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HEALTHCARE & LIFE SCIENCES 50: CELEBRATING LEADERS IN THE MEDICAL FIELD
AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016
CANADA $4.95 / U.S. $3.95
“THE GREATEST CHALLENGE FOR SCIENCE IS TO
THINK GLOBALLY, THINK SIMPLY AND ACT ACCORDINGLY.” – W.C. Campbell
THE BIOLOGIST & PARASITOLOGIST
who changed the lives of millions in the developing world when he discovered a novel therapy against river blindness
PRIZE WINNER WILLIAM C. CAMPBELL
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contents | august / september 2016
28 A Reflection on Simplicity
William Campbell, winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine, on his research and his Irish roots. By Patricia Harty
The most recent medical breakthroughs from Irish universities. p. 10
35 Healthcare and Life Sciences 50 Fifty trailblazers of medicine, research, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, and more.
Brexit & Northern Ireland
42 A Second Chance at Life
PHOTO: KIT DEFEVER
Mount Sinai’s Chief of Medicine Barbara Murphy is pioneering work into transplant immunology. By Sheila Langan
58 A Different Key
The complicated history of autism in the U.S. is chronicled in a new book by ABC’s John Donvan and Caren Zucker. By Tom Deignan
62 High Endurance
Mountaineer Colin O’Brady just broke two world speed records for summiting the world’s highest peaks. By Adam Farley
72 Roots: Melissa McCarthy
Robert Schmuhl on Seamus Heaney and the generosity of poetic correspondence. p. 91
Was Biddy Early of County Clare a healer, an herbalist, a clairvoyant, or a witch? By Rosemary Rogers
Billy McComisky is a world-renowned accordion player who just won an NEA Fellowship. By Kristin Cotter McGowan
78 What Are You Like?
Emily O’Hare runs a wine and yoga retreat in a Tuscan castle. By Patricia Harty
No two doors in Dublin are alike, but behind them will always be a warm welcome. By Edythe Preet
4 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016
Photos from our inaugural Power Women Awards Luncheon in June.
76 Accordian Man
86 Sláinte! The Doors of Dublin
Martin McDonagh, Jamie Dornan, Frances McDormand, & more. p. 18
74 Wild Irish Women: Biddy Early
Climb Croagh Patrick the modern way, with spa treatment at the end of the day. By Sharon Ní Chonchúir
Irish Eye on Hollywood
Tom Deignan on the 15th anniversary of 9/11. p. 22
Five things you may not know about the Ghostbusters star’s own ancestral specters. By Megan Smolenyak
82 The Pain and the Pleasure
Remembrance & Hope
68 Giving It Up and Getting Rid of It
The story of Caron chairman Casey Duffy’s multi-generational family struggles with alcohol. By Ruth Riddick
What the British E.U. exit vote could mean for Northern Ireland.
6 8 10 90 92 96 98
First Word Readers Forum Hibernia Crossword Books Those We Lost Photo Album
Cover Photo: Kit DeFever
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the first word | By Patricia Harty
Climb Every Mountain
hen I was a kid my father would take us for drives to County Clare, or as he called it, “Biddy Early country.” We’d drive the back road, so narrow that the trees on either side reached across to each other, pass through the tiny village of Portroe, and stop at the top of a hill at a place called the Lookout to take in the view across Lough Derg to County Clare on the far shore. It was really something to see from so high up. The Shane MacGowan song, “The Broad Majestic Shannon” comes to mind as I write this, and I’m struck with a pang of something akin to homesickness. (After 40 years in America, our farm in Tipperary is still home.) My fit of nostalgia has been brought on by Rosemary Rogers’s “Wild Irish Women” piece in this magazine. Appropriate for our annual health issue, Rosemary has chosen County Clare’s own Biddy Early as the subject of her column, thus stirring up memories of my father and half remembered stories of Biddy, who as children we were led to believe was a witch who would cast a spell on you if you didn’t behave. Not true. As Rosemary explains, back in the day, many wise women, healers and herbalists such as Biddy, were branded as witches by the church and local authorities who feared they would conjure up evil spirits. Fast-forward to today, where the modern pharmaceutical industry is built largely on natural remedies. Indeed, in our cover story, the biologist William “Bill” Campbell, who received the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine, advises a return to nature when looking for medical cures, “because nature consistently produces molecules that have not been thought of by humans,” he says. It was a great pleasure for me to spend time with Dr. Campbell and his lovely wife, Mary, at their summer home in Cape Cod in early August. (It was also great to be out of the city and surrounded by nature). As we talked about his childhood in the wilds of Donegal and his upcoming trip to Ireland in September, mention was made of a visit to W.B. Yeats’s grave in Sligo. One of my favorite poems is “Lake Isle of Innisfree,” and as it turns out it’s also Campbell’s. I offered up the opening line, “I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,” and Campbell picks it up: “And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made.” He recites the poem from beginning to end. “Yeats wrote the poem when he was a young Irish person living in London, but he clearly wanted to be back in Ireland,” Campbell says, and we talk a little about the nostalgia that as immigrants we feel from time to time. The last stanza of this threestanza poem in particular touches a chord: “I will arise and go now, for always night and day / I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; / While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey, / I hear it in the deep heart’s core.” W.B., as Rosemary explains, revered Biddy Early “as the wisest of the wise women” and honored her in his poem “The Shadowy Water.” And were he around today, he would surely be inspired by the Healthcare and Life Sciences honorees profiled in this issue. They are leading the way in diagnosis, treatment and disease prevention. Not least among them is Campbell, whose novel therapy for targeting river blindness has changed the lives of millions, and physician-scientist Barbara Murphy, whose work in transplant immunology research is giving people a second chance at a normal life. In this issue too, we check in with Irish universities and find that they are doing outstanding work in medical research and life sciences. We return to nature as Sharon Ní Chonchúir takes us on a climb of Ireland’s holy mountain (inspiring me to put Croagh Patrick on my bucket list). And in a wonderful story by Adam Farley that will fill you with a sense of adventure, Colin O’Brady talks about the challenge of climbing seven of the world’s tallest mountain peaks in a record-breaking 139 days. And he’s not done yet. Through his charity Beyond 7/2, O’Brady aims to raise $1million to battle childhood obesity, and inspire kids to lead healthy, active lifestyles. Now that’s something to cheer about. Mórtas Cine 6 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016
Vol. 31 No. 5 • August / September 2016
IRISH AMERICA Mórtas Cine
Pride In Our Heritage
Founding Publisher: Niall O’Dowd Co-Founder/ Editor-in-Chief: Patricia Harty Vice President of Marketing: Kate Overbeck Deputy Editor: Adam Farley Art Director: Marian Fairweather Advertising & Editorial Assistant: Aine Mc Manamon Copy Editor: Bríd Long Contributing Editor Matthew Skwiat Financial Controller: Kevin M. Mangan Editorial Assistants: Olivia O’Mahony R. Bryan Willits
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letters | readers forum Comments ON THE STORIES IN THE JUNE / JULY ISSUE
Gillian Murphy: On Her Toes
I feel privileged to have seen Ms. Murphy dance recently at the Met in Swan Lake. She is an exceptional artist. In addition to her immaculate technique – those amazing fouette turns – she has amazing port de bras and is a true dancing actress – you really got the sense of her inhabiting Odette/Odile, with distinct characterizations for each. It was one of the best ever experiences I’ve had at an arts event, let alone a ballet. Great to see that she is a totally down to earth human being as well. Matthew Conroy, submitted online
The Derry Girl Makes History Roma is such an inspiration and spiritual role model for women! So happy she is being recognized for the work she has done. She inspires others to be a force for good. Thanks, Ireland, for sharing her with us here in the U.S.A. Sidonie Jordan, submitted online
Eileen Collins: “Reach for the Stars”
TOP 50 POWER WOMEN #MNA50
Bipartisan babes! Stella O’Leary @IrishDems and GOP SD celebrating @irishamerica “Top 50 Power Women awards. #mna50
Dad used to tell me that one day there would be women combat pilots and astronaut pilots... glad she was Irish too!
Susan Ann Davis @SusanAnnDavis | Jun. 30
Cat O’Donovan Carter, via Facebook
The Maid Behind the Mayhem
I think the piece about Edna O’Brien in “Book Notes” is extremely significant. It is appropriate that one of the most important contemporary writers, Irish born O’Brien, should be feted at the Lotos Club, co-founded by Irish born writer John Brougham, who was its first vice-president and second president. Brougham was an actor, playwright, and theater manager who had several theaters of his own and wrote 125 plays, all of which were produced in New York and/or London. He would be proud to know that the literary society he helped found honored the author of The Little Red Chairs, which may turn out to be for the twenty-first century what Ulysses was for the twentieth.
Michael Burke, submitted online
Great interview with Colby Minifie, who is clearly as humble and appreciative as she is talented. Her portrayal of Cathleen was the perfect foil to the seriousness of the body of the play. So interesting to read her thoughtful take on the character – “stupid” only in the eyes of the family. Small as the part is in contrast to the rest of the play, when acted by someone of discernment and depth, like Colby, it adds a huge other (necessary) dimension. Elaine Richard, submitted online
I had the great fortune to see this play and Colby was terrific – funny, engaging and boy did she get the accent down! Thanks for publishing this wonderful interview.
Sandra Rose Gluck, submitted online
8 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016
Visit us online at Irishamerica.com to leave your comments, or write to us:
Send a fax (212-244-3344), e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.
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hibernia | health
Medical Breakthroughs That Matter Irish Universities are Leading the Way in Breakthrough Medical Science. By Olivia O’Mahony
Testing Breakthroughs at QUB
Queen’s University Belfast is leading the world’s first ever trial of a new combination of treatments for those with advanced prostate cancer. The trial, titled ADRRAD, recently began at the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre, and is funded by Friends of the Cancer Centre and Bayer Pharmaceuticals. It is led by Professor Joe O’Sullivan of the Queen’s University Center for Cancer Research. Over the next 18 months, 30 patients will undergo a fusion of two separate kinds of radiotherapy. Volume-Modulated Arc Therapy will target the prostate cancer cells located in the patient’s pelvis, and Radium 223 will target the disease which has spread to the bones in the cancer’s advanced state. If the trial is successful, it will greatly extend the life expectancy of patients whose illness is at a highly developed stage. Full results from the trial are expected within two years. Elsewhere at Queen’s, researchers have begun a £2 million research program to investigate reversing the damage caused by Multiple Sclerosis, making it currently the biggest MS research study being done in Northern Ireland. The program, which is funded by the Wellcome Trust and BBSRC, aims to understand how myelin, the insulating layer that surrounds nerves in the central nervous system, can be repaired. Speaking about the research, Dr. Denise Fitzgerald from the Centre for Experimental Medicine at Queen’s, said the program would allow researchers to focus on the “holy grail” of MS studies – reversing the effects of the disease, rather than merely limiting the number of relapses. Today, there is still no cure for MS. “Research into myelin repair will be welcome news to the 100,000 people across the UK living with MS,” Patricia Gordon, director of the MS Society Northern Ireland, said. “With bright minds, investments like this and continued collaboration between all of us involved in such research, together we can beat MS.”
NUI Galway Student Wins Breast Cancer Study Technology Grant
Úna McVeigh, a PhD student from National University of Ireland Galway, has been chosen as a winner of the “Go Mini Scientific Research Program,” sponsored by genetic research company Illumia to highlight the versatility of their MiniSeq system, a new sequencing system aimed at increasing the accessibility of performing genetic research. The $4,500 prize attracted over 1,100 submissions internationally.
McVeigh, a native of Co. Sligo, said that she and her colleagues “hope [their] research can begin to identify new genetic drivers of breast cancer, so that one day better patient screening can improve health outcomes for populations with a genetic predisposition to the disease.”
Country’s First Traffic Medicine Grant Goes to TCD
A research group based in Trinity College Dublin has received Ireland’s first ever research grant in traffic medicine. Traffic medicine is the practice aimed at reducing the harm inflicted on human beings by traffic crashes on land, sea, and air. National Program Director for Traffic Medicine Desmond O’Neill said that this development should “further highlight the concept of traffic medicine as an important aspect of healthcare to Irish clinicians and academics.” The grant, announced by the Road Safety Authority and National Programme Office for Traffic Medicine, will support studies in three main areas: medical assessment of driver health, domestic and global medical policies on operating a motor vehicle, and promotion of public awareness of how health conditions can affect one’s ability to drive.
MU’s “Brain-Computer Interface” Counters Stroke Effects
For years, many medical professionals believed stroke damage to be entirely irreversible. However, Darren Leamy and Thomas Ward of the electronic engineering department at Maynooth University are developing the “Brain-Computer Interface,” which reads signals from the brain to allow stroke patients to operate a robotic arm. The project is rooted in the study of neuroplasticity, the concept that the human brain is capable of regaining functions it had previously lost. Research is now being conducted on whether the “bio-feedback loop” created between the patient’s brain and the synthetic arm can lead to an increase in neuroplasticity. Given repeated attempts and repeated movement signals, Leamy and Ward believe, the brain should rewire its connections to bypass stroke-affected areas.
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that the research “is about helping mothers and their babies: our goal here is to look at the data and what we can learn to help mums have safe pregnancies and deliver healthy babies.”
Biomaterial Lets “Beyoncé the Horse” Jump Again
A newly-discovered biomaterial has been used by researchers at Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland to repair the damaged kneecartilage of Beyoncé, a thoroughbred filly. After she developed a joint disorder, it was thought that Beyoncé’s career in competitive show-jumping was at an end; however, the biomaterial, ChondroColl, rescued her from a situation that may have otherwise ended in euthanasia. The paper, which details the case study of Beyoncé’s recovery, is the third of its kind issued by the RCSI Tissue Engineering Research group. Among the study authors was Dr. Tanya Levingstone, who said the project “has shown the potential of the biomaterial to heal different sized injuries in patients.” The ChondroColl research group plan to advance to human trials in the coming months.
A study entitled CREST (Central Retinal Enrichment Supplementation Trials) was conducted by the Macular Pigment Research Group at Nutrition Research Centre Ireland (NRCI), which is part of the School of Health Sciences at Waterford Institute of Technology. The first rigidly-designed study of its kind, it involved 105 volunteers undergoing complex tests of vision over a 12-month period. Of the 105 subjects, 53 received daily supplements while 52 received a placebo (the control group). The outcome unequivocally demonstrated that those receiving macular carotenoids – lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin – enjoyed meaningful benefits to their visual function. The improvement recorded was primarily in people’s contrast sensitivity – how much contrast a person needs to see a target (i.e. how faint an object can one see). Prof. John Nolan, principal investigator for the CREST study and founder of the NRCI, said: “All of us involved in this research are tremendously excited about the outcome – not only from a scientific perspective but also because of the significant benefits it will have for a wide range of people. Many people may already consider themselves to have ‘good’ eyesight, but now we know that many of these would benefit from appropriate supplementation.”
UCD Tracks Genetic Factors and Kidney Failure
Professor Catherine Godson, University College Dublin School of Medicine and Diabetes Complications Research Centre, will lead UCD’s involvement in a five-year project to find genetic factors that lead to greater risk of developing kidney failure. DNA samples from 20,000 people with diabetes will be examined by an international research project that is part of a new £3.7 million U.S.-Ireland research partnership that brings together world-leading experts in diabetes and genetics research at Queen’s University Belfast, University College Dublin, University of Helsinki in Finland and the Broad Institute, Boston. The partner agencies in the Republic of Ireland are Science Foundation Ireland and the Health Research Board.
UCC study on Vitamin D and Pregnancy
Seventeen percent of pregnant women have a vitamin D deficiency, according to a survey of mothers at Cork University Maternity Hospital. Researchers at University College Cork (UCC) have reported that high vitamin D status is associated with lower risk of pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia and small-for-gestational age (SGA) birth. The findings, published in July in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, come from analysis of vitamin D status in the SCOPE (Screening for Pregnancy Endpoints) Ireland study. Currently in Ireland, there are no pregnancyspecific guidelines for vitamin D intake. Prof. Louise Kenny, director of the INFANT Centre, explained
University of Limerick Identifies New Genetic Biomarkers
FROM TOP: Dr. Tanya Levingstone from the Royal College of Surgeons with Beyoncé. Prof. John Nolan from the Waterford Institute of Technology. Prof. Catherine Godson from UCD School of Medicine. Prof J. Calvin Coffey from the University of Limerick. OPPOSITE PAGE FAR LEFT: Úna McVeigh from NUI Galway. LEFT: Desmond O’Neill (right), director for Traffic Medicine study at Trinity College.
Researchers at University of Limerick and University Hospital Limerick have identified several new genetic biomarkers that better predict outcomes for patients with bowel/colorectal cancer. The research team identified genes that are predictors of cancer recurrence and can also help to identify a patients’ suitability to specific types of chemotherapy. Professor J. Calvin Coffey, colorectal surgeon at the Graduate Entry Medical School and University Hospital Limerick, explains: “One of the key early events in bowel/colorectal is its spread to the lymph glands that drain the colon. The identification of tumors that will spread to the glands is a key challenge for clinicians as these are the patients most likely to benefit from chemotherapy. The ability to avoid harmful chemotherapeutic side effects is a clinical need that has yet to be met by the diagnostic tools available to clinicians. In Ireland colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer with 2,435 new cases diagnosed each year. This diagnostic instrument that we have developed, and this research in general, will impact on patients globally as we can now pin-point precisely patients who will develop spread to glands, and thus benefit from chemotherapy.” AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016 IRISH AMERICA 11
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hibernia | news from ireland
HIV on the Rise in Ireland
ecent figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, Ireland’s specialist agency for the surveillance of communicable diseases, show a 30 percent increase in HIV cases in Ireland. To combat this, the Union of Students in Ireland teamed up with Operation Zero in June for Irish AIDS Days at nonprofit HIV Ireland, to spread their message: “no shame, no judgment, just support!” in hopes of encouraging students to get tested. “USI is encouraging students across Ireland to regularly get tested,” Kevin Donoghue, USI President says. “STI screenings are available in health clinics across campuses and from local GPs. There are also free rapid HIV testing in locations such as Panti Bar in Dublin; GOSHH in Limerick, Chambers nightclub in Cork and a walk-in clinic in UCH Galway. STI screenings only take five minutes and are essential for a healthy sex life.” Speaking at the Irish AIDS day launch, the lord Mayor of Dublin, Críona Ní Dhálaigh (left), highlighted other aspects of Ireland’s upward trend in HIV diagnoses. “New HIV diagnoses in Ireland have increased to their highest level on record in 2015. Provisional data published by the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre shows that a total of 491 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in 2015 – a 30 percent increase over 2014 figures,” the Lord Mayor said. “Data also shows a significant increase in HIV diagnoses amongst people who inject drugs with a 67 percent increase in 2015, many of whom are people who are homeless in Dublin.” Many of those diagnosed with HIV are at the later stage of the infection and USI is emphasizing that the sooner the diagnosis has been confirmed, the sooner a medical plan can be established. – R.B.W.
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r. Patrick Kelly (pictured above with Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation) received an Alumni Honors Award from University College Dublin in June for his services to public peacekeeping and the medical field. Kelly, 31, graduated with a bachelor’s in medicine, surgery and gynecology in 2008, a master’s degree in sports and exercise medicine in 2010. He currently serves as a medical officer in the Irish Defense Forces. Also known as Captain Kelly, the Waterford City native was commended at the European Access Network 25th Annual Conference for excellence in international peacekeeping and a career dedicated to the care of those who are sick and unprotected. Thomas McGrath, CEO of advanced analytics firm Elutins Inc. and one of the award judges, said that Kelly stood out because “he made the care and wellbeing of the poor and most vulnerable a priority in his work.” While acting as a volunteer with the Order of Malta in 2008, Kelly was one of those responsible for the establishment of Ireland’s first capped at a maximum of two years. mobile medical clinic for homeHowever, the NCPE review group less individuals. In 2015, he was found insufficient evidence that the deployed to Sierra Leone, where projected discontinuation point would he worked in a treatment facility hold true. Even following a revised for the Ebola virus at the peak of gross budget submission from Bristol its outbreak. There, he received the Myers Squib in 2015, the NCPE did not British Army Force Commander’s consider Opdivo cost-effective. Commendation for his help in setA spokeswoman for the HSE said that ting up a cardiac first responders it was required to manage financial scheme in Freetown, Sierra Leone. provisions for new medicines in a fair Assisting him was the UCD manner, with access being made Center for Emergency Medical available to as wide a range of new Service. drugs as sustainably possible. Today, Kelly is deployed as a Opdivo will be reviewed by the peacekeeper in the 52nd Infantry National Cancer Control Program Group Quick Reaction Force with Technology Review Committee. If given the United Nations Disengagea positive recommendation, it will be ment Observer Force in the Golan sent to the HSE Drugs Committee for Heights, a region of intense the ultimate ruling on its funding. conflict on the border of Israel and – O.O. Syria. – O.O.
New Cancer Drug May Skip Ireland
groundbreaking new melanoma treatment is being rolled out to patients in the U.K., but may never reach those in Ireland. The National Pharmacoeconomics Centre (NCPE), an independent medicine cost advisory board, has recommended that the HSE does not make the Opdivo drug available through the public system due to uncertainty about its financial sustainability. Research has proven that melanoma patients have a substantially longer life expectancy when taking Opdivo, which, unlike conventional chemotherapy, is administered by a drip. The drug was developed by Bristol Myers Squib, who told the NCPE that Opdivo’s net cost over the first five years will come to €17.6 million. This estimation is based on the drug’s usage being
UCD Honors Medicine Alumnus and U.N. Peacekeeper
EVENTIMAGE / BRYAN BROPHY
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Digital Ocean Launches Ireland’s First Undersea Observatory
reland’s first undersea observatory was launched in June as part of an event for the Digital Ocean, a data resource of the Irish Marine Institute. The Digital Ocean represents Ireland’s opportunity to establish itself as a leading innovator in marine data for research, economic improvement, and social growth. The new SmartBay
observatory is located in Galway Bay, near Spiddal. Researchers expect it to boost the productivity levels of Ireland’s national marine infrastructure. At a two-day marine conference in July, Galway businessman John Kileen drew attention to the legacy of
Ireland’s “blue” economy and praised the project, saying its contributions would offer “plenty of opportunity to see how life works at sea.” The observatory will feed data directly from the ocean floor to the surface, enhancing field experts’ understanding of the ocean, weather patterns, climate change, and the reactions of man-made products with the world’s water supply. It will also provide a testing space for business enterprises based in marine space, such as Cathx Ocean, the Co. Kildare-based maker of the submarine camera and lighting system which was instrumental in the discovery of the Titanic site, and Technology from Ideas, a Galway company that runs tests on their mooring devices to enhance the reliability and durability at different depth levels. The technology has already been implemented off the coast of Galway to monitor the movements of whales and other deep sea creatures without disturbing their natural habitat with excessive light and sound. – O.O.
Ireland Celebrates 25 Years Online
s of June 17th, Ireland has officially been connected to the internet for 25 years. On the same day in 1991, Trinity College Dublin became the first organization in the country to connect to the world wide web. The link was shared with campus-based start-up company IEunet, run by entrepreneurs Cormac Callanan and Michael Nowlan. “From that day you could actually, physically connect to another computer on the other side of the world from Trinity College or any of our connected organizations,” Nowlan told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland. In the weeks that followed, University College Dublin also went online. In celebration of this anniversary, technology writer John Sterne has introduced an online repository of documents, timelines, and personal testimonies of how the Irish technology industry has developed since the country hit this milestone (accessible at techarchives.irish). Google engineer Niall Murphy also marked the occasion by publishing The History of the Irish Internet, a review of the emergence and effects of the web in Irish society. Today, 85 percent of Irish households have access to the internet, and 78 percent of the population consider themselves “regular internet users,” according to E.U. data. Every one of the world’s top ten “born on the internet” companies (including Google, Facebook, and PayPal) have a base in Ireland. – O.O.
Irish Agriculture “Not So Green”
reland’s current agricultural practices are unsustainable, say N.G.O. coalitions Stop Climate Chaos and the Environmental Pillar in their new report, “Not So Green: Debunking the Myths Around Irish Agriculture.” The report explicitly counters government and industry discourses that portray Ireland’s farming and land-use strategies as environmentally sound. The study shows that methane production per head of Irish cattle has increased since 1990. The amount of methane emitted per calorie of bovine food produced in Ireland comes in at over two tons a year; a significantly high figure compared to the European average of approximately 1.75. “Due to increasing emissions, the livestock sector is actively contributing to increased climate pollution and global food insecurity, putting the lives and livelihoods of some of the world’s poorest populations at risk,” Catherine Devitt, spokesperson for Stop Climate Chaos, says. Ireland’s current goals for expansion of the livestock sector indicate that it will fail to meet its targets for the Paris Agreement, an agreement signed by 178 parties in April aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions. – O.O.
The Action Plan to Save Ireland’s Bees
reland’s shrinking bee population is receiving a helping hand from the National Biodiversity Plan, an initiative designed to protect the pollination stations that keep the insects fed. Of the 98 bee species that exist in Ireland, one third are currently endangered due to mass starvation. The plan is shared by more than sixty-eight governmental and non-governmental bodies across Europe. Dr. Úna Fitzpatrick of the National Biodiversity Data Centre, who lead the plan-steering group, told the Irish Independent that even making small gardening changes can go far in rescuing Ireland’s bees. “If you’re a pollinator, finding enough food is the biggest challenge you have to face,” she said. “Gardens can play a crucial role by acting as pit stops for busy bees as they try to move around the landscape.” – O.O. AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016 IRISH AMERICA 13
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hibernia | news from ireland First All-Ireland Sand Sculpting Competition
he first ever All-Ireland sand sculpting competition will take place in August at the 30th annual Duncannon Sand Sculpting Festival on Duncannon Beach, Co. Wexford. Featuring both professional and amateur sand sculptors, fireworks, beach games, and live music, the competition will also try to break its own record for the number of sand angels created in a day, which they set last year at 405. Commenting on the upcoming festival, Cathy Dowling, one of the festival’s organizers, said, “This festival is always fun filled, our emphasis is firmly on family fun and we ensure a program filled with wonderful activities for the locals and visitors to the village to enjoy with all of the events.” – A.F.
Rory McIlroy Withdraws From 2016 Olympic Games
Irish Soccer Fans Receive Award for Good Behavior
ans of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland soccer teams were commended by the City of Paris for their displays of good sportsmanship during the 2016 Union of European Football Associations Championship. Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said that both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland fans were awarded the Medal of the City of Paris for their “exceptional” behavior during the tournament. The Irish fans attracted much positive attention for their robust support of their teams and contribution to benevolent atmospheres in the host cities; in one particular instance, a green-clad group from the Republic of Ireland were recorded singing a lullaby to a crying baby on a crowded train in Bordeaux. Hidalgo wrote to Irish president Michael D. Higgins to inform him of her decision, disclosing to him her happiness in giving the medal. Deputy Mayor for Sport and Tourism Jean-François Martins has called the fans of both teams a “model for all supporters of the world.” The men’s international soccer tournament was hosted in France this year during June and July. Fans were over the moon when the team secured a 1 - 0 final score in a particularly nail-biting match against the internationallyrevered Italian team, placing them third in their group and allowing them to progress to the knockout phase. However, the Republic of Ireland lost 2 - 1 to the French team in Lyon, officially knocking them out of the championship. Northern Ireland also qualified for the knockout phase, but were beaten 1 - 0 by Wales. – O.O.
ory McIlroy, who was chosen to represent Ireland in Brazil’s 2016 Olympic games, announced in July that he would not be competing. The Northern Irish golfer issued an official statement, explaining that his concerns about the mosquito-borne Zika virus were behind this change of heart. The virus has been speculated to result in extreme birth defects when passed from mother to infant. In his official statement, McIlroy expressed that by withdrawing from the Rio de Janeiro games, he was prioritizing the health of his family. He wrote, “Even though the risk of infection from the Zika virus is considered low, it is a risk nonetheless and a risk I am unwilling to take.” Jason Sobel of ESPN, however, has levelled accusations of disingenuity at the would-be competitor. He called the Zika virus “the perfect get-out-of-jail-free-card for professional golfers” xplorer and historian Tim Severin celebrated 40 and claimed that many of the multimillionaire years since he embarked on an epic 4,500 mile athletes were disinclined to take part in the voyage across the Atlantic on a leather boat Olympic games due to the lack of prize money with Shannon Heritage in June at the permanent home being offered. Sobel claimed that golfers’ use of of Severin’s original “Brendan Boat” in Craggaunowen, Zika as an “all-purpose excuse” unfairly restricted Co. Clare. Severin, right, undertook the voyage to prove the attention given to those who remain committed feasibility of the alleged journey of St. Brendan to the Americas more to competing in the Olympics. than 500 years before Columbus. The boat, built exclusively of materials McIlroy is among many golfers to cite Zika that would have been found and readily available in sixth-century fears as a reason for opting out of this year’s Ireland, and Severin and his crew landed safely at Peckford Island, Olympics. Other top-ranking players who have Newfoundland on June 26th, 1977, having left from Brandon, Co. Kerry chosen not to represent their nations include Ausover a year earlier in May, 1976. The journey was later recounted in tralian Jason Day, Fijian Vijay Singh, and AmerSeverin’s memoir The Brendan Voyage. – A.F. ica’s Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth. – O.O.
40-Year Anniversary of “Brendan Voyage” Marked in Clare
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hibernia | news from ireland
Brexit Creates Worry for Northern Ireland
n June, the United Kingdom officially passed the referendum to end its membership with the European Union. A slim 51.9 percent majority voted in accordance with the “Leave” campaign, while 49.1 percent voted to remain. Statistics have shown that the majority of the Leave votes came from polling stations in Wales and rural England, whereas London, Scotland, and the majority of Northern Ireland voted to remain. Though Northern Ireland accounts for only 1.5 percent of U.K. citizens, the move may have dramatic consequences for the country, which is the only U.K. region to share a land border with another E.U. member state, the Republic of Ireland. Fifty-six percent of Northern Irish voters chose to remain in the E.U. Also backing the “Remain” vote was James Brokenshire, who has since been appointed the new secretary of Northern Ireland. Remain campaigners in Northern Ireland warned that the success of the Leave vote would result in intensified border security measures between Northern Ireland and the Republic, which could threaten Peace Process that continues to develop since the socio-political conflict of the Troubles in the 1970s. “The Good Friday Agreement allowed both sides to be who they wanted to be,” said Derry researcher and historian Neil Duffy in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “It made the border irrelevant. But now it’s become relevant again.” Britain’s departure from the E.U. prompted Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister Martin McGuinness to call for a border poll on the reunification of the Irish state. The Sinn Féin leader told the Guardian that there was a “democratic imperative” to allow the people of Ireland the option to re-establish Northern Ireland and the Republic as one nation. Similarly, his fellow Sinn Féin party member Gerry Adams told the Independent that the E.U. should honor Northern Ireland’s majority “Remain” vote. “People voted to remain in the E.U.,” he said. “That should be upheld.” However, newly-elected U.K. prime minister Theresa May (David Cameron voluntarily resigned in July following the vote) and Northern Ireland’s first minister Arlene Foster have both said that there is no united Ireland in the foreseeable future. “We don’t have to do things the way we did in the past and that’s what the Brexit vote is about,” Foster told the Telegraph U.K. “Something new, something different, let’s think about all of that.” In the Republic, Fianna Fáil party leader Micheál Martin has emphasized the importance of solidarity with Scotland after Scotland’s first minister Nicola
Sturgeon claimed it would be democratically unacceptable for her country (which voted 62 to 38 percent for Remain) to be forced out of the E.U. Sturgeon is currently advocating for a repeat of Scotland’s 2014 referendum for independence. If the referendum is held and passed, it is uncertain how Northern Irish officials will proceed. In terms of the potential economic ramifications in the north, the business community has entered into a new era of uncertainty, according to Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey. He told the Irish Times that an increasing number of economists
predict the U.K.’s fall into recession in the next year, and that Northern Ireland’s reliance on Great Britain will cause it to follow suit. Dr. Lee McGowan, senior lecturer of European studies at Queen’s University Belfast, has expressed concerns for the future of university research and student mobility. He notes, “It is not generally known how much the E.U. boosts U.K. science and innovation in terms of the freedom of movement for talent and gifted European scientists, let alone access to considerable financial support.” The potential implementation of passport control along the 310-mile inter-Irish border is also concern for many Irish and Northern Irish people. Taoiseach Enda Kenny has expressed that it would hinder the Republic’s ability to negotiate its relationship with the U.K. without the involvement of its European partners. On a smaller scale, it would greatly complicate the daily travels of commuters who live on one side of the inter-Irish border and work on the other. Kenny told the Independent that the administrations of Dublin, Belfast, and London “share the common objective of wanting to preserve the Common Travel Area and an open border on the island of Ireland.” – Olivia O’Mahony
TOP: Enda Kenny. ABOVE: Theresa May, Arlene Foster, and Martin McGuinness.
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hibernia | irish eye on hollywood
By Tom Deignan
McDonagh and McDormand Head to Missouri
or two decades now, playwright Martin McDonagh has been dazzling theater and movie audiences with Irish plays like The Beauty Queen of Leenane and The Cripple of Inishmaan. More recently, he has written and directed critically acclaimed movies (with Irish as well as nonIrish characters) such as 2008’s In Bruges and 2012’s Seven Psychopaths. Back in the spring, McDonagh’s latest star-studded effort (with yet another odd title) began filming. Entitled Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, McDonagh’s latest film stars Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell. In the film, McDormand (best known for the film Fargo) portrays a mother who fights a war against the police in her town after her daughter is murdered. Abbie Cornish, Peter Dinklage, and John Hawkes have also signed on to the cast. The title of McDonagh’s film refers to billboards McDormand’s character Frances rents to send a message. Judging by the bloodMcDormand and Martin shed in McDonagh’s past films, the billboards McDonagh must have quite a few choice words on them. (inset)
The Irishman Gives Final Word on Jimmy Hoffa
artin Scorsese’s next foray into ethnic warfare is quite simple, at least to judge from its title. Slated to star Robert DeNiro as well as Al Pacino, the film is called The Irishman. The film is based on the book I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran and Closing the Case on Jimmy Hoffa. The book, by Charles Brandt, claims to be the final word on the whereabouts of mob-corrupted union official Jimmy Hoffa. Sheeran was an Irish American hitman who claims he was the one who killed and disposed of Hoffa, who made many enemies in his day, up to and including the Kennedy family. (“Painting houses” is a code word for killing people.) The Irishman (not to be confused with the film Kill the Irishman, about Cleveland Irish gangster Danny Greene) will be
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directed by Scorsese and written by Steve Zaillian, who has written numerous top flicks, including Gangs of New York and Moneyball. (Zaillian is currently one of the creative forces behind the excellent new HBO drama The Night Of.) The Irishman should be ready for a Christmas 2017 release. Until then, Scorsese is still working on his 17th century Japanese religious epic Silence, starring Liam Neeson and Ciaran Hinds. Neeson will also voice the October animated release A Monster Calls, based on a book by Patrick Ness and inspired by Siobhan Dowd.
Galway Film Fleadh Crystalizes Irish Aesthetic
he 28th annual Galway Film Fleadh, held in July, featured a diverse array of Irish films that should be trickling to American screens in the coming months. One of the most highly-anticipated screenings in Galway was director Richie Smyth’s Jadotville, a Netflix production which features Fifty Shades of Grey star Jamie Dornan. As Variety recently reported, Jadotville “tells the true story of the 1961 siege of a 150-member Irish U.N. battalion under Commander Patrick Quinlan (Dornan) by 3,000 Congolese troops, led by French and Belgian mercenaries working for mining companies.” Also earning praise at the Galway fleadh was Darren Thornton’s drama A Date for Mad Mary, about a woman who returns to her home in Drogheda after a stint in prison. A Date for Mad Mary shared Best Feature honors with director Peter Foott’s The Young Offenders, a comedy set in Cork which, according to the Irish Times, “was greeted with ear-shattering hoots.” But for all of the hype surrounding the Irish film industry – spurred by the recent Oscar nominations for Room and Brooklyn – the Irish Times also noted that “the do-it-yourself aesthetic is still strong,” as evidence by other films at Galway. This was a reference to Paul O’Brien’s Staid, based on the Wexford writerdirector’s own play. Staid cost just €300 Euro to produce, according to the Times. Staid has already won best foreign feature at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival. O’Brien received help from an old pal, Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer, who served as Staid’s executive producer.
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No Bother, Domhnall Gleeson is A.A. Milne
First there was 2013’s Saving Domhnall Mr. Banks, starring Tom Hanks, Gleeson Colin Farrell, and Emma Thompson. The film explored the artistic struggle between a children’s writer and movie makers while creating the classic film Mary Poppins. Now, Domhnall Gleeson will star in a forthcoming movie about A.A. Milne, who created timeless children’s books about the lovable bear Winnie the Pooh. Entitled Goodbye Christopher Robin, the film will also star Margot Robbie as Milne’s wife Daphne. Simon Curtis (My Week With Marilyn, Woman in Gold) is slated to direct Goodbye Christopher Robin. Secondgeneration Irish star Domhnall Gleeson has been seen recently in Brooklyn as well as Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Revenant. There was apparently a dark side to all the fame that came to A.A. Milne because of Winnie the Pooh. Milne’s son Christopher came to resent all of the attention he was deluged with as a result of Winnie the Pooh’s success.
Pierce Brosnan Poised for Comeback
f it worked for Liam Neeson, maybe it can work for Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan is working with fellow Irishman, Dundalk-born director John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines, A Good Day to Die Hard), on the upcoming thriller I.T. Brosnan plays a captain of industry who seems to have it all. He has a beautiful home and family and a thriving business that makes him all sorts of money. But Brosnan’s character soon finds himself embroiled in a conflict with his information technology consultant, who begins threatening his family. Specifically, the I.T. consultant is targeting Brosnan’s daughter, a plot twist that seems to have been inspired by Liam Neeson’s lucrative Taken franchise. Can Brosnan kick butt and save the day like Neeson? We’ll see when I.T. Pierce is released late this year or early next.
Ewan McGregor Adapts Philip Roth in Directorial Debut
“I know it’s just my Irish resentment, but I don’t like being looked down on.” That’s a line from American Pastoral, the great 1997 novel by Philip Roth, which will be turned into a prestige film to be released this October. Roth has always had a complicated relationship with the Irish throughout his literary career. Many of Roth’s best novels explore mid-century urban America, where the children of Irish and Jewish immigrants often bumped up against each other – if not brawled outright. At least, that was the boys. As for the Irish girls, Roth’s male protagonists often viewed them as both desirable yet unreachable. The irony, of course, is that both the Irish and Jewish characters are viewed as undesirables by the WASP establishment. Now that Roth has retired from writing, filmmakers are mining his work for all it is worth (The Human Stain, The Humbling). The American Irish-Jewish dynamic should very much be front and center in American Pastoral. In the film, Seymour “the Swede” Levov marries an Irish American former Miss New Jersey named Dawn Dwyer who, for all of her grace and beauty, always feels inferior as she tries to break into the world of true privilege. She is the one who uttered the line about “Irish resentment.” Fittingly, Irish American Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly is slated to play Dawn Dwyer in American Pastoral. The film explores not only the courtship of Dawn and The Swede, but also the fallout when their daughter becomes unhinged and seems to join a violent, politically-radical cult in the 1960s. American Pastoral is the directorial debut of Scottish actor Ewan McGregor (above) and also stars Rupert Evans and Dakota Fanning.
Christopher Nolan Rounds Up Irish for WWII Film
nother impressive Irish team is being assembled for Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan’s next film. Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy and Dublin up-and-coming star Barry Keoghan (’71, Life’s a Breeze) will team up for a war flick called Dunkirk. Also starring Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance and One Direction’s Harry Styles (yes, you read that right), the film explores the circumstances leading up to an allimportant 1940 military operation designed to evacuate thousands of allied prisoners who’d been captured by the Nazis in France. This was considered a Kenneth key turning point in the Second World Branagh War, because until the allies were able to and Barry complete this operation it appeared the Ger- Keoghan mans were headed for a quick and thorough victory. Look for Dunkirk in the summer of 2017.
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hibernia | spotlight Kennedy Summer School in Wexford
rt, literature, politics and history come together once again this September at the Kennedy Summer School in New Ross, Wexford. American and Irish academics, writers and policy experts will converge to look back on and look ahead to some of the key issues in the American-Irish relationship. On Thursday, September 8, the proceedings will kick off with an opening address from U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley, as well as a keynote address by Prof. Robert Dowling. Dowling is the leading U.S. academic on the work of Irish American playwright Eugene O’Neill and the author, most recently, of Eugene O’Neill: A Life in Four Acts. Finally, comedian Paddy Cullivan (The Late Late Show) will offer a unique perspective on some of the more offbeat stories from the 1916 Easter Rising. Friday, September 9, will feature a panel discussion on mental health featuring Charlie Bird and others. Then there is the Dunganstown Tea Party featuring demonstrations from chefs such as Edward Hayden, as well as offerings from many Irish food producers. This year’s Edward M. Kennedy Lecture will be given by former gov-
ernor of Maryland and presidential candidate Martin O’Malley. Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) Frances Fitzgerald will offer a reply to the lecture. On the final day, September 10, organizers are presenting what they call “the strongest panel on U.S. politics ever assembled in Ireland.” The morning session will explore factors that have shaped the current U.S. political climate, with speakers including Dr. Robert M. Mauro, director of the Irish Institute at Boston College. Irish politics will be the focus of the afternoon session, chaired by RTÉ’s Katie Hannon. Other topics include the 2016 presidential election, with speakers including Tad Devine, Chief Strategist of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign. The final event of the Summer School will be a screening of the Oscar winning movie Spotlight, followed by a panel discussion that will explore the fallout from the clerical abuse scandal in Boston and a similar scandal in Ferns, Co. Wexford. Boston Globe columnist and member of the Spotlight investigation team Kevin Cullen will be among those participating. Summer school details and tickets are available at kennedysummerschool.ie. – T.D.
Pioneering Woman Mary Holt Moore
ary Holt Moore – a prominent leader in New York’s Irish American community and only the second woman to lead the St. Patrick’s Day parade down Fifth Avenue – died in July at the age of 88. Born and raised in the Bronx, Moore attended Hunter College, where she founded the school’s Gaelic Society. She also taught Irish language classes as well as céilí dancing. Moore, former president of the Bronx Gaelic League, raised eight children with her husband Thomas Moore, a Fire Department of New York chief, who died in 2012. Moore was also selected as a member of the North American Feis Commission’s Irish Cultural Hall of Fame. Moore led the 1991 New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade, when she was just the second woman selected for the honor. PHOTO: THE IRISH ECHO Two years earlier, in 1989, the “first woman of Irish radio,” Dorothy Hayden-Cudahy (d. 2010), was the first woman to lead the march. – T.D. 20 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016
A Movie, and Legacy, for Children
hen the fantasy film A Monster Calls (with Liam Neeson in a voice role) opens in October, it will present an opportunity for moviegoers to not only get lost for a few hours in a magical world, but also to recall the inspiring life of Siobhan Dowd. Dowd was born in England to Irish immigrant parents. She lived in England as well as New York City, while also spending lots of time with family in Waterford and Wicklow. All the while, Dowd wrote acclaimed novels such as Bog Child and A Swift Pure Cry. Sadly, at the age of just 47, Dowd died of breast cancer in 2007. Before she died, Dowd had come up with a new book idea about a boy, living in present day England, whose mother was also suffering from cancer. The boy is visited every night by a monster who tells him stories. Dowd was unable to complete the book. However, fellow author Patrick Ness picked up the idea and completed the story. In the end, A Monster Calls – both the book and the forthcoming movie – are credited as “from an original idea by Siobhan Dowd.” Also before she died, Dowd established the Siobhan Dowd Trust, which “works to give young people the opportunity to read and enjoy literature.” The group’s mission is to “take stories to children and young people without stories” and also to “bring the joy of reading and books to children and young people deprived of access to books and of the opportunity to read.” Finally, the trust funds and supports “disadvantaged young readers where there is no funding or support.” Asked by the Guardian about the emotions of writing A Monster Calls based on Dowd’s idea, Patrick Ness said: “I wouldn’t have taken it on if I didn’t have complete freedom to go wherever I needed to go with it.... [B]ecause I know that this is what Siobhan would have done. She would have set it free, let it grow and change, and so I wasn’t trying to guess what she might have written, I was merely following the same process she would have followed.” – T.D.
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hibernia | politics
Kaine’s Strong Irish Roots
t worked for Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton may have had this in mind when she selected an Irish Catholic senator – which is also current vice president Joe Biden’s background – to be her running mate. In July, Clinton selected former Virginia governor and current U.S. senator Tim Kaine, 58, as her vice presidential choice. Kaine has Irish roots in Longford and Kilkenny and all of his grandparents were born to Irish immigrants. “Just got off the phone with Hillary. I’m honored to be her running mate,” Kaine said after the announcement. “Can’t wait to hit the trail.” Donald Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, also has strong Irish roots so whoever wins the election in November, an Irish American will have a prominent presence in the White House. Kaine was honored by the American Ireland Fund earlier this year and spoke about the importance of his heritage. “I am about as stone Irish as you can get for somebody whose family has been in the country for about 150 years. All four of my grandparents were born to Irish immigrants, three to families where both the mom and dad were from Ireland and one where the mom was Irish and the dad was Scottish born, but moved to Northern Ireland before emigrating to the U.S. I am pure black-Irish. There is not a red-headed Norseman anywhere in our family but that makes this very special.” Kaine traveled to Ireland with his family in 2006, when he was governor of Virginia. “After spending some time in Dublin,” the Irish Independent noted, “(the Kaines) traveled to Killashee, a blink-and-you’d-miss-it village... outside Longford town.” The paper added: “After wandering through fields, the Kaines eventually found the remains of the home where P.J. Farrell, Mr. Kaine’s great grandfather, was born.” Kaine said: “We went to Dublin and my children were having a blast, they were all teenagers, and when I said we have to spend a day traipsing around in the countryside instead of hanging around in Temple Bar and Grafton Street, they were extremely disappointed in their father.” He added: “As we drove to Longford, which is not exactly a tourist zone, they continued to complain – but when we landed in Longford town my 11year-old daughter said to me: ‘Dad, why does everyone look like us?’ They started to get it.… I told my children, ‘This is where we come from.’” – T.D.
The Trump-Pence Irish Connection & a Different Kind of Wall
onald Trump and Mike Pence have more in common than a desire to win election to the White House in November. Pence, the governor of Indiana, has strong Irish roots. His grandmother came to the U.S. from Doonbeg, County Clare – which also happens to be the home of a Trump golf resort. Pence’s grandfather, Richard Michael Cawley, also came to the U.S. from Clare. A native of Tubercurry, Cawley passed through Ellis Island in April of 1923, and became a Chicago bus driver. Pence most recently visited Ireland in 2013. Trump’s Doonbeg golf course became a news story back in May when Politico reported that Trump was looking to build a sea wall to protect the golf course from the effects of climate change. This, even though Trump – like many Republicans – has expressed skepticism about global warming. “The New York billionaire is applying for permission to erect a coastal protection works to prevent erosion at his seaside golf resort, Trump International Golf Links & Hotel Ireland, in County Clare,” Politico noted. “A permit application for the wall, filed by Trump International Golf Links Ireland and reviewed by Politico, explicitly cites global warming and its consequences – increased erosion due to rising sea levels and extreme weather this century – as a chief justification for building the structure.” – T.D.
ABOVE: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump poses at a photo of his golf course in Doonbeg, Co. Clare. TOP LEFT: Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton with vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine.
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hibernia | 9/11
Remembrance and Hope
ack in July, on a hot afternoon at Kennedy International Airport in Queens, a truck carried a 40,000pound piece of debris – draped in an American flag – out of a building known as Hangar 17. The building, for well over a decade, housed over 2,000 items collected from the rubble of the World Trade Center. But, as the New York Times noted, Hangar 17’s “storage room is now empty, its contents nearly all distributed to museums, exhibits, fire stations, and other locations across the country and in 10 foreign countries.” With the 15th anniversary of that terrible day approaching, the closing of Hangar 17 is a stark reminder of just how long it has taken – and continues to take – to recover from the 9/11 attacks. “In essence, this hangar collected history,” Joseph W. Pfeifer, assistant chief for the FDNY, told the Times. “These special artifacts provided us hope,” he added. “It also represents that on 9/11, not only did we lose almost 3,000 people but in New York, we saved over 20,000.” The 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks will also serve as a reminder of the many charitable foundations Irish Americans have established so that something good can emerge from the terrible losses experienced that day. There is the Michael Lynch Memorial Foundation, dedicated to the memory and heroism of firefighter Michael Francis Joseph Lynch, a Bronx native who was one of 12 firefighters from Engine 40 / Ladder 35 to perish that day. The Michael Lynch Foundation is “dedicated to providing educational opportunities to the children of firefighters, both fallen and active, as well as children of other victims of the September 11th attacks.” A recent Lynch Foundation initiative called “Year of Sacrifice, Solitude and Gratitude” raised almost $150,000. “This outpouring of generosity has surpassed our expectations and we are tremendously thankful for your support and commitment to our efforts,” said Lynch’s mother, Kathleen, who serves as president of the foundation. 22 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016
15 Years Later
Then there is the Johnny Mac Foundation, which holds an annual golf outing at the Dyker Beach Golf Club in Brooklyn. Funds contribute to the construction of a youth center in Blue Point, Long Island, where firefighter John McNamara lived with his wife and son. “A place to go for counseling, computers, study, skateboard park, a local meeting place for everything from scouting to the local
civic groups,” is how McNamara envisioned the youth center in a handwritten wish list. McNamara belonged to a different set of 9/11 victims – first responders who died from toxins breathed in during the clean-up efforts. Fifteen years on, Michael Lynch, John McNamara, and so many others, continue to serve and protect. – Tom Deignan A firefighter walks through the rubble of the Twin Towers in this photograph by Peter Foley. Foley was one of the first photographers on the scene that day. Just prior to 9/11, he had lived in a Manhattan firehouse, documenting the lives of the firefighters and doing portraits of the men, many of which, sadly, became memorial cards.
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hibernia | talent NYU Student Discovers 900-Year-Old Irish Brooch
A Irish Cancer Survivor Hikes Iceland Glacier on Crutches
rish woman Nikki Bradley, a courageous survivor of a rare form of bone cancer known as Ewing’s sarcoma, has just defied the odds once again after climbing an Icelandic glacier on crutches. Since she was diagnosed in 2002 at the age of 16, Nikki has been battling cancer now for nearly a decade and half, and after double hip replacement and now the possibility that she might lose her right leg, she has endeavored to raise awareness of the illness that plagues her. As a part of her awareness campaign, Fighting Fit for Ewing’s, she climbed the 2,464 ft. Mount Errigal, the tallest mountain in Co. Donegal, in January, and has now conquered the treacherous Solheimajokull glacier in Iceland. “You can’t confuse a glacier with a mountain. It’s not an achievable goal, like a summit, it’s something you experience,” Bradley told the Irish Journal. “You have guides telling you to follow their footsteps, like their actual footsteps, because the snow is so treacherous, it can just drop into nothing. That’s not an easy thing to do on crutches.” Bradley brought a team of expert trekkers and climbers with her to the glacier, as well as acclaimed photographer and film maker Paul Doherty, who photographed and filmed their inspiring journey which is being made into a forthcoming documentary. Uncertain about her future and whether or not she will be able to keep her leg, Bradley says that through her endeavors she hopes “to raise a little money for childhood cancer. I’m hoping to inspire others.” “But mostly, I don’t know what’s round the corner for me,” she added. “Anything that comes my way, I have to grasp it.” – R.B.W.
n Irish American New York University student made a once-in-a-lifetime discovery in July when she spotted what turned out to be a 12th century kite brooch (pictured right) in the sand on Omey Island, near Cleggan, in Connemara, an area long associated with burials and pilgrimage. McKenna McFadden, a film and television production major minoring in Irish studies at Glucksman Ireland House, made the discovery while touring the area with Connemara-based archeologist Michael Gibbons during a summer NYU program in Ireland. “I found it while looking at rabbit burrows in the dirt deposits at the back of the beach. I looked down and saw the back of the brooch sticking out of the sand,” she told Irish America. “When I picked it up, I really wasn't sure what it was, but it looked cool! I was curious as to what it was, but I figured it was something that someone lost a few years ago.” When she showed the brooch to Gibbons, he “freaked out,” she said. The provenance of the ancient brooch, which would have been used to fasten a cloak or shawl, was verified by Galway city heritage officer Jim Higgins. “I couldn't believe that I just stumbled across it,” she said. McFadden has since donated the brooch to the National Museum of Ireland. – A.F.
Irish GAA Player Signs for Cleveland Browns
rish American placekicker Patrick Murray has been signed by the Cleveland Browns for the coming football season. After playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers since graduating Fordham University in 2013, Murray, 25, returned from eight months on injured reserve to try out for the opening day squad at the Cleveland Browns training camp. He brought with him a distinctive kick-style, instantly recognizable to anyone with a background in Gaelic football. Murray’s athletic career traces back to Rockland Gaelic football club in Bergen County, NJ. There, he followed the footsteps of his father and uncle, natives of Co. Monaghan, who played for their county. They instilled in Murray a powerful appreciation for GAA, and inspired him to put a Gaelic spin on his performances in the NFL. He was also influenced by the techniques of Irish rugby star Ronan O’Gara. “When I first started,” he told IrishCentral, “I went on YouTube and watched as many clips of Ronan O’Gara as I could, how he prepared for the kick, doing the same thing every time. I’ve tried to bring that into my game even though I have a lot less time than he did.” Murray is still active within the Rockland GAA community and has said that “I hope it’s in 20 years, but when my NFL career is over, I hope I can come back in here and play for Rockland.” – O.O. AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016 IRISH AMERICA 23
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hibernia | history + literature Inaugural Frank McCourt Summer School in Creative Writing
he inaugural University of Limerick (UL) Frank McCourt Summer School in Creative Writing was held in July at Glucksman Ireland House at New York University, despite the death of the youngest McCourt brother, Alphie, the week prior. The Summer School was led by the renowned novelist and Frank McCourt Chair of Creative Writing at UL Professor Joseph O’Connor and featured the talents of other UL faculty including Donal Ryan, Giles Foden, Mary O’Malley, Sarah Moore-Fitzgerald, and Eoin Devereux. In addition to creative writing workshops and lectures, the
summer school also hosted a literary brunch and other social activities and a performance by Martin Hayes of The Gloaming. The summer school was launched on Thursday, July 7th at the Irish Consulate in New York. Speaking in advance of the summer school, Joseph O’Connor said the goal was to merge two of Frank McCourt’s greatest loves, writing and teaching: “2016 sees the twentieth anniversary of publication of Frank McCourt’s masterpiece Angela’s Ashes, a book that became a success all over the world, shedding light on the unique relationship that exists between Ireland and the United States, specifically between Limerick and New York. Frank’s tale of two cities was translated into dozens of languages, stirring recognitions for millions of readers. We at UL’s new Creative Writing Programme wished to honor him and his achievement, in this special year.” – A.F.
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University of Limerick Professor Frank O'Connor with Consul General Barbara Jones at the launch of the inaugural Frank McCourt Summer School in Creative Writing in New York.
Maureen Murphy at the Independence Day Parade in New York. PHOTO LOWER MANHATTAN HISTORICAL SOCIETY / YOUTUBE
Irish Studies Scholar Leads July 4th Parade
enowned Irish studies scholar Maureen Murphy led the Lower Manhattan Historical Society in a parade celebrating Irish and American independence in July. The parade began at the Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park and concluded at Evacuation Day Plaza in Bowling Green, the location from which British troops left New York after the success of the American Revolutionary War in 1783. As the parade ended, Murphy raised the same Irish flag that she displayed in June at Dublin’s GPO to honor the rebels of the 1916 Easter Rising, of which the centennial anniversary was in April. At the plaza, Murphy, an academic authority in Irish literature, history, and Irish American culture, told the story of Hercules Mulligan, an Irish American emigrant who was instrumental to the American Revolution. Echoing the words of President George Washington, she called him “a true friend of liberty.” Also present was Anna McGillicuddy, deputy consul of the Irish consulate in New York. “The American declaration of independence which was signed on the 4th of July so heavily influenced our own freedom fighters and those who wrote the Irish proclamation of independence,” she said. “We are so intertwined.” – O.O.
Whitey Bulger Auction Raises $109,000 for Victims’ Families
he personal effects of organized crime-boss James Joseph “Whitey” Bulger, Jr. were offered up for auction by the U.S. Marshals in June. A total of 104 items were seized during Bulger’s arrest at his Santa Monica apartment in 2011, where he had been living with his long-term partner, Catherine Greig. The auction raised a total of $109,000 for the families of Bulger’s murder victims. Of the $822,000 in cash collected from the scene of his arrest, the families also received $39,000 apiece. The auction, which took place at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, saw a wide array of objects arrive at the block. Both run-of-the-mill household items and outlandish memorabilia were available for purchase, with the collection of seized goods as a whole providing many glimpses into Bulger’s life on the lam. Among the auctioned objects were 67 watches, an imitation Stanley Cup ring, 30 rolls of paper 24 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016
towels, a new pair of Asics sneakers, and a boxing mannequin wearing a wide-brimmed sunhat. Bulger’s 14-karat gold and diamond Claddagh ring was the main object of desire for many auction-goers. It was bought for $23,000, the highest price of Bulger’s effects, by Colm Dunphy, 52. Dunphy, a native of Northern Ireland, told the Boston Globe that he was willing to spend as much money as it took to leave with the ring. The ring is indicative of Bulger’s Irish-American status, as a Claddagh ring is a traditional Irish piece dating back to the 17th century. It is said to represent love, loyalty, and friendship. Bulger, now 86, is currently serving a life sentence at the United States Penitentiary Coleman II in Sumterville, Florida, for racketeering, extortion, narcotics distribution, and 19 counts of murder. For 12 of the 16 years he spent at large, he ranked among the FBI’s 10 Most Top Wanted Fugitives. – O.O.
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hibernia | politics + arts Chicago in the Seanad
Biden Family Visits Ireland
ice President Joe Biden traveled to Ireland in June for a six-day trip through counties Dublin, Meath, Louth, and Mayo. Arriving with his brother, sister, daughter and five grandchildren, Biden was formally welcomed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the Government Buildings in Dublin. Though Biden had visited Ireland privately in the past, Kenny told RTÉ News, this was his first trip as vice president. Biden had originally promised to make the trip with his son Beau, who died of brain cancer last year at the age of 46. In a keynote address at Dublin Castle, Biden said that despite Beau’s absence, “we decided we would bring the whole family.” Biden, who grew up in Scranton, PA and whose Irish ancestry genealogist Megan Smolenyak traced for Irish America in 2013, spoke of his family’s pride in their Irish heritage. He also emphasized the importance of tolerance and inclusive-
ness for immigrants whose experiences mirror those of the Irish in America during the 19th century. He said his mother often reinforced a “thoroughly Irish sentiment” in him when she said, “Joey, no one is better than you, and every other person is equal to you and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.” After his speech, Biden was presented with the gifts of a hurley and sliotar. He expressed his remorse that hurling wasn’t more commonly played in the United States: “I played American football and American baseball in high school and college, but this... this is a dangerous game.” He traveled with the Taoiseach to Knockmore, Co. Mayo, the town from which his paternal great-great grandfather emigrated, where they played a round of golf together. He then moved on to the Cooley Peninsula in Co. Louth, the birthplace of his maternal great-great grandfather, who left for America in 1850. – O.O. PHOTO BY YASSINE EL MANSOURI
alway native Billy Lawless, Sr., who has lived in Chicago since 1998, has been appointed to the Irish Seanad (the Irish senate) by Taoiseach Enda Kenny. His nomination marks the first time an émigré has been named a senator. Since his arrival in the United States, Lawless, a restaurateur whose establishments include cocktail bar Acanto and gastropub The Gage, has become a prominent advocate for comprehensive immigration reform for the undocumented Irish community and other groups. He is chairperson of the Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform and vice president of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. “The appointment of Billy Lawless to the Seanad gives the Irish diaspora a voice in the Irish government,” executive director of Chicago Irish Immigrant Support Michael Collins told Irish American News. “Likewise, this appointment is a clear indication that the Irish government is listening to the struggles that many Irish immigrants in the U.S. are facing.” Lawless is a leading advocate for the end of deportation and introduced President Obama at Chicago’s Polish Copernicus Center in 2014, when the president announced two new executive orders: the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Deferred Action for Parents and Lawful Permanent Residents. At the Center, Obama said that Lawless and his son Billy, who assists him in running the restaurants, exemplified immigrant empowerment. “Together they have gone from employing ten workers to employing 250 workers,” he said, proceeding to echo Lawless’s own words: “This is what immigrants do.” – O.O.
Kennedy Center Gold Medal in the Arts goes to Ireland
T Galway Mayor Cllr. Donal Lyons and Galway City Council presented Billy Lawless, Sr. Vice-Chair of the Galway Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International, with the Freeman of the City of Galway last year.
he Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts presented its annual Gold Medal in the Arts to five formidable names linked with the Irish arts community in June. In a gala ceremony held at Farmleigh in Dublin, the awards were presented to classical flutist Sir James Galway (who appeared on The Lord of the Rings soundtrack); musician Van Morrison; actor and director Fiona Shaw; director, screenwriter, and Enda Walsh, Sir producer Jim Sheridan; and playwright and screenwriter Van Morrison, Enda Walsh. Taoiseach Enda The award is issued by the Kennedy Center InternaKenny, Jim Sheridan, James tional Committee on the Arts, a board established in Kennedy 2001 in order to facilitate increased levels of international Galway, Center President arts exchange. – O.O. Deborah F. Rutter. AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016 IRISH AMERICA 25
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hibernia | quote unquote “The current reverence for entrepreneurs, the idea that we must all become cutthroat selfstarters, is unrealistic about human nature…. Other than her entirely self-motivated career as an activist and organization builder, Margaret Sanger made her living in two conventionally female occupations: nursing and marriage. Her second marriage was far more profitable than her first. Even visionaries have to be pragmatic to get ahead.”
“See, my grandparents – they came from the heartland. Their ancestors began settling there about 200 years ago. I don’t know if they had their birth certificates, but they were there. They were Scotch-Irish mostly – farmers, teachers, ranch hands, pharmacists, oil rig workers. Hearty, small-town folks. Some were Democrats, but a lot of them, maybe even most of them, were Republicans – the party of Lincoln. And my grandparents explained that folks in these parts, they didn’t like show-offs. They didn’t admire braggarts or bullies.”
Artist Sabrina Jones, who recently published a new graphic novel about the life of Margaret Sanger, the Irish American woman who founded Planned Parenthood, and the history of birth control in the United States. Salon, July 30.
President Barack Obama, on his mother’s Ulster relatives at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. July 27.
“We were a colonized country of a thousand years. We had to find a way to say what we had to say without getting too much revenge. Humor is a good way to say something you can’t say straight out to somebody.”
Annie Hoey, President, Union of Students in Ireland, speaking July 27 in response to a new survey by Generation Y saying 91% of Irish students are concerned about their future, 94% said the national housing crisis directly impacts them, and 80% intend to emigrate.
“Fighting crime is what we get paid to do. But we can’t do that unless we have the backing of the community. Unless we have that connectivity, it’s not going to work.” NYPD Chief James P. O’Neill, who grew up in the heavily Irish Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn and was named commissioner of the New York Police Department in August. New York Times, August 3.
“Despite everything, we’ve never stopped being dreamers. I think the Irish are the only people in the world who are actually nostalgic about the future!” Brooklyn-based Irish comedian, artist, and musician John Munnelly. Ditmas Park Corner, July 5.
“If the government doesn’t provide the younger generation with sustainable solutions to employment, accommodation, and growth, we will lose a generation at the forefront of innovation, growth, and advancement to emigration.”
Vice President Joe Biden at Dublin Castle during his Ireland visit in June. IrishCentral, June 24.
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Dr. William Campbell (right) works oneon-one with Drew undergraduate student Emmanuel (Manny) Gabrielon. He was, Campbell says, “a truly exceptional student. After graduation he did a joint M.D.-Ph.D. program and became a surgeon. He is now engaged in advanced cancer surgery.”
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A Reflection on
Simplicity The Irish-born biologist and parasitologist William Cecil Campbell, who was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine, talks to Patricia Harty.
or those of us fortunate enough to turn a simple tap to take a nice relaxing bath or long hot shower, it’s hard to imagine risking the loss of your eyesight for a single bucket of water. But for centuries, onchocerciasis, commonly known as river blindness, had plagued remote communities in Africa, Latin America, and Yemen. Lifelines for villagers, the rivers are breeding grounds for black flies that, infected with a parasite worm, transmit the disease through repeated biting. In return, those infected transfer the disease to uninfected flies who bite them, resulting in a plague characterized by extreme itching and eventual blindness. That the simple chore of getting water in these communities is no longer as much of a danger as it had been for generations is due to William “Bill” Campbell, an Irish-born scientist who, with his colleagues at Merck Research Laboratories, discovered a novel therapy for treating the disease. In 2015, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, sharing it with Satoshi Ōmura of Japan. One wonders why it took so long. It was in the late 1970s when, working with a batch of microbe strains that Ōmura sent over for evaluation, Campbell developed a drug using ivermectin (later named Mectizan) and suggested it would work for river blindness in humans. Not only did the drug work, it also proved effective against the parasite that causes elephantiasis (so-called be-
cause of the elephant-like appearance of swollen limbs in severely affected cases), which co-exists with river blindness in many places. More than 25 years later, since Merck made the drug free in those countries most affected, treating 250 million annually, the results speak for themselves. Several countries in Africa are making significant progress towards eliminating both diseases. In Latin America, three countries – Colombia, Ecuador, and Mexico – have effectively eliminated river blindness. Campbell, who at 86, is fit and trim with twinkling eyes, a keen mind, and self-effacing wit, is also decidedly modest about his Nobel Prize. “I think of it as an award in which I’m the representative of the Merck company’s research teams,” he said in one of several phone conversations that I had with him over the summer, prior to a meet up in Cape Cod, where he and his wife, Mary, children (two daughters and a son), and five grandchildren had gathered for a vacation in early August. The respite is a welcome break from all the attention that being a Nobel laureate has brought. He had settled into retirement in North Andover, MA, enjoying time with Mary (they met at a church function in Elizabeth, NJ over 50 years ago), his three-times weekly doubles ping pong games, solitary kayak trips in early morning, an occasional hike up nearby half-mile hill, and painting and writing poetry that reflects his passion for roundworms and other kinds of parasitic worms. A true Renaissance man who can turn his hand
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to any number of things, Campbell likes to keep it simple. In fact, the title of his Nobel Lecture, “Ivermectin: A Reflection on Simplicity,”could serve as a mantra for the man himself. More than anything, the now world-famous biologist and zoologist, is a naturalist who espouses nature-based remedies for curing diseases. He told Adam Smith, the chief scientific officer of Nobel Media, “there is a certain amount of hubris in humans thinking that they can create molecules as well as nature can create molecules in terms of the diversity of molecules, because nature consistently produces molecules that have not been thought of by humans.” Campbell’s appreciation of nature is rooted in his childhood. He grew up in Ramelton, a small farming town in County Donegal, with two older brothers and a younger sister. The town is situated on mouth of the River Lennon, in one of the most beautiful and remote spots in Ireland. His parents, Sarah Jane Campbell (née Patterson) of Dunfanaghy, and R.J. Campbell of Fanad, ran a general store, supplying farmers. His father also farmed, raising shorthorn dairy cattle that won prizes at agricultural shows. And it was at an agricultural show that 14-year-old Campbell picked up a leaflet on fluke worms in sheep that, in hindsight, may have influenced his interest in becoming a scientist. But then Campbell could just as easily have become a writer, an artist or a historian. His teacher during his formative years, Miss Martin, “instilled a love of learning, not in the sense of a chore to be mastered, but getting the satisfaction of knowing something, and remembering something. She had a tremendous influence on me,” he says. Desmond Smyth, the renowned parasitologist, who was Campbell’s science professor at Trinity College, was another key influencer. “He changed my life by developing my interest in parasitic worms,” he says. After graduating with first class honors in zoology from Trinity, Campbell went on to the University of Wisconsin–Madison where he earned a Ph.D. in 1957 for work on liver fluke in deer. Headhunted by Merck out of school, he stayed with the company for over 30 years developing many significant drugs, including a treatment for trichinosis. After his retirement from Merck, Campbell taught undergraduate biology and graduate history at Drew University until 2012. Nowadays, he often begins lectures by showing a picture of his father’s cows. “Of course it has absolutely nothing to do with the lecture, but I like to tell people where I’m from because it is such a part of me,” he says. When I remark that he still has a hint of an Irish accent after all this time in America, he laughs. “After about three days in Donegal with my family, Mary says it comes back.” And that will be soon. In September, Campbell will be honored by IT Sligo and then go home to Ramelton for a town reception. “My brother, Bert, said he’ll make sure ABOVE: William C. that there will be time for family picnics on Marble Campbell beside his wife, Mary at Hill beach,” Campbell, his eyes lighting up at the the Nobel Banquet prospect, says. “His lovely mother used to put totable of honor. gether such wonderful picnics for us,” Mary adds. ABOVE RIGHT: Campbell agrees. “I was very lucky to have a Campbell delivering great mother and a great father.” He pauses for his speech at the a moment, verklempt. “That’s one of those things Nobel Banquet on about the Prize – you wish they were around.” 12/10/2015 30 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016
You have lived here a long time. Do you feel more American than Irish as the years go by?
Well, I feel both and that may seem strange. I never ceased to feel Irish but I also feel American. I am proud to be American and I am proud to be Irish and proud to be a citizen of the U.K.
Tell me about growing up in Donegal?
My father started with a little grocery shop and built it up over his lifetime into a general merchant store selling farm equipment, hardware, kitchen utensils, and chinaware – just about everything. Sometimes the farmers would come in at lunch time when the shop would be closed but my father would always get up, much to my mother’s distress, and go out and talk to farmers. It wouldn’t have occurred to him not to open the shop for some farmer who had maybe come in from a long distance. He was a natural entrepreneur and businessman. He also farmed. He just loved to do that.
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He grew a lot of potatoes and oats, and raised dairy cattle. He used to take his purebred dairy shorthorns to shows. One thing that sort of typified my father, was that he brought electricity to the town. He hired people to set up the poles and the wires to bring electricity to the whole town. He bought this big generator – the engine room that housed it was behind our house. When we were in bed, we could hear this generator going through its paces before it settled down into a steady rhythm. People in those days who had battery-powered radios would bring them to my father’s shop to get them charged. Then after the war, he bought three or four smaller diesel-fueled generators. I had wonderful parents. My mother was saintly. I don’t mean it in a religious or liturgical sense (though she was devout) but rather to convey a sense of her profound goodness. She was very caring. I never heard her say a bad thing about anyone.
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Has your life changed since the Nobel Prize?
There is no way you can stop it from changing your life because there is just a constant barrage of invitations and letters and emails and requests. And while they are all wonderful to have, there are just so many of them and I am now very ancient and have no secretary or manpower or secretarial skills, it is stressful for me. Whether I say yes or no, it is just a constant preoccupation, especially if the invitation is from someone I know, and I have a lot of speeches to give and lectures to write. The Nobel experience itself was just out of this world, and then to meet the President of the United States was a great honor. I think the main positive is being contacted by people you haven’t been in touch with for many, many years and to know that people still remember you. In fact, the most positive thing is that people actually enjoy hearing about it. They actually get pleasure out of talking to someone who had [the Nobel] experience.
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I understand that as a boy, you became interested in science after picking up a leaflet on Fluke worms in sheep at an agricultural show.
One of the things that has happened with the prize, it is that I find myself telling the same story and even writing it. Only in retrospect, did I find it intriguing that I only remembered one thing about that show, and that happened to be a leaflet about a parasitic worm that I took home with me. I didn’t think, “Aha! This is what I want to study.” The decision came gradually, and it all really stemmed from Desmond Smyth, my professor at Trinity College. He was a fantastic man, the sort of teacher who changes people’s lives. He was very encouraging and engaged me in the study of parasitic worms.
How did the decision to go to Trinity College come about?
At that time and place, if you were a Protestant you went to Trinity, or perhaps to Queen’s University Belfast. If you were a Roman Catholic you tended to go to University College Dublin, or Uni-
versity College Galway or Cork. That is the reality of how it was at the time. One of the things I liked when I came to this country was what I naïvely perceived to be a lack of prejudice because people didn’t seem to know by looking at me whether I was Protestant or Catholic. Whereas in Ramelton, if a new person moved to town, everyone knew, before they even got there, whether they were Protestant or Catholic. It was ridiculous, but that is the way it was.
How did you end up at the University of Wisconsin?
As I was nearing graduation, a professor at the University of Wisconsin wrote to Smyth in Dublin. They knew each other’s work, and as a result of this contact, I applied to do research and graduate studies at Wisconsin. When I got there, my professor had a project on liver fluke that he and his department were working on. This was the giant liver fluke that is very pathogenic in deer and sheep, so it turned out to be the perfect spot for me.
CENTER: William C. Campbell receiving his Nobel Prize from H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden at the Stockholm Concert Hall, December 10, 2015.
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And this led to a job at Merck?
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Yes. The head of parasitology at Merck wrote to my professor at Wisconsin to see if there was anybody just finishing their PhD that he might recommend. I looked at the map of northern New Jersey and decided (unfairly, of course) that it didn’t look appealing. But my professor said, “Just go there and have the experience and stay in New York.” So that is what I did. It turned out that seeing the work being done at Merck, and meeting the people there, intrigued and impressed me. When I got back to Wisconsin, there was a letter offering me a job.
ABOVE:The Swedish Royal Family receives the laureates and their significant others in the Prince’s Gallery. From left: Satoshi Ōmura and his daughter Ikuyo Ōmura, Queen Silvia and King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, William C. Campbell and his wife, Mary.
Ivermectin, as well has having a huge impact on human diseases, has also made a difference in veterinary practice. How did it come about?
Yes. I meet a lot of veterinary practitioners who tell me that. [The discovery] was a long process of finding a drug that worked against some worms, and then testing it against other worms, and following up with more testing, and more experiments. That AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016 IRISH AMERICA 31
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ular drugs and particular life stages being more dangerous to treat than other life stages, in terms of hypersensitivity, reactions and so on. But Merck decided to go ahead despite the skepticism and set up its own trials and not rely on some big international agency. And again, it worked just wonderfully well and the question then was what to do with it. As a pharmaceutical company, it would have been nice to sell it at a profit, but those most affected lived in poor countries, so there was no way people were going to get it unless it was donated. And this decision was decided by the chairman and CEO of the company in collusion with a handful of three or four top associates, and I was not one of them. To my mind, they are the ones, and the only ones, who deserve credit for that donation.
What else have you worked on?
William C. Campbell and his wife, Mary, showing the Nobel Medal during their visit to the Nobel Foundation on December 12, 2015.
involved a lot of hard work and a lot of persistence. Knowing enough about worms to draw analogies between the different types, and where they live and what they do, was a key factor.
Was it a huge eureka moment when you realized that the treatment for parasites in horses might be used to treat humans?
No, it wasn’t. I was very conscious of human worm diseases. While still at Merck, I was lecturing at New York Medical College on human parasitic worms. And I had been in South America on an Inter-American Fellowship in Tropical Medicine. So there was never a eureka moment for me. When you discover something active, you have a sort of subdued excitement because the chances are overwhelming that it is going to fall by the wayside. The vast majority turn out to be too toxic or too unstable or too stinky… But, on the other hand, there certainly were moments that were more important than others, some things that would shift the trajectory a bit, and therefore we might call them inflection points; certainly I am thinking about the horses here.
Can you talk about the river blindness trials? I read that you persuaded Merck to make the drug available for free in poor countries.
First of all, let me say that the trials were carefully done by the Merck medical people working with French tropical medicine experts in Africa. Any trial that is a first trial in humans has to be very cautious but this was out of the ordinary in terms of being cautious. And when it worked, there was some serious skepticism on the part of leading authorities that had do with people being susceptible to partic32 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016
As a parasitologist, I have had the privilege of interfacing with both human and veterinary medicine because parasites are so important to both. There is one particular disease that I spent an enormous amount of time on and that is trichinosis, the one you get from eating under-cooked pork. I gave a talk at George Washington University, in D.C., in March and at the end of the lecture, a young fellow put up his hand and said, “I heard that you once gave Scotch whiskey to pigs. Can you confirm that?” And I said, “I never in my entire life gave Scotch whiskey to pigs. I gave them Irish whiskey!” I fed the pigs seven-year-old John Jameson whiskey because of reports that alcoholic beverages would prevent trichinosis, and published a paper on it.
And did it work?
Yes, but you would have to drink an awful lot of it. It would be a very expensive and hazardous cure. Humans affected with trichinosis get tremendous fever and pain – pigs don’t get either. You can give them enough [trichinosis] to eventually kill them with infection, but they never get the fever.
What are your thoughts on using animals in research?
I don’t dismiss it lightly. In biomedical research we say that it is justified because it is to benefit humans. I realize for some people that is not enough. I can certainly respect the difficulty that people have with it. A number of years ago a British member of parliament tried to get a bill passed that all medicines in which animals were used in the research would have to carry a label saying, “Animals were used in developing this product.” The bill never got passed but I think it would have made people stop and think, “Okay, I’m against the use of animals in research. Do I take the drug or be noble and say ‘no,’ even if it’s going to cure me?” Continued on page 88
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THE HEALTHCARE & LIFE SCIENCES
Irish-American innovators who are leading the way in diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease
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Elizabeth McKee Anderson
Revolution Medicines Elizabeth (Liz) McKee Anderson is a pharmaceuticals executive and the independent board director for Revolution Medicines, where her responsibilities include providing advice on company and portfolio strategy, business development, and global analytics. Liz also serves as a trustee of the Wistar Institute and is the principal of PureSight Advisory LLC. She previously served as the worldwide vice president in the infectious diseases and vaccines, immunology and biotechnology therapeutic areas of Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a Johnson & Johnson company. In those roles, she was responsible for global marketing, market access and global analytics functions and partnered to develop and launch growthenabling J&J brands. Earlier in her career, she held the positions of vice president and general manager for Wyeth Vaccines and vice president of plasma operations for the American National Red Cross. Liz holds a B.S. in engineering from Rutgers College of Engineering and an M.B.A. in finance from the Sellinger School of Business and Management at Loyola University in Maryland. The immigration records of Liz’s greatgrandmother, Hannah, show that she arrived in New York in 1889 on the ship “City of Chicago” with her sister and two young sons. The elder boy was Liz’s grandfather, Edmund. Upon their arrival, Hannah was reunited with their husband, and the children with their father, Michael Flynn, who had emigrated before them. Liz and her sister, Suzanne, have identified the family’s hometown as Fermoy in Co. Cork.
Northwell Health Dr. Christina Brennan is a physician who has devoted her career to clinical research. She is committed to the advancement of science and medicine. She is currently the vice president of Clinical Research for the Northwell Health (formerly North Shore-LIJ Health System). Christina earned her M.D. in the West Indies and her M.B.A. from Hofstra University. She is the president elect of the New York Chapter of the Association of 36 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016
Clinical Research Professionals, and has authored chapters in textbooks, coauthored manuscripts and abstracts, and presented at numerous meetings. She is a first-generation Irish American. Her mother, Christina Cawley, is from Co. Mayo and her father, John Raymond Tubridy, is from Co. Clare. Brennan first traveled to Ireland when she was seven years old, fell in love with the Emerald Isle, and then went on to spend all of her childhood summers there. Her mother taught her to work hard, expect nothing, and appreciate everything. Christina lives on Long Island with her husband, Paul, who is a lieutenant in the NYPD, and their twin daughters, Erin and Kelly.
Weill Cornell Medical College Dr. BJ Casey is the director of the Fundamentals of the Adolescent Brain (FAB) Lab and professor of Psychology at Yale University. She also holds adjunct faculty appointments at The Rockefeller University and Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. Casey is a world leader in human neuroimaging and its use in typical and atypical development. She skillfully uses brain imaging to uniquely examine developmental
“There have been so many strong Irish women in my family who have served as role models for me.”
transitions across the life span, especially during the period of adolescence. Her studies have begun to inform when and how to target treatments to the individual based on age and genetic profile (i.e., precision medicine). Her discoveries have been highlighted by NPR, PBS, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and National Geographic and have implications for juvenile justice and mental health policy reform. Dr. Casey has served on several advisory boards including the NIMH Board of Scientific Counselors and NIMH Council, the Scientific Advisory Board for NARSAD, Advisory Board for the Human Connectome Project- Life Span Study. She has been asked to present her work on the adolescent brain to congressional staff on Capitol Hill, to the Washington State Supreme Court, and to federal judges around the country. She is the recipient of numerous awards including an honorary doctorate from Utrecht University in the Netherlands and author of nearly 200 publications. Dr. Casey is someone who takes the training of the next generation of scientists as seriously as her own research, for which she is passionate. Speaking to Irish America of her Irish heritage, she said, “I am third-generation Irish. My great-grandfather Bob Casey immigrated to North Carolina from Northern Ireland. I grew up on a small farm that originated out of lots of land distributed among his five children and then passed onto their children. Although I was the first across all three generations to obtain an advanced degree, it was my time on the Casey farm that taught me a love for scientific experimentation (what soil, fertilizer, irrigation led to the best crop) and perseverance (long hours of hard work which may explain why I still rise at 4 a.m. each morning to get my work done). I think the perseverance (and humor) of the Irish have been key in surviving life’s long roller coaster ride as well as the ups and downs of science. At the FAB Lab at Yale University we have a motto that I attribute to my Irish heritage to take our science more seriously than ourselves. This motto underscores the importance of being loyal to the sci-
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entific data as we test our hypotheses, rather than trying to prove our hypotheses.”
Bristol-Myers Squibb Dr. Michele Cleary is the vice president of clinical translational technologies and operations at Bristol-Myers Squibb. In her role, she leads research teams to advance drug discovery for the treatment of cancer and other diseases. Michele has co-authored over 50 primary research papers in the fields of drug target biology, RNA interference, cell cycle, biomarkers, genomics, and oncology, and is co-inventor on numerous patents, including several for pioneering research on the role of microRNAs in cancer. Born in New York, Michele earned her B.S. from the Catholic University of America and her Ph.D. from Stony Brook University on Long Island. She did graduate research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and post-doctoral research at Princeton University. “There have been so many strong Irish women in my family who have served as role models for me,” she says. “Without their examples to keep me on course, I am convinced I would not be where I am today.” Michele’s maternal great-grandparents emigrated from Dublin in the late 1800s. During her childhood, her grandmother taught her stories of Irish folklore, which she remembers to this day and enjoys sharing with her teenage children, Kyle and Bridget, and husband, George.
“I am proud to be an Irish American who serves the American people.”
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Dr. Patrick Conway is the acting principal deputy administrator, deputy administrator for Innovation and Quality, and chief medical officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) where he ensures the smooth operation of programs that serve over 130 million Americans through Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the Health Insurance Marketplace. Dr. Conway is also director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) at CMS. The CMS Innovation Center is responsible for testing numerous new payment and service delivery models across the nation that reward quality and value. Models include accountable care organizations, bundled payments, primary care medical homes, state innovation models, and many more. These models involve millions of people and hundreds of thousands of providers across the nation. Successful models can be scaled nationally. The CMS Innovation Center budget is $10 billion over 10 years. In 2014, he was elected to the Institute of Medicine in recognition of his outstanding achievements; one of the highest honors in the health and medicine fields. He has received the President of the United States of America’s Distinguished Senior Executive Rank and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary’s Distinguished Service awards. These are the President’s and Secretary’s highest distinction for executive excellence. He graduated with high honors from the Baylor College of Medicine, and completed pediatrics residency at Harvard Medical School’s
Children’s Hospital Boston. Born in College Station, Texas, Patrick identifies strongly with his maternal grandfather, who traveled by boat to the U.S. at just six years old. Like him, Patrick says, he has always been proud to be both Irish and American. He shares both of these traditions with his wife, Heather, and children, Jackson, Savannah, Alexa, and Isabella.
Cleveland Clinic As the president and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Toby Cosgrove is responsible for the clinic itself as well as nine regional hospitals, 18 family health and ambulatory surgery centers, three health and wellness centers, the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, and the Cleveland Clinic Florida, Toronto and Abu Dhabi. Under his leadership, the Cleveland Clinic has repeatedly been named one of America’s top four hospitals by the U.S. News and World Report. Toby earned his medical degree from the University of Virginia School of Medicine. He later served in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed in Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam as the chief of U.S. Air Force Casualty Staging Flight. He was presented with the Bronze Star and the Republic of Vietnam Commendation Medal for his services. Born in Watertown, New York, Toby is a third-generation Irish American with roots in Co. Sligo on his father’s side. At present, he lives in Cleveland with his wife, Anita. They have two daughters, Britt and Nicole.
William Crowley, Jr.
Harvard Reproductive and Endocrine Sciences Center Dr. William Crowley, Jr. is the Daniel K. Podolsky Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, where he is also the founding chief of the Reproductive Endocrine Unit of the Department of Medicine and has served as director of Clinical Research at the Massachusetts General Hospital. He has also been AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016 IRISH AMERICA 37
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the director of the NIH-funded Harvard Reproductive Endocrine Sciences Center for the past 26 years. Born in Connecticut, Bill attended Holy Cross College and Tufts Medical School, receiving his M.D. in 1969. He has received the Fred Conrad Koch Award (the highest scientific award of The Endocrine Society); the IBSEN Foundation’s International Juried Prize in Endocrinology; and The Outstanding Clinical Investigator Awards from both the NIH and The Endocrine Society. He has also trained 85 fellows in academic research, with over 50 percent of his senior fellows becoming full professors. William’s paternal family is rooted in Co. Cork, and his maternal lineage traces back to Sir Edmund Burke, the 18th century philosopher and political theorist. “I’ve always felt a kinship with Ireland that has been an important source of pride for me and my family,” he says, adding that his election as an honorary fellow to Ireland’s Royal College of Physicians in 2000 has reinforced this feeling greatly. Bill and his wife, Nancy, have three grown sons, William III, Sean, and Colin, and six grandchildren, Maeve, Finbar, Carter, Maggie, Caiden, and William.
Takeda Pharmaceuticals Dr. Daniel Curran is the senior vice president and head of the Center for External Innovation at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, Inc., where he oversees an annual budget of over $200 million, used to license and fund further development of pre-clinical and clinical candidates in disease areas such as heart disease, diabetes, and oncology. Prior to his time at Takeda, Daniel lead the corporate development group at Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and was a member of the Millennium executive management team. In that role, he led the development and execution of corporate strategic business development initiatives. In full, he has 18 years 38 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016
of pharmaceutical experience in business development, project leadership, and development roles. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from King’s College, PA, Daniel attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he received a master’s in business administration. In 1991, he obtained an M.D. from the Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife and four children.
Doctors Without Borders Maura Daly is a midwife with 15 years of experience working with disadvantaged and marginalized populations
both in the U.S. and abroad. She chose to be a midwife when she was still an undergraduate at Hampshire College because she felt drawn to the age-old profession as a very simple, yet essential way to help women. She began her training on the U.S.-Mexico border providing care to women from both sides of the border. She now works for Doctors Without Borders providing medical humanitarian aid and has worked in such various places as South Sudan, Yemen, Nepal, and Sierra Leone. As a midwife, she has found that she speaks a universal language that allows her to care for women, babies, and families everywhere no matter religion, politics, or culture. She decided to work with Doctors Without Borders because she feels a duty as a midwife to care for women who live in some of the most dangerous places in the world to be pregnant. She has attended thousands of births, but still gets a rush of joy to see those first sweet moments of life. Both of her parents are Irish, coming from Co. Cavan and Co. Clare. They met at an Irish dance in the Bronx in 1960. She grew up in a house filled with
Irish music, and though her parents had little education themselves, she was instilled with a strong belief that education and hard work were essential to succeed, but that compassion for fellow human beings was equally as important.
Catabasis Pharmaceuticals Dr. Joanne Donovan has been the chief medical officer of Catabasis Pharmaceuticals since 2011, where she oversees the clinical and regulatory development of the SMART linker drug discovery platform (which modulates multiple biological targets with related disease pathways). She has held an appointment at Harvard Medical School since 1990, most recently as associate clinical professor of medicine. Joanne is a third-generation Irish American, with origins in Co. Donegal on her mother’s side and Co. Cork on her father’s. Growing up in Boston, she was granted the opportunity to immerse herself in her Irish heritage, and she is “proud to have come from humble origins in a wonderful country with great traditions.” She received her M.D. from Harvard Medical School and a Ph.D. in medical engineering and medical physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2008, she was granted the American Gastroenterology Award for Outstanding Women in Gastroenterology.
Still based in Boston, Joanne lives with her husband, Robert, and her children, Laura, Christopher, and Katherine. She is currently focused on advancing Catabasis Pharmaceuticals’ lead program, edasalonexent (CAT-1004), to treat patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
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AstraZeneca Brian Dougherty is the director of Translational Genomics Oncology at AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals in Waltham, MA. He oversees a team of lab scientists and computational biologists applying leading-edge genetic, genomic, and advanced algorithmic technologies to deliver on Precision Medicine – matching the right patient with the right drug. AstraZeneca’s Irish subsidiary, based in Co. Dublin, is instrumental in the company’s operations. In 2015, Brian received the AstraZeneca CEO Award and the IMed Science Team Award. He worked on the cross-functional teams that brought new therapies to cancer patients such as Lynpara for ovarian cancer (2014) and Tagrisso for lung cancer (2015). He holds a B.A. from the University of Delaware, a Ph.D. from Wake Forest University Medical Center, an M.B.A from the University of New Haven, and completed a postdoctoral research fellowship in the laboratory of Nobel laureate Hamilton O. Smith at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Brian is a third-generation Irish American who has visited Ireland several times, including his honeymoon, and collaborated with Irish scientists – giving a lecture on the first completely sequenced genome at the University College Cork in 1995 and later co-publishing a key scientific paper in diary research with Professor Colin Hill (UCC) and Professor R. Paul Ross (UCC and Teagasc). Brian’s great-grandfather, who was born in Malin Head, Co. Donegal, arrived in the United States in 1854 to find work in the DuPont gunpowder mills. It was dangerous work – he was killed in an explosion as his wife and children were traveling to America from Ireland. Like many Delawareans, several generations of Doughertys worked for the DuPont company as its business focus evolved over time. Brian celebrates his Irish-American identity through a membership with the O’Dochartaigh Clan Association and has enjoyed marching in St. Patrick’s Day parades with the Appoquinimink Celtic Society in Delaware and Maryland. He, his wife Elizabeth, and four children,
“I’ve always felt a kinship with Ireland that has been an important source of pride for me and my family.”
William Crowley, Jr.
Andrew, Patrick, Claire, and Kevin, currently live in Killingworth, Connecticut.
Northwell Health Michael Dowling is the president and CEO of Northwell Health and was our 2015 Healthcare and Life Sciences 50 keynote speaker. He began his career as a faculty member at Fordham University as a professor and the assistant dean at the Graduate School of Social Services. In 1983, under Governor Mario Cuomo, he served as deputy secretary and director of Health, Education, and Human
Services. He became executive vice president and chief operating officer of Northwell (then North Shore-LIJ) in 1997, and was named president and CEO in 2002. Born and raised in Knockaderry, Co. Limerick, Michael is the eldest of five children. He had to help support his family from an early age, inspiring him to push further and achieve his dreams. “No” was never an option for Michael as he makes clear: “if you tell me I can’t do something, that’s when I become determined to get it done.” He was the first person in his family to attend college, graduating UCC while working odd jobs to pay for tuition. After graduation he went to New York and earned a master’s degree from Fordham. Michael and his
wife Kathy live on Long Island with their two children, Brian and Elizabeth.
Novocure William (Bill) Doyle is the executive chairman of Novocure, a commercialstage oncology company which is currently developing Tumor Treating Fields, a new therapy for solid tumor cancers. He is also a managing partner of venture capital investor WFD Ventures LLC. Previously, Bill served as an executive at Johnson & Johnson, where he served on the Consumer Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Group Operating Committees, and as the vice president of Licensing and Acquisitions. Earlier in his career, Bill provided consultation insights at McKinsey & Company. He received his bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. Speaking of his third- and secondgeneration Irish heritage, he says his father’s side dates a little farther back than his mother’s. “The first to come to America was Owen Doyle, who emigrated from Co. Carlow in about 1843 and arrived in Nova Scotia.” Bill’s maternal grandparents were both originally from Belfast. After emigrating, they met by chance in Boston and were married in 1898, where the family has remained ever since.
University of Pennsylvania Dr. Garret FitzGerald is the McNeil Professor in Translational Medicine and Therapeutics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where he chairs the Department of Pharmacology and directs the Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics. FitzGerald’s research has been characterized by an integrative approach to elucidating the mechanisms of drug action, drawing on work in cells, model organisms, and humans. His work contributed substanAUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016 IRISH AMERICA 39
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“If you tell me I can’t do something, that’s when I become determined to get it done.”
tially to the development of low-dose aspirin for cardioprotection. FitzGerald’s group was the first to predict and then mechanistically explain the cardiovascular hazard from NSAIDs. He has also discovered many products of lipid peroxidation and established their utility as indices of oxidant stress in vivo. His laboratory was the first to discover a molecular clock in the cardiovascular system and has studied the importance of peripheral clocks in the regulation of cardiovascular and metabolic function. FitzGerald has received the Boyle, Coakley, Harvey, and St. Patrick’s Day medals, the Lucian, Scheele, and Hunter Awards, and the Cameron, Taylor, Herz, Lefoulon-Delalande, and Schottstein Prizes. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine and a Fellow of the American Academy of the Arts and Sciences and of the Royal Society. In 2014, he was the inaugural Healthcare and Life Sciences 50 Keynote Speaker.
Henri and Belinda Termeer Center Dr. Keith Flaherty is the director of the Henri and Belinda Termeer Center for Targeted Therapies at the Massachu-
setts General Hospital Cancer Center and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. His research and clinical focus is on melanoma, particularly targeted therapies. Keith serves as senior editor of Clinical Cancer Research and a member of the editorial board for many other publications, such as Cancer Discovery, Journal of Clinical Oncology, Cancer, Pigment Cell, and Melanoma Biology. He has acted as first author for three New England Journal of Medicine papers. He has been the principal investigator of many clinical trials, including first-in-human trials of novel targeted therapies and two NCI cooperative group trials. Keith earned his undergraduate degree from Yale University in 1993 and his M.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1997. He currently lives in Boston.
Sanofi Pharmaceuticals As the global head of Field Excellence and Capabilities for the Diabetes and Cardiovascular Business Unit of Sanofi Pharmaceuticals, Craig Flanagan is responsible for ensuring the quality and effectiveness of the global sales teams through training, operations and leadership practices. Sanofi Pharmaceuticals, which recently released the world’s first vaccine for Dengue fever, operates on a multinational scale. Its Irish office is located in the Citywest Business Campus, Dublin. Craig is third-generation Irish on his mother’s side, with links to Co. Cork, while on his father’s side he’s fourthgeneration, descended from emigrants who settled in Pittsburgh, where they built a life for themselves as iron workers. Craig himself grew up in a neighborhood just outside of Pittsburgh, where he had his first job as a newspaper delivery boy. Much like his ancestors, he found the work overwhelming at the time, but found it helped him to learn responsibility and the value of money. After completing a B.A. at Pennsylvania State University, he became a sales professional with Xerox and eventually
landed a sales job with Sanofi. In 19 years with Sanofi, he has held roles in sales management, marketing, commercial operations, business excellence, and training and development. Craig is based in New Jersey with his wife Cynthia, and children, Ella and James.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Dr. James Griffin is the chairperson of the Department of Medical Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and a professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School. He oversees the clinical activities of more than 150 medical oncologists caring for adult patients at DFCI and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. In addition, he also oversees extensive clinical and laboratory research activities that seek to understand the most fundamental causes of human cancers and translate these discoveries to improved therapies. James is a leader in the field of leukemia research and published over 350 articles on this subject. He has been on the editorial boards for multiple oncology journals and was the editor-in-chief of the American Hematology Society’s journal, BLOOD, for five years. He earned his M.D. from Harvard Medical School. A seventh-generation Irish American, James is descended from William Griffin, who migrated from the north of Ireland to Connecticut in the 1730s. William settled as a farmer in upstate New York, and his line has remained in the New England area ever since. James was born in Syracuse.
AstraZeneca Dr. Kevin Horgan is a physician scientist in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was born in London, and his parents were natives of Clare and Cork. After attending Crescent College Comprehensive in Limerick he graduated in medicine from University College Cork in 1982. He completed postgraduate medical training at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore,
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the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, and UCLA in internal medicine, immunology and gastroenterology. After four years on the faculty at UCLA, where he specialized in managing inflammatory bowel disease, he joined the pharmaceutical industry at Merck Research Laboratories. There he led the development of the groundbreaking drug Emend for the prevention of nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy. A decade after its approval in 2003, no similar drug has been successfully developed. Since then, Kevin has contributed to the development of several novel therapies and diagnostics for inflammatory
health care. She also played a vital role in the Affordable Care Act’s enactment in 2010, helping to ensure that health care is available and affordable to the nation’s vulnerable individuals and families. For this work, Time magazine named her among the “100 Most Influential People in the World.” She holds a B.S. in nursing from St. Joseph’s College and an M.S. from the University of South Carolina. Sr. Carol’s paternal grandparents were natives of Clare and Galway. “All of my father’s family were immigrants, and the spirituality, values and humor so characteristic of the Irish were very much a part of my life growing up,” she says. “Whenever I have the joy of being in Ireland, I have a sense of being at home.”
bowel disease and Alzheimer’s. His immunology research provided important early support for the development of three approved medications for multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. After working with several small biotechnology companies on novel immunotherapies and diagnostics, he is now a Global Medical Lead at AstraZeneca in the rapidly developing area of immunooncology.
Sister Carol Keehan
Catholic Health Association of the United States Sister Carol Keehan (Daughter of Charity) has been the president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association of the United States since 2005. In this role, she is responsible for all association operations and provides guidance for staff in both St. Louis and Washington D.C., where she is located. In 2014, Sr. Carol was elected as a member of the National Academy of Medicine, which advises the public on domestic and international health issues. In 2013, she was an Opus Prize finalist for her persistence in promoting access to
Northwestern University Dr. Neil Kelleher is a professor of chemistry and molecular biosciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University and the director of the Proteomics Center of Excellence and the Kelleher Research Group. In total, his laboratories house 45 co-workers working in three main sub-groups: top down proteomics, natural products discovery, and cancer epigenetics. In 2014, he was the recipient of the Human Proteome Organization Discovery Award and the Allen Foundation Distinguished Investigator Award. He has published over 300 papers over the course of his career. Currently, he strives to generate movement on the cell-based Human Proteome Project, which involves defining all the protein molecules of the human body in order to better understand human disease and therapeutic responses. Neil did his undergraduate degrees (a B.A. in German and a B.S. in chemistry) at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA, and his Ph.D. at Cornell University in New York. Neil is a third-generation Irish American and is connected to Co. Cork on his father’s side. He hopes to visit Ireland
one day with his wife, Jennifer, and daughters, Emily and Lauren, in pursuit of “golf, science, and a good pint.”
Evidation Health Dr. Deborah Kilpatrick has been the CEO of Evidation Health, a digital health startup that quantifies real life impact of digital and conventional interventions on health outcomes, since 2014. Deborah grew up in Cochran, Georgia, where she spent her summers on a peach farm and, later, obtained her B.Sc., M.Sc., and Ph.D. in engineering all from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Previously, she was the chief commercial officer of genomic diagnostics company CardioDx, where she directed the release of the Corus CAD product, which was listed under Time magazine’s “Top 10 Medical Breakthroughs.” She is a cofounder of the annual MedTech Vision Conference in Silicon Valley, and has been named one of FierceBiotech’s “Top Women in Biotech,” FierceMedicalDevice’s “Top Women in Medtech,” and Silicon Valley Business Journal’s “100 Women of Influence.” Deborah has traced her ancestors back to pre-Revolutionary War times in the original American colonies. According to her most recent genealogy test, she is 22 percent Irish and says that “The best thing about being Irish is smiling on St. Patrick’s Day because you know that you actually are!” She lives in California with her domestic partner, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, who also has strong Irish roots. She has one son, Kael.
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A Second Chance One of the country’s top transplant researchers is Dr. Barbara Murphy, the Dublin-born chair of medicine at Mount Sinai Health System in New York. Her expertise in the field of renal transplants gives patients a second chance to live healthy, normal lives. By Sheila Langan
r. Barbara Murphy, Murray M. Rosenberg Professor of Medicine and chair of the Department of Medicine for Mount Sinai Health System in New York, clearly recalls the patient she met while in medical school who made her want to specialize in nephrology (the diagnosis and treatment of kidney disease) and transplant immunology (the study and care of how the human body receives transplanted organs). During her final years at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Dr. Murphy met a young patient – only a few years younger than she was at the time – who had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and consequently developed amyloidosis (the build-up of amyloid proteins in organs and tissues), and then kidney failure. “I saw her on dialysis when I was a medical student,” Dr. Murphy recalls. “Then I saw her later on when she came and got her kidney transplant, and then I took care of her as a renal registrar – I saw her all the way through. “By then, she had gone to college and become a teacher. Just to see the impact that the transplant had on her and her life – it had a significant impact on me, I was totally fascinated by it.” That encounter would set Dr. Murphy, born and raised in the South Dublin suburbs, on a remarkable course: a fellowship in clinical nephrology at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin in 1989, followed by postdoctoral training with a fellowship in nephrology at Harvard Medical School’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital – the very hospital where the first-ever successful organ transplant (a kidney) was performed in 1954, by Dr. Joseph Murray, a pioneering Irish American surgeon who would go on to win the Nobel Prize. Harvard was both a milestone and a return for Murphy. Like so many young Irish, she had spent time in the U.S., in Boston, on a J-1 summer visa during college. One day, she got on the wrong bus back to her home for the summer and wound up taking a long detour down Longwood Avenue, driving through the Harvard Medical School campus. She thought, at the time, “Imagine going here, wouldn’t it be absolutely incredible?” Later on that summer, she returned to the campus and bought her first stethoscope in the medical supply shop there.
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After working at Beaumont, Dr. Murphy knew her future lay in the U.S. “I always knew I would probably have to leave Ireland, but I never thought I would end up where I did,” she says. “At that point there were very few pure specialist transplant nephrologists, but many of them had trained at Brigham. So I quickly realized that was the place where I wanted to be, and I identified two incredible mentors, Dr. Charles Carpenter and Dr. Mohamed Sayegh, who really helped guide my career.” Starting there in 1993, Dr. Murphy trained in transplant immunology at the Laboratory of Immunogenetics and Transplantation. She was recruited to Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York as Director of Transplant Nephrology in 1997 and was named chief of the Division of Nephrology in 2003, becoming one of the youngest division chiefs in the U.S. and one of only a few women to hold that title at the time. In 2011, she was appointed dean for Clinical and Population Based Research and Director of Conduits at The Institute for Translational Science. Dr. Murphy was named chair of the Samuel Bronfman Department of Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in 2012, becoming the first female chair of medicine of an academic medical center in New York City and only the second female chair at a top 20 medical school in the U.S. Since the formation of Mount Sinai Health System in 2013, as a result of the merger of Continuum Health Partners with the Mount Sinai Medical Center, Dr. Murphy has served as chair of medicine for the Mount Sinai Health System and dean for Clinical Integration and Population Health. A renowned researcher, Dr. Murphy was awarded the Young Investigator Award in Basic Science by the American Society of Transplantation in 2003 and served a term as president of the society just six years later, in 2009. She has also served as chair of the World Transplant Congress and was named Nephrologist of the Year by the American Kidney Fund in 2011. Her key areas of research have focused on genetics and genomics in transplantation, and she was one of a small group of investigators to challenge the paradigm that HIV positive patients could not receive a transplant, co-authoring a landmark paper that has lead to renal transplantation in HIV positive
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Dr. Barbara Murphy is chief of medicine at Mount Sinai Health System, and one of the leading kidney transplant and immunology researchers in the U.S.
individuals being standard of care. A New Yorker for 19 years now, Dr. Murphy lives in Westchester with her Irish American husband, Peter Fogarty, who works as an engineer, and their sixyear-old son, Gavin. They return to Ireland many times a year to visit her parents. The late July week that we met in her office at Mount Sinai’s complex on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, the results of a groundbreaking study led by Dr. Murphy had just been published in the medical journal The Lancet to great acclaim. The Genomics of Chronic Allograft Rejection (GoCAR) study began in 2007 and involved patients and researchers from five U.S. hospitals and one in Sydney, Australia, with Dr. Murphy as the principal investigator. The GoCAR study weighed the use of genetics and genomics in predicting the outcome of organ transplant implantation, with the aim of identifying a gene set capable of predicting kidney transplants at risk of progressive injury or loss due to fibrosis long before the current indicators doctors use to determine whether a transplant will fail. This is vital work. According to the National Kidney Foundation, kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming more lives each PHOTO: COURTESY BARBARA MURPHY / MOUNT SINAI
So while I didn’t have any female role models in medical school, I did have a role model in my mother, a really strong one.
year than breast cancer or prostate cancer. There are currently over 100,000 individuals waiting for kidney transplants in the U.S. In 2014, 17,107 kidney transplants took place – 11,570 from deceased donors and 5,537 from living donors. According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, transplanted kidneys from deceased donors fail in four percent of cases one year after transplant and 21 percent of cases five years after transplant; when the kidney comes from a living donor, these figures improve to a three percent failure rate at one year and 14 percent five years after transplant. In an official release, Dr. Murphy called the study “the first of its kind.” “By helping us better understand the causes of damage to transplanted kidneys, this study has the potential to change how we monitor and manage all renal transplant patients,” she said. The ability to identify renal transplant recipients at risk for a loss of the new organ before any irreversible damage occurs, she added, would mean “doctors might eventually have the opportunity to change the therapeutic approach in order to prevent fibrosis from progressing at all.” The following are excerpts from our discussion about the study and its future implications, Dr. Murphy’s exceptionally empowering upbringing (she and her two siblings are all doctors; the first in their family), and her vision as chair of the Department of Medicine at what is now one of the largest not-for-profit health systems in the country.
What sparked your passion for transplant nephrology?
First of all, I’ve always been fascinated by the kidneys and how they work. Then, starting in medical school, I loved looking after kidney transplant patients because you transform their lives. Dialysis is wonderful; it’s great that we have it. But it just about maintains patients with kidney failure; it’s not a life. There are plenty of people who manage to balance dialysis with going to work, but for most people it’s very disabling. And the mortality rate is really quite drastic. That’s why it’s incredibly important for people to be offered the option of a kidney transplant early, for them to explore the possibility of a living donor and to get off dialysis so that they can live longer, do better and have a good life. I love seeing how well patients do afterwards. For all the years that I’ve been in this profession, the interaction between a living donor and the recipient in the recovery room still makes me proud to be a physician and to play a part in such a life-affirming moment. AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016 IRISH AMERICA 43
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I don’t do clinical work anymore – I miss it incredibly, but you have to be available at all times to your patients, and because of the significant administrative roles that I have, that wouldn’t be possible; you have to be able to give your all to your patients. I do maintain my research, however.
Congratulations on the publication of the GoCAR study, can you tell me more about it?
only eight percent of nephrologists were female. When I was in final med, my professor of medicine at the time kept saying to me, “You know, you think you can have it all, but you can’t. You’re not going to be able to have a family and a career; you’re going to have to make a choice.” And now look at me. There were actually lots of instances like that. Going back further, when I was in school in Ireland the career guidance counselor asked me what I wanted to do, and I said that I wanted to be a doctor. She told me, “But you’ll be taking the place of a boy.” That just made me even more determined. My mother promptly changed my school. Her attitude was, and she would often say, “It’s as important for my daughters to have a career as it is for my son to be able to cook.” So while I didn’t have any female role models in medical school, I did have a role model in my mother, a really strong one.
We’re looking at the use of genetics and genomics in predicting the outcome of transplant implantation. The idea is that, we know that if we do a kidney biopsy on a patient at three months and we see fibrosis, then that patient is unlikely to do as well as other patients. Fibrosis will progress and they will likely go on to lose their kidney. So the hypothesis was: why can’t you see molecular changes earlier? Can we pick up molecular signatures before the actual injury has occurred and use them to predict who will do badly? We followed transplant patients for two years, doing serial biopsies, drawing blood, and tracking their progress. Ultimately we were able to identify a gene set that predicted which individuals would go on to develop fibrosis at one year and two years after the transplant, have a decline in their kidney function, and lose their allograft. We’re also looking at identifying signatures in the blood that will pick up who has underlying inflammation that wouldn’t be picked up in our routine labs, so that we can pick out patients with what we call sub-clinical rejection. We can then risk stratify them immunologically and manage their immunosuppression in a more appropriate and personalized way rather than doing a standard approach for everybody. Lastly, we’re also starting to look at the signatures in other organs to see if this approach will work for other transplants as PHOTO: NUALA PURCELL well.
Now you’re the role model.
Actually, when I became the department chair here, we had a huge upswing in female residents. We weren’t preferentially choosing female candidates, but the number of outstanding applicants who were female and chose to apply here certainly increased, possibly because they knew it was one of the few medical departments with a female chief. We swung suddenly to 75 percent female that year, and now we’re around 65 percent female in our residency program, which is still high. I should add, though, that I have had wonderful male mentors, especially once I arrived in Boston at Brigham and Women’s. At that point there were relatively few pure specialist transplant nephrBarbara Murphy with her husband Peter Fogarty at the 2015 Irish America Healthcare What was your upbringing like? ologists, but many of them had trained at I’m from Dublin – Knocklyon, on the and Life Sciences 50 Awards. Brigham, where the first transplant ever south side of Dublin. I’m the youngest of took place. I identified two incredible menthree children, all of us doctors. My parents were, depending on how you look tors there, Charles Carpenter and Mohamed Sayegh, at it, either fortunate or unfortunate enough to have three kids in medical school and they really helped guide my career. at the same time, all doing exams at the same time. I repeatedly say to female residents and medical students, you don’t necessarily need a female model Was there a history of medical workers in your family? and mentor, you just need somebody who’s going No, though I do now have cousins in the medical profession. My dad, John, to guide you and advocate for you. If that person had his own airfreight company, and my mother, Ann, worked with him and happens to be female, then that’s great. also designed bridal wear. What’s your greatest priority as I’m not sure how it happened, but from an early age, Kieran, Celine, and I all department chair? How did it alter said we wanted to be physicians. Our parents were, and are, incredibly devoted to us. They instilled in us this incredible work ethic: that we needed to be driven following the merger between Mount and determined but at the same time strike a balance and enjoy life. They gave Sinai and Continuum [which was finalized us the sense that if we put our minds to it, we could do anything. The values in January 2014]? Since Mount Sinai went through the merger with they taught us formed the foundation for where all three of us are now and how Continuum we have seven hospitals around the we manage our lives. The only thing is that we all left Ireland: Kieran lives and city. I oversee the Department of Medicine, the works in Canada, and Celine in Australia. largest academic department throughout those What was it like to enter the medical profession in Ireland as a seven hospitals, the clinical practice as well as the woman? research and the education. We have just over 700 It’s funny – this wasn’t even that long ago, but when I was starting out, almost all of the attending physicians in Ireland were male. When I started in nephrology, Continued on page 89 44 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016
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UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School is very pleased to congratulate our North Advisory Board Member, Michael Dowling, President & CEO of Northwell Health, on being named to Irish America Magazineâ€™s Top 50 Healthcare & Life Sciences.
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Pfizer Justin McCarthy is the senior vice president of global policy and international public affairs at Pfizer, where he defines the company’s public policy positions and advances government and public affairs strategies on a worldwide scale. Born in Massachusetts, Justin is a board member of the Business Council for International Understanding, the Global Intellectual Property Center, and the United States Council for International Business, and a harmonization subcommittee member of the HHS Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Human Research Protections. He holds a B.S. in pharmacy from the University of Rhode Island and a J.D. from the Catholic University of America. Justin, whose paternal family hails from Co. Cork, is a third-generation Irish American. He finds that his heritage grounds him: “Wherever I go, or whatever obstacles I encounter, I remember where I am from and what I can achieve.” He and his wife, Lisa, instill this way of thinking in their sons, Matthew and Thomas, and currently live in Connecticut.
Fitbit Group Health Amy McDonough is the vice president and general manager of Fitbit Group Health, where she is responsible for empowering multinational employers to run effective and engaging corporate wellness programs with the help of Fitbit’s wearable fitness technologies. Before she joined Fitbit Group Health,
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“Wherever I go, or whatever obstacles I encounter, I remember where I am from and what I can achieve.”
Amy held multiple positions with CNET Networks, including the director of audience and content development for the community division and director for strategic partnerships for the network. She was named as one of Fast Company’s “Top 100 Most Creative People of 2016,” and among Wareable’s “18 Women Leading the Way in Wearable Tech and Virtual Reality.” “Being part Irish reminds me that all Americans came to this amazing country from somewhere else,” says Amy, whose maternal ancestors emigrated from Co. Armagh in 1807. “I am glad to have a piece of my story told by the Irish.” Amy has a bachelor’s degree from Merrimack College in Andover, MA, and a Professional Certificate in Integrated Marketing Communications from the UC Berkeley Extension program. At present, she is based in San Francisco and lives with her husband Joseph and two sons, eight-year-old Leo and five-year-old Callen.
Erin’s grandparents on her father’s side were born Co. Galway. As a child, she often listened to her grandmother’s stories of emigration and the challenges of raising nine children in the “New World.” She takes a special pride in her given name, which is the HibernoEnglish derivative of “Éirinn,” the Irish word for “Ireland.”
Weill Cornell Medical College Dr. Geraldine McGinty is an assistant professor of radiology at Weill Cornell Medicine and an assistant attending radiologist at the New York Presbyterian Hospital. Her clinical specialization is in
Brigham and Women’s Hospital In her role as senior vice president and chief communications officer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Erin McDonough leads communication strategy and drives comprehensive communication activities. Under her guidance, the hospital appears in over 50,000 international news stories on an annual basis. Erin, who lives in Boston with her fiancé Jim (her son Gerard lives in L.A.), was profiled in the 2011 book “Boston, Inspirational Women” by Bill and Kerry Brett, which discusses the difference Bostonian women make as leaders at home and abroad. Regarding her leadership, she identifies with a quote by the part-Irish Edward R. Murrow: “to be persuasive we must be believable, to be believed we must be credible, and to be credible we must be truthful.” She holds a B.S. and an M.B.A. from Northeastern University in Boston.
breast cancer diagnosis and she is an expert in healthcare payment policy and the economics of imaging. Geraldine attended medical school at the National University of Ireland, Galway from 1982 until 1988. She continued her training in radiology in the U.S. at both the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the Massachusetts General Hospital, where she undertook a fellowship in women’s imaging. She was named vice chairperson of the American College of Radiology’s board of chancellors in 2016, and will become the first female board chair in 2018. She also holds an M.B.A. from Columbia University.
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Geraldine’s father was born in Co. Mayo and her mother in Co. Kerry. She says that being Irish means she understands “the sadness of being away from home but the possibilities that life in a new country can offer.” She is married to a fellow Irish native, Dr. John M. Greally.
Bristol-Myers Squibb Dr. Donnie McGrath is the vice president of business development at the Bristol-Myers Squibb company, where he leads an organization of medical professionals in support of the company’s in-licensing and mergers and acquisitions interests for all therapeutics areas and stages of development. Born in the U.K. and raised in his father’s home county of Dublin, Donnie attended both University College Dublin, where he earned a degree in archaeology and sociology, and the Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland, where he acquired a medical degree in 1990. Growing up in Ireland, he says, taught him that the world needs “more scholars, fewer saints, and a better sense of humor.” Donnie went on to become assistant professor of medicine at his postgraduate alma mater, Tufts University. His specialization in infectious diseases took him to South Africa in 2002, where he conducted research in HIV infection at the Africa Centre in KwaZulu Natal province. In 2004, the Africa Centre initiated the first district-wide H.I.V. treatment program in sub-Saharan Africa. Currently, Donnie lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Michelle, and children, Tim and Molly.
The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory Michael McLoughlin is the chief engineer of Research and Exploratory Development at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. He is the principal investigator for the innovative Revolutionizing Prosthetics Program and oversees efforts to transition technology for clinical and non-clinical applications. Mike began his tenure with the Applied Physics Laboratory in 1985, and has led numerous pioneering projects throughout his career. Among these are multiple projects for national security applications including brain ma-
“Being Irish helps you understand that what the world really needs is more scholars, fewer saints, and a better sense of humor.”
chine interfaces, human integrated robotics, biomedicine and biodefense. In 2012, he led the breakthrough demonstration using a Brain Computer Interface to control a high-dexterity prosthetic limb for the first time. Mike credits his Irish heritage for successes in many of these programs. Hard work, dedication, and integrity are powerful traits in his paternal family. His great-grandfather was a Civil War veteran and an entrepreneur. His father lived through the Great Depression and served in WWII. Their dauntlessness, he says, was always an inspiration for him. Mike received both his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Delaware. He teaches Executive Technical Leadership in the Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering. Mike and his wife Jackie are longtime Maryland residents.
Johnson & Johnson As the senior director of bioresearch quality and compliance at the Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies, Ann Meeker-O’Connell oversees a global quality and compliance program for good clinical, laboratory, and pharmacovigilance practices. Prior to joining Johnson & Johnson, Ann worked with the Food and Drug Administration Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, where she led agency initiatives related to innovative models for clinical trial conduct and oversight in order to expedite delivery of safe and effective medical products to patients in need. She received her bachelors in biological anthropology and anatomy and a master of science in pharmacology from Duke University, in Durham, NC. Growing up, she says, she remembers being confused about her Irish surname, though now laughs about it. “When I was young, my dad would often refer to my mom as ‘Mama O’Meagher’,”she says. “This was confusing – wasn’t our last name Meeker?” Ann’s brother traced their family roots to Co. Down and Co. Tyrone, and her sense of connection to Ireland was only heightened when she married her husband, Sean O’Connell. “I love visiting Ireland and hearing ‘welcome back’ when I go through immigration, and walking down O’Connell Street in Dublin, imagining that my husband’s ancestors might have done the same.”
Mount Sinai Health System Dr. Michael Mullen is the institute director for advanced medicine and a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. His clinical focuses include HIV and AIDS, pneumonia, shingles, syphilis, and tuberculosis. He is a member of the American Board of Internal Medicine and the Board of Infectious Disease. He is consistently listed in New York magazine’s Best Doctors as well as the New York Times Super Doctors. In 2008, he provided medical expertise in the Daily News feature “The AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016 IRISH AMERICA 47
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Daily Checkup,” wherein he discussed the ongoing struggle against AIDS, improvements in treatment methods, and the development of new drugs. Michael earned his bachelor’s degree from Iona College, earned an M.S. from Wagner College, and attended medical school at the Universidad de Navarra in Pamplona, Spain. He completed his residency in internal medicine at the Interfaith Medical Center in Brooklyn, and completed a fellowship in infectious disease at the Cabrini Medical Center in Manhattan. He is a first-generation Irish American with parents from Mayo and Sligo, his father and mother respectively. “I have a tremendous sense of pride in my Irish heritage that was instilled in me by my Irish-born parents,” he says. “They were proud, deeply religious, hardworking, and compassionate individuals who encouraged me to do good and make a difference.” Michael is often in Ireland and also has a great relationship with Dr. Fiona Mulcahy, Professor of Medicine at Trinity and director of the HIV program at St. James in Dublin. Michael and his partner, David Freiman, live in New York.
Concierge Medicine Dr. Joe Mulvehill obtained his medical degree from SUNY Stony Brook and completed his training in internal medicine at Albert Einstein Medical College. A diplomat of the American Board of Internal Medicine and recognized as one of Castle Connolly’s Top Doctors and Best Doctors by New York magazine, Mulvehill’s metropolitan New York practice was rated one of five “best concierge medicine practices nationwide” by Town & Country. Joe is among a small group of New York physicians who pioneered the concept of concierge medicine, with the goal of restoring to his practice the intimate doctor/patient relationship he expe48 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016
rienced while growing up in rural Ireland. He believes that finding the solution to medical problems must be accomplished in the context of each patient’s life. Dr. Mulvehill believes in innovation, and his use of Internet-based solutions to stay in contact with his patients has become an integral part of his everyday practice. However, he says, “I only use technology to augment and not replace the personal care that each patient needs,” which he believes is paramount to the doctor/patient relationship. To this end, a patient’s ongoing medical history is consolidated into a Personal Health Record, which allows each patient to access his or her vital medical information. This Personal Health Record, which helps to create a closer bond between doctor and patient, is now available to treating physicians wherever they happen to be.
“Being part Irish reminds me that all Americans came to this amazing country from somewhere else.”
Pager Dore Murphy is the director of growth and retention at Pager, a company which develops, markets and operates an app that allows users to specifically request board-certified doctors to a given location. By reducing the overhead costs seen in traditional healthcare settings, Pager has significantly lowered the cost of care for its users. Previously, Dore served as the senior marketing lead at Sum, a health-orientated hardware and software group in New York, where she oversaw brand development, PR, strategic partnerships, and marketing plans and activities. She has also worked with the New York Times as marketing director in new digital products, and was awarded the New York Times Publisher’s Award for her work in optimizing growth in subscriptions to their mobile business model. Dore attended Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, where she obtained a bachelor of science in studio
art for textile design and painting. Dore and her husband Zach (whom she recently married in Cold Spring, NY in July), live in New York.
Martin J. Murphy
AlphaMed Consulting Dr. Martin J. Murphy is chairman and chief executive officer of AlphaMed Consulting that provides strategic support for academic cancer centers and cancer drug development programs of global pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. As chief executive officer of the CEO Roundtable on Cancer, he is a prominent proponent for cancer research and cancer prevention on the international scene, including China where he is the chief executive of CEO Roundtable on CancerCHINA. He is also the founding executive editor of The Oncologist, a global top-tier clinical cancer journal, founding executive editor of both Stem Cells, a journal of stem cell biology; and of the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine. Dr. Murphy championed the All Ireland Cancer Concord, a bilateral agreement focused on cancer research. For his promotion of cross-border cancer research collaboration by the U.S. National Cancer Institute, Queen’s
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University Cancer Center in Belfast, and cancer centers in the Republic of Ireland, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Queen’s University School of Medicine in Belfast, where he is a charter member of the International Advisory Board. Co-founder of the Society for Translational Oncology, he is a member of the National Cancer Policy Forum, the National Academy of Medicine, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, a director of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, a charter member and director of C-Change, founded by former President George H.W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush, and is a fellow of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. He is married to Dr. Ann Murphy, president of AlphaMed Press. They have five children and 10 grandchildren. In 2003, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern presented Dr. Murphy with his Irish citizenship. His ancestors are from Achill Island, County Mayo.
John F. Neylan III
Keryx Biopharmaceuticals Dr. John F. Neylan III is the senior vice president and chief medical officer at Keryx Biopharmaceuticals, where he leads the development of novel therapeutics for patients with kidney disease. Recently, he and his team successfully
“[My parents] were proud, deeply religious, hardworking, and compassionate individuals who encouraged me to do good and make a difference.”
completed a landmark clinical trial in patients with chronic kidney disease and iron deficiency anemia. John previously served as the senior vice president in clinical development at Genzyme Corporation, an industry leader in the development of therapeutics for specialty metabolic diseases, and as vice president of research and development with Wyeth Research, where he directed clinical research in a wide range of therapeutic areas. Prior to establishing himself in the pharmaceutical industry, he held many eminent academic positions in nephrology and organ transplantation, such as professor of medicine at Emory University and president of the American Society of Transplantation. He has authored over 70 scientific manuscripts and book chapters and is an inductee in the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. John’s Irish roots trace back to Ennistymon, Co. Clare on his father’s side, and Muine Bheag, Co. Carlow, on his mother’s. He currently lives in Boston, Massachusetts with his wife, Cynthia, and children, John Francis IV, Elizabeth Marie, and James Christopher. They share a great pleasure in visits to Ireland to explore the roots of their treasured heritage.
New York Presbyterian Hospital Dr. Stephen J. O’Brien is an attending orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery and New York Presbyterian Hospital. He also serves as a professor of clinical orthopedic surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College and is former vice chairman for the sports medicine and shoulder service at HSS Specializing in sports medicine, Stephen has worked with the New York Giants, St. Johns University, and the New York Racing Association. He was also recently recognized 50 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016
by Sports Illustrated as one of the Top 10 Sports Surgeons in America. Stephen is a second-generation Irish American who also holds Irish citizenship with roots in both Co. Derry and Co. Roscommon. He teaches a course annually at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin and was honored by the Cappagh Foundation of Ireland for Outstanding Career Contribution to Orthopedics in 2010. When stepping away from the medical world, he plays golf at the Doonbeg golf club in Co. Clare. A two-sport athlete in college, he earned his B.A. from Harvard College and did his M.D. at the University of Virginia and Internship at Yale University. He also holds an M.B.A. from Columbia University, where he was class president. Stephen is proud to share his “allIrish” heritage with his wife, Sheila (cousin of former longtime U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan), and his children, Kyle, Mariel, Conor, and Liana.
University of Wisconsin Dr. David Hayden O’Connor is a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Wisconsin. He also serves as the associate director of the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center, where he leads research groups in the study of interplay between genetics and immunity to infectious diseases such as HIV. David received degrees from both the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (B.S.) and University at Wisconsin, Madison (Ph.D.). He is the senior author of 49 published research manuscripts. “The apostrophe in my last name confuses databases and makes it hard to log into hotel wifi networks, but it marks me as distinctively Irish,” says David, who is fourth-generation Irish American and linked to Co. Cork through his father’s family. “When I visited Ireland for the first time several years ago, I received an unusually warm
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reception when people learned my last name, and it is that spirit of gracious hospitality that I try to extend to all who visit me in Madison.” David lives with his wife, Shelby, and son, Eli.
Columbia University Dr. Owen A. O’Connor is the director for the Center for Lymphoid Malignancies, a professor of Medicine and Experimental Therapeutics, and co-program director of the Lymphoid Development and Malignancy Program at Columbia University. Owen is an international leader on the study of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and nonHodgkin’s Lymphoma and has overseen the development and regulatory approval of three new drugs for the treatment of such diseases. He currently leads several international studies, many the largest of their kind to ever be conducted, on various lymphoma subtypes. His primary goal is to develop safer drugs that exclusively target the unique biology of the cancer cell, minimizing the collateral damage of existing chemotherapy treatments. He is globally known for his ability to translate novel scientific concepts into applicable patient care plans, and was recently honored by the Irish government as one of the top 50 Irish Americans in science and medicine in the U.S., and was recently inducted into the New Jersey’s Inventor Hall of Fame. Born in Huntington, Long Island, Owen continues to live in New York with his wife, Rosella, and children, Marc and Laura. He is a second-generation Irishman with ties to Bantry, Co. Cork and Castlebar, Co. Mayo. “My Irish Catholic upbringing came from a family proud of their heritage,” he says, calling it “very instrumental to every success I have achieved in my personal and professional life.”
Pfizer Rory O’Connor is senior vice president and chief medical officer of Internal Medicine at Pfizer, where he is currently overseeing large-scale development programs which include inno52 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016
vative treatment technologies for chronic pain. The company has recently introduced new medicines for cancer and heart disease and delivered one billion doses of its pneumococcal vaccine, Prevnar. Born to an Irish immigrant family in Liverpool, Rory’s heritage is tied to the O’Connors of Co. Sligo and the Fieldings of Co. Waterford. He and his family visit the country frequently, and lived for five years in West Cork. He says, “I have lived and worked in many countries, but Ireland remains the home of my ancestors and my relatives.” He received his medical qualifications from the University of Liverpool in 1978 and initially practiced in family and internal medicine. He is a fellow of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine at the Royal College of Physicians. In 2000, Rory assumed responsibility for medical affairs in Pfizer European operations, connecting him with the company’s Dublin office. Rory and his wife Catherine live in New York, where he is based at Pfizer’s global HQ. Together, he and Catherine have five children: Mairéad, Ruairí, Ciara, Niamh, and Sinéad.
“I have lived and worked in many countries, but Ireland remains the home of my ancestors and my relatives.”
Roche Daniel O’Day is the chief executive officer of Roche Pharmaceuticals, the world’s leading biotech company, headquartered in Basel, Switzerland and with offices in more than 150 countries, including Ireland. Daniel was appointed to his current role in 2012 having previously been the head of the diagnostics division of Roche since 2010. After joining the company in 1987 as part of Roche’s U.S. commercial and sales team, Daniel moved to Switzerland where he held roles in global marketing and lifecycle management. He has subsequently been head of corporate planning in Japan, general manager in Denmark, and president of Roche Molecular Diagnostics in California. Daniel was born in Texas and is a third-generation Irish American with family from Ennis, County Clare on his father’s side. “The perseverance of my Irish ancestors is a daily motivation to me professionally and personally,” Daniel says. His first job was performing the “hard physical labor” of landscaping, which, he says, “inspired me to pursue my education.” He attended Georgetown University and Columbia University, receiving a B.S. in biology and an M.B.A. Daniel currently lives in Switzerland with his wife Mara and their children Tierney, Meghan, and Brendan.
National Committee for Quality Assurance Margaret O’Kane is the founder and president of the National Committee for Quality Assurance, a company dedicated to improving healthcare quality and transforming healthcare processes through the collection of outcome data reported by patients. For her work in improving the face of patient-centered care, Margaret has been named among Modern Healthcare’s “100 Most Influential People in Healthcare” ten times, most recently in 2015. She holds a B.A. in French from Fordham University and an M.H.S. in health administration and planning from Johns Hopkins University. Margaret was introduced to the work-
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ing world as clothing store assistant at the age of 16. She found it uninspiring and ultimately sought more meaning in her future career in health care. For Margaret, this determination is characteristic of her Co. Derry heritage. “The Irish are known for being resilient,” she says. “I saw that strength in the women of my family, especially my aunt who became a political activist in her Massachusetts community. It didn’t matter that she didn’t have a college degree, she was smart and confident. She became a role model and inspiration, demonstrating back then that women can make a difference.” Margaret passes the torch of O’Kane strength to her daughters, Katherine Anne and Elizabeth Claire.
Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals Hugh O’Neill is the senior vice president and president of autoimmune and rare diseases at Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals. He manages all commercialization efforts and broad market access activities within the company’s specialty brands department, and has over 20 years of experience in new product planning and execution in the pharmaceutical industry. In 2015, he was the winner of the PM360 Elite award, which recognized his exceptional ability as a leader and innovator. “A leader must be at the core a strong and grounded person,” says Hugh. “My positive outlook and overall resiliency are
two of my strongest traits, and are also traits that define my Irish heritage.” His paternal and maternal bloodlines stem from Co. Monaghan and Co. Longford, respectively. Hugh earned his bachelor’s degree in finance from Montclair State University and an M.B.A. in marketing from Seton Hall University. He has a wife, Lissa, and three children, Gregory, Lauren, and Samantha.
Memorial Sloan Kettering With her medical degree from Trinity College Dublin, Dr. Eileen O’Reilly is a gastrointestinal medical oncologist who serves as an associate director of the Rubenstein Pancreas Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) along with being an attending physician and member at MSKCC and a professor of medicine at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. She completed her fellowship training at MSKCC and has been a faculty member in the GI Oncology service at MSKCC since then. Her primary research initiatives include integration of molecular-based therapies and genomically-based novel therapeutics for the treatment of pancreatic cancer along with development of adjuvant and neoadjuvant therapy. Pancreatic adenocarcinoma remains one of the most challenging malignancies. “To have a major impact in terms of outcomes, we need to be able to screen successfully and diagnose the disease earlier. Both of those are elusive challenges at the moment,” Eileen, who is Irish-born, said in an interview with Joe Cavallo. At a national level, Eileen is the chair
of the Gastrointestinal Cancers Committee in the Alliance Co-operative goup. She is also an associate chair of the MSKCC IRB and Privacy Board, a member of Research Council and is the recent past president of the MSKCC medical staff.
PhRMA Lori Reilly is the executive vice president of policy, research and membership at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), a leading trade group representing innovative companies in the pharmaceutical industry across the United States. In her capacity, Lori works to advance policies that encourage medical progress and patient access to the fruits of pharmaceutical innovation. In her membership role, Lori leads the association’s efforts to grow the depth and breadth of pharmaceutical company membership and
engagement; in the last year alone, she has helped add five additional companies to the organization. With a B.A. and J.D. both from the University of Nebraska, Lori is third-generation Irish on both sides, with roots in Co. Clare, Co. Cork and Co. Tipperary, and is an active member of the Omaha Irish Cultural Center and the Ireland Fund, Washington D.C. Young Leaders Society. For her, the Irish people are emblematic of pride, strength, and perseverance. “The sacrifices made by my AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016 IRISH AMERICA 53
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ancestors to travel to the United States and leave behind family in the hopes of a better life required self-sacrifice and determination,” she says. “My Irish upbringing provided me with a strong faith, love of family and appreciation for the traditions which have been passed on from generation to generation.” Lori currently resides in Virginia with her husband, Michael, and four children, Madelaine, Grace, Olivia, and Jack.
Columbia University and New York Presbyterian Hospital Dr. Muredach Reilly is the Herbert and Florence Irving Professor of Medicine and director designate of the Irving Institute for clinical and translational research at Columbia University and New York Presbyterian Hospital. He also has extensive training and expertise in cardiovascular medicine, human genetics, preventive cardiology, clinical pharmacology, and clinical epidemiology. Muredach is a fellow of both the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Royal College of Physicians, Ireland, and has been presented with the Special Recognition Award by the American Heart Association for his work in cardiovascular medicine and science. He is also a past recipient of the William Osler Award for Patient-Orientated Research. Like both of his parents, Muredach was born in Co. Mayo, Ireland. He received qualifications in medicine and pharmacology from University College Dublin in 1988 and 1989 respectively. He trained in internal medicine and cardiology at St. Vincent’s and the Mater Hospitals in Dublin, as well as at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, from which he earned a master’s in clinical epidemiology in 2003 and served on the faculty for 16 years, most recently as professor of medicine with tenure. He is married to fellow UCD-graduate Emer Smyth, and they have three children, Maeve, Fina, and Cormac.
PixarBio Corporation Dr. Frank Reynolds is the co-founder, chief executive officer, chief financial of54 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016
ficer, chief security officer, and chairman of the board of PixarBio Corporation, a Massachusetts-based biotechnology company that invents, researches and develops drugs, biologics, and treatment technologies for a range of neurological issues. As the son of first-generation Irish immigrants in New York, Frank has embraced Irish culture for his entire life. As a child, he won trophies and medals for Irish step dancing and performed at Irish shows at Carnegie Hall in the 1970s. “After being paralyzed in 1992 and emerging from bed in 1999, I reconnected to the real world through Irish business activities,” he says. “The Irish helped relaunch my life. I cured paralysis with the help of Irish minds, and as I say every day, ‘Irish scientists rule’!” Frank is the inventor of NeuroRelease, the first morphine strength, non-addictive pain treatment for post-surgical pain. Pain treatments for 7-day, 14-day, and 90day are expected to begin receiving FDA approval in 2018. He also invented the NeuroScaffold, the first treatment to restore function in humans after a traumatic spinal cord injury. This achievement was recognized by the National Spinal Injury Association, and in 2014 he received a lifetime achievement award for curing paralysis. He is has co-invented over 50 other neurological technologies. Frank lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Mary. They have three children, Margaret, Lauren, and Anthony.
Rory Staunton Foundation Orlaith Staunton established the Rory Staunton Foundation for Sepsis Prevention following the death of her 12-year-old son, Rory, from sepsis in 2012. Sepsis is the body’s severe reaction to infection; it
“The perseverance of my Irish ancestors is a daily motivation to me professionally and personally.”
kills more than 258,000 Americans each year. The Foundation focuses on sepsis education and awareness programs and the development and implementation of sepsis protocols in hospitals. Orlaith successfully campaigned for the adoption mandatory sepsis protocols in all New York hospitals. Known as Rory’s Regulations, they are projected to save up to 8,000 lives annually and are now being adopted across the country. She is also responsible for the development of comprehensive sepsis education programs in schools and for the annual National Forum on Sepsis, which brings together policymakers, healthcare experts, educators and patient advocates to chart new
pathways in the fight against sepsis. She co-chairs the National Family Council on Sepsis. In addition, Orlaith has educated hundreds of thousands of Americans about sepsis through her testimony at the first Senate Hearing on Sepsis and by sharing her experience with sepsis in numerous media programs and publications, including the New York Times, the Today Show, and CBS Nightly News. A native of Drogheda, County Louth, Orlaith and her husband, Ciaran Staunton, reside in New York with their daughter, Kathleen, and remain actively involved to the Irish American community.
James P. Sullivan
AbbVie Dr. James “Jim” Sullivan serves as the vice president of pharmaceutical discovery at AbbVie Inc., a leading biopharmaceutical company. In his role, he oversees research projects focused on cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, hepatitis C, and many autoimmune diseases. Born in Drogheda, Co. Louth, Jim
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50HEALTHCARE & LIFE SCIENCES which he did. Though John’s father never attended university, he ensured that all four of his children had the means to do so. “I believe the family history is similar to many of those of IrishAmerican heritage,” John says. “Doing hard work to help build this new country, with the support of the extended family and Irish community.” John received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and computer science from Princeton University and later completed a master’s in computer engineering at Boston University. He continues to live in Massachusetts with his wife, Lori, son, Ian, and daughter, Abby.
grew up in Stamullen Co. Meath and earned his bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in biochemistry from Trinity College Dublin. His father, who came from Co. Cavan, was a physician in the Irish army. It was this, Jim says, that inspired him “to be a scientist and to find better treatments for devastating diseases.” He believes that the Irish routinely “punch above their weight,” and accomplish much in doing so. Jim has helped discover drugs that are used in the treatment of cancer and hepatitis C, is the inventor of 11 patents, and has over 130 scientific publications to his name. He is an adjunct faculty member at Northwestern University. He resides in Chicago with his wife, Jeanie, and has three children, Gavin, Ross, and Aidan.
TransMedics John Sullivan is the vice president of engineering at TransMedics Inc., where he has managed technical teams and product development since March 2006. Before joining TransMedics, he developed software for patient monitoring machinery for six years at Siemens Medical. John’s great-grandfather immigrated to Boston in the 1800s, where he worked as a motorman for the elevated railway. His grandfather taught electrical shop in the Boston public school system, and encouraged John’s father to become a construction electrician, 56 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016
Autism Society of America Dr. Ruth Sullivan is the founder and former executive director of the Autism Services Center, a nonprofit health care center that provides assistance to families of individuals with developmental difficulties. Prior to establishing the Autism Services Center, Ruth co-founded the Autism Society of America in 1965, as well as its first elected president. She now serves as an honorary board member. Ruth assisted in the production of the 1988 film Rain Man, acting as consultant for Dustin Hoffman on autistic behaviours, and allowed him to spend time with her son, Joseph, who is himself autistic. Ruth has written many articles on autism from the perspective of care providers, most recently in the 2005 Handbook of Autism and Pervasive Development Disorders, edited by Fred Volkmar. Born into a large Irish Catholic family of eight, Ruth has continued this tradition with her husband, William, and has seven children of her own. She currently lives in Virginia. (See sidebar on page 60 for a short interview.)
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Dr. James Watson is a Nobel Prizewinning scientist, chancellor emeritus of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and 2011 inductee to the Irish America Hall of Fame. He was one of the key co-discoverers who unraveled the structure of
“I cured paralysis with the help of Irish minds, and as I say every day, ‘Irish scientists rule!’”
the DNA while a student at Cambridge University, one of the biggest scientific breakthroughs of the 20th century. It resulted in a Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1962. Later, he accepted a position in the biology department at Harvard University. It was here where he wrote his classic Molecular Biology of the Gene and the award-winning Double Helix. After Harvard, James led the Cold Harbor Laboratory, where he devoted his energies to setting up the Human Genome Project. “Deeply proud” of his Irish ancestry, James is a third-generation Irish American with roots in Tipperary. His greatgrandparents had emigrated from Ireland in the 1840s, settling in Ohio and later moving to Indiana. He has received numerous awards throughout the years including the National Medal of Science, the city of Philadelphia Liberty Medal, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal Award by the American Philosophical Society. In 1962, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and, in 1977, he received from President Ford the Medal of Freedom. In addition to numerous honorary degrees, in 2002, Queen Elizabeth II made him an honorary Knight of the British Empire.
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A Different Key
ABC’s John Donvan captures the challenges, activism and inspiration of living with autism. By Tom Deignan
obert Foster Kennedy was born in Belfast, where he studied to become a doctor at Queens College. In 1942, Kennedy published a chilling article in the American Journal of Psychiatry. As described by veteran ABC News television correspondent John Donvan in his fascinating new book In a Different Key: The Story of Autism, Kennedy’s article was “a soberly worded endorsement of ‘mercy killing’ for mentally disabled children.” Kennedy wrote that “nature’s mistakes” deserved relief from the burden of a life “that at no time can produce anything good at all.” Kennedy’s views were particularly troubling, notes Donvan – an Irish American whose maternal grandmother came to the U.S. from Clare on the famed ship The Lusitania – because “the United States was by then at war with the Nazis.” Donvan’s book – co-written with Caren Zucker, his longtime producer at ABC – has garnered widespread praise as perhaps the most authoritative book ever written on autism, the sometimes frightening ways experts have responded to mental illness in general, and the inspiring activism of parents on behalf of their children. “When I went to school there were no kids with autism because they weren’t allowed,” said Donvan in a recent interview with Irish America magazine. Interest in autism, of course, has exploded in the past decade or so. Back in March, the Centers for Disease Control released its latest statistics, which found that one in 68 American children were diagnosed with some degree of autism. That’s up from the CDC statistics for 2007, which found that one in 150 children were on the autism spectrum. The debate over autism’s prevalence is, of course, controversial. Some experts and celebrities have argued that vaccinations have led to the spike in autism. Others have suggested that autism results instead from bad parenting or low expectations when it comes to behavior. But Donvan and Zucker both know all too well about how autism can affect the families of those living with it. And they have performed a great serv-
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ice by writing In a Different Key, not only because they correct many myths about the disease, but also because they tell the stories of those parents and children who refused to accept their status as second-class citizens who deserved little more than a “mercy killing.” “We wrote the book because we were trying to inspire people who are inside the autism world, to let them know things have come a long way,” said Donvan, whose Israeli-born wife was profoundly affected by her autistic brother. “I wanted to understand what her life was like. And the more I talked to her mother about it, the more I started to see there was this untold, turbulent back story.” Donvan added: “I began to realize that when you have a disability in your home it really changes your home. It’s often been a divider from the rest of the world.”
onvan is a lifelong Irish American New Yorker. His father’s family came from Cork around the 1850s, and he says (as far as he knows anyway) that’s when the name was changed from Donovan. Meanwhile, Donvan’s mother family came to the U.S. in the early 20th century, instilling a strong sense of Irishness in the future journalist. Being Irish “was a pretty big deal growing up,” Donvan says. “We were one of those families that had a Kennedy picture on the wall.” Donvan has even paid a number of visits to cousins living in Ireland, as well as a family farm in Clare, located near Shannon Airport. “My mom had a sense of history, a sense of heritage, a sense of family. She grew up with Irish pride,” Donvan adds, who attended Regis Catholic High School in Manhattan, and then Dartmouth. Though he comes from a family of police officers and public school teachers, Donvan caught the journalism bug. During a sterling broadcast career, he has hosted the iconic show Nightline and served as chief White House Correspondent, while winning three Emmy Awards. In 1994, the producer he worked with at ABC, Caren Zucker, had a son, who was diagnosed with autism three years later. This exposed her to the challenges, as well as the activism, of families living with autism. “She really wanted to tell these stories,” notes Donvan. “I already knew something about autism and she was living it.”
PHOTO BY HEIDI-GUTMAN
PHOTO BY RALPH-ALSWANG.
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But there were also challenges. “No one was really [talking about autism] even 16 years ago,” notes Donvan. “It was a hard sell at ABC.” Eventually, Donvan and Zucker ran several stories on Nightline. They haven’t really stopped telling the story of autism since. “All of us have a part in this story, whether we know it or not,” he says.
ne of the most disturbing themes in Donvan’s book is just how wrong many experts have been about autism over the years. There were those influenced by the frightening eugenics movement, like Robert Foster Kennedy, who believed that those experiencing mental illness did not deserve to live. Then there was the famous Austrian-born psychologist Bruno Bettelheim. Renowned to this day, Bettelheim had spent time in a Nazi prison camp. Afterwards, he worked at the University of Chicago’s Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School, “which functioned as a working laboratory for developing new methods in the treatment of disturbed children who lived full-time within its walls,” Donvan and Zucker write. Throughout the 1950s, Bettelheim conducted research and wrote books about autistic children. Autism, as Bettelheim saw it, “was a decision children made in response to the cold, nasty, threatening world in which they found themselves,” according to Donvan and Zucker. Worse, they add, those who looked at the work of Bettelheim and similar theorists “felt they had
learned a brutal but necessary truth: mothers cause their children’s autism.” Time magazine even did a story in 1948, using the term “refrigerator mothers” to describe the supposedly cold women who were doing a poor job raising children who “never defrost.” A generation of women ended up blaming themselves for causing their children’s autism. Donvan says, “A lot of older women would subject themselves to years of psychotherapy to reverse the damage” caused by this ill-informed blame. “Every respectable psychiatrist believed this – with no evidence. There was no research. The field believed it already had the answer so there was no point doing any research,” Donvan says. But Irish Catholic mothers such as Ruth Sullivan, who helped found what is today known as the American Autism Society, refused to believe the thrust of Bettelheim’s argument. (See sidebar on following page.) “That’s where the drama and – we hope – the inspiration comes in,” says Donvan. “It’s a really amazing story.” How much has changed about the way we view autism? Consider a night in 2012 at the Beacon Theatre on Broadway in New York City. Bold-faced names from George Clooney and Tina Fey to Tom Hanks and Chris Rock turned out for a fundraiser, which pulled in not six, not seven, but eight figures. The event, hosted by Jon Stewart, was the Night of Too Many Stars, created by comedy writer Bob Smigel and his wife Michelle, who have a teenaged son named Daniel “with a most challenging form of
John Donvan and Caren Zucker.
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autism,” Donvan and Zucker write. They add: “When Daniel was younger, and at the point where the Smigels realized they could never give him the ability to speak – or alter most of the other lasting limitations to his independence – they figured out what they could do.” And that, ultimately, is what is most memorable about Donvan’s book. It charts not only the changes and challenges that parents of autistic children have faced, but their activism as well. Once, autism “was shrouded in shame, secrecy and ignorance – certainly not a cause to which movie stars lent their names,” according to Donvan and Zucker. Now, “because of the efforts made by parents and activists... public attitudes toward people given the autism label have moved in what all would agree is the right direction.” What, in Donvan’s mind, is the future of autism? “I think it’s likely that the number of cases diagnosed will continue to increase, but at a slower rate,” he said. “And then it will stop increasing.” Is there any credence, in Donvan’s opinion, to the theory that some environmental factor is contributing to the rise in autism? “We don’t have good numbers to compare the past to the present,” said Donvan. This makes it hard to precisely measure if more kids actually have autism, or if we are simply “getting better at finding out who has it.” Donvan adds: “It’s only about 20 years now that we’ve been talking about autism as a spectrum. And Caren and I are not convinced that’s gonna hold up. Maybe these are not all the same things.” What we do know is that back in 2012, at The Night of Too Many Stars, pop star Katy Perry was joined onstage by Jodi Piazza, an 11 year-old autistic girl who “practiced the piano relentlessly” and whose exuberance with Perry brought tears to many in the room. This is just one of many such inspiring stories chronicled in DonIA van’s book. 60 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016
How Ruth Sullivan Changed the World for Autistic Children
here’s no way for John Donvan to put it gently when it comes to Ruth Sullivan, an Irish Catholic mother of seven and pioneering woman in the world of autism. “She just thought it was all bullshit,” says Donvan with a laugh, though he adds Sullivan herself would never use such language. It was the 1950s when Sullivan, and her husband, began raising their family. Sullivan plays a key role in Donvan’s new book In a Different Key: The Story of Autism, co-written with Caren Zucker. “Ruth and her husband were full participants in the baby boom, as well as being Irish Catholics. The oldest of eight children herself, she was now the mother of seven,” Donvan and Zucker write. At the age of two, Ruth’s son Joe – born in 1960 – started to change. He “had stopped speaking, even though, up to that point, he had seemed to be developing normally,” In a Different Key notes. At the same time, “he was extravagantly ahead of schedule in other areas of development.” Several doctors diagnosed young Joe Sullivan with autism. “He will always be a little odd,” one doctor told Ruth. Then she read some research that reflected the predominant theories of the day – that Ruth herself was to blame for Joe’s autism. "Ruth had one of those big Irish Catholic families,” Donvan says. “But only one of her kids had autism. That was the way she convinced herself she wasn’t causing it. Because the six other children didn’t have it.” Sullivan was already a woman of impressive accomplishment. She had served as a nurse in the U.S. Army and
earned a master’s degree in Public Health. By 1965, Sullivan – “a natural organizer” – decided it was time to bring together many of the parent-activists working to raise not only autistic children but awareness about the latest developments in the field. In November of that year, Sullivan helped create the National Society for Autistic Children, which was founded during a meeting in Teaneck, New Jersey. (The group is now known as the Autism Society of America.) “They had no money. They had no internet. [Ruth helped] run the thing out of her house,” Donvan says. “It really did begin to change the world for people.” In 1968, Sullivan became president of the National Society for Autistic Children. Two decades later, Sullivan served as a consultant on the groundbreaking Dustin Hoffman movie Rain Man, setting up meetings between Hoffman, director Barry Levinson, and autistic children who informed the film’s complex portrait of Raymond Babbitt, the autistic character who could not be manipulated by his charming brother Charlie (played by Tom Cruise). Autism was now a household world. Ruth Sullivan appeared on Larry King and Oprah, while Joseph was the subject of several widely celebrated documentaries, including Infantile Autism: The Invisible Wall and Portrait of an Autistic Young Man. The Autism Society of America celebrated its 50th anniversary last year and Sullivan, now in her 90s, is still active in the community. All because she simply wouldn’t accept the bullshit. – Tom Deignan
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Colin O'Brady broke the world record for the fastest completion of the Explorer's Grand Slam. Pictured here on Union Glacier in Antarctica, January 28.
HIGH Endurance Mountaineer Colin O’Brady talks breaking two world records, keeping children active, and shows just how far the human body can be tested.
By Adam Farley
n May 27th, Colin O’Brady was one of two people to summit Denali, Alaska’s highest peak and the highest point in North America. No one else on the mountain moved that day but his partner and him. The weather conditions were so bad that two hours before they reached the summit the pair were blown off their feet in 50-mile-per-hour winds. When they left their tents at base camp, they left to imperatives and questions: “What the hell are you guys doing?” “Get back in your tent!” The wind chill was at minus 60; it wasn’t just risky, it was dangerous and potentially fatal. O’Brady had slept in a proper bed one night in the previous month, summited Mount Everest only eight days prior, and was more mentally and physically tired than he had ever been in his life. He was also trying to break two mountaineering world records and had less than 24 hours to do so. So he climbed, in one of the worst days on Denali this season, to America’s highest summit, and broke them. That day, O’Brady became the fastest person to ascend each of the highest peaks on all seven continents – Mt. Vinson (Antarctica, 16,054 ft.), Aconcagua (Argentina, 22,837 ft.), Kilimanjaro (Tanzania, 19,341 ft.), Carstensz Pyramid (Indonesia, 16, 024 ft.) Elbrus (Russia, 18,510 ft.), Everest (Nepal, 29,029 ft.), and Denali (U.S., 20,310 ft.) – and complete the Explorer’s Grand Slam, which involves all seven summits as well as reaching the north and
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south poles. (O’Brady actually summited eight mountains, including Mount Kosciuszko on the Australian mainland, because there is some debate in the mountaineering community over whether the Australian continent also includes the island of New Guinea, and he didn’t want there to be any dispute about his achievement.) In doing so, O’Brady became only the 43rd person to complete the challenge since Brit David Hempleman-Adams was the first in 1998, only the third to do it in less than a year, and the first to do it in less than six months. I spoke with O’Brady, 31, one month to the day after he summited Denali. He’d been in Portland, Oregon, his home and hometown, just long enough to settle into fielding media requests, but still wasn’t entirely recovered. When I asked him about taking those final ten steps to the summit, he spoke in the casual tone of someone recalling a waking dream, as if he only half-believed he’d actually done it. “It was an amazing feeling, but it just required digging so deep. Throughout the course of the entire project there were so many times when things got derailed, whether it was weather delays or I was exhausted or afraid of getting sick or injured, that there was this constant idea that I never could really believe I was actually going to do it,” he said. “It literally wasn’t until I actually set foot on the top of the mountain that I thought, ‘We did it. We actually did it. This is amazing.’” I had planned to ask him what a normal day has involved since returning to Portland, but it became clear he hasn’t had one yet, and that it might be more accurate to say that he hasn’t had an average day in about a year and a half, given all the diverse logistical planning and fundraising he and his fiancée and business partner, Jenna Besaw, did since first dreaming up the project in the fall of 2014. O’Brady had been a successful international triathlete, competing professionally for half a decade. From 2012 to 2014, Jenna traveled with him and helped manage his career and sponsorships. At one point, though O’Brady had owned a house in Portland since 2011, they calculated they had slept in a different bed once every three nights on the road, between the house, hotels, and airports. They summered in the northern hemisphere, usually Spain, and wintered in Australia, following the international triathlon circuit. By the time of his last race before the Grand Slam, the Ironman Japan in August 2015, he had competed in 25 countries across six continents. “It was a pretty full-on, global lifestyle, which certainly has a lot of cool upsides to it but at times can be very tiring,” O’Brady acknowledges. “I got to a point in my triathlon career where I was racing extremely well but got to a point where I was thinking, ‘This is great, but I wonder if we could do something with my professional athleticism that has a larger platform to it and gives back to the community in a meaningful way rather than just my own personal success or failure.’” O’Brady, who had mentored and coached some
elementary and middle school-age kids as a triathlete, wanted to build upon that work and gain a larger platform to expose kids to a healthier and more active lifestyle, like the one he had growing up in Portland. “Colin was one of those kids with a lot of energy,” his mom, Eileen Brady, told me when we spoke in July. “When he was three years old, he did not understand why he could not climb on the roof of the house and jump off. We spent a lot of time trying to keep his feet on the ground. He was just in constant motion.” The outdoors were an integral part of his childhood, too. “We would put him on our backs even when he was a baby to go hiking on Mount Hood and we were always out camping with the kids,” Eileen says. As he grew older, to appease his energy levels, the family would frequently head to the Cascades, and from a young age Colin and his older sister were taught to be self-reliant, carrying their own packs and gear on several mile long hikes, even as young as four or five. His parents divorced when he was about ten (he still has a great relationship with both), and his dad and stepmother became organic farmers in Hawaii, where Colin would often spend the summers, and his mother and stepfather founded a chain of natural foods grocery stores in Portland. “The story of health and wellness and fitness and being outside was always a big part of my life,” Colin says. “Unfortunately, a lot of kids don’t really have those role models necessarily. It’s a digital world, plugged into video games and eating crappy food, so I really wanted to do something to hopefully inspire not only health and wellness, but also this idea of goal setting and dreaming big. “My project’s never been about telling kids, ‘Oh, look at me I’m such a crazy badass mountaineer. Look at all the mountains I’ve climbed and how
FROM TOP: Soloing South America’s highest peak, Aconcagua in Argentina. O’Brady at the trailhead for Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the highest point in Africa. The Caucasus mountains in Russia, seen from the peak of Mount Elbrus, the tallest mountain in Europe. FAR LEFT: Summiting Denali in May. Photos courtesy Beyond 7/2
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FROM TOP: The long march to the North Pole. O’Brady at the South Pole, wearing a t-shirt from Hearthwood Elementary School in Vancouver, WA, one of the schools he visited before he left.
“‘All I need to do right now is drag this sled ten hours a day towards my goal.’ And that was comforting after all the crazy ups and downs of just getting to the start line.”
awesome I am.’ It’s really about creating this universal narrative of ‘Hey, I’m doing this thing, but if I’m doing this, what can you do in your daily life?’ It doesn’t have to be ‘Go climb the tallest mountain in the world.’ It can be ‘What are you doing in your own back yard?’ or ‘What’s a goal? You’re a fifth grade kid; what’s your goal in your classroom today?’” This is what it’s all about for O’Brady – activity and goals. He wants to increase P.E. and recess time in schools, extend the lunch hour for the youngest students, and promote healthier snack options in cafeterias and vending machines. To do that, he and Jenna formed their own non-profit, Beyond 7/2, (seven summits / two poles) and partnered with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an organization that works with 29,000 schools nation-wide that prioritizes all of the above, as well as physical after school programs and, because it is in part backed by former President Bill Clinton, has a seat at the larger table of national policy discussions with big corporations to reduce calories or curb the amount of unhealthy choices children have access to. Beyond 7/2 aims to raise one million dollars for the Alliance, using his worldrecord-breaking expedition as an entry point for fundraisers now that he’s back. “We still have a fair ways to go to get there,” he says. “But that’s always been the plan – having me back and being able to retell this story also lends a gravitas and ability to share this more widely with respect to our fundraising efforts.” Before he left this past January, he spent time at local elementary schools in Portland talking to kids about the project, getting them and himself excited about the prospect. This fall he plans to do a national tour to promote the expedition and raise more awareness for the importance of healthy lifestyles from an early age. Now that it’s done, it seems like it was always meant to be. But in the beginning, between the charitable side of the project, garnering sponsorships for him to do the expedition in the first place, and the training, it became full-time work. At times he feared Beyond 7/2 might never get off the ground. Early on, too, O’Brady remembers, Jenna asked him if he needed some extra help, offering to work a couple days a week on it. “By the first week though,
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she was like, ‘It looks like you need me to work seven days a week, 100 hours a week on this,” he laughs. “She really dove into this headfirst, far more than just the usual support of a partner or spouse. She’s just a great business mind, a really strategic thinker. There’s a zero percent chance any of this happens without her support.” It paid off. Nike and Gelber signed on as early sponsors, with more outdoor and athletic companies joining. The partnership with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation was solidified. An itinerary was made. Flights were booked. On January 4, Colin was dropped off at the south 89th parallel with a couple other people. The landscape was bare, white, endless. The temperature was minus 40. “The plane takes off and I had this thought of ‘Oh, now I just get to walk out there.’ After I’d been juggling all these different balls and a million different things, somehow that felt, I don’t want to say easier, but certainly way more linear or way more obvious, like, ‘All I need to do right now is drag this sled ten hours a day towards my goal.’ And that was comforting after all the crazy ups and downs of just getting to the start line.” He reached the South Pole on January 10; 139 days later, he summited Denali. Arguably, none of this would have been possible, or even conceivable, had O’Brady not experienced a tragic injury in 2008, just out of college. O’Brady went to Yale on a swimming scholarship, and studied economics with the intention of joining a Wall Street firm when he graduated. In between graduation and when he intended to get that job, though, he decided that he should take a break and travel the world, eventually making his way to a remote island beach in Thailand with his friend David. There, one night while eating dinner at a waterfront restaurant, the waiter came over with a long rope soaked in kerosene. It was something of a party trick and tourist rite-of-passage to jump rope with a flaming rope on the beach, so O’Brady gave it a shot. He slipped, and one of the ropes wrapped around his legs, throwing kerosene over the lower half of his body and igniting. Miraculously, Colin had the presence of mind to run to the ocean to put the flames out. When he emerged, his lower body was covered in second- and third-degree burns. When David looked at him, he saw what he thought were Colin’s singed clothes tearing off of his body, but it turned out to be portions of his skin, his mother told me. He was rushed to the local hospital on the back of a moped and underwent eight surgeries in about as many days. David called his mother and she didn’t even wait 24 hours to decide to fly to Thailand. When she got there, Colin who initially thought he would be out in a couple days, had been told he might never walk again. Soon, he was medevac’d to a larger hospital in Bangkok, where he would spend the next several months, and Eileen was on the phone to doctors in Portland nearly every day. One of the things they told her was to keep his mind active, so they began to have discussions
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“There’s no doubt I pushed through some adverse conditions to make this happen, taking on more risk than I would have had I not been trying for a world record. ”
BELOW: O’Brady’s professional triathlon career provided a great training base for preparing for the Grand Slam. O’Brady speaks with children at Riverview Elementary School in Vancouver, WA.
about life goals. That’s where the original idea to run a triathlon came from, he says. “I got the idea from asking myself ‘how am I going to prove to myself that I can recover from this?’” He and his mother began researching triathlons and eventually he was healthy enough to be relocated to the Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland. The doctors there continued his physical therapy, and eventually he regained movement in his legs and could walk again. He moved to Chicago, where his mother’s family is from, became a commodities trader, and began training for the Chicago Triathlon, a relatively moderate course because of the flat terrain. He thought it would be a good place to start. Eighteen months later, he entered in the amateur division, and won. He quit his job at the financial firm in 2009 (the last desk job he’s had), and devoted himself full-time to being a professional athlete. He’s the first to admit the contradiction between the horror of the injury and the motivation that was born of it. “The birthplace of my career was in a bed in Thailand being told I may never walk again. That experience really did double down my resolve and mental toughness. I directly attribute where I am now to that moment,” he says. (He’s also the first to acknowledge the disparate relative lucrativeness between being a commodities trader and a professional endurance athlete.) “It certainly has taught me in a very tangible way that our bodies are incredible things, that when your body and mind are in sync and driven, we can do some pretty incredible things. You know, not only recover but survive after such a bad injury.”
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That idea of the incredible feats the human body is capable of is the driving force behind his own personal ethos, and what he hopes to instill on the children who watched him climb the mountains and to whom he will speak about it this fall. He’ll tell them how when he solo climbed Aconcagua, even though it was his first time on the mountain. At that point in his life, at almost 23,000 feet, it was the highest summit he’d ever climbed. He’ll tell them how Mount Everest is over 6,000 feet taller. He’ll tell them about how on Mount Elbrus, one of the three people he was climbing with accidentally took the group’s only rope back with him. So he climbed it without one. He’ll tell them how he fell waste-deep into a crevasse shortly afterwards. He’ll tell them that in the two years prior to summiting Everest, not one person had done so. He might mention that on the same day he summited, May 19, two other climbers died on the mountain. Of course, as in any endeavor where the natural world is involved, he’ll also tell them of the combination of risk-taking and chance. “There’s no doubt I pushed through some adverse conditions to make this happen, taking on more risk than I would have had I not been trying for a world record. Certainly the summit day on Denali,” he says. “That said, like, there are times and places where the mountain is just shut down – no matter if it’s your one dying last wish, you’re not getting up there. So to roll the dice on this whole project and know that Everest is the eighth of the nine and that no one’s climbed it in the last two years is a massive risk.” His mother Eileen has another phrase for it – the luck of the Irish. When I spoke with her in July, she, as well as Colin and Jenna, were just back from a family reunion Independence Day weekend in Chicago with more than 150 family members. On her side, O’Brady comes from the Crowleys of Co. Limerick and the Bradys of Co. Cavan. His great grandfather on her side was a Chicago police officer until killed in the line of duty, leaving nine children in the care of the local parish. (At the reunion, a cousin – Eileen has 49 – literally rolled out the family tree on a 40-foot scroll.) His father’s side were O’Connors who also settled in the Midwest, and when he was born, his parents combined their surnames to form O’Brady. “We always say he has the luck of the Irish,” Eileen told me. “We were praying that the luck of the Irish would stay with him this entire trip.” Colin, for his part, remains a little more skeptical: “A couple of times we had bad luck, but we were able to adapt to those situations. And fortunately, even though some of those situations tested us to our limits, they weren’t quite breaking points and we IA were able to get through.”
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“GivingtoIt Up’’ ‘‘Getting Rid of It’’ the drink |
By Ruth Riddick
One family’s journey from addiction to recovery.
Casey Duffy will not be mistaken for anything but Irish – the lightly graying hair is clearly that characteristic red, and he has the prized hail-fellowwell-met manner. Long established in Pennsylvania, his family hails from both the south and west of the old country. Nor will you mistake Casey for a drunk. He got rid of that decades ago. “I have a choice today,” he told me when we spoke this past June. “I can do what I want to do. Driving through Center City at noon last week, I looked in the bar window and I saw those guys on barstools with their drinks in front of them – they don’t have a choice. They have to be there.” Casey readily acknowledges that the Duffy fam-
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ily has been in a struggle with addiction for generations. He dates the family story to his paternal grandmother, Jane, who lived in Corktown, a former Irish enclave of West Philadelphia. When her beloved mother died at home just around the corner, Jane was passed out drunk on the sofa. She never got to say goodbye. For penance, she foreswore alcohol. True to the oath she made on her knees at her local church, Jane Duffy never touched another drink. Succeeding Duffy generations didn’t, however, escape their own challenges. Excessive alcohol consumption is, of course, an inescapable part of the Irish stereotype. “For all our success as immigrants, it is sad to say that we are still known as a race of drunks,” the late Dr. Garrett
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O’Connor, a respected psychiatrist and addiction treatment pioneer, wrote in a 2012 article for Irish America. “Even today, hard drinking, alcohol dependence, shame and ‘keeping up appearances’ are still detectable as historical undercurrents in the Irish Catholic community.” The problem persists on both sides of the Atlantic. Dublin born singer and alcohol counselor Frances Black, founder of the non-profit RISE (Recovery In a Safe Environment) Foundation, noted at a recent conference in Northern Ireland that “people are almost blasé about the extent and reach of the pernicious use of alcohol. Sometimes I think the whole of Ireland is in denial about it, but it’s a massive problem.” In a follow-up conversation, I asked Black about her remarks. “I do believe that we have a very serious issue here,” she told me. “Everyone has to look at their own relationship to alcohol, and we need to talk about why we feel it’s acceptable to drink as much as we do. That’s difficult for us.” (For her work at RISE, Black was presented with the 2015 Emerald Spirit Award at the annual New York City Sober St. Patrick’s Day party.) The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that some 14 million Americans (7.4 percent of the population) meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse or alcoholism. Other commentators suggest that 43 percent of adults in the U.S. have been exposed to a relation with an active substance use disorder. When asked about statistical data on the prevalence of alcoholism and addiction in the Irish American community, Andy Pucher, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, expresses doubt that the state would keep track of figures based on ethnicity. “That would be labeling a community,” he says, confirming that an approximate instance of 10 percent in the population at large is realistic. He also doubts that prevalence in the Irish American community is any higher than in other communities. Nonetheless, according to O’Connor, “Breaking the national silence about alcohol abuse and dependence in Ireland and Irish America needs to become a priority. Breaking the silence, and spreading the message that recovery is possible.” “Anonymity has never really been part of our ex-
perience.” Casey responds. “My father – Jane Duffy’s son – was an attorney of note in the Five Counties [as the greater Philadelphia area is known locally]. He was an alcoholic who didn’t sober up until he was in his early 40s. He would be out drinking with clients, including his criminal clients, until two in the morning and then back in court for 9 a.m. His drunken escapades frequently ended up on the front page.” Eventually, John Duffy lost his license to practice law and, with it, the means to earn his living. John’s second-generation alcoholism was causing ever increasing and wide-ranging problems for his family. “Family pain can pass through generations, from grandparent, to child, to grandchild,” argues therapist Ann W. Smith, author of Grandchildren of Alcoholics and clinical consultant to Breakthrough at Caron. “The dynamics of painful family systems are passed on across the generations.” Dr. O’Connor could identify. “My own family history is, perhaps, a classic example of how alcoholism can be handed down from one generation to another,” he wrote in 2012, 35 years after his last drink. He describes a painful initiation into active addiction: “An attack of tuberculosis when I was 12 was treated at home with bed rest for eight months and up to three pints a day of stout. Gradually, I developed cravings for the relaxing effect of the alcohol – so much so that I took to searching the house for places where I thought my mother might have concealed her clandestine bottles of cheap South African sherry.” Of his experience, one story among many, O’Connor concluded, “This uniquely Irish treatment for TB launched me on the path to hard drinking by the age of 18, and to full-blown alcoholism by the time I was 27 or 28.” Casey’s family story differs only in the details. “My grandmother gave up alcohol after her mother’s death and was a miserable ‘dry drunk’ for the rest of her life,” he says. “She was the most miserable woman you could meet.” (For those unfamiliar with the term, a “dry drunk” is commonly defined as a person who has given up drinking and yet retains all the other aspects of the
TOP: Chit-Chat Farms founders Richard and Catherine Caron. ChitChat was later renamed in their honor in 1983. OPPOSITE PAGE: (Left to right) Caron Treatment Centers president and CEO Doug Tieman, Casey Duffy, Ken Gill, and John Duffy at the dedication of the Gill Duffy House in June.
Photos courtesy of Caron
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condition. “If the emotional or psychological side is [unhealed], the alcoholic can find themselves lazy, irritable, easily annoyed or quick to anger,” writes counselor and author Carole Bennett in the Huffington Post. “You may feel like you need to ‘walk on egg shells’ or watch every move or word since you don’t want to incite an angry exchange.”) Dry drunk or not, Jane was mother to John Duffy, the first family member to fully embrace their recovery. “Just before my sixteenth birthday, my father John hit his bottom,” Casey recalls. “He found himself in treatment at Chit-Chat [renamed Caron in 1983 to honor its late founders, Richard and Catherine Caron]. Chit-Chat saved his life.” Caron’s Pennsylvania campus now includes a building named for John Duffy and his fellow alum, Ken Gill, to honor 30-plus years of service on the Board of Trustees, which Duffy also chaired. The Gill Duffy House was dedicated this June at a ceremony attended by generations of sober Duffys. “I’m sure there were people who wouldn’t use my father’s legal services after he got sober, because of that stigma,” Casey reflects. “But because he got sober, he could help maybe twice as many when he got his license back. Service has been a huge value in our family ever since.”
“Because we’re trying so hard to hide the pain of watching ourselves
and those we love become mired in the disease and losing our grip on our own happiness, we use our thinking to twist and bend the truth into a more palatable shape.” – Tian Dayton
In treatment circles, addiction is now recognized as a family disease with multi-generational implications. The National Association for Children of Alcoholics estimates that one in four children under the age of 18 lives with a parent active in addiction, just as Casey did. Cheryl Knepper, vice president of Continuum Services at Caron Treatment Centers, confirmed to Irish America that today, from a treatment perspective, “Addiction is understood to be part genetic predisposition, part socio-cultural environment, and it’s a disease that impacts the entire family.” This last point is reinforced by Frances Black, who has made it her mission to support families through awareness, education and therapy, and to combat the associated shame and stigma which so often impedes recovery. “In my work, I see alcoholism impacting the whole family on a daily basis,” she says. “It puts a huge stress on the family if one person is using alcohol. All that worry, all the waiting for that dreaded phone call, can give rise to a host 70 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016
of stress-related conditions including mental health issues such as depression. There’s a ripple effect.” Casey Duffy knows about the ripple effect. “As a child,” he remembers, “I watched what booze and drugs did to my father and to our family.” “As the oldest son with six siblings, I worried that I might need to take care of everyone before I was capable.” This exaggerated and inappropriate sense of responsibility is one of the hallmarks of children growing up with addiction. Casey also believed, in common with many children of alcoholics, that he was never going to take a drink himself. “I didn’t ever want to be like my father. Watching what he was doing, I was never going to do that. I’d made up my mind.” Despite his best intentions, John Duffy’s recovery couldn’t prevent active addiction manifesting in his eldest son. “What this 16-year-old saw was a father who had done whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, to whomever he wanted, for years,” Casey recalls. “And when it finally crumbled around him, he went to treatment for 28 days, came home, and everybody loved him again. Well, I thought, now it’s my turn... ” For the active addict, this distorted reasoning makes perfect sense. Describing the process, Tian Dayton, author of several books on family addiction and recovery and a leading practitioner of psychodrama, a group therapy practice using role play and dynamic interaction to explore and heal relationships, observes, “Because we’re trying so hard to hide the pain of watching ourselves and those we love become mired in the disease and losing our grip on our own happiness, we use our thinking to twist and bend the truth into a more palatable shape.” It’s becoming increasingly understood that, when a parent suffers from addiction, it’s exponentially more likely that a son or daughter will also become dependent on the same drug or behavior. Dayton claims that, “Children of addiction are four times more likely to become addicts themselves, and these statistics don’t include multiple addictions such as food, sex, gambling, work addiction, etc.” Today, Casey is under no illusions. “I believe in my heart that I was born an alcoholic,” he says from the perspective of several decades of sobriety. “Once I started, it was a one-way street. I wasn’t that average guy who can just have one or two. There was only one control mechanism in my life: I’d drink and drug virtually every day until I ended up where we all end up, in an institution or a cemetery.” It took Casey just six years to discover his alcoholic “bottom,” a phrase used to describe that moment when the addict becomes ready to admit there’s a problem and reach out for help. He was twenty-four years of age. “In a nutshell: You could count on not counting on Casey,” he explains. “I was an ambitious guy who started blowing off my
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work and my future. I was a funny guy who turned sarcastic and bitter. I showed up late, under-dressed and under-funded. When I was ready to give up, I had no job, no credit, and no money.” Because of his father’s experience less than a decade prior, Casey knew where to turn for treatment. “It was fortunate for me, because I saw what his life had been like. I didn’t have to crash and burn to the extent that he did, and I knew how to get help.” Casey says that getting into treatment gave him a “huge head start” on recovery. “I discovered the problem and I got some tools.” He’s been sober ever since, and there haven’t been any problems with his three children. “It doesn’t seem to be an issue,” he says with gratitude. “But if it were, we’re ready! My grandmother gave it up and, with my father’s example, I got rid of it. For my kids, my gift will be that they don’t get on the elevator at all.” Professionals treating addiction are extending services to embrace the impacted family members. At Caron, where Duffy father and son were both treated, Knepper says that engaging with the family and not just the “identified patient” seeking treatment is a key value. “We try to have the conversation about addiction with the immediate family and find out what they know about the disease, how it’s affected their family life, how they feel about the family member going into treatment, what their individual goals are for the treatment process.” From the other side of the Atlantic, Frances Black adds that “We have to break the legacy through education and therapy. You can help someone who is in addiction, but they are still going to go back into an unhealthy environment because the family needs its own support and recovery.” Knepper agrees. “We believe that the family’s active participation in treatment is necessary for everyone’s long-term recovery,” she says. “Statistics show that patients whose families participate in their drug and alcohol treatment have lower relapse rates than patients whose families are not involved.” According to Knepper, Caron offers robust family support and after care programs for just this reason. “We practice ‘Recovery for Life’.” Meanwhile, Casey is on a mission to promote treatment. He founded The Sober Samaritan to raise funds that will be used to provide treatment to an alcoholic and addict who has reached out for help. “It’s a three-fold mission,” he explains. “We also want to raise awareness and to generate participation from individuals and institutions not previously involved in the support of drug and alcohol treatment, and to lay a foundation that will support our
ongoing efforts, support Caron, and the treatment of alcoholism and addiction.” It was a proud moment when Casey presented the first Sober Samaritan scholarship check to Caron president and CEO, Doug Tieman, in October 2007. Following in his father’s sober footsteps, Casey now serves as chair of the Caron Board of Trustees and on the Caron Philadelphia Regional Advisory Board. “The treatment industry is changing almost on a daily basis,” he explains. “When I went into treatment, I was the youngest guy in the room. Now you have so many young people, especially with the opioid epidemic.” Casey confirms that the days of the “plain old drunk” are almost gone; just about everyone active these days is also using another substance. “It’s often harder for kids to get alcohol,” he says. Another challenge is presented by the arrival into the treatment sector of for-profit providers, an unexpected consequence of the Affordable Care Act. Casey isn’t fazed by these developments. He stays mission focused: “Our job is to make sure that Caron is still offering the very best specialized treatments for another 50 years and beyond.” Casey would undoubtedly agree with Dr. Garrett O’Connor, who found his personal mission “helping others to achieve sobriety.” Widely honored for pioneering work in his lifetime, he was the subject of fulsome tributes after his death last year. “While my family story exemplifies the transmission of alcohol dependence across multiple generations,” O’Connor wrote, “it also shows that recovery – with all its gifts and miracles – can be transmitted in the same way.” The Caron mantra summarizes the scope of the issue, “The family is the patient and the patient is the family.” Healing multigenerational addiction is IA an enduring mission.
John Duffy with Father Bill Hultberg, who served as Caron’s spiritual advisor until his retirement last year.
Certified Addiction Recovery Coach & Peer Educator, Ruth Riddick is a 2015 Irish America Healthcare honoree and an occasional contributor to Irish America magazine. Her work is featured in the Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing.
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By Megan Smolenyak
5Things You Didn’t Know About Melissa McCarthy’s Family Tree
asily one of the most popular and reliable box office performers today, actress, comedian, producer, and now fashion designer Melissa McCarthy has a lot to be proud of. With a string of hits (Bridesmaids, Identity Thief, The Heat, Spy!, The Boss, etc.) that consistently deliver an enviable ROI, it’s a no brainer that her next one will follow suit because she’s part of the long-anticipated Ghostbusters dream team of Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, and Kristen Wiig. While they’re all ghostbusting, I thought I’d do a little ghost-searching – that is, for the ancestors who populate McCarthy’s family tree – and here’s what I learned.
ABOVE: Melissa McCarthy. BELOW LEFT: 1936 Social Security application for Michael McCarthy showing his father as Carty. (Social Security Administration.)
As many probably assume, Melissa McCarthy is of mostly Irish heritage (though with a twist – more on this shortly) – roughly 69%. German comes in second with 19% and the remaining 12% is deep American, mostly tracing back to England. Surnames in her past include Brolley, Burke, Carty, Clark, Condon, Connelly, Cook, Coyne, Dagenhart, Daley, Gallacher, Garvie, Green, Hoffman, Hughes, Humphries, McFayden, McGerrick, McLaughlin, Moore, O’Reilly, Owens, Quinn, and Walsh, so if you share any of these, you could be cousins, espe-
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cially if your family hails from Illinois, Indiana, Ireland or Scotland.
Yes, it’s true that Melissa and Jenny McCarthy are first cousins, but their family’s name wasn’t always McCarthy. For reasons that are unclear, their immigrant grandfather, Michael Carty, changed from Carty to McCarthy between his appearance in the 1930 census and his 1934 marriage. He had entered the country (by railroad from Quebec) and become an American citizen under the name of Carty, but perhaps he had one too many, “My name’s Mike Carty.” “McCarthy?” “No, Carty. C-A-R . . .” conversations and decided to go with the flow. And for those wondering which corner of Ireland gets to claim Melissa McCarthy’s Carty roots, congratulations to Currygranny in the Newtownforbes area of County Longford! Her paternal ancestry is entirely Irish leading back to counties Longford and Armagh among others – but with a pronounced detour. Every branch on this half of her family tree spent one to three generations in Scotland before emigrating to U.S., a common pattern with Irish families usually driven by economics. In her family’s case, many of her forebears went to Lanarkshire (including Carfin, Cambusnethan, Glasgow, Hamilton, Holytown, and Wishaw) to find employment as iron workers, coal miners, and laborers, though there’s one shoemaker and a dash of Dumbarton thrown in. So in spite of their Irish origins,
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LEFT: Declaration of Intention to become a U.S. citizen for Michael Carty completed in 1923 when he was still using the original version of his name. (Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court)
most of her paternal, immigrant ancestors likely arrived on American shores with a Scottish brogue.
One of the more tragic tales in McCarthy’s family history is that of her great-greatgrandfather, Peter Dagenhart. As seen in this coroner’s inquest, he was killed while working on the railroad by “being crushed by a girder of viaduct of box car on which he was riding, said car being shoved south by Engine #335.” He lingered briefly and died at a local hospital several hours later. It’s somewhat bittersweet that he can be found recorded in the 1910 census with his family four days after his death.
One of her great-grandmothers has a peculiar immigration story. Sarah first arrived in 1911 joining her husband who had come the year before. With her were their two young daughters. For whatever reasons – it could be that America didn’t agree with her, but I suspect it was because her widowed father’s health was failing –
ABOVE: 1860s marriage of great-greatgrandparents and baptism of great-grandfather in County Longford, illustrating the original name of Carty. (National Library of Ireland)
she returned to Scotland with her daughters in early 1912. At the time, she was about six months pregnant with Melissa’s future grandmother who, due to this turn of events, was conceived in the U.S., but born in Scotland. Sarah’s father lived until the end of 1916, but with World War I in full swing, it was very risky to journey across the Atlantic, so it was not until 1919 that the family would be reunited when Sarah and her now trio of daughters went back to the U.S. I’ll bring this quick roots overview to a close with a recommendation inspired by the siblings of one of McCarthy’s great-grandfathers. Since a number of names that were once popular are coming back in vogue (Emma and Sophia, anyone?), I’d like to suggest a pair for anyone anticipating twins: Maude and Claude. Or their e-less versions: Maud and Claud. Either way, I’m sure their IA brother Elza would be grateful. ABOVE: Photos from the passport application of McCarthy’s great-grandmother and her daughters from the book seen here. The little girl on the right in the photo on the top is her grandmother.
(National Archives and Records Administration)
LEFT CENTER: Coroner’s inquest for Peter Dagenhart. (Illinois Regional Archives Depository)
LEFT: Census for Dagenhart family taken on April 25, 1910. (Ancestry.com)
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wild irish women | biddy early, 1798-1872
Healer, Herbalist, Clairvoyant… Biddy Early was a true “alpha female” writes Rosemary Rogers in her latest exploration of “Wild Irish Women.”
or as long as anyone can remember, herbal medicine offered a cure for the sick and a wellness regime for the healthy. Herbalists seek remedies in nature to create medicines from herbs, plants, seeds, berries, bark, roots, and flowers. In countries where money was scarce, doctors too inaccessible and too expensive, the sick had no choice but to turn to herbalists and healers. Nineteenth-century Ireland was the poorest country in Europe, diseases were rampant and the Irish, always open to spiritual and unconventional solutions, embraced an herbalist and healer, Biddy Early of County Clare. Biddy’s cures of humans and animals were legend as was her fame as a mystic, clairvoyant, and boisterous bawd. They came from all of Ireland to Biddy’s house “beyond the little humpy bridge” for her cures, advice and prophesies. She was revered by W.B. Yeats as “the wisest of the wise women” and honored in his poem, “The Shadowy Waters.” Wise Biddy Early called the wicked wood: Seven odours, seven murmurs, seven woods I had not eyes like those enchanted eyes…
Remains of Biddy Early’s Cottage.
he was born Bridget Connors in 1798, one of the bloodiest years in Irish history as Crown forces, with savage and unprecedented brutality, ended the rebellion of the United Irishmen. While still a young teen Biddy was orphaned then immediately evicted. Homeless, she worked in a poorhouse (euphemistically called the House of Industry) and endured the Great Famine, all hardships that forged her indomitable spirit. Throughout her life she battled landlords, police, doctors and especially, priests. A true alpha female, she took her mother’s name “Early” – her gifts, she believed, descended from the matrilineal line – rejecting the surnames of her father and husbands. And there were four husbands, one of whom was her stepson, and the final husband was 40 years younger. She outlived them all. Biddy’s gifts were so extraordinary that an entire mythology grew around her. She was thought a descendent of the goddess Danu who, like Biddy, had
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a head of vibrant red hair that could be seen from far away. Danu was the mother of the Tuatha de Danann, a tribe steeped in magic and healing who ruled Ireland four thousand year ago. Over time, the Danann became the sidhe, the faerie folk or the Good People who lived in a parallel but invisible universe. The Good People taught Biddy’s mother their language and skills which she passed on to her daughter who spent seven years of her childhood “away with the faeries.” Faerie folk, explained Biddy, have a need to share their secrets and wisdom. Biddy took her work seriously, collecting herbs before the sun rose, the best time to catch the morning dew. She believed that dew, arriving as nature transformed from dark to light, from moonlight to dawning light, held medicinal and spiritual powers. This view was shared, 400 years earlier, by Paracelsus, the alchemist called the “Father of Modern Medicine” although it was doubtful Biddy heard of the medieval physician. Her potions combined dew, herbs (specific to the particular malady), liquid from her magic well, and a dash of holy water – all mixed in her famous Blue Bottle. Her Blue Bottle also worked as her crystal ball helping her see the past, present and future. There are many versions of how Biddy attained the Blue Bottle, the most popular being that it was a gift from her dead son, Tom, who won a hurling match over the not-very-athletic faeries. He returned from the dead to give his mother his prize, the bottle. Biddy was hardly a biddy – she was a drinking, smoking, card-playing, sexual woman who maintained her youthful good looks and, thanks to herbal makeup, her rosy complexion. She could still put a “glamour” on young men even as she approached her seventies. She welcomed everyone at her door, refused payment for her treatments and accepted only gifts of food and poitín, a powerful and often lethal home brew of which she was especially fond. Her cottage became the place to be in Clare, an odd but fun-filled destination for pilgrims. When farmers saw their animals, their only hope against starvation, fall sick from evil spells cast by faeries in a huff, they turned to Biddy. Only she could liaise between the farmers and the Good People and only she could instruct the locals on how to avoid faerie forts. Only she could offer charms and incantations to save horses and livestock. She was nothing if not forthright and her temper was as legendary as her cures. Having been evicted at a young age, Biddy hated landlords, especially her own. When he tried to rid himself of his celebrated tenant, she told him, “you’ll be leaving before I do… both in and out.” He soon died in a fire, half in and
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… or Witch?
half out a window. A thieving landlord evicted and burned down the house of Mick the Moonlighter who then shot and killed the Englishman. With police and dogs on his trail, Mick went to Biddy who used her magic to help him escape to America. It wasn’t only the poor and afflicted who sought her out. The Great Liberator, Daniel O’Connell once visited her, wondering how he would fare in the upcoming Clare election of 1828. She predicted, successfully, his victory. Her client ushered in the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829, which changed the course of Irish history. It was a triumph for Catholics but trouble for Biddy. The Church began exerting its new power, taking an authoritarian control over the lives of the deeply religious but illiterate peasants. Now there was a new world order that did not include a foulmouthed, whiskey-swilling, herb-touting sorceress who avoided Mass. So began Biddy’s war with the priests. Bilious clerics denounced her from the pulpit, deeming visits to her a mortal sin. Even giving directions to her house could land a Catholic in Purgatory. They claimed she was a witch, a familiar of the devil whose four husbands died sudden and mysterious deaths, even pointing out that her young fourth husband languished in bed until he died after only months of marriage. (Truth be told, the spouse was too fond of wood alcohol.) When a priest came to her house demanding she cease and desist her practice, she spat on his horse. The nag promptly bolted, throwing off the man of the cloth mid-rant. Nothing, it seemed, could stop her faithful from making sinful visits to her cottage. Desperate, the Church, the law, and the medical establishment resurrected a 300-year-old law to try her for witchcraft. In previous centuries this statute had executed 50,000 women for practicing the “dark arts.” A lesser woman would have been terrified but not Biddy – she knew her clientele would stand their ground against the establishment. They did, saying her work was for good, not evil. As no one would testify against her, the case was thrown out of court. In the end, there was a truce. A dying Biddy, rosary around her neck, asked for the Last Rites. After the priest administered the sacrament, he threw her Blue Bottle in the lake. Twenty-seven priests served at her funeral mass and the parish priest asked his flock to pray for the repose of the soul of Biddy Early, whom he described as a “saint who walked in our midst.” Most of what we know about Biddy has been passed down through the oral tradition. She was dead only 20 years when Lady Augusta Gregory began collecting stories of her powers for her book on Irish
folklore. Much later a long-standing rumor about Biddy was spread and still believed: she put a curse on Clare’s hurling team that prevented them from winning the All-Ireland cup until 1995. It appeared the team wouldn’t give her a lift to the finals in 1932, some 60 years after her death. Today Biddy is seen as a visionary, a woman truly ahead of her time. Until quite recently, the medical profession was dismissive, even suspicious, of herbalism but now herbal treatment is recommended by healthcare practitioners of every discipline for ailments ranging from dandruff to drug addiction. Herbal extracts, tinctures, capsules and tablets, essential oils and teas proliferate in drug stores, supermarkets, and the Internet. Her former cottage, though it lies in ruin, is a popular tourist attraction. Seanchaís (storytellers) celebrate a céilí there on April 30, the Celtic festival of Bealtain, the night of the faeries. The fun is followed by a search for the Blue Bottle – a fruitless quest since everyone knows the faeries took it back when Biddy passed on to the Otherworld. Biddy has lent her name to numerous pubs, a folk group, seeds, a sports team, beer, and a plant, “Biddy Early” won second prize at the High Times Cannabis Cup in 2003 earning praise for its “unfamiliar earthy scent with a sweet candy taste which gives a surprisingly pleasant IA and powerful high.”
They came from all of Ireland to Biddy’s house “beyond the little humpy bridge” for her cures, advice and prophesies.
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AccordionMan music | trad
Billy McComiskey, who recently received a National Heritage Fellowship – the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts, talks to Kristin Cotter McGowan.
“I’m up in the Catskills.”
It’s Irish Arts Week in East Durham, New York, and master box player, All-Ireland Accordion Champion Billy McComiskey is taking a break between his scheduled workshops to talk about his history, the Irish music scene in D.C., and his latest achievement – a National Heritage Fellowship awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Billy, born in Brooklyn on December 21, 1951 into a family immersed in Irish traditional music, is one of nine artists to receive our nation’s highest honor this year in the folk and traditional arts. Billy’s history with the traditional Irish music scene of the Catskills and the accordion began with his parents’ first date. “My father had driven a couple of neighbors up to a boarding house in the Catskills and the proprietor Matt Caplis invited him to stay on to hear a great Irish box player who was visiting. My dad, Pat McComiskey, and Matt’s sister, Mae Caplis, met and fell in love that night and married about six months later. The box player turned out to be the great Joe Derrane, who died this past July (and was also a NEA Fellowship recipient). “The first time I ever did a gig, I was about five years old. It was at my uncle Matt’s boarding house. He was an accordion player too and didn’t like playing on his own so he gave me a couple of spoons to rattle behind him. So whatever that thing is that motivates a player, I had that then. I enjoyed the craic. I guess it was not long after that my cousin John Sweeny, who was a nephew of my grandfather and in the Navy, came back from Germany with a Honer accordion – a black dot, B/C tuning, semi-tone accordion. He showed me a couple of songs on it like ‘Believe Me if All Those Endearing Young Charms,’ and I was hooked.” Formal lessons were rare at the time, so young Billy continued his education by listening, and found inspiration in the many Irish musicians who played in the Catskills, in particular accordion players Bobby Gardiner and Joe Cooley. At 15 years old, he met his mentor, Sean McGlynn, “One of the quintessential Irish accordion players in the East Galway style.” He was from Tynagh, Co. Galway, and so fascinated by the Tipperary player Paddy O’Brien that “he would not play in his presence.” Billy was just
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as shy upon first meeting Sean, but the pair grew to be great friends. Sean was the first accordion player in the North American touring group the Green Fields of America, sponsored by the National Council of the Traditional Arts. After Sean’s untimely death in 1983, his rare gray Paolo Soprani accordion passed on to Billy, who still plays it and occasionally tours with Green Fields of America. “They were so incredibly encouraging and supportive,” Billy says of Sean and Joe Cooley. “They knew that I loved to play, knew that I wanted to play and be great like them and they both encouraged me. Joe died right around my birthday in 1975. If he had lived a little while longer I believe he also would have received the NEA Fellowship. He was a cultural center, a person that empowered other people. It didn’t strike him as funny that someone not born in Ireland could play Irish music. It never occurred to him as odd that people of Eastern European descent or African American heritage would end up playing Irish traditional music. Anyone who wanted to learn Irish music did. He had no prejudice. None. That’s also how Sean McGlynn was.” By the early 1970s, Billy was playing regular gigs at the Bunratty Pub in the Bronx. It was here that he met fellow accordion player Father Lou Thompson and Bronx fiddler Peggy Riordan. They had come to invite Billy to play a few céilís in the Washington, D.C. area, at a pub/restaurant called The Dubliner. He immediately fell in love with the area, particularly the state of Maryland, and moved down for good. “I remember a few players thought I was crazy when I originally moved to Washington, having known and learned so much from the great players in New York City, but at the same time I found New York kind of stifling. The music was very dogmatic the way it was played, and the Irish music scene at the time was dominated by men in their 60s and up. When I left New York City I was one of maybe a dozen young Irish-American people playing, so to move to Washington and start all over, especially with all this knowledge, having been brought up in it, was amazing to me.” This eye-opening experience of wide-open oppor-
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tunity mirrors his father Patrick’s immigration to the United States, of arriving in Oklahoma for flight school and immediately falling in love with the vastness of America. “He flew for the Queen’s Royal Air Force during World War II and made a pact with himself that if he survived the war he was coming back to America.” Pat McComiskey did return and quickly bought his own home in Brooklyn because “this was something an Irish Catholic in Northern Ireland could not do. He saw the value of it.” Billy arrived in our nation’s capital right at the time when the Irish saloon / restaurant phenomenon was just starting to take shape. The Dubliner was a stone’s throw from Capitol Hill. After securing regular work there, Billy invited his friend, fiddler Brendan Mulvihill, to join him. Brendan’s father was the legendary New York City Irish music teacher Martin Mulvihill, another NEA Heritage Fellowship recipient. Rounding out the group was Andy O’Brien of County Kerry, who sang and played guitar. They called themselves “The Irish Tradition,” and became The Dubliner’s regular house band playing six, later five nights a week. Billy remembers The Dubliner becoming a very cool and hip spot to be, where the beautiful political people, especially the Irish, would hang out – people like Tip O’Neill and Ted Kennedy. “I wouldn’t say they were regulars… but they weren’t foreigners either. It was all great fun when they came in. Andy, Brendan and I weren’t paying too much attention to politics at the time. We had no idea how important Tip O’Neill was, we just thought he had a cool name. We knew Ted Kennedy was somehow related to John Kennedy. Ted loved Irish music and he had us at his house sometimes at a couple of different parties. It was just an amazing time to be an Irishman living in the Washington area and working on Capitol Hill.” It wasn’t just the political elite that were taking notice of the Irish. In 1976 the Irish Tradition played the Smithsonian Folklife Festival during the U.S. Bicentennial on the National Mall and the inaugural event of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. They hosted sessions at another D.C. pub called The Benbow, out of which grew other Irish-American bands like Celtic Thunder, the Hags, and the Boiling Spuds. After marrying his wife Annie, moving to Baltimore, and starting a family, Billy continued to build the Irish music scene in Baltimore and grow as a player. He released solo albums “Making the Rounds” in 1981 and “Outside the Box” in 2008. In between he joined forces with fiddler Liz Carroll, also a NEA National Heritage Fellow, and guitarist/singer Dáithí Sproule to form the internationallyacclaimed group Trian. He’s played at the White House, the Kennedy Center,
throughout the U.S., Ireland, and around the world. And now, forty years after arriving in Washington, D.C., Billy joins the greats in his life – Joe Derrane, Martin Mulvihill, Liz Carroll, and fiddler Seamus Connolly – as one of the NEA’s National Heritage Fellows. “To receive this national fellowship is mind numbing. I had the distinct honor and privilege of performing with Joe Heaney, the sean-nós singer from Connemara who worked in Brooklyn. Joe Heaney was not only the first Irishman to receive an NEA Heritage Fellowship, he was one of the first dozen or so recipients, period. It’s stunning to realize that hardly anyone had even heard of sean-nós singing (unaccompanied traditional style singing). They had no idea what any of this was until people started paying attention to Joe Heaney. He got this award for all the right reasons. He shared his knowledge of the culture. It’s not like winning a competition or something…it’s so much more than that. It’s really a tremendous honor.” Like Joe Heaney, who passed away in 1984, and others before him, Billy continues the tradition of sharing the culture with the next generation. As a master teacher through the Maryland Traditions apprenticeship program, students – including his son Sean – have been awarded grants to apprentice under Billy. Sean McComiskey now plays accordion in O’Malley’s March, the seven-piece Irish pub-rock band fronted by former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. After the Catskill Irish Arts week, Billy’s headed back to his beloved D.C. to teach another workshop at Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann’s “MAD Week,” an immersion program in Irish music and dance (MAD). “They say they’re ‘Mad for Trad.’ It’s a lovely music scene down there and I’m honored to be part of it.” The enthusiasm and commitment of Billy and traditional musicians like him continues to fuel the appeal of Irish music to younger generations. And looking towards the future, Billy believes that the Trad tradition is healthy and headed for a giant leap forward. “The thing about Irish music right now is that it’s so celebrated not only all over the world but in Ireland too. There are thousands of Irish traditional musicians that are highly accomplished. Because of all the information on technique that’s readily available – recordings, videos – a young player today is playing at a standard that the greatest players took a lifetime to achieve. Irish traditional music is now going through the process of becoming not just a 20th century interpretation of 17/18th century music, but its own 21st century art form. It’s a really interesting time to be alive, playing and celebrating Irish IA music culture.” AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016 IRISH AMERICA 77
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Under the Tuscan Sun what are you like? | By Patricia Harty
Emily O’Hare at Castello di Potentino
aised in London with Irish and Scottish roots, Emily O’Hare made a name for herself as a wine buyer and head sommelier at The River Café, London. That was before she fell in love with Italy and decided to make it her home. She now runs wine and yoga retreats at a medieval castle in Tuscany. Her longterm goal, in addition to growing her retreat business, is to style peoples’ cellars with a good range of Italian wines and bring clients to Italy to meet winemakers and try wines on site.
Tell me about your Irish heritage?
My maternal grandmother is from Portarlington, Co. Laois. My paternal grandparents are both from Glasgow, but their parents were from Ireland – Newry and Antrim – not considered Northern Ireland at that time, explains my dad! Many of my school holidays were spent in Bantry Bay and Barley Cove – in the rain – so generally in the car, or under a brolly eating barmbrack.
How has your lifestyle changed since the move to Tuscany?
I have never felt so well as I do here in Italy. I moved here two years ago to do the grape harvest for three months, and never returned to London. The quality of my life here is so good. I got into yoga here, in Florence. I never had the time, or energy to do yoga back home, but in Italy it was a means of exercise and opportunity to socialize and make friends. I have since taken my teacher’s certificate in Ashtanga Vinyasa. I really fell in love with the practice. And here in Italy, I drink, for sure, but never as much as I used to back in London. I drink not quite like an Italian (they are enviably moderate) but much less, and hence I feel the benefits of a good glass of wine but not the downside of downing an entire bottle. Over a meal in the U.K., I could so easily manage a bottle! And the way of eating here so works for me – a light breakfast of fruit, good coffee, maybe a piece of cake, and then lunch is always fresh veg, good cheese, a bit of focaccia. Dinner is long, at least three courses, antipasti, primi, secondi, but the portions are not enormous, and you eat slowly, enjoying the momentum of the meal. I love knowing there will be another course, followed by another course, and sometimes the main course might be a simply cooked piece of fish, and that is it, no sides, nothing – but you have already had an antipasti of veg or carpaccio of meat and a pasta or risotto so you’re not searching the table for spuds. There were always spuds on the table back at Nan’s.
It’s about finding the right balance?
Yes. Health for me means combining yoga, wine, and food. It is I think, a very balanced lifestyle, and no need for binging because nothing is forbidden fruit. 78 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016
Is it hard to stay on track?
It absolutely is. I get this [healthy combination], and I love it when I can feel things in equilibrium, but I find it bloody hard to maintain. As soon as I recognize I’m balancing, I get over-excited and fall out of the pose so to speak. It’s not easy to balance: fun/frustrating trying, fun/frustrating falling out, too.
How did you come to move to Castello di Potentino?
I was brought to the castle on a work trip with Armit Wines; one of the wine suppliers to The River Café – a tasting trip. Usually on these trips you visit the winery, the barrel room where the wines age, you taste the wines, you eat an enormous lunch and then leave, which is all pretty great. However at Potentino as soon as we arrived, Alex, one of the owners, took us straight down to the stream to jump into the waterfalls running by the castle. We were all boiled after a long drive in the mid-July heat and it was heavenly. Afterwards we sat to dinner on a long table in the courtyard under the stars and drank the beautiful wines made by Alex’s sister Charlotte, and listened to stories about spies and rare perfumes. Not surprisingly, I never forgot Castello di Potentino. When I was thinking about what to do with my Italian life, how to stay in this incredible country, I thought it would be cool to combine all the things that I enjoy, wine, food, and yoga, and to give normal people, I mean people not in the restaurant trade, the access to the amazing food and wine experiences that you are exposed to when you visit wineries and restaurants as a Sommelier or chef. With The River Café I was taken on amazing trips. Castello di Potentino immediately sprang to mind when I thought about a place to host the retreat.
Who do you cater to and what can a guest expect to experience?
The retreat is open to everyone, we just held our first in June and we had the loveliest group of people; a brilliant mix of nationalities – Portugal, New Jersey, Holland, U.K., and even a tiny Russian island off Japan that I had not known existed, but thanks to Twitter, Tanya arrived at Potentino for the inaugural retreat. Guests can expect to have a most magical time in an enchanted area. In Monte Amiata four days can feel, in the most positive sense, like four weeks. You feel so separate from the concerns
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that normally nibble the conscience. Nature is so impressive, it always is, but up on the mountain you feel so aware of it. And oh my gosh, the wines we taste, the winery we visit, the meals we eat, the yoga overlooking the olive groves and the feeling of the morning sun warming up the skin within the hour class, it is all exquisite. And if the guests wish to take the wine classes after yoga they can take their WSET Level 1 certificate during the weekend. It’s a globally recognized wine qualification and to my mind the best introduction to wine. If you are a wine drinker then this is a dream class. It’s important to know how to drink well.
Tell me some more about your childhood vacations in Ireland.
My holidays in Ireland always, always followed the same format. My grandad (“Pop”), dad, my cousin Jenny and I would drive from our home near Heathrow to Wales to catch the overnight ferry to Cork. Then we would meet mum and my grandmother (“Nan”) at the airport. They always flew over as Nan wasn’t into the long car journey. We would drive to our hotel, the Seaview House Hotel in Ballylickey – Jenny and I squashed in between mum and Nan – Nan smoking a lot of Woodbines out the window. Nan and Pop had been going to this hotel since it first opened in the seventies, when it was a small B&B. The daughter of the couple that ran the hotel took it over from her parents and grew it into a Manor House, and Nan and Pop would go every year. I love this place. I believe it is at Seaview that I began to understand the concept of good cooking and hospitality.
Do you have an Irish passport?
No, not yet; I am looking into it – Irish or Scottish. I think Scotland might leave the U.K. now, in which case perhaps I can still be part of the E.U. I would like to be.
What’s your favorite piece of music or musician?
Ermmmmm, well ermmm, right now, if I am honest, it would be Justin Bieber! I wondered about saying something that might make me look a bit smarter. Should I pick some obscure piece of classical or an opera aria? But it’s always best to be honest. But if I had to listen to something long term, not just on a loop, right now it would be an Elvis album. I love Elvis. I watched all his films, well, most of them – there’s a lot to get through. I ended up getting tattooed with his profile at 4 a.m. in New Orleans on a road trip across America when I was turning 21. I regretted it a few hours later when the frozen margaritas had worn off, but now I love it. It reminds me of a very funny time with three great girlfriends.
TOP LEFT: Emily O’Hare, wine sommelier and yogi, hosts retreats at Castello di Potentino in Tuscany. TOP RIGHT: The vineyards at Castello di Potentino. ABOVE: Dinner in the courtyard under the stars.
I love Four Weddings and a Funeral. I have had a lot of excruciatingly embarrassing moments in my life and it is a relief to watch and re-watch other people experiencing the same thing. I also love The Wizard of Oz. Before wanting to be a doctor when I grew up; I wanted so much to be a witch, and Margaret Hamilton was the best wicked witch ever. AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016 IRISH AMERICA 79
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what are you like? | emily o’hare When did you first become interested in wine?
Your earliest memory?
TOP: One of the 10 bedrooms in the main castle. There are also two apartments available that can sleep two to eight people. ABOVE: Castello di Potentino. This splendid ancient castle, built on an Etruscan site, lies in a secret valley nestled in one of the last undiscovered corners of Tuscany.
For more information: www.potentino.com www.cellarstylist.co.uk Phone: +39 0564 950014
My dad bringing home treats for my brother and me from work. He worked in Aer Lingus cargo and managed some incoming flights from Kenya. I’m pretty sure he was allowed to bring these things home. He would come in from his night shift while we were having our breakfast with little wooden animals, sometimes cartons of guava juice, or a crate of passion fruit which was so exotic to us, and once he brought home boxes of what looked like pretty pastel colored tissue paper, but it was sugar paper that you could eat! I thought it was the best thing ever. It dissolved on your tongue, all sweet and superficial. I must have been about four or five, which I suppose is quite late for an earliest memory.
The first time wine really truly made an impact was at wine school in London Bridge. I was 25 and in my first year of the diploma course. I didn’t know much about wine until then. I only drank whatever was three for a tenner from Wine Rack as a university student, but on this course, we were studying the wines of Burgundy. We had four wines in front of us that were poured blind, and we had to taste them and put them in order of their cru, which was the Premier Cru which was Grand, which was Generic, which was Villages, and one of these wines, sitting in a horrible little glass was so mesmerizing – the smell, the taste, the texture, somehow this wine seemed to have muscle definition. It took me away from the clinical tasting room, it was so toned, so poised, so balanced. I felt like I was front row of the ballet. I kept thinking this wine is so on its tip toes, everything is so lifted and light and yet strong. It was Armand Rousseau Charmes Chambertin 1999, the Grand Cru. I couldn’t believe that this bottle could take me to the ballet. I’d always wanted to go, and that’s what the great wines do. They take you to the ballet.
How do you relax and clear your head?
I usually need to take everything out of my bureau and then put everything back in again in order. I’m not very tidy. I quite like a mess, so I call my friend Pippa, whom I met at Edinburgh University who is amazing at helping me figure out what needs to go back in and what should stay out. Left to my own devices I get distracted, probably thinking about lunch, and just chuck it all back in again.
What is on your bedside table?
Generosity. I just looked for a definition to clarify that this is really my favorite quality, and after reading this – “the virtue of not being tied down by concerns about one’s possessions, to provide help to others by giving them an item, usually precious. Without thinking twice” – I am sure it is. I recognize a lot of my family and friends in those lines.
Back at home, at mum and dad’s, in the room I grew up in and still go back to, is a reading light and a plastic snow globe with Mary and the baby Jesus inside. I don’t know who gave it to me or where it came from, but it’s been there for as long as I can remember. It is pretty tacky I suppose, but I really love it. I was raised Catholic, and although there are a number of things I struggle with regarding my faith, it is something very valuable to me.
Your favorite place to visit?
What is your current state of mind?
Your favorite quality in friends?
The ice cream machine at River Café. I really love ice cream – chocolate and roasted almond – all of them. I would hover around the machine around cleaning time, always armed with a spoon. I think it is a good idea to have a spoon always at the ready.
Your favorite meal?
A long one, Italian style – four courses. The thought of a long meal in good company makes me so happy. 80 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016
I’ve just met somebody, a French weightlifting yogi. He is really super. I’m feeling totally giddy.
I'm currently in the process of tempting a Champagne house, Billecart Salmon, to come to Valentines night at the castle! We are hoping to get the chef to stay and put together a Tuscan meal matched with Billecart Champagnes. That should IA spark up February.
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The A grueling climb in the rain is followed by a blissful spa treatment. By Sharon Ní Chonchúir
Pain & The Pleasure
ive miles outside the County Mayo town of Westport, a conically-shaped mountain looms over the surrounding countryside. This is Croagh Patrick. It’s 2,500 feet high. It’s a place of ancient history. It’s associated with Ireland’s patron saint and on a rainy day this June, I was determined to climb it. The rain was lashing from the heavens when I began my ascent. The summit was shrouded in cloud. However, this didn’t mean that I was the only one setting out to climb the mountain. Croagh Patrick has been a pilgrimage site since the Stone Age when pagans would gather here to celebrate the beginning of harvest season. The mountain continues to be popular with pilgrims because it is said that it was on its summit that Saint Patrick completed a 40-day Lenten fast in the year 441AD. Legend also has it that it was from here that he banished snakes from Ireland forever. To this day, one million people follow in the footsteps of Saint Patrick every year by making their pilgrimage to the top of the mountain. A statue of the saint marks the start of the climb and I took a moment here to contemplate the challenge ahead. Because, whatever anyone says about this climb, I can assure you that it’s not easy. It wouldn’t be a place of pilgrimage if it were. The first stage is rocky. The path is strewn with pebbles, stones and boulders of granite, which means that you have to be very careful where you place your
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feet. Every step has to be considered and this makes the climb a more mindful one than most. Luckily, I had rented hiking sticks from a stall at the bottom of the mountain. These made the going a little easier. So too did the fact that I was wearing proper hiking boots and all-weather rain gear. The rain clouds cleared occasionally as I climbed and during those rare moments, I took the opportunity to stop, catch my breath and take in the increasingly impressive views of Clew Bay behind me. Clew Bay is one of the most beautiful bays in all of Ireland. There are said to be 365 islands in the bay, one for every day of the year. These islands are partly-drowned drumlins, which are steep-sided hills that were formed during the last Ice Age. However, the sunshine never lasted and the driving rain hastened my ascent of the mountain. After an hour or so, I arrived at the top of the first summit. Then I began a short descent before taking on the more challenging and much steeper climb to my final destination. The incline here is something like 60 degrees and once again, the path is strewn with rocks. At times, the climb is so steep that all you can see is those rocks ahead of you. You lose sight of the top and of how far you still have to go. In fact, it was only when I glimpsed a small chapel through the mist that I realized I had made it to the summit. On the last Sunday of July, known locally as Reek Sunday, this chapel shelters a priest who says mass for the thousands of pilgrims who climb the
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mountain on that special day. Many of those pilgrims make the climb in their bare feet. Having struggled to reach the top while wearing tough hiking boots, I’m still amazed at how they do it. With the rain once again pelting down, it was time to begin my descent. During the most challenging moments on my way up, I had consoled myself with the thought that the climb down would be easier. I was wrong. The rocky ground meant that my steps were cautiously slow. My knees were bent in constant readiness for a fall. By the time I reached the bottom, my legs felt incredibly wobbly. However, that physical exhaustion was outweighed by the sense of achievement I felt at having conquered one of Ireland’s best known mountains. I had also thoroughly enjoyed the easy companionship of my fellow climbers. On the way up, those who passed me on their way down gave me the words of encouragement I needed to persevere and on my way down, I did the same for those just beginning their climb. I also had a treat in store. That morning, before setting out for Croagh Patrick, I’d booked myself into the Spa Veda at the Westport Coast Hotel. Only a five-minute drive from the foot of Croagh Patrick and perched right at the edge of Clew Bay, this four-star hotel offered the reward I needed after my penitential morning. The spa combines the utmost in modern luxury with an ancient Indian system of health called Ayurveda. All of the treatments on offer are carried out by experienced Ayurvedic practitioners from Kerala in India. Arriving at the spa, I changed into my swimsuit
and relaxed for a while in the pool before soaking my tired limbs in the hot tub. I then retreated into the darkened relaxation area, where I reclined on plump cushions and soft music soon soothed me into a state of blissed-out doziness. Before I knew it, it was time for my treatment. A smiling Indian lady called Gigi poured hot oils onto my exhausted body and massaged all of the exertions of the day away. I forgot all about my wobbly legs and surrendered to the sheer pleasure of the experience. There was more pleasure to come. I went back to the relaxation area for more rest and recovery and then had a session in the aroma therapy steam room, followed by a dip in the ice fountain and finally a tropical shower experience. I finished my day by treating myself to dinner in the bar overlooking the bay. It may not be how the pilgrims of old did it, but that was how I spent my day climbing (and recovering from climbing) Croagh Patrick. I hadn’t finished indulging myself either. The following day, I travelled across the county border into Leitrim where I found a much simpler and much more secluded place to rest and recover. Ard Nahoo is situated at the end of some very long, narrow, winding country lanes; so long, narrow and winding that you are bound to question if you’ve gone wrong somewhere along the way. Ignore those thoughts, as you’ll soon see the advantages of being in such an isolated spot. Once you arrive at this eco retreat centre which is set on six acres of unspoiled countryside, all you will see and hear is the natural world around you. Ard Nahoo consists of a centre which houses a yoga studio and treatment rooms; three wooden cab-
FAR LEFT: The Westport Coast Hotel, The Quay, Westport, Co. Mayo, is home to Spa Veda. ABOVE: Sharon on the first leg of her climb up Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s holy mountain.
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LEFT: The Relaxation Room at Spa Veda. BELOW: The cabins at Ard Nahoo, Co. Leitrim, where the importance of simple pleasures is emphasized.
ins that can sleep up to a total of 17 people; and ponds, lakes and lots of wooded walkways where you can get lost for hours. The cabin I was in was one of two three-bedroomed cabins. Made from cedar, these cabins are built along eco principles, insulated with hemp, built without the use of petrochemicals and heated using cheery wood pellet stoves. They are comfortably furnished too, and I found them a wonderfully relaxing place to be. I spent the morning reading a book and sipping mint tea on the veranda outside. The modern world seemed far away at that moment. While I was in Ard Nahoo, Ireland and all of Europe was in turmoil over Britain’s decision to leave the E.U. Terrorists had just exploded bombs at Istanbul Airport. But all around me was peace – sheer and utter peace. I walked through the woods into the nearby village of Dromahair for lunch and returned for an afternoon of relaxation treatments. I contemplated my choices as I sat in the bubbling hot tub and eventually settled on a facial followed by a soothing back, neck and shoulder massage. Once that was over, I strolled back to my cabin and took a nap. Then I lit the wood pellet stove and warmed up the dinner of vegetable curry and apple and berry crumble which was waiting for me in the fridge. My stay in Ard Nahoo was the essence of simplicity, but then this is a place that emphasizes the importance of simple pleasures. Good food, a peaceful environment, the beauty of nature, comfortable accommodation and relaxing treatments – what more IA could a modern-day pilgrim ask for? 84 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016
Croagh Patrick is situated near the town of Westport in County Mayo, Ireland. The main pilgrimage route originates in the village of Murrisk, five miles outside Westport. For more information see: www.croagh-patrick.com
Spa Veda is at the Westport Coast Hotel, The Quay, Westport, County Mayo. Phone: (011) +353 98 29000 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.westportcoasthotel.ie/spa
Mullagh, Dromahair, Co. Leitrim. Phone: (011) +353 71 913 4939 Web: www.ardnahoo.com
8/4/16 6:25 PM
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The Doors of Dublin The story behind the Georgian houses in Dublin City and why no two adjacent doors are alike. By Edythe Preet
“Wide is the door of the small cottage.” Anonymous
ention the word “doors” to someone of the Boomer Generation (me, for instance) and the first free association response could easily be The Doors, that late 1960s music trio featuring Irish American lead singer Jim Morrison, whose iconic song “Light My Fire” earned the group a permanent place in the history of rock and roll. Repeat the experiment and it’s likely the next association will be those swinging devices that separate one place from another. Doors are such common things that we rarely give them a second thought. But it was not always so. Our far distant ancestors most likely placed impediments such as huge boulders partially blocking the entrances to their cave-dwellings to deter both four-legged and two-legged intruders from investigating what lay inside, or hung animal hides to deflect inclement weather, but either method was poor protection at best. Eons passed before an actual door was invented. The earliest records of doors appear in ancient Egyptian tomb paintings that show single pieces of wood closing off chambers. By 1600 B.C.E., some
unknown genius had devised a rudimentary form of the modern hinge, enabling doors to pivot open and closed. Even so, the materials and skills required to fabricate hinged doors were so costly that initially they were only incorporated into temples and homes of the ruling classes. Metallurgy science and metal working technique crawled along for more than a millennium before hinged doors came into common use. By the 1700s when medieval European cities had begun growing exponentially, their swelling populations led to a need for more urban residential areas. Ireland’s capital city of Dublin had become one of the British Empire’s most important and prosperous cities, second only to London. As the majority of the governing Anglo aristocracy resided in Dublin, streets and squares were reconfigured and remodeled to accommodate the construction boom. So that the new buildings would reflect the architecture then popular in England, developers were required to comply with particular structural and design restrictions. The resulting style came to be known as Georgian Dublin, named for the four English kings who ruled during the period (King George I-IV; 1714-1830). Ideal Georgian townscapes were designed to give a cohesive impression of simplicity and uniformity within a particular neighborhood. Entire blocks of adjoining townhouses were intended to be viewed as a unit expressing the philosophy “the whole is greater than its individual parts.” The result was row after row of bland stone or brick facades with equally bland front doors. As time passed, enforcement of the strict design regulations waned. Residents seeking to set their properties apart from their neighbors began making changes to the one element of the buildings that could be altered – the wooden doors. Ornate door knockers, wrought iron boot scrapers and coal delivery hole covers were easily applied expressions of individuality. More complicated were the addition of a unique semicircular multi-paned glass “fan light” above the door and,
86 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016
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sláinte | good cheer if the house was wide enough, multi-paned glass “side lights” on either side of the door, both of which let natural light into the foyer, a real boon in the days before electricity. But the most popular modification, as well as the simplest and least costly, simply required the owner to pick a bright color and give the front door a coat of paint (durable lead-based red was an early favorite). What inspired Dubliners to start painting their Georgian doors is the stuff of Irish urban legend. One tale has it that when England’s Queen Victoria’s beloved husband Albert died, she issued an edict that all doors in her realm should be painted a mournful black, motivating the Irish, who were chafing under English rule, to do exactly the opposite. Another story holds that Dublin’s women began painting their doors in bright colors so their mates could recognize their homes when they’d had a bit too much of the drink at the local pub. A third legend, favorited by Dublin’s tour directors, tells that the very first colorful door was painted red by the well-known writer George Moore to prevent his neighbor (and fellow writer) Oliver St. John Gogarty from trying to break into his house when the latter came home inebriated and frequently confused the two houses, which then inspired Mr. Gogarty to paint his door bright green. While Dublin’s doors are now one of the city’s top tourist attractions, they didn’t achieve that notoriety until American advertising photographer Bob Fearon became intrigued by them and took pictures of several dozen while on assignment in Ireland. On returning to his base in New York City, Fearon chose his best 30 shots, mounted them as a collage, and showed the finished product to Joe Malone, North American manager of Bord Fáilte, who loved the image and immediately set it in Bord Fáilte’s 5th Avenue window, serendipitously on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day. When people started asking for copies, Malone contacted the Irish Tourist Board in Dublin, which promptly bought the image rights from Fearon who had titled it “The Doors of Dublin,” and created a poster as iconic as the national slogan “céad míle fáilte!” – a hundred thousand welcomes. Seems to me the image and the slogan complement each other beautifully and imply that a warm welcome waits behind every Irish door. Just like another saying found on many a souvenir Irish linen tea towel: “Bid your guests welcome though they come at any hour.” And I’ll bet the visitor will immediately be offered a hot cuppa tea and a plate of biscuits too! IA Sláinte!
NOTE: What in the U.S. is called a “cookie,” in Ireland is called a “biscuit.” Either way you name them, these bite-sized treats are popular on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
Round and golden like the sun, these sweets are suggested for a Lammas Day celebration that occurs in August and honors the sun god Lugh. 1 1 3 2 1 ⁄4 ⁄4
cup soft unsalted butter cup sugar eggs cups flour cup Irish whiskey cup minced candied lemon peel cup golden raisins cup chopped toasted almonds
Preheat oven to 375 F. Cream butter with sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until blended. Add flour and Irish whiskey and beat until smooth. Add candied lemon peel, raisins and almonds and mix well. Drop dough from a tablespoon onto a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for 6 to 8 minutes. Remove cookies to a wire rack while they are still warm. Makes approx. 5 dozen.
(Celtic Folklore Cooking – Joanne Asala)
Ginger Cookies 2 1 2 1⁄2 1
Oatmeal & Cinnamon Biscuits 4 4 2 4 4 1 ½
ounces soft unsalted butter ounces brown sugar eggs, beaten ounces flour ounces oatmeal teaspoon powdered cinnamon teaspoon baking powder pinch of salt a very little bit of milk, if necessary
Preheat oven to 375 F. Cream the butter and sugar, then add the beaten eggs, little by little, adding some of the flour after each addition. Add the oatmeal, cinnamon, baking powder and salt; mix well. Add a very little milk if the mixture seems too stiff; it should be a fairly soft dough. Drop dough from a tablespoon onto a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for approx. 15 minutes. Makes approx. 25.
⁄4 1 1 3 ⁄4 1 ⁄3 1
cups flour teaspoon powdered cinnamon teaspoons baking soda teaspoon powdered ginger teaspoon salt egg beaten cup sugar cup shortening cup molasses extra sugar for rolling
Preheat oven to 375 F. Sift the five dry ingredients together and set aside. In a separate large bowl, beat egg with sugar, then beat in shortening and molasses. Add dry ingredients gradually and mix until thoroughly combined. Roll dough into approximately 1-inch balls and roll each ball in extra sugar until covered. Place balls 2-inches apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 15 minutes until top surface develops cracks and is lightly firm to the touch. Remove from oven and let cookies sit on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then place cookies on a wire rack to cool. Makes approx. 4 dozen. (personal recipe)
(Irish Traditional Food – Theodora Fitzgibbon) AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016 IRISH AMERICA 87
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CAMPBELL Continued from page 32
There is a big focus now on using one’s own autoimmune system to target disease.
PHOTO: KIT DEFEVER
Yes, and some of it has to do with worms. There is a connection between early childhood worm infections and a stronger immunity. You can cure some diseases by infecting the person with worms. In Mexico, for a couple of hundred dollars you can become infected with worms as a cure for irritable bowel syndrome. You can get the treatment in London. It hasn’t caught on here because people are put off by the idea of worms. Most of the research is being done on the fringe. Established researchers won’t touch it.
You have spent your whole career developing chemical answers to disease — but you’ve said that we need to look to nature for cures.
Yes, absolutely. I believe that. We need to look at the immunological response and other biological approaches rather than chemical contrivances. We need to continue to work on other ways of interrupting life cycles and disrupting transmission of disease. One would hope that eventually [chemicals] would be replaced but certainly we are not anywhere near that yet, except in certain cases such as virus diseases.
In terms of the Prize, you like to give credit to others, saying the discovery was a team effort.
Right, that is really important. I’m a representative of the Merck company’s “team of teams” – parasitologists, chemists, microbiologists, and toxicologists. If there was a problem or an obstacle in one department, somehow it was solved. As obstacles arose, they got resolved. And of course, there was a lot of good fortune…things went better than one had any right to expect.
One last question — as a scientist and as a person, do you believe in the afterlife?
Ah. I cannot answer that. I have a very fuzzy but very important religious faith – you know, from growing up in a Christian household. When I say I can’t answer that, it is not just that I don’t want to (although I don’t want to) but it is because I don’t have an answer that satisfies me. I don’t believe in heaven with a big-bearded God and Saint Peter with a big keys at the gate and stuff. I am not a literalist in terms of religious faith. I am very liberal. In fact, I am a very fuzzy-minded person when it comes to those things… But I can’t let go of the belief that there’s something there.
Thank you, Dr. Campbell.
ABOVE: Campbell and his wife, Mary, pictured with their daughter, Betsy, her husband, Adam Learner, and their children, Jackson, Keira (in front of her mother), and Maya.
How do you stay fit and mentally alert?
The thing that I cling to, no matter how busy I get, is playing doubles ping-pong three times a week. It is very energetic and requires a lot of mental focus. I also kayak early in the morning. I love the serene atmosphere. When you have the lake all to yourself, it is such a source of refreshment. And of course, it’s good physical exercise as well. Also, I paint and write poetry. Those are things that you can keep on doing. Well, the painting you can keep doing. The poetry seems to be something that is either there or not there.
From your paintings and your poetry, I have come to the conclusion that you love worms.
Yes. I consider them beautiful. They are just doing their own thing and not meaning to be destructive. And I have said in some recent papers that the objective is not to get rid of parasitic worms, the objective is to get rid of parasitic diseases.
One of your worm paintings actually looks like a stained- glass window.
Yes. Several of them do. It is always the same stained glass window. 88 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016
LEFT: Parasite Window, 1992, featured in Campbell’s book, Poem, Paint and Pathogen. At the American Society of Parasitologists annual auction, which raises money to bring students to meetings, Campbell’s donated art sells for thousands of dollars. Campbell was also instrumental in creating an award to recognize student achievement in parasitology.
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MURPHY Continued from page 44
residents and fellows in three residency programs. From the perspective of the department, what we’re doing is focusing on developing clinical institutes – and we’ve already initiated several – where we bring multiple specialties together to coordinate the care around individuals with specific chronic diseases. So a patient should be able to come in and receive the majority of the care that they need in that one environment, with the physicians and care providers working together. One example is the diabetes institute where we’ve brought together the adult and pediatric diabetologists, so a patient can transition from being a young individual with diabetes to moving forward to your adult care provider. Then, in the same area we have nutrition, bariatrics, nephrology, hepatology; all the specialties that an individual might need to participate in their care, along with their clinical diabetes educator and nursing.
That sounds like a very patient-focused approach.
It can be very difficult as a patient to navigate through the medical system; with a chronic disease you may have multiple physicians involved in your care. But if you bring all these people together, there’s an improvement in the communication, and there’s a coordinated approach to that patient’s care. The additional effect of this is that it creates an environment that facilitates clinical and translational research. I mentioned diabetes as an example, but we’re taking this approach in a variety of specialties. Our goal is to develop an outstanding environment for patients that provides the very best coordinated care, which is augmented and enhanced by groundbreaking and innovative clinical and translational research which further improves our patients’ lives.
Thank you, Dr. Murphy.
PHOTO: COURTESY BARBARA MURPHY / MOUNT SINAI
Inside the Murphy Laboratory at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York, where Dr. Murphy leads a team of researchers investigating differential genomic expression as it relates to immune mechanisms that lead to the failure of a transplant graft, and thus of the organ. They hope to be able to use their findings to identify the specific genetic profile that would be able to predict those patients who might be at greater risk for graft loss.
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crossword | By Darina Molloy ACROSS
2 Meg Ryan’s directorial debut, starring Tom Hanks (6) 5 Capital of the French Riviera (4) 6 It’s a pub in an Ireland, and a ____ here in U.S. (3) 7 (& 21 down) Writer, essayist, journalist, and quintessential New Yorker, by way of Brooklyn (4) 9 Britain’s vote to leave the E.U. has been dubbed _____ (6) 10 Foot digit (3) 12 See 8 down (6) 13 (& 25 down) Donald Trump’s running mate (4) 14 See 20 down (7) 16 N.I. home of Roma Downey (5) 17 Chat-inducing stone, apparently (7) 19 Irish “dance” (6) 23 (& 1 down) Pierce Brosnan’s wedding was here, and there are rumours of a Rory McIlroy nuptials also (7) 26 See 34 across (3) 29 One of two Irish counties that claims Biden ancestry (5) 31 (& 35 down) Dublin actor with roles in Game of Thrones, The Wire, and The Dark Knight Rises,
among others (5) 33 Pertaining to the kidneys (5) 34 (& 26 across) London’s Broadway (4) 35 See 31 across (6) 37 See 42 across (8) 38 Taylor Swift song: “The Story of ____” (2) 40 (& 23 down) Ireland’s first female ambassador (4) 41 Lord _____ , British peer suspected of murder who disappeared in 1974. The family has connections to Castlebar, Co. Mayo (5) 42 (& 37 across) Ferris Bueller actor with strong ties to Co. Donegal (7) 43 Game, ____ , and match (3)
1 See 23 across (6) 3 Ireland’s traditional heating fuel (4) 4 Irish for forests or woods (7) 5 (& 11 down) Louisiana city that honors Margaret Gaffney Haughery, “The Mother of Orphans” (3) 7 (& 30 down) The ____ of ____ : Pat Conroy book (6)
8 (& 12 across) Brendan Gleeson will star in the Ben Affleck-directed film of this writer’s Live by Night (6) 10 (& 13 down) Britain’s newest Prime Minister (7) 11 See 5 down (7) 13 See 10 down (3) 15 No pain, no ______ (4) 18 The id, ____ , and superego are Freud’s names for the three parts of the human personality (3) 20 (& 14 across) NYU writerin-residence, author of The
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 September 15, 2016. A winner will be drawn from among all correct entries. If there are no correct solutions, the prize will be awarded for the completed puzzle which comes closest in the opinion of our staff. Winner’s name will be published along with the solution in our next issue. Xerox copies are acceptable. Winner of the June/July crossword: Anne Sullivan Miscoski, Blountville, TN.
90 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016
Green Road (4) 21 See 7 across (6) 22 Sudden or spotty ... (4) 23 See 40 across (8) 24 Writing implement (3) 25 See 13 across (5) 27 Birth surname of VP Biden’s mother (8) 28 Mayo town from where Biden’s maternal ancestors emigrated (7)
30 See 7 down (5) 32 Wildlife park and luxury resort in Co. Cork (4) 35 Narrow valley between hills or mountains (5) 36 Artificial fishing baits (5) 37 Real Time’s _____ Maher (4) 39 Edge of a piece of cloth that’s folded back and stitched down (3)
June / July Solution
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book notes |
By Robert Schmuhl
The Touch of The Poet
ive years ago this summer, a dream came true – but not quite the way the daydreamer envisioned it might. A decade earlier, I approached the poet and Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, proposing a magazine profile of him and requesting an interview in Dublin. An enthusiastic admirer of his work, I’d just published an assessment of his translation of Beowulf – “a cross-cultural tour de force” reflecting “artistic taxidermy” – and hoped the full-throated hurrah would strengthen the pitch for a meeting. Not long after I dispatched my letter, an envelope arrived with a handwritten postcard (from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art) tucked inside. “Many thanks for your invitation to do an interview,” the fountain-pen script began. “I apologize for the brevity of this response, but I go off tomorrow for a week and a half, so want to get a reply to you now. I regret that April would not work: I’m lecturing in Tulsa when you’re in Dublin.” With details of his travel plans matter-of-factly spelled out and conspiring against my sojourn in Ireland, Heaney continued in a completely different (and in its phrasing almost poetic) vein. “I also regret that I feel a bit interviewed out: I feel as if I’ve spoken every authentic word into some microphone or notebook – time to gather a bit of moss in the mouth.” Though he concluded with appreciation for my “good disposition” towards Beowulf, Heaney’s remark about being “interviewed out” was revealing. Was the poet, who kept turning so many moments of his life into verse that will surely stand time’s test, suggesting that a retreat from pesky prose scribblers would be his post-Nobel Prize preference? In Heaney’s thinking – or so I concluded – using personal experience and maintaining some semblance of privacy weren’t activities in conflict. I’d let him “gather a bit of moss in the mouth” and not bother him again about an interview. That decision, though, didn’t mean my own fascination with Heaney and his poetry flagged. By chance, I happened to be in Dublin doing research for a book during the spring of 2009, when “Famous Seamus” (his Irish nickname) turned 70 years old. It was a national celebration, complete with a boxed set of CDs of him reading his Collected Poems (11 books worth), television documentaries and the broadcasting of his birthday speech across the island. One tribute featured more than a dozen poets from several countries, reading favorite Heaney compositions with the poet listening to these other voices recite his words. At this event in a Dún Laoghaire theatre, each attendee received a reverse birthday present: an autographed copy of Heaney’s poem, “In the Attic,” which The New Yorker had just published.
Reaching 70 was not without time’s burdens, especially in terms of remembering for the poet. “As I age and blank on names,” he confesses in one line from “In the Attic,” later observing, As the memorable bottoms out Into the irretrievable. Two years later, I was back in Dublin on a teaching assignment, when I received an invitation to attend University College Dublin’s ceremony for the conferring of honorary degrees and the awarding of the Ulysses Medal, the university’s highest honor. The 2011 recipient was none other than Seamus Heaney. A luncheon followed the academic formalities. As we were leaving (a half-hour or so after most tables), I noticed Heaney and his wife, Marie, by themselves near the door leading outside. Possibly emboldened by an extra glass of the afternoon’s wine, I did something I never do. With pulse-racing trepidation, I approached the couple to offer a wayward Yank’s congratulations. As we talked, Heaney claimed that he recalled the long-ago interview request, apologizing that we hadn’t been able to get together. Did he truly remember my overture among the countless he received with daily regularity? I don’t know, but what he said was kind and the brief exchange well worth the newly discovered courage it took to initiate. A couple weeks later at the launch of a new book of poetry at O’Connell House, Notre Dame’s center of activities in Dublin, Heaney attended. Seeing each other produced a smile of recognition from him as well as a handshake. An acquaintanceship of sorts was probably better than any interview, I judged. On August 30, 2013, Heaney died. Word of his passing dominated news throughout the world. The New York Times devoted page-one, three-column, attention to its obituary, which appeared above the fold and included a large picture. His funeral was broadcast on Irish radio and television. Heaney is buried in his home village of Bellaghy, County Derry. Last August, a simple headstone was placed on his grave, and it featured a seven-word inscription that’s also a command for the ages: “Walk on air against your Robert Schmuhl is better judgement.” the Walter H. In poem after poem, Annenberg-Edmund P. Heaney did just that, taking Joyce Chair in verbal risks enduring literAmerican Studies and ary art demands. In the Journalism at the process (as he wrote in University of Notre “Personal Helicon”) he “set Dame and the author the darkness echoing” – and of Ireland’s Exiled he also, in one case, made a Children: America and dream come true through his the Easter Rising own kindness that continues (Oxford University IA to echo. Press). AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016 IRISH AMERICA 91
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review of books | recently published books Pond
By Claire-Louise Bennett
nglish writer Claire-Louise Bennett’s debut novel Pond is a through-the-lookingglass experience of the human psyche in its most cloistered state, where the commonplace is ignited into something far brighter and stranger. Some time after an academia-induced breakdown, an anonymous young woman moves to rural Ireland, although the country exists namelessly in the novel – here, it is merely the “westerly point of Europe, right beside the Atlantic Ocean.” This, as well as the basic cottage in which the narrator resides, acts as the backdrop for the 20 unconnected soliloquies that form the book’s chapters. This episodic portrayal of a quiet life is reminiscent of the writings of philosopher Henry David Thoreau, who wrote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, in front of the essential facts of life.” Like Thoreau, Bennett rejects the idea that a reclusive life must always be a tragic one. Instead, she is concerned with how existing without interruption can be an illuminating rather than lackluster experience. In one segment, the narrator walks among a field of cattle and wonders if they think her to be Jesus Christ. The novel is teeming with such unexpected leaps in logic, and it revels in their unique creation of meaning. Bennett spurns the familiar with a tireless – and often humorous – grace, even going so far as to unsettle the medium of the novel itself. In the midst of one reverie, the narrator suggests that her true “first language” is not English and cannot be written down on paper: “I think it has to stay where it is; simmering in the elastic gloom betwixt my flickering organs.” Pond is an arresting debut novel that surely commences an exceptional career ahead of Bennett. By chronicling the unnamed narrator’s atypical impressions of her daily surroundings, it convincingly advocates a path less traveled in the human mindscape.
– Olivia O’Mahony (Riverhead Books / 196 pages / $26)
92 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016
This Must Be the Place By Maggie O’Farrell
In the novels of Maggie O’Farrell – who is fast becoming one of the best Irish-British fiction writers of her time – disappearance is a constant theme. In her first novel, After You’d Gone (2000), her protagonist, Alice Raikes, boards a train to visit her family in Scotland, sees something so deeply shocking that she immediately returns to London and steps out into a busy street of traffic, winding up in a coma and leaving her family wondering why. In her 2013 release, Instructions for a Heatwave, the elderly patriarch of the Riordan family, Robert, goes out on his routine morning walk for paper during the scorching London heat wave of 1976 and doesn’t return, leading his family on a quest into his past. In This Must Be the Place, O’Farrell’s most daring work to date, the disappearances are big and important, but of a different kind. We, as the readers, are kept in the know, for the most part, on where the characters who perform the disappearing acts have gone, but this time we are left to wonder about the larger questions of how any why. Daniel Sullivan, an Irish American linguistics professor, has disappeared from the lives of his two children in California after a bitter custody battle. He now lives in a remote part of Donegal in a house that can only be accessed by a long driveway with twelve gates. There, he has two young children with his new wife, Claudette, a paparazzi-hunted, Oscar-winning, world famous movie star who vanished so suddenly and thoroughly from the public eyed that some believe her to be dead. Across 28 chapters and many perspectives – some fleeting, some repeating – we learn their stories. This structure allows O’Farrell to play delightfully with form. In one, Daniel’s brilliant but introverted son uses footnotes to explain what’s happening below the surface. Another takes the form of an auction catalogue for items Claudette’s former assistant is offering up to the highest bidder. O’Farrell’s novels are mysteries, filled with the hallmarks of your typical suspense fiction – deaths, secrets, romance, and betrayal. But the drama is always played out on a purely emotional, deeply personal level, so it never feels gratuitous or overdone, because, as O’Farrell knows well, emotional mysteries are often the deepest, most tangled kind.
– Sheila Langan (Knopf / 400 pages / $26.95)
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The Glorious Heresies
By Lisa McInerney
isa McInerney created a sensation in Ireland and the U.K. with the arrival of her debut novel The Glorious Heresies in 2015 and this month (when it’s published here in the U.S.) American readers will finally have the opportunity to see what all the fuss is about. Set amid the crumbling housing estates, drug addicts and the small time criminals who deal to them in Cork city, it’s not the tourist friendly face that Ireland generally likes to present to the world. But from the first page of McInerney’s Baileys prize-winning novel you’ll be bowled over by the narrative force of her storytelling. Most of McInerney’s hardbitten characters are hanging on to life by their chipped fingernails, which gives their lives and this book its remarkable sense of urgency. On each page she paints a picture of an out of control Irish underworld that we rarely ever see. The story begins when Maureen Phelan, exiled to London decades earlier to conceal her unwelcome pregnancy, kills an intruder in her home with a Holy Stone (McInerney has an eye for irony). Georgie, another one of McInerney’s unforgettable characters, is a teenage former junkie and former sex worker desperately trying to keep her nose clean. For Georgie, Cork city is a place where the more fortunate send her hard stares that threateningly suggest she keep on moving. Here’s how McInerney tells us what it feels like to be her: “Cork City remained a mystery, the expanse of it forbidden to people like her, a soirée to which she held no invitation.” It’s because McInerney can write like this, and it’s because she understands what it feels like to live like this, that her debut novel is such a marvel. The Glorious Heresies is a brutal, boisterous romp that is also by turns tender and hilarious, and its appearance announces the arrival of a distinctive new voice in Irish fiction.
Irish Doctors in the First World War
Eds. P.J. Casey, K.T. Cullen, & J.P. Duignan
hree thousand three hundred and thirty six Irish doctors served with the British Armed Forces during the First World War. Of those, 261 were killed in action. Some were recognized and rewarded during their service, some became career military physicians, but the vast majority quietly returned to their lives before the war and continued their practice of medicine as civilians. Irish Doctors in the First World War tells the story of all of them in rich yet straightforward detail, contextualizing their service within the greater framework of the war effort on all fronts, and illustrating how their field expertise during the war led to advancements in medicine once those who did returned home. Irish Doctors walks the line between a book of military history and a book about the medical past. For those interested in either, it will be a welcome addition, staying away from technical jargon, and offering ample background information on the war as well as the state of medicine in the early 20th century. In addition to covering the major aspects of the war (trench warfare and the Western and Eastern Fronts in particular), it also covers some lesser-trod aspects of WWI, including the African theater, assaults on Syria and Basra, and campaigns in Serbia. It is also lavishly illustrated with photos from Ireland, the front lines, medals, maps, and other ephemera that help give a sense of the chaos and clamor of both the home and war fronts. The book is also divided into two parts, with the first telling the general story of the war, and the second getting as specific as could be possible. The latter half of the book (more than half, actually, at 303 pages) is devoted to the roll of honor for all Irish doctors who served, listing all of them alphabetically along with family details, their military record, including medals and awards. It’s a stunning tribute to see more than 3,000 names of war doctors printed end to end; it reifies the book’s impact and makes it a fitting physical reminder of their efforts.
– Adam Farley (Merrion / 526 pages / €45)
– Cahir O’Doherty (Tim Duggan Books / 400 pages / $27)
AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2016 IRISH AMERICA 93
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Who Run the World? O
Celebrating Irish America’s Inaugural Top 50 Power Women Awards n June 30th, Irish America celebrated the Top 50 Power Women with an awards luncheon in Manhattan. Recognition of the contributions of ancestors was a dominant theme throughout the luncheon, as well as the acknowledgement that the contributions of many of the most important female figures, personal and public, went under-recognized during their lifetimes. It was an event, too, that took the opportunity to interrogate how, and how often, women were sidelined in Irish history in the past 100 years, particularly during the 1916 Rising. The event’s three guest speakers – Ambassador Anne Anderson, the first female Irish ambassador to the U.S.; Maureen Mitchell, president of Global Sales and Marketing for GE Asset Management; and Gillian Murphy, principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre – received the House of Waterford Crystal Essence Vase.
Honorees Ambassador Anne Anderson, Gillian Murphy and Maureen Mitchell with their House of Waterford Crystal awards.
Honoree Margaret Keane.
TOP: Patricia Harty with the inaugural Power Women edition. ABOVE: Honoree Mary Lou Quinlan and husband Joe Quinlan.
“Irish women have a special kind of strength and toughness, muscles accumulated from centuries of determination, of facing down adversity. It’s a kind of connected tissue that links us across the generations, the globe, and the centuries.” Maureen Mitchell
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Honoree Barbara Murphy.
TOP: Bob Aspland, photographer, and former ballerina Rosalee O'Connor, whose photo of Gillian is the cover of the inaugural Power Women edition. ABOVE: Pat Tully and Kyle Clifford with honorees Kristen Shaughnessy and Samantha Barry.
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“We all know and recognize that building a society that’s fairer for women means building a society that’s fairer for everyone. The key is this: power and responsibility go hand-in-hand. And with today’s awards, we accept a challenge as well as recognition.” Ambassador Anne Anderson
TOP LEFT: Honorees Sharon Sager, Susan Davis, Anne Anderson, Ann Kelleher and Marie O'Connor. LEFT: Alana Sweeney, Maureen Bateman and Valerie Biden Owens. BELOW: Dr. Rebecca Abbott, honoree Christine Kinealy, and her son Ciaran. BELOW LEFT: Patricia Harty presents Waterford Crystal award to honoree Jennifer Egan.
“Today’s immigrants are tomorrow’s ballerinas and business workers, doctors and presidents. Their experience was the Irish experience, and they deserve the promise of America as much as we do.” Gillian Murphy
ABOVE: Honoree Charlotte Moore and Ciaran O'Reilly. RIGHT: Jackie Binder Ruth, Dmitri Stockton, and Maureen Brundage.
FROM TOP: Alison Metcalfe of Tourism Ireland with honoree Margaret Molloy • CIE Tours President Emeritus Brian Stack and CEO Elizabeth Crabill • Kate Overbeck and guest speaker Maureen Mitchell • Honoree Megan Smolenyak • Ballet student Olivia O'Reilly with guest speaker Gillian Murphy.
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Joe Derrane, 2004 Heritage Fellow.
TOP: Leland Bardwell. ABOVE: Bill Cunningham.
1922 – 2016 eland Bardwell, an Irish poet and novelist, died in June at the age of 94. She had a prolific literary career that spanned over five decades. Bardwell’s first collection of poetry, The Mad Cyclist, was published by the New Writer’s Press in 1970. In 1975, she co-founded the literary journal Cyphers and later helped establish the Irish Writer’s Co-Operative. In her adopted home county of Sligo, she set up the literary festival, Scríobh. Bardwell published a total of five novels and five collections of poetry, as well as several plays (including a musical based on the life of her heroine Edith Piaf), a memoir, and countless short stories. Brian Leydon, Bardwell’s fellow writer and close friend, said that “She embodied that bird of passage in her poem ‘Cuckoo on Top of The Protestant Church, Dugart.’” A line from the poem reads: “gate crasher, percher on steeples. Such selfishness, such panache, never in the one place twice.” Born in India to Irish parents, Bardwell was brought back to Ireland at the age of two, where she grew up in Leixlip, Co. Kildare. She studied at Alexandra College, Dublin and the University of London. She met and married Michael Bardwell in 1948, and they had three children. It was the beginning of a time Bardwell referred in her memoir to as a “crescendo of madness” fraught with infidelity and drama. In the 1960s, she left London and returned to Dublin with her six children. She quickly became a prominent name in Irish literary circles, counting among her friends poet Patrick Kavanagh and singer Luke Kelly. Bardwell’s Irish publisher, Liberties Press, has announced that her 1975 novel Girl On A Bicycle will be republished in celebration of her memory. – O.O.
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1929 – 2016 ashion photographer Bill Cunningham died in New York City in June after hospitalization due to a stroke. A contributor to the New York Times’ Style section for nearly 40 years, he was renowned for his ability to capture a cultural moment through the lens of fashion. Cunningham was born March 13, 1929 to an Irish Catholic family in Boston, Massachusetts. He claimed his interest in fashion began in church, telling the New York Times in 2002, “I could never concentrate on Sunday church services because I’d be concentrating on women’s hats.” He was accepted to Harvard University on scholarship but dropped out after two months, working briefly in advertising before opening his own hat-making business under the name “William J.” Encouraged by his clients (which included Marilyn Monroe, Katherine Hepburn, and First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier), he closed the hat shop in 1962 to pursue fashion journalism. He began to write for Women’s Wear Weekly, and used his influence to introduce American audiences to designers such as Azzedine Alaïa and Jean Paul Gaultier. Cunningham was a self-taught photographer who believed that fashion mirrored the times. While working at Women’s Wear Weekly and the Chicago Tribune, he began to take candid photographs of women’s outfits on the streets of New York. He was first published with the New York Times in 1978. His regular series, “On the Street,” began soon after. He made a career photographing everyday people and celebrities alike, valuing fashion choices as a mode of personal expression. Bill Cunningham New York, a documentary film directed by Richard Press, was released in 2011, but Cunningham had little interest in pouring over the past. When approached by Harold Koda, former curator in charge at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, to curate a retrospective of his pictures, he declined, claiming it would be a diversion. “He did what he loved,” Koda has said, “and what he loved was documenting this very ephemeral world.” – O.O.
1942 - 2016 imerick author Michael Curtin died in April at the age of 74, leaving behind the unpublished manuscript of his seventh novel. His friends and readers have rallied to call for the final book to be made available to the public. Born in 1942, Curtin was best known for his use of dark humor in novels that depicted the places and faces of Limerick. His titles include the criticallyacclaimed The Plastic Tomato Cutter, The Self-Made Men, The Replay, and The League Against Christmas. At the launch of The Plastic Tomato Cutter in 1996, he drew the audience’s attention to the hardships endured by unpublished writers, saying “Not all of them are as tough or as resilient as I am, and
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those we lost | passages even I found the going hard.” The Plastic Tomato Cutter itself was rejected 11 times by various publishers, as revealed in an archive of Curtin’s work purchased in 2005 by the University of Limerick’s Glucksman Library. Curtin had a “great eye and ear for the surreal,” Eoin Devereux, a faculty member of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences department at the University of Limerick, told the Limerick Leader. “His novels captured Limerick in all of its glory. He told me that like James Joyce, he would like Limerick to be recreated from them in the event of a nuclear bomb.” Curtin is survived by his wife, Anne, and sons, Jason, Michael, and Andrew. – O.O.
1930 – 2016 orn in Boston, on March 16, 1930 to Irish immigrants, both musicians, Joe Derrane began playing the button accordion at age 10 and while still in high school began recording a set of eight solo 78 RPM discs that showed his distinctive style. He went on to become a legend in the Irish ballroom scene in the 1950s and early ’60s. As the golden age of dance halls faded, Joe, who worked for the Massachusetts Transit Authority, switched to a piano accordion and played weddings and other gigs with non-Irish bands to support his family. In the 1993, having all but disappeared from the traditional music circuit, Joe was rediscovered when Rego Records re-released his albums. In 1994, he took the stage at the Wolftrap Festival in Vienna, Virginia and the response to that performance heralded his return. He went on to play at the White House and the Kennedy Center and to record seven albums over the next 16 years. Some of those recordings, such as “Tango Derrane,” reflected his broader musical experience. He also recorded “Waltzing with Anne,” a tune he composed for his wife, Anne. They met in a dance hall in New York when Anne, a Longford native, tapped him on the shoulder for a “Ladies Choice” and married in 1955. Anne passed away in 2008. “She was always there for me, she was the one who kept encouraging me to practice and play, she told me I could do it, even when I wasn’t sure I could,” he told the Boston Irish Reporter in 2010, In 2004, Joe was made an NEA National Heritage Fellow, and that same year in an interview with Mary Eckstein for the NEA, he said, “Most importantly, the music itself is a joy. There’s a saying that music has its own rewards and I think that's true. I could come home from work or be frustrated or worried about something and I’d sit down and just start to play and within 10 or 15 minutes the music would take over and all those worries and concerns would fade into the background. At least for a while.” Joe Derrane is survived by his son Stephen and his wife Cynthia, his daughter Sheila and her husband, Robert, and grandsons Russell Burns and Joseph Derrane. – P.H.
Bronwyn Brigid Fitzsimons
1944 – 2016 ronwyn Brigid Fitzsimons died in May in Glengarriff, Co. Cork. She was born in Los Angeles on June 30, 1944 to actress Maureen O’Hara and her then husband, writer director, Will Price. Taking her mother’s maiden name, “Fitzsimons,” she appeared in minor roles in several films including, Spencer’s Mountain (1963) and costarred in The Ravagers (1965) with John Saxon. She also appeared in various TV series episodes in the 1960s including The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Cadaver, McHale’s Navy, The Virginian, and Bachelor Father. Bronwyn shared her mother’s love for Ireland and moved there in the 1960s, first to Dublin and later to Glengarriff. A gifted musician, she played guitar and composed songs and lyrics as a hobby that eventually evolved into a produced album. Above all, Bronwyn loved entertaining and was recognized as a delightful hostess. During her final years, she settled in a lovely cottage in Glengarriff and enjoyed the friendship of the village. In addition to her son Connor, she is survived by her two grandchildren, Bailey and Everest. – June Beck
1940 – 2016 rish American writer and memoirist Alphonsus “Alphie” McCourt died of natural causes at his New York home on July 2nd. He was 75. Following in the footsteps of his brothers Frank (Angela’s Ashes) and Malachy (A Monk Swimming), Alphie had his own memoir, A Long Stone’s Throw, published in 2008. When asked by the Limerick Leader why he’d felt the need to write his own perspective of the McCourt family history, he said “I felt I should tell my part of it because my experience was very different from my brothers.” McCourt’s writings also appeared in the Washington Post and The Villager. His most recent collection of short stories and verses, The Soulswimmer, was published in 2014. The youngest of seven children, McCourt was born in Limerick in 1940. He attended the Christian Brothers school and was a Munster rugby player and member of the Limerick Debating Society. He began a law degree at University College Dublin, but dropped out to work in the restaurant and bar trade. He left Ireland in 1959 and spent time in Montreal and California before settling in New York. Though he lived in New York for most of his adult life, the city of his birth was never far from his heart. He was on hand in 2012 to oversee the opening of the Frank McCourt Museum in Limerick. He was “one of nature’s gentlemen,” Una Heaton, the curator of the museum, told the Irish Times. “He was kind, warm and always softly spoken and had very deep feelings. He was very quirky; he had a great turn of phrase and a real dry wit.” In addition to his wife and daughter, Alphie is survived by his brother, Malachy. – O.O.
TOP TO BOTTOM: Michael Curtin. Bronwyn Brigid Fitzsimons pictured with her mother, Maureen O’Hara. Alphie McCourt.
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Cops & Nurses: A Love Story
o many cops are married to nurses,” the great novelist and screenwriter Richard Price once observed. “It’s just the way it is. You know, mom’s a nurse, dad’s a cop.... That’s where they’re going to meet their spouses – following up a homicide, following up an aggravated assault. And you go to the same hospital maybe three times a week for a couple of months, you get to know these people, and they get to know you pretty well. And it’s kind of like this medical courtship around mayhem.” So it was for Russ DeSantis and Virginia “Ginny” Endrom, cop and nurse respectively, both from mixed Irish-Italian families on Staten Island. He was guarding a prisoner and she was working in the surgical intensive care unit when they met at St. Vincent’s Hospital, located in Staten Island’s heavily Irish West Brighton neighborhood. You could say I’d have never met my wife, Kate, if not for “St. Vinny’s,” as it is known to locals. Russ and Ginny, after all, would go on to become my inlaws. It was also at St. Vinny’s, four decades later, that all four of my own children would be brought into the world. And all those years later, St. Vincent’s was still staffed largely by Irish-American nurses from the neighborhood, who could be as funny and nurturing as they could be demanding and stern. “While on duty it was serious,” my mother-in-law recalled recently. “The Sisters of Charity ran the hospital and there was no goofing off. But the nurses would get together after hours and enjoy ourselves. Also, the housekeeping and food service staff were mostly Irish-American, all good-natured and fun loving and a smile on their face while they did their job with no grumbling.” With Hillary Clinton running for the White House, with many pundits and experts asking if women can finally “have it all,” the issues of gender and work are everywhere these days. Yes, there are some who wish to return to the 1950s and 1960s world of Father Knows Best and Mad Men, when Dad went off to work in a fedora and Mom stayed home in her apron tending to the children. But as generations of immigrant and working class women know, this was more myth than reality. These women were always working – and not because they wanted “a career.” They needed money. These women have always “had it all” – work, family and, oh yeah, lots of bills to pay. And one of the few secure paths to employment for these women – along with teaching and domestic work – was nursing. Going back to the Famine and the U.S. Civil War, nuns as well as lay immigrant nurses served on the nation’s battlefields, or tended the ill in teeming urban tenements.
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By the late 19th century, large numbers of Irish American women were still becoming nuns, “but the attractions of the caring professions were felt,” writes James R. Barrett in The Irish Way: Becoming American in the Multi-Ethnic City. When the controversial Irish American activist Margaret Higgins Sanger went into nursing, Barrett adds, she was “following a well-worn path in the Irish community” since nursing was “the only profession other than teaching open to Irish women Ginny with her as late as the 1880s.” By that point, granddaughters, Rose “city hospital and nursing programs Deignan on the left, were loaded with Irish women.” and her sister Maggie on the right, in 2008. Two of my own aunts, Alice and Bernadette, also went into nursing, while a third (along with my sister, Mary) worked in different capacities in hospitals. It is interesting that blue collar households are often labeled “traditional” – a not-so-polite euphemism for ultra-conservative, especially when it comes to gender. And yet, these are the very households that blazed trails for female workers. Whereas upper class husbands might have once refused to allow their wives to even look for work, this was often not a big deal in “traditional” Irish Catholic homes. “In many working class communities, mothering had long included being a good provider, as well as a good nurturer,” writes Rutgers University professor Dorothy Sue Cobble, who studies labor and gender. “Employment, rather than being incompatible with good mothering, was viewed as ‘a fulfillment of a mother’s duty to her children.’” Over the years, the West Brighton neighborhood in Staten Island has changed, though the St. Patrick’s Day parade on nearby Forest Avenue is still one of the nation’s largest. When her children were born, Ginny left St. Vincent’s – which isn’t even St. Vincent’s anymore, having been bought out by another hospital and renamed Richmond University Medical Center in 2007. That’s the year my youngest daughter, Rose, was born. Those were all crazy days, when my kids Maggie (2001), T.J. (2003), Tim (2005) and Rose were born. But each time, it was the nurses at St. Vincent’s – the ones who do all the real work, who have for generations – who made it slightly less crazy, who got us through it. When they weren’t chatting up a cop down in the lobby, that is. – Tom Deignan Please send photographs along with your name, address, phone number, and a brief description, to Adam Farley at Irish America, 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 201, New York, NY 10001. If photos are irreplaceable, please send a good quality reproduction or e-mail the picture at 300 dpi resolution to email@example.com. We will pay $65 for each submission that we select.
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The 2016 Health Issue, featuring Nobel laureate Dr. William C. Campbell, Mount Sinai chief of medicine Dr. Barbara Murphy, and the 2016 Heal...
Published on Aug 8, 2016
The 2016 Health Issue, featuring Nobel laureate Dr. William C. Campbell, Mount Sinai chief of medicine Dr. Barbara Murphy, and the 2016 Heal...