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George Older, Wiser, Serious about the Issues, and still Georgeous

CANADA $4.95 U.S. $3.95

Fashion’s Rising Star

Don O’Neill Irish Eye on Hollywood Historian Christine Kinealy The Glory Days of Celtic Park Censoring the Nuns



Michael D.Higgins

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Why the Diaspora is Important to Ireland’s Recovery 0

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promising Ireland for over 35 years The American Ireland Fund has supported innovative work that preserves Irish culture, counters sectarianism, advances education, strengthens community development and cares for those in need. Today, our Promising Ireland Campaign seeks to raise $100 million for Irish charities by the end of 2013. With charities facing increased demand for services with fewer resources, your support is needed more than ever. Please join us in Promising Ireland.

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

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Contents June/July 2012 Vol. 27 No. 4

34 50






FEATURES 12 PRESIDENT MICHAEL D. HIGGINS Ireland’s new President on his first official visit to New York, the importance of the diaspora, and the unique role of the Irish President. Interview by Sheila Langan.

34 FENWAY AT 100

more than two dozen Olympic medalists who collectively won more than 50 medals for the U.S. Olympic team. By Ian McGowan.

56 CITIZEN CHRONICLER Acclaimed scholar Christine Kinealy, whose work has shed new light on forgotten elements of Irish history, talks with Daphne Wolf about growing up Irish in Liverpool and her tireless research towards setting the record straight on the Great Famine.

The Red Sox and the City of Boston celebrate the 100th anniversary of one of America’s most beloved ballparks. By Michael Quinlin.

38 LANDSCAPES OF THE HEART Eoghan Kavanagh, one of Ireland’s best known photographers, showcases some of his beautiful landscapes and talks about his work.

42 GEORGE CLOONEY – A SERIOUS MAN The perennial leading man talks about his Irish roots, getting older, and his passion for activism. Interview by Patricia Danaher.


62 A CLIMB TO GIVE THANKS New York City native Patrick Connolly celebrated his 90th birthday by making a pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick. Interview by Catherine Davis.

66 WHAT ARE YOU LIKE? Karen Duffy “Duff,” model, television personality, and actress, answers questions about her life and work.


Don O’Neill, creative director of the up-and-coming label Theia, reflects on his journey from a small seaside town in Co. Kerry to the fashion houses of London, Paris and New York, and finally, a showroom of his own. Interview by Sheila Langan.


In its time, Celtic Park was one of the premier trackand-field training facilities in the world, producing COVER PHOTO: AP IMAGES

Patricia Harty reports on the annual Comhaltas Ceoiltóirí Éireann Convention and the work that Helen Gannon has done in turning St. Louis into a vibrant Irish arts scene.


DEPARTMENTS 8 14 16 61 70

Readers Forum News Hibernia Roots Music Reviews

72 74 76 78 82

Book Reviews Sláinte Crossword Those We Lost Family Album

“Nuns are the wise women of our tribe. We cannot let the Vatican throw them under the bus.” Mary Pat Kelly has the Last Word on the Vatican move to censor American nuns.

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Vol.27 No.4 • June / July 2012

IRISH AMERICA Mortas Cine Pride In Our Heritage

Founding Publisher: Niall O’Dowd Co-Founder/Editor-in-Chief: Patricia Harty Vice President of Marketing: Kate Overbeck Art Director: Marian Fairweather Deputy Editor: Sheila Langan

{contributors} Catherine Davis, a recent Fordham University graduate, is an editorial assistant for Irish America. In her spare time, she enjoys reading out-of-context quotes from Oscar Wilde and being a dental assistant. In this issue, she interviews actor John Cusack and Patrick Connolly, a 90-year-old Irish American who recently climbed Croagh Patrick.

Patricia Danaher, who interviews George Clooney in this issue, is a writer, journalist and producer based in Los Angeles. She is the only Irish member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association with a vote in the Golden Globes. A longtime political correspondent for UTV, she was awarded a Nieman Fellowship to Harvard University for stories which she broke regarding the N. Ireland peace process.

Copy Editor: John Anderson Advertising & Events Coordinator & Music Editor Tara Dougherty Director of Special Projects: Turlough McConnell Financial Controller: Kevin M. Mangan Editorial Assistants: Catherine Davis Molly Ferns Michelle Meagher

Sheila Langan, Irish America’s deputy editor, is a firstgeneration American with an Irish passport and a love of Irish literature. For this issue, she had the honor of interviewing Michael D. Higgins, the President of Ireland. And Don O’Neill, who makes beautiful dresses.

Mary Pat Kelly is the author of the historical novel Galway Bay, which is currently being made into a mini-series. Mary Pat wrote and directed the feature film Proud, which focuses on the USS Mason, the first US Navy ship with a predominantly African American crew. In this issue she writes about the Vatican’s plan to censor American nuns

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: 212-725-2993. Fax: 212-244-3344 Email: Subscription rate is $21.95 for one year. Subscription orders: 1-800-582-6642. Subscription queries: 1-800-582-6642, (212) 725-2993, ext. 150. Periodicals postage paid at New York and additional mailing offices. Postmaster please send address changes to Irish America Magazine, P.O. Box 1277, Bellmawr, NJ 08099-5277. IRISH AMERICA IS PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.


Ian McGowan, the founder and executive director of the Winged Fist Organization, writes about the legacy of the Irish-American Athletic Club and Celtic Park, where many an Olympian was spawned. Ian lives with his wife, Regina Castro McGowan, in Woodside, Queens, in the Celtic Park apartments, which were built on the site of the former Irish-American Athletic Club stadium.

Michael P. Quinlin, who writes about Fenway Park for this issue, is president and founder of the Boston Irish Tourism Association, and author of the book Irish Boston. He saw his first live baseball game with his father at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh in 1960, the year the Pirates won the World Series.

Daphne Dyer Wolf earned a master’s degree in Irish Studies in 2011 at New York University, where she continues to do battle with the Irish language. She worked for the Star-Ledger newspaper in Newark, NJ for over 25 years. Daphne interviews historian Christine Kinealy in this issue.

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{readers forum} The Irish on the Titanic My great grandmother Minnie Driscoll Finn was the first cousin of Titanic survivor Bridget O’Driscoll (Driscoll) and was listed as the person to whom Bridget was going in the manifest of the Carpathia. If you or your readers have any information on Bridget, I would appreciate it. She was from Ballydehob in Cork, and had gone back home from the US to care for her dying mother. Her mother died before she got there, so she came back to the States on the Titanic. Tom Finn Posted online

The James Farrell mentioned in your article was from Clonee, Killoe, County Longford. On the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, a memorial garden in the village of Ennybegs in his native Killoe [was] dedicated to his memory. Eugene Devaney Posted online

About 20 Farrells from the U.S. traveled to County Longford for this memorial’s dedication, including James Farrell, 90, the nephew of the James Farrell who perished on the Titanic. We are extremely grateful to the Devaneys and the people of Longford County for all the time, effort and money they’ve invested in preserving James Farrell’s legacy. Jodi Mailander Farrell Posted online

Editor’s Note: Irish America was thrilled to play a part in connecting Titanic hero and victim James Farrell’s U.S. relatives with the Devaney family

from his home parish in Ireland. As Jodi Mailander Farrell explained in an article in the Miami Herald, “The Farrells’ link to Titanic was part of a 2009 feature in Irish America magazine when my husband Patrick won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography that year for his Miami Herald coverage of another humanitarian disaster: the deadly aftermath of Hurricane Ike and other serious storms in Haiti. The story described the horrific, gripping images while weaving in the Farrells’ Irish history and its ties to the much earlier tragedy. Two years later in Ireland, John Devaney stumbled across that story during a Google search. He tracked down Patrick’s phone number and called him in Miami.”

Painting the Burren In reading through the April/May 2012 issue of Irish America, I was intrigued by the story entitled “Painting The Burren.” I read the titles of the paintings then turned the page to see more. I immediately recognized one of the paintings in particular and was so excited until I saw that it was listed as “Untitled.” I KNOW THAT MOUNTAIN! It is the view from Maam, Co. Galway, essentially from my ancestors’ land, looking across the River Corrib. The mountain is called Lackavrea (La-KAH-vrah) and has a unique shape. I have a photograph of it that serves as my screensaver. It is not part of the Burren at all but is very near the Maamturks in Maam Valley. I don’t know if the painting can be renamed, but I wanted everyone to know what and where it is.

My Spellman ancestors would be pleased to know that this painting exists! Barbara Spellman Shuta Via e-mail

That’s a really lovely article about the country I call home! The paintings by Andy Weeks do it justice. Well done. Brian Leddin Posted online

What America Can Learn From Ireland I read each issue from cover to cover and enjoy it very much. I was, however, dismayed by your decision to have Mr. Jon O’Brien’s article, “What America Can Learn from Ireland,” as your final statement in the magazine. Even though readers may agree or disagree with him, there should have been a companion article for the other side of the argument to even things out, especially in a magazine with your reputation and such a wide circulation. [O’Brien’s article appears to be] the magazine’s take on a very important topic. If this is your stand and you do not allow a rebuttal, then you need to relook at the process. I am a retired educator. I believe that topics to be discussed should have both sides of the argument presented to be fair to the reader or observer. The topic of Mr. O’Brien’s article, contraception, is a moral issue to many of us. Moral issues are not decided by a majority “vote.” Thank you for bringing much delight to many, especially those of Irish descent with your a magazine. I just believe fair coverage of controversial topics needs to be presented. Richard E. Kelly, PhD. La Jolla, California

Relatives of James Farrell who traveled to Ireland for the dedication of the memorial in his honor.


Editor’s Note: As your editor I stand corrected. However, as a woman, I believe that denying any woman contraception is immoral.



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Jon O’Brien’s “Last Word” piece in the April/May issue claims to present lessons America can learn from Ireland, which he discovers by claiming they are the views of several famous Irish and American leaders. He goes on to excoriate the Catholic Bishops of the United States for “fighting civil liberties” and “the conscience rights of human trafficking victims.” He ridicules the stance of the Bishops in opposing the recent proposals of the Obama administration to compel Catholic institutions to provide insurance coverage for contraception, abortion and sterilization on religious liberty grounds. The implication is that Ireland can teach Americans how to deal with these issues and “free itself from the shackles of the Catholic hierarchy.” Jon O’Brien is President of Catholics for Choice, a U.S. organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. and known for its virulent hatred of the Catholic Church teachings on abortion and birth control. Although claiming to be Catholic it receives no Catholic support and has twice been condemned by the U.S. Bishops for using the name “Catholic” in its title. It has received substantial funding from the Playboy Foundation and George Soros. It supports not only contraception, which Jon says he promoted in Ireland, but also abortion which he does not mention in his article. If he did it might disturb a large number of the faithful Catholic Irish Americans who subscribe to your magazine. Mr. O’Brien himself was formerly an International Program Director for Planned Parenthood before moving on this campaign to ignore or revise the teachings of the Catholic Church, its Popes and Bishops, as in his article. It would seem that his only credential for appearing in your magazine is not his antiCatholicism but the fact that he was born in Ireland. The Church in Ireland is going through a rough time now but I doubt that Jon’s views had a large following there and less here I hope, at least among Catholics. Albert Regan Doyle, Esq. Sanibel, Florida

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Dear Editor: May I offer a respectful dissent/clarification to the statement in “The First Word” of your February/March number to the effect that “…an Irish American, John Quinn, had argued the case for the publication of Ulysses in the United States…” John Quinn’s involvement with the Ulysses American publication saga arose out of his unsuccessful defense of the two editors of The Little Review, Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap. In September 1920 the Secretary of the Society for the Prevention of Vice initiated a criminal proceeding seeking to suppress the serialization of Ulysses in that publication and Quinn volunteered to defend the two women at the two-day trial of the case on 14 and 21 February, 1921. Quinn’s defense as not successful, the defendants were found guilty and fined $50 each, and no further efforts were ever made by either to publish Ulysses. Quinn’s defense was compromised by the fact that he genuinely thought parts of the novel were obscene and he and his clients loathed each other. Quinn was a corporate lawyer who apparently never tried a criminal case, and there was no indication that he ever sought the assistance or advice of a seasoned criminal lawyer. In retrospect, it was probably a mistake for Quinn to have appeared in the case and his efforts did nothing to advance the publication of Ulysses in America. The lawyer who was responsible for the publication of Ulysses was Morris Ernst who, together with Bennett Cerf of Random House, orchestrated the strategy to have Ulysses legally published in the United States. In February 1932, Cerf conveyed an offer to Joyce to publish Ulysses in the United States and suggested an advance against royalties of $1,500 with the understanding that if efforts to legalize Ulysses were not successful, Joyce would keep the advance. Joyce promptly accepted. As is well known, Ernst and Cerf arranged to have a volume of Ulysses imported from Paris and seized by United States Customs on a New York pier. Ernst also timed the hearing of the case so that it was assigned to Judge John M. Woolsey in the federal court in Manhattan. The case was argued by Ernst on 25 November and Woolsey handed down his opinion admitting Ulysses on December 6, 1933. The decision was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals and it was the superb lawyering of Ernst, not Quinn, that ultimately facilitated the publication of Ulysses in the United States. One final comment on Quinn. His relationship with Joyce ended on a very sour note. In April 1921, Joyce wrote to Quinn confirming that the publication of Ulysses had been arranged in Paris and explained that he was missing several pieces of the manuscript as the husband of one of his typists in Paris had seen what she was typing, tore it up and burned several pages. Quinn had earlier purchased the original manuscript from Joyce and had it in New York, so Joyce in his letter to Quinn said that he needed “about six or seven pages back again for a day or two and will return them registered.” Quinn refused this request. Ultimately, Quinn begrudgingly allowed several pages to be photocopied and from these Joyce had copies typed and sent to the printer. That incident appears to have ended any relationship Joyce had with Quinn. Stephen J. Fearon, Esq. New York, NY

Derogatory Irish Shirts I read with interest the remarks of Tom Wilson and John J. Ragen of the Irish Anti-Defamation Federation and support their efforts. In fact I took action after

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

learning about a derogatory shirt that was being sold in advance of St. Patrick’s Day by a so-called Irish bar in Davenport, Iowa. The Quad City Times was very accommodating and generous in publishing my comments on March 16 in a prominent location on the opinion page. John M Dooley Received by e-mail JUNE / JULY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 9



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{the first word} By Patricia Harty

Arch of Triumph “[The Arch] is a soaring curve in the sky that links the rich heritage of yesterday with the richer future of tomorrow." – Vice President Hubert Humphrey at the opening of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

he day was hot and humid and late in the afternoon the skies darkened and you could not see the Arch from the hotel window. By 6 p.m. the tornado alarm siren went off and we left the cocktail room and moved into the inner sanctum of the hotel for safety. I’d been drinking water but I poured myself a large glass of red wine and grabbed a slice of bread and cheese from the buffet table before following the others. I only knew of tornadoes what I’d seen on television, and I didn’t know how long we’d be sequestered. I should have been more scared. The year before, a tornado had ripped the roof off the St. Louis airport, but I was surrounded by Irish musicians and other promoters of Irish culture, who like myself were in St. Louis for the Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Convention, and in a weird compartment of my brain a voice said, “What a way to go?” Generations would talk about me. “She died in a tornado in St. Louis clutching a glass of wine and brown bread. There was a smile on her face and Irish music playing.” They’d tell the story of how I’d gone up on the Arch earlier that day, conquering my fear of heights and enclosed spaces. How I’d used my Irish America card to get to the head of the line, dropping Kevin Roche’s name all over the place. How I’d stumbled back to the hotel afterwards, weak at the knees and in need of a large gin and tonic to right myself. The tornado passed and I thanked God I hadn’t been up on the Arch when the storm hit. I barely made it down when the rain started. But let me tell you why I went up on the Arch in the first place. I did it for bragging rights, and to impress its architect, Kevin Roche, which I did by e-mail: “Dear Kevin: I’m just back from St. Louis where I survived a tornado and a trip up the Arch. I was never so scared in all my life – and I don’t mean the tornado!” To which I got an immediate e-mail response: “Dear Patricia, Great to hear from you. Sorry about the Arch. It is scary. But imagine going up on the outside!!! I did when it was under construction!!! Talk about being scared.”



And so, here’s the point to my little tale. The tallest man-made monument in the United States was created by an Irish architect. And humor aside, the Gateway Arch, which symbolizes the great western expansion of the United States, speaks to me of the Irish role in that expansion and in building this nation’s infrastructure. All across the country, canals, railroads, and bridges stand in testament to the work of Irish immigrants. The very first skyscraper was built by Louis Sullivan, the son of an Irish immigrant. How many young immigrants from small farms in Ireland worked on the Empire State Building and on the Twin Towers? How many of them were afraid of heights but needed the job? As I stood under the Arch, taking in its full height of 630 feet, I heard my mother’s voice in my head. “Screw your courage to the sticking place,” she said, quoting Lady Macbeth. (Mother often quoted Shakespeare – she only had to say, “Out, damned spot, out I say,” and Spot, our old black and white terrier, would hang her head and leave the kitchen.) As I stood there, I thought of my brothers, barely out of their teens who went hundreds of feet underground to build the water tunnels in New York. And I thought of all the young men who had to conquer their fear every time they went up in a cage on the outside of a skyscraper or down into a hole in the ground. Surely, I could go up on the Arch just one time as a kind of salute to their courage.

Later, as I waited out the tornado surrounded by Irish Americans and Irish music in a hotel on the banks of the Mississippi, I thought about how Irish immigrants brought their music with them wherever they went – to bars in the Bronx when they finished their shift in the tunnels, to mining camps in Nevada, and to Alaska where in the ’70s my brothers and others like them helped build the pipeline and foremen would vie to have Joe “Banjo” Burke join their camp to lift morale with his tunes. I thought about how through the ages, and all the ups and downs, our music and culture has stood by us. And how community and laughter and music can help conquer even one’s greatest fears. On the final evening of the Comhaltas convention a young girl recited a stanza from one of my favorite poems “We Are the Music-Makers.” It was written by Arthur O’Shaughnessy, born in London to Irish parents on May 14, 1844. I don’t know if the poet intended it as a reflection on Irishness, but to me it says a lot about who we are and what we have been through, and it still rings true today. We are the music-makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams, Wandering by lone sea-breakers, And sitting by desolate streams. World-losers and world-forsakers, Upon whom the pale moon gleams; Yet we are the movers and shakers Of the world forever, it seems. With wonderful deathless ditties We build up the world’s great cities, And out of a fabulous story We fashion an empire’s glory: One man with a dream, at pleasure, Shall go forth and conquer a crown; And three with a new song’s measure Can trample an empire down. We, in the ages lying In the buried past of the earth, Built Nineveh with our sighing, And Babel itself with our mirth; And o’erthrew them with prophesying To the old of the new world’s worth; For each age is a dream that is dying, Or one that is coming to birth.

The Finishing Touch James Brenan, RHA (1837-1907)

DruiD presents

DruidMurphy-Plays by Tom Murphy in a co-production with Quinnipiac University Connecticut, NUI Galway, Lincoln Center Festival and Galway Arts Festival This epic play cycle of emigration spans from 1846 to 1980 and is told through three of the greatest plays by Tom Murphy: Famine, A Whistle in the Dark and Conversations on a Homecoming. Directed by Garry Hynes, DruidMurphy tours in Ireland, the UK and the US, and constitutes a major retrospective of one of Ireland’s most respected living dramatists.

Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum aT QUInnIpIac UnIverSITy connecTIcUT

opening in late-Fall 2012, Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum is home to the world’s largest collection of Great Hunger-related art by noted contemporary Irish artists as well as a number of 19th and 20th-century paintings by some of Ireland’s most important artists of that period.

Famine Ship John Behan, RHA (1938-) Maquette of the Irish Famine Memorial, Croagh Patrick,

The museum also seeks to educate audiences about the underlying political, social, economic and historic causes of the Great Hunger, the magnitude of the disaster on Ireland and its people, and its impact throughout the western world.

Co. Mayo Artworks from the collection of Quinnipiac University

Quinnipiac University, Mount carmel avenue, Hamden, cT 06518

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The President’s Visit Ireland’s new President on the importance of the diaspora, and the unique creativity of the Irish

Interview by Sheila Langan


ichael D. Higgins, the 9th President of Ireland, arrived in New York on the evening of April 30 for his first official visit to the U. S. The president and his wife, Sabina, went straight to a welcoming reception at the Consulate General of Ireland. In the five days that followed, they visited Irish immigration centers in the Bronx and Queens, toured memorials to the Irish Famine in New York and Boston, paid respects at the 9/ll memorial, attended a World Press Freedom Event at the UN, took in the hit Broadway musical based on the Irish film Once, and met with a wide array of members from the Irish American community. The president delivered three key speeches – or papers, as he calls them, in his scholarly manner – at the American Irish Historical Society, at Glucksman Ireland House at New York University, and at Boston’s Faneuil Hall. Though differing in focus, each of them touched upon common themes: his belief that Ireland can progress from the damaging paradigms it once embraced, his immense pride in Ireland’s creative spirit, and his great sensitivity and regard for the experience and strength of the diaspora. They confirmed that this scholar, poet, former Arts Minister and Labor Party senator – outspoken and wise – is just what the country needs. Speaking by phone from Áras an Uachtaráin, the presidential residence in Phoenix Park, Dublin, he told Irish America about his impressions from the visit, his belief in the Irish diaspora, and his plans to return.

Congratulations on a successful first official U.S. visit. What moments or exchanges stand out the most? Yes, there was a very good reaction to the trip. I’m very pleased about that. Moments that stand out would be the opening night reception [at the Consulate General of Ireland], the second evening spent at the American Irish Historical society, where I met many people I had met before. Dr. Kevin Cahill [president of the AIHS] and I had met 30 years before in Managua, Nicaragua. I think as well that the Irish immigration 12 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2012

centers in Queens and the Bronx were wonderful – the local Irish communities had rounded up their friends. And then in Boston, certainly delivering the Famine speech at Faneuil Hall, and the visit to the Famine memorial was very, very moving.

Did Sabina (the First Lady) enjoy the visit as well? Oh, very much so. Sabina enjoys the United States and you know, we had been to Boston on our honeymoon in 1974. Sabina’s relatives live in San Francisco. We visited our daughter, Alice-Mary, when she studied at The New School for Social Research in New York. We like the life in New York, it’s a great city. And then of course we have very warm memories of Boston. We remembered very clearly going down Boylston Street. We just wished we had more time – we had a very

packed program, with 25 events in 5 days. But we were very, very taken by the warmth and the hospitality and the interest. We’re so glad that we had the opportunity to meet as many people as we did.

What message did you hope to spread? That Ireland is a country that is teeming with creative people. That Irishness, as far as the 9th President is concerned, includes both those at home and those abroad. That we have been coming out of a bad decade of mistakes in economic policy, but we are a resilient people. We have had to overcome obstacles in practically every decade and we are going to do so again. It’s going to be based on what we do best, which are all of the creative things – not only in the performing arts and the creative arts, but also in sci-

ence and technology. Since I came back I’ve been doing practically four or five events every day, and I’ve just come from a school where they teach technology as a Leaving Cert subject. It’s just extraordinary what some of the students have invented, it would give you great hope. The country is full of prospects and it will make its way again, but it will be on a much sounder basis.

The speech you delivered at the Irish Consulate concluded with an invitation to join in “making an Irishness of which we can all be proud.” What role do you see Irish Americans playing? I see them playing a very significant role. If you take the 44 million people who claim a direct relationship [to Ireland] in the United States alone, you add in Australia, New Zealand and the rest of the

world, you get somewhere beyond 70 million. You place that in comparison to those of us that are actually living on the island on a permanent basis, and there’s a huge ratio of those who are outside. So in talking about Irishness – the identity, the inherited stories, the imagination that is associated with being Irish, it obviously would make sense to take this diasporic intelligence into account. In the United States’ case, the example in my Famine speech [is] very interesting. There’s an enormous debate about [whether] the worst of the famine could have been prevented by state policy. And why? You have, in 1847, a very significant decision to make: You know the famine’s there, you know the potato is blighted, and you know that people are dying. The Quakers are doing wonderful things, but



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Opposite page, left to right: President Michael D. Higgins at Boston’s Faneuil Hall. President Higgins addressing the welcome reception at the Consulate General of Ireland, New York. Below: Sabina Higgins and the president with Malachy McCourt. Left: President and Sabina Higgins at the Great Irish Hunger Memorial in downtown Manhattan.


the London Times is more or less saying English benevolence has gone far enough and we can’t do anything about it, maybe this is the hand of God...With the Times there’s kind of a notion that nothing can be done, that the Irish have drawn this on top of themselves. But then, much later, after the great emigrations have taken place post-Famine, the Times writes another editorial and says “We have made perhaps a terrible mistake in underestimating the

power of the Irish in America.” That there are millions of them there now, and they’re increasing and multiplying in a country that is going to be a great power, and that they will forever be reminding us [the English] of 700 years of mismanagement. In a way, they were right, because when you look at every one of the great movements – the Literary movement, the Fenian movement, Irish music, the Independence movement, they all draw some inspiration from the United States...I think we haven’t made enough of it, we’ve been inclined to draw our stories from what’s in front of our faces. I’m very interested in the people who were transient, the people who carried the suitcases and the bundles. We owe it to them because they carried pieces of the Irish language and so forth. We owe it to them to take into account the migrant

experience, the American experience, the general diasporic experience, in finding our Irishness. And I’ll be returning to that theme regularly during my presidency. In my Thomas Flanagan Memorial Lecture at the American Irish Historical Society, “Remembering and Imagining Irishness,” I suggested that we have to take into account the real contribution to be made by people who have been through the process of migration. In the Boston paper – really, the visit hung around three substantial papers – responding to the Irish migration, I was making the point that you didn’t have one simple type of migration that was post-Famine, but several, all with different characteristics. And of course I gave moral support – moral because I’m not a legislator, now – to the out-of-status Irish and to the short term initiatives in relation to E-3 visas, which of course is one of my concerns.

Since governmental systems are so different, when traveling abroad how do you explain your role as President of Ireland? The Irish presidency is defined quite separately from other forms of presidency in different countries. Effectively, what it means is that I don’t get involved in dayto-day legislation. But I deal with issues that are longer in time than the period of a government, that are deeper in concern. Therefore I can speak, for example, about unemployment and about poverty, or about the intellectual assumptions behind particular economic thinking, or I might speak about the relationship between homophobia and suicide in secondary schools, or bullying. So while I’m not involved in the day-to-day, I’m not at all precluded. I address, as I said, deeper things over a longer period. And that’s why I have been

quite clearly defining my presidency as a presidency of ideas. I have, for that reason, given lectures at the London School of Economics on politics, on the question of universities in the contemporary climate. I’ve spoken at Trinity on the same thing, and at Magee College in the North. That’s really what I can do: I can effect discourse. Through that, I can effect consciousness. And then, about every six weeks I meet with the Taoiseach, and he and I, under Article 28 of the constitution, exchange views on his end of things and what’s coming to my attention as I travel throughout the country or abroad.

You participated in a film panel discussion at Lincoln Center. Given your leadership as Minister for the Arts in invigorating the Irish film industry in the ’90s, is it still something you’re passionate about? I did indeed and it was wonderful. There was a wonderful small piece of animation, Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty from Brown Bag Films, a re-telling of the fairy tale. And yes, of course it is. Martin Sheen has been here in the Áras to have lunch with me, and I spent an evening with Al Pacino not so long ago as well. It’s a wonderful area, film, and the Irish people are very good at it. It’s full of prospects. What do you hope to do on future visits to the U.S.? Well I certainly will visit the West Coast, and then I’ve had invitations already from my alma mater, Indiana University, and from others in Chicago. So I will be visiting the cities of the Midwest. And I would love to get back to New York any time. I will be jumping at the opportunities, because I enjoy it…Far before I was president, I used to sit down there on the porches [stoops] of the houses in the East Village drinking coffee, and it was a great experience. Sabina and I were both very, very grateful for all the kindness that was shown towards us. We will be back. We look forward to it. Thank you, Mr. President. Slán agus beannacht.





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{ hibernia }



Inspiring Cork Teen Addresses UN


he United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union’s conference, entitled “Girls in Technology,” had a special guest speaker on Thursday, April 26. Joanne O’Riordan, a 16-year-old from Millstreet, Co. Cork, addressed some of the world’s leading women in technology with a keynote speech about how technology has enhanced her life. Joanne is the first person with a disability to be invited to speak at the conference, and her speech, “Technology and Me,” centered around the theme “Because I’ve no limbs, I won’t be limited.” Joanne's disability, an extremely rare condition called total amelia, hasn’t kept her from living a full life, and as Joanne explained, it’s thanks to technology. Technology allows Joanne to do the things anyone else does with their fingers “as good as them, if not better,” she said,

DUBLIN ANNIVERSARY OF HANDEL’S MESSIAH PREMIERE n April 13, 1742, the world premiere of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah took place in Musick Hall on Fishamble Street in Temple Bar, Dublin. Commemorating the 270th anniversary, on April 13, Our Lady’s Choral Society, conducted by Proinnsías Ó Duinn, sang the composition on the street where it was originally performed 270 years ago. The event was opened by Lord Mayor of Dublin,Andrew Montague, who noted that Handel could promote a “great tourist attraction” to Ireland.The Lord Mayor went on to say that Dublin’s use of its literary heritage and connections, coupled with Handel’s global popularity, could increase the opportunity to build upon the city’s rich Handel heritage.The Temple Bar Cultural Trust organized the event free of charge in the hopes that it would encourage people to come, not only to listen, but to participate by singing along as well.The weather held up throughout the al fresco concert, and several hundred people filled the streets while others listened from balconies or opened their office windows to hear the virtuoso performance. – M.M.



citing her remarkable ability to type 36 words a minute. She credited the devices she relies on every day with opening up a “world of possibilities,” in terms of both education and her social environment. Though technology has progressed since Joanne was a child and has made less challenging her uphill battle to conquer everyday tasks, there is still much more to be discovered. In her speech, Joanne challenged the assembled delegates to think “outside the box,” and to try to find new ways of making technology more accessible for those most in need of it. She asked the world’s leading women in technology to develop a robot that could simply pick up dropped objects. Joanne’s advocacy gained attention in December, when she spoke out publicly against the Irish government’s plan to cut the disability allowance for teenagers. The plan was reversed, and Joanne was invited to speak on the Late Late Show, Ireland’s most popular night-time talk show. – M.M.

Important Items for Auction nly fifty original copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the O Irish Republic remain in existence. The proclamation, which famously called for a provisional government of the Irish Republic and proclaimed the country’s independence from the United Kingdom, was distributed and read aloud by Patrick Pearse outside the General Post Office, marking the beginning of the Easter Rising. On April 18, one of these original copies sold for €124,000 at a James Adam & Sons auction in Dublin that dealt with important political, literary and military items. The proclamation had been expected to sell for between €60,000 and €80,000. The sellers were an elderly couple from Longford who had strong republican ties, according to Kieran O’Boyle, an auctioneer with James Adam & Sons. “They want to make sure that it is bought by a passionate collector. That way it is preserved,” said O’Boyle. The proclamation went to an unnamed bidder who informed the auctioneers that he



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{news from ireland}

UCD SMURFIT SCHOOL RECEIVES ANONYMOUS DONATION GUERILLA GARDENING IN IRELAND uerilla gardening, a phenomenon that started in the United States, has now made its way to Ireland, becoming an outlet for those frustrated in the aftermath of the Celtic Tiger and the “ghost estates” that litter Ireland. Empty shopping malls, half-built banks, properties falling to decay after years of neglect – the guerilla gardeners have seen enough and have begun “beautifying” these derelict estates with surprise acts of gardening. Guerilla gardening is almost always done without the government’s permission, which is precisely the case in Ireland. Fittingly enough, Ireland’s guerilla gardeners go by the name of “NAMA to Nature,” a play on the acronym for Ireland’s state-run National Asset Management Agency, which oversees the abandoned properties. NAMA to Nature members justify their actions with the logic that if the taxpayers fund NAMA, they have say over NAMA’s ghost estates as well. NAMA to Nature’s frustration is palpable, and their response is already being seen in many of the over 600 ghost estates and 40,000 empty dwellings that dot the country. In Keshcarrigan, Co. Leitrim, 1,000 trees were planted on a ghost estate by NAMA to Nature volunteers. In Dublin, artists nailed 28 paintings to an eight-story building that was going to be Anglo Irish Bank’s new headquarters. The term “guerilla” was coined in the early 19th century in response to Napoleon’s invasion of Spain. It means “little war.” And NAMA to Nature is indeed in a kind of small battle as they fight to restore the beauty that Ireland is known for. – M.M.


he UCD Michael Smurfit Business School’s 2012 Aspire Scholarship Program was launched on March 28, made possible by an anonymous €500,000 donation to the school’s Aspire scholarship fund. The donor reportedly made the contribution to help in the recovery of Ireland’s struggling economy. The program is offering up to three MBA and nine MSc scholarships to deserving students this year. Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, a professor at the school and dean of UCD Business School, explained to Silicon Republic, “We want to ensure that these scholarships go to students who are worthy recipients. Education makes a difference and this scholarship will help change the course of their lives.… Joining the school will provide these scholars with the chance to learn from the very best academics, network with industry leaders and position themselves for a successful career in business.” UCD Smurfit School is the only business school in Ireland, and holds accreditation from AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA — a recognition that less than one percent of the world’s business schools enjoy. Former recipients of the Aspire scholarship, funded by a previous anonymous donation five years ago, now hold positions at companies including Citi, Google, KPMG and PwC. – C.D.


From Ireland’s Past Up in Dublin intends to keep the historic document in Ireland. The same April 18 auction was supposed to feature another item of great historical significance – a lock of Michael Collins’ hair. When Michael Collins lay in state at Dublin City Hall, thousands of mourners passed his coffin to pay their respects. Among them was his sister Kitty, who took one final keepsake to remember her fallen brother – a lock of his hair. She later gave it to friends, an unnamed couple, during the 1950s. The couple put the lock of hair up for auction with James Adam & Sons Auctioneers on April 18. It was estimated to sell for upwards of €5,000. However, they decided to withdraw the lock of hair from the auction because it was “not for monetary gain,” said auctioneer Stuart Cole. Instead, the owner donated it to the National Museum of Ireland. The lock of hair is enclosed in an envelope labeled “Hair of head of Michael Collins when laid in State in the City Hall August 1922,” and is signed by Kitty Collins, dated Christmas 1958. Auctioneer Kieran O’Boyle described it as “a poignant item. There is still a deep level of interest in all things related to him,” he said. – M.F. JUNE / JULY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 15



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{ irish eye on hollywood} By Tom Deignan

The girl with the dragon tattoo is going to become the girl with the Irish accent. Rooney Mara – star of the smash hit horror flick based on Stieg Larsson’s trilogy of novels – is slated to star in a big-screen adaptation of Colm Toibin’s best-selling novel Brooklyn. The screenplay will be written by acclaimed British novelist Nick Hornby, whose novels include High Fidelity and About a Boy. Mara will play Ellis Lacey, who leaves her rural Irish village for Brooklyn, where she experiences a new kind of freedom and falls in love with an Italian American. After pleasurable trips to Coney Island and Ebbets Field, Ellis is forced to choose between her family – and her old life – in Ireland, and her new life in the States. Though she is Irish American, Mara’s Hibernian roots could not be stronger. She is a product of the Mara and Rooney clans, who have made the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers powerhouses in the National Football League. Mara is slated to begin shooting Brooklyn in 2013 (no director is on board just yet). The film will be shot in Ireland and in the borough of New York which lends the film its title.

Northern Ireland and will tell the story of the clash between tribes, led by King Conchobar Mac Nessa and Queen Mebh. Fassbender is slated to star as Cúchulainn himself. Bennett and Fassbender have a production company fittingly named Finn McCool Films. Anjelica Huston has long been the most famous member of the third generation of the Huston show biz clan. First there was Walter Huston, then his son John, the famous director who spent long stretches of time in Ireland and wrapped up his career with a dazzling version of James Joyce’s The Dead, starring none other than his own daughter, Anjelica.

Another upcoming Nick Hornby project also has an Irish connection. Pierce Brosnan is slated to star in a new film based on Hornby’s recent novel A Long Way Down. The film will have one of the more depressing premises of all time – it begins with four characters who meet on New Year’s Eve when they are all about to commit suicide. Toni Collette and Emile Hirsch will also star. Michael Fassbender has done his time in the trenches of independent film, with gritty performances in Shame, as well as the dark Northern Ireland film Hunger, in which Fassbender played hunger striker Bobby Sands. Now, Fassbender – who was raised in his mother’s native Kerry – will be appearing in a big time popcorn film, out on June 8. Fassbender joins Charlize Theron and Noomi Rapace in the Ridley Scott thriller Prometheus, a prequel to Scott’s 1979 Aliens, which starred Sigourney Weaver. The film has earned solid buzz because of its outer space setting and the hints of mystery and intrigue provided by writer Damon Lindelof, who worked on TV’s intricate Lost. But you can’t accuse Fassbender of abandoning smallscale cinema – or for that matter, his Irish roots. Fassbender is also working with Irish writer Ronan Bennett (Public Enemies) to produce a film about the legendary Celtic warrior Cúchulainn. Early reports suggest the film will be set in 16 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2012

TOP: Rooney Mara at the Paris premiere of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. ABOVE: Michael Fassbender as David, an android, in Prometheus. LEFT: Danny Huston in Magic City.

She remains busy these days, starring in the NBC TV show Smash. Her half-brother Danny Huston is also making quite a name for himself. Currently, Danny can be seen in the much-hyped Starz network TV series Magic City, which has been earning comparisons to Mad Men for its Eisenhower-era setting and its intense drama. Magic City is about the Miami crime scene in the late 1950s. Huston plays a ruthless mobster Ben Diamond, known as “The Butcher.” Danny Huston's next movie, Two Jacks, is also a family affair. Huston plays Jack, a legendary filmmaker who returns to Hollywood after a long absence looking to begin an ambitious new project. Instead, he drinks, seduces a beautiful woman (Sienna Miller), and battles with film exec-



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utives. Twenty years later, the filmmaker’s son (Danny’s nephew, Jack Huston) arrives in Hollywood to make his own directorial debut, though it becomes clear he may not have inherited his father’s talent. Want more family connections? Also starring in Two Jacks is Jamie Harris, brother of Mad Men actor Jared Harris. Jamie has appeared in films ranging from In the Name of the Father to 2011’s big hit Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Both Jared and Jamie are the sons of hell-raising Limerickborn legend Richard Harris. Down the road, look for Danny Huston in Wrath of the Titans (also featuring Liam Neeson) and Stolen (with Nicolas Cage). Next year, Huston will appear in The Congress with Paul Giamatti and Mad Man Jon Hamm. Jared Harris also recently signed on to play the lead role in the film The Quiet Ones, about an odd yet charismatic professor who persuades his top students to take part in a dangerous experiment. Before that, Harris will appear with Daniel DayLewis in Steven Spielberg’s highly anticipated Abraham Lincoln biopic. The Lincoln flick is due out this December. (And Jared Harris is not to be confused with the summer flick Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.) Day-Lewis is also slated to star in the 2013 film Silence, directed by Martin Scorsese. The reunited dynamic duo (who made magic with Gangs of New York in 2002) will team up with Benicio del Toro for the film, which tells the story of two Jesuit priests in 17th-century Japan who attempt to convert Japanese citizens.

More information is coming out about the highly anticipated BBC America show Copper, about the life of Irish immigrant police officers in the notorious 19th century neighborhood Five Points, in New York City. The show stars Tom Weston-Jones as Irish cop Kevin Corcoran, as well Irish actor Kevin Ryan. Copper premieres on BBC America August 19. “It’s about the immigrant experience at that time in New York. What was it like? How did people interact in this world?” The show’s executive producer, Christina Wayne ,recently told The Hollywood Reporter “We wanted it to feel like the melting pot it was back then. It’s all about being authentic. We’ve stressed being gritty and real. We want viewers to feel like they really lived there then. There were hundreds of people living on top of each other. Running water was a luxury. The world was a dirty, stinky place.” British actor Weston-Jones added that he is in the process of learning a new accent. “It’s American with a bend of Irish,” he said. “Whenever they swear, whenever they’re drunk, that’s when the Irish comes out.” There were a number of Irish films at the star-studded Tribeca Film Festival in New York. Earning serious buzz was Irish writer and director Macdara Vallely’s debut feature film Babygirl, which is set in the Bronx, where there has traditionally been a heavy Irish presence. This film, however, explores a Puerto Rican girl coming to terms with her mother’s boyfriend, who may or may not be hitting on her. Vallelly recently told the Irish Voice newspaper that the film idea hit him one day on the subway. “It was one of those things where I was on the number two train one day and I saw this vignette of a mother and daughter on the train. The mother was in her thirties, the daughter was in her teens and I saw this 20-year-old guy eyeing them up. First I could see him looking at the daughter, but she wasn’t having any of it, then he turned his attentions to the mother. It was one of those things that you see in New York every day.” Meanwhile, Terry George (who won an Oscar for his short film The Shore, starring Ciaran Hinds and Kerry Condon), unveiled a comedy entitled Whole Lotta Sole at Tribeca. The film stars fellow Irishmen Colm Meaney and Brendan Fraser. Set in Belfast, Whole Lotta Sole centers around Jimbo Regan (Belfast actor Martin McCann) who owes a local loan shark $5,000. Jimbo’s only hope is to rob a fish market – which turns out to have its own ties to the loan shark. Finally, at Tribeca there was Death of a Superhero, featuring Scottish actor Andy Serkis (Gollum from the Lord of the Rings). The film explores the life of a young Irish teenager facing a life-threatening illness. IA

Kevin Ryan and Tom Weston-Jones in Copper.




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John Cusack on Poe, the Grotesque, and the Role of the Artist


xploring a character Cusack, like Poe, has a disforced to grapple with tant Irish background. Raised inner demons is a familby politically active Irish iar task for actor John Cusack, Catholics in Chicago, he leads who has portrayed quite a few a life at once thoroughly indianguished souls throughout his vidualistic – disregarding the versatile film career. From his mainstream in decisions both role as an existentially sufferartistic and lifestyle – while ing puppeteer in Charlie still deeply rooted in family Kaufman’s absurdist Being tradition. John Malkovich to his – not Though he has plenty to be one but two – turns at playing happy about (he recently troubled assassins (first in received a star on the Grosse Pointe Blank, and again Hollywood Walk of Fame) John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe and Brendan Gleeson as Captain in War, Inc., which he also co- Hamilton in The Raven. Cusack seems most at ease wrote and produced), it’s clear when speaking about heavier that Cusack is not one to skirt the darker something I want to stay in, but it’s certopics. Censorship, for one, is something aspects of the human condition. His latest tainly a fun place to visit once in a while he believes does not belong in the arts. “I turn toward the macabre is his portrayal of – once a year, twice a year.” think the artist has got to get a free pass, Edgar Allan Poe in April’s gory thriller Edgar Allan Poe, whose writings and because I don’t know how you can The Raven, directed by James McTeigue. mysterious life inspired the movie The explore, or go down different roads if For someone so drawn to the complex Raven, had roots stretching from you’re going to judge them all the time. and disturbing, Cusack’s demeanor is Baltimore, Maryland back to Dring, That imagery [of the unconscious] is not quite calm. Asked about his fascination County Cavan, Ireland, where his greatsanitized. It’s violent, and it’s lurid, and with such a morbid figure as Poe, his grandfather grew up. Poe’s hometown of it’s perverse. Dreams can be that way.” eyes light up, and he replies simply, “Oh, Baltimore serves as backdrop for the Though he identifies entirely as it’s fun, right?” before elaborating, film, which also stars Brendan Gleeson American, Cusack seems to be in touch “That’s Poe’s deal, that we’re all sort of as the disapproving father of Poe’s with that certain entangling of melanattracted to the abyss. It’s poetic,” he beloved. This entirely fictionalized choly and joy unique to the Celtic spirit. grins. “Poe-etic.” account of Poe’s last days entertains the He reflects, “Poe was always talking It would seem that all this exploration unsettling question of how a real-life about that space between waking and of the depths has served as kind of purgserial killer might have gone about mimdreaming, sanity and insanity, life and ing for Cusack. It’s a rare person who not icking Poe’s grisliest stories. The movie’s death. He was always into that twilight only can understand despair, but can also answer? Accurately. space.” find humor within it. “Around “There are not many writers who try to And Cusack is himself a bit of a living Halloween or the Day of the Dead,” he [delve into] their worst nightmares,” paradox – this non-smoker who casually continues, “doesn’t everybody get into Cusack maintains. “But there’s a couple puffs on an electric cigarette, this relaxed the supernatural, and the ghouls, and the who want to go deeper in, and that’s just figure with the venti coffee cup in hand – underworld? Dreams and nightmares? an interesting mind. [Poe] was this guy with those intense eyes hovering above It’s just an interesting headspace. It’s not who wanted to embrace the nightmare.” that easy smile. – Catherine Davis




Welcome Home! Handmade In Ireland 800-999-0655

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{hibernia} Economics, Family-Style, at Glucksman Ireland House


he third annual Who Do We Think We Are? day-long program, presented and organized by Glucksman Ireland House at New York University, took place on Saturday, April 21. This year, the theme was Economics, Family-Style, exploring the Irish and Irish-American family. Throughout the day, prominent writers, artists and scholars explored and discussed how finances influenced family decisions regarding emigration, marriage, and property, and how these in turn affected the wider community. The first session, titled Sharing Communities: Family Life Across the Atlantic, was presented by Miriam Nyhan and Linda Dowling Almeida, who run the Glucksman Ireland House Oral History Project. Evocative audio clips were shared, and real stories hit a note with everyone, evinced by the many scuffles in bags for tissues as memories came flooding back. Poverty was a major theme throughout, but always with the caveat “we were poor but we didn’t know we were poor.” Other issues that have divided families then and now were raised: the family farm, the inheritance, mothers and daughtersin-law, mothers and sons, the “other” woman invading the family home. Happy memories were also discussed; particularly poignant was the description of the ubiquitous American parcel that immigrants in the U.S. would send to their families in Ireland: “an invitation to the exotic and mystery of the other world.” Mary Higgins Clark, the pretty and petite Irish American known worldwide for her suspense novels, gave the keynote address. Despite fame and fortune, Clark remains grounded, and her Irish upbringing shines through constantly. A central theme in her presentation was faith, optimism and triumph over tragedy, instilled in her by her Irish parents. She talked about the effects of poverty and death, living as she did through the Great Depression. She recalled wonderful memories of growing up in the beautiful “countryside,” as the Bronx was then known. Her extended family would sit around the table and the teapot, over which joys were shared and sorrows were split. She ended her eloquent and inspiring speech with the quote “unless you are a storyteller, you are not a writer.” Prof. Brendan Mac Suibhne of Centenary College and Prof. Kerby Miller of University of Missouri presented the third session, Wealth, Poverty and Emigration. Brendan discussed the impact of the Great Famine and its legacy on his native town land in Donegal. Kerby explored the complexities and perplexities that historians encounter, using the example of Edmund Ronayne (1832-1911), who was recognized as a Fenian after his death, even though his life’s journey took him from a devout Irish-Catholic upbringing in famine-struck Ireland to the U.S., where he became an avid Freemason, then turned to Presbyterianism and ran various anti-Freemason rallies, and ended up an impoverished man. In the fourth session, Financing Futures: Sibling Support and Maternal Models, Professor Maureen Murphy of Hofstra University discussed how chain migration to the US was financed by women, including nuns, while Prof. Janet Nolan of Loyola University, Chicago, looked at upward mobility from mothers to daughters in America. Bruce Morrison, former congressman from Connecticut, immigration lawyer, and lobbyist, then addressed the issue of modern-day immigration. Noel Kilkenny, Consul General of Ireland, New York, made the closing remarks on what was a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting day. – Aine Carroll


Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer; Ian McGowan, Executive Director of the Winged Fist Organization; Congressman Joe Crowley and State Senator Michael Gianaris.


stretch of 43rd Street and 48th Avenue in Sunnyside, Queens, received a second name on March 10. Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, it became Winged Fist Way, in honor of the Irish American Athletic Club.The I-AAC, whose members were known as The Winged Fists, thrived in Sunnyside at the beginning of the 20th century as one of New York’s first inclusive, multicultural athletic institutions, and a record-setting number of its members brought home medals from the Olympics. “It is important that we recognize the achievements of this dynamic athletic club which once called Sunnyside and the borough home,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who passed legislation to co-name the street. “Before its members knew it, the IAAC laid the foundation of what would become the essence of Queens, a multicultural diaspora of people who worked and lived together.” Council Member Van Bramer was joined by Congressman Joe Crowley, Ian McGowan, Executive Director of the Winged Fist Organization, members of the Emerald Society and ancestors of the early-20th-century I-AAC athletes. Turn to page 50 to read the amazing history of The Winged Fists. The Irish America team


he Irish America team stepped out in sneakers to run the Concern Worldwide U.S. Spring Run on April 14, in Central Park.The 5 km race, which raises money for Concern’s educational initiatives in Haiti, enjoyed its most successful year to date, with nearly 1,700 participants raising over $215,500.



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North American Irish Dancers Win Big in Belfast


he 42nd Oireachtas Rince na Finally, Melissa McCarthy of Cruinne, better known as the Norfolk, Massachusetts, also won her World Irish Dancing Championships, first World Championship title this returned to Belfast this year for the year. Fifteen year-old McCarthy of the fourth time in twelve years. It also Harney Academy improved on her secmarks the third consecutive year that ond place win last year and beat out the the Worlds were held abroad, with former 2010 and 2011 champion, felDublin in 2011 and Glasgow in 2010. low American Ann Paige Turilli. Turilli Yet, despite competing on foreign of Inishfree in New York took second, ground, American dancers still made while MacKenzie Mahler of the Blakey their names known. School in Western Canada took third. Peter Dziak, of Chicago’s Trinity This made the Girls 15-16 age group the Academy of Irish Dance, defended only Worlds competition his world championship title, winwith three North American ning the Boys 14-15 age group. ABOVE LEFT: Melissa McCarthy and dancers on the podium. Dziak won his first title in Dublin Taylor Nunes. RIGHT: Peter Dziak. Perhaps McCarthy can last year. the Cashel Dennehy School, defend her title on home Olivia Griffin, who dances with the based in Milwaukee. The turf next year when the West Coast Butler Fearon O’Connor team won the Senior Girls 2013 Oireachtas Rince na School of Irish Dance, came home with a Ceil 16-19 competition. Cruinne are held in Boston, championship title. Griffin improved A familiar American face from March 24-31. Boston upon her third place title from the 2011 to those who have seen Jig won the bid to host the Boys Under 15 champions. Worlds in Dublin. Butler Fearon is dancer Julia O’Rourke 2013 World ChampionO’Connor also had another champion of Malverne, Long Island. She was feaships after An Coimisiun Le Rinci dancer win first, Michaela Hinds of tured as one of the nine dancers who Gaelacha, or the Irish Dancing Canada. competed in Glasgow’s 2010 Worlds in Commission, reviewed proposals from Michael Holland managed to claim his Sue Bourne’s documentary Jig released cities around the world. Several Irish first ever World Championship in the Men in 2011. In Glasgow, she became the secAmerican cultural groups and the Over 21 category. Holland dances with ond female dancer from the Petri School Massachusetts Convention Center the Richens/Timm Academy and is from to win the first place title. In Dublin in Authority helped make the bid successOhio. 2011 she placed fifth. At this year’s ful. The event will take place at the John Another first place win was Team A of World, O’Rourke placed fourth. B. Hynes Convention Center. – M.F.

Irish Teens Giving Back n April 9, Pramerica Systems Ireland, Prudential Financial’s Irish branch, honored gold medal recipients Molly Gilmartin and Bonnie Shortall for their outstanding youth volunteer work at the sixth annual Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards in Derry. The two girls received engraved gold medals, €1000 for charities of their choice and all-expenses-paid trips to the U.S. in May, when they will join other gold medalist volunteers from around the world at the Prudential Spirit of Community The Irish finalists for the 2012 Pramerica Spirit of Ireland Awards with (top left) John Awards in Washington, D.C. Molly and Bonnie were Longeran, Former Governor of Mountjoy Prison; NAPD President Donal O Buachalla; Chairperson Ivan Arbuthnot; (top right) Henry McGarvey of MD Pramerica Systems picked by a selection committee from a group of 20 GTCNI Ireland Ltd; and, center, Nobel Laureate and Chairman of Judging Panel, John Hume. Irish finalists. One member of the selection committee was politician and Nobel Peace Prize winner, John Hume.The dren. She has also helped raise €1,600 for the organization. other 18 finalists were presented with silver medals and a perMolly, who attends Victoria College in Belfast, was recognized sonal award of €500. for her volunteer work with Action Cancer. An active member Bonnie’s efforts in caring for sick and orphaned children for six years, she founded and organized the “Sound of Action” earned her the award. A student at St. Louis High School in concert in 2010. It earned £12,000 and is now an annual event Rathmines, Dublin, she traveled to Tanzania for two weeks with held in Belfast. Molly has also worked with children abroad. In the Forever Angels charity. She worked 13 hours each day, feed2011, she traveled to India with the Global Schools Partnership ing, bathing, providing physiotherapy and playing with the chiland worked at a school in Dehra Dun. – M.F.






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{hibernia} Celebrating July 4th in Ireland nyone who has ever stopped to ponder what a 4th of July celebration would be


Certificate of Heritage for Obama


uring his St. Patrick’s Day visit to the White House, Taoiseach Enda Kenny presented President Obama with an official Certificate of Irish Heritage. These certificates, which all members of the Irish diaspora with at least one relative born in Ireland are welcome to apply for, recognize the recipients’ Irish ancestors – in this case, Obama’s maternal great-great-greatgrandfather, Falmouth Kearney of Moneygall, Co. Offaly. The president thanked Taoiseach Kenny for the certificate, and quipped that it would have a special place of honor alongside his (once highly contested) birth certificate. Remarking on the significance of the certificate, Taoiseach Kenny said “This is a chance for everyone who has a sense of their Irishness, from Boston to Brisbane, to receive an acknowledgement of that from the State.” Visit

like in Ireland will get an answer this Independence Day. On July 4th, the town of New Ross, Co.Wexford will celebrate its first Irish America Day, in recognition of the strong ties between Ireland and the United States. For New Ross, those connections are particularly important. Patrick Kennedy and Bridget Murphy, John F. Kennedy’s great-grandparents, emigrated from New Ross, as did the grandparents of playwright Eugene O’Neill.Thousands of other immigrants left from the quays of New Ross, and their journeys have been immortalized by the Dunbrody Emigration History Center. The Irish America Day celebrations will include the best of American history, tradition and fun, with a flag raising, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, Boston Tea Party re-enactments, Mark Twain readings, barbecues, an Irish America Day parade, and the naming of a town Prom King and Queen. Comedian Des Bishop will perform on July 3 at the Brandon House Hotel and The Three Tenors will be joined by special guest Declan O’Rourke at the JFK Arboretum on the night of the 4th. As one future attendee put it,“America celebrates Ireland’s national holiday, why not the other way around?” More information:

Cahill’s Guide to Paris


usan Cahill, acclaimed travel writer and editor of collections of women’s fiction, recently released a guide to the Hidden Gardens of Paris. Cahill is the author of two books about Ireland: For the Love of Ireland and A Literary Guide to Ireland, which she co-wrote with her husband, Thomas Cahill, the prolific historian behind the Hinges of History series, which includes the seminal How the Irish Saved

Civilization. The Cahills spend a few months of each year in Paris, and over the years Susan developed a wonderful knowledge of the city’s most beautiful gardens – some cloistered, others hiding in plain sight. She provides a thorough entree to each one, complete with historical background, directions, and nearby attractions. The delightful book also includes page after page of stunning photographs by Marion Ranoux.

Promising News at the AIF Gala T

he American Ireland Fund’s 2012 New York Dinner Gala marked a night of milestones for the philanthropic organization. On May 4, close to 1,300 people gathered in an elegantly appointed tent at Lincoln Center. Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America, was the guest of honor. Other important attendees included the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins; Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg; New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly; City Council Speaker Christine Quinn; Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel and novelist Colum McCann. Kieran McLoughlin, the Worldwide Ireland Funds’ president and CEO, and Loretta Brennan Glucksman, chairman of the American Ireland Fund, made the exciting announcement that the AIF had surpassed the goal of its Promising Ireland Campaign to raise $100 million for Irish charities by the end of 2013, with $120 million to date.The gala itself contributed $4.2 million for Promising Ireland – the most a single AIF event has ever achieved.


Clockwise from left: The New York Dinner Gala committee. Leslie C. Quick III and Tom Quick present the Leslie C. Quick, Jr. Leadership Award to Brian T. Moynihan. President & CEO of The Worldwide Ireland Funds Kieran McLoughlin, President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins, American Ireland Fund Chairman Loretta Brennan Glucksman.


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

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

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

11:00 am Boston Tea Party Re-enactment at the Dunbrody Ship. Also at 12PM, 2PM and 3PM.

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

8:00 pm The Three Tenors Ireland in concert at the JFK Arboretum with special guest Declan O’Rourke.

10:00 pm Formal lowering of the flags at the Arboretum after concert.

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

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

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

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

For more information:

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



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GAA Takes Off in Texas


n Dallas, Texas, it’s all about community and camaraderie over competition. Spurred by the success of the Celtic Cowboys, a Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) league formed in Austin in 2004, Fionn Mac Cumhaill GAA was founded in Dallas in 2010. Emmett Long, Brian Geraghty, Kevin McCann, Paddy Walsh and Davey Devlin were among the founding members – all from Ireland. They sent e-mails around to every person that they could remember who was from Ireland, of Irish decent, or just had a love for things Irish.

Since the club’s formation, the Dallas GAA has grown to include over 100 active members, ranging from the ages of 21 to 60. With the help of sponsors, like local Irish publicans, and events including booths at Irish festivals, publicity plugs on local radio stations, and a joint party with The American Ireland Fund, Fionn Mac Cumhaill has gained much support.Their Facebook and Twitter pages have over 1,000 likes and followers. Their competitive success has also helped in gaining recruits. “Last September we competed in the

The league trains hard and has built on their training schedule for the upcoming 2012 Nationals. There is a bootcamp and training held every Tuesday night, along with additional hurling practice on Thursday evenings and additional football practice on Saturday mornings. “Bootcamp is tough but it’s essential to build up your confidence and ability in the game,” said member Noreen Grant Cabrera. It may seem odd that Texas has such a thriving GAA community. Besides Fionn Mac Cumhaill, there are three other GAA leagues in existence. The others include Austin’s Celtic Cowboys, the Houston Fenians and the San Antonio Defenders. All four teams spend their summer playing one another in tournaments for the Texas Champion-ship and the Adrienne Hussey Memorial cup. “Although Dallas does not have the Irish population that you would expect from cities like Boston, New York or Chicago, we do have many Irish The Fionn Mac Cumhaill GAA Club’s men’s and women’s Gaelic football and hurling teams in action. in Dallas that have come for Shortly after, the six founding members National Championships in San Francisco work or family.” In addition to the GAA, grew to a club of sixteen. To date, the and caused a major upset by beating more Dallas has several other Irish groups league has grown to field three men’s established teams from Seattle and including the Irish American Society of teams and two women’s teams. Indianapolis. Based on that success, we Dallas, the Texas Rose of Tralee and the “The football club is the backbone of have started recruiting new members from American Ireland Fund – Dallas chapter. any community in Ireland. With so many all over Texas as the word spreads,” said “The groups are individual of each other, Irish coming and going from Dallas all of Barry Brennan, from County Donegal, of but very supportive,” said Erin McCann of the time, we thought it was a good way the combined Dallas and Austin hurling the Irish population in Dallas. for people to find a home away from team, which took home the national title. It is clear that in Dallas Gaelic sports is home and have a bit of craic,” said Kevin The Dallas GAA football team also not about catering to a large Irish populaMcCann, Chairman, on the motivation competed in Nationals. Altogether, the tion, but rather about bringing a small behind starting the club. league consists of a hurling team, two community together “with sports as the The Dallas GAA was named Fionn Mac traveling football teams, a ladies football cornerstone.” Cumhaill for a team that had been started team and three pub-league teams. “Many people who join the club don’t 15 years prior by a group of expatriates, The men’s football and hurling teams play sports, but they do enjoy the combut eventually dissolved. According to will compete again at the 2012 Nationals, munity and camaraderie of our group. legend, Fionn Mac Cumhaill (pronounced held in Philadelphia over Labor Day weekOur social activities are always well Finn McCool) was the leader of the end. In addition, the ladies football team, attended. It draws together those with a ancient Fianna warriors who lived on the which was established just this year, will common love of the Irish and the Irish north Antrim coast. compete in the Nationals for the first time. culture,” said McCann. – Molly Ferns 24 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2012

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Celebrating the 2012 Irish America Hall of Fame he 2012 Irish America Hall of Fame honorees were inducted in an awards ceremony on March 14th at the New York Yacht Club. The inductees are Chairman of the American Ireland Fund, Loretta Brennan Glucksman; New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly; President of Quinnipiac University, Dr. John L. Lahey; Chairman, President & CEO of Mutual of America and Chairman of Concern Worldwide US, Thomas Moran; and renowned architect Kevin Roche. Each of the honorees and speakers had different gems of insight, thanks and humor to share. Enjoy these brief excerpts from their speeches:


Loretta Brennan Glucksman “I am humbled by this honor today. I thank you for it for all the people in the American Ireland Fund who are so steadfast and passionate about that wonderful little place that draws us back and back all the time…I would just like to close, and this is name-dropping in the most shameless way, with a poem that was sent to me after Lew [Glucksman, her late husband] died, and it was from Seamus Heaney: ‘Between us, you and I can tell the world it can be better. And the reason is what we practiced: generous behavior.’ What all of you in this room practice is generous behavior, and I thank you for it.” Ray Kelly “Like so many people in this room, I have been heir to a proud legacy of Irish dedication to hard work and accomplishment. Our forefathers came here to dig tunnels, to build bridges, to lay rails and to apply their political skills in the new world. And they did a great job. I think most of us are familiar with their contributions to public safety and security in this city. Indeed throughout much of the history of the NYPD, our ranks were filled with many Irish Americans, and I can assure you that police officers of Irish descent are still doing very impressive, indeed phenomenal things…[Detectives Kevin Brennan and Kevin Herlihy] embody the heroic spirit of New York City police officers and our proud Irish tradition.” John L. Lahey “Over the past 15 years now, we’ve acquired the largest collection of Famine 26 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2012

The 2012 Irish America Hall of Fame inductees: John Lahey, Tom Moran, Loretta Brennan Glucksman,Kevin Roche and Ray Kelly.

art anywhere in the world. It so overflows the room that we now have under construction a 5,000 square foot [museum] near the campus that will be ready, we believe, by August…We hope that this is a continuing and even larger vehicle to educate people about the Great Hunger, but it also is something that I hope in time will be recognized as one of the great collections of Irish art…My grandfather Daniel Lahey, who was born in Knockglossmore just outside of Tralee in County Kerry – I think, I hope, he would be proud that his grandson’s name is somewhere in Ireland. Now, he was a proud Kerryman so Wexford may not be the best place in Ireland, but nonetheless it is in Ireland! And on behalf of Daniel, who made the trip over here as a boy, I thank you.” Thomas Moran “One person that is not here is [the late] Fr. Aengus Finucane, one of the original founders of Concern Worldwide. Following Aengus around Africa, finding all of the places that he has been – and even where he hasn’t been – there are still stories of this wonderful Irish priest that always managed, no matter how far deep in the Congo he might be, to find a good bottle of Irish whiskey to enjoy. So Aengus, I hope you’re looking down on us and enjoying the day, as you do every St. Patrick’s Day. I was also blessed with being able to follow in Bill Flynn’s footsteps at Mutual of America. He taught me that we all can make a difference, that the

only limitations we have are those we place on ourselves.” Kevin Roche “I grew up in a very, very small town in County Cork. And I must have been about twelve when I decided that I would become an architect. I didn’t know why, and nobody understood because nobody had ever heard of an ‘arshitect.’ They’d say, ‘Now why do you want to become an architect? Sure, if you want to build something there’s Johnny over there, he’s a carpenter, and there’s Paddy down the road, he’s a mason so he could put a building up. What would you do? You’d just stand there waving your hands.’ So here I am some seventy or eighty years later, waving my hands still…I’ve been working with the Metropolitan Museum [of Art] for forty-three years and I’ve become involved with Japanese, Chinese, Egyptian, Roman, all of these cultures. And when you get to know them you realize that they were all people, they all had ideas, they all had great hopes – they all knew how to fight wars too, which is another problem, but they had these great expectations. “What can we do with our lives to really pass something worthwhile along to the next generation and to the generation beyond that? It’s very important to think in those terms. And in that regard of course, America is the great hope for all of the immigrants who came here, it filled all of their expectations. Let us make it the great hope for the rest of the world.”



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The Irish Spirit

Sean Reidy, CEO of the Dunbrody visitor center, where the Irish America Hall of Fame has its home, and Irish Senator Jim Walsh, present honoree Tom Moran with the House of Waterford Crystal Colleen Bowl.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly with Irish-American hero cops Kevin Brennan and Kevin Herlihy.

2011 Hall of Fame inductee Dr. Kevin Cahill, 2012 inductee Kevin Roche and Consul General Noel Kilkenny.

In another presentation at the Hall of Fame awards, Arthur and Barbara Gelb, co-authors of O’Neill: Life with Monte Cristo, the definitive biography of Eugene O’Neill, were given Irish America’s Spirit of Ireland Award. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd spoke of the Gelbs in her inimitable fashion: “My mom always said that the Jews and the Irish had an affinity. Not only the corned beef, not only the guilt, not only the history of persecution. It as also that we both believed, as they said of Scaramouch, that we were born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.... I met the glorious, glamorous Gelbs when I came to the Times. And they made my life so much richer, as they have the lives of everyone who was lucky enough to meet them – the luck of the Irish. More than anyone else I know, Barbara and Arthur Gelb deserve the Spirit of Ireland Award because for 55 years they have lived inside the head of Eugene O’Neill. And that is a very scary place to be!”

2011 Irish America Business 100 honorees Thomas Codd and Kieran Claffey, of PwC, with Hall of Fame inductee Tom Moran.

Ireland’s Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton with Brian Stack, President of CIE Tours.

The Certificate of Irish Heritage

Above left: Patricia Harty and Business 100 honoree John Concannon, fourth-generation vintner at Concannon Vineyard. Above: David McCoy of the House of Waterford Crystal, honoree Dr. John Lahey, and Niall O'Dowd. Left: Dr. Garrett O'Connor and his wife, actress Fionnula Flanagan.

Irish America publisher Niall O’Dowd presents Commissioner Ray Kelly with a Certificate of Irish Heritage. The certificate is an official recognition by the Irish government of those who are proud of their Irish ancestors and their own Irish heritage.



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The God Box

A Mother’s Prayers, Remembered by Her Daughter


eople find different ways to deal with their struggles. Mary Finlayson wrote down her worries, concerns, hopes and prayers and placed them in a “God box.” And as the saying goes, like mother, like daughter. Finlayson’s daughter, Mary Lou Quinlan, also learned to deal with her struggles through writing. In coming to terms with the loss of her mother, Quinlan wrote her new book The God Box: Sharing My Mother’s Gift of Faith, Love and Letting Go. The term “God box” was a common one in Mary Lou’s life – she always knew that her mother kept one. After retiring to Florida in 1986, Finlayson typed out her first prayer of this kind to God: “Dear Lord, Protect my good health – my eyes – my family – my dear husband. Protect Jack in decisions in his job. Protect Marylou and Joe in their jobs, and especially a decision on buying this house in New Hope. Thank you for all our blessings. You are with us always. Love, Mary.” She folded the small piece of paper and placed it in a little box, which she dubbed her “God box.” Finlayson’s well-worn phrase became “I’ll put it in the God box” whenever Quinlan or her brother, Jack, had expressed concern over something. In the book, Mary Lou recalls how just hearing that phrase made her feel as though her mother, who lived miles away in Florida, was hugging her. Those spiritual hugs of sort continued even after her mother’s death from a stroke in 2006. On the night before her mother’s funeral, Mary Lou, Jack and her father, Ray, were all sitting in the family room, when Jack suddenly asked, “Where’s Mom’s God box?” That night they found not just one God box, but seven. “We turned the boxes upside down and hundreds of notes tumbled out,” said Quinlan. “We were stunned. We were faceto-face with every molehill and mountain of our family’s life dating back twenty years…Mom had left behind a diary of our family’s life, her love letter to us in a thousand pieces.” Mary Lou then took these notes and turned them into a book. Though she is the


author of two previous books on marketing, What She's Not Telling You and Time Off for Good Behavior, writing The God Box was a different, more personal challenge. But like every successful journey, it was both difficult and rewarding. “It was hard, because I had to get it right, for Mom,” Quinlan said. “She was an incredibly compassionate woman, always concerned with everyone else. This time, it was her turn. And it was harder because I had to dig down to some of the saddest memories of losing her, losing Dad. I admit I cried a lot

during the process. It was also more rewarding than writing my business-oriented books because I found a way to honor this marvelous mother and her tradition of keeping a God Box. I am already hearing stories from readers who are so moved by the book and now starting their own God Boxes.” Quinlan spent two decades in the advertising and marketing business. In 1999, she started her own business called Just Ask a Woman, through which she helps companies market to women in a personal and strategic manner. This also allowed her the opportunity to branch out into public speaking, television work and writing.

There is no doubt that Quinlan’s success has a strong foundation in how she was raised and supported by her mother. Mary Finlayson instilled in her daughter the meaning of an Irish work ethic and strong faith – “I am fourth-generation Irish,” said Quinlan . The God boxes were Mary Finlayson's way of taking life’s concerns and troubles and placing them in God's hands. It was a physical manifestation of her great belief. As Mary Lou recounts, her mother rarely missed a Sunday Mass. When first settling down, she and Ray chose a working-class Catholic neighborhood of Philadelphia. She sent Mary Lou and Jack to Catholic school. She had a great deal of respect for nuns. “Her letters reveal an incredibly personal and honest relationship with God, like a friend,” said Quinlan. “They were like pen pals, one-way pen pals. Mom also used to call the Sisters of St. Joseph in Philadelphia to talk through what was on her mind and ask for their prayers. In Florida, in retirement, she befriended a small monastery of cloistered sisters in Ft. Myers, the Poor Clares.” Mary Finlayson had a background as a secretary (her claim to fame was working at the Philadelphia Navy Yard for Richard Nixon.) This led to almost all of her God box notes being written in a clipped, secretarial style. Many of them read along the lines of: “Please help Dad get his speech back 100 percent” or “Please help my neighbor Rachel.” A common theme in all of Mary’s written prayers is how often she thought about other people over herself. Her family was her greatest concern, but she also dedicated prayers to acquaintances or people she briefly knew. In the book, Quinlan describes her as “the empathetic ‘everymother’ whose support came with no strings.” Accordingly, proceeds from the book’s sales are going towards the American Cancer Society. In addition, Quinlan is working on a play in conjunction with the book. “I'm working very hard on this and loving every minute, and have watched audiences go through the emotional rollecoaster along with me and Mom. What a thrill! Mom would love it!” – Molly Ferns

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Director John Ford Celebrated with Irish Symposium


he inaugural John Ford Ireland Film Symposium will take place in Dublin over four days, June 7-10. The symposium’s screenings, talks and events will center on Ford’s own films, in addition to other films and filmmakers inspired by his work and legacy. Ford, whose parents were born in the west of Ireland, directed 137 films throughout his prolific career, including The Searchers, The Grapes of Wrath, Fort Apache, Rio Grande, Stagecoach, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, How Green Was My Valley, and The Quiet Man, which was said to be his most personal film. He revolutionized the Western genre and provided an important perspective on portraying Ireland in film. He still holds the record for winning the most Oscars work as a director. Ford was the first recipient of the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his war documentaries during his World War

II American Navy service. In conjunction with the John Ford Symposium, the Irish Film and Television Association has founded an award in his name, to honor world-renowned filmmakers who have followed in his footsteps. Clint Eastwood was named as the first recipient. The program will include public screenings of Ford’s films – both popular and rare. Highlights will include a screening to celebrate the 60th anniversary of The Quiet Man, with special guests Maureen O’Hara, John Ford’s grandson Dan Ford, and Redmond Morris, son of Quiet Man producer Lord Killanin; a public interview and master class with legendary Oscar-nominated director Peter Bogdanovich, who knew Ford; a keynote address by film historian Joseph McBride, biographer of Ford, Stephen Spielberg and Orson Welles; and a slew of other screenings and panel discussions. IFTA Chief Executive Áine Moriarty

John Ford and Maureen O’Hara in Ireland

said, “Ford’s films have always connected with and continue to resonate with ordinary people around the world. He was a great storyteller but moreover he was a master filmmaker who has influenced so many of cinema’s great filmmakers today. The Academy is proud that this annual Ford Film Symposium will now be held in Ireland each year.” Jimmy Deenihan, Ireland’s Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, said, “I anticipate a tremendous excitement within Ireland’s film industry with the establishment of this initiative – and I look forward to welcoming film communities and the extensive Irish Diaspora across the globe who have been inspired by the incredible work of John Ford.” – S.L.

Father Flanagan On the Path to Sainthood F r. Flanagan, the Irish Catholic priest who founded the famous Boys Town orphanage, has been named a Servant of God, a designation that officially places him on the path to sainthood. Edward J. Flanagan was born in Roscommon in 1886, immigrated to the United States in 1904, and was ordained as a priest in 1912. He established the Father Flanagan’s Boys Home in Nebraska in 1917. Founded upon Fr. Flanagan’s belief that kindness, understanding, hard work and a supportive home environment could work wonders in a child’s life, the home eventually

expanded into a much larger complex, which is today home to boys, girls and families in need of help. A 1938 movie titled Boys Town starred Spencer Tracy as Fr. Flanagan in a moving dramatization.Tracy an Oscar for best actor. Following WWII, at the request of President Truman, Fr. Flanagan toured Europe to visit orphaned children of the war. While there, he went through Ireland and was openly critical of the condition of many facilities for young people. Before he could return to the U.S., he died of a heart attack in Berlin in 1948. It was announced in February that the archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska was putting him forward for canonization.The process began on March 17, when George Lucas, Archbishop of Omaha, opened the cause for sainthood at Immaculate Conception Church, the site of Father Flanagan’s tomb at Boys Town. The process for sainthood originates in the archdiocese, then proceeds to the Congregation of the Causes of Saints in Rome and to the pope. In order to be qualified as a saint, at least two miracles associated with the person must have occurred and be confirmed. – S.L. For more information and updates about Fr. Flanagan’s path towards sainthood, visit

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Unquote “It is inconceivable that in the 21st century we don’t understand the importance of the unmet needs of family planning. When I heard that story of the Georgetown graduate student who was called a ‘slut,’ it reminded me of what I was called in 1971 in Ireland.” “Apple was a pioneer of an accounting technique known as the ‘Double Irish with a Dutch Sandwich,’ which reduces taxes by routing profits through Irish subsidiaries and the Netherlands and then to the Caribbean. Today, that tactic is used by hundreds of other corporations – some of which directly imitated Apple’s methods, say accountants at those companies…Because of a quirk in Irish law, if the Irish subsidiary is controlled by managers elsewhere, like the Caribbean, then the profits can skip across the world tax-free.” – From a New York Times article on Sunday, April 29, chronicling Apple’s strategies for avoiding taxes, one of which is the “Double Irish with a Dutch Sandwich.” Above, the Apple headquarters in Co. Cork.

“If you throw a stick in Ireland, chances are you’ll hit a poet or a writer.” – Writer Kevin Barry at a reading of his novel, City of Bohane, in New York City. 32 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2012

– Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, as told to

“We in our time have experienced the sense of crisis that occurs when something deemed unsinkable – in our case a speculative economy – is confounded not only by circumstance and error but by the hubris that accompanied belief in what proved to be an irrational version of the economic.” – Irish President Michael Higgins speaking in the town of Cobh, at the Titanic Centenary tribute.

“He was much more than just a great military leader. He had many different hats and his political and administrative skills tend to be a lot more overlooked.” – Gabriel Doherty, a lecturer at University College Cork, on Michael Collins being named Britain’s second greatest foe, trailing George Washington. Collins won 21% of the vote in the National Army Museum’s online poll.

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Honey Fitz and Sweet Caroline –

A Century of Fenway The Red Sox and the City of Boston celebrate the 100th anniversary of one of America’s most beloved ballparks. By Michael P. Quinlin


oney Fitz, aka John Francis Fitzgerald, would have loved the pageantry of “Fenway 100,” the celebration of Boston’s Fenway Park on April 20, 2012. The grandfather of President John F. Kennedy would have especially relished the sight of his descendants, Caroline Kennedy and Tom Fitzgerald, tossing out the ceremonial first pitches at this centenary game, as Honey Fitz himself did a century earlier as Mayor of Boston. Back then, in the early 20th century, Fenway was a brand new park full of promise and possibility, much like the unfolding Kennedy-Fitzgerald saga itself. “Eager to be tried,” as poet Robert Frost wrote about young President Kennedy at the 1961 inauguration. And now, a century later, Fenway has indeed stood the test of time, avoiding the wrecking ball that beset so many other parks, and ultimately enduring as the nation’s oldest professional baseball park.


The Fenway 100 celebration, so exquisitely nostalgic and sentimental, offered Bostonians a chance to reflect on a century of drama, disappointment and joy in this storied ballpark, built by Charles E. Logue, an Irish immigrant from Derry. And it offered a wistful yet poignant Last Hurrah of sorts for the Kennedy family, whose epic battles against fate, adversity and private demons seemed to mirror at times the ups and downs of the home town team itself. Like the park, the family has also endured. The Fenway celebration was colorful, with red, white and blue bunting fluttering against sheets of green that distinguish Fenway Park: over 36,000 green seats, a pristine infield sod, and the Green Monster wall looming out in left field that bedevils even the best hitters. It was lavish, as dozens of Red Sox oldtimers promenaded across the field, a couple of them in wheelchairs, teary-eyed with memories of days gone by, cheered on by generations of fans whose loyalty to Red Sox veterans is legendary.

It was musical, thanks to the world premiere of “Fenway Fanfare,” an original composition by conductor John Williams, performed live by the famous Boston Pops Orchestra. Honey Fitz, nicknamed for his mellifluous singing voice, would have enjoyed it. And Fenway 100 was patriotic, as two Air Force fighter jets flew overhead as the National Anthem was coming to an end. These pre-game activities all led to the ceremonial first pitches, as Caroline Kennedy and Tom Fitzgerald, along with Mayor Tom Menino, stood in the first base box seats, waiting for their turn to be a part of history. Fitzgerald tossed his baseball to Red Sox Hall-of-Famer Carl Yastrzemski, eliciting a cheer from the crowd. The 77year-old retired teacher was the oldest grandson of Honey Fitz, and often accompanied his famous grandfather to the park, he writes in his touching memoir, Grandpa Stories. Next, Mayor Menino tossed his ball to Red Sox great Jim Rice.



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Caroline Kennedy throwing in the ball at the Fenway 100 Celebration.

FAR LEFT: JFK with bat at Fenway, April, 1946. ABOVE: Handwaving Honey Fitz, opening day at Fenway Park. To his left are the park’s builders (l-r)James E. McLaughlin, architect; Frank C. Osborn, engineer, and Charles E. Logue, contractor.

Finally, Caroline Kennedy, the intensely private public figure who has shouldered the Kennedy legacy with style and grace, lobbed a lefthanded toss to Red Sox star Carlton Fisk, who somehow missed it and had to chase the baseball underfoot as dozens of TV photographers captured the light-hearted moment. Afterwards, Caroline asked Fisk to autograph the ball. As always, Kennedy carried herself well, flashing the famous family grin during the seventh inning stretch as the entire ball park broke into “Sweet Caroline,” which is sung at every home game, right after “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” It turns out that Caroline herself was the inspiration for songwriter Neil Diamond’s greatest hit, which he penned as a struggling songwriter back in the 1960s. Between the eras of Honey Fitz and Sweet Caroline, other episodes linked the Kennedy family and Fenway Park. Joseph P. Kennedy, father of JFK and husband of Rose Fitzgerald, Honey Fitz’s daughter, tried but failed to buy the Red Sox team from owner Joe Lannin, according to David L. Fleitz in his excellent book, The Irish in Baseball. President Kennedy was a Red Sox fan too, and like Honey Fitz, he knew how to mix politics and sports. After World War II, John attended a Red Sox vs. Detroit Tigers game in 1946, a gaunt, recovering war hero running his very first campaign for Congress. He posed for a photo with Red Sox great Ted Williams and players from both teams. It was the start of his

public life in the limelight. As president, Kennedy was invited to throw out the first pitch in 1962, when Fenway celebrated its 50th anniversary. It was a grand occasion, featuring saxophonist Sam Donahue and the famous Tommy Dorsey Band performing songs from 1912, as well as a cast of old-time Red Sox players like Duffy Lewis and Smokey Joe Wood. But JFK declined, opting instead to attend a family reunion in Palm Beach, according to The Boston Globe. Sadly, JFK’s opening day at Fenway Park didn’t arrive until April 17, 1964, but by then it was more like a memorial service to the assassinated president, who had died the previous November. But even so, there was a comforting pomp and circumstance to the game – Boston Red Sox vs. Chicago White Sox – that helped to heal a grieving city. Tom Yawkey, president of the Sox, announced that he would donate the entire proceeds of opening day ticket sales, about $50,000, to the Kennedy Memorial Library Fund which ultimately led to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. Yawkey gave the first 6,000 ticket buyers a commemorative, newly minted, JFK half dollar. It was a moving ceremony. President Kennedy’s brothers Bobby and Ted and sisters Jean Smith and Patricia Lawford attended, along with Joe Cronin, president of the American League; baseball legend Stan Musial, head of JFK’s Physical

Fitness Program; Mayor John Collins; and boxers Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney. Robert Kennedy, who was U.S. Attorney General at the time, threw out the first pitch in his brother’s memory. Senator Ted Kennedy, too, would have a chance to throw out the first pitch of a Red Sox season, in the opening game against the Tampa Bay Rays on April 8, 2009, just four months before he died of brain cancer. Flashing his signature grin, and weak from his treatments, the senator managed to throw the ball just several feet, but landed it right into the glove of Jim Rice. Ted later told friends and family that it was the one of the best days of his life. That sentiment – of a ball park being central not to just the good times, but to the best times of one’s life – is a common notion here in New England, as it is for fans all across the country where baseball evokes a nostalgia that is beautiful and bittersweet. Fenway Park is glorious not just because it survived the ravishes of time, resisted the demands of progress, and weathered the disappointments of Red Sox fans, one generation after the next, these past 100 years. The glory of Fenway Park is that it continues to evoke the promise of better days to come, of staging a comeback after repeated defeats, of taking a shot at the biggest prize of all. It’s about singing Sweet Caroline at the top of your lungs during the seventh inning stretch, “good times never seemed so good,” with 36,000 baseball fans, no matIA ter who is winning the game. JUNE / JULY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 35



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Brought to you by Tourism Ireland




Walk the mythic, rugged steps of the Giant’s Causeway and roam amongst the ghosts of the Titanic. Embrace Belfast's nightlife at some of Europe's best restaurants.Take in the festivals, the music and the vibrant new face of Northern Ireland in 2012. Northern Ireland 2012 is a yearlong celebration of a place unlike any other. It’s a packed calendar of stunning museum openings and attractions, sporting events and festivals. Cross the fabled Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge and explore the Old Bushmills distillery. Experience some of Europe's finest dining one night, then pop into a pub for some traditional Irish music the next.There was never a better time to see it all firsthand!

Titanic Belfast Opens Since its opening on March 31, 2012, over 40,000 visitors have been transported to early 20th century Belfast, visiting the shipyards and the iconic grand staircase of the majestic and tragic RMS Titanic. Ghostly projections of actors recreate a first-class cabin experience as well as recreations of the humble third-class quarters populate the six stories of interactive galleries and exhibits-an experience like no other through the long fabled tale of the Titanic. Visitors relive the journey of the massive ship, with interactive floors designed to transport visitors to the booming Belfast where Titanic was born, on to full-scale reconstructions of the actual building of the ship, to grand windows depicting the historic day Titanic launched from Ireland's northern shores and lastly to the oceanic decayed views of Titanic in her ultimately tragic resting place. This year marks the Centenary Anniversary of that ill-fated voyage, and Titanic Belfast offers the most complete and potent walk through the shockingly short life of the Titanic, from the stateof-the-art industrial shipyard to the unparalleled glamor of what had been known as the grandest ship in the world.

The Irish Open A banner year for golf fans, after almost 60 years, the Irish Open will be returning for the first time to Northern Ireland.Witness the best competitors in

the world, including Northern Ireland's own homegrown champions Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell at the Royal Portrush from June 28 through July 1. Situated on the Northern Causeway Coast, the Royal Photos, Portrush's 36-hole course from top: The Carrickboasts of valleys and sandhills a-rede Rope that create unprecedented Bridge, challenges and unrivaled natural Giant’s Causeway, beauty.

The Giant’s Causeway

City Hall in Belfast, and the Halloween fesitval parade in Derry/ Londonderry

As the summer winds down, a trip to the coast of Antrim to see one of Ireland’s most spectacular marvels of nature is essential. The Giant’s Causeway, an area of interlocking basalt columns, clothed in ancient myth and modern wonder, will be debuting its new visitor center on August 20.The breathtaking views and mysterious hexagonal columns attract visitors from all over the world to explore the wonder of the Northern coast.

Halloween Festival in Derry/Londonderry There is no grander celebration of All Hallows Eve than the Halloween festival in the great walled city of Derry/Londonderry. Experience the autumn festivities with elaborate costumes painting the city with a flash of color and fireworks that simply cannot be missed.

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Landscapes of the

began to work as a freelance photographic assistant in New York City twenty years ago. It was a wonderful opportunity but I could not settle, and eventually I returned to Ireland. What I did not know then, but I know now, is just how powerful a draw the Irish countryside has for me. A short while after I returned, I borrowed my father’s car and went to the west to take my first serious landscape photographs. For the next ten years, I continued to take trips mainly to the west of Ireland and combined them with a career working as an advertising photographer. Eventually, I made the decision to set up my own gallery and sell limited edition prints to support my ongoing project to capture the landscape the way I saw it when I first returned from the U.S. One of the most popular images in my gallery today, “Tree Lake,” was taken on that first trip. It was the first image I put in the window of my gallery, the first image I sold in my gallery, and coincidentally, the night after I took that image, I stayed in a room over a pub in Kenmare that is directly opposite where my gallery is now. I have worked the same way since I began taking landscapes. I spend a lot of time researching a location, deciding on composition and what I need in terms of light, wind direction, cloud, mist, fog, and rain. All of the different weather conditions affect the final image. I work exclusively on film and use a large format 4x5 wooden field camera. The intricacies and the challenges of working with film make the images more special. – Eoghan Kavanagh



Photographer Eoghan Kavanagh



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TOP: This is Allihies, a village on the Beara Peninsula. As they do in lots of villages in Ireland, the people here paint their houses in different bright colors. I really wanted to bring this out in the image and that’s why I wanted the dark sky. I also like the way the houses are dotted in the landscape. You can get a real sense of scale when there is a house in an image. It is one of my newest images and it was in the planning stages for over a year before all the variables came together to create the perfect scene for me. It is a strangely color-

ful place and I wanted that stormy sky, which invariably comes with flashes of light as the clouds open up for a short period of time. ABOVE: These three images are of the same Hawthorn tree at Lough Brinn. Five years elapsed between the first one, taken in the fall, and the last one in the winter, and you can see the branches of the tree have gotten a little bigger. I am interested in the passage of time as it affects the landscape. We got an early snow that winter, so you can

see the red berries peeping through, as if it had been decorated for Christmas. There are lots of myths that surround the Hawthorn tree and it is considered extremely bad luck to break even a branch. When I photographed the tree in summer it was as if it was lit with a halo of light. I took four days to shoot the image as I wanted the flowers at their maximum bloom. The fall image was taken after a very mild winter and an unusually wet summer. I have not since seen so many berries on the tree.




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For more information on Eoghan Kavanagh’s photography or to purchase prints, go to or visit Skyline Gallery, 27 Henry Street, Kenmare, Co. Kerry. Tel: 064-664-8621. E-mail:


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TOP: The Skellig Islands. I like to photograph that line that marks the sky from the sea. It is, in fact, how I came up with the name “Skyline” for my gallery. This image was shot on a day when the clouds were flying by in a very strong north westerly wind and it was just a matter of setting up the camera and waiting for a few hours for the light to approach. This is as close as I have gotten to the islands – I took this photograph from the mainland – however I do have plans for a three-day trip soon. Living in Kerry has been a great thing for me and has given me the chance to capture some amazing images. People have a hard time believing my photos are not retouched, but it is not a difficult thing to do if you watch the weather, know what you are doing, and where you are going. ABOVE: The Healy Pass on the Beara Peninsula has been photographed many times and it is very important to me that my work does not replicate what has been done before.

This image was made on a typically misty day that offered just the occasional bright patch of blue, which gave me the contrast I needed to lift the detail in the mountain road. I love the way the road curves and then disappears into the mist. It is one of my favorite images and it proves that bad weather days are sometimes the best days to make landscapes. If you only take photographs on nice days all your images will look like everyone else's. RIGHT: “Tree Lake.” Sometimes it takes years before I am actually happy with an image, but this is one of the first images that I captured on my return from the U.S. It was taken in Killarney National Park and I have not since come across such a perfect scene. It was a calm, frosty morning, the light was just up and it was still quite dark. The later images from this shoot look totally different – all frosty and blue with a bright blue sky, but the mood of this dark morning is what I like.



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George The perennial leading man talks with Patricia Danaher about his Irish roots, getting older, and his passion for activism. eorge Clooney has nothing to prove as an actor and he knows it. It’s part of what makes him such a pleasant and relaxed interview – quick with the self-effacing jokes, interested in the wider world beyond where he now sits, at home in his own skin. At 51, he is aging beautifully and has more mischief in him than people half his age. If all the charm, the intelligence, the wit and the chivalry is all an act – which after interviewing him six times by now, I don’t believe it can be – it’s a damn good one. What you see with George Timothy Clooney is what you get. “I’m not out trying to prove anything. I’m sort of finished with that, so I get to play in other sandboxes and try and figure out what I like and I’m interested in,” he says. “When my Aunt Rosemary said that later in her life she could sing better than ever, even though she could no longer hit or reach every note, she said to me that she was a better singer then because she didn’t have to prove anything and she could relax. I sort of feel the same.” Notwithstanding the fact that he hit the half century mark in May of last year, Clooney appears to be getting cooler and even more relaxed with age. Take his wheels for example; these days he’d prefer the comfort of a minivan over a sports car and his nonchalance has a way of making that cool too. “In LA, I have two cars and two motorcycles. In Italy, I have three motorcycles because other people want to ride and you can’t ride them all at the same time. When you’re young you’re into sports cars and shit like that and it really does matter. But now in Italy, we pull up to the Villa d’Este Hotel and I’m in a minivan! I lost all my cool – straight out the window!” he laughs. “After a while, you just want transportation, and things like cool cars or


motorcycles are all about getting attention. I get all the attention I could ever need, so I kind of like being in a minivan and people not paying so much attention to me.” The long-planned trip to Ireland he said he was finally going to take, will be a tour of the country by motorbike. “It’s finally happening,” he told me, grinning broadly. “I ran into Bono in Toronto, who was in town for the documentary about U2, and he’s as much of a bike nut as I am. He started telling me about lots of cool places I should check out, so I’ve committed to going.” The actor makes frequent and fond references to his Irish roots and his Catholic upbringing. Clooney has Irish roots on both sides of the family, but most of his green blood comes paternally. His father’s great-great-grandfather Nicholas Clooney, came from County Kilkenny. The name Clooney is an anglicized version of the Gaelic O’Cluanaigh, which translates as a descendant of Clugnach, meaning a rogue or a flatterer. His father’s mother’s maiden name, meanwhile, was Guilfoyle. “I’ve been in Dublin before, but never with my folks,” said Clooney. “My dad went to Ireland two years ago and found a town called Clooney. When he told them his name, he said everyone insisted on buying him drinks and he got smashed and had a great time!” Growing up the son of the well-known and respected journalist and broadcaster Nick Clooney formed much of the character which makes George Clooney the man he is today. Seeing celebrity up close through his father and his aunt Rosemary, made him recognize the traps of fame, but it also imbued in him the sense of justice and fairness which has led him to become involved in various political issues. “My father was and is a great journalist. Thirty years ago, I was studying broadcasting in college and the prob-




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Left: Clooney and Shailene Woodley in The Descendants. Right: Clooney and his father, Nick, were arrested on March 16th at a protest outside the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C.

lem was I wasn’t nearly as good as my father. I wasn’t as quick or as smart as my old man, and I realized it would be a long time before I was ever going to be, and I decided to do something else. My uncle was Jose Ferrer the actor and he got me a part as an extra in a movie he was in. After that I got in my ’76 Monte Carlo and drove to LA to be an actor and I got lucky, quite honestly. “My parents were disappointed I didn’t finish college and they were really upset when I went to Hollywood to become an actor. I was a big disappointment to them. My father used to write me long letters for about seven or eight years, which I still have, where he used to say ‘knock this off and get a real job.’ That was the first time they felt ashamed of me. But we are really close. “I’ve been lucky to be in a few films that will last. I’ve made some turkeys along the way, some dumb choices, but luckily that was early in my career when people weren’t paying attention!” Currently writing, directing and producing a slew of new movies, on top of this year’s Golden Globe win for The Descendants, Clooney’s intelligence and appetite for a wide range of topics is once again on display. One of his upcoming movies is called Enron, which probably needs no explanation, and another called Hardan v Rumsfeld, whose title also says it all. His next directorial feature, The Boys from Belmont, is lighter fare about the reunion of a gang of thieves who get together to finish off a job they started seven years earlier.

Using his fame as leverage for creating awareness about political issues is one of the ways in which he evens out the toll of living in the glare of publicity. His March arrest in Washington, D.C. on the grounds of the Sudanese Embassy, was a clearly planned publicity stunt to draw attention to what is happening in South Sudan. “Probably the thing I am most proud of is being involved with places and issues [and people] who might not otherwise have had their voices heard. I have all this attention on me, which I’ve been able to deflect to Darfur and South Sudan and people who could use it. The telethons and the things like that, that we’ve been able to put together, I’m proud of these things. Being able to take something that’s going well for you, and deflecting it on to other people, those are real successes. “I have a lot of things I want to get done and I don’t really have a lot of time. The best advice my Aunt Rosemary gave me was ‘Don’t wake up at 65 and say what you should have done.’ I think that’s a smart piece of advice. She also told me never to mix wine and vodka and that’s a lesson I forgot to take last night!” Given that he has crossed the half century mark, has he given any thought to plans for after his death? “I tried to donate my liver, but no one would take it! Imagine how disappointed I was! We have a thing in the U.S. where you check a box on your driver’s license to donate an organ. I really think it should be the other way around. I think you should automatically donate your

“Probably the thing I am most proud of is being involved with places and issues [and people] who might not otherwise have had their voices heard.” 44 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2012



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organs because that would turn the balance of organ donation in a huge way. I would donate whatever anybody would take and I’d probably do the cremation bit. I don’t really like the idea of getting stuck in a box. I have these best friends of mine, I put them all in my will and I said I would give them each some ashes and some money and have them take me on a trip somewhere I’ve never seen before. It wouldn’t be such a bad way to see the world!” Clooney’s love life and the seeming never-ending succession of 20-something-year-old girlfriends is an endless staple of the tabloids. He quickly replaced his Italian girlfriend of two years standing, Elisabetta Canellis, with Stacey Kiebler (31), a wrestler turned model. When I try to ahem, wrestle a comment out of him about his latest flame, he pounces. “I knew it was coming!” he laughs. “Some of the sneaky questions about this topic are often disguised in serious questions like, ‘this thing in Darfur is so sad with these children,’ and you go, ‘oh yes,’ and then they go, ‘have you

ever wanted to have children?’ They think if you sneak it through the serious stuff, I’ve got to answer. I’ve found that answering these questions has never been beneficial to me in any way. It’s beneficial to people selling magazines and newspapers, but not to me. So I always avoid them.” Back to politics, where he’s more at home, he’s firmly backing Obama in the fall. He just used the phone and his extensive database of the powerful and wealthy to organize a fundraising dinner at his home in Studio City, Los Angeles on May 9, which raised $15 million for the re-election campaign. “It’s very easy for people to be critical of President Obama’s first term, but let’s face it, he didn’t exactly inherit the country in the best shape. I’m a lifelong Democrat and I get very impatient when I hear people criticize the President because he didn’t fulfill all their wishes overnight. I’ll die a Democrat. But let’s hope that won’t be IA any time soon.”




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An Irish Designer in New York Don O’Neill, creative director of the up-and-coming label Theia, reflects on his journey from a small seaside town in Co. Kerry to the fashion houses of London, Paris and New York, and finally, a showroom of his own. Interview by Sheila Langan


hen we meet at his garment district showroom on an afternoon in early April, it’s clear that Don O’Neill, creative director of the fledgling couture label Theia, is still basking in the glow of his first solo runway show during February’s New York Fashion Week. The show, like his Fall 2012 collection, was a study in elegance and strength, with a range of looks inspired by the Greek goddess Athena. The finely tuned drama of the collection’s dark colors, sharp angles and structured tailoring was enhanced by the crystal bejeweled headpieces donned by each of the models. “I really wanted to do something special by New York standards, because in New York a lot of the fashion shows – not all, but a majority of them – tend to be very clean and very simple,” he explains. “It’s just about showing product, it’s not neces-


sarily about a fantasy, which is a more European way of showing, and I just thought ‘Feck it! I want to do fantasy and I want to create a character and tell a story.’ And that’s what I did.” With a résumé that includes working in the atelier of Christian Lacroix, ten years with New York-based evening-wear designer Carmen Marc Valvo and three years at the helm of the Badgley Mischka diffusion label, Badgley Mischka Platinum, O’Neill, a youthful 45, is something of a fashion veteran. But Theia, which was founded in 2009, marks a huge turning point in his career: his own label. “It was a dream come true,” he says. “I think every designer, when you go to design college, assumes that one day you’ll just have your label and be having fashion shows, and you think that it will happen sooner rather than later – mine was just a little later rather than sooner.” O’Neill grew up in the small seaside town of Ballyheigue in Co. Kerry, where his family ran seaweed baths and currently

owns a popular bed and breakfast. Perched on a clifftop overlooking the water, the O’Neills’ home was surrounded with plenty to inspire a young mind. There was a castle across the road (“Where else would you have a castle?” O’Neill asks) with old waste tunnels running through the hillside, where lost silver was rumored to be buried. The masts of a sea-wrecked Spanish galleon were still just visible off shore, and the ruins of an ancient church that predated the shoreline were said to be out at sea, causing a permanent white-crested wave on the horizon. “It was very fantastical,” he says fondly. “You believed that everything was magic, and there was enough around you to engender this spark that mystical things were possible.” Between this rich imaginative landscape and his mother’s excellent dress collection, O’Neill’s interest in fashion formed at an early age. His mother, who had worked as a nanny in New York in 1963 and ’64, had a number of Bergdorf Goodman dresses from her former employer, a Park Avenue



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socialite. “As a little kid I was fascinated by those dresses,” he recalls. “It even got to the stage where Mom wasn’t wearing them anymore, but they were so special that she kept them.” He also mentions a store in nearby Ballybunion, “for ladies in the know.” It carried pieces by Ib Jorgensen, a Danish designer based in Dublin, who was Ireland’s premier clothier at the time. “All of his clothes were handmade and very expensive, so it was amazing to get your hands on them. I can’t believe those women even sold them, to me they’d be like collector’s items.” A bigger realization came when he was 12 or 13 and saw a TV documentary on Karl Lagerfeld, who was then at Chloé. “This sounds so naïve when I look back at it, but I vividly remember two dresses. One had a faucet embroidered on the shoulder and beading like water running down the front of the dress. And then the finale dress was a long, black gown with what looked like a tail behind it. [The model’s] hands were by her sides, and then all of a sudden she flicked her wrists and a peacock tail flipped up over her head. That image stayed in my head, and I knew I would love to do that. I didn’t know why or how, but it just stuck.” He didn’t turn to fashion immediately. After an ill-fated interview to join the Irish Air Corps (he confused the plane models the corps used with X-Wing Fighters from Star Wars) quelled his desire to become a pilot, O’Neill went to college in Dublin – vacillating between graphic design and fashion. Homesick, he returned to Kerry after three months and started training to be a chef. Showing promise, O’Neill was asked to join the Irish junior team for the 1985 Culinary Olympics. A team demonstration for the Irish media in Dublin landed his photograph on the front page of the Irish Times – he cut his finger de-boning a chicken, and the photographer snapped a shot of O’Neill holding up his bloody hand. In the meantime, he was always sketching in his culinary books, “in the margins and the corners there were always gowns. I never really thought about changing

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careers, this was just something that I did when I was doodling.” But fashion came calling again after O’Neill had started working at a restaurant in Galway. The Irish Independent was running a fashion design contest, and the second prize was a Michael Mortell coat O’Neill thought would look amazing on his younger sister, Deirdre. He submitted a dress he had designed for Deirdre’s Three dresses from Theia’s Spring 2012 collection.

graduation, and it won – not second prize, but first prize: tuition to the Barbara Bourke College of Fashion in Dublin. After graduating with recognition (his final collection was in the window of one of Dublin’s poshest department stores for a week), O’Neill moved to London. He lived in the very Irish neighborhood of Kilburn, but was determined not to get too cozy there. Gina Fratini, whose elaborate ball gowns were favored among the royals, took him on as an intern and let him

design. He worked with Donald Campbell at his studio in Knightsbridge, where he got a taste of a different perspective. “Donald made real dresses for real British country ladies who needed sleeves and necklines up to here, skirt lengths down to here, and pretty fabrics. Very expensive,” he explains. He had been planning on moving to Paris when he was head-hunted to work with Lady Dale Tryon – a friend of Prince Charles, also known as Kanga – whose long polyester dresses had become immensely popular after Princess Diana wore one to the Live Aid concert in 1985. His role was to help her expand into couture. “She wanted these very expensive evening dresses and cocktail suits, which is what we were making, but we were spending money hand over fist,” he recalls. “I would come in to work in the morning and it would be ‘Don, we’re on the 11 a.m. flight to Paris, we’re shopping for buttons,’” which he admits sounds like an episode of the ’90s British TV show Absolutely Fabulous, about fashionistas of a certain age who see no problem with taking the Concord to New York to find the perfect doorknob. “Everyone thought they were being ridiculous, but they weren’t! They were making fun of people like us,” he laughs. When the label ran into financial trouble, O’Neill returned to Dublin for a year to study pattern making and landed a job with his childhood idol Ib Jorgensen, which “brought everything full circle.” After six months, with Jorgensen’s encouragement, he headed to Paris. JUNE / JULY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 47



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With no French except for what he remembered from secondary school, O’Neill got off to a shaky start. “The only place I could find work was at McDonalds, and since my French wasn’t very good I was even bad at that. I kept thinking to myself ‘I’m a trained chef and I can’t put together a Big Mac?’” he says, still looking mildly horrified all these years later. After a few weeks, he found work at an American restaurant and set about trying to get his portfolio to the big fashion houses. This involved, at first, some little white lies, which O’Neill relishes in telling, endearingly impressed by his own moxie. He blithely showed up at Chanel and said that John Fairchild, the publisher of Women’s Wear Daily, was his godfather and had arranged for him to see the head of the studio. He got into Givenchy in a similar way, and on his way out passed a woman with “brown hair in a chignon and a beautiful camel swing coat, very short. She had brown opaque tights on and what looked like flat crocodile ballet flats and a beautiful crocodile bag.” It was Audrey Hepburn. At Yves Saint Laurent, he told them that Pierre Berge, Saint Laurent’s partner at the 48 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2012

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time, had said he should come in. It was a little bit trickier getting in at YSL, he recalls, but adds that “once you’re in one of those situations you just have to keep it going or you'll start thinking ‘Oh my God I’m going to be arrested.’” At Dior, he said that he had an interview with the head of the studio, and that Bernard Arnault, the president of LVMH (which owns Dior) had arranged for him to see her. He had to wait, but it worked, and he was taken into “the inner sanctum of Dior. She look[ed] at my book, which, since I had been in London with Donald Campbell, had very safe, lady-like little bits and pieces, and said ‘I think you should throw this in the Seine. This is too old. This is not French, this is not modern.’ My face fell. She said that she saw talent but that I needed to re-do the book with a French mentality. She told me to do a project for Dior and to bring it back.” In the meantime, O’Neill began costume work for a production at the Opéra de Lyon. The designer in charge had worked for Christian Lacroix for 10 years, and promised to get O’Neill an interview with the fashion house in exchange for his help. While there, he also met his partner of 19

years: Pascal, a dancer, with whom he now lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Lacroix and Dior both wound up offering internships for the winter of 1993, and he went with Lacroix, whose dramatic designs and fantastic runway shows provided the inspiration necessary for O’Neill to expand his own vision as a designer. “Christian was really good to me, he loved the Irish,” O’Neill enthuses. Fluent in French now, he credits his clumsiness with the “tu” and “vous” forms with – fortunately – endearing him to the designer, whom he was supposed to address in the formal but often didn’t. “People adored Christian Lacroix because he treated everybody equally,” he explains. “Whether you were the janitor sweeping the floor or the CEO of the company, he treated everyone the same. There were people who were not so sweet or pleasant because they were ‘at Lacroix.’ They had airs and graces just because of where they worked. But he did not.” Towards the end of the internship O’Neill won a Morrison visa and, acting upon the advice of Lacroix’s astrologer, moved to New York. Even though he had letters from Lacroix introducing him to



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Opposite page: A photograph of a Ballyheigue sunset and the silk and leather dress it inspired for the Fall 2012 collection. This page: Four designs from the Fall 2012 runway show.

designers including Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Oscar de la Renta, he had a hard time finding work. Whereas before he had been too confined in the neat style of Donald Campbell, he was now too far into the realm of Lacroix’s inspired but sometimes impractical taste. He recalls Donna Karan explaining to him that she would pare down his sketch of a jacket to such a degree that it wouldn’t be recognizable as the same design. Oscar de la Renta offered him a job, but rescinded when O’Neill asked for a salary of $35,000, stating that it was too much. He eventually interviewed with the evening-wear designer Carmen Marc Valvo: the people on the hiring team were big fans of the show Absolutely Fabulous, which often referenced Lacroix, and wanted to meet someone who had worked with him. He was offered the job. “It’s really thanks to AbFab and Lacroix that I got to work,” he laughs. O’Neill spent 10 years with Valvo, progressing from junior designer to design director. In 2005, he got a call from JS Group, the same company that Theia is a part of. They were looking for someone to head Badgley Mischka Platinum, a line based off of the

aesthetic of the design team of Mark Badgley and James Mischka, but at a slightly lower price point. “I went in for a meeting and found out that I was going to be in charge of everything – it was just going to be me and a desk and a phone, finding pattern makers, cutters, sewers. I said ‘sure, I’d be able to do that,’ but I was terrified.” He recalls almost wishing that it wouldn’t work out – that Valvo would insist he stay; that a former colleague he had in mind to join him wouldn’t be available. But things fortunately conspired against him, in his best interest. He didn’t feel quite comfortable for the first six months heading Badgley Mischka Platinum, but a successful first year proved he was capable. The line’s profits greatly surpassed expectations. An issue of Women’s Wear Daily displayed one of his dresses on the cover. One has to wonder how, having worked for other designers for so many years, O’Neill went about forming his unique vision for Theia when the line was founded in 2009. He chose the name, taken from the Greek goddess of light, mother of Helios,

the Sun, Selene, the Moon, and Eros, the dawn. This goddess inspiration makes perfect sense with O’Neill’s philosophy as a designer, which is to “empower women to be strong and fierce and beautiful. It’s about having that strength and inner confidence that you can take on the world.” His client list includes names and physiques as diverse as Taylor Swift, Emmy Rossum, Angela Basset, Carrie Underwood, First Lady of Ireland Sabina Higgins, and Oprah, who wore one of his sequined creations to accept her honorary award at the Oscars this year. Universal appeal is also a top priority. “I want everyone to feel that they can have a Theia dress and they can look amazing in it. Basically, I just want to make everyone happy.” By all accounts, his dresses are making people very happy. Over 350 stores around the world, including Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, carry Theia, and the line has found a devoted following among brides-to-be, for whom O’Neill designs a white line of dresses that range from flowing and ethereal to sequined and sexy. His creative process, which can take Continued on to page 65 JUNE / JULY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 49



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One of the premier trackand-field training facilities in the world in its time, Celtic Park produced more than two dozen Olympic medalists who collectively won more than 50 medals for the U.S. Olympic team, and more than a dozen for other countries. By Ian McGowan n the early 20th century, amateur athletics were viewed as a rich man’s leisure activity, a notion largely influenced by Victorian and Edwardian perceptions of athleticism. At the time, amateur athletics in New York were dominated by the then almost entirely Protestant New York Athletic Club, the oldest private athletic club in the United States, founded in 1868. But then, in 1887, a group of Irish immigrants formed a social club whose members were largely working class and devoted to athletics. The Greater New York Irish-American Association, which adopted as its emblem a winged fist adorned with American flags and shamrocks and the Irish motto “Láim Láidir Abú” or “Strong Hand Forever,” purchased approximately seven acres of land in the



County Offaly hurling team, 1926 New York champions, at Celtic Park. Fourth from the right is team captain Paddy Grimes, onetime owner of the Irish Echo newspaper.

suburban farming community of Long Island known as Laurel Hill for $9,000. On this land they built an athletic complex they named Celtic Park that would become a venue for Gaelic football, hurling and track-and-field events, a meeting place for Irish immigrants in New York, and a training ground for some of the best athletes the world has ever seen. The inaugural track meet was held on May 30, 1898 with New York City Magistrate Henry Brann, a native of Ireland, delivering the dedication speech, but it wasn’t until 1901 that Celtic Park was completely finished and, according to the New York Times, “emerged as one of the most completely equipped places of the kind about the city.”

The clubhouse, a two-story building, included a dining room that could seat 1,000, and a basement with 12-foot-high ceilings, and bowling lanes. On the second floor, there was a café, as well as dressing rooms, reception rooms, a private dining hall, and piazzas with views of the track-and-field and the Manhattan skyline. The west side of the grounds held an enclosed grandstand with a seating capacity of 2,500. Another feature of the park was its accessibility. The founding members had intentionally built the park close to the trolley line to Calvary Cemetery, making it convenient for Irish immigrants to visit their dearly departed in the city’s largest Catholic burial place before taking in a Sunday game.


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A Steeplechase race at Celtic Park, circa 1910.

The Athletes of Celtic Park Though largely Irish in composition, the Irish-American Athletic Club (I-AAC), as it was renamed in 1904, quickly became one of the most ethnically diverse organizations of its day. In an era of segregation and discrimination, it served as a workingman’s athletic club – regardless of race or religion. The two head coaches were Ernie Hjertberg (Swedish) and Lawson Robertson (Scottish), and the membership included German, Finns, Swedes, Italians, and Hispanics. The club boasted the first Irish athlete to win a gold medal for the U.S. – the Limerick-born John Joseph Flanagan, a three-time Olympic gold medalist who is considered the father of modern hammer throwing. Myer Prinstein (the first Jewish-American Olympic gold medalist) was a member, as was Dr. John Baxter Taylor, Jr., (the first African-American to win an Olympic gold medal for the U.S.) Taylor’s decision to join the I-AAC was noted in several national newspapers at the time. The New York Times ran the headline “Taylor to Run as an IrishAmerican,” while The Washington Post reported, “It may be said that there is no athlete more popular with the Celtic Park crowd than Taylor. . . And every man of the Irish contingent around the track roots himself hoarse to see Taylor win.” Numerous national and world records

were frequently set or broken at Celtic Park at events governed by the rules of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). The park hosted six AAU All-Around Championships (the predecessor of the modern decathlon). Today the decathlon is conducted over two days of competitions, back then the 10-event all-around meet was held in a single afternoon. John Martin Sheridan, a five-time Olympic medalist, who was heralded by the New York Times as the greatest allround athlete of his day, won the championship in 1907 and again in 1909. The final All-Around Championship held at Celtic Park in 1912, was won by Jim Thorpe, who was of Native American and Irish ancestry. Sheridan, a New York City police officer who had been born in Co. Mayo, was present to watch his record being broken by Thorpe. Reports show that he shook Thorpe’s hand saying, “Jim my boy, you’re a great man. I never expect to look upon a finer athlete.” In the seven Olympic Games held from 1900 to 1924, members of the I-AAC won a total of twenty-six Gold, twenty-two Silver and eight Bronze medals for the U.S. Olympic Team. While these men were not all members of the I-AAC when they won their Olympic medals, all of them wore the Winged Fist insignia of the IrishAmerican Athletic Club at some point in their athletic careers.

Celtic Park and the Irish-American Community A record of the role that Celtic Park played in the New York Irish community can be found in a 1908 front-page article that appeared in The Gaelic American newspaper entitled “Irish Athletes Made Splendid Records.” “Irishmen are responsible in a large degree for the healthy athletic influences now prevalent in American cities. The first centenary of the Irish Revolution of 1798 was remarkable as being the year which saw the birth of the Irish-Ireland Movement and the sweeping of the last vestige of an old world tyranny from the American main. The Spanish War was insignificant compared to the foundation of the athletic America, which can honestly be claimed by the men who conceived Celtic Park. … The formation of the Public Schools’ Athletic League, the Catholic Athletic League, the Military Athletic League and the Irish Counties Athletic Union can be traced directly to Celtic Park.” In addition to being the home of the Irish-American Athletic Club and its celebrated Winged Fist-wearing world-class athletes, Celtic Park played a critical role as the meeting place for Irish fraternal, social and political organizations. The Irish Counties Athletic Union (predecessor of the United Irish Counties JUNE / JULY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 51



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In 1910, the Mecca Cigarette Company released a series of champion athlete and prizefighter trading cards. Printed in New York City, these cards were an early example of an illustrating technique that involved hand-colorizing photographs, in an era before the popularity of color photography. Mecca Cigarette trading cards were also a very early example of the use of athletic stars to promote a product, in this case, cigarettes. The champion athletes featured at right were all members of the Irish-American Athletic Club.

Association), the Gaelic Athletic Association (G.A.A) and the Irish Volunteers all regularly held events, meetings and fundraisers at Celtic Park. Some of these activities attracted crowds of more than fifteen thousand. From as early as 1905, until at least 1921, the political organization Clan-naGael held fundraisers, picnics and athletic events at Celtic Park. At these events that attracted thousands of Irish exiles and Irish-Americans, Clan-na-Gael publicly advocated armed resistance to British occupation of Ireland well over a decade

before the Easter Rising. It appears that a significant portion of the money that the Clan-na-Gael raised to finance the Easter Rising came from the 25-cent admission charged at the gate of Celtic Park.

The Decline of Celtic Park There were a few major factors that contributed to the decline of the IrishAmerican Athletic Club and Celtic Park. The initial factor was the advent of World War I. “We decided to give up athletics

for its duration,” P.J. Conway, founding member of the I-AAC and its president for 27 years said, commenting on the impact of the Great War. “We wrote to President Wilson and offered Celtic Park to the nation for any purpose he saw fit. He thanked us for our patriotism but said that he had to decline the offer. After the war it was impossible to gather the old crowds together.” The decline of Celtic Park was also hastened by Prohibition’s thirteen-year

Olympic Medalists of the Irish Dozens of Irish athletes who were members of Irish-American Athletic Club won Olympic medals for the

Matthew John “Matt” McGrath As a youngster in Co. Tipperary, Matt McGrath developed exceptional strength and endurance working alongside his father and brothers plowing fields, reaping harvests and tending to livestock. As Matt grew to full manhood, an array of athletic skills began to emerge and he became known throughout the region for his prowess as a wrestler, boxer, runner, and weight man. And although he excelled at every sport he tried, it was the hammer throw that drew him the most attention. At 19, McGrath left his Co. Tipperary home to seek a better life in the United States. Seven years later – at the urging of his father-in-law, a captain with the New York City Police Department – he became a police officer, and twice during his distinguished career was recipient of the NYPD’s Medal for Valor. Beginning as a beat cop in 1902, Matt advanced steadily BORN: December 18, through the ranks: sergeant in 1876 – Nenagh, Co. 1917, lieutenant in 1918, captain in Tipperary, Ireland DIED: January 29, 1941 1927, deputy inspector in 1930, and – New York City inspector in 1936. Six feet tall and New York City Police nearly 250 pounds in his prime, Department 1902-1941 McGrath made an imposing figure Inspector,Traffic Division – in his NYPD blues. Two NYPD Medals for Valor Although a lifelong member of 52 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2012

the New York Athletic Club, Matt was also a lifetime honorary and briefly active member of the Irish-American Athletic Club. He counted members of the I-AAC (including archrival John Flanagan) among his closest friends and was a familiar face at Celtic Park. In addition to hundreds of ribbons, medals and trophies from regional and national track-and-field meets – as well as several national and world records to his credit – Matt McGrath won one Olympic gold medal in the hammer throw (1912), and two silver medals (1908 and 1924). The farm boy from Nenagh was one of the greatest weight men ever, and for nearly forty years was a decorated member of the NYPD. In the fall of 1940, suffering with a serious liver ailment, Matt was hospitalized. And although he was soon released and recuperating at his Bronx home while on sick leave from his police duties, McGrath had a relapse and died on January 29, 1941. Despite having left behind an athletic and law enforcement legacy matched by few, Matt McGrath is buried in an unmarked grave at Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York. In 2002 a statue of McGrath was unveiled in the town square in Nenagh.



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ban on the sale of alcohol, beginning in 1920. The park quickly became a high-profile target for law enforcement scrutiny and the object of unflattering media reports. “For more than six months alleged bootleggers have been arrested at the park every Sunday, sometimes as many as a dozen men being taken into custody. These men have been doing a retail business from bottles of whiskey carried in their pockets,” the New York Times reported on July 25, 1922.

Prohibition was just one of the factors in sounding the death knell for Celtic Park. The new, more modern facilities that were being built in the New York City area and the growing urbanization of the area around the park also contributed. The decline in popularity of the park as a venue for athletic competitions forced the club to find other income-producing events. From 1928-30, on the same track where Olympic gold medalists had once performed before thousands of cheering spectators, greyhound races were held. And in tribute to a bygone era, track promoters included a race where the winning dog’s owner received the “Martin J. Sheridan Trophy,” named in honor of the

I-AAC’s great Olympic champion. But greyhound racing at Celtic Park didn’t last long, in large part due to pressure from the growing residential community. The New York Times reported on September 21, 1928 that the Laurel Hill Improvement Association had united with the Thomson Hill Taxpayers’ Association in an effort to prevent the holding of greyhound races in Celtic Park. George W. Morton Jr., President of the Laurel Hill association, said that “the races would be a detriment to the community, since only a gambling and ‘riff-raff’ element would be attracted by them.”

Sold for Housing In 1930, after more than thirty years as a meeting place for the Irish in New York and a training ground for world-class athletes, Celtic Park was sold to the City and

– American Athletic Club United States, including Matt McGrath, Patrick “Babe” McDonald, and Martin Sheridan.

Patrick Joseph “Babe” McDonald An error at Ellis Island resulted in Pat McDonnell becoming Pat McDonald, but in his native Co. Clare the great Olympic champion is remembered by his baptismal name at a memorial erected near his birthplace at Doonbeg. And if a monument to Pat is ever erected in the United States, it would logically stand at Times Square – his beat as a traffic cop from 1905-20. It was said of Pat (known to BORN: July 29, 1878 – friends and foes as “Babe”) that Doonbeg, Co. Clare, Ireland his Falstaffian figure, Irish brogue DIED: May 16, 1954 – and friendly banter were as familNew York City iar to New Yorkers as the best New York City Police hotels, restaurants and landmarks Department 1905-1946 of the era. George M. Cohan, Captain,Traffic Division – noticing one afternoon that “The Times Square Cop” Officer McDonald was not on duty at Broadway and 43rd Street, made a point of going up to him the next day to ask about his health. McDonald, who left Ireland in 1899 and six years later had a NYPD badge pinned on an extra-large uniform, started his career with a rookie’s $66.59 monthly salary and held down the Times Square beat for fifteen years. In early 1921 he became a plainclothes sergeant, was promoted to lieutenant in 1926, and ten years later became a captain. The 6’ 4” Irish-American Athletic Club stalwart, who competed at over 260 pounds throughout most of his career, won an amazing sixteen national championships throwing the 56-lbs weight

By Steve Cottrell

– the first in 1907 and last in 1933, at the age of 55. He also won an Olympic gold medal in 1912 for the shot put and another in 1920 for the 56-lbs weight throw. In addition to several commendations for heroism and valor as a member of the NYPD, Pat was given the honor of being the flag bearer at the Opening Ceremonies of both the 1920 and 1924 Olympic Games. Coupled with distance runner George Bonhag – who carried the American flag in the Opening Ceremony at the1912 Games – members of the I-AAC were United States flag bearers at three Olympics. When the 75-year-old retired police captain and Olympic champion died in 1954, New York Times columnist Arthur Daley remembered how McDonald had gone through life, “with a song in his heart, a twinkle in his eye and laughter ever bubbling within him.” Pat “Babe” McDonald was buried at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Mt. Pleasant, NY, and the only Irish Whale to outlive him was I-AAC teammate Paddy Ryan – also an Olympic gold medalist in 1920 – who died in Limerick, Ireland in 1964, a month past his 83rd birthday. JUNE / JULY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 53



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Suburban Homes Company for the construction of apartments for working-class families. Nearly eighty years after construction of the Celtic Park apartments, there are just a handful of reminders of the neighborhood’s history. To the south of Celtic Park, Laurel Hill Boulevard remains; and to the north is a small city park called Thomson Hill Park – named after the man the land was purchased from in 1897. The only reminder of the glorious history of the athletes who trained there is the one-block-long Celtic Avenue, and, Cover of Collier’s magazine, June 9, 1906, depicting Martin Sheridan, winner of the Discus event at the Olympic Games at Athens, from a painting by J.C. Leyendecker. This image is courtesy of the family of I-AAC coach, Lawson Robertson. It has been digitally restored and enhanced by, and is © Copyright Winged Fist Organization.

of course, the housing complex that got its name from the Irish-American Athletic Club’s track & field stadium – Celtic Park. In July of 2011, the New York City Council passed a bill introduced by Queens Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, and signed into law by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, co-naming the street that runs through Celtic Park “Winged Fist Way,” in honor of the athletes of the Irish-American Athletic Club. The street sign was unveiled in IA March of 2012.

About the author: Ian McGowan is the founder and executive director of the Winged Fist Organization (, which was founded in the summer of 2008 (one hundred years after the Irish-American Athletic Club’s outstanding performance at the 1908 Olympics in London) to preserve the legacy of the Irish-American Athletic Club and to bring their athletic accomplishments to the attention of the public. Ian lives with his wife Regina Castro McGowan in Woodside, Queens, in the Celtic Park apartments, which was built on the site of the former Irish-American Athletic Club stadium. He can be reached at

Olympic Medalists of the Irish-American Athletic Club

Martin John Sheridan When Martin Sheridan died, the New York Times called him, “Without question the greatest all-around athlete this country has ever known.” In addition, he was a decorated New York City police officer – in recognition of BORN: March 28, 1881 – which his fellow officers and Bohola, Co. Mayo, Ireland friends established the Martin J. DIED: March 27, 1918 – Sheridan Medal for Valor, awarded New York City from 1922 through 1974. New York City Police Sheridan began his track-andDepartment 1905-1918 field career with the Pastimes Sergeant Attached to the A.C. in 1901 then soon joined the Detective Bureau Irish-American Athletic Club. In 1904, at St. Louis, he won his first Olympic medal – a gold in the discus. In all, Sheridan won nine Olympic medals: five gold, three silver and one bronze, and to date, he stands as the New York City police officer and Irishman to have won the most Olympic medals. At 6’ 3” and under 200 pounds, he was the lightest of the vaunted Irish Whales, but his combination of speed and strength resulted in three All-Around titles (precursor of the Decathlon). On a single afternoon, men competed in ten grueling track-and-field events, culminating with the mile run. Sheridan won the 1905, 1907 and 1909 All-Around meets – setting new world records at each competition. His record held until 1912, when it was surpassed by legendary Native American athlete Jim Thorpe. As captain of the 1908 U.S. Olympic team, Sheridan and his Winged Fist teammates accounted for nearly half of all medals won by the U. S. at London. After the 54 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2012

1908 Olympic Games, he traveled to Ireland for a triumphant tour that took him back to his home in Co. Mayo. It was the first and only time since sailing for America in 1897 that he walked on Irish soil. Although he retired from athletic competition prior to the 1912 Olympics, Sheridan kept active with the I-AAC, mentoring younger competitors. And as a member of the NYPD, he organized an annual track meet and picnic at Celtic Park where proceeds were placed in a fund to assist widows and orphans of fallen New York City police officers. Forty-eight years after his sudden death from pneumonia – and formal police burial under a Celtic Cross at Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York – a monument honoring native son Martin Sheridan was dedicated at the Bohola village square, across the green from P.J. Clarke’s Pub. Among those in attendance at the 1966 Bohola monument dedication was Andrew “Andy” Sheridan, Martin’s younger brother. Although Andy spent much of his professional life in Chicago, he also threw the weights as a member of the I-AAC. But among the Sheridan boys, it was brother Richard – 1901 national discus champion – whose career most paralleled Martin’s. Deputy Inspector Dick Sheridan served with the NYPD from 1901-1937, then spent four years as Deputy Chief of Police with the special World’s Fair police unit.



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Ireland’s Citizen Chronicler Acclaimed scholar Christine Kinealy, whose work has shed new light on forgotten elements of Irish history, talks with Daphne Wolf about growing up Irish in Liverpool and her tireless research towards setting the record straight on the Great Famine.


n Juno and the Paycock, Sean O’Casey’s play of the Irish Civil War, two characters riff on the ways history can be censored and distorted (by clerics, in this case):

Boyle: (becoming enthusiastic): Didn’t they prevent the people in ’47 from seizin’ the corn, an’ they starvin’; didn’t they down Parnell; didn’t they say that hell wasn’t hot enough nor eternity long enough to punish the Fenians? We don’t forget, we don’t forget them things, Joxer. If they’ve taken everything else from us, Joxer, they’ve left us our memory. Joxer: For mem’ry’s the only friend that grief can call its own… The conundrum of Irish memory and history has absorbed Christine Kinealy’s attention ever since she discovered O’Casey and his ne’er-do-wells as a young student in Liverpool, England. Growing up there as part of an extended Irish Catholic family, she went to schools where Irish history was never taught. She lived in a community in which being Irish was something to keep under your hat, and where memories of Ireland were 56 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2012

discussed only within the four walls of home. Coming out of that vacuum, O’Casey’s subversive viewpoints caught her by the jugular. Today, a professor since 2007 in the Casperson Graduate School at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey (where she received the 2009 Will Herberg Award for Excellence in

Teaching), she is a renowned scholar of the Great Famine and the author of numerous books and articles on topics ranging from the Orange Order to Daniel O’Connell. But it was that chance encounter with Irish history oozing from the mouths of O’Casey’s characters that first sparked her desire to decode its complicated layers. Taking an extra class to work on O’Casey, she researched his three Dublin plays (which also include Shadow of a Gunman and The Plough and the Stars). “And,” she recalls with triumphant emphasis, “that was it.” “I never wanted to be a teacher,” she claims. “I always wanted to research. But teaching and research are indivisible; they feed into each other. I get feedback from my students about my research, and it is exciting for them to see their professor in the archives, to know that things don’t stand still. Primary research is very exciting; it keeps me fresh. Because I’m always researching, I never teach a class the same way twice.” She did not visit Ireland until she began her Ph.D. work at Trinity College Dublin, which she completed in 1984



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with a dissertation on the Irish workhouse system from 1838-62. That work, fueled by a curiosity about how societies treat the poor, drove her to scour previously untapped sources in Dublin, Mayo, Belfast and elsewhere. She found one trove of workhouse records abandoned in a jailhouse where it was claimed some participants in the 1798 Rebellion had been imprisoned. “A common theme in my writings is my interest in social injustice,” she explains. “It underpins my work on the Famine, but also my interests in women, abolition, ‘invisible Protestants’ (as opposed to hard-line ones), and the treatment of Jews. Poverty and, in its extreme form, starvation are not simply about politics or religion. It is far more complicated, and I have tried to reflect that in my writings and teaching. Other people have imposed labels on me; they are not my labels.” In the 1980s, during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, Kinealy taught evening classes in Irish history at a women’s center in the strongly loyalist Shankill district of Belfast. She never felt the need to adjust her lectures to suit the politics of

her listeners, who lived in what was then one of the poorest parts of Europe. The students related viscerally to her discussions about poverty, disenfranchisement and women’s issues. “Irish history doesn’t have to be a divided history,” she says. “I learned as much from them as they learned from me.” The workhouse study for her doctorate led to an interest in the Famine. Even while working as an administrator for an American firm in Dublin and later for an organization based in the public records office in Belfast, she continued to dig into Famine records in her spare time. In the late 1980s when “tourists were not really going to Belfast, and there was high unemployment,” she says, “I consciously included the city and the North in my work. I wanted an all-Ireland view of the Famine.” Praised – and vilified – for her writing on the Famine, Kinealy says much of the criticism leveled at her was ideologically based and did not focus on the actual research. What she said about the Famine shook up some accepted interpretations. In her award-winning This Great

Calamity: The Irish Famine 1845-52 (1994), in A Death-Dealing Famine: The Great Hunger in Ireland (1997), and in many other publications, she offered concrete evidence that the British government was fully aware of the gravity of the tragedy unfolding in Ireland during the potato blight, but, for reasons of economic and social philosophy, deliberately chose to limit its response. “My conclusions were not what I expected,” she says. “I never imagined I would find that the British knew what was going on. But my interpretation is what my sources have led me to.” After This Great Calamity was published, Kinealy found herself in the middle of a firestorm, with some claiming that the 1990s (the period leading up to the Peace Process) was no time to rekindle past animosities. She was castigated for questioning the work of historians who had championed the “revisionist” interpretation of the Famine. Revisionists argued that demographic and social forces – like overpopulation and the dependence on the potato – had made the catastrophe inevitable. Some of these writers also minimized the imporJUNE / JULY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 57



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tance of the Famine as a strategic turning point in Irish history. They suggested that other events, like the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 that deflated a boom in Irish agricultural exports, had a greater impact on the development of modern Ireland. When Irish Times columnist Kevin Myers attacked This Great Calamity for its “scatter-gun approach to historians one dislikes,” particularly citing her remarks on the work of the eminent scholar Roy Foster, Kinealy fired back in the letters column. “What Mr. Myers is seeking to do is to reduce the debate on the Famine to the traditional ‘revisionist vs. non-revisionist,’ ‘British vs. Irish’ and now, ‘Foster vs. Kinealy,” she wrote. “This polarization is both dishonest and meaningless. Historians are continually challenging and extending the work of other historians.” While Kinealy characterized the British relief effort as inadequate, and insisted that the Famine was of deep importance to Irish history, she also emphasized that there is no easy explanation for what occurred, and that all the evidence reveals that the Famine was much more complicated than polemics and finger-pointing would suggest. “People in the British civil service were speaking out against the government policies all the time,” she emphasizes. Referring to the Irish radical nationalist who wrote about ships carrying grain out of Ireland while people starved, she explains, “Everything John Mitchel said in 1847, the then Irish Lord Lieutenant, Lord Bessborough, said more clearly, calling the lack of a grain embargo a politically-motivated nod towards the Irish merchant class in an election year.” It was the Earl of Clarendon, his successor, who described his government’s actions as leading to “a policy of extermination.” Assessing Mitchel’s storied accusation of deliberate genocide by Britain as “an easy way out of the complexity,” she did what no one else had bothered to do before: she painstakingly examined the shipping manifests. She found that exports of grain, and many other products, had indeed continued throughout the Famine from ports all over Ireland to Britain, and that “disease and starvation existed side-by-side with a substantial


commercial sector.” Furthermore, the government admitted that its own statistics, which show that by 1847 more food was coming into Ireland than going out, were flawed and incomplete. Adding to the complexity, the intricacies of British navigation and free trade regulations wreaked havoc with the flow of goods in both directions. “In looking at the issue of food exports,” she wrote, “the role of ideology has been emphasized whilst the financial motivations…have been underestimat-

ed….The role of Irish farmers and merchants, both individually and collectively, has been neglected.” A soft-spoken woman with a ready smile, Kinealy’s face hardens and her hands slice the air when she describes the frustration of responding to critics who jump to ideological and politically-motivated conclusions about her research. “People want to pigeon-hole me as anti-British or as a nationalist. How do they know what my politics or motivations are? This Great Calamity was very positively received; at that time, no one else had done so much primary research. But I was criticized for things like implying that Belfast suffered during the Famine, because statistics show the population actually increased. Well, the population grew because people were coming into the city from the country where

they were starving. This was the pattern in all Irish cities. My work on the Famine in Belfast showed how poor Protestants also belonged to an underclass, and died in large numbers.” Dr. John Lahey, president of Quinnipiac University, which is home to the world’s largest collection of art works relating to the Great Hunger, credits Kinealy with sparking his deep interest in the Famine, and in re-evaluating how it is remembered. “[She] really blew the lid off all of the inaccuracies and the dramatically downplayed scale of the tragedy,” he said in a 2011 interview with Irish America. “She documented all kinds of food exports and found that the shipment of food out of Ireland actually increased during the years of the Famine. She argued that much of the guilt and self-blame felt by the Irish was misplaced. For the greater part of 150 years, the world and the Irish believed that the Irish themselves [were principally to blame] in bringing about the famine. But the conditions of poverty and the disproportionate dependence on a single potato crop were also imposed, over time, by the British. We now know that this was the greatest tragedy in 19th century Europe, and probably the greatest catastrophe in Ireland’s history, and it is all the more tragic because it was largely preventable.” Much more research on the Famine remains to be done, Kinealy says, and rather than curtail the discussion for political reasons, it needs to flourish because of what it reveals about how societies work and how power is distributed. Kinealy says continued research needs to be done on food exports, on the impact of the Famine on Protestants, and on the actions of farmers, merchants and landlords, especially at an individual or local level. She is now investigating private charitable donations during the Famine, which were the first examples in world history of a major international relief effort. Aside from her work on the Famine, Kinealy has a deep interest in other personalities and issues of the 1840s in Ireland, particularly those of the Young Ireland rebellion in 1848, which she wrote about in Repeal and Revolution: 1848 in Ireland (2009). “I loved the inclusiveness of the Young Irelanders – men and women, Catholics



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and Protestants together – even when they came to America and were divided over the American Civil War. Before each battle, former Young Irelander Thomas Francis Meagher, who fought for the Union, toasted his fellow Irishmen fighting for the Confederacy. It’s a good lesson in how to be gracious even to those people with whom you disagree.” Pulling another thread from this volatile period, Kinealy has written about Daniel O’Connell and his support for abolition in The Saddest People the Sun Sees: Daniel O’Connell and the Anti-Slavery Movement (2011). She says O’Connell’s involvement with abolition had “largely been written out of history” and that, while deeply involved in Irish affairs, he was writing “some of the finest statements on slavery” of any period. He was remembered in this light throughout many of the public remarks made during President Obama’s historic trip to Ireland last May. Kinealy’s affection for Belfast and Northern Ireland is palpable. In 2010, she published War and Peace: Ireland Since the 1960s “to put on record what happened in the North through the prism of social justice, to give the women’s point of view, and to bear testimony to the losses that people from all traditions endured.” That affection also emerges from reminiscences about her work there in the late 1980s with unemployed teenage boys in a government initiative meant to foster mutual understanding between Catholics and Protestants. The boys took “rubbings” and transcribed information from tombstones in Belfast cemeteries, and later plugged that information into computers, creating a historical and genealogical database. For many of them it was a hands-on initiation into their common history, and a first-time, faceto-face introduction to their neighbors from “the other side.” At about the same time, she coauthored a textbook for 12-16-year-olds called Making Sense of History: Evidence in Ireland for the Young Historian, which approached a shared sense of history through primary sources like those she uses in her own research. It won a national award. Given the opportunity, she would like to return to the North and work on similar projects for school children.




“Where we grew up, you were Catholic or you were Protestant. Irish people in Britain lived under the tremendous strain of trying to remain invisible.”

As a child in Liverpool, Kinealy said she always “felt Irish.” But as recently as the early 1990s, when her Dublinborn daughter Siobhán was in primary school in Liverpool, it was a very sectarian city. Siobhán was bullied for her Irish accent, and when she asked her teacher if the class could celebrate Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day as part of the school’s multi-cultural program, she was told, “No, they kill people there.” Arriving in the United States for the first time in 1995, Kinealy was amazed at how freely Irish Americans celebrated their heritage, an impossibility at the time in Britain. “Where we grew up, you were Catholic or you were Protestant,” says Kinealy, who was raised Catholic (conservatively at school, liberally at home).

“Irish people in Britain lived under the tremendous strain of trying to remain invisible. This intensified after 1969, especially when there were reports of violence. There was a high rate of suicide and mental illness in the Irish immigrant community.” In the last 15 years, largely due to the Peace Process, Kinealy observes that much of that has changed. “Now, even in Britain, it is cool to be Irish,” she says. But her relationship with Great Britain is, like Ireland’s, complicated. To some extent, she admits, her writing and research provide an antidote for all those years when it was far from cool to proclaim her nationality. “I spent a lot of my formative years in Britain and I don’t hate ‘the Brits.’ But I do abhor some of the things that the British government has done historically. At the same time, I am an admirer of the British radical tradition, which has a lot in common with the Irish radical tradition, and of the British charitable impulse – thousands of nameless people raised money for Ireland during the Famine, including prisoners in London. Oh, yes, also British soccer – and chocolate. American chocolate just isn’t the same.” In 1997, the same year Prime Minister Tony Blair apologized for the Famine, Kinealy was invited to speak about the Famine in the British Houses of Parliament, in the place, as she recalls, “where so many egregious relief policies had been made that resulted in so many tragic deaths.” Besides her early years in England and life in Dublin and Belfast, she spent many years teaching in British universities. Now, Kinealy is hard-pressed to say where her “home” is, although she admits that Ireland has always been her “spiritual home.” Her children have moved to America – son Ciarán in New York State with his new wife, and Siobhán in law school at Rutgers University – so her orientation has shifted somewhat. Guinness, Kinealy’s sheepdog so-named by Ciarán because “he’s black and white and comes from Ireland,” has an EU pet passport, but seems content to be living in New Jersey. His leash and bowl sit complacently near the desk in her office at Drew. “I always thought I’d retire to Ireland, but I honestly don’t know where my real home is,” she admits with a puzzled frown. “It’s complicated.” IA



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{roots} By Molly Ferns

The Clooney Clan


n Ireland, the surname Clooney has several origins. One possible place of origin is in County Clare, where two towns, Ballymaclune and Tiermaclune, are named for the former MacClune clan of the area. Records exist of a person named Teag MacCluin living in Quin, County Clare in 1542. The Clooney surname, also recorded as Clune, O’Cloney, Cloney, Clowney, MacCluin and MacClune, can likewise be tied to County Wexford. Several families have anglicized their name to Cloney or Clowney in this eastern region of Ireland. Finally, there are several towns in Northern Ireland which derive their name from the Clooney clan. In County Derry, there is the small town of Clooney. According to surveys, the town was originally known as Ballynecloney, with variations such as Cloney, Cloan or Cloane existing in later years, until Clooney was decided upon. Another village, known as Donaghcloney, exists in County Down. It has strong links to the Irish linen industry. Donaghcloney has a large Protestant population. Former leader of the Ulster Volunteer Force Robin “the Jackal” Jackson was a notable resident of Donaghcloney. In all cases, the name Clooney is said to originate from the Irish word “Cluana.” Today, the meaning of cluana is difficult to identi- Nick fy. It is believed that when refer- Clooney ring to a place it means “meadow,” but when referring to a person, it could mean “rogue” or “quick-witted.” The most famous “quick-witted” Clooney is actor, director, and political activist George Clooney, who appears on the cover of this issue. Born in Lexington, Kentucky on May 6, 1961, George can trace his ancestral background to Ireland. His parents were Nina and Nick Clooney and his great-greatgrandparents on his father’s side were

County Kilkenny immigrants, Nicholas Clooney and Bridget Byron. George was born into a family with strong connections to the entertainment industry. His father Nick Clooney’s career took off in the 1960s as a TV news anchor in Lexington. He then went on to host his own show in Ohio called The Nick Clooney Show. He gained national fame hosting an ABC game show called The Money Maze. Returning as an

Rosemary Clooney was the sister of Nick Clooney. She and her sister Betty, who was also a singer, won a radio spot on Ohio’s WLW in 1945. This kickstarted her career. In 1946, she recorded with Tony Pastor’s big band for Columbia Records. In 1949, Columbia signed her as a solo artist. Her first record, Come on-a My House in 1951, was a hit. In 1954, Rosemary starred in the famous film White Christmas alongside Bing Crosby. Following that film’s success came a musical variety TV show, The Rosemary Clooney Show. She continued to sing through the 60s and 70s, and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002. Rosemary married Academy Awardwinning actor Jose Ferrer in 1953. They had five children, two of whom, Miguel and Rafael Ferrer became actors. While Rafael mostly worked in television doing voice-overs, Miguel gained success with George Clooney a role in the movie RoboCop and on television dramas Twin Peaks and Crossing Jordan. After working odd jobs, George Clooney decided to try acting. He appeared on TV in The Facts of Life, The Golden Girls and Roseanne. His breakthrough role came with the chance to play Dr. Doug Ross on the television hospital drama ER. Soon after that he began appearing in films like One Fine Day, The Perfect Rosemary Clooney Storm, Ocean’s Eleven, etc. He won his first Academy Award for anchor, he helped WKRC-TV (Ohio’s Best Supporting Actor for Syriana. He was ABC affiliate) reach #1 in the local news nominated for Best Actor for Michael ratings. In 1994, Nick appeared again on Clayton, Up in the Air, and The national television as a host for American Descendants. He is also well known for his Movie Classics (AMC). humanitarian and charity work, specificalGeorge tried to follow in his father’s ly raising awareness about Darfur. footsteps. He attended Northern Kentucky Other notable Clooneys include Frank University from 1979 to 1981 and then Clune, a famous Australian author, and University of Cincinnati, majoring in Francis X. Clooney, S.J., a respected Broadcast Journalism, but he did not Harvard professor and scholar of comIA graduate. parative theology. JUNE / JULY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 61



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A Climb to

Give Thanks New York City native Patrick Connolly celebrated his 90th birthday by making a pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick. Interview by Catherine Davis

ost people, upon reaching their 90th birthday, celebrate the milestone in some way that is significant to themselves and to their loved ones. Most people, upon reaching their 90th birthday, however, do not climb mountains – significant or not. But most people are not Patrick Connolly, and this is exactly what he did. On August 3, 2011, just two days before officially turning 90, he, along with 59 of his relatives, summited Ireland’s holy mountain, Croagh Patrick. The location of the mountain (County Mayo) holds special significance for Patrick, as Mayo was his father’s home, and the place from which his father emigrated so many years before. From his family farm in Mayo, Patrick’s father, also Patrick Connolly, left for Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland, where he boarded the RMS Lusitania. He paid for his passage to America by shoveling coal. It was on the Lusitania that he



met Anna Beagan, who was also working on board, as a waitress. Seven years later, to the month, they married. The couple eventually settled in Howard Beach, Queens, just blocks from where their son, Patrick, and his wife, Breeda, live today. The Connollys’ kitchen is tidy and comfortable. Like the rest of the house, it is filled with family photographs, and carries the faint aroma of homemade bread – soda bread, what else? Every corner, every shelf, has a different story to tell. Here is a little change bank in the shape of a smiling cottage (dubbed the “Ireland or Bust” bank) which once sat atop the fridge collecting pocket change, in an effort to save up money for the family’s first trip to Ireland together. Over here, a clock that was hand-carved for them by a man in Long Kesh Prison, circa 1978; a gift thanking the family for their involvement with a Troubles relief program, Project Children. The late-morning sun falls just on the edge of their kitchen table, which is

set for tea. While Breeda pours, Patrick and two of the couple’s eight children, Brian and Stephen, sit down around the table. “The best you ever had,” Patrick says, referring to Breeda’s soda bread. And it ought to be. Mary Breeda Walsh grew up in Limerick City until she was 16. She came to America in 1938, just in time for the World’s Fair, to visit her father and brother, who had moved here for work. But in 1939, World War II broke out in Europe, and civilian travel was cut off, leaving her an effective refugee in Howard Beach. It was there, just down the block from her father’s house, that she and Patrick first met through his sister, Helen, whom Breeda had forged a deep friendship with while Patrick was serving in Europe as a bombardier with the Air Corps. And it was 15 years ago, on one of their visits back to Breeda’s homeland, that Patrick saw Croagh Patrick for the first time. They



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could not climb that day because of bad weather, but just being in the mountain’s presence was enough for him to grasp the meaning of the majestic rock as a place of spiritual power. Croagh Patrick, or Cruach Phádraig, locally known as the Reek, measures 764 meters (2,507 feet) in height, and is a popular destination for spiritual seekers of many faiths, from all over the world. Saint Patrick is said to have fasted at the top of the mountain for 40 days, and legend says he built a church up there. A small chapel was erected at the summit just after the turn of the 20th century, and some visitors choose to make their way through the difficult – and occasionally deadly – terrain barefoot, as an ascetic act of penance and self-sacrifice. But Croagh Patrick has held holy significance for climbers long before Christianity was introduced to Ireland in the fifth century. The ground there was considered sacred by the Druids, who are thought to have used the mountain for pilgrimages during the summer solstice – a special time of year for them, as they revered the sun. Patrick describes the view over Clew Bay. “At the end of July, the beginning of August, as the sun’s setting in the west, it looks like it’s rolling down the mountain. And that’s one of the reasons why [the Druids] thought this was a holy place. But it’s biblical, too,” he continues, “that being on a mountain is sacred. That was all part of this.” By “this,” Patrick means his remark-

able ascent up what, towards the Far left: The it was to be his way of thanking Connolly clan in top of the summit, becomes a 50- front of the God for his Irish roots, for his degree incline. But he also means chapel at the family, and for his friends. The the gathering of approximately 80 summit. Above: doctor replied simply, “Well, of his relatives (those who didn’t Patrick and rela- I’m not going to stand between tives during the do the climb still came to cheer climb up the you and God. So send me a picthe others on, and to take part in mountain. ture of the rock from the top.” the rest of the 10 days’ worth of “I have a pacemaker,” Patrick activities that Patrick’s son, Stephen, had explains, “and take a stress test every six planned out). It was a get-together which months. I knew it was going to be diffirequired considerable organization, but cult, that I had to work out. I asked for Stephen was unfazed by the logistics of it. guidance.” It was while Patrick was exerHe has worked with documentary crews cising, early on into his training, that he in several countries, under all kinds of suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of conditions, and has managed tours for calm. It was, he believes, the Holy Spirit, some popular musicians. Of course, it sending him the message, “You do your helps to have friends and cousins all over part, and I’ll do mine.” He began using the country, making suggestions for the the treadmill at the gym three times a itinerary. week, and would spend another one or Two years ago, the Connollys were on two days walking around his neighboranother one of their excursions (this one, hood, or in Forest Park, eventually walktoo, organized by Stephen) when a group ing four or five miles at a time. decided to attempt climbing Croagh Of course, they still took plenty of prePatrick. It was the elder Patrick’s 88th cautions. Conveniently, firemen and birthday, and though he got as far up as the EMTs abound in this family (Patrick was first stop on the pilgrimage – a statue of the once himself a fireman). Fully prepared patron saint – he didn’t trust himself to with water, chairs, and even tents in case make it all the way to the top. During a car the need presented itself, the group ride later the same trip, Patrick confided in stopped every 100 yards or so to say a Stephen that he had made a vow back at decade of the Rosary, as a way of pacing the foot of the mountain, that he would themselves, and also out of respect for climb Croagh Patrick on his 90th birthday, Patrick’s wishes, that this trip be an act of in honor of his and Breeda’s parents. thanksgiving and praise. The only agreement they made: if his Brian Connolly remembers when his doctor said he couldn’t do it, he wouldn’t. children finally reached the summit. When his doctor asked him why he “Because it takes so long, and it does chalwanted to do the climb, Patrick told him lenge your will to continue, they clearly JUNE / JULY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 63



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to welcome in the hikers. “He kept the pints pouring,” Brian smiles appreciatively. “The sandwiches just kept coming out of the kitchen, and they kept the fire going. I don’t even know if anyone paid a bill that night.” Stephen has pulled out the family tree that he put together and distributed among his relatives. A bound collection of personal accounts from everyone who has descended from Patrick’s parents, it’s quite a tome. The book’s weight alone suggests how remarkable it is that this large family, which has expanded so rapidly over the course of just a couple of generations, has all come into being because of the love shared between these two courageous immigrants pictured on the cover. Flipping through the book, Stephen remarks, “It’s happened many times, that there’ll be a wedding scheduled or a party scheduled, and somebody died right before it. A lot of times, people would reschedule the party or cancel the party. But we don’t do that. That party’s going on, and that’s one of the good things about being in this family, because if you were ever a part of the family, you can know we’re going to remember you.

began to understand that ‘this whole thing is bigger than me.’ You have a moment, and whether there’s a church there or not, you realize how small you are, and the majesty of God’s earth...There’s no question, if you’re open, there is a message from the Creator there.” By Patrick’s side the entire time was his seven-year-old great-grandson, also named Patrick. For the full 15-hour trek, fifth-generation Patrick Connolly stayed right in step with second-generation Patrick Connolly. “Now I know I can do anything,” he told his mother. Seeing this young boy – and the whole span of generations of girls and boys, and women and men (including his younger sister, Nancy, who made the climb despite recent health issues) all gathered together in one place, going on the same journey together – Patrick realized that his should not be thought of as a pilgrimage solely of faith and gratitude for what had already come 64 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2012

Above: Patrick in uniform: B–17 Bombardier, 8th Air Force; taken in Mendlesham, England, 1944–45. Right: Patrick and Breeda celebrate their 50th Anniversary.

to pass, but also as one to celebrate hope for the future, and love in the present. Here, Breeda interjects, “I didn’t climb up. I stayed in Campbell’s Pub!” But then she clarifies, “We were in and out. We did go part ways up the mountain.” This pub, Campbell’s, has been at the foot of Croagh Patrick for centuries, and has been in current owner Pádraig Fitzpatrick’s family for 175 years. “They are Croagh Patrick,” Brian explains. “There’s no other commercial anything there. [Pádraig] is the gatekeeper of Croagh Patrick.” Pádraig kept his pub open well into the night, sitting and chatting with Breeda and the others, waiting

And we’ll celebrate your life. But we’re moving on, too, because it’s always going to be about the next generation, and the next generation, and the next generation.” And the continuation of the generations is really what this whole pilgrimage was about in the first place – thanking those who came before, embracing those who are here now, and awaiting those who are yet to come. For the Connolly clan, as they refer to themselves, doesn’t actually have a family tree, so much as a family mountain. And Patrick Connolly now sits at the very IA top, beaming.





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NEW YORK continued from page 49

place anywhere from his office overlooking Broadway to a seat-back table on flights from Shannon to New York, “literally has peaks and troughs,” he says. “When you’re in a trough you’re like ‘I should have been a bus driver,’ because you can’t see what's next. It’s not like when you’re a chef and you learn your skills and you always know how to chop an onion. In this business, okay, you know how to chop an onion, but you need to figure out a fresh and exciting way to chop it every day.” After years of designing, he still seems almost reverentially uncertain of where the inspiration comes from. “There are days when it’s like a magical portal opens in my head and I pick up my pen and all the sketches are pretty and it flows. I’ll usually have two days, maybe three if I’m lucky, and then the portal shuts tight. A lot of what I do just comes through my hand. I don’t see it in my head, which is weird. It just appears on the page.” He often listens to music as he designs, letting the beat and rhythm inform his sketching. He also relies very much on his natural instinct to guide him. “If I’m looking at ugly fabric I get knots in my stomach, it’s amazing,” he insists. Until fairly recently, he didn’t look to his Irishness for inspiration, but that changed when he saw the Irish animated film The Secret of Kells (2009). “I think for a long time I was sort of distancing myself from [my heritage]. Over here there was a certain amount of disconnect from who Irish people are and what people think we’re supposed to be,” he reflects. “Instead of propagating who we really are I just backed away from it entirely. But then when I saw The Secret of Kells and that makes me so proud to be Irish: when you see somebody take our heritage and do something amazing with it.” The film led him to look towards Celtic artifacts such as Newgrange and The Book of Kells for Theia’s Fall 2011 collection He has quickly become a darling of the Irish media, with every outlet from The Gloss, (the Irish Times fashion magazine) to The Kerryman newspaper tracking his success. The whole O’Neill family traveled from Ireland to New York for

was inspired by a photograph his brother Patrick took of the sunset in Ballyheigue. “He sent me the picture last year, and it was too late to do anything with it then, but I sent it to the print studio I work with in Milan to see if there was some way we could interpret it, and they came up with this fabric,” he explains. “The sunset gown is one of my favorites because it’s more personal to me than everything else. This is home – this is Ballyheigue coming down a runway in New York. It’s amazing that I could do something like IA that.” Left: O’Neill’s sketch for one of the runway looks in his Fall 2012 collection. Below: A dress with a Newgrangeinspired pattern, from Fall 2011.

his fashion show in February (“Front row – they got the VIP treatment,” he assures me) and returned home to a barrage of press. “I wasn’t there, so I didn’t immediately feel the benefit of it, but they were getting the full effect. Mom was like ‘We can’t go anywhere anymore! Everyone’s congratulating us.’” O’Neill is thrilled with the attention, but also hopes that his story is one that will inspire. “People at home seem really proud of the fact that they have a designer [in New York] who’s doing well. They’re using the story to motivate kids who are coming out of school right now and emigrating. That’s what happened in the ’80s when I finished college – none of us stayed. Maybe this can give them a ray of hope that if you leave, there are opportunities and people do make it in spite of all sorts of adversity.” O’Neill is also proof that Irish designers, who more often than not must make their careers abroad, don’t have to leave Ireland behind completely. When asked to choose a favorite piece from the Fall collection, he eventually settles on a vibrant silk dress with a leather waist. The pattern, with its swirling orange, gold, red and purple, JUNE / JULY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 65



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{what are you like?} By Patricia Harty

Karen Duffy


model, actress and author, Karen Duffy was born in New York City and raised in Park Ridge, New Jersey. She graduated from University of Colorado with a degree in recreational therapy, and in 1989 she began modeling in television commercials. She became a video jockey for MTV in the early 1990s, going by the name Duff, and went on to win small roles in films such as 1994’s Dumb & Dumber. Most recently in film, Duffy provided the voice for Linda Otter in 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. In 1995, Duff was at the height of her career, serving as the spokesmodel for Revlon and a correspondent for Michael Moore’s The Awful Truth, when she was diagnosed with neurosarcoidosis, which often leaves her in excruciating pain. Duffy battles the disease with her sense of humor, as shown in her autobiography Model Patient: My Life As an Incurable Wise-Ass. In 1997, she married John Lambros. They have a son, Jack. She currently writes a weekly column in the New York Daily News and is an editor at large at PBS Metrofocus. What is your current state of mind? I have a birthday coming up and a gent I greatly admire told me, “There are two important days in your life, the day you are born and the day you figure out why you were born.” I count myself quite lucky; when I met my son I understood why I was born. Your greatest extravagance? I am a bit of a Cheap Pete but I do spend a fortune on books and false moustaches and practical jokes. Who is your hero? My Mt. Rushmore of hero worship would include Ralph Waldo Emerson, Marcus Aurelius, Frank Sinatra and Barry White. What is on your bedside table? A copy of a daily devotional, rosary beads, a Greek icon of St. John the Baptist, water carafe, pill bottles, bud vase and a stack of books: The Groucho Letters, Pocket Book of Patriotism, and obscure commonplace books of miscellany I find at The Strand and Alibris Books. I love the notebooks from; they make journals from old hardbacks. I wind up writing in bed, and after I fell asleep with a sharpie marker and drew all over my husband, I now use colored pencils and keep a sharpener and flashlight in a basket under the bed. What was your first job? I was an elf. My father managed shopping malls when I was a kid and my high school job was to dress up in an elf costume and take photos of kids sitting on Santa Claus’ lap. The guy who played 66 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2012

Santa is now a parish priest and we are still great friends. He used to pinch the kids who would stay on his lap too long and hold up the line. Your earliest memory? My brother Jim is 13 months older than me and I remember doing everything with him. A very early memory is seeing our sister Kate in a bassinet under the Christmas tree. She was a newborn and I was about 20 months old. Best advice ever received? It is a mistake to do nothing just because you think you can only do a little. Long plane rides – do you chat? NO! Never. I value the quiet time to read and contemplate the marvel of air travel. I practice making an unfriendly puss and wrap my ears in headphones, eyes in shades and screw my features up to read “Do Not Disturb.” My husband is amused at my in-air persona non grata. One time, a lavishly proportioned seatmate kept creeping across the armrest and kept pressing into me. I wrote on a Post It note “kindly keep your arm from my midsection” and adhered it to her sleeve. Her arm was the size of a prosciutto and I don’t like to get squished by strangers. Where do you go to think? I get all my best thinking done walking around the city. I love walking around the West Village. Seven generations of

Duffys walked this neighborhood. On weekends we jig up to our farm in Litchfield County, CT and I love to walk in the pasture with my pair of jackasses. They were a birthday gift from my husband and son – a pair of used donkeys. They are full brothers and are equine charisma on the hoof. Your hidden talent? I have a photogenic memory – not strong enough for photographic, but pretty good. Qualities you seek in friends? A sense of humor and longevity. I met my two best girlfriends in primary school. We went to junior high, high school and college together. We moved back to NYC together and lived together until we each got married. Then we bought apartments in the same building. Your typical day? Get up, click on NPR and make coffee in this fantastic gizmo from Nespresso. I read the NY papers and make my boy breakfast and walk him to school. Some mornings I go to chapel. I have a very messy office in my home, but I write all over the place. I write letters and e-mails, write or research for my book or column. I usually set meetings for the late afternoon. My son plays hockey and I am producing a TV show about insane sports parents. I have a chronic progressive disease called Neurosarcoidosis so I have to go to doctors and hospital visits every week. I think of myself as a healthy-look-



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ing sick person. If I only were productive on days I felt good, I’d never get anything done.

Favorite sound? My son Jack greeting me when he walks in the door from hockey practice.

Your perfect day? Having a chronic illness has taught me quite a bit. My body may be sick but my spirit is pretty happy and optimistic, so I guess it makes up for it in a way. The ancient Greeks defined happiness by leading a productive life. It’s not how much time we have, rather it’s what we do with it. I really love my husband and son. A perfect day is a day spent with them.

Favorite smell? I lost my sense of smell from having a brain injury and six years of chemo. I have a sense memory, so I will ask my husband or son to describe a smell so I can imagine it.

Favorite travel destination? My very generous pal has a gorgeous home in Italy. It has become a summer tradition to visit and I love our time together. You never know who will show up when the dinner bell rings. We have long suppers under the stars, and spend the days reading and swimming and boating. It is heaven. Best opening in a piece of music? The enthusiastic explosion of notes from Herb Alpert’s The Lonely Bull. Favorite film clip? I love the “Hurray for Captain Spalding” routine in Animal Crackers, and any Marx Brothers or Stooges classic. Whenever I see a baby in one of those movies I think “Wow, that baby probably died of old age already.” What drives you? The Emersonian idea that you become what you think about the most. I feel grateful for my parents and siblings, my husband, son and great friends. This motivates me to try to give back. Mother Teresa said “We all can’t do great things, but we can all do small things with great love”. Most embarrassing moment? I was working as a VJ host on MTV and while filming a live segment my short wrap skirt unwrapped and rolled down my legs, exposing my knickers to my crew and the audience. Favorite place? That villa in Italy.

Favorite meal? Our lobster clambake at my parents’ beach house on the dunes in New Jersey. Favorite drink? Jameson on the rocks. When we drive up to our farm on Friday nights I like to make a strong drink in a crystal glass and light a fire. I take it up to our bedroom and I like to drink the melted dregs when I wake up the next morning. What’s your most distinguishing characteristic? I do see a lot of humor in the world. What do you deplore in others? Greed, bad manners, vulgarity. What’s your motto? You become what you think about the most.

What would you do if you weren’t doing what you are doing? I guess if I weren’t so sick, I would travel more. Often the disease and drugs leave me as weak as a kitten. I wish I were healthy enough for bigger adventures. What question do you wish someone would ask you? How may we cash this billion-dollar check? What are you working on? Editing my new book and producing this new TV show. I’m also working on another book, a collection of essays, and launching a site called What are you like? Um, read the preceding 20 questions, IA you’ll get a good idea.

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A Gaelic Storm

Lights Up St. Louis Patricia Harty writes about Helen Gannon and the Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Convention.


torm clouds gather over St. Louis, but Helen Gannon is unfazed as the tornado warning siren blares and we move into the center of the hotel, away from the windows. After many years of living here, she has made her peace with the weather patterns that in spring can range from heavy rain to severe storms. And right now, as chairperson of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Éireann (CCÉ) North America, Helen’s concern is for her guests, who have come to this city on the Mississippi from all over the U.S., Canada and Ireland for the annual convention. “I didn’t like this place when I first arrived,” she admits, as we wait out the tornado. “It was so hot and humid, and I was pregnant. We arrived the day the final piece was being put in the Gateway Arch. It didn’t fit.” Helen didn’t fit in either. The young nurse whose husband, P.J., a psychiatrist, had taken a job at the state mental hospital, wanted to go home to Ireland. And it wasn’t just the heat. St. Louis had little to offer in the way of Irish culture. But P.J. liked his job, and employment opportunities were few and far between in Ireland, so they stayed and made the best of things. 68 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2012

Meanwhile, back on the day of the Gannons’ arrival, Irish architect Kevin Roche was working on the Arch. (Designer Eero Saarinen died while the monument was still in the planning stages and Roche took over the project.) He too was also having trouble with the heat, which had caused thermal expansion of the metal. Fire Department hoses cooled down the metal, making it constrict as a hydraulic wrench pulled the south leg back and the top was dropped into place from above. Problem solved. “[The Arch] is a soaring curve in the sky that links the rich heritage of yesterday with the richer future of tomorrow,” Vice President Hubert Humphrey commented at the opening of the monument, which symbolizes the western expansion of the United States. The Vice President’s words could just as easily have applied to Helen Gannon. It would take a little time, but she too would settle in, and become a master at expanding Irish culture into St. Louis and the Midwest region. In 1972, inspired by the first CCÉ tour of Irish musicians, which stopped in St. Louis, Helen began offering weekly tin

whistle lessons to adults and children. Her efforts evolved into a fully-fledged music and dance school. There dance students would also receive a lesson on the tin whistle, and were encouraged to take up a second instrument, such as the fiddle or Irish harp. Forty years on, and many hundreds of students later, Helen’s school, St. Louis Irish Arts, is also the second largest of CCÉ North America’s 44 branches, and is charged with hosting the annual CCÉ North American convention, held during the last weekend in April. Helen is doing double duty as hostess and chairperson, and in her own inimitable way, she brings the feel of a large family gathering to the four-day event. The lobby of the Hilton Ball Park Hotel (so named as it is directly opposite the St. Louis Cardinals’ ball park) is awash with Irish people who greet each other by name and huddle over drinks as they catch up. Chairs are moved into circles, musical instruments are brought out, and impromptu sessions spring up and carry on late into the evening. The musicians are some of the best in their field. One, Seamus Connelly, is a

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master fiddler from Co. Clare, O Murchú, head of shine, and they don’t disapwho came to America on the first CCÉ, Helen Gannon, point. Eimear Arkins, a CCÉ tour in 1972, and stayed on Tom Vesey, and CCÉ musician, singer and dancer to teach music at Boston College. founding member Bill from Ruan, County Clare, He had flown in from Maine, McEvoy. Two photos is a law student at St. Louis bottom left and far “because Helen asked me to.” University, and a teacher at Katherine Irwin Thomas, who right: St. Louis Irish Helen’s school. She sets the grew up playing old-style fiddle Arts students. Above: tone for the evening by music in Tennessee, has her own Set dancers at the singing the Canadian, Irish school in Atlanta. “I have twenty- Ceili. (as Gaeilge) and American five students now,” she said. national anthems. “Nothing like Helen’s school, but she The Irish language is emphasized at St. inspired me to try.” Louis Irish Arts, and the young students Eamonn O’Loughlin, a fine pianist who sing along with Eimear flub not a who happens to publish Canada’s Irish word of the Gaeilge. Connections magazine, also has high Irish poetry is also on the program. A praise for Helen. “When it comes to the young girl of maybe eight gives a flawarts, the school that she founded, St. less rendition of Arthur Shaughnessy’s Louis Irish Arts, is our equivalent to New “The Music Makers.” She has been York’s Juilliard School,” he says. coached by Helen’s husband, P.J., who In addition to the musicians, there are has from the start been an integral part of set dancers – lots of them – and they come the school, as have the couple’s children. from all over the U.S., Canada and Ireland Daughter Eileen teaches the Irish harp to take part in the ceilis. On the evening I and son Niall the fiddle. stopped by to watch, a Chicago band The dance segments are spectacular. named Broken Pledge is playing. The Shannon Flecke, a St. Louis native who young flute player taps out the rhythm with began taking dance lessons at Helen’s his feet as the dancers maneuver into intrischool at age four, and is now a teacher cate formations on a floor flown in from there, joins James Mounsey from Kansas City especially for the occasion. Nenagh, Co. Tipperary in an extraordiOn the final evening, the ballroom is nary performance that is wholly tradilaid out for the closing banquet (Helen tional and yet has elements of Argentine baked 40 loaves of Irish bread for the tango. The two met when Shannon spent occasion). The stage is filled with musia summer at Bru Boru, the Comhaltas cians, and the very youngest students, cultural center in Cashel, Co. Tipperary. resplendent in their costumes, some And there are speeches, of course. clutching fiddles and tin whistles, line up Earlier, as hail the size of golf balls in front of the stage. pounded the windows of the hotel, Helen This is St. Louis Irish Arts’ night to had handed out Comhaltas medallions to

members whose work deserved special mention. And now it’s her turn to be feted. After serving as chairperson of CCÉ North America for six years, she is stepping down and passing on the baton to Tom Vesey. Labhárs O Murchú, head of CCÉ, has flown in from Ireland for the occasion with his wife Una. He praises Helen as a tireless campaigner in developing a love and a passion for traditional Irish music, song and dance across North America. Meithal is the old Irish word for “team,” explains CCÉ president Seamus MacCormaic. For him, the word brings to mind how the neighbors back home in Sligo helped each other with the harvest. Helen would be part of a new Meithal committee set up to further help with the work of Comhaltas in North America. As we drifted from the room, I spoke with Tom Krippene, who describes himself as Irish through his family. Tom had acted as the Master of Ceremonies for the evening. All four of his daughters attended Helen’s school and were enriched by the experience. Their oldest, though in college now, continues to play the Irish harp. “I can’t say enough about how St. Louis Irish Arts helped bring our family unit together,” Tom says. It all looks natural now, this vibrant Irish scene in St. Louis. Hard to believe it wasn’t always so. Helen and P.J. have become the embodiment of the Arch, linking the old world with the new, and ensuring that Ireland’s rich culture, music and dance, will be enjoyed by IA generations of Americans to come. JUNE / JULY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 69



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{music reviews} By Tara Dougherty

Summer Festivals Want to get out and hear some great live Irish music this summer? Remember these are just a few of the hundreds of festivals featuring wonderful Irish music across the country. Be sure to check out your neck of the woods for Irish festivals year round and support live Celtic music!

Annapolis Irish Festival At First Light • Idir debut release from the newly formed At First Light, Idir is a perfectly-paced, delightful addition to any Irish library. What sets Celtic music apart from most other genres is that any handful of one’s favorite artists are just a moment away from collaborating on new projects. Formerly of Lunasa, John McSherry and Michael McGoldrick have long been in high demand on the scene, working on endless projects together and separately, most of which have gained accolades at every turn. Their new project brings even more experienced talent, and it seems the more experience and time this duo has allowed themselves, the more spark their creativity has gained. McSherry and McGoldrick have definitely expanded in this new project. The album has remnants of that Lunas signature sound, but the unique rasp of Donal O’Connor’s fiddle is just one element, particularly on the track “Ar Thoir an Donn,” which makes Idir breathe all on its own. While the album is mostly instrumental, the very welcome vocals of Ciara McCirckard on “Aird Uí Chuain (The Quiet Land of Erin)” are gorgeously mastered in a way that detracts nothing from the fabulous instrumentation. At First Light have stormed onto the scene as a new act with this album, a definite triumph, proving that all its experienced players are truly ripened.


Marie Reilly • The Anvil: A Dedication to Michael Reilly iddler Marie Reilly released The Anvil this spring, an eighteen track tribute album jam-packed with rare and ancient folk songs whose roots lie in southern Leitrim and Longford. It is a lively and sentimental collection, paying tribute to her late father, Michael. A debut album, it carries a wealth of traditional tunes and echoes the sounds of a Longford style that is too often overlooked. The final three tracks on Anvil were recorded by the late Michael Reilly himself. Reilly’s transitions throughout the album’s medleys are flawless. “The Vermont & The Friendly Visit” hornpipes are a particular highlight early in the collection, toeing the line between the kinetic fiddles energy and the sullen tone of a hornpipe rather masterfully. Reilly seems most at home, however, with her reels; attacking the notes without the hesitation that can at times overshadow a debut release. Overall, The Anvil is a gentle collection. With simple and modest production, it is a “living room” record–a perfect soundtrack to a Sunday afternoon. IA



Anne Arundel Country Fairgrounds, Crownsville, MD JULY 14 • Featuring: McClean Avenue, Screaming Orphans, Barleyjuice and more! • For more information visit:

Dublin Irish Festival Coffman Park, Dublin, OH AUGUST 3-5 • Featuring: Tannahill Weavers, Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill, The Mahones and more! • For more information visit:

Milwaukee Irish Fest Henry W. Maeir Festival Park, Milwaukee, WI AUGUST 16-19 • Featuring: The High Kings, Liz Carroll, Brock McGuire Band and more! • For more information visit:

International Celtic Festival Hunter Mountain Resort, Hunter, NY AUGUST 18-19 • Featuring: Black 47, Frankie Gavin and De Dannan, Shilelagh Law and more! • For more information visit

Pittsburgh Irish Festival Riverplex at Sandcastle, Homestead PA SEPTEMBER 7-10 • Featuring: Gaelic Storm, Maken and Spain Brothers • For more information:

Rocky Mountain Irish Festival Civic Center Park, Fort Collins CO SEPTEMBER 28-30 • Featuring: Lineup to be announced. • For more information visit:

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{ review of books}

Recently published books of Irish and Irish-American interest.


revealed that Joe O’Brien was based on his own grandfather, whom he didn’t know well but was always fascinated by. In The O’Briens, he has rendered him fully. – Sheila Langan

The O’Briens

he O’Briens is the long-awaited second novel of Canadian author Peter Behrens, whose debut, Law of Dreams, captivated readers in 2006 with the story of Irishman Fergus O’Brien’s grueling journey to escape the Great Famine. The O’Briens marks a return to the family’s saga but skips a generation, with Fergus’s grandson Joe as the protagonist. He is the eldest of five siblings growing up in the pine forests of northern Quebec in 1887, and has had no choice but to become the head of his family after his father’s death in the Boer War. Early on, Joe displays a great talent for business, starting his own logging business and employing men three times his age. When their mother dies and their waste of a stepfather crosses the line with their younger sisters, Joe and his brother Grattan quickly make plans for themselves and their siblings. The two girls and their younger brother join the nuns and the Jesuits, respectively, while Grattan heads to California and Joe sets out to make his fortune building railroads. Throughout The O’Briens, Behrens flits from one period in time to the next, from one character’s perspective to another. In 1912, in Venice Beach, Joe meets Iseult Wilkins – also French Canadian and also an orphan. They find something each was missing in the other and wed quickly. The next five decades of the novel take us from California to railway camps in the Canadian wilderness, from an imposing Montreal mansion to a peaceful dinghy making its way from Maine to Cape Breton. We see Joe and Iseult’s family life evolve – strained and then repaired, and damaged again when WWII breaks out, altering their own lives and the lives of their children, Michael, Margot and Frankie. Through the children’s perspectives, we learn far more about Joe than we do when the narrative makes us privy to his thoughts – his sternness and his distance, his cloistered bouts of drinking, and his tenacity to see the best for his family. Though the disclaimer at the end of the book states otherwise, Behrens has



(400 pages / Pantheon Books / $24.95)

My American Struggle for Justice in Northern Ireland

n My American Struggle for Justice in Northern Ireland, Fr. Sean McManus tells an important and highly personal account of his years of lobbying and nonviolent protest on Capitol Hill in his mission to achieve justice in Northern Ireland. McManus, who founded the National Irish Caucus in 1974 and played a crucial role in seeing the MacBride Principles passed in Northern Ireland, gives insight into how his upbringing, family and early years as a Redemptionist priest set him on his journey to the U.S., and provides a detailed look at his work, the allegiances he made and the obstacles he faced in American politics and in the Irish-American community. McManus was born in 1944, the tenth of twelve children, and was raised on a farm near the village of Kinawley, two miles from the border. As he explains, “The historic parish of Kinawley is actually divided by the British-imposed border. So I grew up extremely conscious that the British government had not only partitioned my country, but also my own ancient parish.” Though he had always held patriotic sentiments and had protested, it wasn’t until his brother Patrick died in 1972, transporting an IRA bomb that exploded prematurely, that the full force of his outspokenness gained attention, and saw him pushed out of Britain by the Church. McManus tells how, once in the U.S., inspired by leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, he developed his philosophy of non-violent protest: “Unless you resist, you are not practicing non-violence,” he writes. “If you close your eyes to injustice and violence – as so many Churchmen


do – you are not being non-violent: you are being cowardly, lazy and indifferent to human suffering.” He takes the reader through the ways in which this philosophy served him throughout the late ’70s, the ’80s and the ’90s. For those who know McManus’s story, his thorough account will give new details and new angles from which to consider this important time in Irish and IrishAmerican history – particularly the interpersonal conflicts between the different parties involved, which Fr. McManus does not shy away from discussing. For those who aren’t as familiar, it will provide a thorough entrée into his remarkable struggle and accomplishments. – Sheila Langan (280 pages / The Collins Press / $19.16 )


Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing

egan Smolenyak is without a doubt the most interesting and intrepid genealogist working today. In Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing, Smolenyak discusses her many genealogical adventures – from figuring out the identity of the real Annie Moore, Ellis Island’s first immigrant, to her much publicized accomplishment of tracing President Obama’s Irish roots back to Moneygall, Co. Offaly. Smolenyak takes care to provide the facts and dispel the myths about her field of work. Navigating around the current obsession with which celebrity is an 8th cousin once removed of another famous person (which she points out doesn’t mean much) Smolenyak opens with a chapter on her efforts to identify missing soldiers from WWII and the Korean and Vietnam wars. Though she later delves into some of her most fascinating celebrity cases (figuring out Michelle Obama’s family tree when it had stumped so many others; hurriedly tracing Hoda Kotb’s Egyptian roots before an appearance on Good Morning America; determining that Rev. Al Sharpton’s enslaved ancestors were owned by the family of segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond), Smolenyak also emphasizes the stories of




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Cooking: average Americans, which she claims to be the real beauty of genealogical research – remembering those who might otherwise be forgotten. Her work is fascinating, and far from overly technical; her conversational style is a delight throughout, like that of a brilliant and charming genealogical detective. – Sheila Langan (256 pages / Kensington Books / $15.95)

Wise Irish Women

omen of Irish heritage have persevered throughout history. It is fascinating to think where the Irish and Irish Americans would be today without the strength of Irish mothers to lead their families. But Irish women are not only mothers; they are also business women, teachers, writers, friends and sisters, often wearing many hats at a time. Cousins and co-authors Patricia Connorton Kagerer and Laura Prendergast Gordon’s new book Wise Irish Women tells the true stories of inspiring Irish women, both past and present, who come from different backgrounds and pursue various lifestyles, but who are all united by their common “Irishness” which helps them to succeed. Wise Irish Women is surprisingly moving. Every woman in the book has something different to shed light on, a new lesson to teach. Granted, some women stand out more than others. The story of how acclaimed author Mary Higgins Clarke became a writer is awe-inspiring. But the way in which her Irish heritage helped motivate her is also reflected in the story of Eileen Lynch, a widow who struggled to raise four children on her own. Every story does its best to “inspire the Irish spirit” and readers who pick up Wise Irish Women will feel this heartwarming effect. – Molly Ferns


(234 pages / The Small Press / $19.95)

Irish Traditional Cooking: Over 300 Recipes from Ireland’s Heritage, Revised Edition Judging Darina Allen’s Irish Traditional Cooking by its cover alone, you could be forgiven for assuming that it contains mostly recipes for leaves.The high-definition photograph of leafy-greens-and-purples does not exactly call to mind Ireland’s most famous dishes. But rest assured, this cookbook is not for those who wish to avoid a hearty, rustic meal. Cookbooks for non-professionals rarely provide this much historical and contextual background to their dishes. It’s clear that Allen has put a tremendous amount of effort into creating content that is detailed and informative, while still quite accessible to the casual cook. Often, anecdotes and trivia accompany her descriptions of food items – the Jonathan Swift poem found alongside a recipe for Baked Onions is particularly amusing. The chapter on pork ends with a page-long lesson on “Killing a Pig.” There are several different recipes for soda bread, but only one for “Protestant Cake,” which is a shortcake topped with toffee and chocolate. This book is a refined look at unrefined foods, in both senses of the word.The dishes, so elegantly presented and academically described, are simple, humble, and not far removed from their sources. It is sure to appeal to those new to Irish cooking, and those looking to add a bit of nostalgia to their kitchen. – Catherine Davis (288 pages / Kyle Books / $35)

year-old Irish American who embarks upon a life-altering journey after receiving an unusual birthday gift from his father: the journal of his deceased uncle, Michael (an uncle Sean never knew existed). It unfolds that Michael, a New York City cop, fled to Ireland to avoid being executed for killing a man. On a quest to prove his uncle’s innocence, Sean goes to Ireland, following in Michael’s footsteps. The places Sean visits, the people he encounters, and, most importantly, the journal itself, offer clues to Sean’s own past and future, and reveal just how interwoven his life is with his uncle’s. The journal also reveals a timeless love story and becomes Sean’s key to finding the woman he’s destined to be with. Until the Next Time is a suspenseful story that will both intrigue and confuse you. If you don’t pay close attention, you might get lost in the jumping back and forth between Michael’s and Sean’s lives, as the layering of the characters makes it hard at times to keep track of who is who. Nevertheless, Kevin Fox’s novel will draw you in and keep you there. – Michelle Meagher ( 404 pages / Algonquin Books / $15.95)


Until the Next Time

loaked in mystery but rich in mystical nuances, Kevin Fox’s Until the Next Time is a transcendental tale about the past, present and future of Sean Corrigan, a 21-



Tribe: A Portrait of Galway

n this incredible coffee table collection of photographs, Reg


Gordon captures the soul of contemporary Galway – not through pristine photographs of the bay or the Spanish Arch, but through thoughtfully composed portraits of its inhabitants. “I could suggest that it is difficult to define what makes a town,” Gordon writes in the introduction, “but I would be lying. It’s actually very simple. It’s the people. It’s always the people.” The people of Galway portrayed in these pages range from famous residents like the Saw Doctors, Tommy Tiernan, and Druid Theater director Garry Hynes, to the firemen, librarians, hospice workers, publicans and shop owners who keep the town running on a daily basis. There are the local fixtures who have lived there for generations, like the Kenny family of Kenny’s Books, and those who came from far away to make Galway their home, like Dan Rosen (featured on the cover), a New Yorker who runs a popular doughnut stand and makes his own clothes. Each person is pictured in a place of some special significance throughout Galway and its environs, and each photograph provides quiet insight into its subject. It must also be noted that Tribe is a prime example of the rare selfpublished book that looks, feels and reads as if it had a whole team of professional designers and editors behind it. This is a beautiful book in every way. – Sheila Langan (176 pages / Self-published / $55.00 - includes international shipping) JUNE / JULY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 73



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{sláinte} By Edythe Preet

Ireland: It’s The Berries!


f you ever visit Ireland during the month of June, it’s tempting to maximize summer’s daylight hours and ramble until the sun goes down. Not a good idea. In the island’s northern latitude, sunset is a nighttime rather than evening affair. This is especially true in mid-June when the sun doesn’t set on the Emerald Isle until almost 10:00 p.m. and by that time most kitchens are closed tighter than an oyster. I learned this lesson the hard way. I was traveling through Wexford and it had been a glorious day. Overcast in the morning, but the sun broke through just shy of noon. The countryside was so rich with shades of green that I actually tried counting how many I could spot. With golden sunshine creating postcard views at every turn, I was tempted to dawdle. But my ‘must see’ schedule was so tight I dutifully barreled on to each next destination, not even pausing to grab a pub lunch.

Angels must have been looking after me. Around a bend in a particularly snaky and unpopulated stretch of road, I came across a lone fellow selling strawberries. “Just the ticket,” I thought. “A fruit snack will hold me until dinner.” Compared to the giant California strawberries I was used to, his petite fruits looked puny, but I purchased a pint. One bite told the tale. The basket of incredibly sweet and fragrant berries disappeared in less than a mile, so I sped back to the vendor and bought half a flat! County Wexford, Ireland’s premier soft fruit growing district, is known as “The Sunny Southeast” because it receives more sunshine and less rainfall than any other part of the country. The county is renowned for its strawberries, and although production weighs in at more than 2,000 tons per year, most of the crop is consumed locally. During the annual Strawberry Festival in Enniscorthy (first weekend in June 2012), fairgoers will consume 15 tons of berries 74 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2012

drenched in more than 1,500 gallons of sweet cream. While Wexford’s strawberries are delicious eaten straight out of hand or strewn fresh on morning bowls of muesli, many are transformed into luscious jams, preserves and jellies. A favorite summer dessert, Strawberry Fool, dates from Norman times. The term ‘fool’ comes from the French ‘fouler’ meaning ‘to crush’ and the dessert is traditionally prepared from pureed berries mixed with whipped cream, vanilla custard, or a combination of the two. Fools can also be made with rhubarb, gooseberries, raspberries, plums or black currants whose tart flavors supply an excellent contrast to the rich cream. As summer rolls on, wild raspberry patches and crab apple stands can be found tucked away in shady woodlands. While raspberries are prized for making ruby red preserves and the tart flavor they impart to fresh fruit desserts, crab apples are used mainly for making jelly, wine and a thick jam which is an excellent accompaniment to roast pork, duck or autumn goose. In ancient Ireland, the July full moon marked the Feast of Lughnasa when Lugh, God of Light, held a wake to honor the death of his foster-mother Tailtu, Goddess of Agriculture. As the festival that celebrated the first gathering of earth’s autumn bounty, Lughnasa was the time when people could finally stop surviving on the meager remains from last year’s harvest and begin to bring in the new crops. Since small landholders determined if they could begin raising a family based on the earnings they obtained from their crops, marriages were common after harvest-time. At the great Oenach Tailten Fair, which survived in County Meath until the late eighteenth century, the custom of a ‘Teltown marriage’ evolved. A wall was erected in which there was a hole big enough to admit a hand. Men and women passed on either side of the hole reaching through it and whoever grasped hands were considered married for nine months. At the end of that time if either party were dissatisfied, the trial marriage was canceled! Lughnasa still marks the end of summer and the start of autumn on Ireland’s rural calendar. It’s the time when bilberries (also known as fraughans, blaeberries and blueberries) can be found growing wild on heather-covered mountainsides. Families hike into the hills to pick the sweet juicy berries, then with fingers and clothes stained forty shades of purple, everyone returns home to feast on potatoes, bacon, cabbage, and bowls of sugared bilberries and cream. By late August, countless hedgerows along country roads begin producing tons of deep purple blackberries, and anyone with a mind to go picking will be rewarded with buckets full of plump fruit. Blackberry mousse is an elegant dessert, and blackberry sauce can be sweet or savory to complement ice cream and custards, or roast fowl and game. Combined with apples, blackberries make one of Ireland’s most popular desserts, a rich pastry tart. In years past, Irish cooks baked in the all-purpose cast iron black pots that sat atop smoldering turf



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fires and only diligent watching and turning kept their pies from becoming singed by the fierce heat of the glowing coals. At the height of summer when Ireland’s strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries are all in season at once, these brilliantly hued fruits are frequently combined to make Summer Pudding, one of the world’s most strikingly beautiful and delicious desserts. Although Americans associate the term ‘pudding’ with milkbased custards, Irish puddings often have a bread or crumb base and are baked, boiled or steamed — sometimes for hours. The most familiar are Christmas Plum Pudding, which is served flaming with a rich brandy sauce, and Bread Pudding, which is often accompanied with a whiskey sauce. Summer Pudding is another story altogether. Made by layering bread slices with a mixture of lightly poached strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, it is not cooked at all,

but simply left to sit until the berry juices have completely saturated the bread slices and colored them a brilliant shade of shocking pink. As the finale of a warm weather meal, Summer Pudding makes even a part-time cook look like a full-time culinary genius with hardly any effort at all! On that memorable day when I first encountered the joy of Ireland’s summer fruits, the half-flat of berries I purchased by the side of the road held my appetite at bay for hours. Combined with my hectic touring schedule, I never noticed that daylight was lasting much longer than I was used to. With the sun lingering in a softly glowing sky, it was nearly 8PM when I realized how the time had flown. Pressing pedal to the metal, I hastened to my night’s lodging arriving only moments before the evening meal. Missing that feast of freshly caught baked salmon, sautéed wild greens, itty bitty buttered baby potatoes, and sublime IA strawberry shortcake would have been tragic. Sláinte!

RECIPES Strawberry Fool (personal recipe) egg yolks tablespoons sugar cups whole milk teaspoon vanilla extract pint strawberries, hulled & coarsely chopped 1 ⁄2 cup whipping cream

3 2 11⁄2 1 ⁄2 1

CUSTARD: In a medium stainless steel bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar then set aside. In a small heavy saucepan, combine the milk and vanilla and scald the milk until a skin forms on the surface. Remove the milk from the heat, skim off the scalded skin and gradually whisk the milk into the egg mixture. Suspend the bowl over a pot of simmering water and cook the custard, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for about 5 minutes, until it begins to thicken. Do not let the custard boil. As soon as the custard is pudding thick, remove it from the heat and place the bowl in a large bowl of ice to immediately stop the cooking process. Cover the pudding bowl with plastic wrap to keep the surface from getting hard. Refrigerate until completely cooled. ASSEMBLY: Set aside 3 large strawberries. Put the remainder in a small bowl and mash with a fork. Place the strawberry puree in a sieve and let drain for 15 minutes. While the puree is draining, pour the cream into a separate bowl and whip until stiff peaks form. Measure out 1 1/2 cups of custard into a large

bowl and stir in the strawberry puree. Fold in the whipped cream. Put the Fool in serving glasses and chill for at least one hour before serving. Decorate with strawberry halves. Makes 4-6 servings.

Summer Pudding (personal recipe) 1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered 1 pint raspberries 1 pint blueberries 1 pint blackberries 1 ⁄4 cup sugar 1 loaf sliced French bread, crusts removed extra mixed berries for garnishing Butter the inside of a large mixing bowl, and line with a sheet of plastic wrap. Line with bread slices as follows. Place one round of bread on the bottom of the bowl, and line the sides with bread slices taper-trimmed to fit vertically tight against each other. Set aside. In a large saucepan, combine the fruits with the sugar. Warm over low heat until the berries soften and release their juices. Pour berries and juice into the bread-lined bowl. Cover the surface completely with additional bread slices. Place a small plate on top of the pudding, and set a weight on it (a medium jar filled with water and capped works nicely). Put the pudding in the refrigerator and let sit for 24 hours, siphoning off and saving juices as they rise to the surface. Just before serving, siphon off any

last bit of juice then place a large plate on top of the bowl and invert the pudding onto the plate. Carefully remove the plastic wrap making sure not to dislodge any of the bread slices. Garnish the plate with extra mixed berries. Present the pudding whole and cut into pie-shaped wedges to serve. Place each pudding wedge on a dessert plate and surround with reserved pudding juice. Makes 8 servings. Note: Summer Pudding is lovely served with a custard sauce. Follow the custard directions given in the Fool recipe, but remove from heat as soon as the custard begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon. The custard can be made 24 hours ahead if kept covered and refrigerated.

Quick Strawberry Shortcake (personal recipe) 1 pint strawberries, hulled, chopped and sugared 1 package purchased shortcake rounds (4 units) 1 pint heavy whipping cream sugar Beat whipping cream until thick and fluffy. Add sugar to taste. Place shortcake rounds on individual dessert plates. Ladle strawberries over. Scoop generous amount of whipped cream on strawberries. Top with another spoonful of strawberries. Serve immediately. Makes 4 shortcakes.




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{crossword} By Darina Molloy

ACROSS 1 See 16 down (7) 8 Eleven people from this Mayo parish perished on Titanic (10) 9 The first ever St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held in this city in 1737 (6) 10 (& 6 down) This actress won a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Irish Film & Television Awards in February (8) 14 Abbreviated medic (1,1) 15 See 39 across (1, 8) 17 An overdose, in short (1,1) 18 Wipe all traces of (5) 19 To slip by or pass (6) 20 (& 7 down) Irish for Kildare (4) 22 Layer or ranking (4) 23 Short for Patrick or Patricia (3) 25 Centimeter (1,1) 27 The ‘P’ in SOPA (6) 31 See 44 across (7) 33 Anger (3) 34 Many Irish Army peacekeeping forces served here through the years (5) 35 (& 29 down) New DVD series from Roma Downey (6) 36 Not off (2) 37 Father & son former US Presidents: George _____ (4) 39 (& 15 across) This athlete will carry the Olympic Torch in Ireland this summer (5) 41 ____ Girl: Dublin memoir of Brooklyn-based writer Honor Molloy (6) 44 Screenwriter brother of playwright Martin McDonagh (4) 45 Life begins at _____ (5) 46 Pre-Easter period, traditionally a time of abstinence (4)

DOWN 1 (& 34 down) This legendary Canadian singer returns to Ireland in September for three Dublin shows (7) 2 To be or ____ to be (3) 3 To possess or have (3)

4 Sleep disorder (10) 5 Meat sauce served with spaghetti, popular in Ireland (9) 6 See 10 across (8) 7 See 20 across (4) 11 This county’s GAA colors are green and white (8) 12 An upcoming BBC America show about Irish cops in 1860s New York (6) 13 Castle and folk park in Co. Clare (8) 14 2004 play by John Patrick Shanley, later a movie with Meryl Streep (5) 16 (& 1 across) An Augustus SaintGauden statue of this President was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC (7) 21 Carrick-on-Shannon is the county town for which lovely county? (7) 24 To prepare land for the cultivation of crops (4) 25 Signed note for money owed for food and drink (4) 26 (& 38 down) Clare born fiddle player regarded as

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 July 2, 2012. A winner will be drawn from among all correct entries. If there are no correct solutions, the prize will be awarded for the completed puzzle which comes closest in the opinion of our staff. Winner’s name will be published along with the solution in our next issue. Xerox copies are acceptable. Winner of the APRIL / MAY Crossword: Leslie Burns, Wilmington, DE. 76 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2012

one of the world’s best (6) 28 Chemical element with the symbol Fe (4) 29 See 35 across (6) 30 Sticks used for playing billiards, snooker or pool (4) 32 Snake-like fish (3) 34 See 1 down (5) 37 See 43 down (5) 38 See 26 down (5) 40 Glen Hansard movie now a Broadway play (4) 42 Boy’s name which means ‘red king’ (4) 43 (& 37 down) New England Patriots quarterback (3)

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{Those We Lost} Louis le Brocquy

Eventually stepping down from the position, she became a senior editor at the magazine—a position she retained until her retirement in 1999. Buckley is survived by her brothers James L. Buckley and F. Reid Buckley, and by her sister, Carol Buckley. – C.D.


Louis le Brocquy, one of the most important and influential Irish artists of the last century, died at age 95 in his family home in Dublin on April 25. Le Brocquy was born in Dublin on November 10, 1916, the son of Albert le Brocquy, the honorary secretary of the Irish League of Nations Society, and Sybil Staunton, co-founder of Amnesty International Ireland and a noted figure within Dublin’s literary circles. Le Brocquy was educated at St. Gerard’s School, Co. Wicklow, and studied chemistry at Kevin Street Technical School and then Trinity College Dublin. At the same time, his childhood interest in art, particularly painting, re-emerged, and he produced two early experimental paintings, both of which were accepted for exhibition by the Royal Hibernian Academy. According to le Brocquy’s wife and biographer, Anne Madden, the summer of 1938 marked the time when le Brocquy the chemistry student first considered becoming le Brocquy the painter. That November, he left Ireland to immerse himself in studying the European art collections of London’s National Gallery, the Louvre in Paris and the Prado Collection on loan to Geneva. By 1940 he had returned to Ireland, where his work began to get attention. Throughout a career spanning over seven decades and many ground-breaking stylistic manifestations, le Brocquy became internationally recognized as one of the foremost Irish painters of the 20th century. In 2002, his seminal 1951 work, A Family, was added to the Permanent Irish Collection of the National Gallery of Ireland, making him the first and living artist to be included in the collection. The “Head Images” of literary figures for which he is so famous began in 1964, with portraits of James Joyce and Samuel Beckett. In 1975 he began a series on W.B. Yeats. Le Brocquy is survived by his wife, Anne Madden, their sons Pierre and Alexis, and a daughter, Seyre, from a previous marriage. – M.A.

Priscilla Buckley 1921-2012

Ninety-year-old journalist and author Priscilla Buckley died on March 25 of kidney failure at her family’s home in Sharon, Connecticut. It was the house in which she and her nine siblings grew up. Buckley was born on October 17, 1921 in New York City to William Frank Buckley, of Irish descent, and Aloise Josephine Antonia Steiner, a New Orleans native of Swiss-German descent. She graduated from Smith College in 1943 with a bachelor’s degree in history, and soon after got a job with the United Press. She took a break from journalism to work for the Central Intelligence Agency, before eventually returning to the United Press as a reporter in Paris. Her brother, William F. Buckley Jr., founded the National Review in 1955, and asked her to join the magazine the following year. She was soon made managing editor. 78 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2012

George Cowan 1920-2012

George Cowan, a chemist who helped build the first atomic bomb, died on Friday, April 20, at his home in Los Alamos, NM. Friends said his death followed a fall. He was 92. Born on February 15, 1920 in Worcester, Mass., Cowan attended local schools before graduating from Worcester Polytechnic Institute with a degree in chemistry in 1941. Cowan first worked under Eugene Wigner at Princeton University. That experience led him to help the federal government’s secret effort to develop the atomic bomb with the Manhattan Project. In 1946, Cowan married fellow chemist Helen Dunham. They were married for 65 years and had no children. She died last year. In 1950, Cowan received his doctorate in physical chemistry from the Carnegie Mellon University. Cowan was part of the group ordered by President Harry S. Truman to develop the hydrogen bomb and served on the White House science council during the Reagan administration. In 1984, Cowan assembled scientists to found the Santa Fe Institute, a scientific research center. He was awarded the Federal Energy Department’s highest honor, the Enrico Fermi Award, as well as the Los Alamos Medal, the highest honor given by the Los Alamos National Laboratory. – M.M.

Murray Lender 1930-2012

Murray Lender, vice chairman of Quinnipiac University’s board of trustees, who played a key role in forming the school’s unparalleled Ireland’s Great Hunger Special Collection, died on March 21 in a Miami hospital, following complications from a fall. Along with his brothers Marvin and Sam, Murray Lender was responsible for transforming their father’s New Haven, CT bagel business, H. Lender & Sons, into the leading national distributor of frozen bagels. The company went from selling wholesale to local bakeries to selling millions of bagels each year. It was purchased by Kraft in 1984 and by Pinnacle Food Group in 2003. Murray Isaac Lender was born on October 29, 1930 in New Haven to Harry and Rose Lender. After college he served in the Army for two years and then went to work in the family business, becoming president and, later, chairman. Lender was extremely active and generous with his alma mater, Quinnipiac University, from which he graduated in 1950 (when it was still called the Junior College of Commerce). In addition to serving as vice chairman, he provided significant funding for the university’s school of business, which bears his family’s name, and played a vital role in the development of Quinnipiac’s Great Hunger Collection. When Quinnipiac’s president, Dr. John Lahey, served as Grand Marshal of the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1997, he centered his speeches around the Great Famine, which caught Lender’s

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attention. As Lahey explained in a 2010 interview with Irish America, “While I was giving all these speeches, he came to me and said, ‘John, it’s just amazing to me, this story of the Great Hunger.’ You could tell that he associated it with persecution of the Jews and other ethnic groups, African Americans, Native Americans, in this country, and he said, ‘I’ll give you a gift for the library but it’s got to be for the Irish Great Hunger special collection. You go out and tell me what you need to do and collect the art and get the research materials and the books and periodicals, and we’ll take care of it.’” The collection, which is soon to move into its own museum space, contains 700 volumes of historic and contemporary texts, and an ever-growing number of works of art that portray or respond to the loss of more than 1.5 million Irish lives between 1845 and 1852. In a statement released to the campus, Dr. Lahey stated that he was “deeply saddened” to report Lender’s death, and commended his “outstanding leadership.” Lender is survived by his wife, Gilda, a daughter, two sons, eight grandchildren, and his brother Marvin. – S.L.

Barney McKenna 1939-2012

Barney McKenna, the last surviving founding member of the Irish folk group The Dubliners, died on April 5 in Dublin; he was 72. McKenna, a household name in Ireland, was a self-taught. gifted musician who began playing the banjo because he couldn’t afford a mandolin. He is credited with revolutionizing the use of the banjo in traditional Irish music and was known as one of the world’s finest banjo players. McKenna was born in Donnycarney, Co Dublin on December 16, 1939. Rejected from the Irish army band due to poor eyesight, he played with a few groups in the 50’s and 60’s before joining up with Ronnie Drew; together they played at O’Donoghue’s pub and were later joined by Luke Kelly and Ciaran Bourke; the four comprised “The Dubliners.” The Dubliners rose to international acclaim as one of the world’s most famous folk groups. However, McKenna’s greatest pride came not from fame, but from knowing he helped popularize the banjo in modern folk culture. He was extremely influential in how the instrument was played – his style was copied by many banjo players around the world, making it the standard for Irish music. McKenna was happiest in the company of musicians and continued performing and touring. Before his death, he finished up The Dubliner’s 50th anniversary tour, and in February, The Dubliners won the BBC folk award’s lifetime achievement award. McKenna’s wife, Joka, died in the 1980s. He is survived by his partner, Tina, his sister, Marie, and brother, Sean. – M.M.

Mel Parnell 1922-2012

Melvin Lloyd Parnell, a famed left-handed starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, died in his New

Orleans home on March 20, of complications from cancer. Parnell was born in New Orleans on June 13, 1922. His father, Patrick, was a mechanic on a passenger train between Chicago and New Orleans. After playing baseball for his high school team, Parnell spent three years pitching in the minor leagues before beginning his career with the Boston Red Sox in 1947. The team, which won over 90 games a season between the years 1948 and 1950, at one point had a lineup that included Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr and Vern Stephens. Parnell’s best season was in 1949, during which he won 25 games. After an elbow injury forced him to retire from the major leagues, he coached at Tulane University, and later served as general manager to the New Orleans Pelicans. In 1965, he became a broadcaster for the Red Sox. Parnell is survived by his wife of 64 years, their four children, and three grandchildren. – C.D.

Rory Staunton 1999-2012

Rory Staunton, the beloved twelve-year-old son of Ciaran Staunton, founder of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, and Orlaith Staunton, and nephew of Irish America’s co-founder and publisher Niall O’Dowd, died tragically and suddenly on April 1, when an elbow scrape sustained playing basketball became infected with a toxic bacteria. The outpouring of sadness over Rory’s death and the support for his grieving family members was tremendous on both sides of the Atlantic. A commemoration service on April 5 in Woodside, Queens, drew close to 1,500 people to St. Mary Winfield Church, where Rory was praised and remembered by his family and friends, his classmates and teachers from the nearby Garden School, and by members of the Irish American community, including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Congressman Joe Crowley. With each tribute, the character of this remarkable boy became clearer and clearer, as those gathered remembered his intelligence, humor and kindness; his passion for politics; his keen interest in piloting airplanes; and his love of Ireland. He was flown to Ireland on Good Friday for a funeral mass in Drogheda, Co. Louth. Taoiseach Enda Kenny paid his respects at the mass, as did Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, deputy first minister of Northern Ireland. He was then waked by his family: his parents, Ciaran and Orlaith; his younger sister, Kathleen; his grandmother Tessie Staunton; uncles Joe, Pearse, Declan, Noel, Aidan, Fintan and Gabriel; aunts Debbie, Dervla, Triona and Loretta, and many more. He was laid to rest beside his grandmother Kathleen O’Dowd. IA JUNE / JULY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 79



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{the last word}

Stand With the Sisters Mary Pat Kelly looks at the Vatican’s latest censorship move to silence American nuns.


am shocked and heartsick at the Vatican’s action to censor the nuns. I know a lot of nuns, I was one myself for six years. Nuns are the wise women of our tribe. We cannot let the Vatican throw them under the bus. I wrote about a visit to the Motherhouse of my order, the Sisters of Providence at St. Mary-of-the-Woods in Indiana, in the April/May 2011 issue of Irish America. As I was walked through row after row of white crosses in the cemetery and read the names – Sister Marcella, Grace O’Malley; Sister Marie Denise, Hannah Sullivan; Sister Mary Olive, Olive O’Connell – I remembered how millions of Irish and Irish-American women gave their lives to the Church, and to us, while many still serve today. And now, through serendipity and providence, on Sunday, May 6, two weeks after Rome announced a crackdown on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents 80 percent of the 56,000 Sisters in the United States, I was sitting in with about 30 nuns from various congregations. The nuns, members of the Partnership for Global Justice, were gathered in New York City to present their annual Justice Award to the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, a group of women elders native to North, South and Central America, Africa, Asia and the Arctic who travel the globe working and praying for “Mother Earth and all her children.” I had been involved with a documentary about the grandmothers, For The Next 7 Generations, produced and directed by my friend Carole Hart. I was delighted at the confluence of grandmothers and nuns at the Partnership’s award presentation, and realized how much they had in common as keepers of wisdom and nurturers of the next generation. I introduced myself to some of the nuns and mentioned my time in the con-


vent. They all nodded. Their communities too had witnessed a boom in vocations in the 1960s from young women, many of whom later left religious life. I’ve always had great respect for the women who stayed the course, adjusting to changing times and finding ways to follow the gospel by serving those most in need under great financial constraints. Many people don’t realize that most congregations of religious women get no money at all from the Church. And because the parishes where nuns taught for so many years did not pay into Social Security, the orders themselves had to sell their most valuable properties to make a large lump sum payment so their members could be eligible for Medicare, an absolute necessity as nuns age and their health declines. Various orders of nuns devote more and more of their resources to the care of retired Sisters while still carrying out their mission of “ministering to God’s people through works of love, mercy and justice,” as the Sisters of Providence website puts it. The orders depend on the salaries of younger working nuns and on donations. Last year I brought Marine Gen. Martin Berndt and his wife, Diana, to St. Mary-of-the-Woods. General Berndt was extremely impressed by the efficiency of the operation: the nun teachers at St. Mary-of-the-Woods College, the retired Sisters who staffed the food pantry and the Sister nurses who ran a free clinic. He was also very surprised at the lack of Church support and wrote a check for $1,000 then and there. And now three of the Indigenous Grandmothers had come to accept this award. Beatrice Long Visitor Holy Dance is an Ogala Lakota from the Pine Ridge Reservation. Mona Polaca is Hopi-Tewa on her father’s side and Havasupai, the people of the blue-green water from the

Grand Canyon, on her mother’s. Grandmother Agnes Pilgrim-Baker, whose native name is Taowhywee, Morning Star, is the oldest female member of the Roque River Indians in Oregon and chairs the Grandmothers Council. The three prayed with the Sisters and spoke of how heartened they were to receive this award. One of the nuns read from the citation “Your lives are a deep message to the entire world that living your vision of hope and healing is the only option.” Hope and healing. I’m sure these Sisters could use a dose of that right now. I thought, if I was upset about the Vatican’s action, how must they feel? Their general superiors belonged to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious that the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had just ordered to reform under the direction of Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain and two other bishops. These men have complete authority to preside over the revision of the Leadership Conference’s statutes, plans and programs and publications. All future speakers at assemblies must first be approved by the Archbishop. What caused such a sweeping takeover of an organization that has been working with and for the American bishops and the Vatican since its founding at Rome’s request in 1956? According to the Vatican’s eight-page “Doctrinal Assessment,” the investigation was triggered by problematic addresses given at annual assemblies which advocated “policies of corporate dissent.” For example, the Holy See said it received letters from nuns asking that women’s ordination be discussed, and that the Church be more open to ministering to gay Catholics. And “radical feminism” had been evidenced by commentaries on the patriarchy of the Church. The document also complains



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Sister Rita Arthur presenting the annual Partnership for Global Justice Award to the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, a group of women elders native to North, South and Central America, Africa, Asia and the Arctic who travel the globe working and praying for “Mother Earth and all her children.” Photo: Marisol Villanueva, courtesy of the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers.

that while the Conference did a great deal of work “promoting issues of social justice” the nuns had not spoken out enough on right-to-life issues. The Vatican concluded the nuns were guilty of serious doctrinal error. Bryan Cones, editor of US Catholic, challenges that claim and in fact finds the whole Vatican document “a tissue of misinformation, misrepresentation and innuendo that does a profound disservice to these religious women.” His persuasive analysis makes the actions of the Vatican even more puzzling. We Catholics (and I’ve been a daily Communicant since my own First Communion) have endured decades of horrific revelations about priests who raped our children while Church authorities covered up their actions and thus condemned more innocents to such torture. As the Cloyne Report on sexual abuse released in Ireland last summer showed, the Vatican frustrated the investigations that did take place “as little as three years ago [if] not three decades ago,” said Ireland’s prime minister, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, in a no-holdsbarred speech. “The report,” Kenny said, “excavates the disconnection, the dysfunction, elitism, the narcissism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day.” He spoke of the clericalism that “rendered some of Ireland’s most privileged and powerful men either unwilling or unable to address the abuse set out in the Ryan and Murphy reports. This Roman clericalism must be devas-

tating for good priests, some of them old, others struggling to keep their humanity and even their sanity as they work hard to be keepers of the Church’s life, light and goodness...But thankfully for them and for us this is not Rome. Nor is it industrial school or Magdalene Ireland where the swish of a soutane smothered conscience and humanity and the swing of a thurible ruled the Irish Catholic world. This is the Republic of Ireland...As a practicing Catholic, I don’t say any of this easily. Growing up many of us here learned to be part of the pilgrim church. Today that Church needs to be a penitent Church.” The Irish people have taken this brave speech, which should be read in its entirety, to heart and even now are protesting the Vatican’s silencing of five of their most popular priests. It’s hard not to see that same clericalism, the culture of elitism and dysfunction, at work in this latest crackdown on the nuns. Still the swish of a soutane can be scary and I was afraid for these Sisters. The Vatican will soon release a report on the Apostolic Visitation that involved more than a hundred congregations of women. Will it have the same harsh tone? I didn’t want to put any of the Sisters I was with on May 6 on the spot, since they didn’t want to comment until after the Board of the Leadership Conference met during Pentecost week, May 27June 2. But I saw no panic among the nuns. They are women of faith who really do believe the Spirit blows where it

will. Many spoke of turning to prayer and meditation in the coming days. We members of the laity are the ones who must speak up and stand up for the nuns. is one website with suggestions. And then there’s always money. A staff member at the Leadership Conference told me that they are getting a lot of donations, which they appreciate, and asked for prayers. We can also give to the orders that taught us and express our support. When I called one of my friends in the Sisters of Providence she reminded me that Mother Theodore Guerin, foundress of the order, once had her own problem with a bishop. He excommunicated her for not handing over the deed to the Sisters’ land. The bishop was replaced, his edict overturned. “When one has nothing more to lose, the heart is inaccessible to fear,” Mother Guerin said. She was canonized in 2006. I told my friend the story of St. Brigid (b.453), who is one of Ireland’s patron saints, and what happened when Bishop Mel (later St. Mel) came to consecrate her as Abbess of Kildare. He enjoyed so much of the nuns’ famous beer that he turned the wrong page in the missal and made Bridget a bishop. “God’s will,” Mel said, and ever after the Abbess of Kildare held the rank of bishop. So it’s a long road that has no turning. These are the wise women of our tribe. Let’s not let the Vatican throw them IA under the bus! JUNE / JULY 2012 IRISH AMERICA 81



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{photo album} Family Pictures

Grandma Ellen Heaney


his is a photograph of my grandmother, Ellen Heaney, who immigrated to New York City in 1900 from Drumlish, County Longford. She was a maid and from her meager salary she saved up to purchase this dress from Macy’s. She married Michael Kane from Esker, County Longford in 1908. They lived on the Westside in St. Bernard’s Parish where they raised six children, one of whom was my father, Bill, “Kano,” who had to go to work on the docks when he was 14 years old. Times were tough and education was a luxury they could not afford. To show how far the Irish have come since then, their great-grandson Michael graduated from Harvard and is now studying to be a doctor. Patricia Kane Farrell Ellicot City, MD

Submit Photographs 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. 82 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2012

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Irish America June / July 2012  

The June/July 2012 issue of Irish America magazine, featuring an interview with George Clooney, Irish President Michael D. Higgins on his fi...