat and surprising anecdotes. We are seated in the shade in the garden drinking coffee. He is dressed in a long navy blazer over a grey t-shirt, with his dark brown hair teased and backcombed dramatically, adding about three

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Wilde

inches to his stature. Deeply tanned and sporting a trim goatee flecked with grey, it’s kind of hard to believe that the man who so terrifyingly embodied Michael Corleone could really be 72. His New York accent sounds as unmistakable as it does when he’s on-screen, and the changes in mood, many and frequent, flash across that very lived-in face of his. A beloved cultural icon and easily one of the most accomplished actors of his generation, Pacino has been doing things on his own terms for decades, as a stage and screen actor and sometime director. Yet at the same time, he admits that he’s just like any other actor – waiting for his next gig. “I’ve played characters I would never want to meet and then I’ve played characters that I’ve met and got to know, and you’re always looking for that thing that connects you humanly,” he says. “I don’t think of myself as anything but an actor struggling to find the next role and when I do get it, to see if I can find my way into it. You have to read and you have to observe and you have to educate yourself. He who persists in his folly will one day be wise. I’m waiting for that day to come! “Somebody asked me the other day, ‘why do you act?’ I don’t know why. I’m going through a pretty good patch right now. My children are getting a little older and my temperament has changed vis a vis my relationship to what I do. I still have the appetite to do this. It’s been six years now that I’ve been doing the Salomé project.” Pacino is the father of three children, from two different mothers. His eldest child Julie Marie, 21, is the daughter he

had with acting coach Jan Tarrant. He has a twin son and daughter Olivia and Anton, 11, from a relationship with the actress Beverly D’Angelo. Although he’s had a string of relationships with actresses, Pacino has never married. He is currently involved with the Argentine actress Lucila Sola, who is 40 years his junior. “I wish I knew why I never married,” he says with a baffled shrug. “I don’t think about it too much, and I’ve learned to live with it. I don’t exclude it from my life. If it comes, I would do it. I’m more likely to do it now. I’d better do it now! Pretty soon, I won’t be around to do it! Maybe I’ll go into that unknown country from who’s born, no traveller returns. Maybe I’ll try it and see if it perks things up. I have young children, and that certainly perked things up!” Pacino was born in the South Bronx and raised by his mother, Rose, after his father, Salvatore, an insurance salesman, just 18 when Al was born, abandoned the family when Al was two years old. He and his mother remained close all her life, and he tells me he learned all he knows about women from her. The Pacino family roots are in Sicily and as the clock ticks on his life, he thinks more and more about his origins. “Those days growing up in the South Bronx were so valuable to me. The relationships I formed back then were extremely valuable. I think about that and my Sicilian roots – I grew up in what was called a melting pot, where you’d hear all these dialects and accents from Europe and Asia. The tenement building I grew up in, we’d go up on the roof at night and I took it for granted that this was the way the world was.


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Al Pacino at the Merrion Hotel in Dublin with his Volta Festival Tribute Award presented by the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival for achievement in film.


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PHOTO COURTESY OF WILDE SALOMÉ

Pacino and Jessica Chastain as King Herod and Salomé in a scene from Wilde Salomé.

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Robert de Niro. He dominated both Godfather movies, maturing from a cherubic war hero to a cold-blooded mobster who coolly orders executions, including that of his own brother, with a finely calibrated volatility which audiences understood. He was twice nominated for an Oscar for the role of Corleone. He won his first Oscar in 1993 for a very different role in Scent of a Woman. “I’ve been fortunate enough to get

PHOTO BY BRIAN MCEVOY

“I come from a broken home, which is very different from the tradition of the Italian family. I was raised by my grandparents and my mother. My grandfather instilled in me a great thing about the work ethic. He loved his work. In those days, he was involved in plastering and I remember seeing him mix the plaster with a kind of focus that I thought was very impressive. He was always doing odd jobs for the landlord to try and keep our rent down. “As I get older, I see how much he gave me and I completely believe that I’m only here because of him and my mother. He had a tremendous influence on me, the image of him working or reading the paper and picking out a horse with that same focus. He was the head of the family, but it was also a very matriarchal household. As Kipling said, ‘I learned about women from her.’” Pacino began studying acting at 17, training with Lee Strasberg in the Method acting school, which quickly propelled him to mega stardom. It was his bravura performance in the quirky Panic in Needle Park in 1971 which caught the eye of Francis Ford Coppola who cast him as Michael Corleone in The Godfather, opposite Marlon Brando and

Pacino with President Michael D. Higgins at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

some honors, and at the ceremonies it always seems kind of daunting when you look back. You think ‘where was I when that was going on?’ I think not so much about the role I played, rather than where I was in my life at that time I was making them. “It’s interesting when you see the reactions of people who come to your house. They look for an Oscar or a Golden Globe and say ‘where is it? Where are they?’ It’s sort of like paintings you have around the house, but you don’t have a room just for paintings. My awards are all in different places in the house. One picture I love is of my oldest daughter when she was about three, holding my Oscar after I’d won it. I like that picture. That’s in my office where I can see it.” For the record, why does Oscar Wilde mean so much to Pacino and why did he feel the need to revisit the scandal of Salomé? “Oscar Wilde is a prophet. When I saw Salomé for the first time, I didn’t know who wrote it,” he said. “As soon as I found out, I had to devour everything of Wilde’s. To come to this place where his roots are and to be allowed free rein; it was very beneficial to the movie and I IA am just deeply grateful.”


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Roma’s

Little Angels The Derry-born star of Touched by an Angel tells Molly Ferns about her new faith-based children’s series Little Angels.

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pon first hearing about Roma Downey’s new children’s series, Little Angels, some might guess that her breakout role as Monica in Touched by an Angel (19942003), a show that promoted Christian values, is what led Roma to her current multi-media faith-based productions. Others might believe that, as a celebrity with Christian appeal, Roma is simply sticking her name on projects, which, she acknowledged, “is sometimes the case with celebrities endorsing things.” But all those views would be missing the mark. The positive morals that Roma has tried to encourage began with her childhood in Derry. “I was raised in a Christian home,” she explained during a recent phone conversation. “It was very congruent to who I am and how I try to live my life now. I think you can choose to see everything in your life as a miracle or nothing as a miracle, and I’ve always chosen to see everything as a miracle.” Roma’s latest miracle is her new series, Little Angels, which, she explained, also comes from that “central inspiration of when I was a little girl growing up in Derry. We had a little prayer to our angels that my Dad would say at night. ‘God in heaven, my savior dear, watch over my children and draw them near. Send your little angels to be at their side, to light and to guard, to love and to guide.’” Produced in conjunction with her new company, Lightworkers Media, so far Little Angels consists of three DVDs, three CDs and

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two storybooks “designed to teach young children practical life skills [like] ABCs, 123s and animals. It’s also been designed to teach values, what we used to call traditional family values. It does so through the lens of some beloved Bible stories, so it’s really a delightful project,” said Roma. Little Angels is quite unique in that it is one of the few faith-based educational tools on store shelves for the preschool audience. Four-year-old twins Alex and Zoe have a mural painted on the ceiling of their nursery. When Mom and Dad aren’t around, the ten little angels in the mural come to life and engage with Alex and Zoe as their teachers and counselors. The twins face the same challenges that any preschooler might. They don’t always get along and sometimes have trouble sharing, but the angels act as a loving presence in their lives and “serve as a reminder that the kids are being watched over, looked after, protected and that God is always with us,” said Roma. Though Little Angels’ audience is young, Roma and Lightworkers Media have worked hard to make sure that it implements all of the latest technology. “This age group is very


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discerning. If they’re not interested, they get up and they wander away pretty easily. There’s an angel with an iPad device and the kids all have been responding so much to her. I think you haven’t really seen that yet in animated characters, so that makes it very of the moment,” said Downey. She has also created an app for the iPhone and iPad based on the series. “Honestly with all the things that are available today, I don’t know how any of us were raised or even raised our own kids. I think of all those endlessly long car journeys with the little voices from the back asking ‘Are we there yet’ and me desperately trying to think of yet another car game – ‘Who can find a red car? Okay now a green car?’ This little app is so cute and very interactive. There are memory games, matching games and little puzzles, all for the touch screen. There’s even an app for a daily prayer, which is a sweet little habit to start with your preschooler,” said Roma. All of these features help to distinguish Roma’s Little Angels from other series like Veggie Tales, which she admits “was great and had a lot of value, but it’s been around for so long and I think there’s room in this market space for something new and exciting.” Plans to expand the series include two other DVDs in the works, a Little Angels Bible to be published sometime this summer, and a toy line that she hopes to have out by next Christmas. “I’m really committed to this for the long haul. I’ve been out on the road a little bit already and I feel that there’s great excitement for this. A need for it, a hunger for it,” explained Downey. “It’s amazing how people are responding to it.” Her efforts to spread the word thus far have included appearances on The View and Rachel Ray to promote the project, which was launched on February 14th. She also created a website, www.littleangels.com and even took to Twitter. “You know, Reilly [Roma’s 16-year-old daughter] was laughing at me because just last year I started my Twitter account. When I first mentioned I was doing it, I didn’t even know the language. I’m a parent to three teenagers and there’s a lot of eye rolling that happens. I apparently really put my foot in my mouth because I said I was ‘twitting’ and Reilly’s eyes practically rolled into the back of her skull. She was like ‘Mom, it’s tweeting.’ So I’m slowly catching up,” laughed Roma. She explained that raising her own children, who are now in their teens, helped inspire the project. Her children also took part in the production of Little Angels: Reilly sings and her oldest stepson James plays the guitar on the Little Angels CDs. “It was very nice for us as a family,” she said. Roma, who is married to television producer Mark Burnett (The Voice, Survivor), is joined by her family in many of her other projects. Little Angels won’t be the only production under the Lightworkers Media banner – starting on March 5th, Roma and Mark embarked on a four-month trip to Morocco to shoot a tenhour docudrama for The History Channel. Fittingly titled The Bible, the show will cover stories from Genesis through Revelations and is set to air Easter 2013. “We’re super excited about that,” Roma said. “It’s such a thrill to do and so humbling to get to work on. We’re hoping it will be

poised to be must-see family TV. It’s going to be epic to bring these stories we all know to life on television in a way that you’ve never seen before. For both Mark and myself, it’ll be the most important work we’ve ever made.” An app called Bible360 was also created in connection with The Bible and is already available on iTunes. “I can’t begin to explain to you how amazing it is,” said Roma. “It’s taking what used to be a pretty solitary experience of reading your Bible and brings it to life literally in a 360-degree way, with art and maps and the ability to share scriptures and prayers. Then once we have footage from our new series, it will be added to the app. So you could be reading the story of Moses parting the Red Sea and with one click it will cut to the scene that we will film. What’s occurring is transformational.” Mark, Roma and their kids are also involved with the charity Operation Smile, a volunteer group that travels to third-world and developing countries to operate on children with facial deformities, primarily cleft lip and cleft palate deformities. Roma has worked with the group since 1994, initially believing she had a responsibility for kindness toward others, a virtue her father valued above all else. “But the truth is I go with a heart to give and I end up receiving. I go back again and again because a.) it’s the right thing to do and b.) because it feels really great to do it. To be present when, after just fortyfive minutes and a couple of hundred dollars, the child is handed back to the mother who had never imagined her child having a chance at a normal life. To see that mother’s face is like witnessing a rebirth. It’s a beautiful and moving moment to see when a life has been transformed,” said Roma. After Mark accompanied Roma on one of her trips to Honduras with Operation Smile, he quickly became inspired. Eventually, their children got involved by stepping in to volunteer and raise money at their schools. “It’s a real family affair. We teach by example,” she said. Faith may seem synonymous with almost all of Roma’s projects, past and present, but it’s not that simple. For Roma, it’s more about the positive message. With Touched by an Angel, for example, she was just an actress looking for a job. “If someone had been looking for a policewoman or a doctor, I would’ve tried my best to get that part too. But you know, I’ve often heard it said that coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous. The fact that it was this script [Touched by an Angel] that showed up for me, this role [Monica] that I played; it was a privilege to be part of something that had such a positive message,” she reflected. “I loved that. So at this time in my life with Lightworkers, I don’t know that every project will be specifically faith-based, but I will say that they all will have a positive message. I would like that they all be uplifting or in some way shine a light.” And just because Roma is busy with her new projects doesn’t mean she's forgotten her roots. Roma returned to Ireland this past summer to visit family and she hopes to return again next year when Derry is honored as City of Culture. “You know, you can take the girl out of Ireland, but you can’t really take Ireland out of the girl,” said Roma. “It will always hold IA a very dear and special place in my heart.” APRIL / MAY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 71


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The Chieftains at

50 Ireland’s top traditional group celebrates its 50th anniversary with a compilation album featuring many young recording artists. By Michael Quinlin

The Chieftains: Matt Molloy, Paddy Moloney, Kevin Conneff and Seán Keane.

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n traditional Irish music, the road to success is often a long way from home. Paddy Moloney and The Chieftains have traveled that road for half a century, and it has taken them everywhere – from the world’s great concert halls to the Great Wall of China, from Grammy Awards ceremonies to remote towns and hamlets dotting the planet. Fifty years and fifty-one albums after the band formed in Dublin, and millions of miles later, The Chieftains are still on the road. In 2012, they’re touring North America, Europe and Asia, in support of their latest album, Voice of Ages. They’re racing to airports, checking in and out of hotels, doing sound checks and meeting their fans. The Chieftains are playing the great concert venues on this tour – New York’s Carnegie Hall, Boston’s Symphony Hall, Washington’s Kennedy Center – but like journeymen working away at their trade, they’re also taking buses across prairies and plains for a string of one-night gigs in the American heartland, where people who love Irish music turn out in droves. I caught up recently by phone with Paddy Moloney at his hotel room in Oklahoma City, getting ready for a concert at the Armstrong Auditorium that night. Moloney is the band’s uilleann piper and tin whistle player, master of ceremonies and storyteller, arranger and producer; in short, the chief Chieftain. Wooden flute virtuoso Matt Molloy, master fiddler Sean Keane, and singer and bodhran ace Kevin Conneff are the core members of the group, and as always, The Chieftains invite a revolving cast of exceptional musicians and dancers to join them on stage in various cities along the way. “It’s been a wonderful musical journey, and we’re still at it,” Moloney laughed. “I could never change it. People said ten years ago to my wife Rita, ‘When’s it going to stop?’ Her answer was, ‘They’ve been in ten years of rehearsal for retirement.’” “Paddy is 73 going on 23,” says Molloy


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about Moloney’s boundless energy, adding that the band “is his passion. He’s very focused on the road, and works very hard on promoting the band and looking ahead to the next step.”

Birth of the Chieftains

John Montague; the two were co-directors of Claddagh Records back in the day. But Moloney’s quest for the perfect band goes back earlier. “It goes back to the 1950s, when I played with [The Dubliners banjoist] Barney McKenna; he lived beside me in Donnycarney and used to come to the house three days a week. I had a quartet with [flutist] Michael Turbidy, then lined

Moloney formed the group with a unique personal vision for what it could be – an ensemble of virtuosic musicians playing set arrangements that enlarged Irish music from the single melodic line played by early ceili bands into something more orchestral and more harmonic without losing the touch of wildness inherent in the music. “The Chieftains took what was inherent in Irish music and made it like a chamber ensemble,” says Dr. L.E. McCullough, champion tin whistle player, composer and playwright, who first heard The Chieftains at the School of Irish Studies in Dublin in 1971. “They saw the textures and dynamics and drama and how to convey all that, where no one else had.” “Paddy saw earlier on that music like this was very attractive but only when it was put in context, and he did that brilliantly,” says Brian An early Chieftains O’Donovan, Boston’s popular host album cover. of “Celtic Sojourn” on WGBH, who grew up listening to The Chieftains as a youngster in Clonakilty, Cork. “He explained social something up with [tin whistle player] context, the timings around dance tunes Sean Potts and a traditional singer. The and the jokes and heartaches of the peopersonnel were the most important thing, ple who created it.” and then putting together the right sound, Moloney grew up in Donnycarney, until we hit it.” north of Dublin, in a musical household, The 1950s were a pivotal decade for and was playing the uilleann pipes at age Irish traditional music, which was fast eight under the tutelage of piping master being marginalized by rock ‘n’ roll and Leo Rowsome. Rowsome taught modern pop music from Britain and Moloney the fundamentals of the intriAmerica. cate instrument, and also introduced him “In those days it wasn’t hip, it wasn’t to the music of 18th century composer cool, to play Irish music,” Moloney says. and blind harpist Turlough O’Carolan. “Rock ‘n’ roll, Bill Haley and the “Leo used to put me up as a soloist, Comets…the dance hall scene was huge and I thought it was grand that I was up in Ireland, all these shabby little dance there doing O’Carolan’s concerto with all places and big bands playing, the threethese other students up there doing claschord trick merchants, I used to call sical music.” them. They only had three chords, and The Chieftains officially formed in they went around the country and did a 1962, taking its name from a short story massive business.” collection called The Death of a But there were positive changes in the Chieftain by Moloney’s good friend, poet Irish music scene too. Comhaltas

Ceoltoiri Eireann [Irish Musicians Association] formed in 1951 as a way of reviving Irish music, and set up chapters and classes all over the country. Meanwhile, radio stations helped jumpstart the revival. “You had ‘As I Roved Out,’ with Seamus Ennis on BBC, and Sean McRaymond, going around with the mobile recording,” Moloney says. “Then Ciaran MacMathuna came on the scene, and started ‘The Job of Journeywork.’” Another emerging presence was Sean O Riada, a Cork-born musician who composed the score to the popular film documentary Mise Eire [I am Ireland] and who had similar notions to Moloney about how to present Irish music in novel new ways. “I met up with Sean and I thought highly of what he did with Mise Eire. I used to meet him once a week and we had great chats. He wanted to put his band together and I wanted to put my band together; there were two things going at the same time.” Eventually, Moloney says, “All of the musicians got on their bicycles, as they say, and got these music clubs going, and music festivals and the radio. And the music went beyond the ceili band, more toward solo playing and quartet playing.” Moloney also credits the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem with reviving Irish music. “They did a great job in the 1960s for the ballads. They were playing at Carnegie Hall and Albert Hall and the Opera House and I just felt, why not our music? “And that was one of my aims, to get out there and tell people about this wonderful folk art, and present it in our way. It wasn’t ‘just sit down on the stage with your head down and play away’ – that wasn’t going to work. It had to be an uplift within the music and the selection of the tunes, and the combination of instruments and harmonies and slow airs, and the stories behind each piece. “And we did make it. We made it to Albert Hall in 1975, the first traditional band to make it there, playing before 6,000 people. No flashing lights, smoke screens, or anything fancy, just six guys playing away.” APRIL / MAY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 73


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Frontman Colin Meloy of The Decemberists performing at Merriweather Post Pavillion. Below: Lisa Hannigan at Temple Bar Dublin.

The Chieftains Collaborate The Chieftains have continually strived to show how much Irish music has in common with other musical traditions. “Folk music is the thread that everything goes through; it’s the mother of music really,” says Molloy, who played with the Bothy Band and Planxty before joining The Chieftains in 1979. “You can always identify with the folk music of different countries, there’s always something you can hook into, and they into you.” When he’s not touring, Molloy runs a traditional music Mecca called Matt Molloy’s Pub in Westport, County Mayo. People from all across the world who have seen The Chieftains in concert make the pilgrimage to his pub for a full immersion in the music. Indeed, one of the distinctive features of The Chieftains has been the band’s ability to remain true to the core of Irish traditions while also stretching the boundaries by collaborating with artists from rock ’n’ roll and pop music to country and bluegrass, and from Basque and Galician to Mexican and Chinese. Paul McCartney, Van Morrison, Mick Jagger, Diana Krall, Art Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell and Carlos Nunez are just some of the artists who have recorded with The Chieftains. While a handful of music purists might flinch at these kinds of cross-over themes, the majority of Irish music’s most respected statesmen applaud it. 74 IRISH AMERICA APRIL / MAY 2012

Fiddle player Tommy McCarthy, who grew up in London as part of a musical family from County Clare, recalls seeing The Chieftains at that famous 1975 concert at Albert Hall. He credits their allegiance to the tradition as the mark of their success. “They’ve stuck to the same authentic traditional music and instruments – the pipes, fiddles, harps and flutes – that is their sound. Whether they’re playing with Ry Cooder, Sting or Paul McCartney, that’s their sound, they don’t change it.” McCarthy and his wife banjoist Louise Costello, owners of the traditional music pub The Burren near Boston, are invited

onstage each year at Boston Symphony Hall when The Chieftains come through town. “They stuck to the tunes but presented them in new and innovative and very attractive ways. And then they opened the tradition and their hearts to other musicians who were drawn to the warmth,” Brian O’Donovan says. “It’s great marketing, and it’s what musicians have been doing forever,” says L.E. McCullough. “You’ve got to believe music has no boundaries. There’s always been a synergy among musicians, and The Chieftains have managed to spread the word better than anyone else.” “I have much admiration and respect for Paddy Moloney and all of The Chieftains, the great carriers of our music and song,” says fiddle champion Séamus Connolly, currently Sullivan Artist in Residence at Boston College. “After decades of performing and recording with some of the world’s best musicians and singers, they have never forgotten their musical roots.” The Chieftains’ latest album, Voice of Ages, continues that formula by including a whole new generation of young musicians, from Dublin’s rockabilly queen Imelda May and traditional Irish singer Lisa Hannigan, to American bands like Bon Iver, the Decemberists and the Civil Wars. Moloney’s friend T-Bone Burnett is co-producer of the album. One great feature of Voice of Ages is an eleven-minute medley called “The Chieftains Reunion,” which features all of the past living members of the group. It’s a beautiful tribute to where The Chieftains began and where they are now. For Moloney, the music never stops, and it seems like he won’t either. He describes a new album from Claddagh Records called The Wild Dog Rose, featuring his old friend John Montague. The album aligns Montague’s spoken poetry alongside Irish music performed by Moloney and The Chieftains, James Galway, harpist Triona Marshall and others. “I’ve got projects popping into my ears all the time,” Moloney explains, “and I need another fifty years to comIA plete what I have!”


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The Day the

Irish Invaded Canada

In the sleepy town of Ridgeway, Ontario – just a stone’s throw from Crystal Beach, the “Southern Shore of Canada” and former home to the Niagara region’s most beloved amusement park – there stands a stone memorial cairn, an unobtrusive roadside monument most travelers overlook as they pass north toward Niagara Falls or east toward Buffalo. Barricaded behind a black wrought iron fence, the cairn stands upon the scene of a largely forgotten battle from a century-and-a-half ago. It is a reminder of a defining moment in Canadian Confederation and a political hot potato that sparked tensions between the governments of the United States and England. It is a reminder of the day the Irish invaded Canada. Story by Dan Murphy. 76 IRISH AMERICA APRIL / MAY 2012

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uring the Great Starvation of the 1840s, more than one million Irish emigrated from Ireland to America. These immigrants proved to be invaluable resources to the Union during the Civil War. And after the war there was enough of them that only a foolhardy politician would ignore the causes held dear by such a large constituency. In this environment, the American branch of the Fenian movement thrived. Founded primarily to raise funds and obtain weaponry to send back to Ireland for a military rebellion against the English occupiers, the American Fenian organizers adopted a new strategy at the close of the Civil War. They would take the fight for Irish freedom to British Canada. In 1865, an American ship, Erin’s Hope, was intercepted by the British navy en route to Ireland. The vessel was loaded with men and ammunition bound for a planned Fenian revolt. When the mission failed, the American Fenians held an emergency convention in Philadelphia. William Randall Roberts, a radical firebrand, was elected president of the American Fenians, and he pushed for an invasion of the British North American colonies of Canada. It was a risky – some might say foolhardy – strategy, but a strategy that seemed viable at the time. The Fenian movement


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Even if it failed, the invasion could draw worldwide attention to the English occupation of Ireland; just as the Irish Fenians had no business claiming Canada, England had no legitimate ownership claim over Ireland. he plan was for a three-pronged invasion, with a goal of capturing Quebec, and making it the seat of the Irish Republic-in-exile. A western wing of 3,000 men was to gather in Chicago and Milwaukee, under the leadership of Brigadier-General Charles Tevis, a West Point graduate. A central wing of 5,000 men was to gather in Cleveland and Buffalo. General John O’Neill, a colonel in the Union army and a native of Drumgallon, County Monaghan, would be appointed leader of this group. But these two brigades were meant to be feints for the largest wing. A force of 16,800 Fenians would assemble in St. Albans, Vermont under the leadership of Brigadier-General Samuel M. Spear. Spear’s troops would deploy after Tevis and O’Neill made landfall, and would march on Montreal as the army of the Crown rushed westward to stave off the invaders and to protect Toronto, a likely target for the Fenians. The planned invasion was no secret. Newspapers, such as the Buffalo Courier, ran letters calling for action, including one from the prominent Fenian leader Patrick O’Day. “The plans for action are perfected, and all that is now required is arms to place in the hands of the thousands of brave men who are today ready to take the field and fight for their country’s liberation,” O’Day wrote. As the British Consul was gathering intelligence on the Fenian movement, paranoia began sweeping the Canadian citizenry. There were whispers that Catholic priests were using the Mass to recruit Fenians for military action. A new rebel song was being heard in pubs throughout the Northeast:

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Above: The Battle of Ridgeway. 1869 illustration from Library and Archives Canada. Right: Memorial cairn standing at the site of the Battle of Ridgeway.

enjoyed a measure of political support in the United States, and the U.S. government generally allowed Fenian meetings and gatherings to go uninterrupted. The Fenians had military training and weaponry – thousands of Irish Civil War veterans who supported the cause of Irish nationalism had been allowed to purchase their rifles and ammunition at a steep discount from the Union and Confederate armies, and Canada’s borders were virtually unsecured, guarded by citizen volunteers. If the Fenians could secure strategic bridgeheads, such as the Welland Canal, they could disrupt trade and block the arrival of military reinforcements. With some luck, the cause would attract the support of the 175,000 Irish who emigrated to Canada during the famine, as well as exploit tensions between French Canadians and British Canadians. A Fenian invasion could spark a conflict in Canada that would occupy the British and set the stage for rebellion in Ireland.

We are the Fenian Brotherhood, skilled in the arts of war, And we’re going to fight for Ireland, the land we adore, Many battles we have won, along with the boys in blue, And we’ll go and capture Canada, for we’ve nothing else to do. In May 1866, the Fenians began to move their troops into place.

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Fenians from Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana traveled north to Buffalo. The movement did not go undetected by British intelligence. An intelligence agent posted in Buffalo sent a telegraph to his superiors, reporting that there were “many strange military men” in Buffalo. The following day, he sent a second report simply stating “This town is full of Fenians!” On May 30, General O’Neill arrived in Buffalo. Instead of the 5,000 troops promised him, he found just 1,000 men awaiting his command. However, the Fenians had managed to obtain canal boats to ferry them across the Niagara River from Buffalo to Fort Erie, Canada, and delaying the launch could jeopardize the availability of those vessels. In addition, Buffalo Mayor John Wells was an avowed opponent of the Fenian movement and had alerted the British consuls in Toronto and Ottawa about the forces amassing in his city. A delay could have compromised the entire movement. It was decided that O’Neill’s invasion would take place as scheduled. In the early morning hours of June 1, 1866, one thousand Irish freedom fighters boarded boats and, in the inky blackness of night, crossed the Niagara River with rebellion on their minds. At 3:30 a.m., the Irish landed in Canada. ’Neill’s plan was to land in Fort Erie and march to Welland, Ontario to establish a bridgehead at the Welland Canal, a vital trade and travel route. If he was unable to reach Welland before British forces mobilized against him, he would fall back on the area of Lime Ridge, a geographically advantageous area that would allow the Fenians to take the high ground and stave off British advances below the ridge. Upon landing, the Fenians began ripping up railway posts, cutting telegraph lines, and destroying bridges. O’Neill moved his forces north to Frenchman’s Creek and established a defensive base, fortified with split rail barricades. Surprisingly, instead of marching the 13 miles west toward Welland immediately, O’Neill opted to remain in this defensive position for the entire day of June 1. A battalion headed by Colonel Owen Starr took the international railway ferry and captured six members of The Royal Canadian Rifles stationed in the old Fort Erie. Starr then posted sentries at nearby taverns and raised the Irish tri-color flag.

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A building that originally sat on Ridge Road near the battle site, which was moved in the 1970s to the intersection of Ridge and Garrison roads. It previously served as the Ridgeway Battlefield Museum. It is now vacant.

A proclamation was read, stating, in part: “We come among you as the foes of British rule in Ireland. We have taken up the sword to strike down the oppressor’s rod to deliver Ireland from the tyrant, the despoiler, the robber … We have no issue with the people of these provinces, and wish to have none but the most friendly relations. Our weapons are for the oppressors of Ireland. Our blows shall be

“We come among you as the foes of British rule in Ireland.

We have taken up the sword to strike down the oppressor’s rod to deliver Ireland from the tyrant, the despoiler, the robber …” directed only against the powers of England; her privileges alone shall we invade, not yours.” By most accounts, the Irish invaders conducted themselves in a gentlemanly fashion. Outside of seizing horses and confiscating victuals and other supplies (including dried beef, 50 gallons of cider, dried apples, bottles of wine, and blankets, according to a handwritten inventory on file at the Fort Erie

Historical Museum), the Fenians did not harass or abuse Canadian civilians. In the words of Canadian assemblyman George Denison, who was stationed in Fort Erie during the time of the invasion, “They have been called plunderers, robbers and marauders, yet, no matter how unwilling we may be to admit it, the positive fact remains that they stole but few valuables, that they destroyed, comparatively speaking, little or nothing, and they committed no outrages on the inhabitants, but treated everyone with unvarying courtesy. It seems like a perfect burlesque to see a ragged rabble without a government, country or flag affecting chivalrous sentiments and doing acts that put one in mind of the days of knight-errantry.” Back in Buffalo, additional Fenian reinforcements were gathering. However, the American government, which had largely given the Fenians free rein in the past, found itself in a precarious position. With tensions between the U.S. and England still high due to England’s support of the Confederacy during the Civil War, the Fenian invasion could be a lit match tossed upon a powder keg, seen as an American act of war. American General George Meade ordered that the international border from Erie, Pennsylvania, to Oswego, New York, be secured to prevent any additional incursions. Battleships were moved into position, and the border became a militarized zone. By the evening of June 1, O’Neill had begun his movement toward Welland.


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However, his troops had been sighted by local horsemen and his field intelligence reported that the British forces were already alert and on the move, and that they would beat him to Welland. O’Neill opted to fall back to Lime Ridge and wait for the British to arrive. The Fenians moved along the wooded ridge, an ideal defensive engagement position. They met the British forces in Ridgeway. The British had received poor intelligence. They believed the Fenians were a motley crew of drunkards and amateur soldiers. They severely underestimated O’Neill’s abilities as a field general. The British forces were met by an advance group of Fenian skirmishers. Gunfire broke out and the sides exchanged volleys. The British moved additional units to the front and positioned the Queen’s Own riflemen to the flank, confident that they could overpower the ragtag Fenians. The Fenians began to retreat, and the British pressed forward. But as the British advanced, they were ambushed by a battalion hidden on the ridge near Bertie Road. The British turned their forces towards the enfilade, while the reserve Fenian line advanced in from their northern post. At that time, horsemen were sighted on the ridge, causing the British to believe they were under imminent attack by a cavalry unit. The panicked British collapsed into a square formation, the standard defensive tactic against cavalry. But as generals shouted conflicting orders, and the cavalry report proved to be false, the British fell back in confusion and retreated, being chased from the field by the Fenians. Twenty-eight men were killed (10 British, 18 Fenians), 62 men were wounded (38 British, 24 Fenian). It proved to be the greatest military battle of the Fenian movement, and one of the few successful Irish campaigns against the British in Republican history.

’Neill fell back to the defensible stronghold of Fort Erie to await word on enforcements and updates on the movements of Generals Tevis and Spears. Upon arriving at the fort, they encountered a tugboat deploying additional British forces. The Fenians quickly bested this unprepared contingent, forcing a retreat and capturing 36 men, to claim their second military victory. At Fort Erie, O’Neill learned that the invasion would be a failure. The eastern and western wings had never crossed

O

Above: General John O’Neill. Right: William Randall Roberts. Left: One of the Queen’s Own rifles on display at the Ridgeway Historical Museum. This rifle was used in defense of British Canada in the Battle of Ridgeway.

to Canada, having failed to secure transport and being intercepted by American authorities. Reinforcements amassed in Buffalo could not cross the river. Unable to receive additional ammunition and supplies, severed from additional Fenian troops held back in Buffalo, and realizing that the other two invasion wings had never deployed, O’Neill made the best military decision the situation afforded. He decided to retreat. O’Neill and his officers were arrested and charged with violating the Neutrality Act of the United States. The Fenian soldiers were held for several days on open scows, forced to endure the elements and baking summer sun, as

they awaited their fate. Eventually, the rank-and-file were released and provided with free transportation to their home states, courtesy of the United States government. In exchange, they were asked to renounce their Fenian ties and to promise that they would not become involved in any future violations of the Neutrality Act or risk criminal prosecution. O’Neill and his officers were held for several weeks, allowing the tension and excitement of the invasion to die down. After a cooling off period they were fined and quietly released.

On June 6, President Andrew Johnson, bowing to pressure from the British, issued a statement reinforcing U.S. neutrality and calling for the arrest of the leading Fenians, including Fenian President William Randall Roberts. This proved to be the death knell for the Fenian movement in America. It proved that the U.S. government would not support an Irish rebellion, despite the growing political influence of the Irish. The invasion accelerated the Canadian push for Confederation, as the Fenians had shown that Canada’s defenses were unsatisfactory. The Fenians attempted additional invasions into Canada, but each attempt fizzled, and the Fenian cause generally fell out of favor in America. Largely forgotten, the Battle of Ridgeway has become a footnote in Irish and American history. On a field where the cause of Irish independence was championed in battle and bloodshed, all that remains is a quaint roadside monument; a silent memorial to the cause of independence and freedom. IA APRIL / MAY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 79


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Joseph O’Connor, author of Star of the Sea and Redemption Falls, talks about his new novel, Ghost Light, the Irish diaspora, and why he doesn’t write historical fiction.

The

PHOTO BY GERRY SANDFORD / IMAGINE PHOTOGRAPHY

Power of the Past Interview by Sheila Langan

T

he Aran Islands appeared recently on the cover of the New York Times magazine – green, quaintly barren, and lined with stone walls. The accompanying feature was by an Irish-American writer, John Jeremiah Sullivan, who had revisited Ireland and traveled to the islands for the first time. Over the course of his stay, he kept returning to John Millington Synge, the AngloIrish playwright who made the Aran Islands and their inhabitants famous in such provocative masterpieces as Playboy of the Western World and Riders to the Sea. “The great discovery [Synge] made in his study of the Irish character,” Sullivan explained, “is the idea of survival as an act of imagination,” he said, speaking to Ireland’s current troubles. “A century after Synge’s last works were published, he may be the writer Ireland needs,” he concluded. 80 IRISH AMERICA APRIL / MAY 2012

It is a good point, but it’s nothing new to Joseph O’Connor, or to those who have read his latest novel, Ghost Light, which zeroes in on Synge’s final, most prolific years before his death from Hodgkins disease at age 38. “He’s so important and so influential,” O’Connor said, talking over the phone from his home in Killiney, Dublin, where he lives with his wife, Anne-Marie, and their sons James and Marcus. “There couldn’t have been Samuel Beckett without Synge, which means that there couldn’t have been David Mamet without Synge – it goes on. I think if you trace back, Synge was at the start of so many tributaries of storytelling, in ways that he didn’t even understand. He was also greatly ahead of his time. “In an era of all sorts of separatism and sectarian hatred and very, very narrow definitions of what Irishness should be, here’s this man who is a Protestant and from the

land-owning class, who thinks that the country is great. The people in the West of Ireland, who had been portrayed during the Famine like apes, he finds something in how they talk that is actually beautiful, that deserves to be treated by a dramatist with respect and with love.” In turn, O’Connor treats Synge and Molly Allgood (stage name Marie O’Neill), the young Irish actress who was his muse and companion, with a similar love and respect. Recently released in paperback, Ghost Light was published in 2010 in Ireland and the U.K., where it spent weeks on the best seller list and was chosen as the 2011 One Book, One City title for all of Dublin to read. It came out in the U.S. in early 2011, and was recently chosen as a fiction finalist for the LA Times Book of the Year award. O’Connor’s fascination with Synge and Molly goes back to the early 70s; to his


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childhood spent on a modern housing estate in Glenageary, Dublin. The house where Synge had lived and worked was nearby, and his mother would often make him stop and take note as they passed. “My mother used to tell us ‘that was the house where the late John Synge lived.’ She would point up at the window and say ‘That’s the room where he worked, the room where he wrote Playboy of the Western World. Yeats visited that house, Lady Gregory visited that house.’ She had a great sense of those wonderful presences, and she sort of bequeathed it to me. So Synge and his secret girlfriend have been floating around in my mind for some time.” His fascination with Molly and Synge as something to write about goes back to 2005, when he was asked to contribute to Synge: A Celebration, a collection edited by Colm Tóibín for the Druid Theatre. That story, which would be the inspiration for Ghost Light and which makes up most of the book’s third chapter, stuck fairly faithfully to what little is known about the pair. They took walks together; he wrote the role of Playboy’s Pegeen Mike for her; she would later name her daughter (not by him) Pegeen. Though they wrote each other scores of letters, Synge’s family, fearing scandal, bought his letters back from Molly after his death, and had them destroyed. When O’Connor decided to revisit Molly and Synge, he found that the second time around he was much more interested in what isn’t known about them: “How they behaved when they were alone, and the great lengths they went to to keep this love affair secret because of the taboos it transgressed of class, politics, background, age and religion. They really spent most of their time away from prying eyes, and I

began to wonder, what must that have been like? How did Synge, who was such a reserved and rather buttoned up man, behave when he was alone with her? She was obviously able to see another side of him, a great sort of sensitivity and a warmth that maybe the public man didn’t have. As often happens in real life, sometimes people become more attractive through their partner. And Synge, through Molly, seemed a more loveable man to me than the official version of him.” A departure from the roving narration that followed complex groups of characters in Star of the Sea and Redemption Falls, Ghost Light operates from Molly’s perspective and takes place over the course of one wintry London day in 1952. No longer the Abbey Theatre leading player she once was, her star on the American stage long having set, Molly is alone but for her cat, her gin and her memories. But she is a definite survivor. In a stream of thoughts at times reminiscent of those of another famous Irish Molly, she talks to herself in both first Left: Playwright John Millington Synge, born April 16, 1871 in Rathfarnham. Dublin. Died March 24, 1909 in Elpis Nursing Home, Dublin. Right: Molly Allgood, who went by the stage name Marie O’Neill. Born January 12, 1885 in Dublin. Died November 2, 1952, in England.

and second person, and looks back over the years to her time with Synge. O’Connor shifts easily and frequently between Molly’s present and past, capturing the chill of post-war London as exactingly as he portrays Irish literary revival Dublin. The fun he had conjuring W. B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, who co-founded the Abbey with Synge and were the biggest supporters of his highly controversial work, is palpable. In one particularly memorable scene, Yeats and Molly go head-to-head over artistic differences during a rehearsal. “I thought I would have a little bit of fun with Yeats,” he admits. “He’s just so respected and everybody loves him so much. I love him too, but I think that sometimes we have him up on a pedestal. I mean, his face used to be on the bank notes, and I think with any author, when your face is on a bank note, respect has gone too far. So yeah, I thought I would allow him to be a bit pompous and a bit ridiculous... I tried to reflect myriad facets of Yeats, to take him down just a peg or two. I’m sure he’s going to get me. I’m sure in heaven, Yeats will be waiting.” Depending on how he thinks about it, O’Connor is either the author of seven novels, or of three. If he looks back at his works to date without bias, there are indeed seven novels there. From the earliest – Cowboys and Indians (1991), about an aspiring rocker from Dublin named Eddie Virago, and Desperadoes (1994), loosely based on the time O’Connor spent in Nicaragua, reporting in the wake of the Sandinista revolution – to his more recent works Redemption Falls (2007), which takes place in the American South in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, and Ghost Light. But if he is being particularly introspective, he counts only three, starting with Star of the Sea (2002). A thick and engrossing tome that plays expertly with style, material and perspective, Star of the Sea takes its name from the fictional Famine ship on which its large cast of characters is making an Atlantic crossing to America. It marked a decisive turning point in O’Connor’s fiction, which until then had focused mostly on contemporary Dublin. It also marked a turning point in his career, as the novel was an international success, selling over one million copies. What brought about the change? “It was APRIL / MAY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 81


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an entirely personal thing,” he reflects. “My son James was born around the time that I began working on Star of the Sea, and a strange thing happens to you when you become a parent. Well, lots of strange things happen, but one of them is that among all the joy and happiness of your life, you also realize that this is a milestone. And just as a new life has begun, your life is not going to go on forever, and there is a finite number of novels that you’re going to write – you can’t just keep turning them out every couple of years and hoping that they’ll be okay. When James was born I started to think ‘I’d like to write a novel that I would be proud to give to him one day, something that will be there on the shelf after I am not here.’And I don’t think that any of my early novels, fond of them though I am, are as good. I’ve come to sort of think of Star of the Sea as my first.” Good as his earlier fiction is, the difference is immediately noticeable. “I do feel that I had to write my early four books in order to learn, and then have a go at the novel that I probably always wanted to write,” he says. “I decided that I would give it 110%, just give it absolutely everything that I had. That led me to write Star of the Sea in a much more complex way than any of my other books…And I found that that process led me into writing about the Irish past.” It is through writing about the Irish past that O’Connor has made his name internationally. Already immensely popular in their own rights, Star of the Sea and Redemption Falls struck a particular chord with the Irish diaspora, as people identified with the experiences of immigration he portrayed. “It’s so important to Ireland on every level,” O’Connor says. “To some extent I think the Irish diaspora is more interesting than the Irish at home, because they’ve had to survive so much, they’ve been through so much. Not just in America, but in England, Australia, everywhere. I think people who leave the tribe are always more interesting than the people who stay. They’ve met other experiences and they’ve mingled with other cultures, and new, wonderful things happen when people come out of their group, their private inheritance.” This makes him optimistic for the many young people who are leaving Ireland today. On a more personal note, he is a big fan of New York from his tenures in the city – as a fellow at the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center from 2005– 82 IRISH AMERICA APRIL / MAY 2012

2006 and the Sidney Harman Writer-inResidence at Baruch College in 2009. “I feel completely at home there, for absolutely no reason,” he laughed. “I just feel as soon as the plane touches down at JFK a kind of homecoming that I wouldn’t feel in certain parts of Ireland. And I think many Irish people feel that.” Despite the creative, critical and commercial success writing about the past has brought him, O’Connor eschews the notion that his last three novels are historical fiction. When he says “I actually hate historical fiction,” you can sense the grimace from 3,000 miles away. “The first thing that I do with a novel is I try to make it beautiful. There’s enough ugliness in the world already, and part of the job of being a writer is to do your tiny little bit to counteract that. If you do that, then a book will find its readership. It won’t always be the massive audience that Star of the Sea turned out to have, but it won’t be forgotten either. I don’t really think of the novels in terms of having themes or being about big political ideas, I write them to be read, to be experienced on that level. That’s what we go to fiction for. We don’t really want to be told what to think by a novel, we want to be touched and moved. On some level, whether it’s set today or whether it’s set 200 years ago, we want it to say something to us about our lives now. That’s the test.” When he wrote Star of the Sea, at the height of the Celtic Tiger, he was thinking about how Ireland’s flow of immigration had finally reversed, how Ireland was, in miniature, the new America for many of the people finding different lives there. With Redemption Falls, his focus on the American Civil War created both resonance and dissonance with the Iraq war. His novels, he says, are more about the present than they are about the past. The first story O’Connor ever wrote was actually by John McGahern. Around age 14 or 15, O’Connor felt the desire to write, but he had no idea what to say. “The hardest thing always about writing is knowing what to write. I didn’t have anything, and whatever little I did have just seemed too pallid and meaningless so I just wrote out his story,” he explains, referring to McGahern’s “Sierra Leone,” which he re-wrote every few nights for close to two years. “You can see what a sad adolescence I had,” he laughs. “He told me once that I owed him a pint, but I think he forgave me. I must say that I

love his work so much. It’s come to mean even more to me now than it did when I was younger, and I was very touched recently to be asked by his widow to be a trustee of his literary estate. It was such a great honor. I never thought when I was stealing his work that I would one day end up – hopefully – helping to protect it.” O’Connor has frequently written about his experience with “Sierra Leone,” about how, over time, he would change a word here, an emphasis there, until the story started to become his own. The characters became people he knew, and a preoccupation of his emerged. “My parents’ marriage was falling to pieces, and what was actually happening on a more serious level was that those characters in the John McGahern story were becoming my parents. I noticed by the time I had rewritten it maybe 20 or 30 times that the man was turning into my father and the woman was turning into my mother and I think, perhaps, I was trying to reconcile them on the page – which maybe I am always doing, I don’t know. I seem to always be writing about doomed love and trying to fix it. There’s probably a bit of McGahern and ‘Sierra Leone’ in all that I’ve written.” Maybe, for O’Connor, history functions in a similar way. Though his three most recent novels find their footing in a concrete past, they do more than just re-tell it. Perhaps this is his greatest talent: seeing a special value in something – a life or event, a McGahern story or the influence of another admired writer (he names Richard Ford, James Joyce, Kingsley Amis; contemporaries Colum McCann and Colm Tóibín) and using it as a base, a starting point, from which forms a new story, one that is totally his own. We will have the chance to see whether this is so when his new collection of stories, Where Have You Been? is published in April. The same month, his adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel will go on stage at The Gate. In the meantime, he will be exploring the life of another Irish literary legend, Dracula author Bram Stoker, for a BBC-commissioned screenplay. The house where Stoker lived in Dublin still stands, and was recently listed for sale. Does he have any interest in it? “Oh sure, if I had maybe a spare €750,000 I would have considered buying it,” he says. “Except, if there is any haunted house anywhere in the world, surely it must be Bram Stoker’s.” IA


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{roots} By Maeve Molloy

The Marvelous McDonaghs

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cDonagh is one of the rarer surnames of Ireland, but exists also as MacDonagh, MacDonough, Donogh, and Donagh. The modern forms of the name are derived from Mac Donnchadha, which originates from the first name Donnchadh, a compound of “donn” meaning brown, plus “cath,” a battle. Often translated as “brown one,” Donnchadh was a common first name in ancient times. Given its popularity, the surname derived from it rose quickly through many regions of Ireland. These many sects of McDonaghs grew separately throughout the country, and thus there is not always a common thread between McDonagh clans. The McDonaghs of old were found mainly in counties Cork and Galway. In Cork, the McDonaghs were a branch of the MacCarthy clan. They were known as the “Lords of Duhallow” and built Kanturk Castle. Construction began on this semi-fortified castle in about 1610, but was halted when the English government became jealous of the size and apparent strength of the structure. Never finished, the shell of the castle is known as “McDonagh’s Folly.” A McDonagh family also rose to prominence in Connacht. These McDonaghs, a branch of the MacDermotts, claim Donagh MacDermott as an ancestor and ruled in the barony of Tirreril in ancient times. Their power was spread throughout Counties Sligo and Roscommon. McDonagh or MacDonagh is, in most cases, a Connacht name and is today concentrated in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon. A martyr for Irish independence, Thomas MacDonagh (1878-1916) was a gifted poet and a lecturer at University College Dublin. He is most remembered for his part in the 1916 uprising, during which he became a signatory of the

Proclamation of Independence, and for which he was executed. A distinguished poet, he was highly regarded in Dublin’s literary community and was remembered after his death in the writings of his contemporaries, including W.B. Yeats. MacDonagh’s son, Donagh MacDonagh (1912-68), was also a poet and dramatist, with three volumes of poetry and the classic play Happy as Larry. Continuing the McDonagh tradition in the arts is Maitland McDonagh, a noted film critic and author of several books on cinema. Born into an Irish-American family, McDonagh was raised in New York City. Her emigrant grandparents were the proprietors of the Moylan Tavern, which

Playwright Martin McDonagh in NYC

John Michael McDonagh

was reincarnated as the Moylan Tavern of Fox’s The George Carlin Show. McDonagh teaches film at Brooklyn College and is author of Filmmaking on the Fringe and Movie Lust. A shining star in the clan’s theatrical orbit is playwright and filmmaker Martin McDonagh, interviewed in this issue about his upcoming film Seven Psychopaths. London-born to Irish parents, his most famous plays are The Beauty Queen of Leenane and The Lieutenant of Inishmore. He won an Oscar in 2006 for best live-action short film for Six Shooter, and directed his first full-

length movie, In Bruges, starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, in 2008. His older brother, John Michael McDonagh, is also a filmmaker, best known for the 2011 hit The Guard, starring Brendan Gleeson. His next film, also to star Gleeson, is called Calvary. Upholding the McDonaghs’ sports tradition is Jenny McDonagh, who is a field hockey forward on the Belfast Harlequins team. She played for the Women’s National team in 2001 against England, as well as the Olympic and World Cup qualifiers in 2004 and 2006 respectively. On the ice, Irish American Ryan McDonagh is a rising hockey star. The 22-yearold plays defense for the New York Rangers. The McDonaghs also have fine pugilists in the family. Irishman Peter McDonagh is currently fighting at welterweight. During the 1980s, Seamus McDonagh was a popular cruiserweight turned heavyweight who fought Evander Holyfield in 1990. Since putting the gloves away, Seamus has gone on to become an actor. The McDonagh name is popular in Galway City, where “McDonagh’s Seafood” was established On Quay Street in 1902. The restaurant is still owned by the original McDonagh family, and has become known around the world as the restaurant to visit in Galway. Presented with the “Best Bag of Chips [Fries] Award” in 2007, this famous spot even made it into a version of the video IA game Grand Theft Auto. APRIL / MAY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 83


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{what are you like?} By Sheila Langan

Writer Kevin Barry on fancy chocolates, Cuchullain’s heroic diet, and naked seething ambition.

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evin Barry’s novel, City of Bohane, has just been published in the U.S. It was shortlisted for both the Irish Novel of the Year and the Costa First Novel Award in 2011. His debut story collection, There Are Little Kingdoms, was awarded the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature in 2007. His stories have appeared in The New Yorker, the Granta Book of the Irish Short Story, Best European Fiction 2011, and many other journals and anthologies. He also writes plays and screenplays. He lives in County Sligo.

Your greatest extravagance? Very fancy and ludicrously expensive chocolate. If it isn’t lavender-dusted and encrusted with chili bits and sprinkled with shavings of gold, I really don’t want to know.

What is your current state of mind? Frazzled and delirious, as I’ve just finished a new book of stories. I feel like Moses staggering down the mountainside with the tablets of stone.

What is on your bedside table? The Letters of Samuel Beckett, part two, in which he continues to have very serious trouble with his piles. The Beckett letters are a huge consolation because no matter

84 IRISH AMERICA APRIL / MAY 2012

Who is your hero? Cuchullain, the mighty Irish warrior of old, who was fearless, ginger-haired and true-hearted, and who, if the annals are to be believed, ate an excellent, balanced diet based on seasonal produce such as berries and wild garlic.


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how grim you’re feeling yourself, you can rest assured that Sam is feeling grimmer. What was your first job? I was a cub reporter on a local newspaper in Limerick city, and I used to cover the district court meetings. All of life passed through the Limerick courthouse. Misery, malevolence, the dark side of humanity … I tell ya, it made Angela’s Ashes look like The Wonderful World of Disney. Your earliest memory? Crawling under a dinner table and attempting to bite a grown-up’s ankles. I was about two, and I was an enormously fat, cheerful and mischievous infant. Best advice ever received? Watch the traffic. Do you strike up conversations on long plane journeys? Oh, I do not. And I am extremely gifted at putting a very swift stop to any attempts at conversation. Don’t even try me. Where do you go to think? The swimming pool is good. The goldfish-like repetition of doing (very slow) lengths creates a kind of vacuum in which the mind can loosen up and go free.

Movie you will watch again and again? Paris, Texas is probably, at gunpoint, the film I’d name as my favorite, and I’ve watched it at least a couple of dozen times. A strange, haunting, beautiful and tender film, miraculously shot, acted and scored. What drives you? Naked seething ambition – which can make for a very unpleasant spectacle first thing in the morning. Your most embarrassing moment? Knocking over and smashing a piece of modern sculpture at an art gallery opening. And yes, I had been drinking. Lots. Your favorite place? Probably some place on the western seaboard of Ireland, just a beach, or a stretch of clifftop, with nobody else about, and just wind and rain. Favorite sound? Wind and rain. Favorite smell? The sea. Favorite meal? Prawns, Spanish-style. Or a big dirty lump of hairy bacon. Favorite drink? A good amber ale. Or a glass of rioja.

What is your hidden talent? Difficult to explain in a decent-minded family publication.

What is your most distinguishing characteristic? The naked seething ambition.

Your favorite quality in friends? Sufficient sobriety to drive me home.

What trait do you most deplore in others? Naked seething ambition.

Your typical day? Get up, groan, write a bit, moan, eat breakfast, write some more, cycle my bike through the Sligo hills, make up country songs as I pedal along, sing them, have lunch, have a nap, groan, moan, write a small bit more, cook dinner, feed wifey, open a bottle, or several, slump, sleep.

What is your motto? Live well.

Your perfect day? As above. Favorite country you have visited? I go to Spain a lot, in winter, for a blast of sunlight to banish the blues brought on by the Irish greys and drizzle. I love the cities of the Spanish interior. Best opening line in a book or piece of music? “If I’m out of my mind, it’s alright with me, thought Moses Herzog” – from Saul Bellow’s novel Herzog.

If you weren’t doing what you are doing, what would you do? Lumberjack. What question do you wish someone would ask you? At what age did you first realize you were a genius? What have you been working on recently? That new book of short stories. It’s called Dark Lies the Island and will drop in the U.S. in fall of 2013. What’s next for you? The second draft of a film script about horse racing called “The Gee Gees.” What are you like? Sometimes a monster, sometimes a near-saint.

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“I‘m lucky to have

Irish Titanic

the on the

Maureen Murphy explores the seldom-told story of the third-class Irish passengers on board the doomed RMS Titanic – some were survivors, others were heroes and victims.

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me own life” here has been no disaster in the third-class deck space, she watched from the floor. He roused his mates, who told twentieth century quite like the her first-class cabin on the starboard side him to get back in bed, saying “You’re sinking of the Titanic. It was “as the young steerage passengers playfulnot in Ireland now.” (Wyn Craig Wade, peacetime; the weather conditions were ly threw ice at one another.” The Titanic, End of a Dream.) perfect; the ship was the measure of The playfulness of the young Irish pasOther young Irishmen roused and went man’s mastery of technology. sengers was consistent with the casual to warn the young women that they were The scope of the tragedy was grand not attitude of other passengers during the in danger. Katherine Gilnagh told Walter only in its raw numbers but in naming first hour or so after the ship struck the Lord that it was Eugene Daly, the young among its victims members of some of iceberg at 11:45 p.m. It would be an hour piper she remembered playing “Erin’s the world’s most famous families, and twenty minutes until the lifeboats Lament” as the Titanic left Queenstown, including the Guggenheims and the were uncovered and who alerted her that something was Astors. Yet, there was a human scale – then about two wrong with the ship. Katherine and her acts of individual heroism, galfriends were among the lucky steerage lantry and compassion, and fragpassengers who were given notice of the Katherine ments of the story of the young ship’s danger. Most were not. Gilnagh, left. Irish in steerage that showed Senator William Alden Smith, courage and generosity, luck and Chairman of the Senate Committee that life-saving wit. investigated the disaster, concluded that Few of Irish men and women on “the small number of steerage survivors board the Titanic were traveling in was thus due to the fact that they got no Daniel first and second class. The vast definite warning before the ship was realBuckley majority were in third class – ly doomed, when most of young immigrants either returning the boats had departed.” from a rare trip home, or journeyEven those steerage pasing to America for the first time. sengers who were informed Published accounts of the Titanic’s of the risk were not out of final night show that these young danger. Gilnagh told Lord Irish passengers were thoroughly that steerage passengers enjoying their time aboard the were barred by the crew ocean liner before disaster struck. from access to the boat In Jack Winocour's The Story of deck, which was located the Titanic, As Told by Its above the A deck. Gilnagh Survivors, Lawrence Beesley, a and her friends Kate Mullin Margaret and Kate Murphy young English teacher traveling second hours until the ship and Kate Murphy were resclass, reported: “I often noticed how the sank at 2:20 a.m. From the time when the cued by Jim Farrell, a man from their own third-class passengers were enjoying full danger was realized until the moment county, probably Longford, who chalevery minute of the time: a most uproarthe ship went under, the steerage passenlenged the crew. “Great God, man!” he ious skipping game of the mixed double gers encountered considerably more roared, “open the gate and let the girls type was the great favorite while in and obstacles than their fellow passengers in through.” To the girls’ astonishment, the out and roundabout went a Scotchman the cabin classes in their struggles to sursailor meekly complied. with his bagpipes.” vive. Farrell’s loyalty to friends from home Katherine Gilnagh, a seventeen-yearThe Titanic was configured like other saved the girls, but he himself perished. old girl from Co. Longford quoted in White Star liners, with the men’s steerHis body was one of the few recovered Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember, age quarters forward and the women’s aft from the North Atlantic on April 24, recalled “the gay party in steerage that on the lowest passenger deck. As a result 1912. same last night. At one point a rat scurof this arrangement, the men in third Gilnagh’s troubles were not over when ried across the room, the boys gave chase class were aware that the ship was in the gate opened to the girls. She took a and the girls squealed with excitement.” danger long before the women. Daniel wrong turn, lost her friends and found Mrs. Natalie Wick told Lord that when Buckley recalled how he woke up, herself alone on the second-class promechunks of the fatal iceberg landed on the jumped out of bed and found water on nade with no idea how to reach the boats.

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Thomas McCormick and his sister Catherine.

A view of a Titanic lifeboat from on board the Carpathia, the ship that rescued the survivors.

The deck was deserted, except for a single man leaning against the rail, staring moodily into the night. He let her stand on his shoulders, and she managed to climb to the next deck up. When she finally reached the boat deck, Lifeboat No. 16 was just starting down. A man warned her off, saying that there was no more room. “But I want to go with my sister!” Katherine cried. She had no sister, but it seemed a good way to move the man. And it worked. “All right, get in,” he sighed, and she slipped into the boat as it dropped to the sea . Wit and luck saw Gilnagh safely away at 1:35 a.m. on the stern-most lifeboat on the port side of the Titanic. Gilnagh’s friend Kate Murphy and her sister Margaret escaped in Lifeboat 15, which left at the same time from the starboard side and carried about sixty second and third-class women and children. They too had their adventures marked by courage and luck. Their childhood friend John Kiernan and his brother Phillip had come home to Ireland for a visit and were returning to America with their cousin Thomas McCormick. Margaret Murphy told a New York Times reporter that John came up to her on the boat deck and fastened a life belt around her, saying, “There is a chance for one of us and you take it.” Later, Margaret and Kate Murphy would save McCormick, who had leaped overboard as the Titanic foundered. Beaten away from one partially filled lifeboat, he tried to climb aboard another boat only to be attacked again by the boat’s crew. The Murphy sisters reached into the water, grabbed McCormick and pleaded with the sailors to let him aboard, which they reluctantly did. Ellen Shine O’Callaghan (the grandmother of New York City Council 88 IRISH AMERICA APRIL / MAY 2012

Margaret Devaney

Speaker Christine Quinn), the longestliving Titanic survivor, who died in 1993 at 101, also spoke of the ruthless practices of the crew manning the lifeboats. Two versions of her story circulated in newspapers in the media frenzy following the disaster. In one, she described how four men from third class had made their way to the lifeboat in which she eventually escaped, but were forcibly removed by the officer in charge. In the other version, the four men were shot by the officer, their bodies then thrown into the ocean. It is impossible to know how the two versions of the story emerged, and which one is correct. Dan Buckley, the only Irish passenger and one of only three third-class passengers called to testify before the Smith Committee, also described the difficulty steerage passengers had in getting to the boat deck. A crew member threw the man ahead of him down the stairs, locked the gates and fled. The man picked himself up and smashed the lock so that Buckley and other steerage passengers could get to the boat deck. It appears that Buckley may have left in Boat 4, the last boat to leave the Titanic (1:55 a.m.). He threw a woman’s shawl over his head and jumped into the boat. The charge that steerage passengers were allowed into the lifeboats only after cabin passengers had boarded, and that

they were physically denied access to the boat deck was refuted in the Senate hearing by Titanic crewmen; however, a crew member on Boat 15 said that steerage women were accommodated only after first-class passengers. Additionally, there were fewer stewards in third class to help those in steerage make their way to the boat deck. Steward J.E. Hart testified that he had time to bring only two batches of steerage women from their quarters to the lifeboats. Those who did safely leave the Titanic watched in horror as the ship sank and people around them struggled in the water. Interviewed at Ellis Island, Margaret Devaney, a young woman from Co. Sligo, said she recited the rosary. “For yourself?” asked the reporter. “Ah! no,” was her reply. “I never thought of myself – for those whose drowning cries I heard from the water.” She lost four friends from Ballysodare. Arriving in New York aboard the Carpathia, which picked up the Titanic’s surviving passengers between 4:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. (and which would itself be sunk en route to America in 1918 by torpedoes from a German U-Boat), rescued steerage passengers were spared the Ellis Island ordeal and were interviewed on board ship by immigration officials. One Irish girl was asked whether she had an emigration card. “Divil a bit of a card have I,” she said, wide-eyed. “I’m lucky to have me own life.” While these accounts of Irish survivors demonstrate their courage and compas-


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sion, other eyewitness records suggest some negative stereotypes of Irish improvidence. In The Loss of the S.S. Titanic: Its Story and Its Lessons, Lawrence Beesley contrasted Irish and Swedish survivors: “The Irish girls almost universally had no money. [They were] rescued from the wreck and were going to friends in New York or places near, while the Swedish passengers, among whom there were a considerable number of men, had saved the greater part of their money and in addition had railway tickets through to their destination inland. The saving of their money marked a curious racial difference for which I can offer no explanation: no doubt the Irish girls never had very much money but they must have had the necessary amount fixed by the immigration laws.” Beesley does not tell us how the Swedish steerage passengers left the Titanic. We know how the Irish girls left. They were alerted only when the ship was close to sinking. Their access to the boat deck was obstructed if not denied, and they ran for their lives to the two remaining lifeboats. Some observers and Titanic historians have also suggested that some of the steerage passengers who did not survive had themselves to blame. August Wennerstrom, a Swede traveling in steerage, spoke of his horror at the sight of a priest, probably Fr. Thomas Byles, an English convert traveling to officiate at his brother’s wedding, who was surrounded by those who appeared to have given themselves up to death: “Hundreds were in a circle with a preacher in the middle, praying, crying, and asking God and Mary to help them. They lay there still crying till the water was over their heads. They just prayed and yelled never lifting a hand to help themselves.” Picking up on Wennerstrom, Wyn Craig Wade, in The Titanic: End of a Dream concludes, “Undoubtedly, the most barriers were the ones within the steerage passengers themselves. Years of conditioning as third-class citizens led a great many of them to give up hope as soon as the crisis became evident.” These accounts helped to justify the poor rate of survival among steerage passengers by suggesting that they did not help themselves. In the end it was a mat-

ter of who would share the limited resources that they had, and it came down to class. The survivors’ statistics speak for themselves. Lord reports the losses among women passengers as: First Class

4 of 123 (3 by choice) Second Class 15 of 93 Third Class 81 of 179

2.79% 16.12% 45.25%

The White Star Line issued a passenger list for those Irish who embarked at Queenstown: fifty-four men, fifty-four women and five children. Of that group, 45 men (85.18 percent), 22 women (40.74 percent) and five children (100 percent) perished. The percentage of female survivors for the Irish cohort was slightly higher (59.26 percent) than for third-class women in general (55.75 percent), while the percentage of Irish male survivors (14.82) was barely a percent higher than the general third-class male survival of 14 percent. Survival rates demonstrate the differences in class: Women & Children Men

First Class Second Class Third Class Crew

94% 81% 47% 87%

31% 10% 14% 22%

Ellen Shine O’Callaghan, pictured here in a black coat and hat, long after her Titanic ordeal. The little girl to her left is her granddaughter, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

The greatest difference is the survival rates of second-class women as compared with third-class women, while the real winners appear to be the crew, who survived at rates only slightly lower than first-class passengers. While the crew of the Titanic was cleared in the official inquiries in Washington and London, their high rate of survival and the refusal of some members of the crew manning lifeboats to pick up survivors argue that the crew put their own welfare first and that passengers, especially those in steerage, were left to fend for themselves. With the enormous expansion of its steerage traffic on the “Big Four” liners of the 1890s, the White Star fortunes were tied to the class that was least valued on the Titanic – though their tickets were the cheapest, their numbers were the greatest. Not only were these thirdclass passengers expendable, but they are largely unknown. In piecing together the stories of the spunky courage of Kathy Gilnagh and the Murphy sisters and the gallantry of James Farrell and John Kiernan, we can begin to claim for these young Irish their part in the night to remember. IA

WORKS CITED: Lord, Walter, A Night to Remember (Bantam, 1964). Peter and Mary O’Dwyer, A History of Devotion in Ireland (Dublin: Four Court Press, 1988.) Wyn Craig Wade, The Titanic, End of a Dream (New York Penguin,1980.) Jack Winocour, The Story of the Titanic as Told by Its Survivors (New York: Dover Publications, 1960.) APRIL / MAY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 89


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{music} By Tara Dougherty

The The New New

Irish Songwriter A

spring tour in Australia on the immediate horizon, thoughts brewing of a sophomore album and the world at his feet, James Vincent McMorrow has stormed onto the scene from virtual nothingness in the last year. It was January of last year that the Dublin native’s debut album, Early In the Morning, found its way to my desk for review, and I was completely stunned.

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In many ways, McMorrow is Ireland’s answer to the growing success of the ethereal indie bands in the vein of Bon Iver and Band of Horses. The tone of his voice is spectacularly warm and his arrangements are elegant but simple. I sat down with McMorrow this summer in the middle of his American tour with famed Irish band BellX1. Various BellX1 and McMorrow band members wandered in and out of the hotel lobby, all com-

menting on the New York summer heat and asking each other the schedule. “Are we in Boston tomorrow?” “Back to New York on Friday?” For many Irish artists, McMorrow explained, touring America is a whole new world. “I see it as a big challenge. Places like France, Germany, the UK, where [Early In the Morning] has been doing well, you can drive top to bottom of the country in a day. In America you can’t even do a tenth of it. So I think if you ask any musician, they will always say they want to do well in America, it’s a big nut to crack.” And in America, the perception of the Irish musician is ever changing. It has been over ten years since Damien Rice’s


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O coined for him the Irish singer-songwriter image. After series of copycats and attempts to capitalize on the success of acts like Rice and The Frames, it seemed the quiet and tortured poets of Ireland were all but spent. McMorrow comes in a new wave of the Irish singer-songwriter. He joins the world stage with Lisa Hannigan and Foy Vance, who have all taken their niche to different places, exploring new genres of influence. “Well, in Dublin there’s always guys running around with guitars,” McMorrow joked. “When there were a few about 10 years ago who were really successful, it then meant there were a lot of less original versions of them. I’m glad that isn’t so much happening any-

[

Irish Sea, alone for half a year to compose and record what would become Early In the Morning. “Recording it was really unspectacular. I just wanted somewhere quiet and the house was offered to me. Someone could’ve offered me an apartment in New York and I would’ve taken it if it were quiet. I just wanted somewhere with no silly distractions like computers and people. I’ve always been a fan of my own company.” That place ended up being a small house outside Drogheda. He ran alongside the sea almost every day and spent the better part of five months isolated, writing and recording. McMorrow’s songwriting was influenced in large part

[

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“I need to be able to hear [my music] back. I have to record and write at the same time. I’m not someone who can just sit down with a guitar.

more… It’s great now to come to these new places and see the Villagers or Lisa Hannigan doing well. To come to a place and your friends are already there.” cMorrow’s story of success begins, of all places, at the Dublin Airport. He began playing drums at the age of fifteen as a hobby. Then after college, took a job pushing trolleys at the airport while he explored drumming in heavy metal bands. Does he think it’s strange to transition from heavy metal to the much softer, folk sound he’s embraced? “On paper it does,” he laughed, “but I think if you asked anyone they’d say that the music they listened to as a teenager is a lot different from what they end up making.” McMorrow picked up guitar at 19 and began experimenting vocally with different sounds. Then in the winter of 2010, he stole away to a house in the nearby

M

by the atmosphere he was suddenly very alone in. He learned and played all of the instrumentation on the album. McMorrow allowed the changing atmosphere to influence the movement of the album. “I got there in January so it was very dark and wet, sort of bleak … It’s certainly easier to sit down at do a

drum track when it’s like that.” The collection of books he brought with him dictated the album further “I had a big collection of all of Steinbeck just before I went out there and read all his little stories like “The Pearl” so that influenced me. “A lot of the writers I like are really descriptive about nature.” Nature is most certainly the theme of Early In the Morning, almost every song packed with stirring descriptions in the lyrics. For McMorrow, tackling lyrics is the last piece of the songwriting puzzle. McMorrow’s unusual writing process requires recording and composing to become one and same. “I need to be able to hear [my music] back. I have to record and write at the same time. I’m not someone who can just sit down with a guitar. I find if I write that way it becomes too linear – the melody is linear. I just prefer if I can hear it back, then I can take things and build them, the little melodies or structures in my head. And the lyrics come later.” When Early In the Morning was released, McMorrow suddenly found himself in need of a band and a tour manager. The world of professional musicianship started to unfold before him. “I’m a big fan of my own company,” he joked, but also seriously spoke about his ongoing struggle to release creative control, something he has learned to deal with much more as touring becomes the dominant lifestyle for McMorrow. He needed a band to tour. “I found it really hard with just a guitar to duplicate what I was doing,” he said. “None of us [in the band] are really spectacular players. I didn’t want anything too slick sounding because I think a band should sound different every night.” ow with a second album well in the works with a release date pending, McMorrow has quickly become another overnight Irish songwriting sensation. “For such a small country, I think Ireland really punches above its weight when it comes to art and music,” he mused. The world certainly should turn IA its ear Ireland’s way.

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{music reviews} By Tara Dougherty

Altan • The Poison Glen n their newest album, The Poison Glen, Altan reverts to the sound that their fans initially fell in love with. Transforming from a virtually unknown duo in the mid-eighties to the sixpiece band they are now, Altan is a band that has never really stopped growing or developing. It is clear from the jump with this effort that the intention was to take Altan back to the stage, to recreate their intoxicating live sound. Their more recent work has stood atop very large production, which at times would only water down the atmosphere that has made Altan unquestionably the next legendary name in Celtic music. As a whole, The Poison Glen is a more somber album than Altan is known for, the tracks unfolding slowly with Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh’s crystal clear vocals very much at the helm. Her harmonies on “Caitlin Triall” harken back to a sound that listeners yearn for in Celtic music. Her vocal tracks, stripped bare of effects, seem to echo across centuries. Altan’s more playful side emerges in “Tommy Pott’s Slip Jig.” The Poison Glen is a diverse album; it is complete, polished and raises the bar for future Altan albums.

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Moya Brennan • Heart Strings [Live] ith her many years of captivating audiences with her voice and harp, Moya Brennan is Celtic music royalty. In her more recent effort with Cormac de Barra, the pair set new standards for Irish harpists. With the release of her newest album, a live recording titled Heart Strings, Brennan will decidedly convince listeners that they haven’t heard her play until they’ve heard her live. The album, recorded during her live performance with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, features string arrangements by the lovely Julie Feeney and was recorded over two performances, one in Liverpool and one in Germany. The energy in Heart Strings is palpable, with de Barra offering backing vocals on several of the tracks. The album really comes alive with “Sailing Away” when Feeney’s string arrangements take over to provide a thrilling departure from the very sweet vocal ballad “Molly Fair” preceding it. “Against The Wind” is another highlight, which seamlessly blends an Irish accent with the power of the Liverpool Philharmonic. Heart Strings [Live] is mesmerizing from start to finish.

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Brock McGuire Band • Green Grass Blue Grass rock McGuire Band is refreshingly authentic. Garnering praise from Martin Hayes who called them “a showcase of tastefulness that combines the highest level of musicianship in Irish music and a seamless collabora-

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tion with some of America’s finest musicians,” Brock McGuire Band could well be on their way to becoming the definitive Celtic-bluegrass crossover band of this decade. Green Grass Blue Grass is packed with riveting sets that blend the twang of a banjo with the swing of Irish fiddles. Guest appearances from Ricky Skaggs, Bryan Sutton and Mark Fain lend credence to Brock McGuire Band’s presence in the bluegrass community. Paul Brock (button accordion) and Manus McGuire (fiddle) are both County Clare natives whose ear for traditional Irish music comes through best in the medley “Johnny Will You Marry Me/Phil the Fluter’s Ball/The Rookery.” County Galway’s Enda Scahill’s tenor banjo and mandolin as well as Tipperary’s Denis Carey on keyboards combined with Brock and McGuire create a sound on the album like a bizarre seisiun one might stumble upon in an Irish pub in IA Nashville, delightfully bizarre.

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{ review of books}

Recently published books of Irish and Irish-American interest.

Recommended: Bloodland

n a genre that may seem to have exhausted all possible plot-lines, Alan Glynn’s new thriller, Bloodland, is refreshingly unpredictable. An out of work journalist researching a dead socialite, an American senator attacked in the Congo, a drunk former-Taoiseach, and an Irish real estate developer with a chronic tension headache are the seemingly unrelated players this Dublin-born author weaves together in his fourth novel – a conspiracy theory about corrupt business practices and international oligarchy. Part of this unpredictability comes from the fragmented nature in which the events are presented to the reader. Focus continually alternates between the four main characters, and though these changes in perspective are indicated simply by an extra space between paragraphs, the words, “Cut To,” would not feel entirely out of place. Glynn’s first novel, The Dark Fields, came to movie theatres last March under the title Limitless, and narrated as it is – in the present tense with abrupt, conversational language – the teased out Bloodland often reads like a screenplay, or an ambitious television pilot. Certainly, the story is timely. The financial crisis, the pervasiveness of the Internet, and the military industrial complex are all key elements. Drugs, too (the legal kind this time) are a powerful influence. Characters in search of answers are slaves to coffee’s stimulation, while those attempting to keep secrets buried seek comfort in whiskey’s depressant effects. In keeping with genre tradition, women are incidental at best – showing up to service the plot, and occasionally, the men. But in a world so unnervingly like the one portrayed in this paranoid novel, such cliches may remain one of the few consistencies on which we can continually rely.

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– Catherine Davis ($16.00 / Picador / 375 pages)

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On an Irish Island

obert Kanigel, author of The Man Who Knew Infinity and The One Best Way, has released a new book titled On an Irish Island. With his previous works, Kanigel told the stories of various cultures and their people. On an Irish Island seems to echo his 2002 High Season, which told how the small French city of Nice attracted visitors and tourists throughout the years. On an Irish Island does the same, taking the remote island of Great Blasket and telling the story of its history and culture through the words of writers and travelers who visited the island. Great Blasket Island provides a very unique setting. When one thinks of remote western Ireland, it's common to think of Connemara or the Aran Islands. But even those locations are places of year-round tourism; they lack that true quietness and simplicity which Great Blasket possesses. The island is seen through the eyes of John Millington Synge and George Thomson, among others. Their writings tell of a beautiful island with little care for the advancing world save a constant struggle to preserve the Irish language. Descriptions from Synge, famous for works like The Playboy of the Western World, do not bore, to say the least, and Kanigel is a gifted storyteller in his own right. Rather than offering a typical historical narrative, Kanigel makes sure that his chronicle of Great Blasket Island is both entertaining and informative. The place comes alive.

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– Molly Ferns ($26.95 / Alfred A. Knopf / 336 pages)

Memoir

Smarty Girl: Dublin Savage

n Smarty Girl: Dublin Savage, Brooklyn-based writer Honor Molloy looks back to the 1960s Dublin of her childhood. Her protagonist and sometimes narrator, Noleen O’Feeney, is a precocious and imaginative child. It is through her eyes that we first see how happy the O’Feeney home on Trolka Row is, with

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her multitude of siblings, her loving and practical American mother who keeps everything in order as best she can, and her rolicking Dubliner father, an actor and comedian who teaches her how to do back flips. From her perspective, with brief interludes from the points of view of her family members, we see the home start to fall apart, as her father grows more interested in drinking than acting and insists on blaming his family for his woes. The names have been changed, but Molloy makes no secret: this was her childhood, her past. Her father was John Molloy, a fixture in 1960s Dublin, known for his great skill as an entertainer and, later, his alcoholism. Her mother was an American girl who fell in love with him, nurtured his craft, and then ultimately had to decide between him and taking the family to safety in America. What Molloy does in remembering this journey is brave and honest, and the child-like spirit and voice she so skillfully captures are truly remark– Sheila Langan able. ($16.95 / Gemma Media / 240 pages)

Non-fiction Painted with Words

eaders of the Irish Times will be most familiar with Lara Marlowe for her work as a foreign correspondent. Over the last fifteen-plus years, she has reported from France, where she was based for quite some time; Afghanistan and Baghdad; and, more recently, from Washington D.C., where she is now the paper’s Washington correspondent. While in France, she was made a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur by the French government for her contributions to Franco-Irish relations, and when one reads her latest collection of articles, Painted with Words, the reasons she was deserving of such an honor become abundantly clear. Painted with Words brings together the art writing she has done over the last number of years, including interviews, reflections and articles on prominent exhibitions. Whether writing about Picasso or Bonnard, raising an eyebrow

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at Gauguin or discussing Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, Marlowe’s words manage to both reflect the natural thrall she feels for these artists, and her insightful analysis of their lives and works. Helpfully divided into seven cogent sections, including “Twentieth Century Painters,” “Collectors” and “Irish Connections,” the book is beautifully produced, with page after page of relevant paintings and photographs. The book’s final articles touch on some of the interesting figures Marlowe has discovered since moving to the U.S., like Captain Francis O’Neill, the turn of the century Chicago police chief with a love of Irish music, but the majority of the artists she discusses are French or in some way related to France. Painted With Words is, at its heart, a remarkably comprehensive journey around the world of French arts and culture, as experienced, researched and enjoyed by Marlowe herself. – Sheila Langan ($44.95 / Dufour Editions/Liberties Press / 280 pages)

Poetry

Red is the Rose: A Book of Irish Love Poems

eading Red is the Rose: A Book of Irish Love Poems, a collection of works carefully and discerningly sourced by editor Jonathan Rossney from various movements in Irish poetry, I was reminded of a gag book that made the rounds a number of years ago. It was a thick, hardcover tome, with swirly writing on the cover that read “Erotic Irish Art.” “Scandalous,” one of the endorsements on the back read. Inside, the pages were blank, the point being “What erotic Irish art?” Though Red is the Rose isn’t really scandalous, Eros is definitely present in the pages of this newly released collection of Irish love poems. The works included run the gamut from traditional Irish language poems in translation, to well-known and much loved lines by W.B. Yeats and Thomas Moore, to unexpectedly heated verse from J.M. Synge.

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The collection is divided into thematic sections with titles like “Inventions of Delight,” “Remembered Love,” and “Time will but make thee more dear…,” which means that readers will be able to find poems to identify with no matter what phase of love they may be in. Interspersed with evocative black and white photographs of Ireland’s lush landscape, this is a charming collection. – Sheila Langan ($12.95 / Dufour Editions/O’Brien Press / 88 pages)

History:The Titanic The Irish Aboard Titanic

he sinking of the Titanic holds an unending fascination for writers. Even before James Cameron’s 1997 film cemented the disaster’s appeal, scores of books – both fictional and nonfictional – were written about the sinking. In The Irish Aboard Titanic, Senan Molony, a former journalist who has worked with the Irish Press, Evening Herald, and Irish Independent, explores an element of the Titanic’s history which many of those accounts gloss over: the lives of the Irish passengers. Since the vast majority of the Irish on board were either traveling in steerage or were members of the crew, Molony’s research gives voice to those who were, for the most part, denied a place in the testimonies and accounts that followed the disaster. Using baptismal certificates, census records, personal letters, news articles – anything he could find – Molony carefully pieces together the lives of Irish passengers before, during and, for the lucky ones, after the ship sank. For some this means a paragraph with a name, basic facts, and whether they were “lost” or survived. For others, it means page after page of details: stories told by friends and family; hopeful or despairing letters exchanged after news of the sinking spread; interviews from when the survivors

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finally landed in New York, rescued by the Carpathia; obituaries detailing full lives lived. Where possible, Molony has sourced photos of the passengers from archives and old newspapers. For anyone interested in learning more about the Titanic’s most overlooked demographic, this is the place to start. – Sheila Langan ($22.50 / Mercier Press / 288 pages)

The RMS Titanic Miscellany

ust as The Irish Aboard Titanic tells the neglected story of the Irish third-class passengers on the doomed ship, The RMS Titanic Miscellany takes a comprehensive look at something that gets all too frequently passed over in the popular renderings of the ship’s journey: the straight facts. From the physical, mechanical, and organizational specifics of the ship itself to interesting ephemera, it’s all there. Written by John D.T. White, a Belfast native whose father worked in the Harland & Wolff Shipyard where the Titanic was built, The RMS Titanic Miscellany is up front about its quirky, somewhat scattered nature. Each page is filled with succinct facts and anecdotes about the ship and its enduring legacy. “Did You Know” segments present obscure bits of information (the Titanic’s whistles were designed to be heard from 11 miles away); trivia about the making of Cameron’s film (before he announced that he was making Titanic, he accounted for the footage of icebergs he was accumulating by saying he was making a film called Planet Ice); mini biographies of Thomas Andrews, the ship’s architect, and Captain Smith; and detailed records of the ship's construction, dimensions and even its daily menus. Painstakingly researched and approachably presented, The RMS Titanic Miscellany is a fun, informative read, and will be equally enjoyable for those who read in marathon sessions and those who read in IA small doses.

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– Sheila Langan ($24.95 / Irish Academic Press / 300 pages)

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Barney

Rosset 1922-2012 He helped change the course of publishing in the United States by championing avant-garde writers and beat poets. He defied censors in the 1960s by publishing D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. He brought European writers such as Jean Genet and Samuel Beckett under his Grove Press imprint. He passed away on February 21 at the age of 89. On what was his first and last trip to Ireland in February 2003, he met up with Frank Shouldice, who wrote about the experience for Irish America.

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or Barney Rosset it was a special sort of homecoming. The inveterate publisher behind Grove Press had been invited as a guest speaker at Trinity College Dublin to mark the 50th anniversary of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. As Beckett’s American publisher and close friend, it was fitting that Barney Rosset should be invited. Indeed, this first trip to Ireland would become a journey of immense personal significance to Rosset, revisiting the land of his grandparents. “I’ve put off this trip for 81 years,” remarked the [then] 81-year-old publisher, whose connection with Ireland began long before he had even heard of Samuel Beckett. Both his maternal grandparents – Roger Tansey (Galway) and Margaret Flannery (Mayo) – met in the U.S. where they married and settled in Marquette, Michigan. His grandfather, a laborer-turned-contractor, made quite an impression on the young boy. “The story was he had left Ireland under threat of death by the British,” says Rosset, not bothered whether or not the story was true. “He was loved in the neighborhood even though it wasn’t an Irish neighborhood. He was just a marvelous person.” Barney’s mother, Mary Tansey, worked in a Chicago bank where she met Barney

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Rosset, a man of Russian-Jewish extraction. Their only child relates with glee how his mother once “won a piano in a beauty contest.” He also recalls spending time in Marquette and listening to his grandparents converse at home in Irish. Rosset began re-excavating those genealogical roots just over a decade ago. He located the relevant documents and received his Irish passport from consular offices in New York. Ironically, by the time he got around to using it, the passport had expired. He applied for a new one and on arrival asked immigration officials to stamp it as a keepsake. I first met Barney Rosset in 1988 in Manhattan. We became friends over the years and of all associations that come to mind the enduring image would be rum and Coke. The last time we met was in New York when he wished me a safe trip home, bestowing his blessing with a cocktail glass in his hand. And here we are five years later, on my patch this time, in Dublin. Rosset arrives into the hotel lobby holding a pint glass of rum and Coke. I suggest to him there’s a certain continuity about all of this and he laughs that familiar laugh, a swift combination of headback dry chuckle followed by a shrug-forward intake of breath. Technically speaking, this was his second time in Ireland. He recalls stepping briefly onto the tarmac at Shannon Airport

in 1948 en route to Italy. He sees that Dublin today is growing fast, it’s both modern and ancient but just another European city. The Chicagoan may be a naturalized New Yorker but drop him in Ireland this time round and the West is already calling. Even so, when he addresses the student gathering at Trinity, Barney Rosset feels the emotion sweep up in waves. Beckett, his old friend, was once a student within these walls. The publisher produces his newly-minted Irish passport from an inside pocket, indicating he’s here, at last. The moment passes. As soon as he finishes his speech he’s done with Dublin and is itching to retrace his ancestral path due west. Rosset has long believed in the rights of small voices. Cherished by his parents as an only child and encouraged by teachers at the highly progressive Frances W. Parker School, he developed an outspoken confidence in his early years. School was also where he met his first wife, Joan Mitchell, a painter who later became one of Beckett’s closest friends in Paris. Politically, the young Rosset soon found tides to swim against, fueled by an anti-establishment ethos he attributes to his grandfather. He was also attracted to Communism until he discovered that its advocacy of free love was all talk and little action. After a year at Swarthmore


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College, he joined the U.S. Army Signal Corps and was dispatched to China as a cinematographer in 1942. “China was a dumping ground for people the Army wanted to get rid of,” he smiles, knowing that the Army was less than charmed by radical chic. Back home he set about producing Strange Victories, an anti-racism movie. “It was a failure,” he says without remorse. “It took over two years to make and in the end I didn’t even like it.” Years later he would try again, persuading Beckett to script a movie called, typically enough, Film. Starring Buster Keaton, it failed commercially but he laughs at the memory of a $500,000 offer for the film rights of Waiting for Godot. “I got it all screwed up,” he admits. “Steve McQueen was going to be the lead and Beckett asked me what McQueen looked like. I didn’t know who Steve McQueen was – I got him mixed up with James Garner – so I told him he was a big, husky, heavy-set fella. “And Marlon Brando was supposed to be in it and I said he was also very big and heavy. And Beckett said, ‘Oh no, my characters are shadows.’ So he turned it down in one minute. Later I thought I’d made a terrible error and if I’d known, I’d have

told him they were both short and skinny guys.” Failure with Strange Victories turned his attention to publishing and in 1952 he got wind of a fledgling company up for sale. With $3,000 he bought Grove Press, an unknown publishing house “with three suitcases of books” in Greenwich Village. Little did he know that Grove would prompt an upheaval in American publishing with reverberations all around the English-speaking world. “I didn’t know what was good or bad,” he admits. “I knew nothing about publishing.” Typically, Rosset’s justification for getting involved was that “it was interesting.” For such a strong-willed and highly motivated individual, publishing in 1950s America became a symbiotic match of personality and opportunity. Although he began by reprinting Henry James’ The Golden Bowl, the real story began when Rosset decided what books he wanted to publish. Somewhat inevitably he took the hard road, choosing D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which had been banned in the U.S. Grove deliberately pitted itself against the U.S. Post Office because the postal authorities deemed the book “obscene” and “unmailable.” The strategy went

according to plan, “almost like we’d written out the scenario perfectly.” The ban was duly lifted and the book, uncut, went on general distribution. Even at that stage, however, Rosset had a preset plan to publish Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. “On Lady Chatterley’s we contained the battle to relatively few opponents but with Tropic of Cancer it went berserk. We were arrested all over the U.S. hundreds of times! “It was a fantastic time,” recalls Rosset, who opposes censorship of any kind. “For me, the high point was taking it to the State of Illinois court in Chicago, which was the only time during the whole thing I personally appeared in court. It was like coming home and we won.” By that stage he and Samuel Beckett were already familiar to one another. Their relationship began when Rosset read a couple of submissions the Parisbased Dubliner had contributed to Transition magazine. “I was intrigued,” says Rosset when he heard that Beckett’s play En Attendant Godot had opened at the Babylon Theatre in Paris. Having paid a $150 advance on the American rights, he boarded a liner in New York and sailed for France on honeymoon with his second wife, Loly Eckert. APRIL / MAY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 97


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They met Beckett at the bar of the Pont Royal Hotel and a long night ended with the author buying champagne for the newlyweds. Their marriage did not last, but the trio’s rendezvous was the beginning of an enduring friendship between Rosset and Beckett. The publisher wrote from New York on June 13, 1953, advising, “We will do what we can to make your work known in this country. The first order of business would appear to be the translation. If you will accept my first choice as translator the whole thing will be easily settled. That choice, of course, is you.” Beckett replied on June 25. “I will send you today or tomorrow my first version,” he wrote. In its first year Godot sold 341 copies. “It wasn’t a big smash hit,” smiles the publisher. “We didn’t expect anything different. The money part was quite irrelevant because it cost us more to get to see him in Paris. We went to tremendous trouble to make it a handsome book in hardback and there was no way we expected to sell it in a big way. But it was a good play – a great play – so I thought, don’t worry about it! “When I signed for the rights I remember showing it to a professor of mine – Wallace Fowlie at the New School in New York – who was someone whose view I really respected. He read it and said, ‘I think it’s a great play and without doubt Beckett will be considered one of the greatest authors of the twentieth century.’ That meant a lot to me. “When we released it in paperback it was our 33rd book – I had waited for my favorite number to come up – and it began to sell. We worked to make it famous on university campuses in America, and it must be one of the best-selling plays in the history of American publishing.” By now, Godot is regarded as a timeless classic and has sold close to two million copies worldwide. Maybe it’s how everything comes around. On the very evening Barney Rosset was invited to speak in Trinity, the Gate Theatre in Dublin revived a production of Godot to commemorate the play’s 50th anniversary. Just as Barney made his way to the lecture hall to talk about Beckett, a ticketless queue formed at the Gate box-office in the hope of late cancellations – everybody waiting on Beckett, 14 years after his death. It is quite an achievement for a writer who extolled the utter inconsequence of existence. Grove Press cultivated beat writers like 98 IRISH AMERICA APRIL / MAY 2012

Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. Rosset had other notable successes with Grove, including The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1964), William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch (1968) and Hubert Selby Jr.’s Last Exit to Brooklyn (1969), as well as publishing works by Brecht, Behan, Ionescu, Genet, de Beauvoir, Sartre, Duras, Havel, Rechy, Pinter and others. “It was highly unusual,” he realizes. “We never paid large advances and literary agents never came to us. We really didn’t do anything we didn’t feel like doing. I was able to sell a lot of books and

lawsuit that originated with third parties in Las Vegas. Bouncing back once more, Rosset set up Foxrock Publishing, named after the birthplace of his “first and foremost” author. Rosset’s visit to Ireland this year would have meant little had he not gone west. On a bright windy Saturday we set off along the N6, rolling out on one of the new motorways that feed the growing capital. The suburbs extend for miles stretching outwards to envelop the small towns of County Dublin, Kildare and Westmeath as city satellites. Traveling the road with Astrid Myers,

“It is more than writers who are in his debt. Publishers who serve literature are not uncommon; publishers who serve culture are. Barney Rosset is such a publisher.” also get people to invest in the company. At the beginning I didn’t know writers but it gradually sunk in with me that writers are much more isolated than painters. In my experience writers needed help, even if they didn’t know it.” Many writers felt that Rosset and Grove became more champion than publisher. “Yes, absolutely!” he replies enthusiastically. “And we were.” However, the publishing world changed and Grove found it increasingly difficult to compete with the new giants. It led to an acrimonious takeover in 1985 and after 35 years on Houston Street, Rosset was out. Characteristically, he set up Blue Moon Books and started again. Beckett, after whom Rosset named one of his four children, refused to write for Grove and handed Stirrings Still to Blue Moon, dedicating it to the lone publisher. It was Beckett’s last work. In 1988 the Writers’ Association PEN awarded Rosset its publishing citation. “It is more than writers who are in his debt,” noted the award. “Publishers who serve literature are not uncommon; publishers who serve culture are. Barney Rosset is such a publisher.” For reasons still unclear, PEN overlooked Rosset in last year’s tribute to Beckett, a slight that irritated if not upset the indefatigable publisher. Blue Moon has since gone into bankruptcy after getting mired in a virus-like

his partner of 15 years, the fearless defender of small voices takes it all in. He’s surprised by the quality of the road and how built-up Dublin actually is. And then we clear some undefined boundary to behold green fields and grazing cattle. A rural setting. Picture postcards. The man with the single-stamp Irish passport grew quieter as we closed the distance to his grandfather’s birthplace. Crossing the River Shannon at Athlone seemed like a gentle delivery into folk memory, images framed by stone walls and wind-bent trees. Barney watched it all in silence. “You got the camera, Astrid?” he checked nervously, as though concerned these pictures might slip away. Arriving in the village of Ballyforan in County Roscommon, he was surprised to see a bar named The Big Apple. Either the world is definitely getting smaller, or this was a homecoming with a difference. We pulled in, awaiting Barney’s relatives. They would receive us with warm hospitality and later bring us to Roger Tansey’s original holding on the Galway side of the River Suck. For now, we’d just have to wait a few minutes. Astrid took a photo. Barney stood in silence. A young boy turned the corner to find three strangers waiting aimlessly on the side of the road. “Are ye lost?” he asked, echoing a line from a now famous play. IA


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{sláinte} By Edythe Preet

The Fast & The Feast How Ireland perfected the journey from abstinent Lent to the celebratory feast of Easter hroughout the history of Western civilization, spring’s arrival was always a time for feasting and gaiety. After months of cold stormy weather, long nights and gloomy days, shoots of new grass would herald the onset of another year’s planting cycle. In pre-Christian Ireland, the spring festival was called Bealtaine. Like all of Ireland’s most ancient celebrations, its date was determined by lunar reckoning. It took place on the full moon between the Vernal Equinox and the Summer Solstice, usually occurring early in May. Several days before the event, household fires were extinguished and people were forbidden to rekindle them until Druid priests lit a ceremonial bonfire to welcome the returning sun on the Hill of Tara, stronghold of Eire’s High King. When Christianity began to supplant old Europe’s pagan customs, a new spring celebration was introduced: Easter. As the feast that celebrated Christ’s resurrection from the dead, it too symbolized the annual season of rebirth and regeneration. And like Bealtaine, the Easter ceremony included a fire ritual, the lighting of a Paschal flame. Also like Bealtaine, Easter’s date is determined by lunar reckoning, and occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the Vernal Equinox. It can fall at the beginning of April, or at the end of the month. In 433 A.D. Easter must have been very late indeed, for when a Christian missionary recently arrived from Rome lit a Paschal fire on the Hill of Slane, just a few miles from Tara, he violated the Druid ban on lighting fires before Bealtaine. It was an offense punishable by death. The offender, Patrick, was brought before High King Laoghaire at Tara for judgment where the gathered Druids were certain that this interloper would be executed. Much to their horror, the missionary plucked a tiny shamrock from the hillside and so eloquently compared its trefoil leaf pattern to the threein-one mystery of Christianity’s Divine Trinity that Laoghaire spared his life and granted him safe passage to preach the new doctrine throughout the island. According to Christian tradition, the days preceding Easter were the most solemn period of the year. Believers were directed to repent their sins and purify themselves in mind and body to prepare for Christ’s resurrection. Initially, the faithful observed a “black fast” from Good Friday to Easter. No one ate anything at all. As time passed, people’s piety lessened and church leaders sought a device to restore their devotion. The number forty had great biblical significance. The Israelites wandered forty years in the wilderness. Moses spent forty days on Mount Sinai. Christ fasted forty days in the desert. Late in the sixth century, Pope Gregory the Great extended the pre-Easter

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St. Patrick, in a stained glass window in Magheralin Parish Church, Co. Down.

fast to 40 days, excluding Sundays which were feast days, and decreed the form of fasting that became Church law. “We abstain from flesh meat and from all things that come from flesh, as milk, cheese and eggs.” Fish, especially salted herring, was the mainstay of Ireland’s Lenten diet, and it is only recently that the Irish have stopped thinking of seafood as penitential fare. For centuries, Irish Catholics rigidly adhered to Lenten fast laws every day except Sundays. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday were such strictly observed black fast days that babies were left to cry three times before they were given milk. Pancake Night, the eve before Ash Wednesday, was the last chance to feast. Everyone ate piles of pancakes made from surplus butter, milk, eggs and cream that had to be used up before Lent began. It was customary for each household’s eldest daughter to toss the first pancake; a chancy feat, for if the pancake fell to the floor, the poor girl would have little hope of marrying during the coming twelve months. One notable day was exempt from Pope Gregory’s dictum: March 17th, the Feast of Saint Patrick. Then everyone had a bit of meat for dinner and all Lenten abstinences were suspended. Even men who had sworn off alcohol as part of their penance were allowed to sip from the “pota Phadraig,” Patrick’s pot. The accompanying toast was “Good luck and long life to the


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Council of Trent, it took away meat but left us the drink.” During Holy Week, meals were most austere. Breakfast consisted of dry bread and tea mixed with bull’s milk (water and oatmeal husks). Plain potatoes with salt were eaten at dinner, and for supper there was black tea and more dry bread. On Good Friday, if anyone ate at all, the meal consisted of barley bread, cress and water. Most folk spent the day in church, and work was discouraged. Conversely, Good Friday was a lucky day to plant crops, so farmers always made it a point to sow a little grain or some potatoes. After the lean weeks of Lent, Easter was a day for eating, drinking and rejoicing. Those who could afford to roasted spring lamb, veal and chicken, but for many poorer folk the day’s favorite dish was boiled bacon, cabbage and potatoes! When millions of emigrants fled to America during the Famine, they brought the memory of this festive meal with them, where, substituting corned beef for boiling bacon, it became a popular dish for Saint Patrick’s Day.

Lent’s huge store of eggs was a big feature of the day’s celebration. Eggs laid on Good Friday were marked with a cross and eaten Easter morning for luck. Women boiled eggs with herbs and lichens to color the shells, then children collected the colored eggs from neighbors and had their own party called a cludog. Eggs were also incorporated into cakes that were the star attraction at Easter evening cake dances. Before the dance, a decorated cake was placed on top of a butter churn. At the evening’s end, the best dancers were chosen to take down the cake and divide it among all the guests. One of Ireland’s most curious Easter customs was made popular by butchers – those unfortunate tradesmen whose products had been banned during the long Lenten fast. To celebrate the general population’s return to meat eating, butchers and their apprentices organized herring funerals! Doesn’t that just take the cake? IA Sláinte!

RECIPES An Old Irish Way to Dye Easter Eggs Save the papery skins of brown onions until you have a big bagful, or ask your supermarket’s produce manager to let you collect loose skins from the onion bin. Tear the skins into bits and place piles of them in 8-inch squares of cheesecloth. Place a raw egg in the center of each pile, and tie the cheesecloth around it in a tight bundle, making sure the egg is completely covered by the onion skins. Place the eggs in a large pot with enough cold water to cover. Heat until the water begins to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for approximately 20 minutes. Remove the pot from the stove, and let the eggs sit in the water until they are cool enough to handle. Carefully unwrap the eggs, dry them, and let them cool. Alternatively, you can just place onionskins and raw eggs in a pot of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove eggs from water and let cool. The eggs tied up in bundles with minced onionskins will have a tie-dyed mottled appearance; those colored by the alternative method will be a solid color. Place both versions in a decorative bowl

or basket to use as your Easter centerpiece. The onionskins impart no flavor to the eggs, and their rich coppery colors will make a most unusual spring centerpiece.

Easter Sunday Soda Bread 4 cups all-purpose flour ⁄4 cup sugar 1 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons baking powder 2 tablespoons caraway seeds 4 tablespoons butter, cold 2 cups golden raisins 1 1⁄2 cups buttermilk 1 large egg 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 large egg yolk 1 tablespoon heavy cream Heat oven to 350°F. In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and caraway seeds. Pulse briefly. Add cold butter, then pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Remove to a large bowl and stir in raisins. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg and baking soda until well combined. Pour buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture all at once, and stir with a fork until all the liquid is absorbed and the dough begins to hold together. Using your hands, press the dough into a round, domeshaped loaf about 8 inches in diameter. 1

Transfer loaf to a parchment lined baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk and cream together. Brush the egg wash over the loaf. Cut a cross approximately 1 inch deep into the top. Bake about 1 hour, rotating halfway through, until the loaf is a deep golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes away clean. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Makes one large loaf or two small. – Personal Recipe

Creamed Eggs with Mushrooms 11⁄2 2 6 6 2

pounds fresh mushrooms, sliced tablespoons butter tablespoons butter tablespoons flour cups cream salt & pepper to taste 3 ⁄4 cup sherry (optional) 8 hard boiled eggs, sliced soda bread Saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons butter. Set aside. In a medium saucepan melt 6 tablespoons butter, stir in flour, add cream, salt and pepper. Simmer until thickened. Add sherry if desired. Add mushrooms to sauce, stir to combine. Place sliced eggs on buttered, lightly toasted slices of soda bread. Pour mushroom sauce over. Serve immediately. Makes 8 servings. – Personal Recipe

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{crossword} By Darina Molloy

ACROSS 1 5 8 11 12 14 15 16 20 21 25 26 28 29 30 33 35 36 39 40 42 43 46 47 48 49 50

See 37 down (2, 5) Individual retirement account (1, 1, 1) Quick and skillful (4) See 20 across (7) A suffix used to form adjectives with the meaning “of or pertaining to” (1,1) See 40 across (4) Move swiftly (3) Another word for twilight (8) (& 11 across) Author of The Woman in the Fifth and The Moment (7) Martin Sheen’s mother is from here (11) To establish association between things (6) “Paper never refused ____” (3) See 48 across (4) Type of ingenious riddle (6) New documentary about Brazilian Formula One driver who died young (5) See 4 down (6) (& 14 down) The Frames singer, star of move that inspired 47 across (4) (& 31 down) Belfast writer/director who won Oscar for his short film The Shore (5) (& 50 across) Sunday Times journalist killed in Homs, Syria in February (5) (& 14 across) This O’Donnell fought in the Battle of Kinsale in 1601 (3) The young heroine in To Kill a Mockingbird (5) Casual thanks (2) See 35 down (5) Dublin-set movie, now a musical (4) New Martin Sheen movie set in Tipperary (6) (& 41 down) Copyright on this Irish author expired this year (5) See 39 across (6)

5 6 7 9 10 13 14 17 18 19 22

DOWN 2 This Limerick band is out of hibernation with a new album (11) 3 Iarnrod Eireann or Irish ____ (4) 4 (& 33 across) Lelia Doolan documentary screened on Irish TV paid tribute to this iconic socialist repub-

23 24 27 31

lican political activist, the youngest woman ever elected MP (10) Not out (2) Chris de Burgh sang of the “Lady in ___” (3) A short advertisement (2) Particularly damp and low-lying cloudy conditions (3) Fun word game, now reinvented online (8) Italian cruise ship that ran aground earlier this year, Costa ________(9) See 35 across (7) This Ford descendant is executive chairman of the company (7) The _____: Silent movie that swept the Oscars this year (6) This county has laid claim to George Clooney (8) Car license plate abbreviation for Kildare (1,1) See 27 down (6) Not available (1,1) (& 23 down) Former JFK intern who has published a memoir (4) See 36 across (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 May 5, 2012. 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 February / March Crossword: Eamon Flannery, Chicago, IL 102 IRISH AMERICA APRIL / MAY 2012

32 See 39 down (6) 34 See 38 down (6) 35 (& 46 across) Her new movie is Albert Nobbs (5) 37 (& 1 across) Winner of RTE’s Irish Sports Person of the Year (4) 38 (& 34 down) Cork native with BBC chat show (6) 39 (& 32 down) Iconic Dublin shopping region (5) 41 See 49 across (5) 42 John, as Gaeilge (4) 44 Actress ____ Friel (4) 45 Autumn (4) 47 Operating system (1,1) 48 Sodium nitrite (1,1)

February / March Solution


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The Wealth of the World

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t rest, this picture belongs to a wedding album from 1966. Plain, awkward even, it was composed by the photographer whose job it was to snap the parents of the groom. It doesn’t speak of small Galway farms disappearing over shoulders, the ride over the sea, their names. They are Edward Donohoe and Winnie, who was first Una Ryan, then Winnie Donohoe and, for an afternoon, Jane Doe. Eddie was born in Tuam, one of eight children. His mother, Catherine Collins of Cork, changed the family name from Donohue because a cousin with a store spelled it DoNoHoE on the sign and she felt the o’s were more distinguished. Of the four boys, Eddie was expected to be the priest. Instead, he sailed from Cobh on the Carmania to join his brother Pat in Baltimore. As a lefty forced into ambidexterity by the Brothers, he became a man of great value on a construction crew. Later, he went on his own to Brooklyn, New York . By the farm in Ballinasloe, there was a wood and the River Suck. The Ryans traded with the nearby asylum, milk for fresh bread. There were seven daughters and the son, John. When she was nineteen, Una joined her sister in Brooklyn and Madge helped find her work, also as a domestic. St. Gregory the Great off Eastern Parkway held parish dances. Everybody was Irish. Eddie and Winnie met. Later, at another dance, her friends got angry at how much Eddie’d had to drink. He stormed out and when she went after him, he told her that he was a drinking man and wouldn’t change. “It’s them or me,” he said. “I don’t want them,” she answered. “I want you.” He never changed. Eddie became a sandhog and was part of a crew that continued construction of the Lincoln Tunnel after its official opening. The driver of the car who hit him was only seventeen. Eddie refused to sue the boy, though only the eagerness of a young surgeon saved his leg from amputation. Though the leg was left concave and discolored from the knee down, he could walk.

Eddie and Winnie had a daughter and four sons. In labor with her second child, Winnie took the trolley to Methodist Hospital, ignoring her husband’s directive that if her time came while he was at work she should take a cab. Eddie once kicked a friend of his daughter’s out with the words, “No Protestants in my house on Sunday!” He had a bit of Irish. “Tá mé, Tá mé,” he’s remembered saying (I am, I am). She liked to watch wrestling on television. In 1947, with the youngest only months old, Winnie contracted tuberculosis. Eddie wanted a private hospital for her and swore he would even give up the children to pay for it. But in the end, he bought a brownstone on Rogers Avenue with a third-floor apartment. Madge and her husband, Johnny Miley from Roscommon, left Queens and moved in. The public sanitarium, the iron lung, the nervous breakdown. Eight years gone and Winnie came home. The youngest, outside playing, was called inside to come meet his mother. In October 1970, Winnie had a stroke on her way to morning Mass. When they first came to ask, the hospital told the family that they had two unidentified women in their late fifties. After searching through the afternoon, they went back. “Are you sure?” they asked. “Yes,” the hospital said. Their one Jane Doe was in her seventies. When he was told, Eddie wouldn’t believe it. He wouldn’t believe it. Winnie was buried in St. Charles Cemetery on Long Island and Eddie put his name beside hers. Because it was cheaper, he declared, to add both to the stone at once. The October of his death came seventeen years later. Three of their sons had entered the Navy and one, the Army. The U.S. Government informed them that they were spelling their last name incorrectly. Their mother had written “Donohue” on each birth certificate, afraid of the illegal ‘o.’ Their daughter found it easier to go with the ‘u.’ Their sons went by Donohue in the service and went back to Donohoe after. All but one. Korea. The Cuban Missile Crisis. Vietnam. Then, for all four, the FDNY.

Chief. Captain. Lieutenant. Of the three surviving brothers, two had retired before September 2001 and the youngest, still on the job, was not working that morning, though he got to the site by 3:00 p.m. He would retire in August 2002, at the end of the season of funerals. Eddie and Winnie have fourteen grandchildren and twenty-seven great-grandchildren. I am the second of three Kathleens: Kathleen Marie Donohoe, Kathleen Mary Donohoe and Kathleen Ann Donohue. I’m asked all the time where in Ireland I was born and how long I’ve been in America. Instead of “Brooklyn, forever,” sometimes I’ll just say “Galway and oh, awhile now.” When I look at this picture, so ordinary before you know, I think about how for each piece of a family story that you’ve heard, there is another and another still that will remain strong in a dry throat, a poem in a closed book. And I think as well of this Irish proverb: “A tune is more lasting than the song of birds, And a word is more lasting than the IA wealth of the world.” Kathleen Donohoe, Brooklyn, NY

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, please send a good quality reproduction or e-mail the picture, scanned at 300 dpi resolution, to submit@irishamerica.com. No photocopies, please. We will pay $65 for each submission that we select. 104 IRISH AMERICA APRIL / MAY 2012


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{the last word} By Jon O’Brien

What America Can Learn from Ireland Birth Control Is a Medical Issue, Not a Religious One

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he Irish, a fiercely independent people ruled by another country for centuries, have a unique appreciation for irony. As an advocate for reproductive rights in Ireland, I saw the travesty in a churchsanctioned anti-contraception policy that harmed women and families in the name of saving them from sin. Here, in the country that espouses religious freedom, these problems, long overcome in Ireland, are being echoed in the U.S. bishops’ battle against contraception coverage. The supreme irony is that the bishops are waging their battle under the banner of religious liberty. The Irish are very familiar with the long, painful conflicts that ensue from the mixture of politics and religion. I’m not just speaking of Northern Ireland, but about the Catholic hierarchy’s bitter opposition to making contraception readily available to the public. From 1935, the sale of contraceptives was criminalized. I should know. In 1992 I was arrested for selling condoms at a Virgin Record store; prophylactics were illegal except for married couples with “bona fide” needs. Irish wits baptized it “the case of the Virgin condom,” but the real paradox was that anyone could see Ireland’s “bona fide” need for contraception. It was 1940s Ireland, after all, where the term “grand multipara” was coined, referring to women who had given birth more than seven times. This is according to Dr. Michael Solomons, who observed the impact frequent pregnancies had on women: high blood pressure, anemia, poor nutrition, infant and maternal mortality. Sadly, this was the reality the Catholic hierarchy chose to promote. Every bit of today’s access to contraception had to be fought for in court, often beginning with one conscientious voice like that of Dr. Noel Browne, whose refusal to back down on his demands for comprehensive mother-and-child care precipitated the fall of the coalition government in 1948. When Taoiseach Enda Kenny raised his voice about the devastating Cloyne Report into child sexual abuse by 106 IRISH AMERICA APRIL / MAY 2012

Catholic clergy last July, it was the fruition of decades of conflict over the role of the Catholic hierarchy in Irish life. The speech signaled to the Vatican and the world that Ireland is a mature country that practices a mature Catholicism. Both Irelands have traveled a long and painful road to be able to demand a country that serves all citizens.

Jon O’Brien.

Perhaps one of the strongest signs of a new, tolerant Ireland is that contraception is widely considered to be a no-brainer. But today in the US, contraceptives are only one target the bishops have set their sights on. Last fall the bishops created an Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty designed to fight many civil liberties I hold dear as a Catholic: the conscience rights of human trafficking victims to access comprehensive reproductive healthcare; the distribution of condoms and other methods of family planning to help prevent the spread of HIV; and the inclusion of no-copay contraceptive coverage in employee health plans. That their rewritten version of “religious liberty” comes at the expense of many Americans’ freedom of conscience is an irony completely lost on the bishops—as is their expectation that Catholic institu-

tions receive billions in federal money while playing by their own discriminatory rules. As I watch the bishops’ attempt to legislate away reality—the reality that 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women have used contraception—I am reminded that the leaders of my church are willing to pay a very high cost as they seek to cover up the truth. The legacy of John F. Kennedy’s Catholic pluralism is also being rewritten today. The Irish-American president gave a speech in 1960 affirming that his Catholic civic responsibility made him accountable to his conscience alone. Kennedy’s America, “where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials,” is hard to recognize in the bishops’ invective against contraception being preached from the pulpit and sounded in the media and on Capitol Hill. Rick Santorum expressed nausea at Kennedy’s “exclusion” of religion from the public sphere, but as anyone who has experienced civil conflict knows, every faith and political party benefits from a public square that belongs to everyone and no one. When that does not happen, the public square will be hung with the names of those who fight for the rights of nameless citizens’ well-being and freedom. Writers like Samuel Beckett, Patrick Kavanagh and Edna O’Brien were such targets in the campaign against “evil literature” led by the Irish church, once a symbol of the state’s struggle for independence and ultimately a power the state had to win independence from. Today Ireland is with JFK: “If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.” One of the conditions of a safe, just society is the ability to follow one’s conscience in accessing contraception. Mature nations and faiths can accept a diversity of responses to this freedom guaranteed on principle. I do hope that the U.S. government follows the Irish government in seeking to free itself from the shackles that the Catholic hierarIA chy would impose. Jon O’Brien is the Irish-born president of Catholics for Choice.


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Irish America April / May 2012  
Irish America April / May 2012  

The April/May 2012 edition of Irish America magazine, featuring interviews with Hall of Fame inductees architect Kevin Roche, Loretta Brenna...