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IRISH AMERICA August/September 2011

Canada $4.95 U.S. $3.95


Billy the Kid & Whitey Bulger

Spider-Man Reeve Carney

The Wit & Wisdom of Malachy McCourt

Daniel O’Connell’s Fight to Abolish American Slavery




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August / September 2011 Vol. 26 No. 5






30 Presidential Visits to Ireland President Obama’s trip to Ireland leads Tom Deignan to recall the six other U.S. Presidents who paid visits, some more memorable than others.

50 Stars of The South Our sixth annual celebration of the Irish in the southern United States.

36 The Good, the Bad and the Funny Sheila Langan interviews actor Brendan Gleeson on his latest role in The Guard, his upcoming directorial debut and everything in between.

58 Outlaws The legendary Billy the Kid and the recently captured Whitey Bulger, both Irish-American outlaws, share much in common in their lives on the lam.

46 Scarlett is 75 As Gone With the Wind turns 75, David O’Connell explores how Margaret Mitchell’s Irish roots influcnced her life and her work. 4 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011


42 The Irish Abolitionist Daniel O’Connell is remembered as the Liberator of the Irish. Christine Kinealy highlights his significant work against slavery.

56 What Are You Like? Malachy McCourt shares his philosophy and spirit at age 80.

6 8 9 10 12 26 70 74 78 80

Readers Forum First Word Contributors News Hibernia Those We Lost Music Reviews Book Reviews Crossword Photo Album


64 The Forgotten Hero of Golf Bill Kelly writes about the first and youngest American to win the U.S. Open – not Rory McIlroy, but Irish-American John McDermott. 66 Not Just a Round of Golf Kevin Mangan recounts a special day spent on the Old Head course in Kinsale. 68 Reeve Carney Broadway’s resident vigilante catches up with Tara Dougherty about the premiere of Spider-Man and his band, Carney. 76 Sláinte! Oysters Galore The Galway Oyster Festival is an extravaganza with an interesting history. 82 “The Walk of a Queen” James W. Flannery recaps Queen Elizabeth II’s historic visit to Ireland.



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readers forum: letters, e-mails, online comments

No Sympathy for Undocumented You stated your sympathies are with the undocumented in your editor’s “Let the Irish Apply” column (June/July issue). Heriberto Veramontes will be heartened to know you are with him. He is the illegal from Mexico who [allegedly] massaged Natasha McShane’s brains with a baseball bat after dark on one of Mayor Richard M. Daley’s Chicago streets early last year. She was doing post grad studies in Chicago and is now back in County Antrim under her family’s care and her father reported in the press two months ago she still can’t talk. But what the heck, you are still o.k., aren’t you? I came to my current address following honorable U.S. Marine Corps global service retirement April 1978. This location, a rural subdivision, was then populated only by American-speaking neighbors. Then came the change in recent years and across the road from me is a “barrio blaster” at loud volume and on property behind my bedroom window is a rooster ranch, very noisy. Lyrics from an old Irish song describe these new neighbors, they “speak a language that the English do not know!” Robert Ryan San Antonio, Texas

Editor’s Note: Because I support immigration reform and made a case that more Irish should be allowed to come to the U.S. given their disproportionate contributions to American history, doesn’t mean that I support any kind of violent behavior. I’m appalled that you would try and connect me to the beating of Natasha McShane, just as I’m

appalled by the actions of Brandon J. Piekarsky, Colin J. Walsh, and Derrick M. Donchak who allegedly gave Luis Ramirez, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, such a beating in October 2009 that he died two days later. And as for not understanding your neighbor, while I’m sorry about the noise from the rooster farm, surely you can see the irony in your quote from the song “Galway Bay,” which refers to the fact that the English didn’t understand the Irish who spoke as Gaeilge. Many of the Irish who entered the U.S. during the Famine years (before immigration restrictions were in place), perhaps even your own ancestors, spoke Irish (Gaeilge) and were not understood by their neighbors either.

Let More Irish Apply [Re: “Let the Irish Apply” column] Seek not preference, but rather reciprocity. Create the same number of American-to-Irish paths to citizenship as Irish-to-American ones. Net immigration = null. No preferential treatment, just a lowering of political hurdles in a bilateral agreement. Posted by GingerDee

You completely forgot about the Affirmative Action executive order, which [in effect] prevents third-generation Irish American males from applying for jobs. So do not complain to me about discrimination, because I have been discriminated against in my own country since 1970. If Amnesty is enacted then Mexicans will get job preference over native-born Americans. Where’s the justice?

The Queen’s Visit I have only one comment for the “let byegones be bye-gones” attitude we have heard from politicians, political commentators and the media about the British queen’s visit to the 26 Counties this week. When England leaves the Six Counties and the Irish Republic of 1916 is re-established, I will consider letting bye-gones be bye-gones. Jane Enright Woodside, New York


Gabriel Byrne [Re: June/July story on Gabriel Byrne] Absolutely one of my favorite talents on the planet, and thank you to [Sheila Langan], who has written an incredibly warm and moving, honest depiction of a man, his art, and the cultural integrity of them both. Posted by feliciamaisey

Diary of the Dance [Re: Story on dancers taking part in the Irish World Championships, June/July issue] What fun and dedication shown by these kids in great and colorful performances. For several years, before St Patrick’s Day, we had kids from the Aniar Academy of Irish Dance perform for us at Molly Blooms in San Clemente, CA. Posted by haikued2

Photo Unites Cousins [Re: Photo Album] Coming on the photo of my greatgrandfather in the pages of your magazine over morning coffee came as a bit of a shock! The picture of Thomas “The Zouave” Delaney was submitted by Thomas’s great-grandson Gerald Howard (June/July issue) whom I do not know. Thomas did not run a saloon after the war as was stated, but his brother did. Thomas is variously listed as a wheelright and/or wagon maker. His father, Liam, perished in the Famine. His mother Ellen “Nellie” died in New York. Thomas J. Delaney Lakeville, Minnesota

Posted by Pittsburghkid

Editor’s Note: Irish America is happy to have served as the link between two long lost cousins.

The Irish Brigade [Re: The Irish Brigade (June/July issue)] You twice mention (page 47) that the Irish Brigade opposed Gen. Longstreet on the Union right. Longstreet was positioned on the Confederate right, therefore the Union left. The Wheatfield and the Peach Orchard are at the center/southern part of the battlefield. The Irish Brigade fought as part of Gen. Dan Sickle’s Third Corps on the Union left on July 2, 1863. W.E. Phoneix (received by e-mail).



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WE’VE LOST MANY LIVES BUT NEVER OUR IRISH SPIRIT! Author Matthew Brennan deserves to be complimented for his fantastically interesting and informative masterpiece,“The Irish Brigade” (June/July issue).Truly, fact surpasses fiction, and photographs are a second of eternity captured for all time. I particularly noted the photograph of Alan Pinkerton with President Abraham Lincoln and Major John McClernand at Gettysburg in 1862, as I was a Pinkerton official for years. And I was moved by the poignant response of the unnamed Irish soldier of the 28th Massachusett; when asked by General Sumner why he was standing around and not in company formation, he replied: “This is all my company,” for he was the sole survivor. Over the centuries we have lost a lot of lives but never our Irish spirit. Pat J. Leonard, Sr., Braintree, Massachusetts “Brothers of Ireland” painting by Don Troiani.

Reading Matt Warshauer’s new book Connecticut in the American Civil War, I found that the 9th Infantry Regiment of Connecticut Volunteers was the Irish regiment from CT. This regiment suffered a lack of supplies because of being discriminated against because they were mostly Irish. I love Mick Moloney’s take on Irish/USA Civil War songs on his “Far from the Shamrock Shore” CD with “The Irish Volunteers” and “Pat Murphy of the Irish Brigade.” Posted by carrickcourt

Michael Manning’s book Thomas Francis Meagher, Union Army, Brigadier General includes details of the Irish Brigade including the Fighting 69th, 9th Massachusetts, and all Irish generals including Cleburne, Sweeney et al. The Irish fought regardless of bigotry and became committed American citizens after the American Civil War. Posted by Hibernianscribe

I had three great-uncles who were in the Civil War, one in the 12th NJ volunteers, one in Missouri volunteers. Charles was discharged in Munson’s Hill, Virginia and Florence in St. Louis, Missouri. The fate of Cornelius was unknown. I have a picture of the volunteers’ reunion in 1920. They were reputed to be fierce fighters and all came from Co. Kerry to NJ.

My great-grandfather Hugh McClister, an Irish native, enlisted with the 29th PA Regiment out of Philadelphia in 1863. He fought at Gettysburg and was wounded, captured and taken prisoner to VA, where he was ultimately released. I have his record, thanks to modern technology that makes this stuff available online.

Posted by Porickseantuny

Posted by PiperMac52

Also no mention of Co. H of the 8th Alabama Infantry, the “Emerald Guard,” who dressed all in green. Their flag was identical to the 69th NY flag on one side, but on the other had a standing figure of George Washington. At the Battle of Frazier’s Farm in 1862 the Emerald Guard stood toe-to-toe against the famed 69th NY and drove them from the field. Many Irish fought for the South because they saw the industrialized and domineering North as a direct allegory of industrial England’s oppression of the agrarian Irish in their own land. No mention of the famous Irish-born Confederate Major General Patrick R. Cleburne who said prophetically, “The history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy... our youth will be trained by Northern school teachers ...learn from Northern schoolbooks their version of the regard our valiant dead as traitors.” Posted by colkelley

Posted by kkkkT3973

They are still fighting the Civil War down in Dixieland. Very sore losers.

Nice overview of the 69th NY and the Irish Brigade in general. Sad, though, no mention of the 10th Tennessee “Sons of Erin,” the 24 Georgia Volunteers or Kelly’s Irish from Missouri. But not surprising in an article written by someone from the North.

Posted by Liamkeyes

Posted by Cedric123

they would join forces to fight the British in Ireland. Cleburne said that after the Civil War he would not fight again. He was killed in the Battle of Franklin (Tennessee) when John Bell Hood had his Confederate troops make a frontal assault on the entrenched Union lines.

Many counties and towns in the South are named for Patrick Cleburne. When forces under Fighting Tom Sullivan faced the Confederates led by Cleburne, at Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia, Sullivan suggested by courier that after the war

Clinton’s Take on Ireland

[Re: Bill Clinton’s speech at Irish America’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony printed in June/July issue] Clinton has been good for Ireland and I’ve more respect for him than I do for half the former government and bankers of Ireland who got the country in the mess it’s in. I’d like to see them all made bankrupt and have their accounts frozen and every dime they have buried in their wives accounts taken from them. That would probably put Ireland back on its feet. [Anglo Irish Bank CEO] David Drumm and all his other gangsters are the criminals who messed up the country. Clinton is right. Ireland will come back again and hopefully the current generation will learn that money won’t last forever so be smarter with it next time and don’t trust the bankers or the big guys. They’re the criminals who got away with murder – murder of the Irish economy. Posted by irishcoffeekid

Write to us Visit us online at to leave your comments E-mail ( or write to Irish America, 875 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 201, New York, NY 10001.


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{the first word} By Patricia Harty


Imagining America M



y image of the South and the Civil War was formed in part by the movie Gone With the Wind. RTE, our one channel when I was growing up in Ireland, ran movie classics on Sunday afternoons. It was one of the features I enjoyed watching with my mother. My desire to come to America was fueled by those movies, by the glamour of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and the talent of Bing Crosby and Gene Kelly. And, of course, Clark Gable, who was my mother’s favorite. And when I did come to America “for the summer” (I arrived on July 4, 1972, which I always refer to as MY Independence Day), I took a trip around the States that ended in Hollywood, where I took a photograph of Clark’s hand prints on the Walk of Fame and mailed it to my mother. I didn’t think about there being an Irish dimension to those Sunday movies. (Of course, years later I would interview Gregory Peck who was so proud of his Kerry roots, and Gene Kelly would also feature in our pages). The fact that Scarlett was an “O’Hara” and her plantation was called “Tara” didn’t register as anything out of the ordinary back then. But as David O’Connell, writing in this issue, shows us, Margaret Mitchell, the author of Gone With the Wind, published 75 years ago and still selling strong, was very Irish indeed. On that same trip around the States in 1972, I stopped in Medicine Bow, Wyoming, the town where The Virginian was set. (In addition to American movies, TV shows such as Wagon Train, Have Gun Will Travel, and The Virginian, were our viewing staple). Back then, I didn’t think of cowboys, sheriffs, cattle rustlers and outlaws as being Irish, but of course, many of the most colorful characters in the Wild West were Irish, including Billy the Kid. A photograph of Billy sold for $2.3 million recently, and at about the same time, Whitey Bulger, another Irish outlaw, was arrested. In this issue, Tom Deignan takes a close look at these two Irish outlaws and the movies that have been made about them. If America has its outlaws, it also has its super heroes, and in this issue, Tara Dougherty interviews “Spider-Man” Reeve Carney. Reeve’s great-uncle was Art Carney of Honeymooners

Mortas Cine Pride In Our Heritage

fame. (Jackie Gleason may have had star billing but to my mind, Carney carried the show). The Honeymooners was one of my favorite shows when I first moved here. I still watch the reruns. So, I’m delighted to have the talented Reeve, who is well up on his Irish roots, featured in this issue. I don’t know if Brendan Gleeson is any relation to Jackie Gleason, but I’m sure you will enjoy Sheila Langan’s cover story on this fine actor who has played some very bad guys – though he always infuses them with a bit of humanity. He has a wonderful new film The Guard coming out so watch for it in cinemas soon. Of course, movies are not real life and the Civil War is certainly a lot more complex than what I gleaned from Gone With the Wind, but my real surprise on coming to America, was finding out how Irish it is. For such a small country we sure have had an impact. The recent visit by President Obama to Ireland served as an opportunity to look at other visits by U.S. presidents who had Irish ancestors, including an 1872 trip by Ulysses S. Grant, and we are delighted to bring you that story too. Isn’t it something that the home of Obama’s ancestors is still lived in by family members? And indeed, Grant’s family homestead is also still standing. (I always had a thing for Grant, I think it’s because he looks like one of the heroes of those American westerns.) With presidential visits and capturing outlaws, the Irish have been in the news of late – not least of all because of Rory McIlroy’s U.S. Open win. But there’s another golfing hero that we remember in this issue, 19-year-old John McDermott, who won the U.S. Open in 1911. He was the first American to do so, and he just happened to be Irish American. So, lots of good reading in this issue. And don’t forget to check out our Photo Album page. The short profiles readers submit about the lives of their ancestors are the real story of how the Irish made it in America. In the last issue, Thomas Delaney, who fought in the Civil War, had his story told by his great-grandson Gerry Howard. Thomas Delaney, another great-grandson, read the story and contacted the magazine, and we were able to connect these two long lost cousins. Now, that’s the stuff of movies. Mortas Cine

Founding Publisher: Niall O’Dowd Co-Founder/Editor-in-Chief: Patricia Harty Vice President of Marketing: Kate Overbeck Art Director: Marian Fairweather Assistant 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 Writers: Laura Corrigan Dawn Darby Kristin Romano

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: 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 7252993. Fax: 212-244-3344 E-mail: Subscription rate is $21.95 for one year. Subscription orders: 1-800-582-6642. Subscription queries: 1-800-5826642, (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 080995277. IRISH AMERICA IS PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.



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{contributors} TOM DEIGNAN For over a decade, Tom Deignan has written the weekly “Sidewalks” column for The Irish Voice newspaper. He also writes columns about movies and history for Irish America and is a regular book reviewer for the Newark Star-Ledger. He is the author of Irish American: Coming to America and, in this issue, writes about Irish American outlaws and presidential trips to Ireland.

WILLIAM KELLY William Kelly is a freelance journalist from Browns Mills, NJ and author of the books 300 Years at the Point - A history of Somers Point, NJ and Birth of the Birdie - the first 100 years of golf at the Atlantic City Country Club. He can be reached at

SHARON NÍ CHONCHÚIR A frequent feature writer for Irish America, Sharon is a freelance writer who lives and works in West Kerry, Ireland. Much of her writing is concerned with the changing face of modern Irish culture. In this issue she explores a new initiative to bring the Irish Diaspora back home.

CHRISTINE KINEALY Professor of Irish History at Drew University, Christine Kinealy is the author of a number of books on the Great Hunger, including This Great Calamity: The Great Irish Famine and The Hidden Famine: Hunger, Poverty and Sectarianism in Belfast. Her latest book, The Saddest People the Sun Sees: Daniel O’Connell and Anti-Slavery, was recently published by Pickering and Chatto.

DAVID O’CONNELL David O’Connell, who writes about Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind in this issue, is an Emeritus Professor of French at Georgia State University in Atlanta. He received his Ph. D. in French at Princeton in 1966, and taught for more than forty years, holding tenured positions at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the University of IllinoisChicago and Georgia State. In 1993 the French government inducted him into the Ordre des Palmes Académiques. From 1966 to 1968, he served as an officer in the U. S. Army, including twelve months in Vietnam. His decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, and the National Defense Medal. He was discharged in 1968 with the rank of captain.

TARA DOUGHERTY Tara Dougherty has been on the Irish America team for several years. She received her B.A. from New York University in December. A musician, writer and secondgeneration Irish American, Tara traces her roots to County Roscommon.

SHEILA LANGAN Irish America’s Assistant Editor, Sheila Langan is a graduate of Bard College with an Irish passport and a love of Irish literature. In this issue she interviews actor Brendan Gleeson.




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{ hibernia }



MV Saoirse

APPROACHING JUSTICE FOR THE MAGDALENE WOMEN n early June, the United Nations Committee Against Torture issued a report expressing grave concern over “the failure of the [Irish] State party to protect girls and women who were involuntarily confined between 1922 and 1996 in the Magdalene laundries, by failing to regulate their operations and inspect them,” and over the State’s further failure to investigate the long-standing allegations of torture and human rights abuses. Throughout the 1900s, there were ten such Magdalene Laundries in operation in Ireland. Attached to the convents of four different religious orders, they were ostensibly homes for unwanted girls and unwed mothers.There, the women were often abused, made to do hard labor, and forcibly separated from their babies – most of whom were then adopted, sometimes by families abroad.The majority of the laundries closed in the 1960s, but the last one, which was run by the Convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity on Sean Mac Dermott Street in Dublin, didn’t shut its doors until 1996. The U.N. Committee’s report followed an appeal by the Irish advocacy group Justice for Magdalenes, which approached the committee after making little progress with the Irish government. In addition, the U.N. report recommended that Ireland promptly and thoroughly investigate the allegations, prosecute those involved and make sure that the women of the Magdalene Laundries receive compensation. The government has now made a step in that direction: an inter-departmental committee, headed by Senator Martin McAleese (President Mary McAleese’s husband), will meet with the Magdalene women and the four congregations that ran the laundries – the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Religious Sisters of Charity, the Sisters of Mercy and the Good Shepherd Sisters – to discuss and examine the records maintained by the laundries, to determine the number of former Magdalene women who still live in the convents, and to figure out the best process for redress and reconciliation. This is a good first step on the part of the gorvernment, justice for Magdalene’s acknowledgment. But it does not, they also noted, go as far as the U.N. report recommended or the Magdalene women would like. Rather than a full investigation into the laundries, the Irish Department of Justice stated that the committee’s aim is to “clarify any State interaction with the Magdalene Laundries.” Reluctant to prematurely admit to any culpability, the government has not issued an apology, which, as Justice for Magdalenes reiterated, is their biggest priority and the main concern of the former residents of the laundries. Dr. McAleese will present the committee’s first report to the Cabinet in three months. – SL.


Irish Vessel Forced to Pull Out of Gaza Flotilla he MV Saoirse, an Irish ship containing medical aid and sports equipment, will be unable to sail as part of the “Freedom Flotilla II” to break the Gaza blockade after it was damaged while docked in Turkey. It is believed that the damage to the ship’s propeller shaft was intentional, as it is nearly identical to the damage found on a Swedish boat also due to sail to Gaza. Irish Minister of Foreign Affairs and also current Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore expressed his concerns and the necessity for investigations by Turkish authorities into the cause of the damage. In 2007, Israel created a blockade on a flotilla trying to reach Gaza, and last year an Israeli raid killed 9 Turkish pro-Palestinian activists in a similar flotilla. The majority of the more than 20-person Irish crew is returning to Ireland. Six have been invited to join an Italian ship, and others are looking to make similar arrangements. Nearly 130,000 euros were raised in Ireland for this humanitarian mission and repairs will cost around 15,000 euro. – LC


NEW CITIZENS AT DUBLIN CASTLE people from 24 countries gathered at Dublin Castle to become Irish citizens on June 24. The ceremony, which made them naturalized citizens of Ireland, was the first of its kind – a more formal and, many said, meaningful affair than the traditional courtroom one. Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter welcomed them as new family of Ireland and acknowledged the lengthy delay in the citizenship process, which currently takes more than six months due to a backlog of applications. Following the immensely positive response to the ceremony from Ireland’s newest citizens and their families, the government stated that it will use the more formal ceremony at Dublin Castle as an official culmination to the citizenship process. Hereafter new Irish citizens will swear an oath of allegiance, a mirror to the American system. – LC





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{news from ireland} CENSUS RESULTS


IRISH ATHLETES SHINE AT SPECIAL OLYMPICS he 2011 Special Olympics took place in Athens, Greece, the birthplace of the Olympic Games, from the opening ceremony on June 25th until the closing ceremony on July 4th. Throughout, Team Ireland shined. The 126 Irish athletes earned a total of 117 medals – 31 gold, 44 silver and 32 bronze. They competed and excelled in 12 sports, including aquatics, table tennis, gymnastics, golf, equestrian and basketball. They were joined by 49 coaches, 400 family members and 200 Irish volunteers, who had raised €3,250 in order to go to the games. When Team Ireland returned to Dublin Airport, they were met by Junior Minister Michael Ring, who called the athletes “the most wonderful ambassadors for your country.” – SL


he initial results of the 2011 Irish Census revealed a population increase of 341,421 from the last count, presently at 4,581,269. Ireland’s population has grown 8.1% since the census of 2006, when it hit above the 4 million mark for the first time since 1871. Ireland’s growth recently slowed due to the recession, as the trend of migration into Ireland turned to one of migration out of the country.The population continues to grow, however, due to the high birth rate. In 2009, Ireland held the highest estimated birth rate in the entire European Union. This census’ revealing numbers show Laois to have the fastest growing population, Cork exceeding 500,000 people – for the first time since the Great Hunger – and a current higher proportion of females to males. – LC

Washington Woman Nominated to Seanad Éireann r. Katherine Zappone, a native of Spokane, Washington who grew up in Seattle, has joined Ireland’s Seanad Éireann as an Independent Senator. Zappone was recommended for the Senate by Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) Eamon Gilmore, and confirmed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny on May 20th. She holds a master’s degree from The Catholic University of America, an MBA from University College Dublin’s Smurfit School of Business, and a Ph.D. from Boston College. Dr. Zappone is also a member of the Irish Human Rights Commission and a stong activist for marriage equality. She and her partner, Ann Louise Gilligan, are in the process of appealing to the Irish Supreme court to have their 2003 marriage in Vancouver, BC recognized by the Irish Government. They live in Dublin, and Dr. Zappone is the first openly lesbian member of the Senate. Dr. Zappone is one of 11 new senators nominated by Taoiseach Kenny, including Dr. Martin McAleese (husband of President Mary McAleese) and Fiach McGongaill, director of the Abbey Theatre. – SL


There’s Waldo! aldo, the elusive, black-glasses-and-stripedsweater-wearing creation of British illustrator Martin Hanford, is usually hard to find in the busy scenes of the Where’s Waldo? books. But on June 19th, in Dublin’s Merrion Square, he was pretty easy to spot. More than 3,500 people dressed as Waldo gathered to break the world record for most Waldos in one place. They succeeded: the previous record for most people dressed as Waldo was 1,502, held by New Jersey’s Rutgers University at the State Theater in New Brunswick, NJ on April 2, 2009. The record-breaking Dublin gathering was organized by the group Street Performance World Championships. – SL





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Bring Them All Back ‘Ireland Reaching Out’ is a pilot project that aims to reconnect all 70 million Irish people worldwide with their ancestral homeland. By Sharon Ní Chonchúir


he Ireland Reaching Out project is the brainchild of Mike Feerick, a Galway businessman who has his own personal experience of emigration. Feerick, who now lives near Loughrea, was born in New York and lived for many years in America. “I know what it’s like for people,” he says. “Their relationship with Ireland can be an unrequited one. They place a huge value on this country and their connections to it but often, when they visit, we Irish don’t reach out to them. We don’t appreciate how important our connections are.” Mike’s project meets this problem head on, and in so doing, may completely revolutionize Ireland’s relationship with its worldwide diaspora. “Our diaspora has been compared to a pot without a handle because we haven’t known what to do with it,” says Mike. “I want to connect people in a way that will enrich all of our lives.” He is starting with his own part of Ireland – South-East Galway. With 44,000 people (approximately 1% of the total population of Ireland), this region has experienced long-term emigration and was particularly affected by the Great Famine. “Take the parish of Clontuskert,” cites Mike. “Before the famine, there were 4,000 people and now there are fewer than 1,000. There are thousands of their descendants all over the world. Taking Galway as a whole, there are millions out there connected to the county. Instead of waiting for them to find us, we are finding them and inviting them back.” Last year, Mike approached David McWilliams, a well-known economist who has been soliciting new ideas for rebuilding Ireland, with his plan. David instantly saw its potential. “It’s about re-imagining Ireland,” says David. “We’re putting together a jigsaw and coming to a new understanding. We’re not just a small island off the coast of Europe, we’re the mother ship of a global tribe.”


With David’s help, Mike got the backing of the Irish government, and last November he started the process of inviting members of that global tribe home. He and his team recruited volunteers from all of the parishes in the area. These volunteers then interviewed people in their local communities, asking them for details about people who had emigrated in living memory.

Davis and Julie Fennell from Boston.” Their ancestors hailed from the Ballinakill parish, so they were thrilled to receive their letter of invitation. “I came to Ireland for the first time with my husband five years ago,” Kathleen said. “We took a bus tour for our 40th anniversary. We saw lots of the country but we didn’t meet many people. I’m expecting it to be very different this time.”

Those people were then con- ABOVE: Mike Her daughter Kristine has welcoming tacted and invited to a “Week of Feerick, Kristine Davis, Julie never visited Ireland before. “I Welcomes,” which took place Fennell and just want to feel closer to from June 26th to July 3rd. The Kathleen O'Brien, Ireland after this,” she says. “I event was also advertised in from Boston. want to meet family that I RIGHT: Week of brochures, through the Irish pub Welcomes organiz- never knew existed.” network and online. Kathleen’s other daughter ers: economist “A huge amount of people David McWilliams, Julie is a history buff and has were involved,” says Mike. administrator previously visited Ireland in Delores O'Shea, “More than 500 volunteers Mike Feerick and search of her roots. “I found from all of the parishes local historian John lots of cousins and this time, I researched the history, sent let- Joe Conwell hope to find even more,” she ters and reached out to people.” says. “I’m also really looking Thirty people came to South-East forward to seeing my mother meet her Galway for the very first “Week of family. This really is the trip of a lifetime Welcomes.” From America, Australia, for her.” New Zealand, Argentina and Britain, It isn’t just visitors who are arriving at they converged on Cloghan Castle, a the castle. There are lots of local people restored Norman watchtower in the too. Sister de Lourdes Fahy, who has townland of Kilchreest. been involved with the project from the “The first people I met were Kathleen beginning, is a history and genealogy O’Brien and her daughters Kristine enthusiast who runs a museum near Gort.



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Home Her task for the week is to help those people who have family connections with the parish of Gort. “I was the one who invited them to come here and I’ll be showing them around during the week,” she explains. “I’ll be introducing them to their relatives, bringing them to graveyards and to the land their ancestors once lived on.” It’s this personal touch that Mike Feerick emphasizes above all else. “Genealogy can be a lonely business,” he says. “What’s missing is the contact with

people. We asked all of our visitors to tell us what they knew about their family connections before they arrived, and our team of volunteers has been working on finding out more. As a result, we’ll be able to put them in direct contact with living relatives. We’ll be able to bring them out to the parishes and show them the houses and fields they came from. They won’t be alone.” Ed and Margaret O’Connor from Minnesota are already impressed by this approach. They visited Ireland once before and explored Ed’s Irish roots. This time, they are focusing on Margaret’s side of the family – the Egans of Gort. “I’m related to the O’Connors, Houlihans, Barretts and O’Donoghues in West Kerry and when I went to the place where my great grandfather was baptized, I felt a sense of homecoming,”

Cloghan Castle, where the welcome reception was held.

says Ed. “I’d like Margaret to feel that about this part of Ireland.” Although she has just arrived at the castle, Margaret has already been introduced to a local man who now owns the land her family once farmed. “It means so much to be welcomed by a community,” she says. “It would be so different and so much more difficult if we were just walking around on our own.” Ed, Margaret and the rest of the visitors have a packed schedule ahead of them for the rest of the week. There are history lectures telling of what Ireland once was. There are genealogy sessions. There are trips to the various parishes the visitors hail from. There are sightseeing tours and cultural excursions. “We want to tell them all about this part of Ireland, what it once was and what it is today,” says Mike Feerick. “These people are not just anybody. They are our relatives. We are part of them and they are connected to us. Let’s explore the bonds that unite and define us.”

Although the week has only just begun, it’s clear it’s already a success. Mike already has more than 200 people signed up for next year’s “Week of Welcomes,” and plans are afoot to roll the project out on a nationwide basis, with the support of Fáilte Ireland, the country’s tourism body. But Mike has plans to develop it even further. It’s not just going to be a week of events. There will be permanent teams in parishes all over the country that will be available to help people who want to learn more about their heritage. “People will be there to welcome you when you arrive,” says Mike. “It’s all about building lifelong connections.” He hopes these connections will play a central part in Ireland’s future. “I’d like to see a day when all state boards were obliged to have a member of the diaspora,” he says. “I’d like to see a time when Ireland didn’t just focus on the Irish on our island but on the Irish worldwide. I want to connect people and reunify us all. Parish by parish, townland by townland, IA we’re starting here.” To find out more about the Week of Welcomes and Ireland Reaching Out, visit

Mayo Online


n June 3rd, a new online initiative by the Mayo County Council was launched by Taoiseach Enda Kenny at Ireland’s National Museum of Country Life in Turlough. This new website, aims to connect people in the ‘Global Mayo Family’ and draw together a wide range of social networking, businesses, genealogy, and local history, all focused on Co. Mayo. With this site, the three million people worldwide with origins in Mayo can view current information on all towns and villages in the county and stay updated on local news. Mayo businesses can register their details without charge and will have the opportunity to sell locally or through online shopping – connecting those with ties to Mayo with those who live and work in Mayo. What remains to be seen is whether other counties will follow in Mayo’s footsteps. – LC AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011 IRISH AMERICA 13



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{ irish eye on hollywood} By Tom Deignan

An all-star cast of Irish and international talent gathered in Dublin to shoot a gender-bending film written by one of Ireland’s most acclaimed authors. Glenn Close stars alongside Irish thespians Brenda Fricker, Brendan Gleeson, Mary Doyle Kennedy and Jonathan RhysMeyers in the film The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs. Close, who wrote the movie along with Booker Prize winning author John Banville (The Sea), plays the title character, a woman driven to transform herself into a man to get a job as a servant in the 1890’s. Suffice it to say, complications ensue, as Albert attempts to keep his true identity hidden, and as romantic feelings begin to bloom among key characters. Close has been trying to bring this story (based on a book by Irish writer George Moore) to the big screen for well over a decade. She performed the title role on stage in the early 1980s, and has been attempting to make a movie of the story ever since. She is even serving as producer of the Albert Nobbs film. Janet McTeer (Into the Storm) and Mia Wasikowska (who starred with Michael Fassbender in Jane Eyre) also appear in Albert Nobbs, which wrapped up shooting in Dublin this past winter. The film was directed by Rodrigo Garcia (Nine Lives) and is expected to hit U.S. theaters in late 2011 or early 2012.

LEFT: Glenn Close as Albert Nobbs. ABOVE: Colm Meaney and Milka Ahlroth in Parked, which won four IFTAs.

Also showing at the Galway Fleadh was Parked, directed by Darragh Byrne and written by Ciaran Creagh. Parked, which stars the always-busy Colm Meaney, was nominated for four Irish Film and Television Awards (IFTA) earlier this year and was also shown at Cannes. In the film, Meaney plays Fred Daly, a man so down on his luck he has ended up living in his car. But inspiration suddenly comes to him in the form of a pot-smoking fellow named Cathal (Colin Morgan). Parked also stars Irish actor Stuart Graham, who appeared in the acclaimed Northern Ireland film Omagh.

Colin Farrell will be having a busy summer. First up, we saw an all but unrecognizable Farrell (complete with cheesy mustache and balding comb-over hair-do) in the workplace comedy Horrible Bosses, which also starred Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman and Jamie Foxx, among others. (Little known fact: Horrible Bosses was co-written by Irish American John Francis Daley, the Illinois native and actor best known for his role in Martin Sheen as a local preist who the cult TV show Freaks and Geeks as

The 23rd annual Galway Film Fleadh opened in early July and featured the latest movie from Irish director Thaddeus O’Sullivan. Entitled Stella Days, the latest film from O’Sullivan (Ordinary Decent Criminal, Into the Storm) stars Martin Sheen as well as Stephen Rea. The film is based on the book Stella Days: 1957 – 1967, The Life loves cinema in the movie Stella Days. and Times of Rural Irish Cinema by Michael Doorley. Both the book and film explore the small Tipperary town of Borrisokane, where the local cinema provides respite from small town life and economic depression. Tensions arise when a local priest (Sheen) who loves the cinema begins to knock heads with a powerful bishop, who is more concerned with raising funds, as well as the locals who have begun to ask tough questions about their faith. Though his birth name is Ramón Antonio Gerard Estévez, Sheen’s Irish roots run deep, and this film is a homecoming of sorts for the veteran actor, whose love for Irish culture is well known. Sheen’s mom, Mary, was an Irish immigrant who hailed from Borrisokane, Co. Tipperary. well as recent appearances on the show Bones.) In August, As part of the festivities surrounding the Galway fest, Farrell steps into a starring role in the remake of the campy Sheen was also featured at the Fleadh’s annual Public 80s film Fright Night. Farrell, above, plays a mysterious next Interview. 14 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011



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door neighbor who just might be responsible for a string of murders because he just might be a vampire. The original featured Chris Sarandon as well as Roddy McDowell, and was not exactly screaming to be re-made. Let’s hope Farrell, as well as director Craig Gillespie, come up with enough twists to make this more interesting. While we’re on the subject of summer movies, don’t forget that a number of Irish stars, from Fiona Shaw and Ciaran Hinds to Evanna Lynch and Domhnal Gleeson, will appear in the July 15 flick Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 2. Meanwhile, Olivia Wilde (who was raised in Ireland) will appear in the big budget July flick Cowboys and Aliens alongside Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig, and in the August comedy The Change Up, starring Jason Bateman. Also in July, look for Pierce Brosnan and the aforementioned Ciaran Hinds in the thriller Salvation Boulevard. Also starring Greg Kinnear, Ed Harris, Marisa Tomei, Jim Gaffigan and Mary Callaghan Lynch, the film explores the world of evangelism in the U.S.A charismatic preacher convinces the residents of a small town to follow him – and

Pierce Brosnan an evangelical preacher in Salvation Boulevard.

invest in what seems to be a lucrative real estate development. But when one follower sees the preacher in a compromising position, a battle erupts as the preacher’s dedicated followers aim to silence the doubter. The former James Bond also has another film lined up for September entitled I Don’t Know How She Does It. Also starring Kelsey Grammer, Olivia Munn and famously curvy Mad Men star Christina Hendricks, I Don’t Know How She Does It features Sarah Jessica Parker as a working mom struggling to balance her responsibilities and her personal life. Kenneth Branagh had a big hit behind the camera with the May popcorn flick Thor. Now the Belfast thespian has announced that his next movie project will be My Week with Marilyn. Branagh will star alongside Michelle Williams as well as Dominic Cooper in this British drama directed by Simon Curtis and written by Adrian Hodges. Based on a book

Michelle Williams stars as Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn.

by Colin Clark, My Week with Marilyn explores the making of the 1950s film The Prince and the Showgirl, which starred Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe. Michelle Williams stars as Marilyn Monroe, in a role that is surely going to turn heads, if only because Williams is transformed into Monroe, at least to judge from early photos from the set. Fittingly, Branagh stars in the film as another famous thespian – Sir Laurence Olivier My Week with Marilyn looks closely at one week Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) spent with Monroe while her husband, famous playwright Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott), was out of the country. Gabriel Byrne has spent recent months touring the U.S. as well as Ireland, serving as his native country’s cultural ambassador. He has been talking up some of his favorite authors, programming screenings of Irish movies and participating in roundtables about the future of the arts in Ireland. But, in the end, Byrne is best known as an actor and it’s apparently time for the Usual Suspects star to get back to work. Byrne is slated to star in a movie called Capital, to be directed by Costa Gavras. Byrne will star alongside Mathieu Kassovitz, who will play a manager at a prominent European bank, which is the target of a hostile takeover by American investors. Byrne is slated to play a representative of the bank’s shareholders. Capital is slated to shoot all over the map in late September. Sites include Paris, London, Miami and New York. Gavras, the Greek filmmaker famed for directing international art house fare such as Z and Missing, has said the idea for a film on high finance came to him after he read a book called Total Capitalism, written by former Credit Lyonnais president Jean Peyrelevade. The book implies that the world is run by a small group of powerful shareholders. As for Gabriel Byrne, he may eventually read this charged tome. However, he recently told the New York Post his current reading list includes The Commitments by Roddy Doyle, Brooklyn by Colm Toibin, and the 2011 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award prize winner Let the Great World Spin by IA Colum McCann. AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011 IRISH AMERICA 15



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{hibernia} Magdalene Survivors Release Single


Once Upon a Stage W

ritten by Irish playwright Enda Walsh, the very anticipated stage adaptation of the acclaimed film Once will debut at the New York Theater Workshop this November. Filmed using hand-held cameras and a humble budget, Once tells the story of two struggling musicians from completely different walks of life who find love on the streets of Dublin. In the film, Glen Hansard of the Irish rock band The Frames played Guy, a young struggling busker who makes a minor living fixing vaccum cleaners. His co-star, Marketa Irglova, played Girl, a Czech immigrant who spends her days taking care of her mother and daughter. Hansard and Irglova won an Oscar in 2007 for their song “Falling Slowly.” They shot to fame quickly and fell in love behind the scenes in the process. The duo, who have since split but remain creative partners, then toured worldwide with their band and became the subjects of a new documentary, The Swell Season, which eloquently captures the bittersweet strain of this unassuming couple’s love under the pressure of their newfound celebrity. Hansard and Irglova have written the music for the upcoming off -Broadway production of Once, but will not be reviving the roles of Guy and Girl. Casting has yet to be announced. The theatre debut of Once is to be directed by John Tiffany with the help of producers John N. Hart, Patrick Milling Smith, Brian Carmody, Fred Zollo, Barbara Brocolli, and Micheal G. Wilson. With this amount of talent involved, many critics already expect this musical will eventually find its way to the Broadway stage. – DD

agdalene Survivors Together, a charity and advocacy group that seeks justice for the former workers and inhabitants of the Magdalene laundries in Ireland, has released a song to raise funds.The participatingMagdalene women chose Julie Gold's inspiring hit “From a Distance.” John Reynolds and Tim Oliver donated their services to produce it, and many artists signed on to support the cause with their voices, including Sinead O'Connor, Daniel O'Donnell, Moya Brennan and Tommy Flemming, all singing the song in harmony.The touching song can be downloaded on iTunes,Amazon and other sites. Proceeds will go towards the Magdalene Survivors' goal of building a national monument to commemorate all the Magdalene women who, from the 1800s until the last laundry closed in 1996, were either forced into the convents by family members or entered the laundries because they had nowhere else to go. A music video of the single can be viewed on YouTube and shows moving footage of the participating artists and the Magdalene Survivors working together to produce the song. – SL.

McGinty’s Glee Project


ighteen year-old Damian McGinty, the precociously talented youngest member of Celtic Thunder, is trying his voice in a new arena. He is currently appearing as one of the contestants on the Oxygen Network’s new competition series The Glee Project. McGinty is one of twelve finalists, chosen out of 400,000 hopefuls, who will compete for a seven-episode guest role in the third season of Glee, Fox’s hit musical “dramedy” about a high school show choir in Lima, Ohio. Considering that McGinty began performing and touring with Celtic Thunder when he was only 14, he seems very up for the challenge. Watch Damian and the other talented contestants Sunday nights at 9/8c. – SL AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011 IRISH AMERICA 17



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A Team Youghal member on the winding highways of the Southwest.


Shevlin’s Irish Summer fter eighteen years of working for the city sanitation department, Edward Shevlin, 50, has been awarded a summer scholarship from the Irish Fulbright commission to continue his study of the Irish language. Shevlin is one of twenty candidates awarded up to $7,000 covering travel, tuition and living costs by the Ireland-US Commission for Educational Exchange. With Shevlinís mother originating from Co. Cork and his experience growing up among the strong Irish community of Rockaway in Queens, NY, Shevlin has been surrounded by Irish culture his entire life. Several years ago, Shevlin was greatly inspired by a speech delivered by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, in which Adams alternated between Gaelic and English. In 2009, Shelvin traveled to Galway and attended the National University of Ireland’s Irish language summer school program. Since then, Shevlin has continued Irish language courses at Lehman College in the Bronx. With this scholarship, Shevlin will return to NUI Galway for a four-week concentration this summer. He will study six hours a day, six days a week and fully immerse himself in the language with his host family, the Seoighes, who only speak Irish. Shevlin aspires to eventually attain a masterís degree from Glucksman Ireland House at New York University. – LC


Team Youghal Crosses America


bout 200,000 cases of ovarian cancer occur worldwide each year with over 350 new cases in Ireland. Emer Casey, an Irish woman from Youghal, Co. Cork, lost her battle with ovarian cancer four days after her 28th birthday in 2006. A group of amateur cyclists from her hometown recently competed in the Race Across America, the longest endurance-based cycling event in the world, in order to raise money for The Emer Casey Foundation.

Team Youghal gathered at the starting line of the Race Across America.

The race began on June 18th in Oceanside, California and specified a limit of 9 days to cross the United States. Having successfully completed the Race Around Ireland two years in a row, Team Youghal was ready for a new challenge. It took them 7 days and 14 hours to reach Annapolis, Maryland. One of the members of Team Youghal, Ger Flanagan, told Irish America “The race was the toughest event that we ever entered and we were truly amazed at the beautiful scenery that the United States had to offer. It was a true test of endurance and we would love the opportunity to try and improve on our finishing time sometime in the coming years…” Their endurance, speed and dedication to their cause make Team Youghal a real inspiration. Learn more at at – D.D. and S.L. 18 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011



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The Kid Stays in the Picture


o much has been said about 22-year-old Rory McIlroy’s win at the U.S. Open on June 20, we’ll leave it to Rick Reilly to have the last word. After McIlroy’s terrible loss in the Master’s at Augusta National in April, Reilly, a sports columnist and commentator, predicted McIlroy was not ready for golf’s big leagues. However, he changed his tune after McIlroy’s spectacular U.S. Open victory in June. On a recent broadcast on ESPN Sports Center, Reilly admitted that not only was he wrong, he was ready to give McIlroy “the keys to the game.” He went on to compare Mcllroy to other golfing greats saying: “He’s little like Hogan, but long like Nicholas. He’s likable like Arnie, with Eagle Scout manners like Nelson . . . his swing is simple like Sneed.... He hits drives like Norman and irons like Watson. He plays like he’s double-parked like Trevino. He’s humble like – we haven’t seen in a long time… He’s from a small town like Seve [Ballesteros] and he’s an only child like Faldo. He’s of plain people – his dad’s a bartender, his mom’s a factory work-

er. He’s got no entourage, no psychologist, and no traveling masseuse. His coach is the same one he’s had since he was four. He has an unplayable lie for a haircut, and a baby face and a bound in his step that you could put in an Irish musical….” Reilly went on to talk about McIlroy’s humility and his recent trip to Haiti with UNICEF and ended his soliloquy proclaiming McIlroy to be the golf’s new superstar: “Golf needs a hero, golf needs the next dynasty, golf needs a super star you can feel good about, so I’m like, ‘Rory, Rory, hallelujah, bring the kid on.’” – DD

O’Driscoll Charms at Irish Network Event


ties facilitated through social, sporting and business events. In choosing the NYAC as a venue, INNYC chose a place with a unique history and a strong IrishAmerican connection. Founded in 1868 by three Civil War veterans, the Club has accumulated in excess of 230 Olympic medals. Its roster of athletes includes such Irish-Americans greats as John Flanagan who won the Gold for the Hammer Throw and the Silver for the 56lb Weight Throw at the 1904 Olympics held in St. Louis. The current president of the Club is Irish-born Colin Neill.

Driscoll, 32, who was born on Dublin’s Northside, is the highest try scorer of all time in Irish rugby. In the 2011 season he won his second Heineken Cup with Leinster. In the final held in Cardiff on May 21, Leinster staged a spectacular come-back to defeat Northampton 33-32. In a nod to his native city, Driscoll, who is married to actress Amy Huberman, presented his Ireland jersey to Ronan Downes of the Dubliner Pub on Stone Street, in Manhattan. – PH


he Irish Network New York (INNYC) hosted an evening with legendary Irish rugby team captain Brian O’Driscoll at the New York Athletic Club (NYAC) on Wednesday, June 22. Over 250 people attended the event, which was sponsored by Dillon Eustace, one of Ireland’s leading law firms with offices in New York, Boston, Tokyo and Dublin. The Irish Network, which has chapters throughout the U.S., is a community of young professionals – Irish, American, American-Irish and Irish-American – that offers networking and contact opportuni-

O’Driscoll presents Ronan Downes with his Ireland Jersey.

Brian O’Driscoll with future rugby star Kealan Higgins. AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011 IRISH AMERICA 19



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The JIG Is Up! A look at the new documentary billed as “Spellbound meets Mad Hot Ballroom, with a touch of Riverdance.”


s an Irish American who had a somebody exploring and trying to undervery culturally rich childhood, I stand this intense, singular world. Bourne may be something of an anomaly has made a film that respects its subjects in that I never once tried Irish step dancmore than it seeks to expose them. Some ing. I never raised a foot to a jig or a reel, may take issue with the fairly objective never donned a massive curly wig, never angle Jig takes in place of a more critical learned how to jump two feet in the air one, but it makes sense considering the while keeping my arms perfectly still. hoops Bourne had to go through in order With the release of Scottish filmmaker to make the documentary at all. When we Sue Bourne’s new documentary, Jig, howspoke during a press day for Jig, she ever, I now have a vivid idea of what is explained that “An Comisiun [the World’s might have been like. Or, at least, what it sponsor] had never let anyone in might have been like to be one of the before…To be honest I think they are a bit 3,000 young competitive dancers dedicatwary of outsiders coming in, criticizing ed and skilled enough to make them about the wigs, the it to the World Irish Dance makeup, the tan, so it’s easier Championships. for them to just keep the outJig revolves around the side world out.” 2010 World Championships – Luckily for Bourne, though, “World’s,” as they are popuher request to make the film larly known – in Glasgow, coincided with the 40th Scotland. Bourne narrows in anniversary of the World on the stories of nine dancers, Championships and a change ranging in age from 10 to 19, in attitude spurred on by the and coming from some Director Sue Bourne success of Riverdance and expected places like Ireland Lord of the Dance. and the U.S., but others as farBourne had to present her flung as Russia and the Netherlands by proposal before eighty committee memway of Sri Lanka. bers of An Comisiun, and was eventually There’s young John Whitehurst from given the go-ahead to make Jig. With all Birmingham, U.K., portrayed as the Billy the secrecy and hesitation, one can’t help Elliot among his sports-loving brothers. but wonder whether the committee ever Also among the ten-year-olds dancing at tried to steer her from or towards certain World’s for the very first time are Brogan aspects of World’s. McCay from Derry, Northern Ireland and “Not at all,” Bourne said adamantly. Julia O’Rourke from Long Island, New After initial negotiations over editorial York. They are each other’s biggest comcontrol, they were “fantastic, they didn’t petition, but the way they act will teach interfere in any way, shape or form.” any viewer a thing or two about maturity Dancer Joe and grace. Glimpses of their future can be Bitter with his seen in the story of Claire Greaney from coach, 8-time Galway, Londoner Simona Mauriello, and world champ Glasgow native Suzanne Coyle, three girls John Carey. from the 19-20 age group, who have been competing against each other for years. Then, of course, there are the parents – some supportive, some bemused, some even more fiercely competitive than their children. Bourne readily admits that she went into this “not knowing anything about Irish dance.” Consequently, Jig isn’t presented from the point of view of a seasoned insider, but from the perspective of


Julia O’Rourke

For the dancers, Jig finally brings some wider attention to what they do. Joe Bitter, a California native whose father gave up a doctor’s practice and moved to the U.K. just so that Joe could study with one of the best Irish dance instructors, is now something of a celebrity within the close-knit community – known for his remarkable footwork and his tendency to win. Still, it was nice, he says, to be able to give people outside the world of Irish dance a taste of what it’s all about. “You spend so much of your time just practicing all day every day, every week, non stop, so it’s nice to show finally what you can do. You have to have the right mix of everything, like talent, work ethic, dedication, to be able to do this, and it’s all worth it in the end – that’s proved with Jig.” Julia O’Rourke remarked that she now feels like her friends and classmates will start to look at Irish dance the way she does – as a sport. “Irish dancing is definitely not one of the most popular sports in the world and Jig gives a chance for other people to see how Irish dancing is just like any other sport and how much work and dedication is put into it,” she told me, feet tapping quietly the entire time. – Sheila Langan Visit to pre-order a DVD or request a Jig screening in your town.



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The Boys Under 13 Competitors take the stage to receive their participatory awards after the first round.

Dance Nationals O

n the July 4th weekend, the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center in Nashville, just a stone’s throw from the Grand Ole Opry, was descended upon by a mad rush of curly wigs, spray tans, accordions and fiddles. The North American Dance Competition ran for 4 days and over 3,000 dancers came, not just from North America, but from all over the world. Dancers traveled from Ireland, Scotland, the UK, the Netherlands and from every corner of the United States and Canada to compete. The competitors ranged in age from eight years old to over forty. On the second day of the competition, the producers of a documentary about Irish dance, Jig!, organized an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for longest Irish dance line. It was an overwhelming success; 691 dancers lined up, circled the massive room with held hands and danced a transitional jig for five minutes. After an eruption of applause, many dancers rushed back to the competition stages. The solo competitions consist of three rounds. The first two rounds are light shoe and heavy shoe. The hard shoe competitions are run with three dancers on stage at a time, and in addition to being judged on timing, crossed feet and posture, the heavy rounds place major emphasis not in the volume of the dancer’s beats and their speed. The light round is all about extension and movement. Following the first two rounds, the top scoring dancers are called back for the third round, the set dance. The sets, performed in heavy shoes, are danced to a selection of traditional music and are the showcase performance for each dancer. In many ways, Irish dance has become a team sport. Friends ran from ballroom to ballroom to see their schoolmates dance, screaming at the end of each round for their friends. Most conversations were based on who danced with whom. “I had to dance with Simona,” Morgan Murray, a dancer from New York in the senior ladies over 21 competition told Irish America. “I saw a girl who looked like her and counted down the line and realized it wasn’t Simona. I was like ‘Oh great, I don’t have to dance with her’ and I turn around to see who I’m dancing with. There’s Simona saying ‘So which way do you go?’” Simona Mauriello Maguire-O’Shea’s reputation precedes her. The London dancer placed fourth at the World Irish Dance Championships in 2010. The community in Irish dance is unlike any other sport. The dancers from across the world know their competition from years of dancing with them. They all chat before

ABOVE: The Inishfree school’s Mixed Ceili team strikes a pose before their competition LEFT: Paige Turilli and Mary Kate DiChiara. BELOW: Two Junior Ceili teams from the Cashel Dennehy school celebrate their tie for first place

competition, mapping out their steps for each other, hoping to avoid any collisions. The dancers always frantically check their numbers, hoping they will not be paired with former champions. “You don’t want to dance with someone really good because you want the judges to watch you. If you dance with someone who got first or second last year then the judge pays attention to them,” a girls-under-15 competitor from Georgia told me. But it’s not all competitive. One of the most exciting results to see announced was in the Junior Ceili competition. Backstage the teams huddled in circles, waiting to hear their number called. As each place was announced the cheers backstage grew louder and louder until it was down to just two teams for the top spot. “There is no second place,” the adjudicator announced, “we have a tie for first.” With that, it was impossible to hear anything as the two winning teams, both from the Cashel Dennehy school in Wisconsin, embraced and ran out on stage to receive their medals. Other highlights included the boys under 17 competition, where the undefeated Joe Bitter, an English dancer, took the top spot and brought home a new trophy donated by Michael Flatley, to be IA kept by the boys-under-17 reigning champion for one year. – Tara Dougherty AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011 IRISH AMERICA 21



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Dunbrody Famine Ship Project


n July 8, the Dunbrody Visitor Center in New Ross, Co. Wexford was celebrated as a new home for Ireland’s emigration history. The Dunbrody is a three-masted replica of a sailing ship that brought many emigrants from Ireland to North America during and after the Great Famine. The connected center has been extensively expanded to four times the size of the original. The visitors’ experience begins Quayside with the authentic recreation of the New Ross town of the 1840s. Inside the Dunbrody Famine Ship, various audio and visual displays capture the experience of a passenger setting sail for the New World, America in the 1840s. Upon leaving the ship the visitor arrives in the North America part of the exhibition, which explore the impact Irish emigrants have had on American life and culture. The centerpiece of this part of the visitors center is the Irish America Hall of Fame, which was developed in collaboration with Irish America magazine, and celebrates the lives, works and achievements of noted Irish individuals such as President Bill Clinton and Michael Flatley. The Hall of Fame is an effort to bring home the stories of those who relunctantly left a tattered home and made their own success in a new land. Inductee Michael Flatley spoke at the opening, expressing the emotional significance of the Dunbrody, of the tears shed there as mothers and children separated for what they knew would be forever. Now they are in many ways reunited at the exhibit. Commenting on the opening, Sean Reidy, chief executive of the Dunbrody Famine Ship, said, “Over ten years ago, we built a replica of a 19th century Famine ship. Since then, over 750,000 people

The Flatley family cuts a special Dunbrody Ship cake with Editor Patricia Harty and the Dunbrody Board


have enjoyed our Quayside experience, and we found from our research a need to develop our project further to reinforce the emotional journey that so many people took during that important time in our nation’s history. We are delighted to be unveiling this world class visitor experience. The Irish America Hall of Fame illustrates the passion and drive of the Irish to succeed in difficult circumstances.” Funding provided by the Irish Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism will be used for additional exhibitions and functions, including a recreated New York street-scape, a showcase of Ireland during the Famine, and a genealogy facility.

The Seisiún Network


ubliner Tony Lawless may prove to be the Mark Zuckerberg of the traditional Irish music world. On April 28th, he launched TradConnect, a new website that aims to connect trad players all over the world, from cautious beginners to seasoned professionals. Lawless firmly believes that playing with other musicians is the most effective, not to mention the most enjoyable, way to improve one’s musical skill. Unfortunately, for many this isn’t always an option. Some newer players are put off by pub sessions, Lawless explained via


e-mail, because “They find that the speed is too fast or they do not know the tunes.” Others simply don’t know that there are other trad players nearby. “I spent 10 years in London in 87-97,” Tony said, “and I know the challenges of being abroad and connecting with others. There are many isolated places in the US where there are players who would get out if they knew the other players around them.” That is precisely his goal: to get people out of their houses and into groups where they can play for practice or pleasure. The site currently has 308 members, who join at no cost, and is growing as more and more musicians hear about it. TradConnect features discussion forums where people can talk back-and-forth about various festivals or topics, or find out if there are, for example, any accordion players nearby. Those who want feedback can upload videos of themselves for fellow musicians to watch and listen to. Though still in its early stages, TradConnect already seems to be fostering important connections. Lawless was proud to share that he had put a retired musician in Virginia in touch with some friends in Kildare – they had a video seisiún via Skype. Other members from the U.S. have already made plans to attend his weekly seisiún during a coming trip to Dublin. – SL



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{hibernia} Find Your Rebel Ancestors

O Consul General Noel Kilkenny, Dr. Kevin Cahill, Chris Cahill and Ian Whyte

AIHS Receives 1916 Tricolor


he American Irish Historical Society recently acquired an important piece of history. On June 8th, the New York-based AIHS accepted a special loan of a flag from the Easter Rising of 1916. This tricolor flag embodies the spirit and long history of Ireland’s fight for independence. On the morning of April 24th, 1916, Sean T. O’Kelly was ordered to reclaim two flags from the cupboard of Liberty Hall. One was this tricolor flag, and the other was a solid green, decorated with a traditional harp and “Irish Republic” inscribed in gold. Even as the city burned from the British response to the rebellion, it is recorded that this tricolor flag still flew high. Both flags flew over the GPO as Padraig Pearse read the proclamation of the Irish Republic. James Connolly proclaimed it “the first time in 700 years the flag of free Ireland floats triumphantly in Dublin City.” A lasting symbol of the 1916 rising, this flag was presented to the AIHS by Ian Whyte, of Whyte’s auction house in Dublin, representing the Sweetman family, who granted the AIHS’s request for the long-term loan. – LC

Boston College Facing Federal Subpoena


n our last issue, Katie McFadden wrote about Boston College’s move to house an archive on the Northern Ireland Decommissioning. The Independent International Commission on Decommissioning recognized BC as a safe, unbiased space for the materials, which include interviews and oral histories by former Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries. Then Jim Dwyer of The New York Times broke the news on May 13th that the U.S. government has issued a subpoena to Boston College to hand over two interviews in the Oral History Archive on the Troubles in Northern Ireland. According to Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn, the federal government, at the request of the British government, subpoenaed the interviews of Dolours Price and the late Brendan Hughes, both former members of the Provisional I.R.A. (PIRA). The move is considered an indication that the Northern Ireland government may open an investigation into the “Disappeared,” men and women kidnapped, killed and buried in the 1970s and 80s, mainly by the PIRA.

Following deliberation, Boston College has filed a motion in the United States District Court in Boston to block the subpoena. “As an international leader in Irish programs and a trusted broker by all sides in the Northern Irish peace process, our sole intention with this project has been to help preserve the testimony of the participants and to promote peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland,” said Dunn. The oral history archive began in the late 1990s, as the Troubles reached their end. In exchange for candidness, the interviewers promised that information provided by interviewees would not be disclosed until after their deaths. Hughes passed away in 2008 and his interviews have been turned into a book and documentary, but Price is still alive, as are many of the subjects of interviews from both sides of the conflict. Archivists and researchers are concerned that if the materials are turned over, people will stop talking, keeping valuable information to themselves. This case will be an important one to follow in the coming months. – KR and SL

ne of the most comprehensive records of the 1916 Easter Rising has been released in a fully searchable structured index for the first time. The Sinn Féin Rebellion Handbook featuring names of over 6,700 rebels, soldiers, casualties and government personnel, was published by the Irish Times in 1917 and provides a fascinating insight into one of the most important periods of Irish history. It is now live and ready to explore on The 1916 Easter Rising began on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916. It was mainly a Dublin-based rebellion of Irish nationalists against British rule in Ireland and was born from the British government’s delays in enacting the Home Rule Bill following the outbreak of World War I. The 308 page index includes photographs and maps, creating the most detailed observation of the events of the 1916 Rising. The handbook is also a great resource for those with British military ancestors, as the names and details of British soldiers who fought against the rebels are also listed. It seems particularly relevant that this momentous publication should be launched soon after the loan of a 1916 tricolor flag to the American Irish Historical Society. The flag is one of only two that flew above the GPO on O’Connell Street, the rebel headquarters during the rising. The other is in the National Museum of Ireland. The flag is set to be a focal point of the society’s commemorations of the centenary of the Rising in 2016 and seems a fitting recognition of the 40 million people of Irish descent in the USA. – PH


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Women of Concern Honored


he annual Women of Concern Awards Luncheon, held this year on June 21st at the Jumeirah Essex House, recognizes women who are dedicated to improving the status of women at home and abroad. The luncheon also raises vital funds to continue work done by Concern in 28 countries. This year, Women of Concern honored two women who are blazing a trail for women in media. They were Dateline NBC correspondent and NBC’s Today Show co-host Hoda Kotb and 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Amy Ellis Nutt, an enterprise writer at Newark’s Star Ledger. After opening remarks by Tom Moran, Chairman of Concern U.S., Jenny Hobbs, Concern’s Education Coordinator for programs in Liberia, gave a moving account of her work helping to educate the most vulnerable, particularly girls, in a country where gender-based violence is commonplace, even in schools. Hoda Kotb, who is noted for her coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, shared stories from her work in the field, and referred to her own choice – albeit a reluctant one, at first – to speak freely about her battle with breast cancer in order to help others. Kotb urged her audience to invest time and money “only in what is important,

The Irish Voice newspaper held its annual Most Influential Women event on June 23, with Consul General Noel Kilkenny and Hanora O’Dea Kilkenny at their residence in New York.

Siobhan Walsh and Aileen McCloskey.

TOP LEFT: Hoda Kotb, Tom Moran, Siobhan Walsh. TOP RIGHT: Amy Ellis Nutt, Fern Mallis (2010 honoree), Hoda Kotb. LEFT: Dominic MacSorley and Jenny Hobbs (guest speaker).

because time is precious.” The veteran reporter told the audience: “The way you live your days is the way you live your life. I just want to say to Concern, I love the way you spend your days and I love what you do.” Amy Ellis Nutt, who was introduced by Rosemary Parillo, Editor-in-Chief at Inside Jersey magazine, spoke movingly about her recent visit to Haiti with Concern and the remarkable “industry, creativity and humanity of both Concern staff and the Haitian people” in their battle to rebuild the country in the wake of the devastating January 2010 earthquake. She cited the Haitian proverb: “Many hands make the load lighter.”

Catherine Hogan-Conlon, Claire Bettie, Doireann Lally, Ciara Moffatt.


Lisa Rotenberg, Maureen Kucera Walsh, Lynn and Don Bushnell, Bernie O’Connor.

Andrea Haughian, Consul General Noel Kilkenny, Dorothea and Frank Pacini.


Hanora O’Dea Kilkenny, Elizabeth and Patsy Donnelly.



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Those We Lost William Craig 1924-2011

William Craig, a controversial political leader from Northern Ireland who founded the Ulster Vanguard, died April 25 at the age of 86. Craig’s political career ended in 1979 but his influence on Northern Ireland’s politics will not soon be forgotten. While studying to become a solicitor at Queen’s University in Belfast, Craig founded the Unionist association. A few years later in 1953, he became chair

of the Young Unionist Council, a position he held for several years. Throughout his political career, Craig worked in many areas of government, but he is most known for his time spent as Northern Ireland’s home affairs minister, during the beginnings of the early Civil Rights marches in the 1970’s. He was known for his willingness to use violence to suppress anyone who supported republicanism. In 1972, he formed the Ulster Vanguard, a right wing group that vowed to resist a non-British regime. Craig began to develop a reputation for giving very provocative and threatening speeches. During one of his speeches he announced, “We must build up the dossiers on the men and women who are a menace to this country, because one day, ladies and gentlemen, if the politicians fail, it will be our duty to liquidate the enemy.” For the last 25 years, Craig has been out of the political spotlight. He was born in Co. Tyrone in 1924 and is survived by his wife and their two sons. – DD

John Delaney 1969-2011

John Delaney, an Irish businessman and founder of the online prediction market website Intrade, died on May 21, 2011, within 160 ft of Mount Everest’s summit. 26 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011

John Delaney was born near Dublin, Ireland in 1969 and raised in Ballinakill, Co. Laois. He earned an M.B.A. in finance from UCD and worked as an accountant early in his career. In 1999, Delaney founded Intrade, an online non-sports betting site. On April 9, 2011, Delaney left for the Mount Everest expedition. An avid climber, this was his second attempt to climb Mount Everest after his first attempt five years ago ended due to bad weather. He was one among a climbing team of eighteen, including seven other climbers, eight Sherpas and two additional guides. On Friday, May 20th, the team left their camp at 27,230 feet to attempt to reach the summit. At approximately 28,870 feet, Delaney began to have difficulties and was moved down to 28,700 feet. He collapsed there and was pronounced dead after resuscitation attempts failed. Due to the hazardous conditions at that elevation, his body will remain on the peak. Delaney is survived by his wife, Orla, his mother, Marcella, his brother and sister, two sons, Caspar and Alexander and his daughter Hope, born three days before his death. – KR

Ryan Dunn 1977-2011

Ryan Dunn, 34, a star on the MTV show Jackass, passed away June 20th after a fatal car crash near his home in West Chester, PA. Born in Ohio, Dunn moved to Philadelphia when he was 15 years old. On the first day of high school he met his future co-star Bam Margera. The duo began documenting their outrageous stunts and skateboard routines in the 90s, and eventually caught the eye of Johnny Knoxville who featured this footage on Jackass in 2000. Dunn began co-hosting the new show, Proving Ground, a week before he died. Devastated fans have flocked to the scene of the accident, leaving flowers. A deeply saddened Bam Margera was interviewed at the crash sight. He told the New York Post, “He was the happiest person

ever, the smartest person, with so much talent. He had so many things going for him. It’s just not right, it’s not right.” Police believe Dunn’s Porsche 911 was going 130 mph when it jumped a guardrail, crashed into the woods, and burst into flames. A passenger, Zachary Hartwell, 30, also died in the accident. He had recently been married. Dunn leaves behind his parents, Ronald Dunn and Linda Piscitello; his stepparents, his fiancée and siblings. – DD

Garret FitzGerald 1926-2011

Leading politician, intellectual, economist and two-time Taoiseach of Ireland, Garret FitzGerald left behind a legacy of transformation, integrity and scholarship. The former Taoiseach passed away on May 19, in Dublin’s Mater Private Hospital, following a short illness. FitzGerald entered politics in 1965, when he was elected to Seanan Éireann. In 1969, he was elected to the Dáil as a TD for the Fine Gael party. There he served as spokesman for education and then spokesman for finance, until Fine Gael came to power in 1973, when then Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave appointed him Minister for Foreign Affairs. His broad understanding of and respect for Europe served him well in this role, as did his fluency in French, and he made many inroads in terms of Ireland’s relations throughout Europe. In 1977, Fine Gael lost the general election and FitzGerald was chosen as leader of the party following Cosgrave’s resignation. He served a brief term in office from June 1981 to March 1982, and was again Taoiseach from December 1982 until March 1987. His leadership was marked by great improvements in Ireland’s relationship with Britain. The poignancy of the fact that he died as Queen Elizabeth made her historic trip to Ireland cannot be ignored. FitzGerald’s life outside of politics was equally rich. He was born in Dublin on February 9, 1926, to a Protestant mother from Northern Ireland and a Catholic father, Desmond FitzGerald, who was Ireland’s minister for external affairs. His parents shared nationalist beliefs and were both present in the GPO during the 1916 Easter Rising. FitzGerald studied history, Spanish and French at University College

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{hibernia} Dublin, and then qualified as a barrister, though he never practiced law. Instead, he joined Aer Lingus then later entered academia as an economist, earning his doctorate degree in 1969. Until his death, with the exception of his years in office, FitzGerald wrote a lauded, respected, and well-read column for the Irish Times on the economics and politics of Ireland and Europe. FitzGerald is pre-deceased by his wife, Joan, and survived by his daughter, Mary, and his two sons, John and Mark. – SL

Brian Lenihan 1959-2011

Former Irish Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan passed away at his home in west Dublin on June 10th, at the age of 52. Lenihan was born into one of Ireland’s most well known political families. His father, the late Brian Lenihan, Snr, was a cabinet minister for over 25 years. His grandfather, aunt and brother all had political careers. Born in Dublin, Lenihan was educated at Trinity College and received his master’s degree in law from Cambridge University. He had been involved with Fianna Fail since he was a teenager but did not run for office until 1996 when he was asked to stand for the Dublin West seat on his father’s death. In 2008, Lenihan became Ireland’s Minister of Finance and by the summer of that year was up against the greatest economic freefall in Ireland’s history. Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December of 2009, Lenihan continued fighting to rescue the country from fiscal despair. As finance minister he made many controversial changes to Ireland’s budget. The citizens of Ireland were outraged by tax increases and Ireland’s international bailout deal. Despite the varying opinions of Lenihan’s political legacy there has been an outpouring of mourning from colleagues. At his funeral, Attorney General Paul Gallagher said, “ If I had not seen it with my own eyes, I would not have believed such courage was possible.” Lenihan leaves behind his wife, Patricia, and their two children. –DD

Breon O’Casey 1928-2011

Artist and craftsman Breon O’Casey passed away on May 22, 2011 at the age of 83 in Penzance, Cornwall, England. Breon O’Casey was born in London on April 30, 1928, the son of Irish playwright Sean O’Casey and Irish actress Eileen Carey Reynolds O’Casey. The eldest of three children, O’Casey moved with his family from London to Totnes, Devon in 1937. His love of visual arts developed while attending Dartington Hall. After completing national service, O’Casey moved to London and studied at the Anglo-French Art Centre. In the late 1950s, O’Casey moved to St. Ives, Cornwall and became associated with the St. Ives School. He worked for artist Denis Mitchell and sculptress Dame Barbara Hepworth from 1959-1963. These years were his apprenticeship of sorts, in which he developed the tools necessary to create his art. In 1961, O’Casey married Doreen Corscadden, a native of Northern Ireland. O’Casey began making jewelry after his time with Hepner and continued until his 1996 exhibition, “The Last Jewelry Show.” He then focused on sculpting,creating wax figures which he cast in bronze. O’Casey took up weaving in the 1960s and continued until he physically couldn’t weave anymore. A recent exhibition of his paintings, sculptures and prints was at Somerset House in London from October 2010 to January 2011. O’Casey is survived by his wife, Doreen, son Brendan and daughters Duibhne and Oona. – KR

Joan O’Dwyer Hon. Joan O’Dwyer passed away on June 6. Judge O’Dwyer, who was in her 80s, was one of only 12 women in a class of 200 at Columbia Law School. Her father, James O’Dwyer, born in Bohola, Co. Mayo, was killed on active duty while serving as a New York City firefighter.

O’Dwyer passed the New York State Bar in 1950 and joined her uncle Paul O’Dwyer’s law practice. Paul, who is also remembered for his social and political activism, served as president of the City Council. His brother William O’Dwyer became Mayor of New York. In 1960, Joan became the first woman appointed to the Criminal Court in Queens, New York. She went on to devote 50 years to judicial service She was the widow of the late Hon. Anthony P. Savarese, and is survived by her sons, Shane and Liam O’Neill, and their spouses, Karen Frieman and June Ma; her daughter, Kelly O’Neill Levy and her husband Harlan Levy; and her grandchildren Jamie, Max, Gavin, Caitlin and Emily. Kelly is a Civil Court Judge assigned to Family Court in in the Bronx. – PH

Patricia Preston 1944-2011

Pat Preston, the “Ireland Expert,” passed away on May 17 at her home in the Hudson Valley town of Red Hook, NY. She left behind a forty-year legacy of exquisite and informative travel writing, and a lifelong love of Ireland. Patricia Ann Tunison Preston was born on March 18, 1944, the day after St. Patrick’s Day. Preston first visited Ireland in 1996 – the first trip of hundreds throughout her life. After returning, she persuaded the Irish Tourist Board to hire her, making Preston the first American employee in the Board’s history. She worked there until 1985, when she left to devote her time to freelance travel writing, focusing on Ireland. Preston authored over 20 travel books – 13 of them about Ireland – including the 1st and 2nd editions of Frommer’s Dublin, the 1st edition of Frommer’s Ireland, and Ireland Memories. She also contributed to many other travel books and to magazines, including National Geographic Traveler, Travel and Leisure, Ireland of the Welcomes, and Irish America. In addition to her work in print, Preston also maintained, a popular website, where she offered her valuable and friendly advice to all those planning a trip to Ireland. With her husband, John, who died in December 2010, Preston led more than 30 trips to Ireland. She is survived by her sister, two sisters-in-law, and 10 nieces and IA nephews. – SL AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011 IRISH AMERICA 27



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Commodore Barry Redux J

The John Barry statue, Crescent Quay, Wexford. A gift from the American people, the statue arrived aboard the USS Rhodes in September, 1956.

ohn Barry, the Irish-born “Father of the U.S. Navy” who rose to the rank of Commodore in the Revolutionary War, will soon have a place of honor at the U.S. Naval Academy. While statues of Barry are to be found in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and in his home county of Wexford, a memorial to Barry has been absent on the grounds of the Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland. Efforts to correct this oversight originated with the AOH’s District of Columbia State Board who gathered letters of support for a Commodore Barry Memorial. Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley gave his blessing, saying, “I hope that we can seize on this opportunity to honor the life of a great Irish immigrant who become one of our greatest Americans.” Former Secretary of the Navy John F. Lehman said, “It has always been an oddity that his (Barry’s) memory and example have been largely absent from the Naval Academy. ... The time to rectify this absence is at hand.” Before his death in 2010, Senator Ted Kennedy also pushed for a memorial. The first AOH proposal was submitted in August

2008, and the U.S. Naval Academy’s Memorials Oversight Committee gave final approval this past January. The Barry Memorial Project will be completed in two phases. The first stage will be the placing of an arching sign over the Academy’s new pedestrian gate, formally naming it the Commodore John Barry Gate (a September 2011 dedication date is anticipated). The project’s second phase will be the construction of an 8-foot tall granite memorial to Barry to be positioned inside the Barry Gate; the adjoining area will be called Barry Plaza. The work will be concluded in late 2012. “Such a fine patriot as Barry will be an inspiration to our future military leaders as they pass through the Barry Gate and along the new memorial at the Barry Plaza,” declared Bob April, President of the AOH District of Columbia State Board. The Memorial will be built through private individual donations, which are tax-deductible, and can be mailed to Hibernian Charity Barry Project, P.O. Box 391, Meriden, Connecticut 06450. For more information call (203) 235-2746 – PH

Remembering the Irish of the Rideau Canal


he Canadian Rideau Canal, which runs between Montreal, Quebec and Kingston, Ontario, is a striking man-made waterway. Built from 1826 to 1832, the canal is 132 miles long and has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its construction was no easy feat, but it had a massive and lasting effect on the Ottawa Valley and the surrounding area. Where construction took place, workers were needed. And where workers were needed, immigrants flocked, often with their families. Approximately 2,000 men each year – the significant majority of them Irish immigrants – worked to bring the canal to completion. It is estimated that at least 100,000 residents of the Ottawa Valley are descendants of these Rideau Canal workers. Over the six years it took to complete the canal, around 1,000 of the workers and some of their family members died, many of them from a particularly lethal strain of malaria. When Kevin Dooley, a Mullingar, Co. Westmeath native who settled in the Ottawa Valley in the late 1970s, heard this, he was struck by the story and legacy. Dooley, 60, is the author of three books, a popular figure within the Ottawa Valley Irish community and a selfdescribed heritage and workers activist. He was a Marine machinist and engineer, and served in the Canadian coast guard until a work-related injury forced him to retire from service. The seldom-told history of the Rideau Canal workers spoke to him as both an advocate and an Irishman, so in 2001, with Irish groups from the area, he set about developing a memorial for all the Irish and Irish-Canadians who lost their lives during the construction of the canal. As a result of their efforts, two Celtic crosses stand


LEFT: Dooley seated beside one of two Celtic crosses commemorating Irish workers who died building the Rideau Canal.

along the canal banks in Kingston and Ottawa. But, as Dooley recounted in a recent phone conversation with Irish America, they did not stop there. When the canal received its UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2007, Dooley formally requested that the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, which has sanctioned other monuments and plaques, including one of the canal’s designer, Lt. Col. John By, recognize the Irish workers. He submitted the request in 2007 but didn’t receive a reply until 2010, when he was “stunned to hear that it had been rejected” and was particularly upset by the way in which the board did so. The letter stated that the work the Irish did was “a typical and common form of labor at the time. It was not unusual, nor was it remarkable,” and concluded that they were of “no national historic significance.” Dooley calls this “the worst kind of historical revisionism.” After almost a year and hordes of complaints, the board has announced, as Ron Corbett reported in an article in the Ottawa Sun, that the issue is currently scheduled for review at the HSMBC’s July meeting. Dooley and the other proud Irish of the Ottawa Valley region are hoping they will reconsider their 2010 decision. – SL



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“Before I begin, I must point out that behind me sits a highly admired President of the United States and decorated war hero while I, a cable television talk show host, has been chosen to stand here and impart wisdom. I pray I never witness a more damning example of what is wrong with America today.”

Quote Unquote A selection of quotes – some poignant, some hilarious – from commencement addresses by Irish and Irish American speakers throughout the States.

– Conan O’Brien, Dartmouth College, June 12, 2011

“The voices of conformity speak so loudly. Don’t listen to them. People are going to tell you what you ought to think and how you ought to feel. They will tell you what to read and how to live. They will urge you to take jobs they loathe themselves and to follow safe paths that they themselves find tedious. Don’t do it.” – Anna Quindlen, Grinnell College, May 23, 2011

“The world we live in is unstable. Not just because violence can cross borders and nonstate actors can cause trouble, but because disease can cross borders. Because the financial crisis, which sadly began here, spread almost instantaneously. First, to the United Kingdom, then to Ireland, then Iceland. Then to the exporting countries because people couldn’t afford to buy their products…We have to find a way to reduce the negative instability of modern life without going to a totally static world where nothing would grow.” – Bill Clinton, New York University, May 18, 2011

“I’m not talking only about writing here, but about any inventive work that originates in the unconscious. The creative process – making something out of nothing – is the great revelation of what’s down there in those mysterious depths of your mind, unbeknown to anyone, especially you.” – William Kennedy, Manhattan College, May 22, 2011

“W.B. Yeats once said, ‘Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.’ And that is what your teachers have done for you – sparked an interest, nursed a passion, fed a fancy…You are graduating at a time when history is on the move in a once-in-a-lifetime kind of way…All we can do is expose ourselves to as many experiences as possible, notice what’s going on around us, and be prepared to answer history’s call if it comes. Another great scientist put it this way: ‘Chance favors only the prepared mind.’” – Samantha Power, Occidental College, May 15, 2011

“But what should children be doing in classrooms in this part of the world, and in Ireland, my country, and in Europe and Korea, and Japan? What should people be learning in school? At the very least, they should be learning the wisdom of the three Rs – reduce, reduce what you use, reuse what you use and consume, and recycle – reduce, reuse, recycle…We have only one world. It is the world of our children. It’s the world of the future. So let’s make sure that we nourish it and pass it on in good standing to our children and our children’s children.” – Mary Robinson, Wheelock University, May 13, 2011 AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011 IRISH AMERICA 29



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Presidential Visits to


The visit of President Obama to Ireland in May brought the number of U.S. presidents who visited Ireland to seven. Tom Deignan looks back at some memorable visits and some that barely registered.

Ulysses S. Grant in Ireland


he first president to visit Ireland was no longer president when he arrived in Dublin in 1879.




llie Hayes runs a cozy pub in Moneygall, County Offaly. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. It was at Ollie Hayes Pub, after all, that President Barack Obama tossed back a pint when he visited Ireland back in May. “My name is Barack Obama, of the Moneygall Obamas, and I’ve come home to find the apostrophe we lost somewhere along the way,” the president later quipped. Now that the pomp and circumstance of Obama’s visit is over, a question remains: Will Ollie Hayes follow the precedent set by Ballyporeen publican John O’Farrell? Twenty-seven years earlier, O’Farrell poured a pint for a visiting U.S. president. Ronald Reagan paid a visit to his ancestral village in Tipperary in June of 1984. The visit made such an impression on O’Farrell that he famously changed the name of his pub to The Ronald Reagan. Will Moneygall locals some day drop by The Barack Obama for a pint? Time will tell. What we do know is that Obama’s visit in May was not the first time a U.S. president electrified an audience in Ireland. Seven presidents have paid a visit to the Emerald Isle, each with a story as unique – and at times, as controversial – as the presidents themselves.

Left: Grant, his wife Julia and son Jesse in 1872, at their summer cottage. Below: The Grant homestead in Co. Tyrone.

Ulysses S. Grant had dominated the American political scene for well over a decade. By the end of the U.S. Civil War he was Commanding General of the Union Army. Such a prominent role in the military made him a strong candidate for president in 1868, when he defeated Democrat Horatio Seymour, New York’s governor. Following his two tumultuous terms as president, Grant announced he would be taking a trip around the world. Stops included Germany, China, Russia, Britain – and Ireland. Grant arrived in Dublin on January 3, 1879 and over the next few days, visited

Trinity College, the Royal Irish Academy and the Bank of Ireland. Speaking to a crowd outside of City Hall, Grant said: “I am by birth a citizen of a country where there are more Irishmen, either native born or the descendants of Irishmen, than there are in all of Ireland.” But Grant’s public embrace of the Irish concealed some disturbing facts. For



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BELOW: The Kennedy family gathered at their ancestral home in Dunganstown, Co. Wexford. RIGHT: President Kennedy leaving Shannon Airport, 1963.

example, he had sympathized with the anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic Know Nothing movement back in the 1850s. The anti-Catholic label stuck to Grant in Ireland. Catholic members of the Cork City Town Council objected to Grant’s visit, so Grant went to Ulster instead. Historians have speculated that Grant felt more comfortable in the heavily Protestant North. Nevertheless, as President Grant had voiced support for the Irish Fenians movement, and did visit Pope Leo XIII during his world tour. Grant visited (what he called) Londonderry as well as Belfast, speaking warmly of Ulster’s deep connections to the U.S. Grant’s own roots are in Dungannon, Tyrone, where his greatgrandfather left in the 1730s. Grant, ultimately, was embraced by the Irish, even if the tour he was given tended to conceal the nation’s political and social problems. (Grant later wrote that he saw “no distress and no poverty in Ireland.”) Not long after Grant visited Ireland, a stevedore on the Boston docks was on his way to buying a saloon and becoming an influential ward boss. Little did P.J. Kennedy know that his grandson John would make a famous visit to the Irish village P.J.’s own parents had fled at the height of the Famine.

JFK’s Homecoming hen John F. Kennedy finally decided to visit his ancestral home in Dunganstown, Co. Wexford in June of 1963, most Irish Americans were thrilled. Not all, however.


“You’ve got all the Irish votes in this country that you’ll ever get,” Kennedy aide Kenny O’Donnell objected. “If you go to Ireland, people will say it’s just a pleasure trip.” To which Kennedy responded: “That’s exactly what I want!” Between civil rights and the Cold War, these were tense times for JFK. Right before he visited Ireland, Kennedy gave his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech at the Berlin Wall. JFK’s trip to Ireland in June 1963 is now the stuff of legend. He met with de Valera and was greeted like a rock star. In the weeks leading up to the trip, the humble cottage owned by Mary Kennedy Ryan – a distant relative – had to endure several modest improvements. Concrete was poured in the muck-filled front of the barn and indoor plumbing was installed. (As Kennedy family historian Thomas Maier has noted, though Mrs. Ryan seemed like a quaint rural matriarch, she actually had an active past with the IRA.) JFK told his distant relatives: “When my great-grandfather came to America and my grandfather was growing up, the Irish Americans had a song about the familiar sign which went: ‘No Irish Need Apply.’” He then said: “In 1960, the American people took the sign down from the last place it was still hanging – the door of the White House.” In Galway, he added: “If the day was clear enough, and if you went down to the bay and you looked west, and your sight was good enough, you would see Boston, Massachusetts. And if you did, you would see down working on the

docks there some Doughertys and Flahertys and Ryans and cousins of yours who have gone to Boston and made good.” The fact that JFK was assassinated months later only lends a more sentimental glow to this trip. As the Cork Examiner noted at the time: “When John Fitzgerald Kennedy set foot on Irish soil he made a mark on the history of this country that can never be effaced.”

Nixon’s “Forgotten” Visit ichard Nixon’s trip to Ireland? Not quite so memorable. In fact, a recent documentary about the trip dubbed it “forgotten.” Nixon went to Ireland to visit the Mayo home of his wife’s ancestors. Nixon also paid respects at the site of his own Irish Quaker ancestors in Kildare. He then stayed in Dublin for three days in October of 1970. Of course, this was at the height of the Vietnam War, and so protesters greeted Nixon while his motorcade cruised through Dublin. Several even pelted the president’s limo with eggs. But other crowds for Nixon were much more enthusiastic. Journalist Donncha O Dúalaing covered the Nixon visit for RTÉ and heard the speech the president gave in Timahoe, Kildare. “I remember President Nixon and the speech and being very moved and touched by it and the crowds that were here. I think that what comes back to me





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Presidential Visits to Ireland

TOP LEFT: October, 1970: President Richard Nixon and his wife, Pat, in Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo where Pat’s ancestors hailed from. TOP: President Ronald Reagan was greeted warmly in the village of Ballyporeen, Co. Tipperary. His greatgrandfather emigrated from there in the 1850s. LEFT: President William Clinton stops in to Cassidy’s Pub on Camden Street, Dublin on his first trip to Ireland in November, 1995.

today is that Ireland has changed in many ways but in other ways it hasn’t changed at all,” O Dúalaing recently told the Irish Examiner. “I think of the wonder of an American president here talking about Ireland. It was unbelievable.”

Reagan’s Tipperary Roots f JFK’s visit was about finally taking down the “No Irish Need Apply” signs, the Reagan era allowed Irish Americans to grant themselves a little hard-earned nostalgia. Reagan himself acknowledged this when he visited Ireland for four days in June, 1984: “I feel like I’m about to drown everyone in a bath of nostalgia.” While in Ireland, Reagan visited the small Tipperary village of Ballyporeen and the church at which his great-grandfather Michael, who left Ireland in the 1850s, was baptized. Though some protesters voiced displeasure at Reagan’s Central American policy and the president’s tight relationship with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher irked some, there was a festive feeling in the air as crowds cheered and a band played the theme from Rocky. Reagan famously visited John O’Farrell’s pub, which later changed its name to The Ronald Reagan. The facade of that building was later transported to The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, where it still stands. “Of all the honors and gifts that have been afforded me as President, this visit is the one that I will cherish dearly,” Reagan told the crowd in Ballyporeen. “I didn’t know much about my family background – not because of a lack of interest, but because my father



was orphaned before he was six years old. And now thanks to you and the efforts of good people who have dug into the history of a poor immigrant family, I know at last whence I came. And this has given my soul a new contentment. And it is a joyous feeling. It is like coming home after a long journey.”

Clinton Makes History rguably the most historically significant presidential trip to Ireland was Bill Clinton’s. The first sitting president to visit the North, Clinton had already made his mark on the Northern Irish peace process by the time he visited in November of 1995. Clinton had angered British diplomats as well as Unionists by granting Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams a visa in 1994. That same year, George Mitchell was tapped as the lead negotiator in the ongoing peace process. The 1990s had already seen nearly 400 deaths as a


result of the ongoing Troubles, so President Clinton was by no means intervening in a stable or easy situation. People from both sides of the divide, however, greeted him with wild cheers when he visited both the Shankill and Falls roads. Perhaps most poignantly, 9-year-old Catherine Hamill told Clinton and his wife, Hillary, how her father’s shooting at the hands of Ulster Freedom Fighters had shattered her life. After the Clinton visit, the IRA broke its cease-fire with the February 1996 Docklands bombing in London. But the slow, steady march to peace had been set in motion. Clinton later returned and visited Omagh, the site of a horrific bombing in 1998. “President Bill Clinton’s domestic legacy, belittled by opponents and tainted by impeachment, will be picked over for years to come,” the BBC has noted. “But few doubt the importance of the role that he played in helping to get Northern Ireland’s divided community to



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Presidential Visits to Ireland sit down together with the common goal of consigning violence and inequality to the past.”

post-presidency diplomatic silence and phoned David Cameron, the leader of the Conservatives in Britain. He made a plea for Cameron to press allies in Northern Ireland to support the ongoing peace process.

Protesting Bush f there are parallels to JFK’s and Clinton’s historic visits, so, too, are there similarities between Nixon’s and George W. Bush’s. Wartime tensions were high once again when Bush paid a brief visit to Ireland in June, 2004. Thousands of protesters hit the streets from Cork to Dublin. Then there was Bush’s infamous interview with RTÉ broadcaster Carole Coleman. Bush supporters felt the dogged Irish reporter refused to allow the president to answer her tough questions. “The interview, broadcast from the White House on Thursday, 24 hours before the president’s visit to Ireland, so displeased President Bush and his advisers that it led to the cancellation of another RTE exclusive… an interview with the president’s wife Laura,” the Irish Independent noted in the wake of the incident. Given this inauspicious start, it’s not surprising the trip itself was rather banal. Bush arrived in County Clare for the annual EU-US summit, which took place



Obama’s “Blood Link”

ABOVE: Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson greets President George Bush on his first and only trip to Ireland in June, 2004. BELOW: President Obama and Michelle arrive in Ireland in May.

in Dromoland Castle. It is estimated that 7,000 security personnel were on hand guarding Bush and other top officials during the visit, which lasted just 16 hours. Not enough personnel to keep a photographer from snapping a photo of Bush in undershirt, peering out the window of his bedroom at Dromoland that was published in the Irish tabloid newspaper The Star on Sunday despite a government ban. Bush, however, maintained an interest in Irish affairs. In 2010, he broke his

nd finally, there is Barack, er, O’Bama. As with JFK, there was something of a “pleasure trip” feel about the president’s May 2011 jaunt. But that does not make Obama’s trip any less historical. As 21st -century Ireland transforms, with its own assimilation of immigrants, it makes perfect sense that Obama would proudly assert his Irish roots – and transform our own conception of what the Irish diaspora looks like. At the same time, Obama – America’s first black president – firmly reasserted Ireland’s long historic ties to the U.S. “For the United States,” he said, “Ireland carries a blood link.”


Editor’s Note: One other president visited Ireland after he left office. In 2007 Jimmy Carter went to Dublin to address a human rights forum in Croke Park.

UCD Corporate


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The Good, the Bad,

and the


The dynamic Irish actor Brendan Gleeson tells Sheila Langan about his latest role in The Guard, working with the brothers McDonagh, and his upcoming directorial debut with Flann O’Brien’s At Swim Two Birds. PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIT DEFEVER



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t’s a Thursday morning in late June, and I am sitting at a table in the empty ballroom of the opulent Beverly Wilshire hotel, waiting for Brendan Gleeson. The press conference scheduled prior to our interview is running a bit long, and I feel as though I’m waiting for someone at a grand, abandoned café.


quickly from thoughtful and serious to wonderfully devilish. At fifty-six, after twenty-two busy years in film, Gleeson and his wife, Mary, still live in Ireland – in Malahide, not far from Artane, the Dublin suburb where he grew up. He’s here in L.A. for just a few days as part of a promotional tour for The Guard.

Then I hear a booming yet mild Dublin accent working its way down the hallway and Brendan Gleeson, grinning and wearing all black, walks into the ballroom. “Not very L.A., is it?” he asks with a laugh when our photographer, Kit, compliments him on his jacket, and he settles himself cheerfully at our impromptu table for two. Well, you wouldn’t really describe Gleeson himself as “very L.A.,” either. He is incredibly tall, with broad shoulders and a build that has worked equally well for his work as criminals both thuggish and smart in films like John Boorman’s The General and Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges; his turn as the vigilant and eccentric Mad Eye Moody in the Harry Potter films; and his Emmy Award-winning portrayal of Winston Churchill in the 2009 HBO mini-series Into The Storm. His floppy ginger hair is tinged with white at the temples, and his expressive face shifts

The first feature film by John Michael McDonagh (older brother of playwright and In Bruges director Martin), The Guard is a razor-sharp, at times uncomfortably dark comedy. It’s also a western of sorts, complete with good guys and bad guys, a final showdown, justice taken outside the realm of the law, and a soundtrack by Calexico. But rather than Monument Valley or a dusty stretch of central Italy, it takes place in Co. Galway, along the verdant, rainy and totally desolate Connemara coastline. And instead of John Wayne on horseback or a forbidding, gun-slinging Clint Eastwood, its hero is a burly police sergeant named Gerry Boyle, with a little too much time on his hands and a great talent for pushing people's buttons. This is, needless to say, Gleeson’s role, and his performance is a triumph. “Boyle was a brilliant creation from the start,” says Gleeson, fondly. “I just looked

at the script and said ‘God, this has to happen.’” Gleeson’s Sergeant Boyle is a smalltown enigma. As Don Cheadle's character, American FBI Agent Wendell Everett, sums it up, he is either the dumbest person or the smartest. He is snarky to his coworkers and irreverent in the face of authority, but sweet and caring towards both his ailing mother (played by the always-wonderful Fionnula Flanagan) and the hookers from Dublin who visit him on his days off. There's a sense of loneliness about him, but it’s something neither he nor the film spends too much time dwelling on. Mostly, he seems wryly fed up with the ennui he's resigned himself to. “He’s really bored, let's be honest about it, and he just wants something to happen; he wants somebody to lose their temper,” Gleeson explains. Fortunately, perhaps. things get more exciting for Gerry and the Connemara police force when it turns out that a strange murder in the area might be connected to a large shipment of drugs worth either €500 million or maybe €100 million – nobody is quite sure – en route from Colombia to Ireland and set to dock in Spiddal, or Cork, or…somewhere else. As all of his colleagues are either inept, corrupt or both, Boyle is forced to team up with the no-nonsense Agent Everett, who is totally mystified by his surroundings and the uncooperative Irish locals. Everett is equally mystified by Boyle – by his penchant for breaking the law and his incendiary, sometimes racist remarks. “It’s not unknown at home, people will kind of get up your nose a bit just to see how you react,” Gleeson says, raising a bushy orange eyebrow. This is something, he admits, he’s a bit worried about: will American audiences get that Gerry doesn't always mean what he says? That the aim of many of his cracks is to get himself through the ridiculousness going on around him? “I mean, he actually says it,” Gleeson points out, quoting the script in Gerry's defense: “I don’t mean anything by it, I’m only having a bit of fun, like.” Even if viewers don’t quite get Gerry, they will definitely get the chemistry between Gleeson and Cheadle, who was also the film’s executive producer.




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“I stayed in [for the screening] last night,” he discloses. “I wanted to see what an L.A. audience would make of it since it’s so removed from L.A. Don is fantastic. You see, he takes the American audience by the hand and leads them through it. He’s equally as appalled as they are and he can guide them through the maze that is Connemara.” leeson didn’t begin acting professionally until he was 34, after a


“When I first was able to fill in A-C-TO-R for the occupation line on my passport,” he says quietly, “that was the first time I really felt ‘Wow, I’m home.’ “One of the benefits of starting out so late,” he offers, “was that I never had to do soap commercials.” After frequent stage work and smaller roles in films like The Field and Into the West, Gleeson’s blockbuster breakthrough came in 1995 when Mel Gibson asked him to join the cast of

Secret of Kells, and hunted down Cillian Murphy in Perrier’s Bounty. Does Gleeson think he plays a certain type? He tells me of a recent conversation with director Daniel Espinoza on the set of Safe House, a CIA action film co-starring Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds, set to be released in 2012. Espinoza remarked that Gleeson never seems to play good guys, to which Gleeson replied “‘Eh, that’s not true, hang on a second.’


TOP LEFT: Don Cheadle as Agent Wendell Everett and Brendan Gleeson as Sgt. Gerry Boyle. TOP RIGHT: Sgt. Boyle with a young Connemara local. RIGHT: Sgt. Boyle on his day off, with some friends from Dublin.

decade of teaching English and Irish. “I felt pretty much there as a teacher,” he reflects, “and I was prepared to do it for the rest of my life.” But a love of acting was also there, right from his “messing around” days, when he and his friends did amateur productions; through his time in college, when he started working with playwright Paul Mercier; and into his years as a teacher, when he acted, directed and wrote for Mercier’s Passion Machine theater company. At a certain point it became impossible to juggle everything, so he made a choice. 38 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011

Braveheart as Hamish. Since then, he’s appeared in more than his fair share of Hollywood hits, including In Bruges, Mission Impossible II, 28 Days Later, Gangs of New York, Cold Mountain and Troy. At the same time, Gleeson has remained fiercely committed to Irish cinema. He first starred as gangster Bunny Kelly in I Went Down, and later received acclaim for his portrayal of real-life Dublin crime boss Martin Cahill in John Boorman’s The General. He more recently played two estranged brothers in Boorman’s Tiger’s Tail, gave voice to Abbott Cellach in The

And then everybody I [mentioned] to him that I’ve played who I figured was a good guy, Daniel said ‘Yeah, but he was a tough dude,’ or ‘he was a hard man.’ So then I was asking myself ‘Do I never play any good people? What's wrong with me?’” He realized, after the fact, that he just doesn't think about characters in that way. “I tend to look for the good in bad people and the bad in good people, to make them human. ’Cause I don’t think that people generally are that black and white. Maybe in movie-land they can be…but that isn’t necessarily all there is.” No matter how improbable they may sound on paper, all of Gleeson’s characters share a human quality rooted in a place other than “movie-land.” This makes him perfectly suited (and, in a way, vital) for the grim, not quite real but not quite absurd worlds created by both of the McDonagh brothers, who grew up in London but spent every summer in the West of Ireland. ’s almost irresistible to compare The Guard to In Bruges, so similarly dark are their plots and so related are their directors. If anybody is in a position to speak to




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what connects the brothers and what distinguishes them, it’s Gleeson. He did, after all, star in both of their first features: In In Bruges he played Ken, the older of two hit men laying low for a while in Belgium’s comically peaceful medieval city. “I keep trying to emphasize the difference because I know it must be irritating at some point to always be mentioned in the same breath as the brother,” he says. But he does concede to some similarities. “They’re very fierce; there’s kind of a savage commitment to the quality of the writing. They aren’t easy on themselves or on anybody else…Their stuff is always economic, it’s always bright.” On set, “they’re both very calm, quite painstaking,” he explains. “John in particular insists he’s OCD. I keep telling him that he’s just fussy, but right before a scene he’ll go up to you and just –” to illustrate, Gleeson carefully shifts my recorder a millimeter towards the left on the table between us and nods as though it made all the difference in the world. “But there’s an assuredness too. They’re very filmicly aware – encyclopedic, actually, in terms of film.” The difference, he says, is between their voices and the worlds they create with them. “The only way I’ve been explaining it is, when I was working with John on The Guard there was nothing of In Bruges that ever came to mind. It’s a very odd thing. Even though there is that similarity of attack in terms of the humor, it was completely different.” Even for an actor who looks for the good in bad people and vice versa, the darkness of the work can be hard to grapple with. He recalls a discussion he had with Martin before filming Six Shooter, which won the Oscar for best live action short film in 2006. “There was a part about a cot death and I was saying ‘Martin…there’s stuff you have to be careful about in terms of pushing envelopes, some stuff you just don’t mess with,’ and all that. But we had a long discussion about what he was trying to do and in the end I was reassured. “But then I remember, at some point after we wrapped, he said something about how in the end it’s all about love. And actually, when you take any of Martin’s characters, no matter what they do, no matter how appalling their behavior – and some of them are seriously appalling – you find it very hard to hate any of them. You don’t do it. So in a way, what’s frightening is that you're under-

standing, you have some sympathy or empathy for people who are doing the most appalling things. And that to me is very singular.” And does the same thing go for John Michael McDonagh, who Gleeson describes as a bit of a Gerry Boyle himself? “I’m not sure if with John it works the same way,” he muses. “I think John is prepared for you to hate some of his characters…With Gerry at least you kind of have to take it, you know? Whatever his flaws.” s we talk about In Bruges, Gleeson recalls a radio interview he gave in Ireland with the other stars of the film. At some point, the host put the question of musical tastes to the group but added “Ah, I’m not going to ask you, Gleeson, you only go for this diddle-i-ay stuff.” Gleeson, who did the majority of his own fiddle playing in Cold Mountain and appears on the traditional group Atlan's 2009 live album, replied that he was into more than diddle-i-ay. Later, he took some heat from his trad-playing friends.


“You didn’t give us much good press,” they told him, “and I said ‘D’you know what, you’re actually right. I didn’t stand up for it very well.'” He may regret that, but in the minutes that follow Gleeson gives one of the best defenses of diddle-i-ay music I’ve ever heard: “I remember, years ago, I didn’t get what some old guy was doing that was so special. I asked somebody, ‘It’s all scratchy and everything, what does everybody see in it? I don’t get it.’ And he said ‘Ah, it’s the small print, the small print.’ Irish music is about that. It’s not about the showy stuff, it’s about little, small variations. And once you start reading it, the intricacy of it, it’s like…it’s like lace or something, it’s what people do on the inside.” He pauses. “When I started out at about 19, 20, it took me two years just to tell the difference between a jig and a reel. It does all sound the same, but what you can find once you go in – it’s never-ending. So that’s my love.” His reverence for Irish music, for the literature, for the landscape, is palpable as AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011 IRISH AMERICA 39



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he talks. But he also tells me, like many before him, that it’s been harder in the recent past to find motivation and imagination in his home country. “I’d never had any problem finding inspiration; Ireland was always just there, you know? All this richness of culture was there to tap into. But I kind of felt like we’d been betrayed so utterly and completely by our own people in the last couple of years; we were the authors of our own disaster.” He somewhat ruefully implies that he and John Boorman tried to ring the alarm on the Celtic Tiger with the poorly received 2006 film Tiger’s Tail, but that “nobody wanted to hear it.” When Gleeson wants to, though, he speaks up. And when he does, people seem to listen. Recognized for wisely choosing his moments (a thoughtful tirade against the Irish health care system on the Late Late Show in 2006; his staunch defense of the Irish Film Board before the Arts Council and the Dail in 2009), Gleeson agreed to be a part of the Irish celebrity welcoming committee of sorts that greeted President and First Lady Obama during their visit to Dublin in May. He was asked to speak at College Green about the kindred liberators Daniel O’Connell and Frederick Douglass, which he did – and well – but he also took the speech in his own direction. “Now we’ve had a rough few years here,” he said, speaking plainly to the crowd of a few

a long time coming. He will be directing his own adaptation of At Swim Two Birds, the notoriously un-adaptable novel by Flann O’Brien (a.k.a. Myles na gCopaleen a.k.a. Brian O’Nolan). The book’s layers are more numerous than its author’s pseudonyms, and Gleeson has set himself a definite challenge in translating the books-within-the-book and all the anarchy that reigns between them into film. “I’m after talking it up so much that the only way is down,” Gleeson says when I first ask him about it. Then he laughs,

“I tend to look for the good in bad people and the bad in good people, to make them human. ’Cause I don’t think that people generally are that black and white.” hundred thousand. “I don’t know about you, but I’m fed up looking at the ground. It’s time to stand up, breathe the air, look around: What a people! What friends we have! I’m bloody sure we can!” “I want to stick to my job and what I know,” he’s quick to say when I ask about his rousing oratory. “I don’t want to be a pulpit crasher in any way, shape or form. But there comes a time when you’ve just got to nail your colors to the mast, I think.” leeson will be doing just that with his next major project, one that has been



“That’s a very Irish way of looking at it, isn’t it?” Making At Swim Two Birds has been just out of Gleeson’s reach for a few years now, due to difficulty securing funding and various scheduling conflicts. But it’s been the subject of much hype and speculation, ever since word of the project got out following a star-studded script-reading in Dublin in December, 2006. “I’ve had everything decided in terms of casting for ages,” he says, sucking air between his teeth excitedly, and proceeds to list a cast that sounds like a who’s who

of Irish actors: “Gabriel Byrne, Colin Farrell, Cillian Murphy, Michael Fassbender, Eamon Morrissey, Sean McGinley, Marie Mullen –” and so on. After all the delays, Gleeson is clearly reluctant to say too much about it. But he does divulge that they will begin shooting in the spring, in Ireland and, oddly, Luxembourg, and that he will be playing the main character’s hated uncle, who also figures in one of the books within the book. Gabriel Byrne will be playing the mystical Pooka McPhelimy. “You want to hear Gabriel do the Pooka,” Gleeson tells me enthusiastically, describing it as “languid, urbane and wicked.” Another Irish actor joining the cast of At Swim will be Gleeson’s 28-year-old son, Domhnall, who plays Bill Weasley in the Harry Potter films and recently appeared in the Coen brothers’ remake of True Grit. Brian, another of Gleeson’s four sons, has also worked with his father a few times – as his son in Tiger's Tail and as a fellow Garda in Domhnall’s recent short film, the family collaboration Noreen. “I kind of dealt them one, as in ‘you’re on your own,’” Gleeson says when I ask what advice he’s had for his sons. “But generally it’s just been about how to work with your craft, how to counterbalance instinct and the intellectualization of the piece. How sometimes you can over-think something and then other times you’ve got to plan…Initially I’d go in and say ‘maybe if you took that down there,’ or ‘what are you thinking about here?’ And I enjoyed directing them in that way, I got a real kick out of it. And then they began to not need to ask me.” He emanates clear pride as he tells me that Domhnall will be working on Joe Wright's Anna Karenina in the autumn, and as he hints at a part Brian might have landed – “I’d love to tell you about it, but it isn’t exactly sealed and dealed so I don’t want to put a jinx on it. But it looks like it’s going to work out for him, and I’m so proud of that because I had nothing to do with it. “I mean,” he pauses, “you have to give everything a whack at some stage, don’t you? Just like Gerry Boyle. IA Try it once.” The Guard opens July 29th in New York and Los Angeles, and on wider release in August and September.



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Abolitionist Daniel O’Connell is remembered as the Liberator of Irish Catholics, but he also played a significant role in the movement to end slavery.

Portrait of Daniel O’Connell as a young man.

By Christine Kinealy




n 23 May 2011, President Obama made an historic visit to the Republic of Ireland. While in Dublin, he addressed the people in College Green. In his opening comments, Obama joked about having returned to his ancestral home “to find the [O’] apostrophe that we lost somewhere along the way.” The bulk of his speech paid tribute to the long-established relationship between the United States and Ireland, with the President acknowledging America’s debt to Irish immigrants. However, he paid particular tribute to one Irishman who had never set foot on American soil, Daniel O’Connell, saying: When we strove to blot out the stain of slavery and advance the rights of man, we found common cause with your struggles against oppression. Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave and our great abolitionist, forged an unlikely friendship right here in Dublin with your great liberator, Daniel O’Connell. His time here, Frederick Douglass said, defined him not as a color but as a man. And it strengthened the non-violent campaign he would return home to wage. The President’s comments were intriguing. While Frederick Douglass remains an icon to students of slavery, O’Connell’s role in this movement has largely been forgotten. What brought

Frederick Douglass, a fugitive American slave, to Ireland? And why was Daniel O’Connell revered in the United States as a champion of anti-slavery? At the end of 1845, Frederick Douglass traveled to Ireland. He regarded his visit as transformative – for the

first time he felt able to view himself as a man, rather than as the property of another man. The highlight of his time spent in Ireland was meeting Daniel O’Connell, the Irish ‘Liberator.’ Today, O’Connell is largely remembered for winning Catholic Emancipation



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Above: President Obama, pictured with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, during his visit to Ireland on May 23. The president paid tribute to Daniel O’Connell in his remarks. Left: Frederick Douglass, who visited Ireland in 1845 and said the highlight of his visit was hearing O’Connell speak.


(the right of Catholics to sit in parliament) and for agitating to achieve independence for Ireland. But for Douglass, and thousands of other abolitionists throughout the world, O’Connell was known for his outspoken statements condemning slavery. By 1845, the Irishman was the most influential and outspoken critic of slavery in the world. It was natural that Douglass should want to hear O’Connell speak. In September 1845, Douglass attended a Repeal meeting in Dublin. He was mesmerized by O’Connell’s lecture, describing it as “powerful in its logic, majestic in its rhetoric, biting in its sarcasm, melting in its pathos, and burning in its rebukes.” Douglass believed that O’Connell was at his best when he spoke out against slavery, saying “I have heard many speakers within the last four years – speakers of the first order; but I confess, I have never heard one by whom I was more completely captivated than by Mr. O’Connell.” When speaking in Cork a few weeks later, Douglass again praised O’Connell, telling his audience: “I feel grateful to him, for his voice has made American slavery shake to its center. I am determined wherever I go, and whatever position I may fill, to speak with grateful emotions of Mr. O’Connell’s labors.” Douglass left Ireland at the beginning of 1846, just as the impact of the potato blight was starting to take effect in the country. His eloquence when lecturing on slavery had earned him the sobriquet ‘The Black O’Connell,’ forever linking him to the Irishman he so admired. Frederick Douglass, 27 years old, a self-educated escaped slave, and 70-year-old Daniel O’Connell, Liberator of Irish Catholics and scourge of British politicians, were unlikely bed-fellows. Together, however, their repeated and passionate attacks on the institution of slavery transformed the struggle for abolition into a transatlantic crusade for social justice.

O’Connell’s involvement in anti-slavery had started in 1824. In the 1820s, the movement to end slavery in the British Empire was being revived in Britain. James Cropper, an evangelical abolitionist from Liverpool, visited Ireland and sought a meeting with O’Connell.

O’Connell, then a successful lawyer, had just helped to found the Catholic Association – the most successful grassroots organization in the early nineteenth century. Despite the many claims on his time, O’Connell immediately embraced the cause of anti-slavery. Only a few months after meeting Cropper, O’Connell was asked to speak at a meeting of abolitionists in England. His arrival coincided with the retirement, on health grounds, of William Wilberforce, the genteel, evangelical founding father of British anti-slavery. O’Connell, Catholic, controversial and rumbumptious, represented a new generation of agitators, who were willing to use popular agitation and uncompromising invective to bring an end to slavery. From the outset, O’Connell put his own humanitarian stamp on the anti-slavery debate. Unlike some who agitated for gradual emancipation, O’Connell demanded that it be immediate. He repeatedly described black slaves as being the equals of free white men – then an unpopAUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011 IRISH AMERICA 43



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ular view even amongst abolitionists. Moreover, unlike the British abolitionists, he did not confine his attention to slavery in the British Empire. He also condemned slavery in the United States – which he constantly referred to as ‘a blot on their democracy.’ Finally, O’Connell brought a Catholic dimension to a movement that had, up to that time, been overwhelmingly associated with Protestant evangelicals. Unlike the evangelicals, he did not regard slaves as heathens who would benefit from being converted to Christianity, but as men and women who could not reach their potential until they were free. Overall, O’Connell brought a more inclusive and humanitarian dimension to anti-slavery agitation. After 1829, O’Connell used his presence in the British House of Commons, and his considerable oratorical skills, to agitate for the ending of slavery in the British Empire. His arrival in the British parliament caused disquiet amongst those MPs who supported slavery. A group of them even offered O’Connell support on Irish issues in return for his silence on abolition. He responded, “Gentlemen, God knows that I speak for the saddest people the sun sees, but may my right hand forget its cunning and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth before, to help Ireland, I keep silent on the negro question.”



O’Connell defending the rights of his countrymen in the courts of Dublin, Feb. 4 ,1844

Atlantic. O’Connell publicly refused to recognize the American Ambassador in London, Andrew Stephenson, on the grounds that he was a “slave-breeder.” Stephenson responded by challenging the 65-year-old to a duel. The duel was never fought, but the resulting dispute ran for months in the Irish, British and American newspapers. It also caused disquiet at the highest political levels. The British Foreign Office, no supporter of O’Connell, expressed concern at the venom being heaped on him by some sections of the American press. Queen Victoria, however, despaired that her Irish subject was creating an international diplomatic incident. Her apprehensions were well-founded. Henry Clay, an American, pro-slavery senator, publicly condemned O’Connell’s interference in the slavery question. In contrast,


n 1833, the British parliament voted to end slavery in the British Empire. O’Connell’s elation was tempered by two facts: slave-owners were to be given over £20,000 in compensation, and the ending of slavery was not to be immediate, but replaced by a system of ‘apprentice-ship,’ that is, slavery by another name. O’Connell led the opposition to what he regarded as a betrayal of the slaves, and demanded of the House of Commons, “Was that what the Negro expected? Was that what the country so long sought for and expected?” O’Connell’s unrelenting campaign meant that the apprenticeship system was ended in 1838. In 1839, O’Connell became embroiled in a controversy that attracted widespread attention on both sides of the

Professor Maurice O’Connell (third from left), greatgrandson of Daniel O’Connell, is presented with the “Honor Roll of Abolitionists,” which was signed by over 60,000 Irish people in 1842. Professor O’Connell (1922-2005) taught modern Irish and British history at Fordham University from 1964 to 1988 and edited his ancestor’s correspondence in eight volumes that appeared between 1972 and 1980.

Stephenson’s behavior was criticized in the House of Congress by John Quincy Adams, himself an abolitionist. An unexpected outcome of this controversy was that Frederick Douglass, when in Ireland a few years later, referred to this incident and explained how O’Connell’s actions had inspired him. He explained: “I heard my master curse him, and therefore I loved him. In London, Mr. O’Connell tore off the mask of hypocrisy from the slave-holders, and branded them as the vilest of the vile, and the most execrable of the execrable, for no man can put words together stronger than Mr. O’Connell.” ’Connell’s argument with Stephenson had made him the scourge of American slave-owners but, according to Douglass, it had ele-




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vated him to the hero of American slaves. Moreover, the Stephenson controversy demonstrated that O’Connell had become a central figure in the abolition question in the United States. In 1840, the first international AntiSlavery Convention was held in London. O’Connell’s participation confirmed his reputation as the most influential abolitionist in the world. The Americans who attended the Convention were particularly fulsome in their praise, with William Lloyd Garrison describing O’Connell as “the most wonderful of the statesmen and orators of the age.” Another delegate, Charles Lenox Remond, a black abolitionist, was also charmed, The funeral of Daniel O’Connell, August 5, 1847. Caption reads: “The bearer passing Mr. writing that, “No nation or O’Connell’s house in Merrion Square.” people possesses a superior to Daniel O’Connell.” O’Connell was disappointed at the Until his death in 1847, O’Connell The success of the London reluctance of some of his fellow Irishmen remained an outspoken proponent of Convention, but primarily O’Connell’s in the United States to support abolition. immediate abolition and an advocate of contributions, persuaded Remond to turn In 1843, while facing imprisonment by treating freed slaves as the equals of Irish support into something more permathe British government for convening a white men. Even following his death, his nent. Together with James Haughton and Repeal meeting at Contra, he penned an influence continued. In the struggle for Richard Webb, two Irish Abolitionists, he eleven page denunciation of slavery, and hearts and minds that preceded the composed “An Address of the People of of those who tolerated it. His message American Civil War, the speeches of Ireland to their Countrymen and was uncompromising and unequivocal: O’Connell were widely reprinted in the Countrywomen in America.” The How can the generous, the charitable, Northern states, bringing him to a new Address was signed by O’Connell, leadthe humane, and the noble emotions of generation of abolitionists. ing people to assume he was the author. It the Irish heart have become extinct In 1875, centenary celebrations for described slavery as a blot on American amongst you? How can your nature be so O’Connell took place throughout the greatness and it appealed directly to Irishtotally changed as that you should world. Some of the largest were located Americans to support abolition. Members become the apologists and advocates of in the United States. In Boston, valedicof the Hibernian Anti-slavery Society the execrable system which makes man tory tributes to O’Connell were made by took the Address from door to door in the property of his fellow man – destroys the three leading American abolitionists: Ireland, collecting signatures. By 1842, the foundation of all moral and social William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillip they had gathered over 70,000. The virtues – condemns to ignorance, and John Greenleaf Whittier. They each Address was then taken to Boston by immorality and irreligion, millions of our honored O’Connell as the most imporRemond. However, the Address caused fellow creatures …? It was not in Ireland tant abolitionist of the age. In Ireland dissent and division within the immigrant that you learned this cruelty... and Britain, Daniel O’Connell is rememcommunities. Asking Irish immigrants to Over the broad Atlantic I pour forth bered as the Liberator of Irish Catholics, support the Address meant unwittingly my voice saying come out of such a land but he also played a significant role in encouraging them to criticize the you Irishmen, or if you remain and dare liberating slaves both in the British American government and thus appear continue to countenance the system of Empire and in North America. both ungrateful and unpatriotic. Bishop slavery that is supported there, we will Moreover, his inclusive, egalitarian and John Hughes of New York urged Irish recognize you as Irishmen no longer! humanitarian approach truly made him Americans not to sign the Address on the William Lloyd Garrison, the leading both a friend and champion of the slave. grounds that supporting abolition would American abolitionist, said of In the words of Frederick Douglass, expose them to being caught between O’Connell’s denunciation, “I do not “The fire of freedom was burning in his IA their loyalty to their country of birth and remember anything finer from the lips of mighty heart.” that to their adopted country. any European or American patriot.” AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011 IRISH AMERICA 45



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Scarlett is


and Still Going Strong

On the 75th Anniversary of the publication of Gone With the Wind, David O’Connell explores how Margaret Mitchell’s Irish background influenced her writing. riting in the second edition (1940) of his monumental and influential study The American Novel, Carl van Doren wrote: “Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind not only gave a revised version of the Civil War in the South, so often the subject of more conventional novels, but also told, with remarkable verve and narrative energy, the story of Scarlett O’Hara’s rise from desolate circumstances in which the war had left her and her Georgia community.” Van Doren made three important points in this brief statement. First, he noted that Mitchell had given new life to what was by then a rather shopworn genre by telling her version of the Civil War story from a completely new point of view. Instead of setting the action of her novel among wealthy and affluent Virginia aristocrats or in a sophisticated coastal setting like



Charleston, and instead of attempting to describe bloody battlefields, she chose hardscrabble North Georgia with its red clay soil and rolling hills. Within that cadre, she wrote a novel about human relationships that had been irrevocably changed by the war. Secondly, at a time when literary modernism was on the rise and the Southern novel, in the hands of someone like William Faulkner, was becoming deliberately more obscure in style, Mitchell displayed an awesome ability as a storyteller by writing in a style that was accessible to ordinary readers. And, thirdly, a point that is important from the perspective of the 21st century, Mitchell told her story through the eyes of a young woman (Scarlett O’Hara) who was the daughter of an immigrant with an

Irish and Catholic sounding name. She wrote, historically speaking, against the background of the KnowNothing “Nativist” politicians who had declared war on such people. The power of the Nativist movement had crested in the election of 1856 but the Know-Nothings did not go away. Rhett Butler, one of the main protagonists in the novel, speaks for the Know-Nothings in his many putdowns of Scarlett, her family and its Irish origins. His comments range from “Now don’t fly off the handle and get your Irish up,” to “The Irish are the damnedest race. They put so much emphasis on so many wrong things. Land, for instance,” to the overall trashing of Scarlett’s people as “that bunch of wild Irish.” Although Rhett is physically attracted



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Margaret Mitchell, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937 for her epic novel Gone With the Wind

to Scarlett, his sense of caste and class keeps setting off alarm bells in his mind about her social origins. As an aristocratic son of Charleston, he is thus a true “native American,” while Scarlett is the daughter of an Irish immigrant who speaks with a foreign accent, lacks social polish, and is separated from poverty in only a tenuous way – her father, Gerald O’Hara, won the land that he owns in a card game. There is an important parallel to be drawn, one that the academic critics have missed, between Scarlett and Mitchell. For just as Scarlett grows up with the antiIrish Know-Nothings in the background, Mitchell also went through her adolescent and young adult years during a time when Tom Watson (1856-1922), Georgia’s home grown anti-immigrant and antiCatholic bigot, newspaper editor, politician and ally of the resurgent Klan, was garnering headlines. Watson, who grew

up on his grandfather’s plantation, wrote a novel in praise of the slave system. Entitled Bethany: A Story of the Old South, it appeared in 1904 and was diametrically opposed to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 abolitionist novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Catholic reaction to Watson, who suspected Irish Catholics of “Popery” (more loyal to the Pope than to country) and a lack of commitment to the “Southern way of life,” was based at Sacred Heart Church in Atlanta, where Mitchell’s mother, Mary Isabelle, or “Maybelle” (1872-1918), was a committed and activist member of the congregation. In fact, despite her gender in the patriarchal Southern culture of the time, Maybelle was a founding member of the Catholic Laymen’s Association of Georgia, the group that took on the powerful Klan bigots arrayed against the state’s Catholic and Jewish populations. Like Scarlett’s mother, Ellen O’Hara,

Maybelle was solid and unwavering in both her beliefs and commitment to defend them. Also, like Ellen O’Hara, who dies at Tara while Scarlett is in Atlanta, Maybelle died in the influenza epidemic of 1917 while Margaret was away at college in Massachusetts. Both Scarlett and Margaret arrive home just after their mothers’ deaths. Given the enormous effect that this event had on Margaret, her novel can be considered as an expression of the daughter’s final words to her mother. The narrative voice in Mitchell’s novel echoes neither the self-righteousness of the New Englander, Mrs. Stowe, nor the racial paternalism of Georgia’s Tom Watson. In fact, Mitchell, like her mother and Ellen O’Hara in the novel, shows immense compassion for African Americans, seeing their plight through the lens of her Irish background, with its implicit and automatic sympathy for the AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011 IRISH AMERICA 47



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underdog and the outsider. Her focus throughout is on the O’Hara household, in which just a few white characters live in close proximity, day in and day out, with black ones, and it is within this context that the novel’s narrative voice shows that bonds of affection and feelings of respect and endearment can grow between people of diverse origins despite what “the law of the land” might say about such things. Central to Mitchell’s Irish identity was the couple represented by her grandfather, Irish-born John Stephens (1833-1896), and his wife Annie Fitzgerald (18441934), whom he married in 1864 in Atlanta’s Immaculate Conception Church as Sherman’s troops were heading south toward Atlanta. It is widely believed that the cantankerous and headstrong Annie Fitzgerald Stephens was the principal model for Scarlett, although Mitchell would deny that

there was any connection between her work and her family. Annie’s father, Philip Fitzgerald, who was born in Tipperary, owned the family plantation located about twenty miles south of Atlanta. They called it “Rural Home” or “Home Place,” and it would later become the Tara of Gone With the Wind. According to Mitchell’s biographer, Darden Asbury Pyron, “These two Irishmen [Stephens and Fitzgerald] helped shaped the most fundamental 48 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011

stuff of Margaret Mitchell’s imagination.” Of her grandfather and greatgrandfather Mitchell said: “They were both Irishmen born and proud of it and prouder still of being Southerners, and would have withered any relative who tried to put on the dog. I’m afraid they were so proud of what they were that

course of the next several decades, attended classes and learned to read, write and do math with the Fitzgerald sisters. Sarah Jane left a diary that Mitchell would use in the creation of her novel. Unfortunately, Mitchell’s husband, John Marsh, and her brother, attorney Stephens Mitchell, destroyed the diary after her death in an effort to silence various Fitzgerald and Stephens relatives who were claiming that Mitchell’s success and fame were unmerited because she had plagiarized her great aunt’s recollections. The family’s ire was unjustified. According to Darden Asbury Pyron, the fallout was based partly on jealousy and partly on their negative perception of Mitchell as a lapsed Catholic, Smith College dropout, and divorcee. Whatever that diary contained, it was merely an inspirational text, a steppingstone of sorts, for Mitchell. She filtered its contents through her own personal genius, and added eleABOVE: Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in the ments created in her own imaginamovie Gone With the Wind. LEFT: Margaret tion. Most of all, she used it to transMitchell with her brother Stephen pictured with their mother Mary Isabelle (“Maybelle”). form her family’s self-consciously Irish oral history of itself into a they’d have thought putting on the mythic and iconic text. dog was gilding the lily, and anyway, Within six months of its publication in they left that to the post-war nouveau May 1936, Gone With the Wind sold a milriche who had to carry a lot of dog lion copies, an incredible achievement because they had nothing else to during the Depression era. Mitchell was carry.” awarded a Pulitzer Prize. In 1939, the As a child, Mitchell made many visnovel was made into a much beloved its to the Fitzgerald family home movie starring Vivien Leigh (the English where her mother’s two maiden aunts actress who like Scarlett was of Irish and Mary Ellen or “Mamie” (1840-1926), French heritage), and Clark Gable. The and Sarah Jane, or “Aunt Sis” (1849movie, received 10 Academy Awards 1928) still lived. These two women, (eight competitive and two honorary), and quite intelligent and very well read, has been dubbed one the greatest never married. One reason for this was American films of all time. that in the aftermath of the Civil War, Mitchell was struck by a speeding car in the number of eligible Southern men downtown Atlanta and died on August 11, had been severely reduced by the trag1949, not long before her 48th birthday. ic losses incurred in that conflict. After She is remembered for creating one of the 1865, Mary Ellen and Sarah Jane transmost famous heroines of all time, and a formed their maternal instincts, and chanbook whose appeal transcends ethnic, neled both their youthful energies and regional and religious boundaries. Gone love of learning into the creation of a With the Wind has found a truly worldschool. There, in the guest quarters that wide audience all these years for one simevery antebellum plantation had posple reason: Margaret Mitchell was able to sessed and that were scattered about the take an Irish story and make it speak the main house (and that, miraculously, had universal language of the human heart and survived the war), they created several litmind, one that stands, seventy-five years tle schoolrooms for youngsters from the after its birth, as a towering masterpiece of surrounding area. It was here that innuAmerican literature for people of every merable black boys and girls, over the imaginable background. IA



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of The South

A CELEBRATION OF THE IRISH IN THE SOUTHERN UNITED STATES The honorees profiled in this special feature will be feted at our sixth annual Stars of the South dinner in Atlanta on October 22nd.

Bill Duffy

A 23-year veteran of the sports industry, Bill Duffy was named Executive Vice President, Chief Financial and Administrative Officer for Bobcats Sports & Entertainment in August 2010, after an 18 month consulting assignment with the Bobcats in his position as Principal with The Aspire Group. In this role Duffy oversees the finance, human resources, legal, information technology and arena administration departments for the Charlotte Bobcats and Time Warner Cable Arena. A graduate of Princeton University and New York University, where he earned his Master’s in Accounting, Duffy’s previous work history includes executive positions with the San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Hawks and Thrashers, and the National Football League office in New York, where he helped create the league’s first salary cap. A dual USIrish citizen, Duffy’s green roots run deep including service on the Executive Committee of ICCUSA, Atlanta Chapter, the Executive Committee of the Atlanta St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and accompanying Georgia Governor Perdue on a trade mission to Ireland in 2007. A strong advocate for improving the lives of children, Duffy spent six years on the Board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta, three years on the Board of the Atlanta Hawks and Thrashers Foundation, three years on the Board of the San Francisco 49ers Foundation, and three years on the Board of Directors for Children’s Harbour in South Florida. A Certified Public Accountant, Duffy has been married to his wife, Cathy, for 30 years, and raised two daughters, Erin and Caitlin.


Tourism Ireland • CIE Tours International

Geraldine Higgins A native of Ballymena in County Antrim, Geraldine Higgins joined Emory University’s English faculty in 1996. Her courses on Irish literature focusing on the themes of creativity and conflict have attracted students from across the college and converted many to Irish Studies. Higgins has published widely on Yeats and the Irish Literary Revival , and on Ireland’s renowned living playwright, Brian Friel. Most recently she contributed an essay to Southern Cultures on “Tara, the O’Haras and the Irish Gone With the Wind.” Higgins earned a first-class Honors degree in English and history at Trinity College, Dublin and went on to receive her doctorate in English from Trinity College, Oxford. While a graduate student at Oxford, she taught for several years with Emory’s summer British Studies program and began to foster links with Atlanta. Formalizing Irish studies at Emory was a project years in the making. In 2003, Seamus Heaney decided to place his correspondence archive at Emory. Heaney’s archive joined what he called a “dormitory” of Irish writers including W.B. Yeats and more than a dozen contemporary Irish poets. In the glow of this atmosphere, Higgins and the Irish Studies team made a presentation to the college, lobbying for the addition of Irish Studies to the curriculum. They were successful, and Higgins was named the program’s first director in 2004. Since then, she and her colleagues have organized numerous conferences, poetry readings, lectures and cultural events culminating in the 2007 visit of President Mary McAleese to Emory. In May, Higgins, who grew up Catholic in Ballymena, traveled with a group of Emory students on a “Journeys of Reconciliation” program that coincided with the visits of Queen Elizabeth II and President Obama. With her students, she met with politicians, religious leaders and former prisoners in an effort to understand the causes of the Irish conflict and its successful resolution. Higgins and her husband, Robert, have two children, Liadan, 9, and Conor, 6, who consider themselves both “Irish” and “American-Irish.”

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Brian P. Kelley

Nancy Logue

Brian Kelley was the third born of seven children (six boys and one girl) to an Irish Catholic family on the west side of Cincinnati, Ohio. His father, Tom, is the second generation of his family in the US, since his grandfather, Eugene, emigrated from County Cork in the mid-1880s. In fact, all four of his grandparents came from County Cork. Brian's mother, Janis, is second generation Irish/German. Brian graduated from Archbishop Elder High School in Cincinnati before heading to Holy Cross College in Worcester, MA on a football scholarship, where he graduated in 1983 with a bachelor's degree in economics. He was elected captain of the Holy Cross football team his senior year and was awarded the Judge John P. Cooney Memorial Award as scholar/athlete upon graduation. His business career has spanned 28 years, with experience at Procter & Gamble, GE, the Ford Motor Company (where he was the President of the $14 billion Lincoln Mercury business), and 5 years as the President and CEO of SIRVA (a $4 billion global relocation company which Brian took public in 2003). Brian is now in his 5th year at Coca-Cola, after joining the company in 2007 as President of its $6 billion non-carbonated beverages business in North America. Brian was selected in 2010 to lead the integration of the company's $13 billion acquisition of Coca-Cola Enterprises and the formation of Coca-Cola Refreshments. He is currently the Chief Product Supply Officer for Coca-Cola Refreshments, where he leads the operations for the company here in North America and oversees nearly 35,000 Coca-Cola associates. Brian has served on a number of boards, including Hertz, Mazda, SIRVA, VWR and the Internet Capital Group. He lives in Atlanta with his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters, Erin and Gwen. Erin is a 2011 Wake Forest University graduate who will be joining the McKinsey Consulting Group in August. Gwen will be a junior this fall at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

Nancy Logue is a native Atlantan and an avid supporter of Irish dance and Irish music. For the past ten years, she has been helping to promote Irish culture by organizing festivals of Irish music and dance. Even though Nancy’s children descend from Donegal, Ireland, on their father’s side, Nancy herself is of Scots-Irish descent. Her grandmother, Ossie Imogene Caudell, is a direct descendant of the Caudells that came from Scotland and migrated to the province of Ulster in Northern Ireland. In the 1800’s the Caudells came to North America and settled in North Carolina, then traveled down through the Blue Ridge mountains and eventually settled in North Georgia. Nancy has served as President of the Atlanta St. Patrick’s Parade for the past four years and served on the committee for four previous parades. Nancy also was Vice President of the Atlanta St. Patrtick’s Foundation and is a member of the Hibernian Benevolent Society and the Shamrock Society. She was Chairman of Feis ATL for five years (one of the largest feiseanna – Irish Dance competitions – in the Southeast) and member of the North American Feis Commission which is a member of An Coimisiun le Rinci Gaelacha in Ireland. All of her children (Ashlee, Ryan and Katie) have taken Irish dance lessons. One continued in competition and competed in the Regional Championships, National Championships and World Championships in Belfast, County Clare, Glasgow, and Philadelphia. This allowed her family to get in touch with their Irish roots and they continue to enjoy the journey. Nancy resides in Roswell, Georgia and continues to organize events with associations and groups. She is also Staffing Consultant for a staffing company in Roswell.

Michael J. Kelly Michael J. Kelly is president and CEO of The Weather Channel Companies, the world’s largest weather-focused media and technology company, reaching over 160 million viewers. With nearly 30 years of experience in the media industry, Kelly most recently served as senior advisor to Veronis Suhler Stevenson, a $3 billion, media-focused private equity firm. He also served on the board of several fast-growing digital media companies – MediaMind (formerly Eyeblaster), Visible World and American Town Network – and as an advisor to the board of Contextweb. Previously, Kelly was president of AOL Media Networks from 2004-2007, where he was responsible for all of AOL’s advertising properties globally. Under his leadership, AOL was repositioned in the media and advertising marketplace and experienced significant advertising revenue growth. A Chicago native, whose great-uncle was the first Irish mayor of the city, Kelly is a graduate of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He began his media career in 1980 at the Chicago Tribune. In 1983 he began a 17-year run at Time Inc., first at Fortune magazine then as part of the launch team of Entertainment Weekly, eventually becoming EW’s publisher. Kelly was named Publisher of the Year twice during the four years he served in that role. Kelly currently serves as a board member of the Ad Council, The American Advertising Federation and is the Chairman of the AAF’s Advertising Hall Of Fame. A proud Irish American with roots in Mayo and Galway, Kelly has five sisters, one of whom is author and filmmaker Mary Pat Kelly. Profiles edited by Laura Corrigan, Dawn Darby and Sheila Langan


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of The South

Ed Moran Ed Moran's keen interest in his Irish heritage has led to ongoing involvement and service with Atlanta's Irish organizations. Known as a “go-to” person for all things Irish in Atlanta, Ed has spent the last 30 years in the printing and marketing industries. For the last 20 years he has been self-employed with typesetting, printing and web design. Ed is currently the President of the Hibernian Benevolent Society of Atlanta, Atlanta's oldest civic organization, established in 1858. He is also active in supporting many other Irish groups, including the Metro Atlanta Police Emerald Society, Firefighters Emerald Society of Metro Atlanta, Clan Na nGael, Irish Music Traditions, Irish Arts Foundation and others. Ed also serves on the board of the Gold Shield Foundation, which supports first responders and their families. For over ten years, Ed served as the Chairman of Atlanta’s St. Patrick's Parade, Inc., helping build the 154year-old parade into one of Atlanta's largest community-wide events. Ed grew up in Bradenton, Florida. His paternal Irish ancestry traces back to Gabriel Moran, who was transplanted from Co. Offaly to Co. Clare in 1654 by the Cromwellian Acts. Gabriel's great-grandson, also Gabriel Moran, came to the Maryland colony in 1710 at the age of 18. His descendants fought in the American Revolution and were landowners in what became Milledgeville, Georgia. Ed's mother, Mary Bodiford Sheppard, was a graddaughter of Roderick Kilpatrick Shaw of Quincy, Florida, who was a descendant of Gospero Sweet and Anne Munnerlyn, an ancestor of Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell of Gone With the Wind fame. Ed's daughter, Susan Kathleen, works with autistic children in the Gwinnett school system. After ten-plus years as a competitive Irish dancer, she also teaches dance, sings with Irish music groups, and plays Celtic harp.


Kieran McGill Kieran McGill is the President and CEO of Fadó Pubs Inc., a group of authentic Irish pubs headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. Kieran and his partner founded the company in 1996, having identified a market for a truly authentic Irish pub experience in the U.S. The company's pub interiors are designed and constructed in Ireland, and are installed in the U.S. by Irish craftsmen. The first Fadó opened in Atlanta in 1996 and quickly became known for offering the best of Irish beer, food, design and, especially, Irish hospitality. Kieran was born in Ireland and moved to the U.S. with his family in 1999 to run the business. A Chartered Accountant by profession, prior to Fadó Kieran was CEO of the managing consulting practice of a mid-market accounting firm in Dublin. In many ways, Fadó was a return to his roots, as Kieran's father owned a small pub in the center of Dublin. Fadó Pubs Inc. has two Irish pub brands, Fadó (Gaelic for “long ago”) and Tigín (meaning “small house” or “cottage”), and has fourteen locations in thirteen states across the country. The pubs have become focal points and social centers for the Irish and local communities in each of these areas. Fadó has been named a “Top Irish Pub in the U.S.” by USA Today, Sky magazine, MSNBC, City Search, and many local publications. Early on, Fadó started a partnership with St. Baldrick's Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that funds children's cancer treatments. In 2011, Fadó was St. Baldrick's #1 corporate partner, hosting events nationally during the St. Patrick's Day season that raised nearly $800,000. Kieran has been a member of a number of not-for-profit and industry boards and committees in the U.S. and in Ireland. A keen golfer, he lives with his wife, Louise, and children Laura and Stephen in the Morningside neighborhood of Atlanta.

Sharon Ryan Rodi Sharon Ryan Rodi has strong Irish roots from both her mother’s (Conway) and father’s (Ryan) families. Pride in their Irish heritage and commitment to their Catholic faith were paramount in her family while growing up and continue to be so in her own family. She was raised in New Orleans although she spent summers in other cities while her father, Connie Ryan, was a major league baseball player, coach and scout. She has visited her Ryan family’s hometown of Knigh, near Nenagh in Tipperary, and viewed the baptismal records of her great-great-grandfather and his siblings. Sharon retired three years ago from the practice of law at Adams & Reese, a large defense firm with offices in nine cities. She took a circuitous path to her law career. Upon graduating from college in 1964 and marrying Mark Rodi, she taught at a secretarial training school for disadvantaged women to help them enter the business world and support themselves and their families. This was at the height of desegration in New Orleans and an all-white staff with an integrated student body was not the most welcomed school in the city. However, the school was a tremendous success and for eight years provided education and opportunities to women transforming their lives. In 1973 came the Roe v Wade decision. Sharon, now the mother of two young daughters, volunteered at the archdiocesan’s prolife pregnancy center to counsel women with unwanted pregnancies to choose life over abortion. She became president of the center and remains on their board today. She has served as president of Louisiana Right to Life, continues on that board, and is the Louisiana delegate to National Right to Life. 1976 saw the end of the Vietnam War, and thousands of Indochinese refugees arrived in New Orleans. Sharon became director of Catholic Charities Refugee Social Services program, the most comprehensive refugee social services program in the country. Ten years later, in 1986, Sharon enrolled in Loyola Law School’s night program and after graduation she joined Adams & Reese where she practiced for 17 years. She maintained her community involvement doing volunteer work and in retirement she continues daily involvement with prolife activities, serves on numerous community boards, plays a little golf with her husband, and enjoys every minute she spends with her six precious grandchildren, her daughters, and their husbands.

Message from Joe Byrne


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A Message from Joe Byrne It is with great pleasure that I extend our warmest congratulations to the 2011 Stars of the South. These bright and capable individuals are pillars in finance and ambassadors of culture; they are teachers, authors and the open arms of charity. What is most striking about these Southern Irish Americans are their efforts to maintain and strengthen their connection to their heritage, in many cases a Scots-Irish heritage. Whether through providing authentic Irish pubs in the heart of Atlanta, organizing dance competitions or logging the history of the Irish in the South, these Stars all light the trail that connects us. Just as these Stars of the South are living examples of the marriage of Southern and Irish charm, the lands of the southern states are much like Ireland: treasure troves of history. The Scots-Irish who mainly settled in the southern United States hailed from the

North of Ireland, where old and new are uniquely intertwined. The historic walled city of Londonderry will be celebrated as the 2013 UK City of Culture. From its historic pubs to its famed shopping centers to the docklands of the Titanic Quarter, Belfast exhibits the utmost respect for the past matched with all the bright hope for the future. In April 2012, the Titanic Belfast will open filled with attractions including Titanic Boat Tours among its many attractions. Throughout the North, festivals and celebrations welcome visitors to commemorate and enjoy the craic! From the Giant’s Carnival to the 50th Belfast Festival at Queens and other NI 2012 events, there is no shortage of excitement in Northern Ireland. We thank the readers of Irish America for being true ambassadors to the island of Ireland as they continue to travel here and spread the word to more visitors. We eagerly await visits to Ireland from you readers, these Stars of the South and future stars of Irish America.

Executive Vice President United States & Canada Tourism Ireland

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of The South

J.J. Sheridan

Long a resident of Atlanta, Georgia, J.J. Sheridan has made it his life’s mission to bring the soul of Irish music to the public through his concert appearances and recordings. Sheridan, one of Ireland’s leading concert pianists, composers and arrangers, founded Trigon Recordings in 1988 for the purpose of recording the major Irish music collections of primarily: Turlough O’Carolan, Edward Bunting, George Petrie and Patrick Weston Joyce. His eight-disc set, The Complete Works Of Turlough O’Carolan, was released in 2007 to great critical acclaim. This was the first and still the only complete edition of all 214 pieces by the great eighteenth-century Irish harper known as “the last of the bards.” In the fall of 2011, Sheridan’s set of Edward Bunting’s 1840 complete collection of Irish music will be released. Bunting, the major nineteenth-century collector of Irish music, was a trained concert pianist and organist and believed that the great Irish airs, originally played on the harp, transferred beautifully to the piano. Bunting may have captured the sound of the disappearing harper, but Sheridan’s recording makes the work of Bunting available for modern audiences for the first time. Sheridan, who was born in Borris-inOssory, Co. Laois, received high praise for his 2006 album, Soul of the Irish Piano, a 22-track collection of Ireland’s greatest slow airs. He is a graduate of The Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin where he studied piano with the late John O’Sullivan and composition with A.J. Potter (himself a student of the great Ralph Vaughn Williams).


John F. Timoney John Timoney, the Dublin man who became one of America’s top cops, retired as Miami’s chief of police in 2010 having served in that position since 2003. Prior to that he had served as Commissioner of the Philadelphia police department. However, the majority of John F. Timoney’s 29year career was spent in New York City, where he rose through the ranks to become the youngest four-star chief in the history of that department. Timoney, born in 1948, emigrated in 1961 with his parents, younger brother Ciaran and sister Maria. His father passed away in 1966 and a year later, when John graduated from Cardinal Hayes High School, his mother and sister returned to Ireland leaving the two brothers in New York to support themselves. John passed the entrance exam for the police department. While working as a patrol officer in the 44th district he put himself through college earning a master’s degree from Fordham. In 1994, he was named Chief of the Department, the youngest officer to hold the title. The following year he was appointed First Deputy Commissioner, the second highest rank in the New York City Police Department. Timoney is President of the Police Executive Research Forum and serves on the boards of the Penn Institute for Urban Research and Philadelphia University. He is also Co-Chairman of the FBI’s South Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force. In 2010, Timoney authored a book, Beat Cop to Top Cop: A Tale of Three Cities. He was also chosen as a Harvard Fellow at the Kennedy School for the fall semester of 2010.

William (Bill) J. Todd William J. Todd has been President and CEO of the Georgia Cancer Coalition since 2003. A strategic public-private initiative to move Georgia to the leading ranks of cancer care in the nation, the Coalition has invested more than $300 million supporting research and prevention efforts to reduce cancer deaths. Todd’s 39-year career has focused on healthcare and technology management in Atlanta, Georgia. He was the founding president of the Georgia Research Alliance in 1990, nurturing the independent not-for-profit organization that has helped build Georgia’s reputation as a center for discovery and invention and fostered major advances in science, medicine and technology. He founded Encina Technology Ventures in 2000. His career began at Emory University hospitals, clinics, and the medical school, where he held a variety of administrative posts over two decades, ultimately serving as Assistant Vice President for Medical Administration at the Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center. A 1971 graduate of the College of Management at Georgia Institute of Technology, Todd attended the Institute for Educational Management at Harvard University. In 2000, he received an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland. In 2010 he was awarded the Ivan Allen, Jr. Prize for Progress and Service by Georgia Tech. Todd is past Board Chairman of the Georgia Tech Alumni Association and a Board member of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the American Cancer Society, the Georgia Tech Foundation, and Georgia Tech Ireland. He is a past president of the Rotary Club of Atlanta and a member of the Commerce Club, and Druid Hills and East Lake Golf Clubs. A fourth generation Atlantan, he has been named one of the “100 Most Influential People in Georgia” by Georgia Trend for seven years. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have two sons, both Georgia Tech graduates. Hayes is senior project engineer with Holder Construction Company, and David is a supply chain engineer with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.



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{what are you like?} By Michael Scanlon

Malachy at 80:

His wit and wisdom

“Do I contradict myself?” Walt Whitman famously asked. “I contain multitudes!” Malachy McCourt might say the same about himself. Arriving in America in 1952 from County Limerick at age 20 with $4.00 in his pocket, he was soon drafted into the United States Air Force and served time in Germany. Returning to the United States, he commenced a life that truly defines multitudinous. He began as a stevedore on the New York docks, but his natural born gift of story-telling soon landed him on Jack Parr’s Tonight Show, the most famous talk show of that era. From there he became the creator of the first and most popular “singles bar” in New York City called Malachy’s, while at the same time doing a stint as an international gold smuggler to India. His fame as a raconteur gained him his own radio and TV talk shows. In time, he launched a career as an actor and became a regular cast member on the soap opera Ryan’s Hope. Eventually Malachy made it to Broadway. Then to cap it off, in his 60’s, he became a best-selling author. By 2006, at age 75, he garnered enough signatures to place him on the ballot for Governor of the State of New York. Malachy’s life, like Whitman’s, also contains some intriguing contradictions. He arrived in America as an Irish immigrant, but was actually born in Brooklyn and moved back to Ireland with his parents at the age of three. He never graduated from primary school, yet his memoir, A Monk Swimming, made the New York Times best seller list and was the number one best seller in Australia for over a year. He has also written seven other books including Danny Boy: The Beloved Irish Ballad, A History of Ireland, The Claddagh Ring: Ireland’s Treasured Symbol of Friendship, Loyalty and Love and a second memoir, Singing His Him Song. Malachy was one of New York City’s most celebrated pub owners but has not had a drink in over 25 years. He has criticized and raised the hackles of the Irish, yet he claims a passionate love for Ireland and the Irish people. He has publicly and loudly denounced American right-wing politics but yields to no one in his undying patriotism. 56 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011

He has been irreverent about the church he was raised in but, in his later years, he has come to a deep sense of spirituality and inner peace. Never one to take himself too seriously, Malachy once described himself as “the man who gave good intentions a bad name.” As he approaches his 80th year, he still continues to write and to act in movies and television. He lectures on Irish literature and culture throughout the country, and a plan is now afoot to make a motion picture of his book A Monk Swimming. He is the father of four, grandfather of six, and he has been married to Diana McCourt for the past 45 years.



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What is your idea of perfect happiness? Walking in the woods with my wife Diana within earshot of river sounds. To what do you attribute your long and successful marriage to Diana? Diana taught me to say “I love you” without embarrassment and to show it with hugs and kisses. When we disagree it is understood we don’t say things like, “You never…” or “You always…” and we never say, “You are just like your–” whatever nasty relative comes to mind. What is the best part about turning 80? People will now be too polite to interrupt me whilst I’m giving myself advice. What is the worst part about turning 80? People telling me, “You look great.” And also not having a reverse gear to go back in time in order to make amends. What event most changed you? Finding peace in sobriety.

What would you like the Irish to most remember about you? That I made children laugh, that I brought a bit of joy to the old, and I learned to tolerate Irish conservatives. What’s your favorite journey? Walking on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be? I would try to lessen my intolerance for people who think they can influence their God by praying. What is it that you most dislike? Racism and bigotry. Who are your heroes? Thomas Paine, Paul O’Dwyer, James Connolly. What is your most distinguishing characteristic? In general trying to be funny and friendly, and I consider it a victory when I annoy a conservative.

Of your many incarnations which did you enjoy the most? Talking on the radio. I couldn’t wait to hear what I had to say next!

On what occasions would you tell a lie? Any time I speak. A lie to me is a dream that might come true.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? Freeing myself from rigid Irish respectability and being a firstclass oceangoing liberal.

What do you consider the lowest depth of misery? To be trapped in a country run by fundamentalists and creationists who ban and burn books.

What is your favorite place in Ireland? Anywhere in Connemara. Diana and I will be renting a house this summer in Roundstone, Galway.

Who are your favorite writers? P.G. Wodehouse, Sean O’Casey, H.L. Mencken, Mark Twain, Edna O’Brien.

How much of you is Irish and how much American? The Irish or American debate is over. I am a New Yorker.

How did you feel about the great fame that came to your brother Frank? I always knew Frank McCourt was a great writer and his recognition was long overdue.

What do you like about New York? You can complete many things here, but you can never be a complete failure. New York wouldn’t let you. What would you change about New York? I would make it the law for all restaurants to allow public access to their toilets as they do in Rome. What resources did you call upon to survive your poverty stricken childhood in Limerick? Imagination in the child is powerful. Reading and laughter and love are essential in our lives. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? My fear of being poor, of being hungry again, of being cold and no sign of the sun. What is the trait you most deplore in others? People who think wealth is a measure of character.

Which historical figure do you most identify with? Pontius Pilate. He was a clean man, always washed his hands. Who do you see as your fictional counterpart? The Ginger Man by J.P. Donleavy. What is the quality you most like in a woman? A woman who appreciates bawdy humor and is comfortable with both men and women. What is the quality you most like in a man? One who is not afraid to show his love for his beloved and his family. What is your motto? “Live every day as if it were your last because one day you will be right.”





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Billy the Kid & Whitey Bulger ust as the infamous South Boston Irish mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger was arrested on June 22, a photo of another outlaw from another century, Billy the Kid, sold for millions of dollars. Whitey and Billy were different in many ways. One made his name in the Wild West, while the other ruled gritty urban streets. But it turns out these infamous Irishmen had a lot in common. Among other things, they spent years on the run from their enemies, and still today show that Americans remain fascinated by mythic outlaws.

Million Dollar Photo No one would be more surprised than Billy the Kid that his photograph sold for $2.3 million at auction on June 25. Billy, who was about 20 at the time, probably paid 25 cents to have the picture taken around 1879. The photograph — a tintype, which is an early type of photography that used metal plates — is believed 58 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011

to have been taken outside a saloon at Fort Sumner, New Mexico. The photographer is unknown. The fragile metal image survived because Billy passed it on to Dan Dedrick, one of his pals, and it stayed in Dedrick’s family until it was consigned by Dedrick’s nephew, Frank Upham, to Brian Lebel’s 22nd Annual Old West Show & Auction in Colorado. The photo was expected to bring up to $400,000, but it took just over three minutes to get to the $2.3 million mark. The photograph went to collector William Koch, who already has a vast collection of Old West memorabilia, which also includes General Custer’s rifle, as well as guns owned by outlaws Frank and Jesse James.

Born in New York By most accounts, Billy the Kid was born Henry McCarthy in New York City on November 23, 1859. His mother was Catherine McCarthy. His father has vari-

ously been listed as Patrick McCarthy and Patrick McCarthy Bonney. So, it seems quite certain that Billy had Irish blood running through his veins. Ironically, it would be Irish adversaries who would do Billy the Kid in. In 1870, Catherine moved to Coffeyville, Kansas (although some accounts say she moved to Indiana) with Henry, as well as his brother Joseph, and Joseph’s father William Antrim, whom Catherine later married. The family later moved to Silver City, New Mexico where Catherine ran a laundry and Antrim worked as a miner. Catherine suffered from tuberculosis, a disease that was rampant in New York City at the time, and it was thought that the drier climate would help her condition. Catherine died, however, in 1873. According to the website Badhombres, Henry, who was 15 at the time of his mother’s death, didn’t get along with his stepfather and was soon out on his own. He got in trouble for petty theft, but he was also a



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good student who, according to one teacher, wasn’t in more trouble than any other kid. A reader, Billy the Kid apparently had a penchant for dime novels, which is fitting, as he would later inspire dozens of western adventure stories and movies.

Becoming “the Kid” The first time Henry McCarthy was called “the Kid” was when he killed an Irishman called Frank P. “Windy” Cahill who had been drinking in George Adkins’ Saloon in Camp Grant, Arizona. Cahill, a huge man, and a blacksmith by trade, called Billy a pimp and hit him across the head, knocking him to the ground. Billy drew a gun and shot Cahill in the stomach. He died a day later. After that, Billy was on the run and ended up back in New Mexico where he became embroiled in what was known as the Lincoln County War. According to Dermot P. Duggan, writing in Irish America (October 1991), two Irishmen, L.G. Murphy and J.J. Dolan, owned huge cattle ranches and controlled the town of Lincoln, including the sheriff William Brady. Murphy-Dolan were big suppliers to the U.S. Army and were stealing cattle from another big ranching baron, John Chisum, to fill some of their orders. Billy, after initially working for MurphyDolan, met up with John Tunstall, an Englishman who had moved to Lincoln in 1876 and started a ranch on the Rio Felez a few miles from the town. He has also teamed up with Chisum against the Murphy-Dolan outfit. Billy and Tunstall developed a bond. Tunstall was impressed with Billy and became a father figure to the boy. However, Sheriff Brady’s men, probably at Murphy’s instigation, killed Tunstall in cold blood in February 1878. Billy swore revenge and eventually (with the help of his gang) killed several of Brady’s men. On April 1, 1878, Brady himself was killed.

Enter Pat Garrett The tit-for-tat killings went on for months. The Governor of New Mexico, Lew Wallace, a former General in the Union Army, put up a reward of $5000 for the capture of Billy. But he also met with him to work out an amnesty in return for his testifying against the cattle thief J.J. Dolan. (His partner L.G. Murphy had died of pneumonia). Billy’s testimony helped convict Dolan, but Wallace wasn’t able to

come through on his promise of amnesty for Billy and, shortly after testifying, Billy made his escape. In 1880, fellow Irish American Pat Garrett was made sheriff of Lincoln County and he managed to capture Billy, but he couldn’t hold him for long. A couple of months later, on July 13, 1881, Billy had another run-in with Garrett at the house of his friend Pete Maxwell and Garrett shot him dead. Billy was unarmed.

A Hollywood Legend Billy the Kid’s death turned out to be merely the first act of his longer, mythic life. His exploits would inspire countless books, plays and radio specials. Meanwhile, generations of Hollywood’s most celebrated talent created films based on Billy the Kid. In the 1930s and 1940s, King Vidor, Wallace Beery, Roy Rogers, Buster Crabbe and Howard Hughes were among the actors and directors who made films about Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett. Paul Newman, Kris Kristofferson, Val Kilmer and Emilio Estevez (son of Irish American Martin Sheen) are among the stars who portrayed Billy the Kid in subsequent films. Next year, we will see yet another Billy the Kid flick, this one called Birth of a Legend: Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County War.

The Outlaw from Southie At the time that Billy the Kid’s photo was getting set for auction, a judge was asking legendary South Boston mob boss Whitey Bulger if he could pay for his own lawyer. “Well, I could, if you give me my money back,” Bulger quipped, referring to $800,000 in cash found in the wall of an apartment in Santa Monica, California, where he had been living for years with his girlfriend. A more poignant scene unfolded a few days later, when Whitey “smiled slightly” at his two brothers, John and William (long the most powerful politician in Massachusetts), who sat in on one court session, according to The Wall Street Journal. Whitey Bulger’s downfall finally brought an end to an Irish-American tragedy, one that begins in the impoverished housing projects of South Boston and detours horrifically into a netherworld of drugs and murder, where even FBI agents were willing to work for the bad guys. Along the way, many people died,

there were attempts to run guns to the IRA, rumors swirled that the “good son” Billy Bulger may not be so good, and Whitey just vanished for over a decade.

Public Enemy Number One At the time of his capture, Bulger was Public Enemy Number One, at the top of the FBI’s Most Wanted list ever since Osama bin Laden was killed. And yet, even as Hollywood movies based on his crimes were made, Bulger eluded authorities. Phantom Whitey Bulger sightings were reported from Ireland to his native South Boston. Not unlike some legend of the Old West, the less we actually knew about Bulger, the more fascinating he seemed to become. The Bulger myth had already swelled to epic proportions in 2006, with the release of the Martin Scorsese film The Departed. Jack Nicholson played ruthless Boston Irish mob boss Frank Costello, who had more than a few things in common with Bulger. The Showtime TV series Brotherhood was also about a New England Irish crime boss whose brother was a powerful politician. (Billy Bulger was president of the Massachusetts State senate for years.) Meanwhile, Hollywood rumors continue to swirl that Irish cinematic royalty Jim Sheridan and Daniel Day-Lewis will make a movie about Bulger, and how he manipulated law enforcement officials before he vanished in 1997. Aside from movies and TV shows, Bulger has inspired enough books to line a long shelf.

“No One Made Us Feel Better” How did Whitey Bulger become such an outlaw, as well as a mythic character? “No one made us feel better about where we lived than Whitey Bulger,” Michael Patrick McDonald writes in All Souls, his lyrical, heartbreaking memoir of growing up in South Boston. “Whitey was the brother of our own Senator Billy Bulger, but on the streets of Southie he was even more powerful than Billy. He was the king of Southie, but not like the bad English kings who oppressed and killed the poor people of Ireland. No way would we put up with that.” Of course, as McDonald’s book makes clear, that’s exactly what Bulger was doing. AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011 IRISH AMERICA 59



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He was instilling the Irish of Southie with local pride, only to later sell them lethal drugs or recruit them for criminal business, then dispose of them when they were no longer useful. Bulger and his associates also knew how to stir up fears against outsiders, including African Americans, which culminated in the infamous 1970s school busing riots. But there is more. As Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill write in their excellent book Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob, Whitey Bulger was indeed a “gangster with a reputation as the ultimate stand-up guy.” There was nothing worse in Southie than a snitch, a rat. To be an informant “defied the culture of [Whitey] Bulger’s world, South Boston, and his heritage, Ireland.” And yet, in the end, that’s also what Whitey was. An informant. A snitch. A rat.

“Something Different” James “Whitey” Bulger was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1929. His father was a laborer but lost his arm in an accident. The family moved into a South Boston housing project at the height of the Great Depression. “At the time there were no disability pensions, no workmen’s comp, no doles of any sort,” Howie Carr writes in his book The Brothers Bulger: How They Terrorized and Corrupted Boston for a Quarter Century. There were six children in the Bulger home. (“Average sized…by South Boston standards,” Carr quips.) The Bulgers’ father was quiet, especially after his accident, while older siblings Billy and Whitey “would always dominate the family,” according to Carr. Despite their Depression-era obstacles, Billy and Jack Bulger proved to be strong students. Whitey, though, went his own way. “From the beginning, there was something different bout Jim,” TJ English writes in his authoritative book Paddy Whacked: The Untold Story of the Irish American Gangster. Whitey’s first arrest came at the age of 14. Even when Whitey (so named because of his shock of blond hair) joined the military in the late 1940s, he was reprimanded for getting into several fights. 60 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011

In and Out of Prison Bulger spent much of the late 1950s and early 1960s in assorted prisons on robbery and assault charges. This did not deter Whitey, later, from joining the so-called Killeen gang, led by South Boston crime leader Donald Killeen. Killeen was gunned down in 1972, and several Irish-American gangsters have since fingered Bulger in the killing. Whoever whacked Killeen, it put Bulger in the position of rising up the ranks of the rival Winter Hill gang. It was also around this time that Bulger was approached by the FBI, who knew he was a criminal, but believed he could offer valuable information on other criminals. “The deal between Bulger and the FBI was deeper, dirtier and more personal than anyone had imagined and it was a deal that was sealed one moonlit night in 1975 between two sons of Southie, Bulger and

a young FBI agent named John Connolly,” Lehr and O’Neill write in Black Mass.

Working with the FBI The Connolly-Bulger relationship was like something out of the Bible: the lawman and the outlaw, both from the same tough Irish streets. Connolly had run into Bulger in an ice cream store way back in 1948. Even then Whitey was a legend, and offered to buy the little kid some ice cream. Awe-struck, Connolly did not know how to respond. “Hey kid, I’m no stranger,” Bulger said to Connolly, as recounted in Black Mass. “Your mother and father are from Ireland. My mother and father are from Ireland. I’m no stranger.” Connolly finally relented and requested vanilla.

Bulger and his loyal soldiers consolidated power through the 1980s, making him the most powerful crime figure in New England. One reason he was able to do this was because he could eliminate any criminal competition. He would simply give Connolly and the FBI information on other criminals, then take over their rackets when they were arrested. Bulger had the best of both worlds. He could control his competition, and yet was also protected by law enforcement. He was also seen as a “king” on the streets of South Boston. “He protected us from being overrun with the drugs and gangs we’d heard about in black neighborhoods,” Michael Patrick McDonald writes. This despite the fact that Whitey had reputedly whacked Irish gangsters and was flooding the streets with drugs, which would decimate a generation of IrishAmerican youngsters, and made funerals a far too common occurrence for Southie residents.

The End Bulger’s life was so charmed that in 1991 a story hit the newspapers that a store owned by Whitey had sold a winning lottery ticket. Swiftly, however, the story changed. It emerged that Bulger was actually one of four people who’d purchased the ticket. Whitey Bulger – elusive criminal, local legend – had won $14 million in the lottery. Or at least he’d gotten his hands on the winning ticket. But even for Bulger, the charmed life could not last. As outlined in Black Mass, FBI agent John Connolly had more or less fallen under Bulger’s spell, to the point that he’d tipped Bulger off that the FBI was about to arrest him in 1994. Bulger fled and began his life on the run. Connolly’s own web of lies unraveled and he was fingered for conspiring with Bulger in 1999 and jailed on numerous other charges. Bulger remained a free man until June 2011. He will likely spend the rest of his life in prison. But he will live on in books and films and TV shows. And who would be surprised if Bulger, before he dies, gets his hands on, say, one more winning lottery ticket? Billy Bulger, meanwhile, faced harsher questioning about what he really knew about his brother’s whereabouts – and life of crime. Billy had to step down from his post as leader of the Massachusetts state college system and, testifying before Congress in 2003, said: “I now recognize that I didn’t fully grasp the dimensions of his life.” –Tom Deignan



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{roots} By Dawn Darby

The Gleeson Clan


he surnames Gleeson and Gleason developed from the Irish name O Glasain, which originated in East County Cork. The Gaelic prefix “O” means male descendant of, and Glasain derives from “glas,” literally meaning “green” in the sense of inexperience as opposed to the color. There are many variations of the name, including Gleason, Glisane, Glison, Glyssane, O’Gleasane and O’Glassane. The Gleesons belonged to the ancient territory of Mac Ui Bhriain Aradh’s country, the area between Nenagh and Lough Derg in North County Tipperary. The name is still prominent in the area, but it has been carried all over the world. One of America’s great union leaders, Thomas “Teddy” Gleason (1900-1992) had roots in Nenagh. He was elected as president of the International Longshoremen’s Association in 1963. Teddy, one of 13 children, came from a family of longshoremen and left school early to work on the docks. He was Grand Marshal of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1984. Teddy’s son Tommy Gleason, a decorated WWI veteran and a lawyer, who founded the firm Gleason and Mathews, continued the tradition when he served as Grand Marshal of the Parade in 2003. The actor Brendan Gleeson (b.1955), on the cover of this issue, has come a long way since he began perDomhnall forming at a Dublin Shakespeare Gleeson Festival in the early ’80s. Currently starring in The Guard, Gleeson has had memorable roles in such movies as Braveheart, Gangs of New York, In Bruges, 28 Days Later, and the Harry Potter films 4 and 5. He found a new audience in 2009 when he portrayed Winston Churchill in the HBO movie Into the Storm. Two of Gleeson’s sons, Domhnall and Brian, are also actors. Another famous actor, comedian, Jackie songwriter and musician was Jackie Gleason Gleason (1916-1987) who was born in Brooklyn to parents from Faranree, Co.Cork. Gleason began acting on Broadway and went on to become a legend in the entertainment field. He was in such movies as The Hustler, Requiem for a Heavyweight, Skidoo, and the Smokey and the Bandit series. But he will always be remembered as Ralph Kramden in the The Honeymooners, in which he starred with Irish-American Art Carney. James Gleason (1882-1959) was one of the busiest character actors in movies of the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s, appearing in


political dramas, western comedies, mysteries, and musicals, such as A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Clock, Meet John Doe, and Here Comes Mr. Jordan. Paul G. Gleason (b.1939) is a famous acting coach in Hollywood. He arrived there from Portland, Oregon when he was 17. Within a year he had a contract with MGM and a scholarship from the American School of Dance. He went on to become an acting coach and has taught many of the Hollywood greats. He has his own theater, the Paul G. Gleason Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. Born in New York City, Ralph Gleason (1917- 1975) was known for his work as an American jazz and pop music critic, and as the founding editor of Rolling Stone magazine. He began his career at the San Francisco Chronicle in 1950, where he created his own genre of journalism focusing on contemporary artists. He was the first critic to review musicians’ opening nights and concerts. During his career, Gleason shaped the public’s view of musical Ralph legends such as Elvis Presley, Bob Gleason Dylan, Miles Davis, John Lennon and Hank Williams. In the art world, James Gleeson (1915-2008) is known as “the father of Australian surrealism.” Gleeson’s aunt taught him how to use oil paints when he was 11. Later he became interested in the surrealist James Gleeson, pictured in front of one of his paintings. movement, including the work of Salvador Dali and Giorgio de Chirico, and the writings of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. He was awarded the Order of Australia in 1975. John Gleeson (b.1950) is keeping the Irish flag flying with his scholarship. He is director of the Celtic Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Meanwhile, in politics and public service, we find John Gleeson (b.1953) who was appointed a United States District Judge in 1994; he has been an adjunct professor at the New York University School of Law since 1995. Another John Gleason (b.1954) has been a Democratic member of the Michigan Senate since 2006. He lives in Flushing, Michigan with his wife, Karen, and their two children. Finally, in the world of sports, William Gleason, (18661933) otherwise known as “Kid,” is one of the most rememIA bered baseball players of the nineteenth century.



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{sports history}

The Forgotten

Hero of Golf From the time it began in 1895, the U.S. Open had always been won by British or Scottish golfers.Things changed in 1911, when along came a young, spunky, Irish-American teenager from Philadelphia who walked away with the cup. Bill Kelly writes about John McDermott, the first American to win the U.S. Open – and the youngest ever.


hen Rory McIlroy walked down the 18th fairway at Congressional on June 19, the TV flashed a list of six young golfers who won the U.S. Open in their 20’s since World War II. The AP golf beat writer went on to note that McIlroy is the youngest to have won the U.S. Open since Bobby Jones in 1923, when he too was 22 years old. Meanwhile, John McDermott, the first American to win the U.S. Open, was forgotten and unheralded. Not only was McDermott the first American to win the Open, he was also the youngest, at just 19 years of age. He did it in June 1911, nearly one hundred years to the day that McIlroy won, and, as they are now with McIlroy, people said that McDermott had the potential of being the best player ever. The son of a mailman, McDermott grew up in an Irish neighborhood in West Philadelphia. Against his father’s wishes, he dropped out of high school to work full time as a caddy and golf professional at the Aronimink Golf Club, just a few blocks from his home.

He first came to the public’s attention at the U.S. Open in 1910, which was held at the Philadelphia Cricket Club’s St. Martin’s course. McDermott tied Alex and Macdonald Smith, two brothers from a famous Scottish golfing family. Alex Smith won the three-way playoff but when he tried to console the 18year-old saying, “Tough luck, kid,” McDermott replied brashly, “I’ll get you next year, you big lout.” And he did. Following the 1910 Open, McDermott took a job as the Merchantville (NJ) Golf Club pro before being hired as the professional at the prestigious Atlantic City Country Club. At “the Northfield Links,” as they called it, McDermott rented a room in a small cottage across the street (that is still there), and took the trolley to Atlantic City every morning to attend mass, after which he practiced golf and gave lessons. They say McDermott would spread out newspaper over an area as a target, and then narrow it down until he could hit a small area at will. The 1911 Open was played at the Chicago Golf Club. And this time Smith didn’t make the playoff. George Simpson, Mike Brady and McDermott finished on even terms. Simpson was ill and didn’t play and McDermott won by three shots over Brady. McDermott retained his title the following year when the Open was played at the Country The long lost hickory shaft club used by John McDermott to win two U.S. Opens recently resurfaced, to the amazement of golf historians and memorobilia collectors. The midiron mashie (pictured 2nd from rt.), custom made by Anderson of Anstruthen, Fife, Scotland has McDermott’s name as well as Anderson’s “cleek mark” embedded in the iron head.




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McDermott pictured with his U.S. Open Trophy.

Club of Buffalo, beating out two other Irish Americans, Tom McNamara, and Mike Brady. McDermott’s finances blossomed after the 1912 win; he played exhibition matches and endorsed golf balls and clubs. He also went to Europe to play. He didn’t qualify for the British Open in 1912, but in 1913 he finished fifth, the first American to finish in the top five. McDermott was treated with more dignity than Walter Travis, who preceded him and had his Schenectady (center shafted) putter banned by the British. But there was a developing animosity between the American and British golfers, which was intensified by McDermott at Shawnee-on-Delaware in 1913. Shawnee was considered a prequel to the Open, which was to be played a week later at Brookline. McDermott really made his mark when he played against Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, two of the greatest golfers to ever play the game. Both British professionals, they routinely won the U.S. Open, but hadn’t played in the two Opens won by McDermott, so there was the nagging question as to whether McDermott could actually beat the best. That question was answered at Shawnee, when McDermott won the tournament outright, defeating Vardon and Ray by eight strokes. Afterwards, in the locker room full of reporters, McDermott made a brazen promise that the U.S. Open trophy would not be taken back across the pond. He was quoted extensively in the British press, and that speech put golf on the front pages of every major newspaper in America and the British Empire. Although McDermott was criticized, claimed he was misquoted and apologized, the media frenzy following McDermott’s nationalistic sentiments created much anticipation for the 1913 U.S. Open at the Country Club at Brookline,

Massachusetts. When McDermott fell behind (he finished in 8th place), it was left to American Francis Ouimet, an equally young 20-year-old caddy and dedicated amateur, to keep McDermott’s promise. The tournament ended in a three-way tie between Ouimet, Ray and Vardon. McDermott advised Ouimet to “pay no attention to Vardon and Ray and play your own game,” which Ouimet did. In what was later called “The Greatest Game,” he won the day over the two British professionals. A photo of Ouimet getting ready to putt in his final shot, with Vardon, Ray, McDermott and a huge crowd looking on, hung on the wall next to the Atlantic City CC locker room door for decades. In 1914, McDermott tied for 9th place in the U.S. Open, his old self-confidence greatly diminished. He headed over to Europe to play in the British Open, but he missed a train and didn’t play in the tournament. Returning home by steamship, McDermott was in the barber’s chair when his ship was rammed by another ship in the English Channel and had to return to port. The incident had a serious effect on McDermott. Though physically fine, he was mentally shaken by the accident. When he finally got home, he learned that his stocks had tanked and he was broke. One morning at the Atlantic City Country Club where he was a professional, McDermott blacked out and was found unconscious. He apparently suffered a nervous breakdown. After that, he was institutionalized and spent the rest of his life living either with his sister in Philadelphia or in local mental institutions. He did play on occasion, however, with Tim DeBaufre at Valley Forge and others, until his clubs were stolen from his sister’s car. One club survived. While playing with a stranger, he borrowed a club from his playing companion, liked it, and was allowed to keep it. In return, he gave up an old wooden mashie, saying to his incredulous playing partner, “That club helped me win two U.S. Open championships.” Besides his sisters, Gertrude and Alice, Atlantic City Country Club owner Leo Fraser also made sure McDermott was taken care of in his later years. Fraser invited him to visit the club and named the McDermott Room after him. In return, McDermott’s sisters gave Fraser one of his U.S. Open championship medals, valued at $40,000, which the Fraser family donated to the USGA, and is now on display at the USGA museum in Far Hills, New Jersey. When the 1971 U.S. Open was held in Philadelphia at the Merion Country Club, McDermott’s sister left him alone in the clubhouse where a young assistant pro, Bill Pappa, thought John was in the way and ordered him out of the pro shop. As it was later reported, “In 1971, Arnold Palmer, while playing the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club, noticed a shambling old man being ejected from the lobby. Palmer recognized him as John McDermott who, in 1911, had been the first American to win the U.S. Open. Tossing out such a man wouldn’t do, decided Palmer, who shooed away club employees and escorted McDermott back inside. “They talked golfer to golfer, champion to champion,” wrote golf historian John Coyne, “and Palmer then arranged for McDermott to stay at the tournament as his special guest.” Two months later McDermott died in his sleep at his sister’s IA home in Philadelphia. AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011 IRISH AMERICA 65



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{travel} Golf

The Most


Spectacular Golf Course on the Planet


he Old Head Golf Links in Kinsale, County Cork has been ranked by Links magazine as the most spectacular golf course on the planet (Spring 2011 edition). Truly one of the most unique golf courses ever conceived in the history of golf, it is built on a diamond of land jutting out over two miles into the Atlantic Ocean. The links and practice area occupy 180 acres and the remaining 40 acres are of unspoilt cliff (rising in places to over 300 feet). I was fortunate to play the Old Head on a recent trip to Ireland. As a Cork City native, I was particularly thrilled to be playing on this world-class venue located just 30 miles from my childhood home. I cannot claim a noteworthy score for my round, but the game took a back seat to the unique experience of playing golf amid all these magnificent views. The holes that are played along the cliff tops especially took my breath away. Old Head is surrounded by the ocean on all sides and stretches over 7,200 yards. The par 72 course, is comprised of five par 5’s, five par 3’s and eight par 4’s with six tees per hole. With an ever-changing sea breeze, the course provides a stern test to the touring pro and high handicapper alike. It is designed as a walking course where members and guests are encouraged to walk the links with a caddie, and Old Head boasts the largest group of professional caddies in the country.


In the 19th and 20th centuries the headland was used by local farmers – mainly rough grazing for sheep. In 1989, the land was acquired by two brothers, John and Patrick O’Connor, who brought in Ron Kirby, a former designer at Jack Nicklaus’s golf design services; Paddy Merrigan, an Australian course architect and agronomist, Liam Higgins, one of Ireland’s best known golf professionals; and the late Dr. Joe Carr, Ireland’s most successful amateur golfer. The course was opened in 1997 and quickly became a favorite with amateurs and professionals alike. The designers were careful to work the natural surroundings into their layout. There have been countless shipwrecks in the sea off Old Head, and over the centuries primitive lighthouses were built to assist navigation and warn against invasion. The remains of two lighthouses built in 1667 and 1814 can still be seen near the 7th tees, while the most modern lighthouse, built in 1853, is located on the southern tip of the headland behind the 18th tees. The designers of the course also planted over half a million shrubs and plants, creating new wildlife habitats for pygmy shrews, bank voles, kestrels, foxes and hares. Another relic of the past to be found is the Stone of Accord (the imprint of which Old Head uses as a logo), a free-standing rock with a hole near the top through which the sun shines, indicating the

change in seasons. In pre-Christian times couples would exchange wedding vows by linking hands through the hole. Business deals were also sealed using the same joining of the hands. After our round, we headed back to the clubhouse to the Lusitania Bar (named for the British ocean liner sunk by a German u-boat in 1915. The vessel went down 11 miles off Old Head with a loss of 1,200 lives, an event that contributed to the U.S. entering the war). After relaxing while taking in stunning vista of the Atlantic Ocean and the Old Head Lighthouse, we (my father, Brian, my brother Niall, and my wife, Liz) were treated to a tour of the 15 luxurious suites, which are beautifully furnished and offered magnificent views. We also checked out the fitness suite and the thermal spa, which an overnight stay will grant you access to. As we were so close to home we didn’t stay the night, but I did promise Liz that we would be back. The Old Head, with its standing stone, spa and most of all, spectacular golf, is the perfect spot for a second honeymoon or any occasion at all. – Kevin Mangan The Old Head Golf Links is located 7 miles beyond Kinsale, one of the most scenic resort towns in Ireland, and only 30 minutes from Cork Airport. For more information on Old Head go to Tel +353 21 4778444 or email



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t started out as a highly anticipated but eyebrow raising idea: the transformation of a comic book into a Broadway show. Soon into the rehearsal process, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark made headlines with its mishaps, swelling budget and seemingly endless delays. After one of the longest rehearsal processes in Broadway history, Spider-Man opened on June 14 to an audience of Irish-American royalty, including the show’s musical composers Bono and the Edge, Liam Neeson, Matt Damon and former President Bill Clinton. Though one



Carney By Tara Dougherty


Irish American soared high above the others… literally. Broadway’s resident vigilante, Reeve Carney was a musician in a jazz-infused rock band in Los Angeles when he met Tony-award winning director, Julie Taymor. Some phone calls led to some songs which led to a trip to New York and a three-month audition process which would crown Carney with the most coveted new role on Broadway – Peter Parker himself. Reeve caught up with Irish America about the premiere and his greatest passion – his band Carney. Reeve mentioned that one of the greatest perks of the show finally premiering is the hours of daylight he now has to devote to the band. “It’s nice if you have other creative out-



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lets,” he said. “I have my band and now we’re able to rehearse in the day time which is wonderful because it kind of gets my mind off the show for a little while. When I come back to the theater every night I have a fresh perspective and can deliver a fresh performance.” After seeing the show, it is difficult to imagine the actors having the energy to do much else other than Spider-Man. The show is certainly unlike any Broadway has seen before, with actors swinging across the entire orchestra and landing on the ledges of balconies, the whole show culminating with a final battle scene, set on the side of the Chrystler building. It is a thrill ride so action-filled that it is jarring to think that this could ever become stale. But, according to the free-spirited Reeve, it can. “Once you open, it’s a running show and it stays pretty much the same… When you do the same show every night you have to find ways to keep it fresh.” Most, if not all, of Reeve’s off-time is dedicated to Carney, the band he, his brother Zane and their childhood friend Jon Epcar began dreaming up as adolescents. The Carney brothers began learning guitar and Epcar drums for a high school jazz band. The three went their separate ways for a while but reunited nearly four years ago to form Carney. “The heart and soul of our music is rock and roll but the mental and spiritual approach to some degree is from a jazz background,” Reeve explains. A nice break from the static nature of a Broadway show are the Carney shows he works into the schedule. “With our band, Carney, we are very improvisational in nature… No sets are ever exactly the same …We throw in different songs but also even if the songs are the same there are sections of the songs that are completely improvised every night.” Carney’s debut album, Mr. Green Vol. 1, definitely speaks to that jazz background, particularly in the track “Amelie.” Nothing is ever quite as it seems with Carney. Much of the band’s efforts are aimed to express a dynamic vision, to present the unexpected. “Basically the approach of our band is to put music out there to inspire people

“I have my band and now we’re able to rehearse in the day time which is wonderful because it kind of gets my mind off the show for a little while. When I come back

to the theater every night I have a fresh perspective and can deliver a fresh performance.” and inspire ourselves but to also make people think.” Even the title of the band’s debut full length album, Mr. Green Vol. 1 is a testament to the band’s between-thelines approach. “A word like green has so many different meanings and connotations and we like that concept. It kind of goes along with everything our band stands for. Not being black and white. We don’t want to be too obvious and we don’t want to force anything down anyone’s throat.” The band members play with the orchestra in Spider-Man and also are looking forward to continuing to play shows in New York on their rare nights off as well as a gig opening for U2 at the end of July. “That’ll be a crazy Irish party that night,” Reeve joked. Reeve’s ancestors immigrated to Boston in 1850. Though much of that initial immigrant Matthew Carney’s story has been lost through the years, Reeve noted certain bits of Irishness he felt had been passed down. Not only does Reeve have a keen interest in Celtic music, which he claimed had a great influence on his own music, but he also prefers that damp weather the Irish know so well. “I have not been able to visit Ireland yet

but it’s one of the places I’ve wanted to go more than anywhere else. That’s exactly my type of weather. It’s funny--I was putting up Christmas lights one year in California in the rain and it was the only time I’ve ever enjoyed manual labor outside because it’s usually way too hot for me. But it was cold because it was raining so much and I thought it’s probably because of my heritage that I can’t work in the heat. I think I like that damp, green sort of environment.” Until Reeve can make it across the Atlantic, he is genuinely excited to continue his work as Peter Parker and to continue to grow with Carney. “We love playing live as a band but we look at this process of our involvement with SpiderMan as an incubation period for our band. Right now, probably the best thing for us to be doing is creating new music and recording that music so that whenever we decide to leave the show we’re able to present something new to the world.” So for a while, Reeve Carney will, like Peter Parker, continue to live his own double life. Incubating rock star by day and a swinging Broadway star by night. There really is no business like show IA business.




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{music reviews} By Tara Dougherty

Singing in the Dark Grá agus Bás • Donnacha Dennehy with Dawn Upshaw,

• Susan McKeown

Iarla O Lionáird, Crash Ensemble and Alan Pierson The tradition of sean-nós singing is one not frequently emerging on today’s world stage. Its very name means “old style” and has long remained in the context of historical study in Ireland’s musical development. The (normally unaccompanied) nasally, highly ornamented form is a sparsely found art form in Ireland now. However, Donnacha Dennehy found it absolutely facisnating and has reinvented it in many ways with Grá agus Bás. His extensive research and training is evident in the recordings. The title track conducted by Dennehy and sung by Iarla O Lionáird, was commissioned by Trinity College in Dublin. The remaining tracks of Grá agus Bás continue in this tribute form to Ireland, taking texts from W.B. Yeats poems. The feel to the remaining tracks are drastically different to the seannós of “Grá agus Bás.” With a much more modern classical approach, Dennehy melds the haunting voice of soprano Dawn Upshaw with traditional Irish and orchestral instrumentation beautifully. The tracks are at times frightening, moving rapidly and threateningly, and at other times they are melancholy and soaring. With Upshaw’s operatic contribution and Dennehy’s unbelievable range of composition, the album is like a journey through Ireland’s musical and cultural life. From the oral tradition of the sean-nós, moving into the Western European Classical influence tied together with the words of Yeats. It is a true triumph as a collection.

For years Susan McKeown’s records have explored old favorites refreshed with the new timbers of her voice.What separates her newest album, Singing in the Dark from her previous work, is the incredibly intimate subject matter. McKeown discovered in exploring her family history a high rate of mental illness in the creative members of her ancestral tree. Fascinated by the troubles associated with the creative mind, McKeown put together this collection of songs which explore the tremendous highs and lows of the creative mind. The arrangements on her track “Mad Sweeney” are breathtaking, a haunting clash of instrumentation built around McKeown’s interpretation of a centuries-old Irish manuscript. Mckeown also succeeds gracefully in reintrepreting Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem” and Anne Sexton’s “A Woman Like That (Her Kind).” McKeown’s voice is at times sailing and at times trembling, attacking and retreating with the very emotional fervor she set out to IA communicate.

Monongah • Kyle Carey A bright new face to the Celtic music scene, Kyle Carey released her debut album Monongah, a refreshing collection of originals which blend Carey’s own Appalachian and Irish roots. It is clear on the record, that Carey’s youthful excitement feared no combination of folk influences, taking from the Breton, Scottish and Irish traditions. Recorded in the west of Ireland early this year, Monongah features a slew of expert musicians anchored by Carey’s guitar and honey sweet vocals. Aoife Clancy lends harmony vocals to the tracks, an added dimension too often shied away from in modern Celtic interpretations. “Orange Blossom” is perhaps the track which best emphasizes the lyricist in Kyle Carey. It tells the story of a woman losing her love to drink. It resonates easily with the singer-songwriter audience while “Gaol Ise Gaol I” showcases her love and knowledge of the Celtic tradition. Carey explores a great many worlds within folk tradition in this promising debut record. Here’s hoping there are more ideas and eagerness to come from Carey in the future.

Greatest Irish Americans of the 20th Century Edited by Patricia Harty • Foreword by Senator Edward Kennedy The triumphs of the Irish in literature, music, family life, history, politics, and so many other fields are the triumphs of America, too, and all of us are very proud of them. –Senator Edward Kennedy (from the Foreword) Greatest Irish Americans of the 20th Century is a celebration of Irish Americans, their contribution, and their impact on American history, culture and life.

Signed by the author. $20 includes S&H. Contact: or call 212 725 2993 x.150 to order.

The impact of over 150 Irish Americans, among them James Cagney, Bing Crosby, Walt Disney, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry Ford, and John F. Kennedy, is captured in this book through profiles and photos. Essays and reflections from prominent Irish American writers are featured throughout, including: The Paddy Clancy Cell, by Frank McCourt JFK – Our Jack, by Pete Hamill Two Grandfathers, by William Kennedy John Ford – The Quiet Man, by Joseph McBride My Wild Irish Mother – by Mary Higgins Clark John Steinbeck – The Voice of the Dispossessed, by Jim Dwyer



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{book notes}

Banville’s Kafka Award T

hough he was born and raised in Ireland and continues to live there, John Banville has worked hard to be recognized as a European writer rather than a strictly Irish one – placing himself in constellation with Nabokov and Kleist, in addition to Joyce and Beckett and Yeats. On May 26th, he received an official recognition of this achievement in the form of one of the literary world’s most prestigious awards: the Franz Kafka prize. Awarded each year by the Czech Republic’s Franz Kafka Society, the prize honors international writers whose “work addresses readers regardless of their origin, nationality or culture, just like the work of Franz Kafka.” In accepting the award, Banville joins the ranks of American novelist Philip Roth (who

was the first recipient, in 2001), playwright Harold Pinter, and the prolific Czech writer and politician Václav Havel. A Wexford native, Banville is the author of sixteen novels and numerous plays. He won the Man Booker prize for The Sea in 2005 and received much acclaim for his most recent work, The Infinities. He also writes smart, page-turning suspense novels under the name Benjamin Black. The fourth book by Black, A Death in Summer, was released July 12 (see pg. 74 for a review). – SL

Bloomsday Flowers T

longings, her self-knowledge – as well as her lack thereof! It is a brilliant window into genteel, middle-class, colonial Dublin of 1904 and a woman's world within.” Ulysses Pub in the Financial District devoted the day to its namesake, with

TOP: Aidan Connolly, Fionnula Flanagan, Belinda McKeon and Isaiah Sheffer. LEFT: The Dublinbased Songs of Joyce duo, Sinead Murphy and Darina Gallagher.

writers and members of the Irish community came to read sections from each of the eighteen chapters. The reading went late into the night and concluded with Fionnula Flanagan's epic, totally captivating reading of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy, which she calls “a huge symphony in words. There are great swatches of it I now know by heart, but I find new emphases each time. I think with age and experience one discovers her depths, her loneliness, her 72 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011


he Joyceans came out in full force to celebrate Bloomsday, beginning in Bryant Park, where the Irish Arts Center and Culture Ireland invited New Yorkers to gather for a Bloomsday Breakfast. The crowd was transported back to June 16, 1904 by men and women in Edwardian attire, and entertained by the Dublin-based duo Songs of Joyce and readings by a diverse group, including filmmaker Terry George, young actor James Newman, and Ireland's Minister for Finance Michael Noonan. At Symphony Space, the 30th annual Bloomsday on Broadway began promptly at noon, as various actors,

McCann Wins IMPAC Award

gorgonzola sandwiches and Burgundy wine for lunch, and live readings. Throughout the U.S., Joyce enthusiasts gathered in pubs and bookstores to celebrate the day. Others did so online: one man, appropriately called “Stephen from Baltimore,” led the firstever Ulysses on Twitter. With many collaborators, all fellow Ulysses fans and Twitter users, he set out to see whether the notoriously long and complex novel could be artfully reduced to a series of 140 character tweets. It took 24 hours and 612 tweets, but the mission was certainly worthy of Ulysses, and very fitting, as 2012 marks the end of the book’s drawn-out copyright.

rish writer and New York resident Colum McCann was presented with the 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award on June 16th, for his equally acclaimed and beloved novel Let the Great World Spin. The IMPAC award, now in its 15th year, is one of the most important literary awards, and with a prize of €100,000 it is also the most lucrative. Past recipients include Orhan Pamuk, Per Petterson, Alistair MacLeod and the 2010 winner, Gerbrand Bakker. McCann is the second Irish awardee, following Colm Toibin who was recognized in 2006 for his novel The Master. Contenders for the IMPAC are nominated by libraries around the world, and are then narrowed down to a shortlist.This year’s shortlist included William Trevor for Love and Summer, Colm Toibin for Brooklyn, Barbara Kingsolver for The Lacuna, and Joyce Carol Oates for Little Bird of Heaven. Let the Great World Spin, which also won the U.S.’s National Book Award in 2009, is a beautifully woven tapestry of New Yorkers and their vastly different lives, all brought together in some way by the breathless 45 minutes in 1974 when Philippe Petit danced back and forth on a tightrope between the Twin Towers.The judges described it as “a remarkable literary work, a genuinely 21st Century novel that speaks to its time but is not enslaved by it.” – SL



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{book notes}

A Night for Saints and Sinners


On exile. Why had she left Ireland? Why did she so often write about Ireland, if she didn’t live there? O’Brien spoke of the burnings of her first book, The Country Girls, and the early accusations by critics that “I had shamed my country. There are always castigations that I don’t know Ireland. [Because she hasn’t lived there since the 1960s]. But Ireland is my landscape – Mother Ireland is a fertility to me. It’s the place of my childhood and one feels the loss of it.

“The old matter of concerns us all. The going back; the half-going back; the not-going back...There’s a sense of exile in every single person.”

On her writing. What’s next? “I’d like a ghost writer. Writing takes all you have and a little bit more. It requires a determination and a solitude that cuts you off from life.” Nonetheless, she plans to keep on writing: “If I’m any good, some of it will leak out.”

How do her mother-daughter stories reflect her relationship with her own mother? “Now you’re asking a lot!” Her mother lived in Brooklyn as a young woman, then returned to Ireland. “She wanted to return, for me to take her back to Brooklyn, but I knew that it wouldn’t be the same for her. I regret that I didn’t ask her details about her life, her time there, and now it’s too late.”

The Catholic Church? “Ah, the beleaguered Catholic Church!” Though she professes to be devout, O’Brien said, “There is great anger. Ireland’s people feel betrayed.” Even though things seem different in Ireland, “with people walking around half naked, with nose rings...there is still inside the fear and guilt.”

Do you keep a journal? She said she’d tried, like Dylan Thomas, on little bits of paper. “Thomas went to Puck Fair, a bibulous fair in Kerry, and left scraps of paper and jottings in all the pubs.” She kept notes for awhile, “but they were so melancholy...! I suppose maybe I should have kept them and cheered them up a bit.” And, speaking of bibulosity: “Prohibition ended and the ban on Ulysses was lifted on the same day. Minds and bottles opened simultaneously.”


dna O’Brien threw down the gauntlet straight away. In discussing her latest collection, Saints and Sinners, at Glucksman Ireland House on May 31, she explained that Miss Gilhooley, the romantic librarian in the story “Send My Roots Rain,” had tried to organize literary evenings but found that “people only came because of the wine and the canapés after.” There was a burst of sheepish laughter as her audience recognized the meta-ness of the scene. Members of Ireland House always look forward to the conviviality of its generous post-lecture wine and cheeses – and some nights with considerably more fervor than others. She announced her plan for the night. “I’ll read you two little bits of the stories, and then we’ll have questions, which are always more interesting.” Really? Q&As interesting? Isn’t that what happens just before the canapés, with yawns and posturing on both sides of the lectern? O’Brien – tempting as it is to say Edna, as we all were after, because of her tremendous warmth, I will call her O’Brien, as one would Roth or Updike – O’Brien held us rapt on this last night of her tour for Saints and Sinners, which The New York Times Book Review called “sublime...a wonder, shimmering with her matchless prose...To read O’Brien is not only to succumb to her sibyl’s vision of other people’s fates, it’s to fall under the spell of her singular, potent language.” Alice Munro, herself no slouch in the short story department, cut to the chase: “Edna O’Brien writes the most beautiful, aching stories of any writer, anywhere.” And here we were in the parlor chatting with the Sibyl. Why not just tell you what she said?

Edna O’Brien with Colum McCann, who introduced O’Brien by saying, “There is no living Irish writer who compares. . . she creates arias of belonging.”

“There was the story on the radio of grown children, who after their father’s death, turned their stepmother out, only sticking her heart pills through the mail chute. Greed! Before, that wouldn’t have happened; there was much more compassion. Maybe humanity will find its way back...In the new Ireland, people don’t love poetry, they love their helicopters.”

The Queen’s visit? “It cannot but have done some good. It did not do harm. It was beyond symbolism. She went there in her shoes. Much was made of the fact that she wore green. But it was not emerald green, now was it? It was more of a blue green.” After, there was a snake line of autograph supplicants. O’Brien took time with each of us and the spelling of our names, the hearing our anecdotes. She graciously autographed dog-eared books that shameless ones had snatched up half-price at the nearby Strand Book Store. Though we hoped she would join us belowstairs for the canapés, this was not to be. Alas, with her final penstroke, others claimed her and she was spirited off. It was a great afterparty, nonetheless, everyone so buoyant because, for a while, Edna O’Brien, our IA queen, had been there in her shoes.

Ireland after the Celtic Tiger? “Despite being buoyed by two recent visits, the Queen and Obama, the spirit of the Irish people is bleaker. There are half-built houses, windows criss-crossed with tape. Places with no electricity.

Kathleen Rockwell Lawrence is associate professor of communication studies at SUNY Cortland. Her work has been included in The New York Times, Associated Press, NPR and CNN.




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{ review of books} Recently published books of Irish and Irish-American interest.

Fiction On Canaan’s Side

ebastian Barry, one of Ireland’s most successful playwrights and novelists, is at his best when he is writing about those who find themselves marginalized in the new Ireland as it emerges from under the yoke of British. And in his new book, On Canaan’s Side, we once again find him dealing with characters whose lives are swept up in the changing tide of Ireland’s independence. The narrator of this tale is eighty-nineyear-old Lilly Bere who is looking back over her life and trying to make sense of it all as she ponders the death of her grandson. Once again, she is the child whose mother dies at her birth, the teenager whose father is a police officer at the time of the Easter Rising, and the young girl whose beloved brother Willie is at the front, a soldier in the British Army. “I had lived as a little girl and young woman through a certain kind of grievous history, where one thing is always being knocked against another thing…where the fact of my being alive was knocked against the fact that my mother had died in giving me that life. I just did not know yet what things knocked against other things here in America.” For the first time in Barry’s works, On Canaan’s Side takes his characters across the ocean to the U.S.. It is from here that Lilly looks back over her life, and Barry shows us that he is as equally adept at writing about Depression-era America as he is about revolutionary Ireland. And, as always with Barry, the language is beautiful. I had to slow myself down to savor the way he puts words together, for he is a master craftsman. – PH


(256 pages / Viking / $24.95)

A Death In Summer

riting as his more accessible nom de plume Benjamin Black, Irish novelist John Banville has added a fourth installment to his acclaimed and well-received series of suspense novels about Dr. Quirke, a pathol-



ogist in 1950s Dublin with a tendency for getting caught up in the murders of the bodies he inspects – and a dangerous talent for solving them. Here, Black cuts right to the chase with an unforgettable, unsettling first line: “When word got out that Richard Jewell had been found with the greater part of his head blown off and clutching a shotgun in his bloodless hands, few outside the family circle and few inside it, either, considered his demise a cause for sorrow.” The sentence has all the makings of the mystery that follows. Who killed Jewell, the wealthy, slightly shady philanthropist and owner of the Daily Clarion, Dublin’s most powerful and sharp-tongued daily newspaper? Could it really have been a suicide if the shotgun remained firmly in his hands? What accounts for the impassivity of his family and acquaintances? While slowly revealing the answers (and a few red herrings) Black takes his readers, as always, deep into the darker side of Dublin, with glimpses into the lives of some great recurring characters, including Inspector Hackett, Quirke’s assistant David Sinclair, and Quirke’s once estranged daughter, Phoebe. He also introduces intriguing new figures, like Richard’s half sister, the erratic and vulnerable Dannie Jewell, and his coolly alluring French widow, Francoise d’Aubigny. In this fourth Quirke book, Benjamin Black may be at his most Banvillian: the prose often steals the spotlight from the plot twists and the story becomes, at times, much more about Quirke himself – dipping his toe back into the shallows of booze, falling a bit too easily under the spell of Francoise d’Aubigny, contemplating his own corporeality – than about the mystery he is trying to solve. This may prove frustrating for some readers, but it will be utterly delightful for others. – Sheila Langan (320 pages / Henry Holt / $25.00, eBook: $11.99 )


annah Robinson is opening a cupcake shop just as her relationship with boyfriend Patrick turns sour. SemiSweet, Irish author Roisin Meaney’s first U.S. release, traces seven months in the lives of the residents of the small Irish town of Clongarvin. After Patrick leaves Hannah for another woman, she channels all her anxieties, disappointments, hopes and wishes into chocolate ganache and meringue, lemon zest and buttercream. Hannah’s spirits are also buoyed by the unfailing support of her mother, Geraldine, and her best friend Adam, who is struggling with a mysterious, unrequited crush of his own. Meanwhile, a stranger with a sweet tooth appears with a taste for Hannah’s cupcakes and company. Things are far from pie in the sky, however: Geraldine’s friend Alice has a husband with a drinking problem that’s a recipe for disaster, and when heartwrenching tragedy casts a shadow over Clongarvin, its residents must find a way to face the consequences. While Semi-Sweet easily falls into the category of sugary chick lit, the emotional complexity of Meaney’s characters and her well-constructed portrayal of their most bittersweet moments makes it deliciously worth the read. – Kara Rota (400 pages/5 Spot/$25.95 HC/$14.99)



elinda McKeon's debut novel, Solace, begins right in the middle of things. Not in a fast-paced way, but slowly, with a sense of sadness and the implication that something has happened. We find Tom Casey, a farmer, and his adult son, Mark, baling hay together in vaguely companionable silence. The tension between them emerges in full force though, when Tom takes Mark's child, Aoife, with him on an errand without telling Mark and returns to the farm to find him furious. From this snapshot of what is to come, McKeon takes us back many months, to a disparate scene: Mark sitting in the garden of a pub in Dublin, pleasantly unable to remember whether he's had two or three pints. His greatest concern is the next chapter of his doctoral thesis. On the path




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from here to there, he meets and falls in love with Joanne Lynch, a lawyer-in-training whose father once feuded with Tom. He struggles with Tom’s expectations of him, and with his mother, Maura's efforts to mediate. Together, then separately, Joanne and Mark deal with the unexpectedly fast pace of their relationship and the responsibilities it brings. Each encounter delicately raises the question of whether the problems of parents are also their children's to bear, and vice versa. Throughout Solace, McKeon’s gift for rendering characters is very clear. This talent may stem from her work as an awardwining playwright, but it translates exceedingly well into the novel form. Old and young, male and female, each character’s story and take on things is narrated with a rare sort of conviction and empathy. Their varying perspectives; the sometimes amusing, sometimes heartbreaking ironies of what one person knows but another does not, or of what they both get wrong, add great richness and realism to this story of contemporary Ireland. – Sheila Langan (326 pages / Scribner / $26.00)

Tabloid City

abloid City is the latest iteration in Pete Hamill’s series of love letters to New York City. His books, which also include Snow in August, Forever, and North River, may not be tied together by time period, protagonist or genre, but they all share Hamill’s mastery at portraying the city where he was raised and has spent his whole life. The book marks a return of sorts for Hamill: a return to the genre of suspense, which he wrote frequently at the beginning of his career, and a return to the city desk and the world of daily tabloids, which he knew so well as the editor of the New York Post and the New York Daily News. Tabloid City’s principal figure is Sam Briscoe, the 71-year-old editor of The New York World, the city’s last remaining afternoon tabloid. In the early chapters of the book, Briscoe faces two great tragedies: the Internet’s supercession of print journalism, and the loss of his longtime friend and companion in the kind


of grizzly murder that makes a perfect front page headline. These events connect a wideranging group of characters, from veteran and rookie staff members of The New York World, to a cop on the city’s Joint Terrorism Taskforce and his potentially terrorist son, to a young, wheelchair-bound veteran of the Iraq war and an aging artist passing his days at the Chelsea Hotel. Hamill’s roving narration and the degrees of connection and separation between his characters make Tabloid City an engrossing and suspenseful read, full of nostalgia for the way New York once was, and rich in astute observations of the ways in which it is, as always, changing. – Sheila Langan

Besides the statute of Barry that stands over his grave behind Independence Hall, the Commodore Barry Bridge spans the Delaware River – the same river that Barry sailed forth to fight the British, and that Washington crossed to surprise the Hessians at Trenton, using artillery from Barry’s ship, and it’s the same river forged by the cattle drive Barry helped lead to Valley Forge to supply Washington’s army. Barry, as McGrath establishes, isn’t the Father of the Navy because of his exemplary Revolutionary War record, John Barry is the “Father of the U.S. Navy” because he followed Washington’s order to raise a class of midshipmen to serve as the first officers of the U.S. Navy, and they went on to distinguish themselves and establish style and traditions that are upheld by the U.S. Navy today. – Bill Kelly

(279 pages / Little, Brown and Co. /$26.99)

(621 pages/Westholme/$35.00)

History John Barry

As most school children know, John Barry was an American Revolutionary War hero who is generally recognized as the “Father of the U.S. Navy,” but after that, the details get fuzzy. A serious biography of John Barry is a once in a lifetime occurrence so we are lucky to be able to get Tim McGrath’s John Barry – An American Hero in the Age of Sail, which gloriously details what the school texts leave out. It’s been 75 years since the last real biography of Barry, William Bell Clark’s Gallant John Barry – the Story of a Naval Hero of Two Wars (MacMillan, 1938), which rekindled the debate over whether or not Barry actually deserves the title of “Father of the U.S. Navy,” but McGrath decisively answers that question without really outright saying so. Since Philadelphia is Barry’s adopted hometown, many, if not most, of the significant events in his life took place in or around Philadelphia, which is also Tim McGrath’s hometown, and McGrath paints an interesting and accurate portrait of the man and the revolutionary times in which he lived there.

When Ireland Fell Silent

arolyn Enis’s When Ireland Fell Silent tells the fictional story of the Reilly family of Mayo, Ireland through the eyes of 18year-old Liam Reilly. Spanning the years 1845 to 1847, the tale follows the Reillys as they struggle to stay alive and keep their home during the Great Hunger. A career educator, Enis has thoroughly researched the Famine and its wake. She skillfully recreates both tenant farmer life and the incomprehensible actions and inactions of the British government and landlords. One of the most memorable parts of the novel is of a wedding. Here, Enis beautifully recreates communal life in pre-Famine Ireland, from the house-raising to the toasts, to the sharing of the wedding cake. This is the happiest time for the characters, before mass evictions and the return of the potato blight tear their world apart. Enis’s knowledge of history comes close to working against her, as her historical commentary sometimes breaks the novel’s otherwise excellent narrative flow. However, When Ireland Fell Silent is worth reading for Enis’s moving and realistic recreation of a society on the brink of IA destruction. –Kristin Romano


(380 pages/Rose Rock Publishers /$25.95) AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011 IRISH AMERICA 75



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{sláinte} By Edythe Preet

Oysters Galore Eaten raw or in a stew, oysters are a delight and good for you, too. pening an oyster can be a daunting task. Those little critters clamp their shells shut tight as a bank vault and don’t take kindly to being pried open with a sharp blade. Not only that, but wielding an oyster knife is an easy way to slice off a thumb, that most useful of our twenty digits! Given that shucking an oyster is one of the more dangerous culinary arts, now imagine opening 30 of the pesky bivalves in only 2 minutes and 28 seconds. That was the winning time at the 2010 Galway Oyster Festival World Oyster Opening Championship! Deemed one of Europe’s longest-running food extravaganzas, the Galway Oyster Festival was launched in September 1954 by



About 8,000 years before, in fact. Ireland’s Mesolithic people knew all about edible plants and roots, fruits, nuts and berries, and the seasonal movement of wild animals and fish. Evidence of their diet lies on the shores of Sligo County where archaeological digs have unearthed blackened hearths with charred deer bones as well as huge waste heaps known as kitchen-middens that contain tons of cockle, mussel and oyster shells. These prehistoric hunter-gatherers made camp along the many bays and inlets of Ireland’s coastline. They used long bone or wooden harpoons with tiny flint points to catch fish. They trapped sea birds and collected eggs from the nests. And they gathered the abundant harvest of shellfish, mollusks and seaweeds found just off shore. Seafood has always been a key ingredient in the Irish diet. The pre-Christian Brehon Laws recognized fishermen’s status via the mur breatha (sea decisions) which safeguarded each clan’s right to fish in their own territories. Stories of the saints’ lives emphasized the importance of seafood, especially for coastal and island dwellers. In one tale, Saint Molua had cooked a fatted calf for Saint Maedoc, but was mortified when he discovered that his guest’s vows prevented him from eating meat. It was only a momentary problem. In the wink of an eye, Molua miraculously transformed the offending flesh into seafood. In 1788, a priest in the Rosses, County Donegal, wrote: “Their shellfish they got in the following manner; the men went to the rocks with a hook tied to the end of a strong rod; and with that they pulled from under the rocks, as many crabs and lobsters as they wanted. For scollops and oysters, when the tide was out, the younger women waded into the sea where they knew the beds of such fish lay; some of them naked whilst some of them went in with their gowns tucked up about their waist; and by armfuls, brought to shore whatever number of scollops and oysters they thought requisite.” Ireland’s native oyster, the flat-shelled Ostrea edulis, has always been abundant along the island’s western coast where there are immense natural feeding and breeding beds. In the 1840’s Clew Bay, County Mayo, contained such vast quantities of oysters that they were simply dredged from the sea with ropes. But the major oyster center is Galway where the tasty little morsels form such a vital part of the economy that every September the Galway Oyster Festival heralds the beginning of oyster season. During the 16th century people started eating oysters only in months containing the letter “R,” believing that oysters were

Enjoying some oysters and brown bread in Kinsale, Co. Cork.

the manager of the Great Southern Hotel. The tourist season had ended and room sales were looking dismal, but the executive chef had a brainstorm. Since oysters had just come into season, he suggested adding them to the menu. That year 34 guests attended the first Oyster Festival Banquet and feasted on several dozen oysters each. These days, the event is one of the biggest on Ireland’s social calendar, drawing more than 10,000 visitors who gleefully down tons of the briny beauties. Though Jonathan Swift is believed to have said, “He was a brave man who first dared eat oysters,” the quote predates the Dublin satarist by about one hundred years, and was most likely uttered by James I of England (1566-1625) at a 16th century royal banquet. But the Irish had discovered the pleasure of eating oysters long before His Majesty ever slurped one of the succulent mollusks. 76 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011



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General Guidelines unwholesome during late spring and summer. Two elements combined to establish the custom. During spawning months, oysters take in more water becoming soft and fatty. This causes them to lose a good bit of flavor, lending credence to the thought that they are not fit for eating. An even more serious reason for not eating oysters during summer four centuries ago was that refrigeration was unknown, transportation of goods was deplorably slow, oysters spoiled quickly in hot weather and eating spoiled oysters was a guaranteed way to bring on a nasty bout of food poisoning. Today, summer harvesting of native Irish oysters is illegal for conservation reasons. Ireland’s pristine seas are a perfect environment for oyster farming, and the Pacific Gigas oyster with its frilly pear-shaped shell is cultivated with great success at numerous oyster farms. The largest and best known is Cuan Sea Fisheries in Whiterock Bay, County Down, which supplies quality oysters to home and overseas markets. Since this “cupped” oyster does not experience a breeding season in cold waters, oysters are now enjoyed in Ireland year round. When Shakespeare wrote “the world’s mine oyster” (The Merry Wives of Windsor), he was alluding to the fact that, as oysters produce priceless pearls, the world is a place from which to extract wealth. Though it’s possible you may find a pearl in your oyster one day, the real riches to be gained from the luscious mollusks lie in their nutritional value. Oysters contain a potent cocktail of rare vitamins and minerals and are claimed to relieve many serious health problems. They are high in calcium, niacin and iron, as well as being a good source of protein. Omega 3, a fatty acid present in oysters, lowers cholesterol levels. The amino acid Taurine helps lower blood pressure and eases both arthritis and liver complaints. Oysters contain more phosphorous (“brain food”) than any other foodstuff, and they are high in zinc, which is essential for healthy skin, a strong immune system, mental stability and sexual potency. The cooking rule for oysters is: hardly cook them at all. The most popular way of eating oysters is to consume them raw on the half-shell just as they were eaten in Mesolithic times. The only change is the addition of taste-enhancing condiments such as a squeeze of lemon, a dash of cayenne pepper, a sprinkle of freshly grated horseradish, and the nearly obligatory accompanying pints of Guinness. Though the American poet Ogden Nash wrote: “I’d like to be an oyster, say, in August, June, July or May,” I’ll continue my dad’s tradition of preparing the first fall oyster stew. As we waited expectantly at table, he warmed the milk until it just began to sizzle. Then he slipped freshly shelled oysters with their salty sweet nectar into the pot, gently stirred them until their edges curled, and added a big chunk of butter. As the golden droplets began to spread across the surface, he ladled the stew into our warmed bowls, passed them round and we dipped our spoons into one of Ireland’s oldest and finest autumn taste treats. May IA you be so blessed in your home. Sláinte!

Live oysters are best as fresh as possible and should be purchased from a store with good turnover. Reject those that do not have tightly closed shells or that don’t snap shut when tapped. The smaller the oyster is (for its species), the younger and more tender it will be. Fresh shucked oysters are also available and should be plump, uniform in size, have good color, smell fresh and be packaged in clear, not cloudy, oyster liquor. Live oysters should be covered with a damp towel and refrigerated with the larger shell down for a maximum of three days. The sooner they’re used, the better they’ll taste.

Fried Oysters

24 shucked oysters 1 egg, beaten 1 ⁄4 cup milk salt & pepper 1 cup fine bread crumbs oil for cooking 4 French rolls

Place the oysters in a pot of boiling water and cook for three minutes. Remove, drain and dry the oysters. Beat the egg with the milk and season with salt and pepper. Dip each oyster into the egg mixture and roll in the bread crumbs. Heat fat to frying temperature in a skillet. Fry each oyster for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper. Serve on split and toasted crusty rolls. Makes 4 servings. (Irish Country Recipes – Ann & Sarah Gomar)

Mrs. Murphy’s Brown Bread

Oysters go great with Irish brown bread and butter. Here’s a simple, fail-proof recipe that Irish America’s editor uses, compliments of her sister-in-law Rita’s mother. 3 cup all-purpose flour 1 cup wheat bran 2 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 ⁄2 cup of sugar 1 ⁄2 cup vegetable oil pinch of salt 1 egg slightly beaten 2 cups buttermilk Sprinkle of flax seeds (optional)

In a bowl, mix all-purpose flour, sugar, wheat bran, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in oil and egg. Add buttermilk (if mixture gets too moist add more bran, or too dry add more buttermilk) until dough holds together; it should not be sticky. Turn dough onto a lightly floured board and knead gently 5 times to make a ball. Set on a lightly greased baking sheet or cast iron pan. Pat into a 7inch circle. With a floured knife, cut a large X on top of loaf. Bake in a 375° oven until well browned, about 40 minutes. Cool on a rack. Serve warm or cool.




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{crossword} By Darina Molloy


2 (& 13 across) Former Irish finance minister who died in June (5) 8 What the middle letter in 1 down stands for (5) 10 This city’s Irish American Theater Company took best actress gong in Irish International Theater Festival (10) 11 See 34 across (5) 13 See 2 across (7) 14 Young fellow (3) 15 (& 19 down, & 9 down, & 40 down, & 47 across) 20 down won the Impac for this brilliant book (3) 17 ___ Mullan: Author of Bloody Sunday (3) 18 See 45 across (8) 21 Period of time (3) 23 See 33 down (5) 25 Dublin nursing home under investigation (9) 26 (& 32 down) Gabriel Byrne’s In Treatment doc (4) 28 (& 13 down) Ex-residents of these institutions possibly to be compensated (9) 31 See 22 down (7) 34 (& 38 down, & 11 across) This Irish poet was born June 13, 1865 (7) 36 Donal ____: Ireland’s kitchen hero answer to Jamie Oliver (6) 39 Not cooked or edgy (3) 41 See 46 across (6) 42 Apple or rhubarb pie (4) 43 Co. Kildare town (4) 44 Irish for Rory (6) 45 (& 18 across) Ireland’s next high profile visitor, apparently in June 2012 (4) 46 (& 41 across) Irish presidential candidate whose old interviews came back to haunt him (5) 47 See 15 across (4)


1 Political representative in N. Ireland (1, 1, 1)

3 4 5 6 7 9 12 13 16 19 20 22 24 27 28 29

North Carolina (1,1) Against (4) Last (5) Scandi detective brought to life by Kenneth Branagh (9) US equivalent to Irish junior and senior infants’ class (12) See 15 across (5) See 37 down (6) See 28 across (9) A compilation of to-do items on paper (4) See 15 across (3) (& 47 across) Winner of this year’s Impac prize (5) (& 31 across) Westport pub of Chieftains flautist (4) Hang low or bend (5) These woollen mills are quite popular (7) Newest Ironman winner is from here (9) A wee drop in Scotland (4)

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 August 31, 2011. 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 June/July Crossword: Frank J. Collins, East Northport, NY 78 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011

30 ___ and flow (3) 32 See 26 across (6) 33 (& 23 across) Irish star of Bridesmaids comedy (5) 35 This College is facing possible legal action for Northern Ireland interview transcripts (6) 37 (& 12 down) Clint Eastwood plays a grumpy old man in this movie (4) 38 See 34 across (6) 40 See 15 across (5)

June / July Solution



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• We complete the required paperwork for your dual Irish citizenship. • We cut through the red tape, and do the leg work for you. • We provide research service in the U.S., Canada, and Ireland. Tel. 760.772.8318 Email:


212-725-2993 EXT. 150



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{photo album} Family Pictures

She Liked Nice Things n the family room of my childhood home there was a large wall covered with photographs – vintage tintypes and black-and-whites were set among school portraits of the kids and snapshots from family vacations. My grandma Agnes and I would sit in that room for hours, playing a little game: I pointed to an old picture and she identified the subject, provided the appropriate backstory, and shared an entertaining anecdote. This is where I learned about my family tree – appropriately, in the family room. Most of the old photographs were of my grandma’s family – brothers, sisters, parents, and grandparents. But some of the images on the wall were of her in-laws, my grandpa’s family. My grandpa John Regan died in 1971, the year before I was born, and my grandma considered it her responsibility to keep his story alive. Agnes and John shared some common family ties – two of their grandfathers came from County Cork together in 1864 and settled in Fisherville, New Hampshire before answering Bishop John Ireland’s call for Irish Catholic colonists to relocate to the fertile prairie of western Minnesota. Clontarf, MN was established in 1877 by these pioneer settlers, and Clontarf is where my grandparents were born. There were two photographs on the wall that always caught my eye. The first was a formal portrait of a seriouslooking and attractive young couple. RIGHT: Annie Hill and Neil Regan’s wedding The second photograph was of the in Clontarf, same couple, more relaxed and a bit Minnessota in 1911. older, with the addition of a young ABOVE: Annie Hill boy. Grandma identified them as my in 1900 great-grandparents Annie Hill and Cornelius Regan, and the boy as my grandpa John. She would tell me all about Neil (as Cornelius was known). He was a dear, gentle man who was patient and loving. He lived with my grandparents for quite a few years before he died, and enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren. Grandma would chuckle as she remembered Neil, after having cataracts removed, exclaiming, “It’s a miracle! I can see!” Neil was a devout Catholic; he said the Rosary every morning and lived a good life. And what about Annie Hill? At this point, our spirited game of “Name That Relative” would come to a halt. This was the only question that ever gave my grandma trouble. She would sigh, and say the same thing every time I asked about Annie: “Well, now, I know very little about Annie. She passed away before I met your grandpa. I heard she was a mail-order bride, and people said she was a bit aloof. Your grandpa told me she liked to have nice things and that her backseat driving really got on his nerves.” The absence of the usual light-hearted anecdote or any personal connection to Annie created an aura of mystery around my great-grandmother. I wondered why my grandma didn’t know more about Annie since she knew so much about everyone else,



even those who had passed away before her time. I got the sense that my grandma somehow did not approve of Annie. Ordinarily, I trusted her assessments, but with Annie I wasn’t quite convinced. While Annie seemed mysterious, there was a hint of familiarity about her. This went beyond the fact that I was her namesake (everyone called me Annie) or even that my mom looked exactly like her. Throughout my life I had been surrounded by the very “nice things” that my grandma mentioned. My mom decorated our home with the artifacts of Annie’s life – her rocking chair sat in the corner of the living room and her beautiful collection of tea pots were displayed in the china cabinet. I longed to know more about the woman who had a set of twelve crystal champagne glasses in her rural home and who used an ornate, engraved handle to carry her umbrella around town. I felt there was more to Annie than my grandma’s description let on. The years passed and I moved from my parents’ home. I may have left my youthful fascination with Annie behind, along with the physical reminders of her life, but I certainly never forgot about her. In 2004 my mom and I set off for Clontarf, Minnesota



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We learned that she arrived in America in 1899, “passage paid by her brother-in-law Thomas O’Brien, destination: Clontarf, Minnesota.” In the 1900 Census, Annie was working as a servant for the McDermotts, a prominent Clontarf family. Dominic McDermott ran the Clontarf general store. Perhaps this exposure to a family of means fostered Annie’s appreciation for nice things? I imagine that during the next ten years, when Annie moved from Clontarf to work as housekeeper for a Father Molloy in Willmar and Shieldsville, Minnesota, she saved some of her money, perhaps sent some home to Ireland, and spent a little on herself. Annie Hill and Neil Regan married on February 21, 1911, twelve years after her arrival in Clontarf. My grandpa John was born in 1913, and by all accounts, Annie doted on her only child. The family lived several miles west of Clontarf until 1921, when they sold the farm and moved to a comfortable home in town. There was a country school a mile from the farm and yet my grandpa did not start school until he was eight, after the family moved to Clontarf. From what Gerald knew of Annie, he surmised that she would have been lonesome in the country and kept John from school as company. Neil and Annie had one of the first automobiles in Clontarf, and my grandpa started driving at an early age. Donald said it was the most comical thing to see – Annie seated in the backseat of the 1926 Model T, wearing a large fancy hat, shouting directions, warnings, and critiques at my grandpa, who served as Annie’s personal chauffeur until he left home in the mid-1930s. By then the Depression had taken its toll on Annie and Neil – their house was headed to forclosure and Neil was losing his eyesight. Annie was tired. She died in 1937. I always thought it strange that my grandma knew so little about Annie, but it turns out she did her best with the sparse information my grandpa shared and what she had heard over the years from people in Clontarf. I am not sure those people actually knew Annie. The older, Irish-born settlers lived in sod houses when they first came to the area, and may not have had much time for Annie’s fine hats and fancy dishes. I am happy to say the story that Annie was a mail-order bride is unlikely, but everything else my grandpa told my grandma was spot-on: Annie certainly liked nice things, and she was a backseat driver. As Donald and Gerald described Annie’s personality, I experienced an odd feeling that I already knew Annie. It was at once unsettling and comforting. My mom’s resemblance to Annie goes beyond a physical one. She shares Annie’s high standards, good sense of humor, shyness if you don’t know her, independent nature, smarts, and competitive instinct. Then, of course, IA there are all of those nice things.

LEFT: Annie and John Regan, circa 1918. BELOW: Annie (left) and Neil (right) with their son John (front) and three unidentified people in 1934.

to see what we could uncover about our ancestors who helped establish the town. I secretly hoped to learn something about my mysterious great-grandmother, Annie Hill. We arranged to meet with my grandpa’s cousins Donald and Gerald Regan, who grew up in Clontarf. Donald and Gerald dazzled us with their memories of the “old days,” so I thought I would ask if they had any memories of their Aunt Annie. Gerald’s eyes lit up and he said, “Well, of course we remember Annie. Donald, you remember Annie’s fried potatoes? She made the best I have ever tasted, perfectly seasoned, crispy on the outside.” Donald nodded and smiled in agreement. I quickly discovered that we had hit the “Annie Jackpot.” Bit by bit, the cousins revealed Annie’s personality and habits to us. Annie was extremely good-natured – she loved a good joke and teasing came easily to her. She had a competitive spirit, which was displayed every time she sat down at the card table. Her house was immaculate, she decorated with fresh flowers from the garden, and she proudly displayed her fine china dishes. She could be a bit of a complainer, but only because her standards were high. Donald and Gerald described Annie as smart, independent and friendly, yet reserved around people she did not know well. They had not heard of the mail-order bride scenario, but they had other memories to share, which gave us insight into what brought Annie to Clontarf. Donald mentioned a niece of Annie’s who visited Clontarf in the 1920s. Her name was Irene O’Brien and she came from Montana. Irene was a fun-loving girl, who adored her Auntie Annie. We took the information we had learned from the cousins and began to search public records. As my mom and I looked at the records from St. Malachy Catholic Church in Clontarf, we happened upon some familiar names. A woman named Mary Hill, a daughter of Margaret Kelly and William Hill, baptized at Kill, County Kildare, married Thomas O’Brien in 1894. We had found Annie’s sister – Irene’ O’Brien’s mother – and discovered that Annie, too, was baptized at Kill. Further research proved that the O’Brien family lived in Clontarf until 1912 when they moved to Montana. I admit I was relieved to learn that Annie more than likely came to Clontarf because her sister was there, and not to be married, sight unseen, to a lonely farmer in rural Minnesota. Immigration records shed further light on Annie’s life.

– Aine McCormack, St. Paul, Minnesota

Please send photographs along with your name, address, phone number, and a brief description, to Sheila Langan at Irish America, 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 201, New York, NY 10001. If photos are irreplaceable, then please send a good quality reproduction or e-mail the picture at 300 dpi resolution to No photocopies, please. We will pay $65 for each submission that we select. AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011 IRISH AMERICA 81



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{the last word} By James W. Flannery

“The Walk of a Queen”


he recent four-day visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Ireland – the first by a reigning monarch in a hundred years – was a stunning triumph, capped by the five-minute standing ovation she received at a musical performance on her final night in the Irish capital. That performance included excerpts from Riverdance, which the Queen appeared to hugely enjoy. Bill Whelan, the composer of Riverdance, was also commissioned to write a march for an Irish military band for the arrival of the Queen at Dublin Airport. The title of this piece, “The Walk of a Queen,” carried a hidden meaning, for it was taken from the famous closing line to Yeats’s revolutionary play, Cathleen ni Houlihan, first produced in 1902. In the play, the mythic figure of Cathleen ni Houlihan functions, in the eighteenth-century Irish tradition of the aisling, or dream poem, as a symbol of national pride and fierce resistance to British rule. Yeats portrayed Cathleen as an old woman who persuades a young man on the eve of his wedding to serve her cause by joining in the 1798 Rebellion, which ended in a massacre of the vastly overmatched Irish rebels. Following the exit of the young man at the end of the play, his father turns to his last remaining son, a boy of twelve, and asks him if he has seen “an old woman passing by.” “I did not,” says the boy, “but I saw a young girl and she had the walk of a queen.” In the first performance of Cathleen ni Houlihan, the play’s patriotic theme was reinforced when the title role was performed by Maud Gonne, one of the great beauties of the time, the great love of Yeats’ life and a revolutionary leader in her own right. As interpreted by Gonne, the play became a clarion call to arms directed at prospective rebels. Seen through the eyes of a young boy, however, the queen evokes a prophetic vision of an Ireland completely transformed and filled with the radiance of ever youthful possibility. This prophecy was partly fulfilled in the 1916 Easter Rising and subsequent War of Independence that brought a partial end to British rule in Ireland. The treaty signed in 1922 between England and Ireland contained two clauses with extremely vexing aftereffects: the first retained the Crown as 82 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011

the titular head of the newly created Irish Free State, while the second established Northern Ireland as a semi-autonomous state for those mainly Protestant loyalists who preferred to remain part of the United Kingdom. Like me, Bill Whelan is the son of an IRA man who fought in the Irish Revolution. When Whelan wrote the music for a production of Cathleen ni Houlihan that I directed at the 1991 Yeats

Lady Hazel Lavery as Cathleen ni Houlihan. Oil on Canvas (1923) by her husband, painter Sir John Lavery. This image of Lavery, who was born in Chicago, was used on Irish bank notes during most of the 20th century.

Festival at the Abbey Theatre, the National Theatre of Ireland, we shared many stories about the heroic ideals of our fathers. However, we both agreed that the legacy of the Irish Revolution was fraught with many unresolved conflicts. Indeed, that was tragically all too evident in the bloody warfare that continued to sow hatred and distrust among the people of Northern Ireland as well as between Irish nationalists throughout the island and the British government. That time of horror only ceased with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 that at last brought peace to Northern Ireland and the beginnings of reconciliation among all the people on the island. Bill Whelan and I came to recognize that, in hindsight, Cathleen ni Houlihan is a far more ambiguous play than appeared at the time of its first production. The young warrior in the play is, after all,

going out the door of his peasant cottage to kill and be killed. In our production at the Abbey Theatre, Whelan's score was suffused with the harsh sounds of gunfire, bombs and the cries of the wounded and dying. This was intended to reinforce the brutal realities of violent revolution, however admirable and necessary the ultimate goals of those in revolt. I’m glad to say that the production did not kill the romantic idealism of the play nor its fealty to the memory of those who were prepared to lay down their lives for the cause of freedom. But neither did it fail to bring out the terrible cost of warfare on the men who fight, their families and fellow countrymen as well as those on the other side of the conflict. A special lesson for our own time in the historic BritishIrish conflict is that terrorism exercised with moral indifference carries lasting consequences that are always extraordinarily difficult to acknowledge, much less redress. The visit of Queen Elizabeth in Ireland represents a kind of coming of age for the Irish Republic – now a sovereign nation extending the hand of friendship to the head of what was once a hated oppressor. The sight of the Queen of England reverently bowing her head at the Garden of Remembrance, a memorial in central Dublin intended to honor Irish rebels who died fighting to free Ireland from British conquest, was an incredibly moving moment. But was it only the Irish fallen heroes that she was commemorating? The ambiguity of her gesture makes it all the more noble as a sign of reconciliation and healing. I’m sure that in a nation that cherishes the role of culture in shaping its identity as much as Ireland does, many Irish caught the hidden meaning in the title of Bill Whelan’s musical homage to the two queens present throughout the Monarch’s visit. Without intending any disrespect to Her Royal Majesty and the importance of her state visit, it is good to know that, in the tradition of the aisling, having an inward smile of recognition is a far better sign of independence than veiled threats, weapons or protracted enmity. IA James W. Flannery is the Winship Professor of the Arts and Humanities at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia

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Irish America August / September 2011  
Irish America August / September 2011  

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