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TRAVEL » MUSIC » MOVIES » BOOKS » HISTORY » NEWS » GENEALOGY
J A N U A R Y
F E B R U A R Y
Biden’s Long Road to the White House NIALL O’DOWD AND IRISH AMERICA COVERING BIDEN SINCE 1987
HEROES OF THE PANDEMIC
DISPLAY UNTIL FEBRUARY 28, 2021
A SALUTE TO NORTHWELL HEALTH
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Vol. 36 No. 1 January / February 2021
30 Biden Country
Mayo and Louth boast some of the most historic sites in Ireland, and links to the incoming U.S. president’s Irish ancestors. By Darina Molloy
News from Ireland and happenings in Irish America.
34 The Man Who Will be President Niall O’Dowd writes of the authentic nature of Joe Biden whom he first encoutered in 1987.
38 35 Years: Covers & Quotes
A look at the Finnegan clan, in honor of Jean Finnegan, the incoming President’s mother.
How the largest hospital system in the state tackled COVID-19 with a heroic effort by its workers.
Irish America Presents
52 The Catalpa Rescue
Writer, playwright, folklorist, and co-founder of the Abbey Theatre, Isabella Augusta Gregory, did much to preserve Ireland’s forgotten history. By Rosemary Rogers
62 Pennsylvania’s Irish
Sláinte! Christmas may be over but winter isn’t. You can still curl up with a good book and ginger cookies.
THOSE WE LOST Remembering some of the great Irish Americans who have passed on in 2020.
68 Baseball’s Irish Daddy
Almost completely forgotten now, Ted Sullivan was once one of the best known characters in baseball. By Pat O’Neill and Tom Coffman
A short story by Colum McCann that explores the conflict in Northern Irealnd. By Pat O’Neill and Tom Coffman
Highlights from virtual interviews with authors Emma Donoghue, Timothy Egan and Michael Dowling.
Joe Biden’s nail-biting Pennsylvania win was just the latest episode in the state’s rich Irish history. By Tom Deignan
74 Everything in This Country Must
Irish actors featured on the big screen, and other news
46 The Heroes of Northwell Health
58 The Legacy of Lady Gregory
Irish Eye on Hollywood p. 18
Looking back on Irish America’s publishing history from its founding in 1986 to today.
A daring escape from an Australian prison colony by six Fenian prisoners masterminded by Irish-Americans. By John J. Magilligan
78 Bridie’s Extraordinary Life Eileen Murray writes about her mother Bridie who grew up in Galway, immigrated at 14, married at 17, made a great of success of raising her nine children, and always had a positive attitude. Irish America Magazine ISSN 0884-4240) © by Irish America Inc. Published bi-monthly. Mailing address: P.O. Box 1277, Bellmawr, NJ 08099-5277. Editorial ofﬁce: 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 1606, New York, NY 10001.Telephone: 212-725-2993. Fax: 212-244-3344. E-mail: email@example.com. Subscription rate is $21.95 for one year. Subscription orders:1-800-582-6642. Subscription queries:1-800-582-6642, (212) 725-2993, ext. 150. Periodicals postage paid at New York and additional mailing ofﬁces. Postmaster please send address changes to Irish America Magazine, P.O. Box 1277, Bellmawr, NJ 08099-5277. Irish America is printed in the U.S.A.
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First Word Letters Crossword Book Reviews Photo Album
COVER PHOTO: (AP) Joe Biden pictured with his mother at the Democratic Convention in 2008. Jean Finnegan Biden passed in 2010, but having been such a major influence in her son’s life we felt keenly that she deserved to be on the cover.
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Vol 36 No. 1 January / February 2021
the first word | By Niall O’Dowd
IRISH AMERICA Mórtas Cine Pride In Our Heritage
Founding Publisher: Niall O’Dowd Co-Founder/Editor-in-Chief: Patricia Harty Vice President of Marketing and Special Events Mary Cucinell Art Director: Marian Fairweather Columnist /Writer Tom Deignan Contributing Writer Mary Gallagher Financial Controller: Kevin M. Mangan Accounts: Mairead Bresnan
IRISH AMERICA 875 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 1606 New York NY 10001 TEL: 212-725-2993 FAX: 212-244-3344
Subscriptions: 1-800-582-6642 EMAIL:
firstname.lastname@example.org www.irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine ISSN 0884-4240 © by Irish America Inc. Published bi-monthly. Mailing address: P.O. Box 1277, Bellmar, NJ 08099-5277. Editorial office: 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 1606, New York, NY 10001. Telephone: 212-725-2993. Fax: 212-244-3344 E-mail: email@example.com. Subscription rate is $21.95 for one year. Subscription orders: 1-800-582-6642. Subscription queries: 1-800-582-6642, (212) 725-2993, ext. 217. Periodicals postage paid at New York and additional mailing offices. Postmaster please send address changes to Irish America Magazine, P.O. Box 1277, Bellmawr, NJ 08099-5277. IRISH AMERICA IS PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.
6 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
35 Years of Irish America A
s we celebrate our 35th year we are indeed thankful to still be publishing despite the catastrophic impact of COVID-19 on the media business and indeed, almost every other business as well. We have you, the patient reader, and you the supportive Irish American business world, to thank for keeping our publication marching forward, looking ahead and miraculously intact. When we launched Irish America in New York in 1985 with luminaries such as Maureen O’Hara, Ed Koch, Pete Hamill and Paul O’Dwyer present, we had a thirst and a passion to tell the story of the Irish from the Famine ships and American Civil War to the heights of Wall Street and the White House. I firmly believe we have succeeded. Amazingly the two founders, Patricia Harty and myself, are still in situ and Patricia drives the vision with insight and commitment that has played a huge role in our success. In that respect, it is indeed timely that as we crest our 35th year, the next president of the United States will be an Irish Catholic, one with close ties to this magazine. Joe Biden, as our profile in this issue makes clear wears his Gaelic heritage on his sleeve and is arguably the most pro-Irish president in history. (Let’s face it JFK was a bit of an Anglophile!) We first interviewed him in 1987 when he was a mostly unknown senator from the tiny state of Delaware, one with a strange last name but one that fit when you think he had to “bide” his time spending 40 years in politics before reaching the Oval Office. But in that interview he immediately flagged his abiding interest in Ireland whether it was his admiration for United Irishman leader Wolfe Tone or recounting fondly his many visits to the Emerald Isle and his string of relatives the length of your arm from Ireland who claimed him. Little wonder his first joking words to Ireland’s Taoiseach Micheal Martin when the taoiseach invited him to Ireland was “just try and stop me.” He honored us with his presence at our 2013 Irish America Hall of Fame as our lead honoree. His words that day were as unselfish as the man himself has been in his determination to help others, especially those grappling with personal tragedy. In his Hall of Fame speech he talked about the necessity for the Irish to discover the new generations of immigrant Americans striving to grab that foothold the Irish did post-famine. His message to us was inclusion not exclusion. After four years of scandalous and racists vilification of immigrants his words resonate even more loudly today. He faces mammoth tasks when he assumes office. When we founded Irish America magazine we could hardly have foreseen a plague coming over us, one to rival anything Albert Camus dreamed up in his classic work of the same name. Camus’ plague is about the powerlessness of human beings in the face of a great wave of infectious disease. Before the invention of the vaccine we were no further along than the precautions taken during the 1918 epidemic. The difference between Camus and real life however, is hope, that thing with feathers as Emily Dickinson referred to it (she was referring to birds who sing and warble no matter the times, good or bad), has somehow come seeping through the cracks and the prophets of doom are silenced by the success in creating several vaccines. So we march on with hope in our hearts and a small spring in our steps. We at Irish America magazine have adjusted to the new circumstances which is why we are so delighted to be able to present the 35th anniversary issue, plagues be damned. We owe it to so many people that we are, in the words of that catchy pop song, “still standing.” I look forward to speaking to you again on our 50th anniversary in 2036. Fag an Bealach (Clear the Way.)
Congratulations to Irish America Magazine. Your work has showcased the best of Ireland and Irish America for 35 years. Together, we have stood on the shoulders of giants. Our donors have always stood by Ireland and continue to give back in these challenging times. Hereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s to many more years of strengthening Ireland and celebrating the positive power of the diaspora.
The mission of The Ireland Funds is to harness the power of a global philanthropic network of friends of Ireland to promote and support peace, culture, education and community development across the island of Ireland and among Irish communities around the world.
Let us help you connect with Ireland and realize your philanthropic goals. Visit: irelandfunds.org
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caint | readers forum Over the past months we have been publishing a weekly newsletter online, a mixture of new content and archival material. Here are a small sample of online comments by readers. All of the stories mentioned are available at www.irishamerica.com
Brothers in Arms (The five Sullivan brothers who were killed in action in 1942).
Our Jack (Pete Hamill’s piece on JFK).
Thanks for incredible article by Mr. Hamill, may he rest in peace. On the anniversary of President Kennedy’s passing, I recall the profound sadness his death had on my family, teachers, and community. An Irish Catholic family in the White House! My 100 percent Polish mother just beamed whenever anyone called her “Mrs. Kennedy.” Let’s pay tribute to John Fitzgerald Kennedy by remembering why it was that he touched so many people. And let’s be thankful to all those who picked up the torch and continue to make the world a better place.
Irish and Americans of Irish heritage have played an important part in the U.S. military, from the Revolutionary War right up to today. Irish immigrant soldiers were crucial to the eventual Union victory in the U.S. Civil War. Irish Americans volunteered for service in WWI with a mind of finally becoming “full” citizens in America, which they achieved in the post-war years. In all of America’s wars, soldiers of Irish heritage represented an outsized number of acts and awards for valor. Terry
(A band of starving pilgrims at Plymouth Rock were saved by the arrival of a ship from Dublin).
Thank you very much for sharing this interesting story. I belong to the Ballyshaners (Irish culture group in D.C.). I will be sure to share this with them and others so the truth shall be known. Sláinte!
(A piece on Lady Jane Wilde)
(The singer, actor, and renaissance man’s love of Ireland).
What a wonderful article. While most of the focus was on Oscar, I do remember learning about Speranza many years ago as a young girl in school in Waterford – but had forgotten many details of her life. This has awakened me to read more about the Wilde family. Thank you!
Thanks for sharing this wonderful article by Christine Kinealy on one of the most brilliant and gifted artists of the 20th Century. We have been fans of Mr. Robeson’s for more than six decades via our physician father who was one of the African and Caribbean medical students in Dublin that Robeson visited in the 1930s. The video of Robeson singing “Kevin Barry” is very moving and captures the emotional power of Mr. Robeson for eternity. I’ve passed the wonderful article on to others who also appreciate your thoughtfulness! C. Ellen Golding
Louis Sullivan (The Irish father of American skyscrapers).
(U.S. presidents who visited Ireland).
I was just researching Joe Biden’s link to Ireland when I stumbled across your site. What a great article! Thanks! Nils
Excellent article. There was a program on television many years ago on architecture which referenced the beautiful designs of Louis Sullivan and Francis Lloyd Wright comparing them with the cement boxes being built later. Harry Dunleavy
8 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
What an incredible man. Thank you for writing about Jim. I will send this to my Irish friends. My condolences to all of you on the passing of Jim.
The Importance of Being Oscar’s Mother
Presidential Visits to Ireland
(Remembering the writer Jim Dwyer).
Karen Kelly McEachern
Thanksgiving’s Irish Twist
Farewell to a Legend
Congratulations to Irish America Magazine on 35 Years of Excellence
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caint | readers forum To Live for Ireland (Remembering politician and peacemaker, John Hume).
Remembering Bobby Sands (and the nine other men who died on hunger strike).
Amazing that this anniversary comes as the “U.K.” looks to complete its exit from the EU. Thank you, E.U. for standing strong with Ireland and doing what is right. Remember, the North voted 55.78% Remain to 44.22% Leave. Thank you Irish America, for honoring the Hunger Strikers and reminding us of Irish exceptionalism! Louise O’Bryan
Wild Irish Woman (Louis Mohan Bryant: journalist, activist, suffragette, friend of Eugene O’Neill).
Great article. I have been reading a lot of Eugene O’Neill’s work lately. There is a one act play, The Personal Equation, that clearly has the theme of a woman revolutionary and her being a temptress of a son of a captain of industry. I’m thinking that Louise must have been the inspiration. Lori Cassels
Reagan Democrats, Biden Time, and the Irish Swing Vote (Election article by Tom Deignan).
[Tom] your work has always meant a lot to me. It still does. This is a great piece. It took some time, but I got through your Top-20 books that every Irish American should read. It was magnificent. I think, however, I’d replace O’Connor’s The Last Hurrah with The Edge of Sadness. I can’t seem to get that one out of my mind. Keep up your excellent work. Lawrence Welsh 10 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
Great appreciation piece on John and Pat Hume by Mary Pat Kelly. You’ve captured their dynamic energy in the cause of peace and their authentic love and respect for all people. As someone who also canvassed for John in a Westminster election, I had the same experience of Pat’s wonderful calm and support for the canvasing team, and the great pick up lunches in John’s constituency office. Their legacy to Ireland and the world is great and still inspires. Catherine Shannon
Father and Son Sea Saga
Drinking with John Kerouac in a Rockaway Bar (By Patrick Fenton).
What a great writer. As a kid I went to Rockaway and then as a teenager but I could feel every feeling that Pat Fenton wrote and hear and see the people he wrote about so I hope to read his book now. Mary N. Cain
(Diving to the bottom of the ocean).
Wonderful, well composed article. Good that you could get comments not only from Kelly but his father Don. What a difference in the equipment in those 60 years. After having read an account of Don’s voyage in 1960 and what he went down in, I was very concerned about Kelly. The Triton [deep diving submersible] made a big difference! Richard Moots
Scones for Pete
Jane Sullivan Roberts (Wife of Supreme Court Justice Roberts profiled by Niall O’Dowd).
Love your magazine as there are so many connections to Ireland that I would not know about if not for you. Great story about the Roberts. Mary N. Cain
(Dan Barry writing on Pete Hamill).
Thank you so much for these remembrances. I was born in Yorkville 70+ years ago into a threegeneration family of Irish Catholics – on both sides. Three may be a magic number – but an undiluted 3-gen. gene pool may be a paranormal life filled with gifts of gab and imagination, follies and demons. I accept them all…most of the time. I loved Pete Hamill. His journalism runs in my bloodstream and his books made me cry and laugh. I met some of the folk mentioned in this article… especially Malachy [McCourt] who didn’t? And although they have no reason to remember me, I have every reason to remember them. I am forever grateful for reading Pete Hamill and reading about him. RIP-Pete Hamill and may his memory be a blessing.
My Independence Day (July 4, 1972: The day I landed in New York by Patricia Harty).
I enjoyed reading your story! I came to the U.S. from Co. Mayo in April 1972. This is a great country with many proud Irish Americans! Happy Independence Day! Therese Trainer
The Pull of the Stars (Zoom interview with Emma Donoghue by Tom Deignan)
What a terrific interview. Great questions and Emma has such an easy and animated way of conveying her works. Ordered the book and can’t wait to read. Thanks. Lori Cassels
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Very best wishes from Consul General CiarĂĄn Madden and all the staff at the Irish Consulate to
Patricia Harty, Niall Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Dowd and all involved in
Irish America magazine on the occasion of
35 years of publication.
The Consulate has been delighted to partner with the magazine over the past decade as it continues to relay the best of Irish and Irish-American news and stories to its readership; and to bring people together through its prestigious events.
We wish all the readers of Irish America a safe and healthy 2021 and look forward to many more years of the magazine.
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caint | readers forum What We Must Learn From COVID-19
The Audacity of Hope
(Niall O’Dowd review of Michael Dowling’s book, Leading Through a Pandemic).
Kennedy and Vice President Johnson meeting with civil rights leaders at the White House on June 22, 1963
atricia Harty’s thoughtful First Word remarks linking together the killing of George Floyd with the assassinations of Martin Luther King April 4, 1968 and of Bobby Kennedy June 6, 1968 provide a reflection for all people who have outlived the failure of all her hopes – and yet still hope. Senator John F. Kennedy spoke in a similar theme about all humans fighting to be free before the Irish Fellowship Club of Chicago on St. Patrick’s Day 1956: “We are all members of a great family which is linked together by that strongest of chains…. Irishmen today can sympathize with the aspirations of all people everywhere to be free – and their own long and ultimately successful fight for independence offers encouragement and hope to all who struggle to be free.” Then in words that could have been uttered by his brother, RFK, or by Rev. Al Sharpton in his eulogy at George Floyd’s funeral in Houston June 9, JFK said: “Let the United States and all free people today speak to captive peoples everywhere with the words of Sir Roger Casement as he addressed the British jury which had sentenced him to hang for high treason in 1914: ‘When all your fights become only an accumulated wrong; when man must beg with bated breath for leave to subsist in their own land, to think their own thoughts, to sing their own songs – then surely it is a braver, a saner
and a truer thing to be a rebel in act and in deed. Gentlemen of the Jury: Ireland has outlived the failure of all her hopes – and yet she still hopes. And this faculty – of preserving through centuries of misery the remembrance of lost liberty – this surely is the noblest cause men ever strove for, ever lived for, ever died for. If this be the case for which I stand indicted here today, then I stand in a goodly company and in a right noble succession.” Thoughtful Americans and global citizens everywhere are indeed as “heartened by all those who have shown solidarity through peaceful protests in communities throughout the country.” The positive energy generated across the nation this week gives some hope. Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan journalist wrote: “No history is mute. No matter how much they burn it, break it, and lie about it, human history refuses to shut its mouth. Despite deafness and ignorance, the time that was continues to tick inside the time that is. Memory is in the air we breathe, and from the air it breathes us.” (1998) Brendan Kennelly in his poem “Begin” speaks for people who have outlived the failure of all hopes: Though we live in a world that dreams of ending that always seems about to give in something that will not acknowledge conclusion insists that we forever begin. Robert F Lyons
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 1606, New York, NY 10001. Letters should include the writer’s name, address, and phone number and may be edited for clarity and length. 12 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
Niall, your article is spot on. I always say to my wife and children “eliminate the risk” the very first minute you encounter a problem. Governments worldwide should have moved far quicker to contain the spread of the virus. It appears very few read about or knew anything about the Spanish Flu of 1918. Lessons should have been learned from what happened then and what could still happen if we get two further pandemics as in 1918/1919. All we can do is pray that the health authorities will get a vaccine to stem the surge and in due course eradicate the virus. Bob Quilty
Michael Dowling / Timothy Egan I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the video interview with Michael Dowling [and Tim Egan]. I found myself smiling and even laughing, and in other words, feeling hopeful about our future when we have people like him making a difference. (And he even likes Zane Grey novels!! Wow.) Thanks Irish America for presenting this. Marian Betancourt
Thanks so much for suggesting this podcast. It was exciting to get to know this man. Smart, emphatic, and a great story teller. One hour of so many pearls of wisdom about how one should engage with life. I certainly will read his book. Betty White
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HIBERNIA • NEWS
CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM FOR IRISH TOURISM
have come at a better time for IreHE Irish tourism industry is hopland as the global tourism sector ing the election of proud Irish seeks to recover from the worst inAmerican Joe Biden lends a boost dustry shock since World War II,” to a sector of the economy sorely hurting due to the COVID pandemic. the Irish Independent reported. “With one-in-ten jobs accounted Experts are cautiously optimistic for by the tourism-hospitalthat a variety of factors BIDEN COUNTRY: ity sector, the retention of have come together The Cooley Peninwhich will allow the multi- sula’s highest point, skilled staff is now considered critical for the ability billion-dollar industry to Slieve Foy, as seen from Carlingford, of the industry to bounce slowly recover in 2021. Co. Louth. Incoming back in 2021 with the rollOne important factor, President Joe out of vaccines set to bring observers say, is the eleBiden’s Finnegan ancestors hailed the virus crisis to an end.” vation of a prominent Irish from the area. Tourism expert Valentina American to the White Doorly added: “The next House. The so-called horizon will be a phase of rehabili“Biden effect” could motivate many other Irish Americans to return to Ire- tation when vaccines will start to roll land – or get in touch with their roots out and the initial danger will have passed but we will be ‘recovering for the first time, after months of from a great trauma’ and visitors will being trapped in their homes. need extra care.” “Joe Biden’s pride in his Irish roots –Tom Deignan in both Mayo and Louth could not
BRITAIN IS HALF-IN HALF-OUT OF EU
truly dramatic development has taken place with the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union on the night of New Year’s Eve. On New Year’s Day back in 1973, Ireland and the UK both joined what was then popularly known as the Common Market. The deal that has now been worked out between the UK and the EU means that there will be no additional charges or restrictions on the quantity of goods traded between the two entities and it has been observed that the British are going from “half-in” to “half-out” of the European community. There were fears that customs checks on the border between the two parts of Ireland would return after a long absence but these checks will now be conducted in the Irish Sea between the North and the British mainland: a development that annoys unionists but will probably bolster the Good Friday Agreement negotiated during the peace process. –Deaglán de Bréadún 14 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
here were 484 new cases in the Republic on December 17 but the figure went up to 1,718 by December 30. In Northern Ireland, the number of new cases was 656 on December 17 but this increased to 2,143 by December 30. The Northern Ireland figures are particularly bad when you take into account the fact that its population is only two-fifths that of the Republic. There have been no satisfactory explanations for the disparity in the rate of infection. New Year’s Eve saw the introduction of further rules on people’s conduct in the Republic, following an emergency meeting of government ministers. Stores categorised as non-essential have closed and people are instructed not to travel more than five kilometres (just over three miles) from their homes. Gyms and swimmingpools, golf and tennis clubs are all closed. No visitors to private homes or gardens are allowed, except for essential reasons such as providing care to children and older people. Only ten mourners can attend a funeral, wedding parties are limited to six persons and school holidays have been extended by a week until January 11th. A similar lockdown began in the North a week earlier and there is speculation that the same level of restrictions will remain on both sides of the border until March. – Deaglán de Bréadún
UP THE DUBS! ONCE MORE
ne of the biggest social events of the year in Dublin used to be the final of the All-Ireland senior championship in Gaelic Football at the legendary Croke Park stadium. This year, because of Covid restrictions, fans had to watch it on television. It was a great day for the Dublin team which won the Sam Maguire Cup for the sixth time in a row, defeating Mayo who have not taken the title since 1951. Outside of Dublin, there are some rumblings about the county’s continued success. It has a much larger population at 1.3 million than another county in Ireland; Leitrim, by contrast, has the lowest figure at 32,000. But don’t expect “The Dubs” to be enthusiastic about any restrictions that might be suggested, such as dividing the county into its four administrative divisions of Dublin City, Fingal, South Dublin and Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown! – Deaglán de Bréadún
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HIBERNIA • NEWS
FINANCE PAYS FOR IRELAND
reland is now the eighth largest exporter of financial services in the world, as well as the fifth largest exporter of financial services in Europe. Financial corporations accounted for nearly €2.5 billion of Ireland’s €10.9 billion total corporation tax receipts in 2019, according to a new report by Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI), prepared in conjunction with the Federation of International Banks in Ireland (FIBI). “Ireland continues to punch above its weight in international financial services,” said Sean Fleming, Minister of State for Financial Services, Credit Unions and Insurance. “The community of people that make up the sector have shown remarkable resilience throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and deserve to be commended. With the Ireland for Finance Strategy, we have set ourselves ambitious targets to protect and grow the number of people working in that community by 2025. My focus is to grow the sector in the regions, promote diversity and make Ireland a top destination for digital sustainable finance,” Fleming added. The new report, which examines the international banking community’s contribution to the Irish economy, also found that: Ireland had the 19th largest international banking sector in the world, with cross-border assets worth $407 billion. The total amount spent by foreign-owned financial services enterprises on payroll, Irish materials and Irish services rose to €1.366 billion in 2018, up from €0.809 billion five years earlier. In 2019, Ireland was the eighth largest exporter of financial services in the world, and the value of financial exports from Ireland rose to almost €16.9 billion in 2019. “Our international banking sector here in Ireland is a growing force in Ireland’s economic landscape, making a contribution which is visible across all domestic economic indicators including output, exports, tax contribution and employment,” FIBI Chair Derek Kehoe said. “It’s a huge contributor to our economy and this report documents the extent of the contribution.” Kehoe added: “These are significant indicators and now more than ever when the COVID-19 crisis at home and abroad has shaken the domestic economy Ireland is extremely fortunate to have a Foreign Direct Investment model, with a strong pipeline of future investment, to help offset the challenges that this pandemic has brought.” –Tom Deignan
A SHOT OF IRISH OPERA
n what is being praised as a perfect high-culture fix for life during the Coronavirus pandemic, The Irish National Opera has made 20 short opera performances available to the public for free. Recorded at Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre, with RTE’s Concert Orchestra, and filmed in a wide variety of styles, the production is called 20 Shots of Opera. Heidi Waleson in The Wall Street Journal hailed The Irish National Opera production as “an exhilarating jaunt through up-to-theminute lyric creativity.” Waleson added: “Unlike the experience of losing yourself in the lengthy grandeur of more traditional operas, you absorb these intimate quick takes like jolts of recognition.” The National Opera itself notes that the performance subjects range from a Beethoven letter about his laundry, to a marine biologist meditating “on the enigmatic figure of Libris Solar, an alchemical blend of human, non-human and neoprene.” All 20 of the musical pieces run between five and eight minutes. Featured Irish artists include Gerald Barry, Éna Brennan, Irene Buckley, Linda Buckley, Robert Coleman, David Coonan, Alex Dowling, Peter Fahey, Michael Gallen, Andrew Hamilton, Jenn Kirby, Conor Linehan, Conor Mitchell, Gráinne Mulvey, Emma O’Halloran, Hannah Peel, Karen Power, Evangelia Rigaki, Benedict Schlepper-Connolly and Jennifer Walshe. The subject matter ranges from the comic to the grim. Brennan’s “Rupture” features a soprano dueling with an inner voice; Peel’s “Close” explores two women on an awkward, socially distanced date; and Gallen’s “At a Loss” features a daughter waiting to hear what may be terrible news about her mother’s health. Conductors Elaine Kelly and Fergus Sheil preside over the music, while Hugh O’Conor oversaw the design. In the Wall Street Journal, Waleson added: “I was struck by the fierce intensity of mezzo Naomi Louisa O’Connell in Emma O’Halloran’s ‘The Wait,’ and the simple, folk-like cadences of Benedict Schlepper-Connolly’s ‘Dust, a lament for the natural world, poignantly sung by Michelle O’Rourke. And the insidiously floating and twisting soprano line of “Libris Solar,” sung by Claudia Boyle, made me want to hear something longer from composer Jennifer Walshe.” –Tom Deignan Visit www.irishnationalopera.ie for more details or to watch.
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IRELAND’S APPEAL IS
Stronger Than Ever Niall Gibbons, CEO, Tourism Ireland explains that Ireland, when the time is right, is ready to welcome visitors for the best and most rewarding vacation ever. The impact of Covid-19 has been significant on the travel and tourism sector, what plans does Tourism Ireland have in place to encourage US/ NA travelers to visit when the time is right? Tourism to the island of Ireland has grown steadily over the last decade or more and, I’m glad to say, we have welcomed record levels of visitors from North America. Visitors tell us that what brings them back to Ireland time and again is the natural beauty of our coastline and landscapes, our historic cities, our unique culture and heritage, great golf, walking and cycling and, most of all, the genuine warmth of the Irish welcome. During the pandemic, North American visitors have been telling us that they long to reconnect with their family and friends across the island of Ireland and savor the very special welcome they know awaits them there. We have been working closely with our tourism industry colleagues, with health authorities and government agencies across the island, to ensure that everything is in place to deliver the best, safest and most rewarding holidays. So, in 2021, we look forward to welcoming back our many friends from the US and Canada and helping them to make new vacation memories in Ireland. The pandemic has had an impact on consumer behaviors and attitudes around the world, what types of travel experiences and trip styles will people be looking for as tourism restarts, and how will Tourism Ireland respond? The island of Ireland is the ideal place to enjoy the holiday experiences that US and Canadian holidaymakers are longing for as they begin to travel again in 2021 and beyond. US travelers tell us they can’t wait to get back to familiar destinations where they feel welcome and safe, and where they can
brought Ireland record levels of visitors in 2019. So, if anything, you could say that Ireland’s appeal is stronger than ever. 2020 was a very difficult year for all of us. Now, hope is on the horizon and 2021 is the year of recovery. From a standing start, we realize that it may take a number of years to recover to 2019 record levels, but we look forward to steady growth in visitors in the coming years. We have also continued to work closely with our North American travel industry partners and together we will be promoting the uniqueness of great vacations to Ireland through all the usual channels, when the time is right. reconnect with family and friends and enjoy a memorable vacation…truly Ireland offers all of this and more, set in stunning scenery or in historic cities and towns. Activities like golf, walking or cycling are easy ways to explore nature and the great outdoors, and wherever you find yourself across the island, our unique culture and heritage is always close by to be enjoyed. We have wonderful places to stay and world-class food. All of this, and the genuine Irish welcome, makes for great holiday memories.
T he US market has seen significant growth over the last 6/7 years, how long do you think it will take to recover to 2019 levels of business when the island of Ireland welcomed 2 million Americans? We’ve kept in touch with our US visitors through the pandemic and they’ve told us how much they dream of traveling again and what they most look forward to. I am very glad to say that Ireland offers all the familiarity, the safety and the unique welcome of family and friends that are US travelers’ top priorities for 2021 – as well, of course, as the great vacation experiences that
The US is home to approximately 35 million people with Irish heritage, what role can the diaspora play in the recovery? Ireland is extremely fortunate – in fact it’s the envy of countries around the world – in having such an influential and committed diaspora. Nowhere is that more obvious than here in the US. The bonds between Ireland and the 35 million people across the US who cherish their Irish heritage have never been stronger. 2020 has been very difficult for people on both sides of the Atlantic, when the pandemic prevented travel and kept families apart. With so much family time lost and special occasions missed, we believe that the diaspora will be among the very first visitors to return to Ireland in 2021 and, I can assure you, people across the entire island of Ireland look forward to welcoming them back. The diaspora can also significantly influence the wider recovery in travel from North America. When the time is right, we would greatly welcome their support in getting the message out that Ireland is open for business and that the welcome and vacation experience is better than ever, and one not to be missed.
REDISCOVER WHAT MATTERS Titanic Belfast
When the time is right. Come home to the Titanic city, where youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll find a culture-packed hub of history, fine food, spectacular scenery, and even the story of the Ship of Dreams. Come home to the thrilling notes of traditional music, where laughter rises to the rafters in legendary pubs, to the chatter of family and feasts shared with friends. Here, against a backdrop of 100,000 welcomes, memories are prompted, acquaintances rekindle, and promises made to stay connected. They say good things come to those who wait. Find your way home at
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HIBERNIA • IRISH EYE ON HOLLYWOOD
By Tom Deignan
WOLFWALKERS A HIT WITH KIDS & PARENTS
Kerry native, Jessie Buckley
JESSIE BUCKLEY POISED FOR THE A-LIST
nly the worldwide pandemic could slow down the stratospheric rise of Kerry native Jessie Buckley. And even with Hollywood more or less shut down, Buckley is still getting raves – meaning she will be poised to hit the A-list when show biz really opens up again in the new year. You can see Buckley now in the offbeat Netflix romance I’m Thinking of Ending Things, as well as the also-kind-of-weird but very entertaining FX TV series Fargo. “There are many unsettling pleasures in the current season,” the Boston Globe said of Fargo’s fourth season. “The best of them is Buckley’s super polite and super murderous Oraetta Mayflower.... The Irish actor doesn’t just come up with a Minnesota accent that is exaggerated to a just-exactly-perfect degree, she manages to be terrifying ...and comic ... at the same time. She’s chipper, efficient, and utterly twisted. She’s impossible to look away from.” The recent season also features Ben Whishaw as Irish immigrant “Rabbi” Milligan, a small-time hood thrust into the middle of a gang war that explodes in 1950s Kansas City. Look next for Jessie Buckley starring alongside “the queen” herself, Olivia Colman, as well as fellow Irish thespian Paul Mescal (Normal People) in Maggie Gylenhall’s adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s novel The Lost Daughter. 18 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
he Wall Street Journal recently noted that the term “family entertainment” usually “means something parents can sit through without clawing the armrest off the couch.” But then they offered up the new, much-acclaimed Irish animated epic Wolfwalkers as the type of movie that truly has something for everyone. “With its enchanted forests, shape-shifting wood sprites and a plucky heroine named Robyn Goodfellowe, the film is terrific fare for kids,” the Journal noted, before adding that adults will be drawn in by the history and religious tension of this tale set in “a pre-Christian Hibernia of pagans, Druids and nature worship.” The team behind Wolfwalkers is the same that gave us 2009’s celebrated Secret of Kells – Tomm Moore and producer Nora Twomey – and Wolfwalkers is already moving to the front of the pack when it comes to buzz about Oscar nominations in the animated category. Tommy Tiernan and Mary Doyle Kennedy are among the Irish cast members in Wolfwalkers, which airs on Apple TV plus.
O’MARA GIVES VOICE TO SON OF ZEUS
hat better time to go way back to old Greek mythology days. And what better travelling companion than Dublin actor Jason O’Mara. O’Mara is among the international actors lending their voices to the Netflix animated series Blood of Zeus. The eight-episode series (described by the streaming service as an “adult animated TV” show) provides a crash course in Greek mythology, and revolves around Heron, son of Zeus (that’s O’Mara), who must save both earth and Olympus from malevolent forces. O’Mara – best known for TV shows like Life on Mars and Man in the High Castle, and movies such as The Siege of Jadotville – joins Greek-American Melina Kanakaredes and Greek-Canadian Chris Diamntopolous, as well as Hollywood royalty Mamie Gummer (also known as Meryl Streep’s daughter). O’Mara also recently voiced the animated movie Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, alongside Irish-Americans Jerry O’Connell and Matt Ryan, and Irish-Aussie Liam McIntyre.
BLUE BLOODS SEASON 11
ow that we live in a world dominated by Netflix and Hulu and other streaming services many of us have barely heard of, we forget that the oldschool networks are still churning out reliable entertainment – some brand new, some aged like a fine wine. The latter certainly characterizes the durable CBS cop drama Blue Bloods. The Irish American Regan clan came back with an 11th season in December. Tom Selleck, Donnie Wahlberg and Irish American actress Bridget Moynihan are facing a very different TV landscape – not to mention changed attitudes about law enforcement – from when the first episode aired back in 2010. Still, the show remains incredibly popular, and is still under the supervision of Irish American Executive Producer Brian Burns – brother of actor/director Ed Burns.
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Jamie Dornan, and Emily Blunt
WILD MOUNTAIN THYME IS NOT MOONSTRUCK
riter and director John Patrick Shanley is the Irish American force behind Oscar winners and Hollywood classics from Moonstruck to Doubt. So it must have been shocking to face the negative reaction that came upon the release of the trailer for his latest film Wild Mountain Thyme. The Internet burned up with comments about bad accents and what seemed to be a post-card view of Ireland stuck in the days of The Quiet Man. The backlash was all the more surprising given the film’s strong cast, including Irish actor Jamie Dornan, Mad Man Jon Hamm, Mary Poppins star Emily Blunt, and Hollywood legend Christopher Walken. Which is part of the problem – Dornan is from Northern Ireland, Blunt from England, and Walken...well, he’s Christopher freakin’ Walken. And so the resulting accents come off as a mish-mash rather than anything resembling semi-realistic 21st Century Ireland. Which is not to say the movie is as bad as the Internet chatter would suggest. Based on Shanley’s own play “Outside Mullingar,” Wild Mountain Thyme is set in motion when an Irish patriarch (Walken) decides he may not give his farm over to his reclusive son, but instead to an American relative (Hamm). Much of this is familiar and, yes, often, more “Oirish” than Irish. It must be added that Ireland is not exactly the first country to look up to a movie screen and discover that the nuances of its day-to-day life have been flattened to pancake proportions by Hollywood types. The real problem here may be that we’re meant to believe Jamie Dornan as some kind of muttering misfit. As fine an actor as he is, Dornan is a successful model, who fluttered many a heart in the steamy 50 Shades movies. Still, Dearbhla Molloy is a joy to watch, and these days you could do a lot worse than the stunning County Mayo scenery Shanley caught onscreen. Look for Dornan next alongside a slew of Irish actors – Ciaran Hinds, Caitriona Balfe – in Kenneth Branagh’s highly anticipated film, simply entitled Belfast. A scene from Bluebloods, Donnie Wahlberg (center).
AMMONITE: A LOVE STORY WITH SAOIRSE
ou certainly won’t have any acting or accent complaints with the likes of Saoirse Ronan, Kate Winslet and Fiona Shaw in the recent romance drama Ammonite. Produced by Kerry native Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly, Ammonite is a period drama about an isolated paleontologist who falls in love with a rich collector’s wife. Up next for Ronan is another one of those quirky, star-studded Wes Anderson movies, this one entitled (take a deep breath here) The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun, which may finally be shown to audiences at the 2021 Cannes FIlm Festival, usually held in the Spring – and which, as of press time, had not yet been cancelled due to the COVID pandemic!
RUAIRI WILL PLAY BUDDY HOLLY
n Irishman will play rock-n-roll legend Buddy Holly in an upcoming biopic about the “Peggy Sue” singer. Ruairi O’Connor will play the bespectacled crooner, while singer Nelly will co-star as Chuck Berry, in the film with the working title Clear Lake. According to Variety, Colin Hanks will also appear, as Holly’s manager. O’Connor has played a number of roles in the Starz historical series The Spanish Princess. He’s also set to appear alongside Steve Carrell and Jennifer Aniston in the upcoming season of Apple TV’s The Morning Show.
SHANE’S CROCK OF GOLD
HEAD NURSE SINEAD O’ROURKE
eanwhile, over at NBC – in a bit of good timing given our new appreciation for front-line medial workers – look for a new hospital drama called Nurses, featuring Irish actress Cathy White. White, who has appeared in cable dramas such as The Vikings, will play nurse Sinead O’Rourke, described by producers as “head nurse and den mother” to the younger, newly-minted hospital workers around which the show revolves.
nd speaking of music legends, if the Christmas spins of “Fairytale of New York” didn’t quite slake your appetite for Shane McGowan, punch up the new documentary Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane McGowan and remind yourself that for all of the prattling that goes on about the Pogues’ singer’s well-documented excesses (alluded to in the toocute sub-title), this guy is one of Irish music’s most important figures from the last 50 years or so. JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021 IRISH AMERICA 19
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HIBERNIA • ARTS
By Tom Deigan
GABRIEL BEFORE HE WAS FAMOUS
egendary Irish actor Gabriel Byrne continues to make headlines – on the page and screen. Byrne’s new memoir – Walking With Ghosts – explores in sometimes painful detail the abuse he suffered at the hands of a priest when he was growing up, as well as an episode he described as a kind of revenge. Byrne – who can currently be seen in the 2020 Netflix crime drama Lost Girls, as well as the Amazon Prime thriller ZeroZeroZero – has been a Hollywood headliner for decades. But some of the most memorable moments in Walking With Ghosts explore life long before he was famous. After vividly recalling several episodes of clergy abuse when he was younger, Byrne writes about a priest who was physically abusive in class. One day, young Gabriel and some classmates set out for a measure of revenge.
“We crouched behind a wall and waited to ambush him as he cycled out one evening for his daily jaunt,” writes Byrne. “The stones we threw mostly missed but one struck, knocking him to the ground. He lay in a heap on the road, blood reddening his white hair, wheels still spinning. A few days later, he appeared before us, head and face cut, arm in a sling. The head brother’s voice boomed around the playground. He said ‘I want the curs responsible for this vicious and cowardly attack to present themselves. Now!’ There was silence.. Nobody moved. “We were all for one and one for all.” In fact, Byrne also says this later played a role when he decided not to press charges against a British soldier who assaulted him in London. “One night we were waiting for a cab.
JONI MITCHELL: FIGHTING IRISH
olk legend Joni Mitchell is looking to her Irish roots in a mammoth new recording collection – and to assist in her recovery following a brain aneurysm. Mitchell, who was stricken with polio as a child, recently said: “You know what? I came back from polio, so here I am, and struggling back. Just inching my way along. I’m showing slow improvement but moving forward.” The acclaimed singer of “Both Sides Now” – who also wrote a song called “Magdalene Laundries” for her 1994 album Turbulent Indigo – then said: “And, you know, I got my speech back quickly, but the walking I’m still struggling with. But I mean, I’m a fighter. I’ve got Irish blood!” Mitchell, who was born in Alberta, Canada, and recently celebrated her 76th birthday, was found unconscious at her home in March of 2015. In October, she released a five-disc collection of music called Joni Mitchell Archives/ Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963-1967). It includes classics such as “House of the Rising Sun” and “Chelsea Morning,” but also a version of the Irish classic “Molly Malone,” recorded in 1963 for the Saskatchewan radio station CFQC AM. 20 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
Behind us loitered a group of drunken soldiers, also waiting for a cab,” Byrne writes. One of the soldiers – who had returned that day from Northern Ireland, where they’d been on a six month tour of duty, according to Byrne – became belligerent and then violent. “His fist smashed into my face. I went down. They kicked my ribs, my head and face with their soldier’s boots.” A police officer later said to Byrne: “Suppose it was your accent that set them off.” Yet, when shown a photo of the suspects, Byrne recalled: “They were working class kids, no more than 18 or 19-years-old. (I said)... I don’t want to press charges.”
HONOR FOR IRISH-AMERICAN DANCER
his past summer, California native Faye Driscoll participated in a modern dance festival based in Ireland and inspired by the Irish diaspora. Now, she has been awarded a prestigious New York Live Arts residency that recognizes her monumental artistic achievements, while also assisting with a few more practical matters. “Faye is one of the most daring makers of her generation, an artist that is impossible to box in,” said Live Arts leaders Bill T. Jones and Janet Wong. “It is our hope that (this) award will provide her with the security to imagine and create powerful work, and to continue building the infrastructure for a sustained career.” Driscoll received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2013 and was a United States Artist fellow in 2016. But this new honor offers something she has never had before. According to the New York Times, Driscoll “will have health insurance coverage and a salary at the same time” for the “first time in her dance career.” “I feel very privileged that I have received a lot of support and funding and visibility and have done some touring, but the sad truth is that that doesn’t equal financial stability, housing stability, health care,” Driscoll told the Times. This past summer, Driscoll also took part in the “Dancer from the Dance” modern Irish dance festival, which, drew on the work of Irish choreographers North and South of the border and of the greater Irish diaspora. Driscoll has said of her work: “I make dances that are mistaken for plays and load-in like installations, sets are designed to break apart, musical scores are made from performers’ stomps and voices, props are worn, used and reused for fantasy, excess, and loss. Performers sing, fight, frolic and make love in bursts, like rapid fire flip-books of human emotion.
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of Irish America Magazine
Thank you for your phenomenal service to our community in the United States and beyond To many more years of success
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t might be a very special St. Patrick’s Day for Irish newcomer Clare Dunne, show biz veterans Fiona Shaw and Saoirse Ronan, and a couple of Irish American Hollywood veterans. The film and TV worlds have been upended just like everything else in recent months – and that includes Hollywood’s closely-watched red-carpet season. This gaudy display of hype and hope always culminates with the Academy Awards, usually held sometime in February. But this year the nominations will not even be officially known until March 15 – right before St. Patrick’s Day.
On the Irish American front, Ellen Burstyn (born Edna Rae Gillooly) – having already claimed a so-called acting Triple Crown with an Emmy, Oscar and Tony – is once again expected to get heavy Oscar consideration for her performance in the Netflix movie Pieces of a Woman. But perhaps the crowd favorite (if decided underdog) for a surprise nomination would be veteran of stage and screen, Irish American actor Peter Gerety. He is getting lots of attention for his performance in Working Man, after a long career stretching back to the early 80s, and including small roles such as “Irish Driver” in the ABC special “Kennedys of Massachusetts.” More recently, Gerety – a Providence, Rhode Island native – has appeared in The Wire, as well as Irish American TV shows such as Ray Donovan and The Black Donnellys. Meanwhile, in other Academy Award news, The Irish Film & Television Academy selected the Irish-lanLEFT: Clare guage Famine film Arracht as Dunne in a poster for its entry in the 2021 International Herself. Oscar race. TOP: Ellen Directed by Tom Sullivan, Burstyn at the Arracht was selected by a 2007 Toronto International committee made up of Irish One little movie starting to Film Festival . Hollywood heavy hitters such as gain potential support for sevBELOW: Dónall Lenny Abrahamson, Ciaran eral nominations is Herself – a Ó Héalai in a scene from Hinds, and Fionnula Flanagan. Dublin-set film about an Arracht Arracht – which roughly translates abused woman trying to reinto something like “monster” – start her life. Clare Dunne’s star is set in 1845 during the Irish Famine, performance has gotten lots of strong and stars Dónall Ó Héalai, Dara Devaney, reviews, though Oscar watchers suggest and Michael McElhatton. it is more likely the film will get a nod in the Original Screenplay category. The same goes for the wellreceived Irish animated film Wolfwalkers. As for the Supporting Actress category, it’s a good bet that either Saoirse Ronan or Fiona Shaw – and perhaps both – will be nominated for their turns in Ammonite, alongside star Kate Winslet. 22 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
SIMPLY THE BEST (ACTORS)
he New York Times recently unveiled a list of the top acting talent, at least so far, of the young 21st Century. One of the big surprises was to see Irish-American Melissa McCarthy alongside acknowledged Irish master thespians Saoirse Ronan and Daniel Day-Lewis. “Since making the transition from TV to movies, McCarthy has repeatedly demonstrated her range and exhilaratingly helped demolish regressive ideas about who gets to be a film star,” critic Manohla Dargis writes. “No movie has served her better than Spy (2015) in which she plays Susan, a timid C.I.A. analyst Melissa McCarthy in who’s sent on an New York City, 2019. outlandish mission that allows McCarthy to mince and then delightfully swagger.” Fellow critic A.O. Scott focused on McCarthy’s turn as Lee Israel in Can You Ever Forgive Me? “(Israel) shares a fast and furiously aggressive verbal wit with some of McCarthy’s other creations, like Tammy in Tammy (2014) and Mullins in The Heat (2013).” But Lee (Israel) “was a real person,” and ultimately McCarthy was up to the challenge and then some. “There’s no way you can forget her,” Scott concludes. Of Ronan, Scott said: “How many different ways can one person come of age? Growing up is a lot of what young people do in movies, but few actors have been doing it for so long, or with such nuance, intelligence and variety as Saoirse Ronan.” Of Day-Lewis, Dargis said he is one of the most revered actors of the past half-century, a reputation based on his dazzling filmography and burnished by an aura of greatness that has grown to near-mystical proportions.” – T.D.
IRISH EYE LATE OSCARS
HIBERNIA • ARTS
s n i t a l u t a r Cong to PATRICIA HARTY NIALL O’DOWD and IRISH AMERICA on 35 years of Publishing!
LABORERS’ INTERNATIONAL UNION OF NORTH AMERICA TERRY O’SULLIVAN General President
ARMAND E. SABITONI General Secretary-Treasurer
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HIBERNIA • IRISH AMERICA The PT-59 in the Solomon Islands during World War II. PHOTOQUEST, VIA GETTY IMAGES
HOPE FOR 2021 ST. PAT’S PARADES
KENNEDY HISTORY UNEARTHED
rom New York City to Limerick, we continue to discover more and more about Irish America’s famed Kennedy clan. According to the Irish Independent, a “crumbling stone ruin of a cottage belonging to John F. Kennedy’s ancestors was unearthed” in Bruff, Limerick, by workers clearing way for a new path. “The farmhouse was the residence of Mary Lenihan – one of JFK’s great-great grandmothers - before she moved down the road after marrying her neighbour Edmund Fitzgerald in 1828. She gave birth to Mary Fitzgerald in 1832 but is thought to have died soon afterwards,” the Independent noted. Meanwhile, back in April, workers in northern Manhattan pulled a decaying boat from the Harlem River that also had a Kennedy connection. The boat once belonged to a college teacher named Redmond Burke who docked it at a pier off of 208th Street, in the upper Manhattan neighborhood of Inwood. Using the boat’s hull number, Burke and his students researched the vessel’s history and discovered that during World War II, it was commanded by a Navy lieutenant named John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who’d made a name for himself with his actions on another boat, the PT-109, before moving on to politics. This did not prevent the boat from falling into disrepair, and eventually sinking, settling into the muck of northern Manhattan. There it remained until the MTA brought in cranes to bring the vessel to the surface, as part of a project to keep the 207th Street train yard from flooding. JFK’s old boat – what’s left of it, anyway, may or may not end up at his presidential library in Boston.
any cities have already cancelled March 2021 St. Patrick’s Day parades because of the Coronavirus pandemic. However, others who have taken a wait and see approach got some good news with the announcement that a COVID 19 vaccine may soon be available to all. Cities across the U.S. – from Nutley, New Jersey to Knoxville, Tennessee – have taken the better-to-be safe approach and already cancelled their parades. Other big parades, however, such as Boston’s, are currently scheduled, pending further developments on the public health front. In New York, the Irish Voice reported, Hilary Beirne, the parade’s chief administrative officer, said during a Zoom call with representatives of the parade’s affiliated organizations, he “had no idea in relation to what is going to transpire at this point in time. One of the things I’m sure of is that we are going to have a parade. We just don’t know what it’s going to be like.” And according to Savannah News journalist Adam Van Brimmer, Georgia Irish Americans may want to dust off their green hats and Aran sweaters. “The 2021 parade is a go – as of this moment,” Brimmer writes at savannahnow.com. “The parade committee has submitted its applications ‘like normal” yet General Chairman John Fogarty acknowledges “we can hope and pray but we have to be realistic.’ “City leaders are taking a wait-and-see approach as well. Savannah Mayor Van Johnson anticipates a firm decision will be made by the end of the year. Mayor Johnson is haunted by the 2020 parade experience, when he took the unprecedented step of canceling the annual procession just Joe Brady leading the New York St. days before the Patrick’s Day Parade event.” up Fifth Avenue.
SHANLEY WILL LEAD ST. JOHN’S
rian J. Shanley has been named the 18th President of St. John’s University, and is expected to be on the job by February 2021. “I have long admired St. John’s commitment to the founding mission set forth by the Vincentian community to provide a Catholic education for first generation students in a diverse and inclusive environment,” said Father Shanley, a Rhode Island native who previously served as president of Providence College for 15 years. “I look forward to leading our community to remain committed to that mission amidst the unique challenges of the current times.” 24 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
Fr. Shanley is a 1980 Providence College alumnus, who graduated summa cum laude with a degree in history. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1987. He completed a philosophy Ph.D. at the University of Toronto, was later on the faculty at The Catholic University of America, and also worked at the University of Notre Dame and at Emory University. Fr. Shanley’s tenure at Providence was marked by substantial improvements to campus facilities and student services. He was also credited with hiring large numbers of new faculty, diversifying the student body, and strengthening the college’s national profile in academics and athletics. St. John’s main campus is located in Queens, with other sites round New York City, and other facilities in Rome, Paris, and Limerick.
We wanted to add up all the stories you’ve done since 1985. But that’s a lot of counting. Mutual of America Financial Group is proud to salute Patricia Harty, Niall O’Dowd, and Irish America Magazine on 35 years of journalistic excellence. We could try to calculate the tremendous impact of your work, but to save time, we’d rather just say “Congratulations!”
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HIBERNIA • PEOPLE
KELLY SWORN IN, REMEMBERS MCCAIN
ewly elected U.S. Senator Mark Kelly honored fellow Irish American and former senator John McCain before he officially took office in late 2020. Kelly, along with his wife (former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords) and daughter, Claire, visited the gravesite of late Arizona U.S. senator John McCain.
Mark Kelly being congratulated on his win by Joe Biden.
“The family laid a wreath at McCain’s grave at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Maryland and paid their respects to McCain, who died in 2018 after a battle with brain cancer,” the Arizona Republic reported. Kelly has long said McCain was “someone he looked up to growing up, despite the two representing opposing political parties,” the Hill noted. “Kelly said he’s looking forward to using McCain’s desk when he takes office.” Kelly himself has said: “(McCain) was a hero of mine when I was young, and we often don’t get to meet our heroes. It’s also much less often that you eventually get to call them a friend and to be elected to his United States Senate seat, that – that’s a very big deal for me.”
SKY” THE LIMIT FOR CAOLILINN
or any actor, a role alongside Hollywood legend George Clooney would be the experience of a lifetime. That is certainly the case for Ireland’s own Caolilinn Springall. The only difference is that the young Irish actress is only seven years old. Springall stars in the new Netflix movie Midnight Sky, directed by and starring the Irish American Clooney, who said he enjoyed working alongside such a young actress. “I was so happy because we’d finish up, I’d get home in time to put the kids to bed usually because you know we’re working with Caoilinn (Springall, Clooney’s co-star), a nice Irish girl and we’d have to finish at a certain time because she’s a kid so you can’t work past a certain time,” Clooney was quoted as saying in the Irish Sun newspaper. The release of Midnight Sky also gave Clooney a chance to talk about a recent visit to Ireland to see relatives. “We were there for Easter (in 2019), it was unusually warm and nice and it couldn’t have been more fun to be there,” he told Dublin radio station SPIN 1038. I met a bunch of relatives I never knew I had which was also fun! My experience there was so memorable and seeing family was so much fun. Being able to feel your real roots is a really cool thing! My father had been there and visited the family before.” Midnight Sky is a dystopian sci-fi flick, and also stars Felicity Jones and Kyle Chandler. 26 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
SHIELDS STEPS DOWN
ho says Americans can’t talk about politics in a civil way? For over three decades, Mark Shields has shared insights in newspaper columns and on public television. Now that the 83-year-old Massachusetts native and Irish American is retiring from his regular post on PBS, even those who disagree with him can’t help but comment on Shields’ experience, wisdom and – most importantly – decency. “Every Friday evening for the last 19 years, Mark Shields and I have gathered to talk politics on the “PBS NewsHour,” New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote in December. “We’ve had thousands of disagreements over the years, but never a second of acrimony. Mark radiates a generosity of spirit that improves all who come within his light.” A graduate of Notre Dame University, Shields began working in Washington in the mid-1960s, eventually joining the presidential campaign of fellow Irish Catholic Bobby Kennedy. Shields later worked on campaigns for Edmund Muskie as well as Sargent Shriver, who was married to Eunice Kennedy. By one count, Shields worked on campaigns in 40 states over the course of a decade, before becoming an editorial writer at the Washington Post, as well as a syndicated political columnist in the late 1970s. Perhaps Shields’ highest profile gig was as the liberal talking head on the PBS NewsHour. Partner David Brooks praised Shields’ “conception of politics, because it’s different from the conception many people carry in their heads these days.” He cited Shields’ Irish Cathoic youth as a clear inspiration. “We are all imprinted as children and young adults with certain ideas about the world, which stay with us for the rest of our lives. Mark, like many who came of age in the 1950s and 1960s – including Joe Biden – was imprinted with the idea that politics is a deeply noble profession, a form of service, a vocation.” Brooks noted that Shields’ “father was the first Catholic to serve on their town’s school board,” and added that “To this day Mark argues that politics is about looking for converts, not punishing heretics. You pass bills and win campaigns by bending to accommodate those whose votes can be gotten.”
Congratulates Irish America on its 35th Anniversary Client Appreciation
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HIBERNIA • QUOTE UNQUOTE “There’s a scrappiness to the Irish that I can very much relate to. It’s a kind of working-class, not afraid to get your hands dirty, take care of a situation kind of thing. Being Irish means being self-sufficient and doing whatever is needed.” Actress Melissa McCarthy on her Irish heritage.
“It becomes part of your life forever, there’s no getting around it. So I’ve loved being part of it all these years. And, of course, I’ve died with the football team.”
“I say go for it. Go for it, because it’s free and it’s the best thing that has ever happened at the moment. So go for it. If I can do it so can you.” Margaret Keenan, 90-year-old grandmother, and the first person in the U.K. to receive the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech. Britain was the first country to roll out the vaccine. Dec. 8. 2020.
“I wanted to liberate our scientists from any bureaucracy. When you get money from someone, that always comes with strings. They want to see how we are growing to progress, what types of moves you are going to do. They want reports. I didn’t want to have any of that.”
Regis Philbin on his devotion to Notre Dame. He died on July 20, and has been buried at the University of Notre Dame following a private funeral service at his alma mater.
“Shane says @BonJovi is a talented guy and he likes the version, and he thinks it’s interesting and soulful.” Shane MacGowan’s opinion of Jon Bon Jovi’s version of “Fairytale of New York” as posted on his wife’s Twitter account on December 12, 2020.
– Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. Pfizer is the only vaccine project that did not take funding from the White House-led Operation Warp Speed program to bolster research, development or manufacturing. Pfizer, one of Ireland’s biggest pharmaceutical multinationals, recently announced a further €300 million investment in Irish operations in November.
The opening of the Ringaskiddy plant in Cork in 2014.
“As we connect to our wider Irish family and to the many friends of Ireland who celebrate Christmas with us, from far and wide, in perhaps equally unusual circumstances, let us also resolve to embrace all of our responsibilities as global citizens, and to work with fellow citizens across all continents for a more equal, just and sustainable world; a world that, with all our endeavours, can reject violence in all its forms, and redoubles its efforts to end global poverty, exploitation and exclusion.” From a Christmas message to the diaspora by President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins.
Northwell Health is pleased to congratulate Irish America on its 35th anniversary We applaud the magazineâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s years of dedication to celebrating Irish heritage and the incredible achievements of Irish Americans throughout the United States. We all take enormous pride in your success and look forward to the day when we can get together again in person to commemorate this great milestone.
Michael J. Dowling President and CEO Northwell Health
1/2/21 12:18 AM
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Biden Mayo on the west and Louth on the East, boast some of the most historic sites and Ballina town, can expect many the curious traveler on the trail of the
W STORY: DARINA MOLLOY IMAGES: TOURISM IRELAND
ABOVE: Carlingford, Co. Louth, the main town on the Cooley Peninsula, with Slieve Foy in the background. TOP RIGHT: Deirble's Twist, Fallmore, Mullet Peninsula, Co Mayo.
ee Louth and Mighty Mayo – what do they have in common? Well, certainly not their size nor their location in Ireland, but as it happens, they share one very important son: President-Elect Joseph Biden. With his mother’s Blewitt ancestors hailing from Ballina, County Mayo, and her Finnegan family traced back to the Cooley Peninsula, Co. Louth, the 46th President of the United States has been hailed as the ‘most Irish’ U.S. leader since John F. Kennedy. As the third-largest county in Ireland, Mayo is known for the length of its coastline (the longest in Ireland), its tenacious footballers, its majestic mountains and its historical treasures. And now the county is delighted to count a U.S. president among its famous sons and daughters. Thirty years to the day after Ireland elected its first female president, Ballina native Mary Robinson, the north Mayo town clocked up another political win with the word filtering through that Joe Biden was on course to win the U.S. presidency. Car horns sounded, champagne corks popped, the New York Times and other members of the world press watched on, and there was a definite sense of history being made. Ballina, the capital of North Mayo, is the ancestral home of presiden-elect Biden’s great-great-grandfather Patrick Blewitt, who settled in Scranton, Pennsylvania
30 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
in the mid-1800s. With a reputation as a world-class angling destination, and its mix of buildings old and new, the town is a picturesque place to visit, and the mix of beautiful scenery and historic treasures (including Moyne Abbey and Rosserk Friary) ensures there is something to suit all tastes. Other well-known people with Mayo roots through the centuries include Granuaile (aka Grace O’Malley), land league campaigner Michael Davitt, inventor Louis Brennan, opera singer Margaret Burke-Sheridan, Admiral William Brown (founder of the Argentine Navy), former Taoisigh Charles Haughey and Enda Kenny, Princess Grace of Monaco, Olympian Martin Sheridan, prominent New Yorkers William and Paul O’Dwyer, and writer Sally Rooney. Louth, on the other hand, is Ireland’s smallest county in landmass terms, but it’s also the second-most densely populated. Well-known sons and daughters include actor Pierce Brosnan, musical group The Corrs, soccer player Steve Staunton, and Irish America cofounder Niall O’Dowd (although born in Tipperary, he grew up in Drogheda). Named for Lúgh, one of the ancient Irish gods, Louth prides itself on being a land of legends, and on its connections to ancient stories, kings and heroes. The best-known of these stories is probably the Táin
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in Ireland, and locals living on the Cooley peninsula new U.S. president’s ancestors. Bó Cuailnge (The Brown Bull of Cooley) – featuring Cúchulainn and warrior Queen Medb of Connaught, and a highly-prized bull in Louth. The famed Cooley Peninsula, well known in Irish mythology and home to one of Ireland’s loveliest scenic drive routes, was home to president-elect Biden’s other great-great-grandfather Owen Finnegan, who moved with his family (including Biden’s great-grandfather James) from their townland of Templetown to the U.S. (first New York, and then Scranton) in the 1840s. Relations still living in the Louth area include Ireland rugby internationals Rob and Dave Kearney. The gorgeous backdrop of the Cooley Mountains is an unmissable view from the ruins of Kilwirra (St. Mary’s) Church at Templetown – the site is associated with the Knights Templar order founded in the twelfth century. Biden has already visited both counties, and promises to revisit at some point during his presidency – once travel resumes in the wake of the disruption caused by Covid-19 – but what can you expect to find if you visit either county in the near future? There are a slew of interesting places to see in both Mayo and Louth – sit back and let Irish America take you on a brief, whistle-stop tour of some of the highlights, all from the comfort of your armchair!
ABOVE: Templetown Beach, Co. Louth. LEFT: Westport, Co. Mayo, a bridge over the Carrowbeg River.
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The ‘Coffin Ship' sculpture by John Behan, overlooking Clew Bay, commemorates the millions who perished in the Great Hunger of the 1840s.
The Clock Tower in the town centre, Westport.
Must See Mayo: National Museum of Ireland – Country Life: its extensive folklife and folklore
collection gives a great sense of what life was like in rural Ireland in days gone by. Croagh Patrick: Mayo’s iconic mountain, a place of pilgrimage and, in recent years, a feature in endurance races held in the town of Westport. Great Western Greenway: forty-two kilometres of walking and cycling heaven which takes in the pretty towns of Achill, Newport, Mulranny and Westport. Salmon Fishing on the River Moy: the beloved home away from home over many years for former Irish soccer manager Jack Charlton, who died in 2020. Jackie Clarke Collection: impressive private collection, housed in a renovated old bank building – includes letters from Michael Collins, Douglas Hyde and Michael Davitt, as well as personal items belonging to leaders of the 1916 Rising. Ceide Fields: a tantalizing glimpse of prehistoric life and farming in Ireland. Mayo Dark Sky Park: officially recognized as one of the best places in the world to view the wonders of the night sky. Located in Ballycroy National Park, also worth a visit in daylight. Westport House: the house itself is a treasure trove of décor, period features and portraiture, while the grounds house lovely walks and amusement rides for all ages. 32 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
Doolough Pass, Mayo. An annual Famine Walk between Louisburgh and Doolough commemorates a famine tragedy that happened here in 1849.
Bog Oak sculputre, Ceide Fields Visitor Centre, Ballycastle, Mayo.
Croagh Patrick an important site of pilgrimage in Mayo
Ballina town on the banks of the River Moy.
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Let’s Go Louth: King John’s Castle: also known as Carlingford Castle, it
acquired the name King John’s Castle after the monarch supposedly stayed there for a few days in the 11th century. According to local legend, he began to draft the Magna Carta there. Monasterboice High Cross and Round Tower: the site includes the remains of two churches, and an earlier round tower. One of its three high crosses, an impressive five and a half metres tall, is regarded as the finest high cross in Ireland. Millmount Museum and Martello Tower: originally settled by the Normans, and playing a crucial part in Drogheda’s defence during the Cromwellian conquest, the fort is now a museum which can be seen from all parts of the town. Ardee Castle: the largest fortified medieval Tower House in Ireland or Britain was used as Ardee’s courthouse until 2006. Cúchulainn’s Stone: a standing stone near Dundalk, believed to date to the Bronze Age, and traditionally associated with the death of legendary Irish warrior Cúchulainn. Old Mellifont Abbey: the headquarters of William of Orange during the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, and now largely in ruins, the Abbey is a national monument and is accessible to the public. Near Templetown on the Cooley Peninsula lies the ruins of Kilwirra Church. The church was built in honour of the Virgin Mary in the 15th century. The name Kilwirra is derived from the Irish “Cill Mhuire” and means “Church of Mary.” Knights of the Templar Order, who had long resided on the Cooley Peninsula, are believed to have built the church. IA
Castle Roche, a Norman ruin, Co. Louth.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dundalk, Co. Louth.
Ma Baker’s Pub, Carlingford.
ABOVE: Kilwerra Church, near Templeton, Co. Louth, dates to the Knights Templar. Mellifont Abbey, Tullyallen Village, Co. Louth.
Photo: Jim Dempsey. Website. http://www.megalithicireland.com
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President Niall O’Dowd writes of the authentic nature of the soon to be president.
he first time I met Joe Biden was in 1987 when he was a young 37-year old senator considering his first presidential run, and Irish America was a new publication. He was a subscriber to the magazine, and he readily agreed to an in-person interview. We sat down in his office in Washington, D.C., and what I remember now, is how proud Biden was of his Irish heritage, and how he loved to talk about Irish history and traditions; his great aunt Gertie’s obsession with the Black and Tans, his love of W.B. Yeats and his admiration for Wolfe Tone, the 1798 Irish revolutionary hero. He was keen to be updated on the issue of Northern Ireland and expressed admiration for John Hume [S.D.L.P leader]. The interview ran as a cover story in the April 1987 issue, and subsequently I often found myself on Biden’s invitation list. Looking back, two events stand out in my mind. The first was a summer BBQ at the Vice Presidential home in Washington, D.C. It was a steaming hot afternoon in August, 2015. The party was in full swing with Biden’s friends and family, and no sign of the VP until the back door 34 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
of the house opened and a squealing mass of Biden’s grandchildren came racing out. Close on their heels, dressed in a T shirt and shorts, came the Vice President armed with a water gun and chasing down the kids. They soon turned the tables, hosed him down, and we were all treated to the image of a dripping wet VP retreating back into the house as the kids charged. The authenticity, pride in family and lack of decorum the incident showed was impressive. Joe Biden was never happier than when he was around his kids. I would learn that his extended family is his lifeline, and there is no better family man. I had another glimpse of the real Biden some time later. My wife, Debbie and I were guests at his official residence for a Christmas Party, and Debbie happened to mention to the Vice President that her aunt, a Biden fan, was turning ninety that day. “Get her on the phone” Biden instructed and took the phone when Aunt Nora answered. What ensued was a wonderful five-minute conversation between a 90-year-old Killarney-born woman and the VP of the United States. They eventually agreed he would come taste her cabbage and bacon the next time he was in New York. Those two incidents point to the authentic nature of the man who will be president.
PHOTO BY SADE JOSEPH
The Man Who Will be
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PHOTO BY SADE JOSEPH
PHOTO BY SADE JOSEPH
He feels the history and heartbeat of America, senses what must be done to restore our Republic. Like Lincoln, he understands the impact of those “mystic chords of memory” that all Americans share with their similar immigrant past, and he wants that as a symbol of unity not division. At his induction into the Irish America Hall of Fame in March, 2013, Biden spoke of his vision of America as a land of possibilities – a vision that requires a shift in immigration law if it is to continue to hold out the promise of possibilities. “I know it sounds trite to say it, but anything is possible [in America]. I think that’s what’s attracted wave of immigration after wave. All those immigrants who have constantly infused this country with new blood, new ideas, new determination – a new certainty of continued possibilities. It’s what makes us such a great nation. “It’s not just because I’m being honored here today, it’s what I’ve been saying for the past 30 years. And I think it’s the distinguishing feature that sets America apart. But today our immigration system is broken. It needs to be fixed. It needs to be fair. It needs to continue to hold out the promise of possibilities. And that means we have to modernize the existing legal system to deal with the reality that 11 million plus people are undocumented.” He continued with an appeal to those gathered to help. “We Irish – particularly you successful Irish – have an obligation, every one of us in this room has an obligation because we made it. And why? Because we stood upon those proud shoulders of our grandmothers and grandfathers who wouldn’t bend. Who came with nothing and for a hell of a long time weren’t able to achieve much of anything. Except maintain their pride and their dignity. “They were proud and they stood tall, and now it’s time for us to stand up, not just for those 50,000 Irish in the shadows today, but for the 11 million Hispanics, who by the way are just as proud, just as noble, care just as much about their families as we do. Because like our forebears they possess the overwhelming potential to build this country.”
The Journey to America Biden’s folks, who came to America trailing broken dreams and heartache, likely never imagined that over a century later, their descendant would be elected to the presidency of the United States. All eight of Joe Biden’s great-great-grandparents on his mother, Catherine Eugenia ‘Jean’ Finnegan’s side, were born in Ireland during the first half of the 19th century, and on his father Joseph R. Biden Sr.’s side, two great-grandparents were also born in Ireland. Megan Smolenyak traced Biden’s roots in a story that ran in Irish America in March 2013, and a grateful Vice President spoke to her by phone prior to his 2016 trip to meet relatives in Mayo and Louth. On May 31, 1849, Owen Finnegan, Biden’s great-great-grandfather from the remote Cooley Peninsula in County Louth, arrived in New York aboard the ship Brothers, fleeing the last of the Famine. As was often the custom, he came before the rest of his family. A shoemaker by trade (as was Barack Obama’s Irish ancestor), he procured employment, and a year later, he sent for his family. His wife Jane (nee Boyle) immigrated with her and Owen’s children (including Biden’s great-grandfather, James) almost a year later on May 15, 1850, on a ship named the Marchioness of Bute. According to Smolenyak, members of the Finnegan family went North to upstate New York picking apples and working with farmers. James Finnegan joined them for a time before heading west, ending up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, home to the Molly Maguires, a “secret society” of Irish immigrant miners who fought for workers’ rights against the mine bosses. The mine bosses sent in the Pinkerton detective agency to break the union. Pinkerton planted a spy, an Irishman called James McParland, in their midst. His testimony was enough to send twenty of the
COURTESY THE BIDEN CAMPAIGN
PHOTOS FROM TOP LEFT: Publisher Niall O’Dowd presenting Vice President Biden with a Waterford crystal “Chieftain” bowl at Biden’s induction into the Irish America Hall of Fame, March 2013. June 25, 2016: Joe Biden in Carlingford, Co Louth. Joe Biden speaks often about his Scranton roots. Here, Biden appears as a baby with his parents and maternal grandparents in this undated photo. FAR LEFT: Biden on the cover of Irish America. April, 1987 issue.
JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021 IRISH AMERICA 35
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PHOTOS FROM LEFT: Vice President Joe Biden and his mother, Jean Finnegan Biden, on stage during the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. Biden, second from left, at a fundraiser in Scranton in 1978, when he was running for his second term in the Senate. Scranton’s then-Mayor Gene Hickey, second from right, gave him a key to the city. Biden with Joe Kennedy and Ireland’s Taoiseach Enda Kenny during a preSaint Patrick's Day breakfast in Washington D.C. on March 14, 2014. Biden swearing in John Brennan as Director of the CIA. Biden with Senator John McCain.
PHOTO: THE SCRANTON TIMES-TRIBUNE.
Mollys to the gallows in one of the largest mass hangings by the U.S. government in its history. Rumored to be a member of the Molly Maguires was Biden’s great-grandfather Edward Francis Blewitt, a native of Louisiana whose parents Patrick and Catherine (nee Scanlon) Blewitt were from Ballina, Co Mayo. Blewitt was a major Irish American figure in Scranton. Not only did he win the election to the state senate, but he was also named Chairman of the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in 1897, and he became a co-founder of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick in Scranton in 1908. It was to the Scranton Friendly Sons that Robert Kennedy spoke in his first public appearance after the death of his brother, John. And it was to the same Friendly Sons that a young Senator Biden spoke on St. Patrick’s Day in 1973, just a couple of months after the tragic death of his first wife and daughter. “I’m
Being Irish “Over the course of my life, I’ve been to a lot of places. I’ve traveled all around the world – more than a million miles on Air Force Two alone. I’ve been honored to have held a lot of titles. But I have always been and will always be the son of Kitty Finnegan. The grandson of Geraldine Finnegan from St. Paul’s Parish in Scranton; a proud descendant of the Finnegans of Ireland’s County Louth. The great-grandson of a man named Edward Francis Blewitt, whose roots stem from Ballina, a small town in Ireland’s County Mayo – sister city to my hometown in Scranton, Pennsylvania. An engineer with a poet’s heart. Months after my mother passed away, I found an old box of his poems in my attic. “In his poetry, my great-grandfather spoke of both continents, and how his heart and his soul drew from the old and the new. And most of all, he was proud. He was proud of his ancestors. He was proud of his blood. He was proud of his city. He was proud of his state, his country. But most of all – he was proud of his family. “And that is America: This notion that home is where your character is etched. As Americans, we all hail from many homes. Somewhere along the line, someone in our lineage arrived on our shores, filled with hope. We are blessed to experience that simultaneous pride in where we’ve found ourselves, while never forgetting our roots.” – From Biden’s autobiography, Promises to Keep. 36 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
stunned by this loss,” he told those gathered for the annual celebration of Irish heritage. “Life kicked me and then shook my hand at the same time that Monday afternoon in December. He continued, “That’s the Irish of it . . . life goes on with or without us. so better to go along, continue, one makes do.” He reflected on that Irish ability to overcome again in his Irish America Hall of Fame speech, saying, “There is something about the Irish. . . we know that to live is to be hurt, but we’re still not afraid to live.” Of his great-grandfather Blewitt’s rumored ties to the Molly Maguires, Biden said: “He went out of his way to prove that he wasn’t, and we were all praying that he was.” At an event for the United Mine Workers in Virginia, in 2008, he said: “I hope you won’t hold it against me, but I am a hard-coal miner, anthracite coal, Scranton, PA. It’s nice to be back in coal country. … It’s a different accent [in Southwest Virginia] … but it’s the same deal. We were taught that our faith and our family was the only really important thing, and our faith and our family informed everything we did.” In 1879, Edward Blewitt married Mary Ellen Stanton, a native of Scranton, and together they had four children, including Geraldine Catherine Blewitt, who went on to marry James Finnegan’s son Ambrose Finnegan. In 1917, Geraldine gave birth to Catherine ‘Jean’ Eugenia Finnegan, who would become Biden’s mother. Grandpop Ambrose had a huge influence over young Joey – who had political ambitions from an early age. After mass on Sundays the clan would gather, and men would break away into one room and engage in robust political discussions about the merits of Harry Truman over Adlai Stevenson. There was no talk of Republicans, the class divide was too great. Irish Catholics didn’t dare to think that way. Grandpop Ambrose gave Joe the benefit of a lifetime of experience dealing with the Democratic Party and instilled in young Joey the virtues of the working man. He even had a term for how the rich dealt with the lowly Irish in the mines and elsewhere. He called it the “Silk Stocking Screw.”
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The Ireland U.S. Relationship His Aunt Gertie who used to say “Remember Joey, you are mostly Irish.” And though Biden also has English in his lineage, his affinity for Ireland has already caused ripples in the U.K., which has long been a U.S. ally, and whose Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has enjoyed a close relationship with out-going President Trump. Biden’s incoming administration is seen as less supportive of Brexit (Britain’s exit from the European Union), which Mr. Trump openly embraced. And the president-elect has made clear that he is opposed to any exit moves that would jeopardize the Good Friday Agreement –the 1998 peace deal that ended decades of violent conflict in Northern Ireland. As the Wall Street Journal noted Ireland has a “deep rooted ally” in Biden who has said that it’s incumbent on every stakeholder to “keep the border open.” “We do not want a guarded border,” Biden retold reporters. “The idea of having a border, between north and south is just not right, we’ve just got to keep the border open.” Ireland’s prime minister, or Taoiseach, Michéal Martin, was among the first five foreign leaders Biden spoke to after he was declared the next president, a signal that Ireland’s Ambassador to the U.S. Dan Mulhall called a “big deal.” Irish public relations executive Paul Allen, who has a long relationship with the U.S. Democratic Party, going back to the peace process, helped organize a portion of Biden’s 2016 visit to Ireland and this year helmed a campaign to get Irish residents to call their family in the U.S. to encourage them to vote for Biden. “People had lots of fun. Because in lockdown Ireland there was nothing for anybody to do. So you’d call a relative in America,” Allen said, adding that he got a call from Mr. Biden in the fall. Ireland is also hoping for a boost in tourism thanks to the American president’s affection for the land of his ancestors.
There were joyous celebrations on the streets of Ballina, Co. Mayo when the election was called for Biden. Locals hope that the Biden connection will boost business interest in the town and attract tourists. “It’s been a bit of an underdog town,” said local elected official Mark Duffy, 28, who helped organize the mural of Biden that was unveiled in September. “We were very keen to demonstrate our pride in a descendant of the town whose family left in a bleak time, worked and lived the American dream and has gone on to hold the highest office in the land.” During that 2016 visit, Biden spoke to RTE, the Irish broadcast network, about the resolve of his ancestors: “My grandfather and grandmother Finnegan, all my mother’s brothers, and my father told us about the courage and commitment it took for our relatives to emigrate from Ireland – in the midst of tragedy to distant shores, where they didn’t know what awaited them,” he said, adding, it took great courage. That courage, as it turns out, paid off.” Biden’s own courage and tenacity also paid off. On his third run for the White House he made it, and received more votes than any other presidential candidate in the history of the United States. And it’s entirely fitting that it was Pennsylvania, where legions of his ancestors first put down roots in the United States, that gave him the electoral votes to seal the deal. Ahead of the 2016 visit to Ireland as vice president, he wrote: “Northeast Pennsylvania will be written on my heart. But Ireland will be written on my soul.” On the Cooley Peninsula in County Louth, Eamonn Thornton, 70, recalled meeting Biden during his 2016 trip as vice president. “It was very emotional for him to be in the area where his relations were from,” he said. He also remembered one of Mr. Biden’s security-team members getting out of the car in a small town off the Atlantic and saying, “Where the hell are we?” “Listen, man, you’re in heaven,” Biden replied.
Being President Does the prospect of being President frighten you? “The prospect of being President is a daunting one. Maybe it should frighten me. It doesn’t frighten me, but it chastens me to realize that I’m not sure that there could ever be any woman or man who could be prepared, in a purely objective sense, to be President of the United States. I think that the President of the United States affects the fortunes of the free world, more than any other single person. If you look at it in those terms it’s a chilling thought. But I think that the way to deal with problems is to look at the pieces you can handle. Look at it, not so much in terms of the enormity of the task, but in terms of the pieces of the task all of which you think you can handle.” From Biden’s 1987 interview with Niall O’Dowd.
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35 Years | 1985 - 2020
Looking back at Irish America’s premier issue we see that it set the tone for what was to come: a thorough investigation into what it means to be Irish American. Thirty-five years later, we are still answering that question and still pondering the answers. Enjoy these quotes compiled over 35 years. – The Irish America Team
1986 TIP O’NEILL
“Growing up as a youngster in Boston, you were instilled with three things. The first was the “No Irish Need Apply” signs and what those signs were doing to the Irish. The second was the way your forefathers came over here – off Famine ships – and you thanked God they were able to work to provide for their families. ….The third thing was a United Ireland, which was a key issue. A local congressman from this area lost his seat when he missed a vote on it. It was just as much part of your faith as anything else.
Do you see the development of the Provisional IRA as an outgrowth of the civil rights movement? “The people took to the streets and raised the issues, and almost as soon as they raised them they realized that, because of the political reality of the six counties state, there was no political way to achieve those ordinary democratic aims. The movement split into its two historic components, the constitutional and the unconstitutional. The civil rights movement gave birth to the Provos and the Social Democratic Labor Party (SDLP) at exactly the same time. Those two strands have always existed in Irish history whether it was Parnell and the Fenians or Daniel OConnell and the Young Irelanders.”
BERNADETTE DEVLIN MCALISKEY
Tip O’Neill served in the U.S House of Representatives from 1953 to 1987. His tenyear tenure as Speaker of the House was the longest in U.S. history. Interview by Susan O’Grady Fox. October, 1986.
McAliskey speaking on the 20th anniversary of the Northern Irish civil rights movement. Interview by Patrick Farrelly. January, 1988.
1987 THOMAS FLANAGAN
1989 BRIAN DONNELLY
“Years later I realized that the songs and the poems [my grandmother Ellen Treacy] taught me were unique oral histories of the turbulent period the Irish had come through. She inspired me.”
“I am not going to forget that for 20 years the door was closed for the Irish.”
Author of The Year of the French and other novels. Interview by Niall O’Dowd. January, 1987.
1990 HELEN HAYES
RIGHT: Former New York City Council President Paul O’Dwyer, Irish America publisher Niall O’Dowd, Charles McCabe of Manufacturers Hanover Bank, and former Mayor of Boston Ray Flynn at the launch of Irish America magazine on October 16, 1985.
“I was not raised as an Irish person but I have Ireland in my blood and every exciting actor or actress that I’ve known has an Irish background. It’s a strange thing, but we are performers, we are actors by heritage.” “The First Lady of American Theater” in one of her final media appearances. Interview by Kevin Lewis. November, 1990. PHOTO: TOM MATTHEWS
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Donnelly is referring to the 1965 immigration law that discriminated against the Irish. His contribution to immigration legislation helped thousands of Irish people gain legal residence in the U.S. He was named Irish America’s Irish American of the Year in March, 1989.
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1991 GERRY ADAMS “I’ve been elected by the people of West Belfast, they’ve elected me three times. Refusing to talk to me means that these people are being disenfranchised, that the British are refusing to recognize their rights. We’re an important part of the equation; the people who I represent have the same rights as everyone else. I don’t want to talk to Peter Brooks [then Northern Secretary] for the craic. I’m interested in trying to move the whole thing forward. I think the 1990s should be a period when we get peace and we should have talks. “No matter how much you discuss what’s happening, no matter how much you examine all the different characteristics of it and the history of it, the past and the future, it has to be settled and it can only be settled when people start talking.” Interview by Patricia Harty, April, 1991.
1992 TED KENNEDY “The Irish have this love for literature and music and these, combined with an emphasis on family and a devotion to freedom in their history, are pretty fundamental ingredients that go into political life. But here’s another part to this, too. The Irish came to politics out of necessity in earlier generations. They saw it as a way of moving upwards and achieving their hopes and aspirations. And the Irish have done that well.” Interview by Michael Scanlon. May, 1992.
1993 WILLIAM FLYNN “There are some commitments which one makes out of obligation, some out of position and some out of choice. There are other commitments that are thrust upon one by the weight of history and heritage. For me, religious liberty and freedom of conscience are such a commitment. I speak as a Catholic of Irish heritage whose father was from the north and whose mother was from the south.
And I am deeply saddened when I see the violence that divides neighbors and the bitterness that hardens the soul. We must uphold and renew that which makes us caring persons striving for a just nation and a peaceful world.” As Chairman of Mutual of America, Bill Flynn worked tirelessly to keep the U.S. involved in the peace process in Northern Ireland. Interview by Niall O’Dowd. November, 1993.
1994 DONALD KEOUGH “My generation was really the first generation of the post Famine Irish to have the luxury to lift our heads up, take a breath and say, ‘I want to know more about that place where we came from.’ I think the next generation – my children – are going to be even more interested and more curious and more sensitive to that little island that has produced over 70 million people around the world.” Interview by Niall O’Dowd. November / December, 1994.
1995 PAT RILEY “What, to me, the Irish are all about is tremendous pride, a great work ethic, and a great discipline that comes from that. I sense it in Chuck Daly, I sense it in Mike Dunleavy, and in other coaches I have known in the past who are of Irish descent. Born out of that Irish upbringing, too, are just values. The values of doing right, knowing the difference between right and wrong; it’s simple, very cut-and-dried.” Riley was then head coach of the Knicks. Interview by Patricia Harty. July / August, 1995. JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021 IRISH AMERICA 39
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35 Years | 1985 - 2020
1996 GEORGE MITCHELL “It is a labor of love and I mean it. I believe this is a moment of historic opportunity that could set the framework for life in Ireland for not just a few years, but decades, or even centuries. It’s an historic time and a tremendous opportunity to make progress.” Senator Mitchell (Maine) on chairing the All-Party talks. Two years later those talks culminated in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Interview by Patricia Harty. May / June, 1996
1997 SEAMUS HEANEY “There seems to be something in the Irish that makes them partial to poetry. “There’s a tradition, a value system, which is given an historical myth or truth that predisposes us as a community and as individuals to trust in poetry. If a poet publishes a poem in a newspaper in Ireland, the judges will read it, the Taoiseach will read it, the Protestant bishop will read it, and the name of the poet will be a possession. I think it’s a mater of some indifference whether they are equipped in any special way to read or judge poetry. We are actually talking about the actual role of the poet in society, RIGHT: Irish American of the Year President Bill Clinton at the 1996 Top 100 Awards, with NYPD Detective Stephen McDonald, his wife Patti and their son Conor. The McDonalds were inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame in 2014.
and in Ireland there is no doubt that the role is alive and . . . I think you have to concede that there is public psychic and artistic reality in this, which is a genuine positive cultural possession of the country.” Interview by Patricia Harty. May/June, 1996.
1998 GEORGE MITCHELL “This agreement is good for all the people, North and South, and while many will try to defeat it, I believe it will pass. Ordinary people North and South will finally get a chance to prove that they want a just and lasting peace.” Talk Chairman George Mitchell on the occasion of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. May / June, 1998.
1999 JOHN HUME “It’s not simply as an award to myself but as a powerful statement of the international goodwill towards peace on our streets in Northern Ireland.” Hume was the leader of the SDLP and winner of the 1998 Nobel Peach Prize. Interview by Kelly Candaele. February / March, 1999.
2000 FRANK MCCOURT “All along we looked back over the years and across the ocean and deferred to the history, the tradition, the land. . .. Then something happened. Damn! Who’s this Michael Flatley, this Seamus Egan, this Joanie Madden and her Cherished Ladies? And who do they think they are, coming to Ireland and, not only sweeping the competition but, talented, pushing their way into the culture of their ancestors? … The Atlantic has become a puddle which poets and musicians leap without a second thought. …. So that’s what it is to be Irish nowadays?” From McCourt’s article, “Puddle Jumping.” October / November, 2000.
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EILEEN COLLINS “It almost seems to me, just from a pure scientific point of view, chances are there is life – maybe just microscopic life [in outer space].” Favorite trick that she likes to do in space? “I’ll put my face right up against a window, so I can’t see anything else in the shuttle, and I’ll put my arms out and my legs out, and I feel like I’m flying over the earth with no spacecraft. And it’s really neat. You feel like you’re Superman flying over the earth.” Collins was the first female to command a NASA space mission. Interview by Patricia Harty
2002 MARY MCALEESE “Many nations counted their dead on September 11th and many nations have combined to create the unique passion that flourishes in this great city, a passion for life. Evil men thought they could kill that passion; that the ugliness of violence, the awesomeness of wanton deaths, would snuff it out. They were wrong. New York is still passionate about life and now that very passion has been deepened and stretched by the avalanche of grief it has had to struggle through, to find its way back to the future again. Irish men and women can rightly claim to have planted their flags on the landscape of that future and the words those flags bear are courage, fortitude, perseverance and selflessness. The generations who went before them would be proud of a modern generation who have known the easy times and comfort of prosperity but who when tested, chose the hardest road of all.” Irish President McAleese speaking at Irish America’s Top 100, which honored the heroes of 9/11. March, 2002.
PETE HAMILL “In the late 1950s, I started to learn the craft of writing and that turned me more seriously to Ireland. I found my way to Jonathan Swift and Oscar Wilde, to Yeats, and Joyce and O’Casey. I didn’t read them to affirm my Irishness, or to pretend that I understood every line they wrote, or to wrap myself in their unfurled banners. I never thought that because they were great writers, I could become one too. They weren’t even guides to conduct, or models for the way a writer should live his life. I read them because no writer – no educated human being – could not read them.” Interview by Patricia Harty. February / March, 2003.
2004 CHUCK FEENEY “Everyone knows when they’re born but nobody knows when they died. If you want to give it away, think about giving it away while you are alive because you’ll get a lot more satisfaction than if you wait until you are dead. Besides, it’s a lot more fun. Giving gave me a lot of pleasure.” Feeney, founder of Duty Free Shops, quietly gave away a fortune over the years. Interview by Conor O’Cleary.
2005 PETER QUINN “We worshipped FDR, and we thought the second coming was when Kennedy was elected president. School was a big deal. So was storytelling. Both my novels are stuffed with tales, facts and lore gleaned from a lifetime in New York.”
ABOVE: Irish President Mary McAleese (right) congratulates Port Authority Police Chief Joe Morris. With NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly (left) and FDNY Chief Pete Hayden (center) at the 2002 Irish America Top 100 Awards: A Salute to the Heroes of 9/11.
Peter Quinn. Interview by Tom Deignan. December, 2005. JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021 IRISH AMERICA 41
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35 Years | 1985 - 2020
2006 JOHN M
CCAIN “This right here is the promise of America. Look at the faces, look at the hope. Their eyes are alive with hero daring.” – Senator McCain, pointing to a photograph of immigrants arriving at Ellis Island late in the 19th century. McCain, whose ancestors are Scots Irish, sponsored an Immigration bill with Senator Ted Kennedy. Interview by Niall O’Dowd. August / September, 2006.
2007 MARTIN O’MALLEY “I went into public service because I grew up in a house where that was considered an honorable and important thing to do. My parents met putting together a Young Democrats newsletter. My mom had her collection of campaign buttons and pictures of John F. Kennedy. My father was someone who, albeit a lawyer in private practice, raised us to be involved in the public affairs of our community and country. So that’s the motivation in my heart.” O’Malley was then governor of Maryland, and is now a presidential candidate. Interview by Patricia Harty. August / September, 2007.
2008 THOMAS MORAN “As you travel around the world you realize what an incredible influence the United States has and the potential that we have to do great good in the most difficult of situations. The peace process in Northern Ireland was greatly supported by the government of the United States, which believed that peace was possible and made it clear that it would be supportive of any efforts for peace. In Sri Lanka 42 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
we heard stories about the U.S. military that came immediately following the tsunami to rebuild schools. In Africa, in the poorest countries, what a great sense of pride it is to see the Concern workers taking the bags marked ‘U.S. AID,’ and to know that the U.S. has supported efforts to keep children alive and to provide for a better existence and a better life. It’s awfully easy sometimes to see the negative sides of our world, but I think that those who have traveled and understood and heard from the people who suffer the most, recognize how powerful our country is for the good.” Tom Moran, then Chairman & CEO of Mutual of America and Chairman of Concern Worldwide. (Died: August 12, 2018. R.I.P.). Interview by Patricia Harty. April / May, 2008.
2009 COCO ROCA “It was exciting. Usually when you dance, you dance in front of a crowd that has no clue who you are, so you can mess up, fall down, be exhausted and no one will really notice. But [at the Gaultier show] everyone knew me and I was really nervous because usually all I have to do is walk.” Supermodel Coco Roach, whose grandmother is from Belfast, was discovered while performing in an Irish dance competition. She’s talking here about doing an Irish dance down the runway at a fashion show. Interview by Kara Rota. June / July, 2009.
2010 BOB MCCANN
“I remember it perfectly. It sounds like it’s out of a travelogue or something, but what I remember first is just how green it was. It really does strike you. I had no idea. From the sky, I remember wanting to understand all the walls that were up and what they represented. I couldn’t get over the value, in a host of ways, an Irishman puts on owning property.” McCann, then president of UBS Americas and Wealth Management Americas, on his first trip to Ireland. Interview by Kara Rota. Aug./Sept. 2010.
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2011 BRIAN KELLY
President Obama announces Gina McCarthy (left) as the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency in 2013.
“My great-grandparents were from Ireland. My grandfather was a Boston cop for 35 years, and my first introduction to Irish culture was talking to him about where the term Paddy Wagon came from. We lived in Chelsea, Massachusetts, which was a naval pier town where all the Navy guys would come in and they’d have some beers and then the police would be called in to round them up. They [the police] drove an open-air police truck and it was so cold at night that the guys who drove it had to have a little Irish Paddy [whiskey] to stay warm and that’s why they called it the Paddy Wagon. Whether it’s true or not, I have no idea. But it’s a good story, and that’s why I tell it. Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly on his Irish ancestors. Interview by Niall O’Dowd. December / January, 2011.
2012 MICHAEL FASSBENDER “I try not to take myself too seriously. When my best friend in Killarney, Emerson Johnson, and I were in school together and we’d bunk off at lunchtime sometimes, I’d always be really nervous, but I remember he used to say ‘What’ll it matter in 100 years’ time?’ and he’s right. If you can relieve yourself of that pressure and not take yourself too seriously, then you can afford to look like a bit of an idiot. I think I am quite immature, or maybe just childlike.” Fassbender stars as Steve Jobs in the upcoming biopic Steve Jobs. Interview by Patricia Danaher. August / September, 2012.
2013 JUDY COLLINS Do you still believe music will heal the world? “Well, art and music are the only thing we’ve got. They have always been the only thing we’ve got, because we always have problems. We always have murder. We always have greed. We always have people who are nuts and there’s always something awful happening somewhere. So, you have to have art. Every culture in the world has realized that art is the thing, that art is primary.” Interview by Patricia Harty. June / July, 2013.
2014 GINA MCCARTHY “I come from a very much service-oriented family. We have firemen, policemen, postal workers, school teachers – my sister, Elaine, is a middle school history teacher – and it’s not like someone told you that was the thing you had to do, but public service was seen as very much an honorable thing to do. And that’s what I grew up wanting to do; my parents’ gift to me was two things, public service and hard work. I don’t know anybody I grew up with that didn’t teach their kids that there was a larger meaning in life.” Gina McCarthy is head of the EPA. Interview by Patricia Harty. August / September, 2014.
SHANNON DEEGAN “Play to people’s strengths, celebrate them, shore up weaknesses and, as my grandfather – a legend in Montreal’s professional baseball leagues in the early part of the 1900s – used to tell me, “Always play to win. ” Finally, I think a key element that often gets overlooked in sports and in business, is to have fun. The most successful teams I have been a part of – both in sports and business – have been a blast. While some of that was because it was fun to win, I think it goes the other way as well. Those fun teams I was part of were fun before we ever officially won, and the fun fueled the winning.” Shannon Deegan is Google’s director of Global Security Operations, and was the Keynote Speaker at the 2014 Irish America Business 100 Awards. Interview by Patricia Harty. December / January, 2015. JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021 IRISH AMERICA 43
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35 Years | 1985 - 2020
2016 CHARLIE FLANAGAN
“It is highly appropriate to have this launch here in New York because no other city, and no country, played a more important role in the Easter Rising and the subsequent one hundred year journey for a lasting and just peace settlement, than the United States.”
“All four of my grandparents left Ireland when they were in their late teens, and they came to this country looking for better opportunities. They left their parents behind and they came with hopes for a better future. I think about their journey, and where I am sitting right now is why they did it. They couldn’t have imagined. What an awesome responsibility for me to represent them well, and to give back to the Irish community as a result of it.”
Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs launching the U.S. commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising. Reported in Irish America’s 1916 commemorative issue.
2017 DANIEL O’DAY “The perseverance of my Irish ancestors is a daily motivation to me professionally and personally.” Daniel O’Day, then CEO of Roche Pharmaceuticals. now, Chairman and CEO, Gilead Sciences, Inc. Interview by Patricia Harty. August / September, 2017.
2018 EILEEN MURRAY “When I first started working, the number of senior women on Wall Street was, I think, 0.5 percent and now it is maybe 17-18 percent. We should continue to plow ahead – it should be 50-50. But I also want to make sure we celebrate how far we have come. Until 1963, a woman couldn’t have a credit card without her husband signing on for it. My mother couldn’t get a job at the phone company when she first came here because she had an Irish accent. In this country there were signs posted, “Irish need not apply,” so how long did that take to change? Eillen Murray, then Co-CEO of Bridgewater. Interview by Patricia Harty. Sept./Oct., 2018. 44 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
Eileen McDonnell, Chairman & CEO of Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company. Interview by Patricia Harty. January/February 2019 .
2020 RICHIE NEAL
“The British Embassy used to come up to the hill to meet with those of us in the [Congressional] Friends of Ireland. These were not pleasant meetings. But when the Good Friday Agreement came about, Tony Blair applauded us right here at the British Embassy. He said, ‘We’ve been great friends, America and the United Kingdom. We generally agreed on just about everything, but there was one issue we disagreed on: Ireland.’ He said, ‘There was a time when I thought that the Friends of Ireland were a hindrance, but you helped us get through this.’ People forget that the Friends of Ireland was born of the purpose to try to compete with the money that was being used for gun-running. House Speaker Tip O’Neill, who founded it in 1981, said that the idea was just to kind of offer a competing vision. So now you can go and say that the Friends of Ireland position is ‘No Border.’ ” Congressman Richie Neal, inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame in March 2020, has been a friend of Ireland all his life. One of his first speeches to Congress was about the use of rubber bullets by the British Army in Northern Ireland. Now he’s speaking about how BREXIT must not change the Good Friday Agreement.
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Irish America and
Patricia Harty & Niall O'Dowd and the Irish America Team for
of chronicling the people and cultures of Ireland and America.
May you always find three welcomes in life, in a garden during summer, at a hearth during winter, and in the hearts of friends throughout all your years. ~ Gaelic Welcoming Prayer
Thank you for creating a welcoming community that we are all proud to be a part of, you epitomize the Irish adage Céad míle fáilte.
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A Salute to the
Heroes OF NORTHWELL HEALTH BY NIALL O’DOWD.
TOP: Healthcare workers at Huntington Hospital’s drive through COVID testing. TOP RIGHT: Northwell CEO Michael Dowling at the NYPD Appreciation Day. ABOVE RIGHT: Heathcare workers comfort each other as they celebrate the release of the 1,000th patient from Northshore University Hospital.
ALL IMAGES IN THE NORTHWELL SALUTE ARE BY LEE WEISSMAN, SENIOR STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER, NORTHWELL STUDIOS.
hat we least expect in life can suddenly occur and impact us like a crashing wave. Such was the impact of the COVID-19 virus that arrived like a medieval plague in early 2020 spreading contagion and death to the four corners of the earth. Suddenly, what we had only imagined through historical accounts of other plagues was upon us forcing a crisis like none other. The world faced its gravest crisis since World War II with a defenseless population in over 140 countries suddenly in a fight for their very lives. At the beginning most efforts seemed like those of King Canute seeking to hold the very waves of the ocean back. But bit by bit knowledge grew, incredible risks were taken, and it finally came down to the caliber of those on the front line. It was a time for heroes to step forward, to face the fear, the unknown, the pitch darkness and to heed the anguished cries and rush to help. Because New York was the U.S. epicenter for the pandemic the greatest burden fell there. It was a lucky chance because nowhere was their more courage, commitment and care from thousands of frontline workers. At the heart of the Northwell response was the realization that as the largest hospital system in the state it would face the greatest adversity. But the virus had chosen a remarkable foe, one that would rise to the occasion in an overwhelming New York way, tough as teak, brave and bold, compassionate to a fault, committed to the bitter end. Northwell CEO and President Mike Dowling, a Limerick, Ireland native set the tone when he marched from ward to ward at the peak of the battle
46 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
as 3,500 COVID-19 patients were admitted to Northwell hospitals in early April. Overall Northwell has documented over 110,000 COVID-19 patients with more than 20,000 patients admitted to its hospital system. Unlike other hospital CEOs who led from behind, one at least scurrying to Florida, Dowling led by example inspiring his staff and frontline personnel to new heights. The gap of danger as the Irish call it, the “Bhearna Bhaoil” are the moments and locations of maximum pressure where only the boldest charge forward at the greatest risk to themselves. The gap was flooded with Northwell doctors, nurses, first responders, aides, custodians, and helpers. It was a mighty battle against a mortal enemy. And it was won. Irish America magazine is proud to showcase just a few of those heroes in our special section and remember too, those brave souls, staff members and patients who never made it back safely. May their courage inspire us and raise us all up.
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What Real Leadership Looks Like During a Pandemic
Northwell CEO Michael Dowling’s book recounts Northwell’s response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
he coronavirus, the greatest public health crisis in United States history, will spawn a thousand books, TV programs, and even movies. However, I doubt any will be as revealing and relevant as Leading Through a Pandemic, which is written by Irish-born Michael Dowling, Chairman and CEO of Northwell Health, one of the largest hospital groups in America, and co-authored by Charles Kenney, the chief journalist at Northwell Health. Dowling set out to write the manual on how to tackle a pandemic based on the titanic struggle his own hospital group Northwell Health encountered as the 23 hospitals, nearly 800 outpatient facilities, and 74,000 employees faced into the eye of the storm. No other hospital group faced such numbers. When the first wave was over, more than 84,000 COVID patients had passed through the Northwell system. Because of adequate preparation and a specific plan of action to deal with the deluge, far more patients survived than even the experts thought possible. The planning and execution led by Dowling was a management class in preparation and concerted action. His leadership from the front, especially visiting the Intensive Care Units and most serious patients, ensured that the morale of a workforce hit with an illness tsunami stayed high in spite of everything they faced. Dowling has also allowed the frontline heroes, the nurses, doctors, social workers, and executive team, to tell their stories, making for a powerful human narrative alongside the great issues of how federal and local government and the public health service fared
with the unique challenge of slowing a pandemic. It is hard not to feel emotional as one worker, not even a member of the medical staff, describes how he stayed overnight so he could hold the hand of a dying patient who otherwise would have expired alone. The caring culture is deeply embedded at Northwell as many such instances make clear. In another case, a mother giving birth died from COVID as did her husband soon after, leaving an orphaned new-born baby. Northwell was directly in the path of COVID-19 when it silently slipped ashore in February or March, spread mostly by travelers from Europe and Asia through New York’s two major airports, Kennedy and La Guardia, both near the heart of the Northwell empire of hospitals. The U.S. reaction was at first disbelief, then a deep sense of foreboding and fear. The history books revealed that the disastrous Spanish Flu of 1918 had left 50 million dead and it appeared, for all the wonders of modern medicine, the world in 2020 was equally as defenseless. As Dowling writes, “Suddenly there was a terrifying pathogen which kicked down our doors and fought us for control … a new disease with no known cure that no one knew how to treat.” Worse, New York was the perfect incubator with families packed tight in small apartments and a population density no other city in the United States came close to matching. The dark days at the beginning of the pandemic are described. Disaster struck Elmhurst Hospital in Queens as its overflowed emergency room failed to cope with the rush of COVID patients and bodies were stacked in freezer trucks. Northwell was spared the worst, due to pre-planning which dated all the way back to 9/11 when famed FBI New York head John O’Neill told local NY hospitals that JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021 IRISH AMERICA 47
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A Salute to the Heroes
PHOTO BY NUALA PURCELL
a possible terrorist attack could happen in New York, an FBI associate even naming Bin Laden as the possible suspect before 9/11 happened. After O’Neill’s warning, Dowling ensured Northwell had a disaster plan based on a simple truth: “bad things will happen, we must be ready.” The advance plan started with terror attacks, later Ebola, and then a pandemic. For a pandemic, planning covered precisely how to use every available inch of space for new beds and working out a cohesive plan of action for ferrying sick patients to other Northwell facilities depending where the greatest need arose. Without the early planning for integration and load shift between hospitals, there would have been a dozen Elmhurst’s on Long Island and Queens alone. The other innovation was to end all other surgery unless critical and repurpose every medical person on staff irrespective of their specialty to help save COVID patients. Crucially, Governor Andrew Cuomo slashed the red tape that stopped doctors from out of state practicing without a New York license and also removed any malpractice action against doctors who were providing care but not in their specialist area. Dowling also led the drive for the integration of all the major hospitals in the New York area to share and send patients to facilities where they could be treated irrespective of which hospital chain they belonged to. He also waded into the bureaucracy, slashing red tape to make things happen faster. To their great credit, the usually competitive hospital groups all found a way to work together. When overflow threatened system-wide, there was a Navy hospital ship available, as well as the Javits Center and a field hospital in Central Park, which were all new innovations Dowling put it together with Northwell CEO other hospital chiefs. Michael J. Dowling Governor Cuomo, who knew Dowling as a and Mario Cuomo long-time family friend, who had worked with at the 2013 Irish America Business his father Governor Mario Cuomo, weighed in 100 awards also. He was also strikingly impressive with his luncheon. “just the facts” presentation in daily briefings. Dowling has sharp words for President Trump who went AWOL during the crisis and fought the scientists every step of the way, greatly undermining the ability to put together a nationwide effort. Dowling believes the lack of trust in science is a terrible consequence of the Trump era and must be addressed. As for the future, he knows COVID-19 has not gone away but it is no longer a mystery as to how it kills, and vaccines and early treatment medicines are all now being utilized. He makes an eloquent plea for more resources aimed at minority communities who took the worst of the pandemic. He also makes clear that the emergency equipment fiasco can never happen again, and US manufactured PPE gowns must be created as global dependency on China for supplies proved disastrous. This book is a must-read for hospital officials everywhere, a fromthe-frontlines look at COVID-19 and how it must be dealt with. Dowling has done the world a great service by providing a roadmap for treatment and hopefully, ultimately a cure. This is a book you can’t afford not to read. Leading Through a Pandemic, by Michael Dowling and Charles Kenney, is available directly from the publisher Skyhorse Press, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. 48 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
Healthcare workers from Northwell’s 23 hospitals worked tirelessly around the clock in difficult circumstances to care for their patients.
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NORTHWELL HEALTH John Baez: “The Angel of Environmental Services.
The Angel of Environmental Services n environmental services, we go above and beyond to make our patients feel comfortable and keep a clean environment. During COVID19, we became their loved ones when their families couldn’t be there and helped comfort them in their final moments. I’ve faithfully worked for Staten Island University Hospital for eleven years, and travel three hours each way from my home in Yonkers on public transportation to help care for patients. I’m not a clinical care provider, but my dedication to patient safety in the Environmental Services (EVS) Department is what I strive for. My co-workers and I are at the top of our field when it comes to bedside manner and being spirited patient professionals. Unfortunately, our team is no stranger to a crisis. We saw the hospital through the evacuation ahead of Hurricane Irene, the aftermath from Superstorm Sandy the following year, and even the Ebola crisis in 2014. But COVID-19 was something entirely different and something we never faced before. It put the EVS team on the front line to help contain and eliminate the virus, which tested all of our abilities. When the crisis was at its peak, I remember seeing one case after the other. People begging for their life, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” Before coronavirus, I would always try to befriend and comfort the patients. During the crisis, I showed them love when their loved ones couldn’t be at their bedside. There was one day that would change me forever. It was a regular day, and then one of our patient care associates (PCAs) told me that this person is going to pass away. I knew the patient. I’d met her days earlier. It was the end of my shift and I was ready to take my first bus home, but I said to myself, “I can’t let this woman pass alone. I’m going to be there for her.” I walked into the room and leaned over the patient and said, “It’s me, John. If you hear me, squeeze my finger.” She did. I told her, “I want you to go with God. I want you to relax and once you see the light, I want you to go to it. I’m going to hold your hand until you go.” The PCA cried alongside me. I told the patient I would pray for her. On her third breath, she passed. The doctor came in and checked her vitals, and confirmed what I already knew – she was gone. I took the two buses and three trains home, replaying the day in my head. It’s always going to be with me, the sadness that she couldn’t have a loved one with her, but I couldn’t let her die alone. I did what many health-care heroes battling COVID19 did: make the patients their second family and be their loved one. During this crisis, my mother was begging me to quit because we’re dealing with something that’s new and scary. But we all have to be here. It’s our job. It’s what we signed up for. – John Baez
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A Salute to the Heros
Personal Connections Make A Difference During COVID Elisa Vicari, LCSW is a social worker in the Intensive Care Unit at North Shore University Hospital. Staying in touch with families of COVID19 patients have strengthened bonds and helped provide compassionate care against the odds
s a social worker in the Intensive Care Unit at North Shore University Hospital, I’ve become immune to people passing away. Death is an unfortunate part of the job because we are treating the sickest patients. COVID-19, though, was quite different for me and my colleagues. During the patient surge in late March, we were caring for otherwise healthy 20- and 30-year-olds who were unaware of their surroundings and had no business being intubated. These are previously independent individuals who have been abruptly put-on life support. This is the heartbreak the coronavirus leaves. Adding to the complexities of this situation, visitation was restricted and patients in our unit were unable to speak to their families. This didn’t sit well, so I adapted my practice and refocused my efforts to find a solution. A quick Instagram post asking my friends and followers for one iPad donation turned into more than 20 and about $11,000 in community support – the true power of social media. Their assistance has allowed us to set up every unit within the hospital and other facilities in the area with iPads, which have been critical to helping us connect with families. Not everyone is comfortable going into patient rooms. It’s a personal choice that must be made, one that I did not struggle with. A social worker’s role is to connect and assist, and the iPads have opened new roads to make important video calls where we could show not just a patient’s condition, but the entire room and care team. In the ICU, patients are mostly intubated. Finding close connections has been challenging. Instead, we have grown closer to families, Facetiming with them every other day for status updates, learning nicknames, favorite songs and of their pets who await
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them at home. They’ve sent pictures so we can build collages and fill their rooms with love. I feel like I’ve become a part of these families just by holding the screen for them. In some end-of-life circumstances, visitors have been allowed to see their loved ones in their final moments. We’ve been there to help them with personal protective equipment (PPE), addressing their fears and coping with their situation. Some are able to hold their family member’s hand for the first time in weeks. We are also assisting with funeral arrangements, which are very different than usual with increased wait times. It’s overwhelming, physically taxing and mentally exhausting. But it’s worth it. I couldn’t imagine being on the other side, watching the terrible images on the news of beds being piled up and not knowing if my loved one is OK. Showing families that our patients are in private rooms and we are helping them has given them tremendous comfort. When patients fail, I feel it more than I used to because I’ve grown closer to them and their families. Our conversations aren’t just based on medical concerns, rather vulnerable situations that I’ve now been welcomed into. It’s bittersweet. When things go well, they go well. But when they don’t, it’s devastating. At the heart of it, we deliver personalized, patient-centered and compassionate care, pandemic or no pandemic. COVID-19 may have tested our mettle and capabilities, but we have survived thanks in part to the camaraderie between us and families. We have all met this challenge with innovation, compassion and integrity. I really admire the people I work with who have stepped up. Teamwork is everything, knowing we will get through this together. – By Elisa Vicari, LCSW, Northwell Health
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Vaccination History Northwell Nurse Sandra Lindsay made history as the first person in the United States to be immunized.
ong Island Jewish Medical Center Intensive Care Nurse Sandra Lindsay was the first person in the United States to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on December 14, 2020. When asked for volunteers to take the BioNTech/Pfizer mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, Sandra Lindsay was the first to raise her hand. The intensive care nurse, who works at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, said she wanted to lead by example and ease skepticism about the vaccine by letting people know it’s safe. “It does give me tremendous hope,” Sandra said. She encourages everyone to “listen to the science” and do their part in restoring public safety. Sandra, who was born in Jamaica, dreamed of being a nurse as a way to help others. She moved to the United States as a young adult and enrolled in a nursing program, and worked her way up from student trainee, to staff nurse, assistant manager, and finally director of ICU nurses at one of the largest healthcare organizations in New York. When Sandra woke up on Monday, December 14, 2020, she knew she would be receiving the COVID-19 vaccine that day, she did not realize she would be the first person in the United States
to receive the vaccine. The video of Sandra receiving the vaccine was featured as part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefing and has been highlighted on every news outlet across the country. Asked by the press to comment, Sandra said: “Over the past couple of months, I’ve worked alongside my team, I’ve seen a lot of pain, suffering, death. It was important for me to get the vaccine today, to promote public confidence in the safety of the vaccine. It’s a small step in the right direction to put an end to this pandemic. I think we all need to pull together to do our part to restore public safety. It does give me tremendous hope; I feel great, I feel a sense that the end is near, and I hope this day marks the beginning of the end of a very dark and painful history. I want to just encourage the people that look like me that are skeptical based on a history of taking vaccines that I was not singled out to take the vaccine because of the color of my skin. The vaccine is being offered to a diverse group of people and so I encourage you to take the vaccine, listen to the science. I am a nurse, I’m proud to be a nurse, I’m proud to be a healthcare worker, and my practice is deeply grounded in science, so I encourage you to listen to the experts and when it’s IA your turn proudly take the vaccine like I did today.”
FROM FAR LEFT: Northwell staff working in a COVID unit in November 2020; Staff from Southside Hospital Bayshore celebrate a Day of Hope with CEO Michael Dowling in April 2020; Northshore University Hospital staff share a moment of unity before their shift; A healthcare worker wears a t-shirt made especially for Southside Hospitals Day of Hope celebration.
Video statement from Sandra Lindsay https://youtube/tF77J4FONrk Video of the first vaccine administered in the United States https://youtu.be/I2njPNgmGdM Irish America’s salute to Northwell www.irishamerica.com/salute-tonorthwell-heroes
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Catalpa In 1876, a daring escape from an Australian prison colony by six Fenian prisoners was masterminded by the revolutionary and journalist John Boyle O’Reilly. Story by Donald J. Magilligan
he sailing triumph of the Catalpa and the daring escape of six prisoners from an Australian prison dates back to 10 years earlier, 1866, to the failure of the Fenian rising in Ireland, when they were among those arrested and convicted of treason by the British government. All these men were members of the British Army and had served Queen Victoria’s government with distinction in India, China, Syria and
government and betrayed from within by the treachery of Irish informers. In September, 1865, the British authorities had rounded up the most prominent civilian leaders of the Fenians and the spirit of the rebellion was effectively destroyed. By February, 1866 the organization slowly disintegrated as arrests of soldiers and civilians became a daily occurrence. Among the 68 members of the Fenians who were tried and convicted in the summer of 1866, we’re 15 members of the British army. The sentences for
South Africa. When they were eventually posted in Ireland, all joined the Fenians. In this they were not alone, for in 1865, of the 26,000 regular troops of the British Army stationed in Ireland, 8000 were members of the Fenians, sworn to lead a national uprising to free the Irish people from 700 years of oppressive British colonial rule. But that rebellion or “rising” was doomed to failure – crushed from outside by the pervasive power of the British
the civilians were harsh – 15 to 20 years of penal servitude. But for the military Fenians, the sentence was worse – death. The Irish prisoners were dispatched to serve their terms in the horrors of the infamous English prisons of Dartmoor, Millbank and Portland. After they had served the mandatory six months of solitary confinement, the prisoners’ sentences were commuted. For most civilian Irish convicts, the penalty was downgraded to banishment from the British Isles. For the military members of the brotherhood, the death sentence was changed to a penal servitude in Western Australia – for life. On the morning of October 12, 1867, the final group of 20 prisoners, manacled in arm and leg irons, were loaded aboard, and the prison ship Hougoumont, set sail from Portland Harbor in the
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English Channel. Below deck were 320 criminal convicts and 63 Fenian political prisoners. The 15 military members of the Fenians were placed with hardened criminals – murderers, thieves and rapists. Although the life was harsh, they were at last free of the physical restrictions of the chains and the emotional despair of solitary confinement. Three months later, Hougoumont arrived in Fremantle. As the prisoners disembarked, they saw before them a large limestone building overlooking a few wooden frame structures that led down to the waterfront. That building, the Fremantle Jail, had become the main reason for the existence of the city of Fremantle and was known throughout the countryside as the “Establishment.” The prisoners were marched up the hill, and as the iron gates of the Establishment shut behind
them, they were given a number and told that for the period of their confinement they would no longer be identified by name but by the impersonal four-digit code. The warden then read off a long list of prison regulations and the recitation of each stringent rule was punctuated by the consequence of failure to comply – “...The punishment for a which is death.” The prisoners spent their days performing the back-breaking labor of clearing land, digging roads, building public service utilities and governmental structures in Fremantle and in Perth, the new capital of Western Australia. At night prisoners were crammed into cells, four feet by seven, by nine feet high. The security was tight but the confinement in the cells and the frequent wardens’ checks were hardly necessary. They were far less intimidating than the geographical barriers around them. On three sides the Establishment was surrounded by the Australian bush – an uncharted expanse of desert and scrub land without a source of food or water and sparsely populated by hostile aborigines. Escape through the bush was impossible and the man who was foolish enough to try it faced a slow but certain death. To the west lay the Indian Ocean
ABOVE: The Catalpa off Fremantle with escapees approaching in whaleboat. (Original lithograph created by E. N. Russell/ January 1, 1876). FROM FAR LEFT: News clipping from the Perth Gazette and West Australian Times, January 17, 1868, announcing the arrival of the Hougoumont in Fremantle with 279 male convicts on board. The Fenian political prisoners who arrived at Freemantle, included (left to right): John Boyle O’Reilly James Wilson Martin Hogan Michael Harrington Robert Cranston Thomas Darragh Thomas Hassett.
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ABOVE: “The Catalpa Six” after their arrival in the U.S. (Created: January 1, 1897). Scan from the book, The Catalpa Expedition. CENTER: The Catalpa in dock. Note whale-oil barrels in the foreground FAR RIGHT: A plea for help from prisoner James Wilson. RIGHT: George Anthony, the 28-year-old New Bedford sea captain, who signed up for the enterprise and saw it through to the end. (Circa 1897).
– an exotic, unpredictable sea whose natural defense lay in its shark-infested water close to shore, and, beyond that, its immensity – for due west the closest landfall was Africa, 4,700 miles away. Western Australia was a maximum-security prison where nature was both the jail and the jailer. There was no way out. Then John Boyle O’Reilly escaped. In a way it wasn’t a surprise to his fellow prisoners. O’Reilly had been the only one to escape England’s Dartmoor prison and, although he was re-captured two days later, his fellow Irish prisoners knew he was serious when, upon landing in Fremantle, he promised he would be the first to escape from the Establishment. His disappearance, however, was a shock to his jailers. Although he had the record of an almost successful prisoner escape, his tender age, his short stature, his youthful face (as yet unencumbered by whiskers) and his gift for poetry hardly made him seem a threat. On the contrary, soon after his arrival he was put in a position of minimum security from which he could now effectively plan his escape. The plan involves a nighttime dash through the woods and, assisted by an Australian benefactor, a 40-mile pull in a rowboat to intercept an American whaling vessel. When the first whaler didn’t pick him up as promised, O’Reilly spent another two days and nights without food or water, rolling in the Indian Ocean looking for a friendly vessel. After five more days of hiding on the shore, his contact arranged for another American whaler to pick him up. This time it worked, and after a journey of nine months, John Boyle O’Reilly arrived in America. Back in the Establishment, the prisoners knew only what was reported in the Police Gazette, “that imperial convict number 9843 absconded from
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Convict Road Party, Bunburry, on the 18th of February, 1869.” No one suspected that he had survived. Many others had run away and those who were not captured were never heard from again – victims of sharks and the bush. A year later, letters arrived from America and Ireland saying O’Reilly was alive. He had made it! Hopes were buoyed. Letters poured out from Fremantle begging for help. Years went by. Some prisoners were released. Others died. The letters were never answered – there was no solution to those appeals for help. For one man to get out was a miracle. For the six remaining military prisoners to get out was impossible. The six – Hassett, Wilson, Darragh, Harrington, Cranston and Hogan – knew that they were the forgotten men But John Boyle O’Reilly did not forget. Now editor of The Pilot in Boston, he plotted a rescue with a small band of Irish-Americans. If it was difficult to bribe a captain to hide one man on a whaling ship, the solution was to buy a whaler, sail to Western Australia, pick up the prisoners, and sail it home again to America. The simple plan took months and months of planning. The small band of conspirators raised money, purchased a vessel and set it up for whaling. To command the enterprise, they hired a 28-year-old new Bedford sea captain, George Anthony, who had absolutely no reason to agree to this reckless adventure. Anthony was not Irish, he was the father of a newborn daughter, and he had just promised his wife he would never go to sea again. But he was a Yankee sea captain, whose life was ruled by love of adventure, the call of the sea and a passion for liberty. The ship Catalpa sailed on April 29, 1875. Its
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Dear Friend, rem ember this is a vo blew, dragging the ship’s anchors and she ice from the tomb. For is not this a living tom was unfit to sail in the morning. The operb? In the tomb it is only a man’s bo ation was postponed until Easter Monday. dy that is good for worms, but living tomb the ca in Breslin and Desmond had worked out the th e nker worm of ca re enters the ve soul. Think that details of the plan with precision – even ry we have been ne arly nine years down to which horses were to be rented for this living tomb in since our first ar the escape. Sunday night, the local hosteler rest and that it impossible for m is ind or body to w told them the horses he had promised for ithstand the continual strain that is upon them Saturday we’re already committed to some. One or the othe must give way. r one else on Monday. At first the conspirators It is in this sad strait that I now the name of my were crushed by the news, but they took heart , in comrades and m yself, ask you to aid us in the man when they learned the reason why the horses ner pointed out… would not be available. We ask you to aid us with your tongue and pen, The annual regatta of the Perth Yacht and with your brain and intellect, with your ability and Boat Club, now known as the Royal Perth in flu ence, and God will bless yo Yacht Club, was to be held on Monday, and the ur efforts, and w e will repay you with all the grat best horses in Fremantle had been previously itude of our natu res… our faith in you is unbound. assigned to local officials for the journey to the We think if you forsake us, then regatta. Breslin and Desmond could not expect are friendless in w e deed. speedy horse flesh for the race to Rockingham, but they had the consolation of knowing that James Wilson local government officials would not be in the race at all. crew of Malays, Sandwich and Cape Verde isWord that the escape had been changed to landers had signed on for a two-year voyage in Monday was passed to the prisoners by a trusted search of whales. Their hopes for a successful hunt parolee. That morning, the six military prisoners were raised when they killed their first whale after were assigned to work details outside the prison seven days out and when they had sent back 200 walls. By 8 a.m. they had slipped away and made barrels of oil (worth $12,000) to New Bedford by their way to Rockingham Road. Breslin and the end of October. Desmond were waiting. Three prisoners jumped into However, when they crossed the equator, the each coach and they flew off crew members were aware they were leaving the in a mad dash for Rockingham best whaling grounds and became increasingly restbeach and freedom. less and difficult to manage. It was only at this point The exhausted, perspiring that Captain Anthony confided the true nature of the horses, near collapse at the voyage to First Mate Samuel Smith. The two men end of the two-hour and 20 agreed to push on – they were expected in Western minute gallop, were quickly Australia by January and it was already November. abandoned by the conspiraMeanwhile, John Breslin and Thomas Desmond tors who rushed to the water’s sailed from Los Angeles for Western Australia to set edge where Anthony and his up a land-based operation in Fremantle to arrange crew were waiting to spirit the breakout from the prison, and subsequent transthem away. All to soon to portation to the ship. By November, Breslin was set learn that the waters of the up in Fremantle and Desmond in Perth and soon afIndian Ocean where as formiterwards, their plans were operational. They, and the dable a jailer as had been the prisoners anxiously awaited Catalpa. land of Western Australia. Day after day, week after week, there was no After two hours of steady word. Finally, on March 26, 1876, Catalpa arrived rowing, the whaleboat cleared in Bunbury, Western Australia’s whaling port, 70 the harbor and the crew miles south of Fremantle. Breslin outlined the plan hoisted sail and steered in a to Captain Anthony. Catalpa was to stand 10 to 12 southerly direction in search miles offshore, well out in international waters, and of Catalpa. Five hours later send a whaleboat to Rockingham Beach. The prisone of the crew spotted the oners were to break away from their working parties vessel but it was at least 15 and, in rented horse carriages driven by Breslin and miles away and night was Desmond, make the 20-mile dash from Fremantle rapidly approaching. They to Rockingham. rowed and sailed until 10 p.m. That escape was set for April 15, the Saturday beA sudden fierce wind fore Easter. However, on Friday, a heavy storm snapped the mast and the best
Below: Catalpa Rescue Memorial,Rockingham, Western Australia. Martin Hogan (1833–1901) Thomas Hassett (1841–1893) James Wilson (1836–1921) Michael Harrington (1825–1886) Thomas Darragh (1834–1912) Robert Cranston (1842–1914) John Boyle O’Reilly (1844–1890)
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they could do was to hoist the jib on an oar and steer a course that was their best estimate of the direction of Catalpa. Throughout the night, rough seas threatened to swamp the overloaded whaleboat, but all hands kept their faith in their goal and their backs to the oars. At 7 a.m they again spotted the sails of Catalpa and bent to the oars with renewed vigor. By early afternoon they saw the ship turn and head straight for them. They had been sighted. They would soon be safe and free. Just as they began to relax, one of the crew spotted another sail! It, too, was headed straight for Catalpa and was about the same distance from the large ship on the landward side as they were to seaward. It was the Water Police Cutter – trying to head them off. Captain Anthony urged his crew of South Sea islanders on as if they were closing in on a prize sperm whale. The crew strained every muscle until each fiber was numbed beyond pain. The prisoners and Breslin and Desmond clung to the gunwales, tense with fear and paralyzed by their inability to help. Aboard Catalpa, First Mate Smith worked the ship between the onrushing boats. Closer and closer he edged towards Captain Anthony, enabling the whaleboat to win the race – with only minutes to spare.
ABOVE: John Breslin who helped to carry out the rescue plan. RIGHT: The marker on John Breslin’s grave in Calvary Cemetery, Flushing, NY. TOP: Thomas Desmond, who was involved in the rescue, went on to become a deputy sheriff in San Francisco.
The police boat was soon alongside but its Captain did not contest the race. Out of admiration for the daring escape, and in the tradition of Australian sportsmanship, he gallantly saluted the winner, “Goodbye Captain, goodbye!” The victors had spent 28 hours in an open whaleboat on ugly seas in a race against death. They could celebrate only by changing their clothes, eating a warm meal, and immediately going to sleep. Back on shore, popular sentiment sided with the prisoners – but not everyone was ready to concede. The Governor of Western Australia was furious. Together with the Colonial Secretary, the Prison Warden, and the Superintendent of the Water Police, they decided to commission and arm the coastal steamer, Georgette, and send her in pursuit. As Wednesday dawned, a lookout on Catalpa shouted that a steamship was closing in on them rapidly. By 6 a.m. all hands could see Georgette flying the British Man-of-War and the Vice Admiral’s flags, armed with guns, a company of artillerymen and Water Police on deck. The Irish prisoners saw that the governor was determined to recapture them. They lay below with rifles and revolvers ready, all determined to die rather than be put back in chains. Georgette fired a shot across the bow of Catalpa. Captain Stone of the Water Police shouted “Heave to.” Anthony refused. Stone returned. “If you don’t heave to, I’ll blow the masts out of you.” Captain George Anthony of New Bedford, who a year earlier was working for New Bedford House Twist Drill Company, enjoying his young wife and newborn daughter, and who now found himself half a world away, in danger of death or life imprisonment, ran up the Stars and Stripes and shouted, “That’s the American flag. I am on the high seas. My flag protects me. If you fire on this ship, you fire on the American flag.“ Georgette had no response. Anthony’s remark had shattered the confidence of the government men. Still the Georgette shadowed them. Finally Captain Stone called out, “Won’t you surrender to our government?” To this weak request Anthony did not even reply. Georgette hailed again. “Can I come on board?” Captain Anthony answered. “No sir. I am bound for sea and can’t stop.” The game was over. Georgette turned back to Fremantle. Catalpa sailed on. To America. To freeIA dom. The stars and stripes had won the day. Note: This article ran in the October, 1987 issue of Irish America with the tagline “As recalled by Donald J. McGilligan.” ©The Pilot.
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Irish America Magazine and the
Irish America Team!
It’s an honor to be part of the magazine’s legacy as part of the Hall of Fame.
Judy Collins 35TH ANNIVERSARY ISSUE 2020 IRISH AMERICA 57
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wild irish women |
Gregory “The Greatest Living Irishwoman” – George Bernard Shaw
Writer, playwright, folklorist, and co-founder of The Abbey Theatre, Isabella Augusta, Lady Gregory, née Isabella Augusta Persse, (born March 15, 1852, Roxborough, County Galway, Ireland – died May 22, 1932, Coole, did much to preserve Ireland’s forgotten history. By Rosemary Rogers.
Book cover of Treasury of Irish Myth, Legend and Folklore by Lady Augusta Gregory
oward the end of the 19th Century, Queen Victoria, or so it seemed, wandered the west of Ireland from farms to cottages to the Workhouse asking questions of Catholic peasants: she wanted to hear the tales passed down from generations, their songs, myths and visions. She had even learned the Irish language to better capture the nuances of folklore and the beautiful rhythmic sentences. The peasants soon realized Queen Victoria was really their landlady from the “Big House.” Lady Augusta Gregory, descended from Anglo-Irish aristocracy, may have resembled Victoria but the similarity ended there. Augusta identified as Irish and had re-invented herself as a folklorist, one determined to salvage and preserve Ireland’s forgotten history. After the wars of the 17th Century, much of Irish culture had been annihilated, knowledge of its history fragmented and the Gaelic language outlawed in schools. Then the famine that killed so many Irish killed their stories along with them. Lady Gregory made it her mission to take an oral history of the people of the west, write a narrative of faeries, ghosts, banshees and saints; she also immortalized their history of British tyranny, dead heroes and starvation. Isabella Augusta Persse was born in 1852 on an estate, named Roxborough, in Galway, into a large family and its designated spinster. She surprised everyone when, in 1880, she married Sir William
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Gregory after falling in love with his library. Sir William, a wealthy widower, lived at a neighboring estate, Coole Park. She was 27, he was 63. Augusta hadn’t heard that her bridegroom, a member of Parliament during the famine, had been particularly vicious to the starving of his country, even those outside his front door. Gregory died within two years but Augusta still managed to have a son, Robert, and a love affair during the brief marriage. (In his biography of W.B. Yeats, R.F. Foster repeated a Gort legend that the father of Augusta’s son was not the elderly Sir William, but a young blacksmith, Seanín Farrell, who had been approached to father the child and then helped to emigrate to America.) Honeymooning in Egypt, the Gregory’s met Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, a handsome (and married) poet, adventurer and virulent anti-Imperialist. Her lover drew Augusta into his worldview, one quite at odds with that of her husband and upbringing. Blunt’s support for Irish causes led to his imprisonment in Dublin’s Kilmainham Gaol and his support for Egyptian independence had him thrown out of the country. He both inspired her Irish nationalism and encouraged her to write, which she did, twelve sonnets dedicated to him, bursting with love and passion, “Pleading for your love which now is all my life…” After Lord Gregory’s death, Augusta wore only black for the rest of her life, but she hardly shrank into widowhood (or, for that matter, mourning). Rather, she took off like a comet, as only a 30-yearold widow with financial security and a great dream, could. Just as she was now born again, she would see Ireland born again. She would revive Ireland’s literary heritage, her ancient mythology and bring back the Gaelic language. She wanted Ireland to regain her “dignity” after centuries of oppression and, in the words of Robert Emmet, “take her place among the nations of the earth...” She energized the vast supply of talent that had emerged at the end of the 19th and beginning of the
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Lady Gregory pictured on the frontispiece to “Our Irish Theatre: A Chapter of Autobiography” (1913).
Caricature of William Henry Gregory (1817-1892). Caption read “An art critic.” By James Tissot/ Published in Vanity Fair, 30 December 1871. TOP RIGHT: Woodland path at Coole Park.
20th Century, a movement that became the Irish Literary Revival. The Revival was aligned with the Gaelic League, formed in 1893 by Douglas Hyde to rescue the Gaelic language. “Irish,” she would write “is the most ancient vernacular literature of modern Europe…its first speakers were early farmers who arrived in 4500 BC.” She became fascinated with the poet William Butler Yeats after reading his book The Celtic Twilight, his own collection of folklore infused with mysticism and spirituality. When Augusta met him, she described him as “egregiously the poet” sporting a large black bow and wrapped in a long trailing cloak. He was good friends with Douglas Hyde whose recent speech on “De-Anglicizing” Ireland was so powerful, it’s been credited with the founding of the Sinn Féin. One auspicious evening in 1894, Yeats and Douglas Hyde visited Lady Gregory at Coole. That night, Hyde read aloud the Gaelic poems and songs he had translated into Tudor English. His translation still held on to Gaelic rhythms and alliteration so suited the Irish voice. Yeats listened, it was English yet not-English, at that moment he decided to write his poetry with a Gaelic affect. That
night, too, the profound, symbiotic relationship between the Lady and the poet began. She, 13 years older and of a higher social class, always called him “Willie” while he never addressed her as anything other than “Lady Gregory.” But, as one onlooker remarked, “As soon as her terrible eye fell upon him, I knew that she would keep him.” And keep him she did, despite his unrequited love for the fervid nationalist Maud Gonne, despite his later marriage and children, despite his world fame, she and Coole would always be his spiritual center. She wrote with him, translated for him, sometimes supported him and doted on him to almost embarrassing lengths. Her cousin, Sir Ian Hamilton described Yeats at Coole: “No one can even walk along the passage on either side of Yeats’s door … thick rugs were laid out to prevent the slightest sound from reaching the Holy of Holies…” Robert, her son, resented the continued presence of the poet and really resented all the vintage wine Augusta and Willie put away during their long evenings. Even upstart James Joyce got snarky. Speaking of the duo, he wrote to his brother, “W.B. Yeats ought to marry Lady Gregory – to kill all the talk.” Augusta, Yeats and Douglas Hyde made Coole the epicenter of the Revival; they were later joined by Edward Martyn, George Russell (“AE”) John Millington Synge, George Moore, Annie Horniman and the Fay Brothers. Determined to sideline “The Irish Question” this group of Catholics and Protestants had a singular focus: to create an Irish identity and culture independent of Britain built on its shared roots and ancient history. In 1904, they founded Dublin’s Abbey Theatre to realize that dream while sidestepping the unending, uneasy tension between the British Empire and her most troublesome colony. Though Annie Horniman did most of the financing, the Abbey’s patent was signed by Lady Gregory, putting her at the helm where she wrote and directed many of the performances. She showed a surprising JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021 IRISH AMERICA 59
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wild irish women |
Lady Augusta Gregory
GENTHE PHOTOGRAPH COLLECTION, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, PRINTS AND PHOTOGRAPHS DIVISION.
ABOVE: William Butler Yeats and John Quinn. March 31,1914.
for comedy – her plays, “Spreading the News” (1904), “The Rising of the Moon” (1907) and “The Workhouse Ward” (1908), got the theatre going. She was tireless, filling in for any and all, sometimes served as usherette – Shaw called her “the charwoman of the Abbey.” Two years after the opening, Yeats told Augusta of a dream he had “almost as distinct as a vision, of a cottage …and into the midst of that cottage there came an old woman in a long cloak.” The woman, according to Yeats was “Ireland herself, that Cathleen ni Houlihan for whom so many songs have been sung.” Cathleen told her sad story about the loss of her “four beautiful green fields” (the four provinces of Ireland). It may have been Willie’s dream but it was Augusta who wrote the play for which she received no credit, something she admitted was “rather hard on me.” (She did surreptitiously assert authorship, writing on margins of the script, “All this is mine alone.”)
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Lennox Robinson, writer and future head of the theatre said “Cathleen Ni Houlihan” and Augusta’s “The Rising of the Moon” “made more rebels in Ireland than a thousand political speeches or a hundred reasoned books.” Now the Abbey could no longer stay apolitical, “The Irish Question” had moved front and center. There was talk of rebellion in the streets of Dublin and other parts of the country, all of which put Lady Gregory in something of an awkward position. A nationalist and Gaelic speaker she was still a landlord. How could she reconcile her personal life when political rebellion was on the horizon? She did something unexpected and reckless: she put on the plays of John Millington Synge. They were reality-based and a radical departure from Abbey’s comedies and mythologies. Synge was going to cause controversy. She staged Synge’s “Riders to the Sea,” “Shadow of the Glen” and in 1907, “The Playboy of the Western World,” the play that caused the ruckus heard round the western world. The story, written in a stylized peasant dialogue, told of one Christy Mahon who wandered into a strange village, claiming he had killed his “Da,” a lie that brought him hero worship until the dead “Da” shows up. The plot of patricide and some a mention of ladies’ underwear ran counter to Irish prudery. The audiences threw potatoes, tomatoes and even rosaries at the stage. Lady Gregory would not abide censorship: She walked onstage, directly addressed the actors, ”Keep playing” and the show went on. “Playboy” moved to New York and took controversy with it. This time when the audience acted up, she hid on stage (behind a prop), again telling the actors to keep going. But the real “Playboy” trouble came in Philadelphia, where the entire cast was arrested, thrown in a paddy wagon and taken off to jail. A lawyer, John Quinn, contacted Lady Gregory, offering his services and putting a meta spin on the whole affair, wrote, “The policemen that ought to be put in the theater ought to be Irish policemen; then the town would have the edifying spectacle of Irish policemen ejecting Irish rowdies from an Irish play. I have not seen anything like the bitterness or unfairness of these attacks both by Irish ignoramuses and abnormal churchmen since the last days of Parnell.” In a short time, John Quinn, young lawyer, and Lady August Gregory, impresario and grandmother were absolutely and madly in love. Much like she did with Blunt earlier, she penned florid love letters, …dear John, my own John, not other people’s John, I love you, I care for you, I know you, I want you, I believe in you. The lovers commuted between Dublin and Philadelphia and remained lifelong friends. Quinn continued to be a great supporter of Irish writers, both financially, and legally, defending James Joyce’s Ulysses against obscenity charges in
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the New York courts. As the events of 1916 unfolded, Dublin was the center of the action, cast and crew members joined in the fighting and the first rebel killed was an Abbey Player, Sean Connolly. Both Lady Gregory and Yeats were opposed to violence but when the 16 leaders of the rebellion were executed, they, like the rest of Ireland, were outraged. Formerly indifferent, they were now supporting the rebels and condemning the British. In the past, besotted as he was, Yeats always ignored the pleas of Maud Gonne to embrace radical nationalism. He preferred his own romantic nationalism to her dreams of insurrection. Now he wrote Lady Gregory “I had no idea that any public event could so deeply move me” – the summary executions of the Rising leaders did what Maud could not, he was transformed. Or as he put it in verse, he was “changed, changed utterly.” “Easter 1916,” only 80 lines long, is arguably Yeats’ greatest poem. He still seemed in a state of shock over the bravery of the rebels, the barbarity of the British and questions his guilt about Cathleen ni Houlihan, asking, “Did that play of mine send out/ Certain men the English shot?” What he couldn’t have realized was the events of 1916 set in motion the disintegration of the greatest empire the world had ever known. Once Ireland, its first colony departed, the others fell like dominoes, all the pink blobs on the map kept shrinking and disappearing. At the same time, unbearable sorrows came into Lady Gregory’s world. Her beloved nephew, Hugh Lane, died on the Lusitania in 1915. Her son, Robert, an Ace in the Royal Flying Corp was fighting at the Italian Front when, in 1918, his plane was shot down. Robert left a widow, three children and a mother who would never recover from the loss. Yeats created a poem for Robert, “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death” and the poet’s nationalism is manifest, the airman was fighting in a war that was not his, it was a British war. “Those that I fight I do not hate, Those that I guard I do not love; The dark days continued. Her childhood home, Roxborough, burnt down, her daughter-in-law, who had the legal right to do so, wanted to sell Coole. When Yeats married a fellow occultist, George Hyde-Lees, Augusta knew the marriage would supplant her in Yeats’ life. Then came the Irishman against Irishman, civil war. But ever-resilient, ever-resourceful, Augusta rallied, due in large part to a socialist, labourer, resident of the tenements, and former political prisoner of the Easter Rising, playwright Sean O’Casey. He was the Abbey’s newest sensation, a man of the streets who wrote of the working classes and moved seamlessly from the vernacular to biblical language. Lady Gregory adored him and it was mutual. He named her Blessed Bridget O’Coole, “a nun of a new order a blend of the Lord Jesus Christ and of Puck. The civil war had ended and the newly formed Irish Free State subsidized the Abbey. This made those on the other side of the civil war biased against the Abbey and its work. O’Casey’s first success was the 1923 “Shadow of the Gunman,” followed by “The Plough and the Stars,” and “Juno and the Paycock.” The last play featured a prostitute which brought the audience, to its
William Robert Gregory MC who served as a fighter pilot with the Royal Flying Corps during World War I.
feet and ready to riot. Yeats, in a fever, came to the stage, “You have disgraced yourselves again. Is this to be an ever-recurring celebration of the arrival of Irish genius?” In 1922 the fortunes of Willie and Lady Gregory went in different directions, he was now a wealthy, famous Senator while she was still struggling to hold on to Coole. Politically, the poetic vagabond had moved to the right while the lady from the great house had moved to the left. When Yeats won the Nobel Prize in 1923, he announced the prize should be shared with two others, the (deceased) Synge and the (alive) Lady Gregory. Then, as was his wont, he got bitchy, describing his dear friend and patron, as “as an old woman sinking into the infirmities of age.” (But, it should be noted that, when she passed, he mourned her greatly, “my sole advisor for the greater part of my life.”) Yeats’ Nobel aside, the shining star of the Literary Revival was a young latecomer, one Lady Gregory once described as “the spectre of the new generation.” James Joyce may have kept his distance from the original group but his masterpiece Ulysses was still in their tradition – it was based on an ancient myth. The book introduced modernism and is still considered the greatest work of prose in the English language. Ireland’s literary revival created a powerful sense of national identity proclaiming the small island’s single ancient culture – regardless of religion. It now drew on it its own language, art, customs, mythology and history. Despite the factions, north and south, the revival proved the country had more in common than they realized. The “Anglo” from Anglo-Irish was, in time IA dropped, a quaint remnant of colonialism. Today Coole Park is a nature reserve, open to visitors, offering free admission and even a tearoom. There’s a walled-in park that encases a copper beach tree saved from the estate of Lady Gregory. The initials of Douglas Hyde, George Bernard Shaw, Sean O’Casey, WB Yeats, J.M. Synge, AE, and so many others ae still there. Only missing are the initials of the woman who made everything happen, the woman never given to self-promotion, Lady Augusta Gregory. JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021 IRISH AMERICA 61
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›› Pennsylvania’s Irish and the
ou can take the boy out of Scranton. But Scranton still helped put its most famous Irish Catholic boy – Joe Biden – into the White House. The 2020 presidential election famously came down to a handful of states – including Pennsylvania. That’s where Joseph Robinette Biden was born, in St. Mary’s Hospital, to Joe Biden Sr. and the former Jean Finnegan, before the family moved to Delaware. In 2016, Donald Trump won Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes by a razor-thin margin, propelling him to the White House. Four years later, Biden was able to win his home county of Lackawanna by an estimated 10,000 votes – a big help in securing his own slim margin of victory in the Keystone state, and pushing the former VP over the top and into the White House, as just the second Catholic U.S. president. “One of the reasons Joe Biden won this race was labor,” Allegheny County executive and Irish American power broker Rick Fitzgerald told MSNBC after the election. “[Biden] got a lot of votes in the building trades. They voted for Joe Biden in much, much bigger numbers than they did for Hillary Clinton, when I talk to my friends like Tommy McIntyre at the Electricians (union).... Joe Biden being a labor guy, labor is the thing that that carried him over in southwestern Pennsylvania.”
IRISH POWER BROKERS
The Irish remain bi-partisan power brokers in Pennsylvania. The state is represented in the U.S. Senate by Republican Patrick Joseph Toomey and secondgeneration Democratic senator Bob Casey Jr. Pennsylvania Congressional reps include Republicans such as Brian Fitzpatrick and Mike Kelly. In recent years, however, Democrats have been energized by younger Irish-Americans such as Congressional reps Conor Lamb, and Brendan Boyle, the 43 year-old son of Irish immigrants, whose brother, Kevin, is a state rep. Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney also speaks often of how his Irish heritage and south Philly upbringing informs his policies for the city of brotherly love. 62 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
Biden’s nail-biting Pennsylvania win was just the latest episode in Pennsylvania’s rich Irish American history – from Grace Kelly and Gene Kelly to the Molly Maguires and an unforgettable Bobby Kennedy speech.
A HOLY EXPERIMENT
William Penn envisioned the future state of Pennsylvania as a “Holy Experiment.” Penn’s Quakers were persecuted in England so the colony’s founders made efforts to reach out to minorities, including Catholics and Native Americans. Though its founders were heavily Quaker, Irish immigration to Pennsylvania during the 1700s was largely Pres-
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Joe Biden’s nail-biting Pennsylvania win was just the latest episode in Pennsylvania’s rich Irish American history.
BY TOM DEIGNAN
byterian and Scotch Irish. In 1776, the Declaration of Independence may have been conceived and written by Franklin, Adams and Jefferson, but it was printed by a local Irish immigrant from Tyrone named John Dunlap. By then, Philly’s Irish community was so strong it formed The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick on St. Patrick’s Day in 1771. It was made up of prominent merchants and military men, such as Commodore John Barry and Cork native Stephen Moylan, a close aide to Washington who later became the Friendly Sons’ first president. From the start, the Friendly Sons was made up of both Catholics and Protestants. This certainly fit William Penn’s origi-
nal harmonious vision. After all, Pennsylvania was one of the few colonies that did not ban Catholic religious services. Away from the intellectual fervor of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Irish were forging more modest lives. Consider County Donegal immigrant James Crockett and his wife Hannah. They purchased over 100 acres of land in western Pennsylvania, after Crockett struggled for nearly 20 years as a Philadelphia stonemason. In an 1822 letter to his father in Ireland, Crockett wrote: “It is killing on nature to work outdoors in this country, the summers are so hot and the winters so cold, but I now have 30 acres cleared, 20 cattle, and
LEFT: Miners from near Hazleton, PA. Exact year unknown probably early 1900s. OPENING PAGE: TOP: Secondgeneration Democratic senator Bob Casey Jr. BOTTOM: Congressman Brendan Boyle with his wife, Jenny, and their daughter, Abby.
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a good harvest. We are happy and contented. Our house is small but our barn is full. Thank God I came to this country where we are free from landlords, rent and the fear of eviction.”
THE CANALS AND THE RIOTS
As was the case throughout the U.S., more and more Irish Catholics came to Pennsylvania during the first decades of the 1800s. Once arrived, there was hard work to be done. The Pennsylvania Canal from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh was completed in the 1830s. Naturally, with this hard work came demands for better conditions. Three hundred Philadelphia coal heavers, in 1835, went on strike and called for a 10-hour day. The Irish of Pennsylvania would spend the first half of the 19th century digging canals, and the second half digging in the mines. Meanwhile, by the 1840s, William Penn’s vision of tolerance was about to face its toughest test. In 1844, a number of Irish homes, two Catholic churches and a Sisters of Mercy seminary were all burned to the ground by nativist mobs. The Irish responded by violently disrupting a meeting held by the anti-immigrant American Party. The Philadelphia Riots illustrated the wave of anti-Irish and antiCatholic sentiment spreading across the U.S. at the height of the Famine. At the same time, the Pennsylvania Irish were advancing. Just a year before the riots, in September 1843, Father John Possidius O’Dwyer was named president of a new Augustinian University in Philadelphia. Villanova, as the school was called, would go on to educate generations of Pennsylvania’s Irish Catholics.
THE MOLLY MAGUIRES
TOP: Song and dance man, Gene Kelly. ABOVE: Grace Kelly.
By the 1870s, one of the most notorious labor episodes in U.S. history unfolded in Pennsylvania’s coal region, when Irish miners formed a union to counter harsh policies of the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad. A faction within the union, calling itself the Molly Maguires, often used intimidation and even violence to pressure management. Twenty alleged Mollys were ultimately hanged in 1877, based on what is now believed to be flimsy evidence. A more moderate figure in the Pennsylvania labor movement was Terence V. Powderly, one of 12 children born to Irish immigrants who settled in Carbondale. Powderly later became affiliated with a secret labor group that came to be known as The Knights of Labor, the most influential union of the late 19th century. Again, in keeping with William Penn’s vision, the Knights reached out to African Americans as well as women, such as Irish immigrant Leonora Barry, who led a key Knights committee.
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THE 20TH CENTURY
As the Pennsylvania Irish assimilated, they left the canals and the mines, and dynamic artists emerged. Gene Kelly (born 1912) and Grace Kelly (born 1929) hailed from Pennsylvania’s cities, while famed novelist John O’Hara was born in Pottsville in 1905. One character in O’Hara’s best-seller Butterfield 8 summed up the author’s sense of Irishness: “I want to tell you something about myself that will help to explain a lot of things about me. You might as well hear it now. First of all, I am a Mick. I wear Brooks [Brothers] clothes and I don’t eat salad with a spoon and I probably could play fivegoal polo in two years, but I am a Mick. Still a Mick.” Irish political and church leaders left their mark on the state as well. The “father of the Pittsburgh Renaissance,” David Lawrence, was mayor of the Steel City from 1946 to 1959. Before Lawrence’s election, Pittsburgh was a smogchoked city regularly beset by floods. Lawrence not only cleaned up the city’s streets and air, he brought Pittsburgh’s moribund economy into the 20th century. Lawrence, according to one survey of great American mayors, loved to tell “Irish and Catholic stories as if he were straight off the boat from County Mayo.” Philadelphia did not elect an Irish Catholic mayor until James H.J. Tate in 1962. But Archbishop Dennis Dougherty (the son of an immigrant coal miner) was a powerhouse in his native city for decades, before dying in 1951. President Biden’s maternal great-grandfather Edward Francis Blewitt, the son of Irish immigrants, was a founding member of the Scranton / Lackawanna County, branch of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick in Lackawanna County. In March of 1964 – just four months after JFK’s assassination – Bobby Kennedy, in first public speech since his brother was killed, addressed the Friendly Sons. In was an emotional speech, he urged that those present to recall the heritage of the Irish. “Let us hold out our hands to those who struggle for freedom today – at home and abroad – as Ireland struggled for a thousand years. Let us not leave them to be ‘sheep without a shepherd when the snow shuts out the sky.’ Let us show them that we have not forgotten the constancy and the faith and the hope – of the Irish.” Senator Biden spoke on St. Patrick’s Day in 1973, just a couple of months after his wife Neilia and his 13 month-old daughter were killed in a car crash, just before Christmas 1972. Putting aside his own grief, like Kennedy, he urged the Irish to think of others, in a way that says much about the empathetic president he will make: “The Irish should acknowledge the cries of others for liberty, because if we short-change those “others” in America, we are really short-changing America.” IA
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by Maeve Molloy and Mary Gallagher
The Finnegan Finnegan is an Irish surname coming from the Gaelic Ó Fionnagáin, meaning “son of fairhaired.”
BELOW: Christian Finnegan (born April 1, 1973), is an American stand-up comedian, writer and actor based in New York City.
ames Joyce immortalized the name for all time in his 1939 novel Finnegans Wake. But literary giants aside, Finnegan is one of the most recognizable Irish surnames of our times. The Finnegan clan’s ties to America have only bound more tightly since the election of Joe Biden as the 46th president. (For an in-depth examination of the president’s multiple connections to Ireland by genealogist, Megan Smolenyak go to Biden’s Irishamerica.com.) mother, Catherine, who went by “Jean,” was a fourth-generation Finnegan to be raised in the United States, with Irish roots on all sides, and Finnegan roots in County Louth. The president-elect credits a great deal of his attributes to the instruction and influence of his mother. Her Catholic faith and working-class upbringing made her a determined, strong woman that would insist her son’s stutter was only the product of a brilliant mind working too fast for his mouth to keep up, and regularly instructed her family that “Courage is the greatest virtue, because without courage you cannot love with abandon.” The Finnegan name, with the same roots as O’Finnegan, Finegan, O’Finegan, and Finigan, is common in Ireland and America; many early immigrants with the name Finnegan are recorded as landing in the U.S. between 1840 and 1860, during and LEFT: Charitable brewery in Minneapolis: Finnegan's brewery and taproom is dedicated charitable brewing by donating 100% of its profits.
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directly following famine times. The anglicized “Finnegan” comes from the Irish name Ó Fionnagáin or Fionnagán, a form of the Irish name Fionn, meaning “fairhaired.” The Finnegans hail from two distinct septs in Ireland. One sept was located on the border of counties Roscommon and Galway, between the modern towns of Dunmore and Castlerea. In both Roscommon and Galway the Finnegans have left a clear, lasting mark with the areas of Ballyfinegan – one in the barony of Balymoe and the second nearby in the barony of Castlereagh. The second Finnegan sept hails from Oriel and eastern Breffny, or the kingdom of Bréifne, in northwestern Ireland. Bréifne was home to the Irish tribal group known as the Uí Briúin Bréifne. Some early Finnegans have been linked to this tribe, though most modern Finnegans descended from the Ulster family of Oriel. Though the surname Finnegan has spread throughout modern Ireland, the name is still most commonly found in the counties of Cavan and Monaghan. Finnegans have made their way into nearly every sector of Irish-American culture, from entertainment to literature, to politics, even brewing companies. New York-based comedian Christian Finnegan (b. April 1,1973) had America laughing as an original panelist on VH1’s Best Week Ever. Finnegan’s quick quips gained him a regular appearance on the Today Show and guest performances on Last Call with Carson Daly and Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn, the latter for which he was also a writer. Finnegan was a Comedy Central staple in the late ’90s and early 2000s, with his own half-hour series Premium Blend lasting several seasons. His special The Fun Part began streaming on Netflix in 2014. Finnegan currently tours clubs across the country with his stand-up act.
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Clan Another performer in the Finnegan clan is American actor J.P. Finnegan, who gained popularity in the 1970s as a familiar face on television with regular guest appearances on such chart-topping shows as Colombo and Matlock. Though he died in 2012, his voice remains immortalized as the villain Warren T. Rat in the 1986 animated portrayal of An American Tail. The Finnegan contribution to revelry and entertainment wouldn’t be complete without a Finnegan brew, and Finnegan’s Irish Amber couldn’t be a better choice. Finnegan’s Irish Amber, brewed in Minnesota, is a beer with a cause: all of their proceeds go to the Finnegan’s Community Fund to assist those living in poverty in Minnesota. Citing “barstool philanthropy” as their modus operandi, so far they’ve donated over $2 million to communities in Minnesota. In 2018, Finnegans Brew Co. opened an event space in Minneapolis that serves as both a taproom and an urban courtyard, in keeping with the assertion that doing a good thing and having a good time can and should go hand in hand. James Finnegan is an Irish poet, acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic. Born in Dublin, Finnegan was raised to love and respect the Irish language, Connemara, and nature (especially the sea) by a father who was fostered by an aunt and uncle in Inverin, a Gaeltacht village in Co. Galway. He cites Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney among his influences. Finnegan has seen his pieces printed in publications including New Hibernia Review, Poetry Ireland Review, and The Irish Times. Finnegan’s first collection of poetry was published in 2018, under the title Half-Open Door, and he received the Hennessy Literary Award for New Irish Writing from The Irish Times that year. His latest book is planned to be released in 2022. In sports, George Finnegan (1882-1913) is remembered as a prominent boxer. He won gold at the 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis in the flyweight category. Later in the same Olympics he competed in the bantamweight category to win silver after gaining several pounds in just a few days. This stunt established him as one of only four boxers in history to win medals in two weight classes at the same Olympic games. Meanwhile, Brandon Kyle Finnegan (born April 14, 1993) is an American professional baseball pitcher in the Cincinnati Reds organization.
LEFT: Joe Biden’s mom, Jean Finnegan at the 2008 Democratic Convention. BOTTOM LEFT: Katie Grace Finnegan, the co-founder of Hukkster. BELOW: Cincinnati Reds pitcher, Brandon Finnegan.
The Finnegan name has also made it to the top in business and politics. Daniel Finnegan, the son of Irish immigrants from Limerick and Galway, served as the CEO of the Priceline Group until his retirement in 2018. Katie Grace Finnegan, with roots in roots in Galway, Mayo and Cork, is the co-founder of Hukkster, an e-commerce tech start-up that allows online shoppers to track sales and discount information on products, while Michael C. Finnegan, who served as chief counsel to Governor George Pataki, and is now a managing director in the healthcare department at JP Morgan. The literary value of the novel Finnegans Wake is debated to this day by Joyce scholars. Rambling, convoluted, and written in a variety of languages, the novel appeared in installments in the literary journal Transitions beginning in 1924, and was highly contested from the first installment. James Joyce borrowed the name “Finnegans Wake” from a ballad believed to have gained popularity in Dublin in the 1850s IA as a comical Irish song. JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021 IRISH AMERICA 67
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The was an Immigrant from Although almost completely forgotten now, Ted Sullivan (1848 1929) was once among the best known characters in baseball. He was called “The Daddy of Baseball” and “The Godfather of the National Game.” His story touches dozens of American cities, from Chicago to Washington D.C., Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Dallas, where he managed teams, started leagues, scouted players and charmed chamber of commerce executives anxious to put a team in their town. BY PAT O’NEILL AND TOM COFFMAN
n his day, Irish-born T.P. “Ted” Sullivan was considered the best baseball mind in America. Some went so far as to call him “The Godfather” of the sport. He was early baseball’s town-hopping bandleader; the ringmaster of the minor leagues; a George Washington, a Harold Hill and a P.T. Barnum all rolled into one. He was described by one old-time sportswriter as “a red-cheeked, sturdy little Irishman…good-natured, crafty, a chatterbox when wound up, very proud of his ancestry and himself.” From the late 1860s until the day he died in 1929, the cunning, fast-talking, witty, 68 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
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County Clare charming, serious and sober Sullivan traveled more than a million miles in horse-drawn buggies, soot-spitting trains and lumbering steamships to spread the gospel of his beloved sport across the breadth of North America, Europe, Asia, and South America. The second child of Mary (née Blakeney) and Timothy Sullivan, Sr., Timothy Paul a.k.a. “Ted” was born in 1848 in County Clare, in the depths of an Gorta Mór – “The Great Hunger,” and at age six or seven accompanied his parents and siblings to America. The family settled in Milwaukee, where Ted attended St. Gall’s Catholic school and fell in love with his new country’s national game on the sandlots of the beer town’s Irish-heavy Third Ward. It was at college, in tiny St. Marys, Kansas, where Sullivan was wed to the game for life. A whip-smart student and a pretty fair pitcher, the red-headed Irish boy ruled the school’s ballfield roost as captain of the St. Mary’s Saints baseball team. He was pitching and playing shortstop his senior year, in 1874, when he took a 15-year-old freshman named Charlie Comiskey under his wing – a friendship that would one day take them both around the world, and the latter to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Charlie’s father, “Honest John” Comiskey, the powerful Chicago alderman, and Irish-born president of Chicago’s Sons of Erin, considered his son’s “baseballitis” disgraceful, and threatened to all but shoot Sullivan for putting young Charles under his spell. But Ted and Charlie stuck together, moving to Dubuque, Iowa, where Ted formed what is often considered the first “minor” league. It was as player/manager for the Dubuque Rabbits, a Northwestern League team that dominated even major league opponents, that the innovative Sullivan taught young Comiskey to play first base, stationed off the bag for better defense, as all first-sackers do today.
Bugs, Cranks and ‘Fans’ In his frustration with loud and know-it-all spectators, Ted Sullivan took to calling them “fanatics,” or “fans” for short. It was while managing the great St. Louis Browns
team of 1883 that an exasperated Sullivan blurted out the term that would become a staple in the vernacular of sports fanatics throughout the world. Sullivan would recall that he, Comiskey and a group of other players became annoyed at a bloviating crank who had infiltrated the clubhouse to offer his advice on how the game should be played. After the offending party departed, Sullivan reportedly said that he’d not be told what to do “by a lot of fanatics. I’ll call them ‘fans’ for short.”
He Took Baseball to Ireland Throughout his life, Sullivan would wax eloquently and often as to the superiority of Irish players in America’s great game. One of his most fervent and recurring dreams was to take a couple of American ball teams to Ireland for a series of exhibitions and demonstrations. He believed young Irishmen schooled in the ancient sport of hurling (or “shinty,” as he called it), made natural baseball players and that once they saw and learned the game, they’d follow the rainbow to paycheck gold in America. On his first of many visits to the land of his birth, Sullivan organized a game of baseball on the lawn of Ross Castle. The British tourists who participated
LEFT: T.P. Sullivan, who popularized the game of baseball. TOP: Poster advertising “The World’s Tour of Baseball.” ABOVE: Ross Castle. Sullivan organized a game of baseball on the lawn.
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“Ted Sullivan needs no introduction to baseball fans, for to introduce him would be to introduce baseball itself. Mr. Sullivan is so well known in the baseball world that if you should in the blissfulness of your ignorance plaintively ask,” ‘Who is Ted Sullivan?’ you would thereafter be shunned and avoided as a person of unsound mind.” Abilene (TX) Daily Reporter, March 25, 1920
the blooming Yankee game was sillier than marbles or mumble peg,” remembered Sullivan. Finally, a local Irishman – Michael Dempsey, “the crack hurler of County Kerry,” according to Ted – proceeded to wield the “cudgel” and drove one of the Spaldings off the shin of the English pitcher. The game at that point fell apart, with the English pitcher grousing “ I wisht that blowsted, blooming Yankee and his blowsted, bleeding game was sunk in the middle of the blooming ocean before he came over here.”
Saw the Coming of Soccer
TOP: Sullivan in later life. The caption reads “T.P. Sullivan: one of the real builders of baseball.”
hated the game. The local Irish liked it, but couldn’t figure out the rules. In late 1888, he announced a plan to arrange an “Irish Green Stockings” team to inaugurate the game in Ireland. Armed with a steamer trunk full of Spalding baseballs and bats, he was able to organize a baseball game between a band of locals and a contingent of cricket-playing English tourists on the shore of Killarney’s lower lake. The game took place on a loosely cropped cow pasture with 15th century Ross Castle looming in the background. “The English parties quickly got disgusted and said
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In 1894, baseball’s magnates saw the game of soccer was packing stadiums across Europe with wildly enthusiastic, money-waving “fans.” With cities along America’s eastern seaboard teeming with first- and second-generation European immigrants, the idea of putting league soccer on America’s baseball fields in the winter months was born. T.P. Sullivan was picked as the midwife to raise it up. That fall, while the attention of America’s baseball men and their fans was focused on the pennant races and the World Series, Sullivan quietly slipped aboard a ship headed for the British Isles. His mission: to surreptitiously find, recruit and bring back a crack team of soccer players for the Baltimore Orioles’ entry into America’s new professional soccer league. Sullivan’s ringers so dominated the fledgling league that fans soon lost interest and America’s first “major” soccer league folded after just one season. Still, he maintained the sport had unlimited potential, and that bringing it back for another go would “render a service to the sport-loving people of America and give work to hundreds of lively youths. “‘Mark me,’ he said. ‘People will take to it.’” One innovation that Sullivan never would have allowed himself to foresee was the inclusion of African Americans in America’s favorite sport. Like most players, managers, owners, cranks and fans of his day, Ted Sullivan was a dedicated adherent to the notion of American – specifically white male – exceptionalism. But he predicted, “someday other ethnic groups in America might be
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Irish America Magazine on its
35th Anniversary of bridging the gap between Ireland and the United States.
Fanad Head Lighthouse, County Donegal
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Giants and White Sox at the Vatican, February, 1914. (Sullivan is circled).
invited to play in similar competition,” including “that sport-loving people, the Hebrews, who are today the staunchest supporters of the national game,” the Italians, “who have already shown their castor in the prize ring,” and even “the colored race, which has been represented by excellent men, namely Walker, Stovey and Grant.”
A Worldwide Reputation Over his long and colorful life, the irrepressible Sullivan wore a closetful of hats – as player, manager, scout, broker, promoter, sportswriter, author, baseball historian, lecturer and after-dinner speaker. But he found his most lasting fame as an organizer of ambitious baseball roadshows. He took the White Sox on a heralded exhibition tour through Mexico in 1907. But his coup-de-grace was the arrangement and management of “The World’s Tour of Baseball” in late 1913 and early 1914. As Tour Directorate, he led a parade of high profile ballplayers from the Chicago White Sox and the New York Giants through the Middle East, Asia, Australia and Europe, garnering headlines and making a pile of money for team owners Comiskey and Harry Hempstead. In the above photo, taken at the Vatican, Sullivan is the white haired gent seated in the middle of the second row, behind Charlie Comiskey. For the many Irish Catholics on the tour, visiting Rome and receiving an audience with Pope Pius X was the highlight of their trip. “Nothing was more imposing to us all, irrespective of the creed of members of the party than the entrance, to the room in which we were seated, of this grand old man of the 72 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
Roman Catholic Church,” recalled Sullivan. “His beautiful, classic face, his manner of giving us his blessing, impressed all very much.”
Slapped with a Black Card Timothy P. “Ted” Sullivan’s last great scheme was to bring Ireland’s heroes, County Kerry’s famed Gaelic football champions, to the United States in 1927 for a series of exhibition matches designed to raise funds for GAA facilities and programs back in Ireland. But the football scheme got off on the wrong foot right off the bat, with the Irish heroes getting beat by a crack team of Irish ex-pats in front of 30,000 people at the Polo Grounds in New York. The Kerry stars were treated like visiting potentates before playing local sides in Boston, Hartford, New Haven and Chicago, but ticket sales fell well short of goal. Toward the conclusion of the tour, Irish tempers flared after the touring party discovered that Sullivan had abandoned them and absconded with the Irish team’s $11,000 share of the gate receipts.
Strike Three Two years later, the man who a generation of sports writers called “The Daddy of the Game” died alone and largely unnoticed in Gallinger Hospital in Washington, D.C. He was 78. America and baseball then went on to pretty much forget all about Timothy Paul “Ted” Sullivan. He is interred in Calvary Catholic Cemetery in MilwauIA kee, Wisconsin.
Note: Pat O’Neill and Tom Coffman spent nearly four years, and unearthed and reviewed more than 2,000 old newspaper and magazine articles, journals and books, in order to piece together the story of Ted Sullivan’s colorful and prolific life in baseball. Their book, Ted Sullivan, Barnacle of Baseball: The Life of the Prolific League Founder, Scout and Unrivaled Huckster, is available from McFarland & Co. early in 2021.
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BOB McCANN AND
FOREST CREEK GOLF CLUB Congratulates
Irish America on their
35TH ANNIVERSARY ISSUE 2020 IRISH AMERICA 73
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Everything In This Country Must A SHORT STORY BY COLUM McCANN
t was a summer flood when our draft horse was caught in the river and the river smashed against stones. The sound of it to me was like the turning of locks. It was silage time and the water smelled of grass. The draft horse, Father’s favorite, had stepped in the river for a sniff maybe and she was caught, couldn’t move, her foreleg trapped between rocks. Father found her and called Katie! above the wailing of the rain. I was in the barn waiting for drips on my tongue from the ceiling hole. I ran past the farmhouse into the field. At the river the horse stared wild through the rain maybe she remembered me. Father moved slow and scared like someone traveling deep in snow except there was no snow, just flood, and Father was frightened of water, always frightened. Father told me, Out on the rock there girl. He gave me the length of rope with the harness clip and I knew what to do. I am taller than Father since my last birthday, fifteen. I stretched wide like love and put one foot on the rock in the river middle and one hand on the tree branch above it and swung out over the river flood. Behind me Father said, Careful now hai. The water ran warm and fast like girl blood and I held the tree branch, still able to lean down from the rock and put the rope to the halter of the lovely draft horse. The trees went down to the river in a whispering and they hung their long shadows over the water and the horse jerked quick and sudden and I felt there would be a dying, but I pulled the rope up to keep her neck above water, only just. Father was shouting, Hold the rope girl! And I could see his teeth clenched and his eyes wide and all the traveling of veins in his neck, the same as when he walks the ditches of our farm, many cows, hedgerows, fences. Father is always full of ditches and fright for the losing of Mammy and Fiachra and now his horse, his favorite, a big Belgian mare that
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cut fields once in a peaceful dark soil of long ago. The river split at the rock and jumped fast into sprays coming up above my feet into my dress. But I held tight to the rope, held it like Father sometimes holds his last Sweet Afton at mealtime before prayers. Father was shouting, Keep it there girl good! He was looking at the water as if Mammy was there, as if Fiachra was there, and he gulped air and he went down in the water and he was gone so long he made me wail to the sky for being alone. He kept a strong hold of one tree root but all the rest of his body went away under the quick brown water. The night had started stars. They were up through the branches. The river was spraying in them. Father came up splutter spluttering for air with his eyes all horsewild and his cap lost down the river. The rope was jumping in my hands and burning like oven rings, and he was shouting, Hold it, girl hold it hai, for the love of God hold it please! Father went down in the water again but came up early, no longer enough in his lungs to keep down. He stayed in the river holding the root and the water was hitting his shoulders and he was sad watching the draft horse die like everything does but still I pulled on the halter rope so it would not, because Molly in the sweet shop told me it is not always so. One more try, Father said in a sad voice like his voice over Mammy and Fiachra’s coffins long ago. Father dipped under and he stayed down as long as yesterday’s yesterday, and then some headlights came sweeping up the town road. The lights made a painting of the rain way up high and they put shadows on the hedgerows and ditches. Father’s head popped out of the water and he was breathing heavy, so he didn’t see the lights. His chest was wide and jumping. He looked at the draft horse and then at
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and I think what he was telling me was, Drop the rope girl, but I didn’t. I kept it tight, holding the draft horse’s neck above the water, and all the time Father was saying but not saying, Drop it please Katie drop it, let her drown. They came right quick through the hedge with no regard for the uniforms that hide them. One took off his helmet while he was running and his hair was the color of winter ice. One had a moustache that looked like long grasses and one had a scar on his cheek like the bottom end of Father’s barn hay knife. HayKnife was first to the edge of the river and his rifle banged against his hip when he jumped out to the rock where I was halter-holding. Okay luv you’re all right now, he said to me and his hand was rain-wet at my back. And he took the halter and shouted things to the other soldiers, what to do, where to stand. He kept a hold of the halter and passed me back to Long-Grasses who caught my hand and brought me safely to the riverbank. There were six of them now, all guns and helmets. Father didn’t move. His eyes were steady looking at the river, maybe seeing Mammy and Fiachra in each eye of the draft horse, staring back. One soldier was talking to him all loud and fast, but Father was like a Derry shopwindow dummy and the soldier threw up his arms and turned away through the rain and spat a big spit into the wind. ILLUSTRATION BY CATY BARTHOLOMEW. HayKnife was all balance on the rock with the halter, and he didn’t even hold the me. I pointed up the road and he turned in the flood and stared. branch above his head. IceHair was taking off his boots and gun Father smiled, maybe thinking it was Mack Devlin with his milk and shirt and he looked not like boys from town who come to the truck or Molly coming home from the sweet shop or someone barn for love, he looked not like Father when Father cuts hay come to save his favorite horse. He dragged on the tree root and without his shirt, no, he looked not like anybody, he was very out-struggled from the river and stood on the bank and his arms skinny and strong with ribs like sometimes a horse has after a went up in the air like he was waving, shouting, Over here over long day in the field. He didn’t dive like I think now I would have here hai! liked him to, he just stepped into the water very slow and not Father’s shirt was wet under his overalls and it was very white show-offy and began making his way across, arms high in the air when the headlights hit it. The lights got close close close and in getting lower. But the river got too deep and HayKnife shouted the brightening we heard shouts and then the voices came clear. from the rock saying, Stay high Stevie, stay high side mate. They sounded like they had swallowed things I never swallowed. And Stevie gave a thumb up to HayKnife and then he was I looked at Father and he looked at me all of a sudden with the down under the water and the last thing was the kick of the feet. strangest of faces, like he was lost, like he was punched, like he LongGrasses was standing beside me and he put Stevie’s jacket was the river cap floating, like he was a big alone tree desperate on my shoulders to warm me, but then Father came over and for forest. They shouted out, Hey, mate what’s goin’ on? in their pushed LongGrasses away. Father pushed hard. He was smaller strange strange way and Father said, Nothing, and his head than LongGrasses but LongGrasses bashed into the trunk of the dropped way low to chest and he looked across the river at me tree and hit against it. LongGrasses took a big breath and stared JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021 IRISH AMERICA 75
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Everything In This Country Must hard at him. Father said, Leave her alone can’t you see she’s just a child? I covered my face for shame like in school when they put me in class at a special desk bigger than the rest, not the wooden ones with lifting lids, except I don’t go to school anymore since Mammy and Fiachra died. I felt shame like the shame of that day and I covered my face and peeped instead through my fingers. Father was giving a bad look to LongGrasses. LongGrasses stared at Father for a long time too and shook his head and walked away to the riverbank where Stevie was still down in the water. Father’s hands were on my shoulders keeping me warm and he said, it’ll be all right now love, but I was only thinking about Stevie and how long he was under water. HayKnife was shouting at the top of his voice and staring down into the water and I looked up and saw the big army truck com-
I stood at the window in Stevie’s jacket and looked and waited and still the rain kept coming down outside one two three one two three one two three and I was thinking oh what a small sky for so much rain. ing through the hedgerow fence and the hedge was broken open with a big hole and Father screamed No! The extra lights of the truck were on and they were lighting up all the river. Father screamed again No! but stopped when one of the soldiers stared at him, Your horse or your bloody hedge mate. Father sat down on the riverbank and said, Sit down Katie, and I could hear in Father’s voice more sadness than when he was over Mammy’s and Fiachra’s coffins, more sadness than the day after they were hit by the army truck down near the Glen, more sadness than the day the judge said, Nobody is guilty it’s just a tragedy, more sadness than even that day and all the other days that follow. Bastards, said Father in a whisper, bastards, and he put his arm around me and sat watching until Stevie came up from the water swimming against the current to stay in one place. He shouted up at HayKnife, Her leg’s trapped, and then, I’m gonna try and get the hoof out. Stevie took four big gulps of air and 76 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
HayKnife was pulling on the halter rope and the draft horse was screaming like I never heard a horse before or after. Father was quiet and I wanted to be back in the barn alone waiting for drips on my tongue. I was wearing Stevie’s jacket but I was shivering and wet and cold and scared because Stevie and the draft horse were going to die since everything in this country must.
ather likes his tea without bags like Mammy used to make and so there is a special way for me to make it – put cold cold water in the kettle and only cold then boil it then put a small boiling water in the teapot and swish it around until the bottom of the teapot is warm. Then put in tea leaves not bags and then the boiling water and stir it all very slowly and put on the teacosy and let it stew on the stove for five minutes making sure the flame is not too high so the teacozy doesn’t catch flame and burn. Then pour milk into the cups and then the tea followed at last by the sugar all spooned around into a careful mix. My tea fuss made the soldiers smile even Stevie who had a head full of blood pouring down from where the draft horse kicked him above his eye. Father’s face went white when Stevie smiled but Stevie was very polite. He took a towel from me because he said he didn’t want to get blood on the chair. He smiled at me two times when I put my head around the kitchen door and he held up one finger meaning One sugar please and a big O from fingers for No milk please. Some blood was drying in his hair and his eyes were bright like the sky should be, and I could feel my belly sink way down until it was there like love in the barn, and he smiled at me number three. Everyone felt good for saving a life even a horse life, maybe even Father, but Father was silent in the corner. He was angry at me for asking the soldiers to tea and his chin was long to his chest and there was a puddle at his feet. Everybody was towel dying except Father because there was not enough towels. LongGrasses sat in the armchair and said, Good thing ya had heat lamps guvnor. Father just nodded. How was it under the water Stevie? said LongGrasses. Wet, said Stevie and everybody laughed but not Father. He stared at Stevie and then looked away. The living room is always dark with Father grim, but it was brighter now. I liked the green of the uniforms and even the red of Stevie’s blood. But Stevie’s head from the horse kick must have been very sore. The other soldiers were talking about how maybe the army truck should take Stevie straight off to hospital and not get dry, just get stitches, and not get tea, just come back later to see about the draft horse if she survives under the heat lamps. But Stevie said, I’m okay guys, it’s just a scrape, I’d kill for a cuppa.
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The tea was good-tasting from long brewing and we had biscuits for special visitors, I fetched them from the pantry. I tasted one to make sure they were fresh-tasting and I carried out a tray. I was sneezing but I was very careful to sneeze away from the tray as to have politeness like Stevie. Stevie said, God bless you in his funny funny way and we were all quiet as we sipped on the tea but I sneezed again three four five times and HayKnife said, you should change out of them wet clothes luv. Father put down his teacup very heavy on the saucer and it was very quiet. Everyone even the soldiers looked at the floor and the mantelpiece clock was ticking and Mammy’s picture was staring down from the wall and Fiachra when he was playing football and the soldiers didn’t see them but Father did. The long silence was longer and longer until Father called me over, Come here Katie, and he stood me by the window and he took the long curtain in his hands. He turned me around and wrapped the curtain around me and he took my hair and started rubbing not tender but hard. Father is good, he was just wanting to dry my hair because I was shivering even in Stevie’s jacket. From under the curtain I could see the soldiers and I could see most of all Stevie. He sipped from his tea and smiled at me and Father coughed real loud and the clock ticked some more until HayKnife said, Here, guv, why don’t you use my towel for her? Father said, No thanks. HayKnife said, Go on guv, and he put the towel in a ball and made about to throw it. Father said, No! Stevie said, Take it easy. Take it easy? said HayKnife. Maybe you should all leave, said Father. HayKnife changed his face and threw the towel on the ground at Father’s feet and HayKnife’s cheeks were out-puffing and he was breathing hard and he was saying, Fat lot of fucken thanks we get from your sort mister. HayKnife was up on his feet now and pointing at Father and the light shone off his boots well polished and his face was twitching so the scar looked like it was cutting his face. LongGrasses and Stevie stood up from the chairs and were holding HayKnife back, but HayKnife was saying, Risk our fucken lives and save your fucken horse and that’s all the thanks we get, eh? Father held me very tight with the curtain wrapped around me and he seemed scared and small and trembly. HayKnife was shouting lots and his face was red and scrunched. Stevie kept him back. Stevie’s face was long and sad and I knew he knew because he kept looking at Mammy and Fiachra on the mantelpiece beside the ticking clock. Stevie dragged HayKnife out from the living room and at the kitchen door he let go. HayKnife turned over Stevie’s shoulder one last time and looked at Father with his face all twisted but Stevie grabbed him
again and said, Forget it mate. Stevie took HayKnife out through the kitchen and into the yard towards the army truck and still the rain was coming down outside and then the living room was quiet except for the clock. I heard the engine of the army truck start. Father stood away from me and put his head on the mantelpiece near the photos. I stayed at the window still in Stevie’s jacket which Stevie forgot and hasn’t come back for yet. I watched the truck as it went down the laneway and the red lights on the green gate as it stopped and then turned into the road past where the draft horse was lifted from the river. I didn’t hear anything then just Father starting low noises in his throat and I didn’t turn from the window because I knew he would be angry for me to see him. Father was sniff sniffling. Maybe he forgot I was there. It was going right down into him and it came in big gulps like I never heard before. I stayed still but Father was trembling big and fast. He took out a handkerchief and moved away from the mantelpiece. I didn’t watch him because I knew he would be shamed for his crying. The army truck was near out of sight, red lights on the hedgerows. I heard the living room door shut then the kitchen door the pantry door where Father kept his hunting rifle the front door and I heard the sounds of the clicker on the rifle and him still crying going farther and farther away until the crying was gone and he must have been in the courtyard standing in the rain. The clock on the mantelpiece sounded very loud so did the rain so did my breathing and I looked out the window. It was all near empty on the outside road and the soldiers were going around the corner when I heard the sounds, it wasn’t like bullets, it was more like pops one two three and the echo of them came loud to me. The clock still ticked. It ticked and ticked and ticked. The curtain was wet around me but I pulled it tight. I was scared, I couldn’t move. I waited it seemed like forever. When Father came in from outside I knew what it was. His face was like it was cut from a stone and he was not crying anymore and he didn’t even look at me just went to sit in a chair. He picked up his teacup and it rattled in his fingers so he put it down again and put his face in his hands and stayed like that. The ticking was gone from my mind and all was quiet everywhere in the world and I held the curtain like I held the sound of the bullets going into the draft horse’s head, his favorite, in the barn, one two three, and I stood at the window in Stevie’s jacket and looked and waited and still the rain kept coming down outside one two three one two three one two three and I was thinking oh what a small sky for so much rain.
Printed in Irish America April/May issue 1999. And later published as Everything in This Country Must: A Novella and Two Stories, and an Oscar nominated film directed by Gary McKendry, screenplay by Colum McCann (2005). Colum McCann is the author of six novels and three collections of stories. His novel, TransAtlantic, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2013, and his previous novel, Let the Great World Spin, won the National Book Award, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and was a New York Times bestseller. His novel Apeirogon, has recently been released.
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Ordinary Woman Extraordinary Life
WHO LIVED AN
A profile of Bridget H. Murray, my mother. By Eileen Murray
ABOVE: James and Bridie on their wedding day, September 24, 1943.
ridget Harriet Collier filled the world with many things since she came into it on Tuesday, September 9, 1924: humor, kindness, love. Perhaps the only thing she was short on was complaints about the hardships she faced while raising her family. It’s why her birthday remains a day of celebration and remembrance among the Murray clan she built, 95 years later and counting. Bridget (called Bridie) was raised in Corofin, County Galway, Ireland, by her grandparents, her aunt Nora, and her uncle Paddy. She was the daughter of Henry Raymond Collier and his wife, Delia (née Murphy). The cottage where she was raised had a thatched roof, and the cooking was done over an open hearth. The outside was neatly whitewashed, and beside it grew the obligatory rosebush. About a mile and a bit up the road was the Ballinasloe Railway Station that was made famous in the movie The Quiet Man. Bridie worked on the farm, as everyone in her family did. She would milk the cows, feed the chickens, turn the spuds, and perform whatever tasks she was assigned. Friday nights, in the warm weather, there would be a big fire with singing and dancing down at the crossroads. On Sunday, there was Mass at Saint Colman’s Church, and the world stood still until the Masses were done. She also attended the Catholic school at Saint Colman’s, where the expression “spare the rod and spoil the child” was taken to heart. Bridie – my mother – would later recall how the schoolmaster repeatedly struck her hand with a rod for some minor transgression. When she went home, she tried to hide her blood-striped hand from her grandfather. When he saw her hand, he took young Bridie to see the schoolmaster and told him, “If you ever touch my granddaughter again, I’ll kill you.” The schoolmaster never reprimanded her again. Bridie never forgot her grandfather’s lesson, and years later, when she had me and my siblings, she would tell the nuns at Saint Jude’s elementary school in Manhattan that if there was ever a problem with her kids, “Best to let me know, and I will discipline them.” My mother was a gentle and easygoing woman, but God help anyone laying a hand on any of her nine children – except, of course, her. She took the responsibility of discipline very seriously and could throw a shoe better than any New York Yankee pitcher, bypassing eight of her children and hitting exactly the one she
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thought was the deserving target of a good wallop. Consequently, she prepared us for life lessons by repeatedly offering to give us something to cry about if we cried about the well-deserved wallop. I don’t ever remember anyone taking her up on her offer. If anyone said anything about her family, she would become a lioness protecting her cubs. I once told my mother how my boss berated me. My mother told me, “Get him on the phone. I’m going to give him a piece of my mind. How dare he speak to you that way!” (She actually said it a little more colorfully, which was atypical for her.) As a girl, Bridie took many trips on her beloved old bicycle – often for no other reason than to explore. She would ride the 3 miles from her home into Tuam, or even 15 miles to Galway City. When I visited Ireland with her many years later, I didn’t believe she actually rode to Galway City and back, but her aunt Nora and friend Julia confirmed this. It was in Corofin, on those Friday nights, that a young Bridie got her passion for Irish music and dance. Later, I could always count on my mother at any party to instruct me in having them turn off whatever music they were playing and put on some “real music,” which I always knew to mean Irish music. My sister Donna would always be my mom’s dance partner, while my mom instructed me to look after my father because she insisted he had two left feet. To hear Bridie tell it, her childhood was idyllic – as beautiful as any picture of Ireland in stories or films. No one had much of anything, but for her, it nevertheless remained a wonderful time full of fond memories. Years later, around Christmastime, she would smile as she shared the story of how her grandfather would get her a banana or orange for Christmas Day, and that would be the greatest gift ever. Nevertheless, Bridie left her beloved Ireland in 1938, when she boarded the RMS Samaria and made her way to New York, where her mother, Delia Grey, was waiting. It was a difficult journey across the Atlantic for those who weren’t traveling first-class – even more so for her, as she was unaccompanied. She would later recall being grateful that an older African American woman had befriended her and would sit with her for meals. Although this attracted many a stare from fellow passengers, my mother paid them no mind and always spoke of how kind this elderly woman was to her. Bridie Collier, a 13-year-old girl who before then had never gone farther than Galway City on her beat-up bicycle, traveling alone to Amer-
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ica – it is amazing to think about. (We tried to find the woman in later years, but without knowing her full name, it was nearly impossible. God bless her for befriending and comforting my mom on her long and lonely journey far from home.) When the Samaria reached New York, Delia Grey met her homesick teenage daughter at the dock. Together they traveled up to Washington Heights, where they lived for a while before moving to Inwood in northern Manhattan, both of which were very heavily Irish-populated neighborhoods at the time. Bridie worked in a bakery and subsequently at Schrafft’s [a chain of restaurants]. She had tried to get a job at the phone company, but was unsuccessful due to her Irish brogue. She met my father, James P. Murray, at the age of 17 when her cousin
for the rest of her life. He wrote that he couldn’t wait to rejoin her and his soon-to-be first child – my sister Bridget. My parents were married in a small wedding at Good Shepherd Church in Inwood on September 24, 1943. Although they didn’t have much money, they looked absolutely jubilant in their wedding picture – with my dad looking handsome in his Army uniform, and my ever-beautiful mom in a classy dress. They honeymooned at the Hotel St. George in Brooklyn. It was only a day after their honeymoon that he was assigned to the 352 Infantry Battalion, 4th Armored Division, and shipped off to war in Europe. Bridie sent pictures and wrote long letters to James while he was fighting overseas. When he re-
John brought James with him to visit Delia Grey. My father always said he was smitten with Bridie at first sight – her sky-blue eyes, flawless porcelain skin, beautifully thick auburn hair, shy but joyous smile, and infectious laugh, not to mention her gorgeous legs from all the bicycling and dancing she so loved. People who knew my mother in her younger days said she was an Irish beauty who would turn heads faster than a New York minute. Only months after meeting Bridie, James proposed marriage to her, and she accepted. They were married just before he shipped out to Hawaii with the 27th New York Infantry Division. James was subsequently separated from the 27th and placed with the 25th (Tropic Lightning) Division and sent to Guadalcanal. He wrote many love letters to Bridie while he was away. Bridie kept a postcard he sent for Christmas in 1944 in a frame on her dresser
turned, Bridie was waiting with my sister Bridget, her firstborn. It was a joyous reunion. This homecoming was followed by several moves and a growing family. After my sister Bridget came eight more children: James (1946) and Kevin (1948) in New York; Thomas (1949) in Indiana; Maureen (1954) in California; and back in New York again, me (1958), Paul (1959), Donna (1962), and Patrick (1963). My mother raised our family in base housing, as my father was a career soldier. (He spent 30 years in the service and fought in WWII, Korea and Vietnam, and for a time was stationed in Germany post war.) It was no small feat for a young mother to raise a large family (with five children all under the age of nine), let alone to manage the complex logistics of moving to different states several times, all without the support of an extended family to help out with childcare. After Maureen was born in Monterey, California,
BELOW FROM LEFT: Galway,1935: Bridie, 11, with her much-loved, and much-traveled, bicycle. New York 1942: Bridie, at 18. September 9, 2016: Still beautiful, a radiant Bridie on her 92nd birthday.
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My dad, James Murray, was an Irish-American who was born on July 29,1919 on Pulaski Street in Brooklyn. His family, on both sides, came over during the Famine. He served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He earned 2 Silver Stars, a Bronze Star, 3 Purple Hearts and an assortment of other medals including, CIB (Combat Infantry Badge),and Battle Field Commission. He believed in “my country right or wrong. If right to be kept right. If wrong to be made right.” I believe that line came from John F. Kennedy. My Dad lived it.– EM.
ABOVE RIGHT: Bridie in 1993, pictured with her 9 children. FAR RIGHT: Bridie on her 92nd birthday, pictured with her 13 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.
in 1954, my parents decided to move. My mom packed up all five children and came back across the country by train to New York City. They settled in the Dyckman Street Housing Projects at 177 Nagle Avenue in a 1,200-square-foot apartment, three bedrooms and one bath, where they would live for the next 25 years. It was always clear my dad was madly in love with my mom even after nine children and three decades of marriage. I remember my mother was in the hospital once or twice and my father would tell us, “If anything happens to your mother, you’re all going in a home.” My dad was of course kidding. He was a tough man with a hardened exterior from the wars in which he so valiantly served, but a loving and sensitive man inside, so much so that he had great trouble giving away a dog, which we won but were ultimately forced to give up because dogs weren’t allowed in the apartments where we lived. It was always clear my parents loved us unconditionally and that my mother was numero uno in his book. The neighborhood was a virtual melting pot of different nationalities, religions, and races. Neighbors looked out for one another. One of the greatest gifts my parents gave us, in addition to the love of family, was the ability to see beyond color, nationality, and religion and to treat others with respect and kindness. The woman who lived next door to us was a wonderful woman named Josie, who was born in Italy and was like a grandmother to all of us. The Hernandezes who lived to our right were from Cuba. The Laskys down the hall were from Germany, and Mr. Lasky had survived a concentration camp. Nick Manyatis and his mother from Greece lived on the 11th floor. Nick was wheelchair-bound from polio. He made his living making women’s garters at home, which we would all help him with when we played poker with him on Friday nights. Everyone was always welcome in my mom’s house. One time at the bar when my brother Paul was bartending, he met a young man named Joe G. who was visiting from Ireland and had nowhere to stay. My mother let him stay in our home for months – as well as, when they joined him later, his girlfriend and her sister. When I asked her why she offered her home to these strangers for so long, she said she would want someone to do that for her children if they were visiting Ireland. Few had a bigger, more loving heart than my mom. My mom worked full-time for AT&T as a telephone operator for 30 years. (I guess she lost her brogue.) She would take the IRT train from Dyckman Street to 50th Street every afternoon, returning at 2:00 a.m. and taking care of her children during the day. When I look back, I don’t know how she kept this schedule, and I never heard her complain. My mom would always say somebody had it worse. My mom was a modern woman, as she shared all the household chores with my dad after he retired from the Armed Forces. My dad made a few good dishes, although I secretly wished he didn’t help with the cooking. My mother was a great cook, so much so that I didn’t get the joke about bad Irish cooking in my younger years. She always made her own
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sauces from scratch, and her pot roast was fabulous. She could magically make very little food into a veritable feast for us. I now have an idea as to how the loaves and fishes miracle occurred. Mom had all the kids do chores around the house, such as food shopping, laundry, mopping, and everyone’s favorite… washing dishes. There was no difference… boy or girl, we all needed to chip in and do our part. I could never get into trouble on the weekends, as I spent most of it doing chores. As mentioned previously, the 11 of us lived in a small three-bedroom apartment – one for my parents, another for my brothers, and the other for me and my sisters. There was only one bathroom, and the competition for it was fierce. It was here I learned the truth of the saying “the early bird gets the worm”– or a bathroom spot without an older, bigger sibling pushing you to the back of the line.
Mom was the ringmaster who orchestrated it all. My brothers wore the same white suit for First Communion, and the girls each got their own white dress. Every Easter, Mom always made sure, along with my father, that we all got a new suit and shoes. Mom would buy us new shoes for school, and the next day I remember her putting cardboard in her own shoes to protect her feet from the rain. We always came first. Bridie would do without if it meant her children would not want. I can only look back in admiration for a woman who never shrank in the face of adversity. My mother was forever ironing shirts and blouses for all of us in school. She made sure we attended Catholic school all the way through high school. As was the custom in many Irish American households, we had a picture of the Sacred Heart, a holy water font on the wall near the door, and the infant of Prague in full regalia on my mother’s dresser. My mom gave the gift of the Sacred Heart and infant of Prague to each of her children when they set up house – although I don’t recall them in my siblings’ and their spouses’ bedrooms. One of my siblings’ wives commented she wasn’t comfortable having
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Jesus staring at her in the bedroom. I won’t share what my mother said. Clearly, children don’t come with instruction manuals, but I certainly give my mom an A+ for raising us. When my sister Donna had her daughter, Katie, and was showing my mom how to hold her, my mom replied that she had raised nine children and she knew how to hold a baby. We always knew mom’s love was an even number even though it was divided by nine. She watched her grandchildren very often when her children worked. Bridie never complained, and always helped her children any way she could. My mom approached life’s challenges with determination, grit, faith, a great sense of humor, and always with a smile on her face. She did this even while her husband was serving our country through three different wars, as well as when her sons were in Vietnam. Her faith, love of life, and optimism were a constant, regardless of life’s challenges. My mother also ensured we knew we were Irish Catholic Americans. She was adamant about those descriptors. You could leave out American, but never Irish. I was actually surprised to learn I was an American in school, and there was always the reminder that there was no better music than Irish music. Ruthie Morrissey, Ruby Murray (no relation), Bridie Gallagher, Connie Foley, Mickey Carton, the McNultys, and especially Joe Derrane were on the playlist. The list was played each and every day. My mom could play her music as loud as she wanted but
would not permit any other music to be played too loudly. I know the words to those songs better than songs of my own age group. I was speaking to a friend from Ireland and she said, “How do you know that old diddly music? No one listens to that anymore.” I mentioned this to my mom, and she explained I must have misunderstood – or maybe my friend wasn’t actually Irish. Well, my mother loved her jigs and reels, and she was proud of it all. Regardless of where we were, or how tired she was, she would always dance when Irish music came on. Mom would get up and dance even in her 90s. Weeks before she passed, Mom would be dozing in her chair, but when we played “Galway Girl,” “The Stack of Barley,” or any other Irish song, she would light up and start tapping her feet and clapping her hands. My father passed at the age of 59 of congestive heart failure. My brothers would chagrin when I would say to my mom, “You’re young and you should meet someone else.” She would say, “No one could hold a candle to your father!” That said, she said the first thing she was going to do when she passed was give my dad a good wallop for leaving her and then hug him for a very, very long time. My mom at 53 had four children still at home on an AT&T operator’s income. It wasn’t easy. My mom wouldn’t apply for food stamps although she was eligible. I worked several jobs when I lived at home, and it was tight. My mom despite having little was gener-
ous with what little she had. I remember doing my mother’s taxes, and she had a charitable contribution for $500– which was then two months’ salary for me. I told my mom you can’t make up deductions, to which she replied, “Are you mad? Of course I didn’t make it up.” I was dumbfounded and asked whom she gave it to and for what. She said that she had given it to a man she read about in the paper who was down on his luck. I thought I had the upper hand now and said the guy was probably a fake. She said it would be up to God – not me – to judge him if he was a fake and told me not to make her ashamed by being so judgmental. So much for the upper hand. My mother had bone on bone in her knees, which was very painful, but whenever asked how she was, she would reply with a big smile, “Full of fun and mad for more!” This woman just never complained. We were in the ER and she was having a heart attack in the midst of a 104°F fever—the doctor asked how she was, and she said she was fine and wanted to know when she could go home. It’s amazing how the life of one person ripples out into the lives of others. My mother had a family of 9 children, 13 grandchildren, and 18 great-grandchildren, and the lessons she taught us were simple but quite profound. Among the many valuable lessons we learned from her was to never look down on anyone but to offer them a hand up. Mom told us she could not abide a liar or a thief and that we should never be either. Work hard in school, and in life, for that is the road to success, she said. She also told us to stick together as family no matter what happens. We could kill each in the house, but walk out the door and we had better stick by each other. My mom had a great sense of humor. I recall my niece who had two boys and was pregnant for the third time. She said, “Grandma, I think I am having a girl this time.” My mom asked, “Why do you think you’re having a girl?” My niece answered, “Because I’m carrying in the front.” My mother told her to look at her backside in the mirror. My niece had another boy. My younger sister used to love to sing. My mom told her, “I wish you were on the radio.” My sister asked why. My mom said, “So I could turn you off.” Well, she was honest. My mom never criticized anyone. If anyone said anything bad about her, she would say, “Well, at least they’re leaving someone else alone.” One could write a book about my mom. There are so many stories to tell. Suffice it to say that a lovely Galway girl with a mischievous streak, a love of music and dance, and a heart of gold will always have my heart and that of my family. There is an old Irish song: “The hands that rocked my cradle through all my baby days are treasures from the sky that money cannot buy. God gave us mothers and tried to be fair. When he gave me mine, I got more than my share. I wouldn’t trade the silver in my mother’s hair for all the gold in the world.” That song says it all. Bridie H. Murray was an ordinary woman who approached life with extraordinary kindness, generosity, love, and humor. She passed August 27, 2020. She lives on in her masterpiece: her family. Tuesday, September 9, 1924, will always be a momentous day for our band of Murrays. Until we meet again – thanks for everything, IA Mom. Special thanks to Donna and Joe Nugent, and Paul Murray. for their extensive help on this celebration of Bridie’s life. JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021 IRISH AMERICA 81
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crossword | ACROSS 1 Glaciated mountain range that straddles parts of Counties Tipperary and Waterford (8) 4 Kamala Harris will be the first _____ Vice President of the US (5) 8 Oldest Irish saloon in NYC (2, 7) 11 Joseph ____ Biden (9) 12 See 3 down (5) 13 See 28 down (8) 15 Male neckwear (4) 18 Molly Bloom has the last word in Ulysses (3) 20 See 42 across (8) 21 Beloved Dingle dolphin who’s been missing since October (6) 22 Expression of pain (2) 25 North Mayo town (7) 26 Slender, lightly built seabird (4) 29 See 16 down (6) 30 _____ Girls: Hit TV show created by Lisa McGee (5) 31 (& 36 across) This American ALS activist, who codeveloped the Ice Bucket Challenge, died in November (3) 34 See 23 down (6) 36 See 31 across (5) 37 See 38 across (6) 38 (& 37 across) Iconic Sligo mountain (3)
by Darina Molloy
40 Popular crustacean food (6) 41 (& 10 down) _____ Mountain ______: New movie by John Patrick Shanley (4) 42 (& 20 across) Belfast lawyer killed by loyalist paramilitaries in 1989 (3)
DOWN 1 (& 5 down) Irish playwright whose Bob Dylan-inspired musical had its run cut short on Broadway due to COVID-19 (5) 2 Ireland’s longest bridge, which opened to traffic this year, was named after the matriarch of the Fitzgerald Kennedy clan (4) 3 (& 12 across) Ron Howard movie based on the gritty memoir by J.D. Vance (9) 4 Mayo river a firm favourite with fishing enthusiasts (3) 5 See 1 down (2, 7) 6 This Irish river runs through Counties Kildare, Meath and Louth (5) 7 This Anne, a Tipperary-born diplomat, was Ireland’s Ambassador to the US from 2013 to 2017 (8)
9 Item of bedding (5) 10 See 41 across (5) 14 New Saoirse Ronan movie (8) 16 (& 29 across) Ireland’s current Taoiseach or prime minister (7) 17 University in Belfast (6) 19 Untidy or messy person (4) 21 See 35 down (6) 23 (& 33 down, & 34 across) Actor Gabriel Byrne’s memoir (7) 24 A dance group from this Bronxbased Irish centre featured on the iconic “Late Late Toy Show” (7)
Win a subscription to Irish America magazine Please send your completed crossword puzzle to Irish America, 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 1606, New York, NY 10001. 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. The winner’s name will be published along with the solution in our next issue. Xerox copies accepted. Winner of the March /April 2020 crossword: Nora Egan, San Francisco. 82 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
27 This National Park is located in Co. Clare (6) 28 (& 13 across) Retired CSA astronaut still very popular in Ireland (5) 30 A pair of people or things (3) 32 Brendan Gleeson played this US
President in a recent TV series (5) 33 See 23 down (4) 35 (& 21 down) Writer of the books that inspired the Dublin Murders TV series (4) 39 Well-known Irish music festival, in short (1, 1)
December/January 2020 Solution
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Irish America Presents During the months of lockdown Irish America ventured into video-presenting Emma Donoghue and Timothy Egan were interviewed by Tom Deignan. We also partnered with Northwell to support its presentation of Michael Dowling discussing his new memoir, After The Roof Caved In, with Timothy Egan asking the questions. We bring you highlights from those conversations in the following pages. Visit us at www.irishamerica.com to watch the entire broadcasts.
EMMA DONOGHUE LOOKS TO THE “STARS” By Tom Deignan
est-selling Dublin-born author Emma Donoghue started working on her latest novel The Pull of the Stars in the fall of 2018. The initial inspiration was the 100th anniversary of the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, which ravaged the world, forcing millions into quarantine, and upending life in the United States, Ireland and all over the world. Sound familiar? Donoghue was finishing this book (just released by Picador in paperback) in the late winter of 2020 – just as the world began to hear about a certain new virus that would go on to upend the lives of millions. “I was so immersed in the book that I didn’t really notice COVID starting,” Donoghue told Irish America, while sitting on the porch of her home in London, Ontario, during a recent Zoom chat. So, what had initially been planned as a portrait of a Dublin maternity ward nurse, amidst the last days of World War I and the aftermath of the Easter Rising, also became a very 2020 kind of story. The Pull of the Stars (the title comes from the Italian root of the word influenza – the disease was traditionally attributed to the “influence” of the stars) unfolds over the course of All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day in 1918. Various priests, nuns and orderlies are on hand, commenting about the expectant mothers – many from the slums, “banjaxed by their lives,” as Donoghue puts it – as well as the pandemic, the war, and the recent uprising by Irish rebels aiming to end British rule in Ireland. Donoghue’s narrator, a nurse named Julia Power, tends to her patients, as well as a 84 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
PHOTO (C) NINA SUBIN
brother at home, until a mysterious figure drifts into her life. In the end, she has to make a difficult choice, given her time, place and circumstances. One of the most fascinating supporting characters is Kathleen Lynn, a forgotten, groundbreaking female medical professional, who was also chief medical officer for Sinn Féin. “Any good historical novel is always going to have echoes of what is going on in the writer’s own world,” said Donaghue, best-known for her celebrated novel Room, which became an acclaimed Hollywood film starring Brie Larson, for which Donoghue earned an Oscar nomination in the Best Adapted screenplay category. Room – about a mother and son attempting to escape the clutches of a man who is holding them hostage – also won a slew of
Canadian and Irish film awards, including best movie in both countries. If Room and Pull of the Stars seem wildly different, Donoghue says there is a theme that runs through much of her work, which now includes nearly a dozen novels, as well as books of short stories and non-fiction. “I’m very interested in people who find themselves in new worlds,” says Donoghue, whose own life has included quite a few moves, and efforts to adapt to new environments. She was born in Dublin, one of eight children raised by her mother, Frances, and father Denis, the celebrated literary critic. Donaghue left Dublin at 20 to pursue a Ph.D. at Cambridge, and later settled in Canada, where she is raising her children, Finn and Una, with her partner, Chris. “I’ve emigrated twice, which is extremely Irish of me, I suppose,” says Donoghue. “I’ve been out of Ireland longer than I was in it. But those first 20 years shaped me, and I’ll be Irish for the rest of my life. … The flavor is cooked deep into the bone.” That certainly fits the next film project Donoghue is working on, an adaptation of her 2016 novel, The Wonder, about an Irish girl tended to by an English nurse, who may (or may not) have decided to stop eating, in the years after the Irish Famine. As for Donoghue’s life during the COVID pandemic, it did shut down a stage production of Room that was slated for a March opening. She does miss travelling, and was unable to take an annual family trip to Ireland. Overall, though, Donoghue says she has been fortunate enough. “A writer’s life is fairly locked down anyway,” she said. “We stay home and read and write and talk to imaginary people in our heads.” See the entire interview at https://irishamerica.com/2020/07/ the-pull-of-the-stars/
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A LONG WAY FROM LIMERICK From an impoverished youth in Limerick to the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. Timothy Egan interviews Michael Dowling
uring a December 2020 live virtual conversation sponsored by Northwell Health, Irish America magazine, and Irishcentral.com, New York Times columnist Timothy Egan covered a lot of history with Limerick born and current Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling. Dowling’s tough early years coming of age in Knockaderry, the oldest of five children, raised by two disabled parents, and his journey from a home with a thatched roof and mud floor, to a position in the New York State Governor’s office, to leading the largest medical system in New York State, are covered in his memoir After the Roof Caved In: An Immigrant’s Journey from Ireland to America. Timothy Egan began the interview by candidly stating that he did not know Michael Dowling but from reading his written work felt he knew him well, and would welcome him as a friend. “This extraordinary book...is the most improbable life story I’ve read in some time,” raved Egan, himself the author of many best-selling books, about the Dust Bowl and Irish rebel Thomas Meagher, among others. In fact, Egan connected his Dust Bowl research to Dowling’s impoverished youth in Ireland. “You lived under a thatched roof, with a mud floor. It seems like something from centuries ago. But surely, it’s still a big part of who you are, is it not?” Egan asked. “I'll never forget those times,” Dowling responded. “I recall it just like it was yesterday. I actually built a model of that house, because I wanted to remember, and recall what it was like. I built all the furniture, just the way the bedrooms were, and the living room. It’s something that I recall constantly, to recall how fortunate I’ve been.” Egan then wondered if Dowling understood, at the time, that he was living a life of “utter privation.” Dowling said: “I knew we were worse off than most who lived around us. I knew all the families that were in other homes similar to mine. But I didn't think that I lived in utter deprivation at that time. Your perspective is different. I didn’t know anyone in really
beautiful homes. But I (also) knew there were others worse off than we were.” At one point, Egan pointed out that while America often views itself as a “classless society,” Dowling’s book is explicit about “an underlying class tension in Ireland,” which Dowling said bothered him when he was younger. “People (felt) they were more sophisticated than you just because they had material goods,” Dowling added. “That they’re entitled. And I would get angry about this. I decided that I was going to break out of that circumstance. I am not going to be in this circumstance forever. I am going to do something, go someplace, try something different. I am not going to play victim. I am not going to be a victim.” Dowling continued: “I did not have any idea how. There’s a part of the book when a person says to me, “Isn't it too bad you can’t go to college. Which, by the way, it was probably one of the most motivating statements anybody ever said to me. I remember walking back to the fields after that statement was made and every step I said to myself: I'm going to college, I'm going to college, I’m going to college. I'm going to prove I'm good enough to go to college. I am not going to take that put down as a put down. I'm going to take it as a motivator.” Which is all well and good. But as Egan acknowledged, things could have gone very differently for Michael Dowling.
“You could have turned into a bitter man,” Egan said. “Your father didn’t get the farm. Your mother was deaf. Why didn't you become a bitter man?” Dowling quickly responded that such emotions are “a distraction from what it is you want to do. Why spend your energy on stuff that doesn't really make an awful lot of difference? I had a lot of empathy for my mother. She was deaf, but she taught us a wonderful lesson. She never, ever, would recognize that she had any form of disability. She never let her deafness ever impede on anything she ever wanted to do. She didn't have a hearing aid that worked. But she never saw it as a handicap in any way.” Dowling added: “My father’s circumstance, obviously it was difficult for him. He could be kind and angry and violent all at the same time. You never knew what you were going to come home to. But I looked upon it as – I was the oldest. I had a responsibility. To the family. And I had a responsibility to do something special and make a difference and do something with my life. I wasn't going to be confined to that. That was the one thing I knew from the very beginning.” Egan then pointed out that given the general lack of opportunity around Dowling in Ireland, others actually could have accused him of having a superior attitude, with his big goals and unlikely dreams. “That also happened when I came to the United States,” Dowling recalled. “When I came here and I was working down at the docks, and when I was working in construction. I ended up going to Fordham University, and I ended up becoming a professor at Fordham. When they found out that I was actually teaching at Fordham, their attitude toward me changed. I was no longer one of the guys. Even though I was. I was just doing something else. I hadn’t ever told them that I was teaching at Fordham because I enjoyed the camaraderie. But their attitude had changed.” As a writer who closely follows political developments, Egan couldn’t let Dowling go without asking about his work in government with New York Governor Mario Cuomo. “Government is criticized often, these days,” Egan noted. “Do you think government gets a bad rap?” Dowling agreed, noting that government made necessities ranging from highways and libraries to schools possible. “Government was in many ways, the innovator for an awful lot like that. And public health issues. I could go on and on,” Dowling said. JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021 IRISH AMERICA 85
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Irish America Presents “I was also amazed at the number of bright, committed, dedicated, compassionate people that worked in government, that gave their careers to the government. They believe in public service, in doing good for other people. They understand that sense of community.” No organization is perfect. . . Government makes mistakes, it over-regulates, you get too micro at times. Like every organization. We have to find that balance.” Some of the most poignant moments in Dowling’s book are the sections in which he writes about personal depression. Egan noted, “We’re in one of the darkest periods in American life right now. Can you give us any guidelines, or insights, about getting through that?” Dowling recalled: “I went through a bad period around 1975. Physically, I was in a lot of pain from a bad back. I had left home when I was 16 and had been by myself since then. I had longings for home. It was a period when I wasn’t sure what the future was going to hold.” And though Dowling says he didn’t get any professional help with his depression, he “worked his way through it,” he is a big supporter of people who do get help, especially as we continue to struggle with all that the Coronavirus pandemic has wrought. “Today, I would say that if you’re in that situation, you should get some professional help. (And) you have to look over the horizon a little bit, and be a little bit optimistic about the future and be positive about what can happen post-COVID. Out of a bad situation, there is light at the end of the tunnel. So you’ve got to be looking at that.” Dowling, of course, understands that this may not be easy, especially for the Irish. Flashing his trademark wit, he added: “You know, Irish people .... They don't even like to ask for directions.”
TIMOTHY EGAN: AN IRISH PILGRIM By Tom Deignan
See the entire interview at https://irishamerica.com/2020/ 12/after-the-roof-caved-in-animmigrants-journey-from-irelandto-america/ 86 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
t’s a good thing that the big questions about the big things – God, mortality, our legacies – hit Timothy Egan a few years back. Because if they had struck him in 2020, he would have had to ponder them from his home office in Seattle, rather than embark upon the amazing journey that is at the center of his latest book. “I’d stopped thinking about these big questions,” Egan told Irish America recently via Zoom. “I had gotten to a point in my life where my spiritual thinking had become sort of lazy. ... So I thought, what can I do to get these engines started, to provoke an internal discussion, to test my faith, to get rid of my agnosticism and see where I could go.” For the Irish-American New York Times columnist and author, the result was A Pilgrimage to Eternity: From Canterbury to Rome in Search of Faith, recently released in paperback. “I found this fabulous pilgrimage ... the Via Francigena,” Egan continued, “which goes from Canterbury in England all the way to Rome and was once used by a million people a year. It’s 1100 miles. It’s now a European cultural route. And so I went the entire distance of the Via Francigena as a way to push my buttons and to test my own faith.” A Pilgrimage to Eternity also explores Egan’s own Irish Catholic upbringing, and the state of this ancient faith in the 21st Century, all as Egan hikes his way across Europe. Along the way, Egan is communicating with the Vatican, and, in the end, just might conclude this pilgrimage by sitting down with the pope himself. Pope Francis was an inspiration for Egan’s spiritual journey. “(He is) the only pope to take the name of Francis, the pauper who changed the world in the 12th century – and (Francis’) leading by example on climate change, on charitable actions towards your fellow human beings, washing the feet of the lame and the poor, people who live in the shadows. I find him very inspiring.” The real start of Egan’s spiritual journey came when he was born into what he calls “a classic Irish American family.”
He adds: “First Communion was a very big deal. The priest lived across the street. The families that I hung out with had like lots of kids. The Flynns had 12 kids. Another family had 14 kids. Our seven kids, making a family of nine, was relatively normal. This is in the 60s and 70s...so I had a relatively happy Irish American childhood.” At an early age, Egan grasped the complex role religion played in Irish life and history. “The Irish had clung to Catholicism as a way to defy the British when they tried to strip them of their ethnicity and their faith. That was an important thing that was drilled into me, that in America they couldn’t take away this faith of yours. So the cultural part of it was a big deal.” Egan’s own background also led him to his previous book, about 19th century revolutionary and Civil War general Thomas Francis Meagher, The Immortal Irishman. “You see in his short life – he only lived to be 43 – almost the entire arc of 19th century Irish Americanism. “All the stuff that you see coursing through our low points of history, thrown at the Irish and thrown at people like Meagher. ... He was a world renowned figure. He was the best known Irish American until John F. Kennedy came along. But he still took up the cause of the poor. He still took up the cause of new immigrants, and he took up the cause of anti-slavery, saying that the way for the Irish to become a part of this country was to prove it by blood itself. And they fought, I mean, some of the greatest battles of the civil war. Some of the greatest warriors were new immigrants. And it was tough for Meagher to lose so many of those people. So he’s a wonderful figure.” And even though the Via Francigena does not cross Ireland, the impact of Irish Catholics over the centuries was still clear. “For a tiny little nation, I found the influence of these Irish monks all over the Via Francigena. And that alone...as someone who values his heritage to that tiny island. My tracing my people to that island, that alone was worth it for me.” IA See the entire interview at https://youtu.be/99TYA9XpGsM
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35 Unforgettable Years to the whole Irish America Team!
Pictured in New Ross, Wexford on The Dunbrody famine ship on the occasion of Fionnula Flanagan’s induction into the Irish America Hall of Fame. Fionnula is pictured 3rd from right with Dr. Garrett O’Connor, her late husband, on the far right. Patricia Harty, co-founder of Irish America is 2nd from left. Also pictured are members of the cast who reenact the departure of Irish emigrants to America.
For flying the flag and celebrating the achievements of the Irish American community in business, in the arts, in medicine, in history, in scholarship, and most important of all, acknowledging those in the Irish American community who work selflessly with compassion and kindness for those less fortunate amongst us.
Patricia agu Niall,
“Ní fheicimuid bhúr leithéid ann arís!” Fionnula Flanagan
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review of books | recently published books Reviews by Darina Molloy
Big Girl Small Town
by Michelle Gallen,
riter Sinead Moriarty has probably gifted Big Girl Small Town with the best synopsis ever – “Milkman meets Derry Girls. A cracking read” – which is proudly emblazoned on the Irish version of the cover. Majella is one of those outliers – ignored by most people, and reasonably content to potter on with her life. She lives with her alcoholic mother, works in the local chipper, and obsesses over the lives of Bobby, Sue Ellen and Pam in her wall-to-wall Dallas reruns. She keeps herself to herself, has no friends and no boyfriend, and she thinks her life is the better for it. But when her grandmother dies and the will reveals a couple of surprises, Majella soon finds that she is the object of everyone’s curiosity. Initially, she hates the attention, but she soon realises that maybe she can change her life for the better. Reminiscent of Roddy Doyle’s dialogue-driven work, this is a really fantastic debut novel from an author we’ll definitely be watching out for. Paperback, 320 pages
The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly
hen defense attorney Mickey Haller is pulled over by the police on his way home after winning his latest case, he is sandbagged by the discovery of a dead body in the trunk of his car. Not just any body – the man is a former client of Haller’s and they parted ways after one too many unpaid bills. Haller knows the law and he knows he will be charged with murder. The quicker he can prove his innocence, the quicker he can get on with his life. But in order to do this, he’s going to have to spend time behind bars – his insistence on a speedy trial means he waives his right to an affordable bail. Having to prepare his defense behind bars is quite the challenge, but Haller is determined to find out who has framed him for the murder. He doesn’t just want a ‘not guilty’ verdict, he wants to prove his innocence. Teasing around the edges of the story, we hear about a brand new virus that started in Wuhan, which sounds all too familiar. This is Michael Connelly at his gilt-edged best – a must for fans of the Lincoln Lawyer series. Hardcover, 433 pages 88 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
by Tana French,
al Hooper, a retired Chicago cop, has thrown himself into the job of renovating his newly-purchased rural Irish home. The house needs a lot of work, and he’s happy to spend time at it. He’s the typical outsider in a small community but is grudgingly accepted for the most part. When a local lad goes missing, after one or two dodgy incidents, Cal is persuaded to come on board by another member of the family. Trey knows that older brother Brendan would never have left without saying goodbye. Their mother Sheila is doing her best to raise her five children alone, but they are flying under the radar for much of the time. The last thing Hooper wants is to get involved, but he can’t help himself. He’s also trying to mend fences with his daughter – no mean feat from 3,000 miles away. A most unusual Tana French novel – not remotely like her earlier Dublin Murders series. Hardcover, 464 pages
Snow by John Banville,
ohn Banville has apparently retired his crime fiction nom de plume (Benjamin Black) and plans to release any upcoming books in the series under his own name. Fans of Black/Banville’s Quirke series will be disappointed to discover that the Dublin-based pathologist does not appear in Snow, as he is away on honeymoon. But Detective Inspector St John Strafford is a worthy stand-in. There are plot aspects strongly redolent of the Fr. Niall Molloy case which gripped Ireland in 1985 – mysterious death of a priest in the house of friends, and a shared interest in horses, to name but a few shared features of both cases. In this case, however, the violent death occurs in the family seat of the aristocratic Osborne family, in 1950s Wexford. Strafford is finding resentment wherever he goes – his junior officers object to him, a Protestant, occupying such a lofty rank, while his superior officer doesn’t like Strafford’s insistence on questioning why details of the death are being deliberately concealed from the public. If you like your thrillers brooding and atmospheric, then this is definitely a worthy addition to your reading pile. Hardcover, 255 pages
by Carl Hiaasen
he U.S. President in Carl Hiaasen’s new novel is never referred to by name, but there are enough references to his size, his hair, and his penchant for tanning beds that the reader can only picture Donald Trump as the character. His Secret Service handle is Mastodon, which more clued-in readers than me won’t need to google, but the resulting image is one that lingers. Anyhow, the President is much loved in Palm Beach, Florida, particularly by a group of wealthy women who call themselves the Potussies. When one of their number, the widower Kiki Pew, suddenly vanishes during a charity gala, the President infers that she has been murdered by an illegal immigrant. The truth, as it turns out, is far more entertaining. (Although not for Kiki Pew.) One of Hiaasen’s long-term characters makes an appearance, while entertaining new characters include a foulmouthed animal wrangler named Angie Armstrong, and a clued-in First Lady who seems to have the measure of her husband. Hardcover, 352 pages
Damon Runyon, the King of old-time sportswriters, called him,
“The Barnacle of Baseball.” In the early days of America’s National Game,
no one worked harder or traveled more miles to promote baseball than Irish-born Timothy P. “Ted” Sullivan. For 50 years, from 1879 to 1929, newspapers and magazines sang his praises, genuﬂected to his genius, and bought his blarney by the barrel. Yet, 140-some years after he created the minor league baseball system in America, plucked future hall of famers from the bushes, and introduced America’s game to would-be players and fans around the globe, not one in a million baseball fans can tell you who Ted Sullivan was, or what all he did to make the game what it is today – for better and worse. The ﬁrst-ever account of the life and times of the wildest storyteller and the greatest huckster in the history of baseball.
“Ted was born on March 17, 1776, and discovered baseball the following summer.” Chicago Examiner, March 18, 1911
ORDER YOUR PRE-SALE COPY TODAY
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review of books | recently published books FICTION
The Pull of the Stars
The Nothing Man
by Emma Donoghue
ublin was a great mouth holed with missing teeth” (because of all the shop and business closures due to the pandemic … of 1918). Holy moly, this book. You might end up reading it, as I did, with a 2020 pandemic checklist buzzing around in your head. Strange times? Yup, they’re mentioned. Quarantining? Mm-hmm. Cover up each cough or sneeze? Included. Everyone must pull together? Yup, gotcha. Cleaning one’s hands thoroughly could save a life? Yes, indeed, they were just as well schooled in the basics in 1918 as we have been in the past five months or so. Julia Power is a nurse who works in a city centre hospital, caring for pregnant women who have come down with the dreaded flu. The virus has dreadful repercussions for expectant mothers and Julia doesn’t have the luxury of lots of help. Mayo’s own Dr. Kathleen Lynn (described by one character in the book as “a vicar’s daughter from Mayo gone astray – a socialist, suffragette, anarchist firebrand!”) is efficient and encourages Nurse Power to think for herself, while young volunteer helper Bridie Sweeney is in awe of Julia’s ability to read her patients and decide on the best course of action in trying circumstances. If you are currently choosing your reading material as a means of completely escaping our current circumstances, this may not be the book for you. But it is a comforting reminder that the more life changes, the more things stay the same. Hardcover, 295 pages
by Liz Nugent
iz Nugent has firmly established herself in the ‘must read’ category of Irish thriller writers, and within the subsection of Irish women writers who are responsible for a large chunk of the best of those thrillers, she is fast becoming the queen of the killer first line. Her latest novel is no exception: “All three of the Drumm brothers were at the funeral, although one of us was in a coffin.” What a hook! The three Drumm brothers are William, Brian and Luke and it’s a toss-up as to which of them is the biggest, well, tosser. Not that it’s entirely their fault, their narcissistic mother didn’t do such a great job when they were children and has continued to put herself first – while sniping at the rest of the family – as they’ve grown. Consequentially, they have difficulty maintaining relationships, and constantly betray each other in ways both small and massive. Hardcover, 384 pages
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by Catherine Ryan Howard
ve Black was the only survivor of a dreadful crime that saw her parents and younger sister killed on a night she can never forget. Now she's written a true crime memoir about the murderer, dubbed The Nothing Man by press at the time. Supermarket security guard Jim Doyle (apparently born in Castlebar, but we might not want to shout about that too loudly!) is reading Eve's book and it's making him furious. That's because Jim is The Nothing Man. And he'll stop at nothing to shut Eve up. Catherine Ryan Howard has taken the popular demand for true crime stories and turned it on its head in this neat, bookwithin-a-book crime novel. The reader races through Eve’s memoir, just as eager as Jim Doyle to find out how much she knows. Hardcover, 288 pages
A Rip in Heaven by Jeanine Cummins
n the back of her huge publishing success with American Dirt, author Jeanine Cummins has seen her three previous books re-released in a very short space of time. Two are novels – both with strong Irish connections – and the third, A Rip in Heaven, is an intensely personal memoir “of a murder and its aftermath.” On a visit to their cousins in Missouri as teenagers, Cummins’ older brother Tom snuck out of the house one night to meet two of his cousins – Julie and Robin – so they could show him Julie’s poetry on a disused bridge over the Mississippi. The three were assaulted by a group of youths, and when Tom managed to escape and flag down a passing car for help, he thought the nightmare was coming to an end. But the police thought otherwise and held him on suspicion of murder. Unlike many true crime memoirs of its ilk, the writing is quite restrained – Cummins lets the awfulness of the story speak for itself. Paperback, 336 pages
Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2, Ireland
A member of
Telephone: +353 1 603 0600 Facsimile: +353 1 603 0700 Email: email@example.com Web: www.merrionhotel.com
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TOURISM IRELAND /PHOTOGAPHER BRIAN MORRISON.
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A Winter’s Tale
Christmas may be over but winter isn’t. You can still curl up with a good book and ginger cookies. By Edythe Preet
ABOVE: Winter snow on the ground in the graveyard and the Rock of Cashel, Tipperary, once home of the High Rings of Munster.
ust because I live in Los Angeles doesn’t mean I’m an Angeleno. Natives here love that it’s sunny and quasi-summer all year long. Not me. Locals think I’m crazy. Crazy like a fox, I say. When it’s cold, you can put on a sweater. When it’s hot, you’re out of luck. I pine for seasons. Some of my dearest memories carry me back to the winters of my Philadelphia youth. Sure, it was cold, but all that frigid air was outside. Inside our row house it was warm, except in the upstairs back bedroom that faced north and had only brick, plaster and uninsulated storm windows separating it from the cold. When the thermometer dropped below 20°F, which was often, a thin sheet of ice would form on the inside of the glass even though two radiators were located just inches below. Until I lobbied for larger quarters more suitable for a teenager than my cozy little girl inner sanctum, the back room was our junk room. Everything that outlived its function ended up there, including a big Art Deco bed that had been replaced by my parents’ more fashionable Hollywood twin set. And there I spent many a dark winter day, propped against pillows, snuggled up in blankets, and transported to the marvelous worlds found inside books. I now know that it was an Irish thing. Both my parents were readers, but Dad was the real bookworm, and a fine seanachie to boot. On Tuesday evenings, when Mom met with her Sodality Group to recite the rosary, he told me stories and recited poetry, and every Friday night we hiked to the spot on the
92 IRISH AMERICA JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021
Avenue where the bookmobile parked, and we loaded up on reading material. He would pick out one hefty tome, and I would select a dozen or more children’s books. Once I had read every compilation of fairy tales in the Philadelphia Library system, Dad decided I was ready for some Irish mythology. For Christmas 1956, he gave me a copy of The King of Ireland’s Son, which he had read when he was just a wee fellow shortly after the book was first published in 1916. Immediately on opening the green and richly gold embossed cover I was swept away by narratives from the vast wealth of Irish oral tradition: The Story of the Young Cuckoo; When the King of Cats Came to King Conal’s Dominion; The Sword of Light; The Adventures of Gilly of the Goatskin; The Town of the Red Castle; The King of the Land of Mist. Best of all were the adventures experienced by the King of Ireland’s eldest son as he journeyed far and wide, “his hound at his heel, his hawk on his wrist, a brave steed to carry him wither he list, and the blue sky over him” in his search to find and win Fedelma, the Enchanter’s Daughter. The author of The King of Ireland’s Son, Padraic Colum, was also a poet, novelist, dramatist, and avid collector of Irish folklore and folk songs. Every fan of Irish music is surely familiar with “She Moved Through the Fair,” which Colum collected in Donegal and published in 1909, and which was made famous by Van Morrison and the Chieftains in the 1988 recording Irish Heartbeat.
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TOURISM IRELAND /PHOTOGAPHER BRIAN MORRISON.
sláinte | good cheer Born in 1881, Colum was an avid reader and a regular visitor to the National Library of Ireland in Dublin where he met and became good friends with prominent Irish thinkers and writers, among them Lady Gregory, W.B.Yeats, and James Joyce. One of his earliest writings, an anti-enlistment play titled The Saxon Shillin’ (1902), was awarded a prize by Cumann na nGaedhael, forerunner of the Sinn Féin political party. He was among the founders of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, where his plays “Broken Sail” (1903) and “The Land” (1905) were two of the theatre’s first public successes. Fiercely Irish, Colum was a member of Conradh na Gaeilge (The Gaelic League), an organization founded in 1893 for the purpose of keeping the Irish language spoken in Ireland. It was his interest in Gaelic that led to the writing of The King of Ireland’s Son. After a folktale he had translated from Gaelic was published by the New York Tribune, Colum met a Hungarian illustrator named Willy Pogany who suggested they collaborate on a children’s book incorporating several Irish folktales into a long epic story. The King of Ireland’s Son has been reprinted numerous times, but it is the original version with Pogany’s illustrations that is most coveted. The book was so popular that it launched Colum’s long contract with Macmillan Publishers, covering folklore subject matter that ranged from Ireland to the Hawaiian Islands. Little did I know at the tender age of ten that Padraic Colum was also a leading figure of the Celtic Revival. Encompassing all forms of artistic expression and bridging the 19th and 20th centuries, the Irish Celtic Revival movement encouraged the creation of work based on traditional Irish art and cultural expression, especially myth, legend and folklore. Interest in and adherence to its mission spread internationally wherever Irish emigrants driven by the famines of the 19th century had settled. One thing I knew full well, however, even at such a young age, The King of Ireland’s Son was one of the best books I had ever buried my nose in. The first time, I read it by myself, snuggled up in the ‘back’ bedroom with a plate of Christmas Ginger Cookies and Irish Almond Tea Cakes balanced precariously on the mattress beside me. Oblivious to the winter winds blowing outside the window, I ranged in imagination up, over and across the hills of the Emerald Isle in the company of a colorful host of frolicking fairies and fearsome feys. In March, to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, Dad and I read it together, with me reading the narrative and him putting on a thick Irish brogue for all the speaking lines – highpitched and squeaking for the creature characters, low and growling for the villains, melodiously sweet for the maidens, and in his own dear voice for the heroes. Throughout my childhood, I read The King of Ireland’s Son again and again and again. As Dad aged into his twilight years, hardly a visit passed that he did not beam at me, blue eyes twinkling, a delighted smile creasing his cheeks, and say: “How about that King of Ireland’s Son – the best book you ever read – eh?” Yes, it was, Dad. It most certainly was. And a fine, fine way to pass a cold IA winter’s day. Sláinte!
RECIPES Irish Almond Tea Cakes
Christmas Ginger Cookies (personal recipe)
beaten egg cup sugar cup shortening cup molasses cups flour teaspoon cinnamon teaspoons baking soda teaspoon powdered ginger 1 ⁄4 teaspoon salt Granulated sugar in a bowl In a large bowl, stir together egg, sugar, shortening and molasses. Beat well to combine. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, ginger and salt. Add flour mixture to egg mixture, and stir until completely combined. Refrigerate dough for 3 hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 350°F. Using a teaspoon as a scoop, shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll each ball in granulated sugar and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet 3 inches apart. Bake for approximately 10 minutes, or until cookies have acquired cracks across their tops. Remove cookie sheets from oven, and let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks until they are completely cool. Store in an airtight container. Makes approximately 50 cookies. Note: Keep dough refrigerated between batches.
6 large egg whites, room temperature 21⁄2 cups almond meal 3 ⁄4 cup granulated sugar 1 ⁄3 cup flour 1 ⁄4 teaspoon salt pinch of nutmeg 11⁄2 tablespoons light corn syrup 1 stick plus 7 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 cup plump dried currants 11⁄2 tablespoons dark rum Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter as many mini-muffin pans as you have (recipe makes 48 teacakes) or line tins with paper mini-muffin cups. With a whisk, beat the egg whites in a bowl just to break them up. Add the almonds, sugar, flour, salt, nutmeg, and corn syrup and stir until batter is smooth. Melt butter in a small saucepan until it just comes to a boil. Add the hot butter to the batter and whisk it in gently but thoroughly. Stir in the currants and rum. Spoon approximately 1 tablespoon of batter into each mini-muffin cup. Bake 18-20 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point, until the cakes are puffed and golden – a knife inserted into the center should come away clean. Remove tins from the oven and let the cakes rest in the tins for about 2 minutes, then turn them out onto racks to cool to room temperature. Cakes will keep in a covered container for 4-5 days. Wrapped airtight in plastic wrap they can be frozen for up to 2 months.
1 3 ⁄4 3 ⁄4 1 ⁄3 2 1 21⁄2 1
DEAR READERS: We are very sad to report the unexpected death of longtime Sláinte writer Edythe Preet on December 7th 2020. Read our tribute in the “Those We Lost”
Originally published: December / January 2010
JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2021 IRISH AMERICA 93
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ThoseWe Lost By Mary Gallagher
1946 – 2020 ulinary historian, designer, columnist, and beloved friend of this magazine Edythe Preet died in late December, at 73. Owner and founder of The Heritage Kitchen, a website dedicated to the celebration of culture and the tradition of passing down recipes over the generations, Edythe brought a personal, homey touch and witty style to her bi-monthly column in Irish America, in which she explored the background of celebrated Irish traditions linked to food, drink, dress, chores, leisure, and merry-making, and never left readers without a new recipe to try, if not two. Born in Philadelphia in 1946 to George and Ida Burns (née Musacchio), Edythe’s Irish roots were firmly in County Fermanagh, where her grandmother, Margaret McCaffrey, was born. Edythe attended Philadelphia High School for Girls – known to locals as Girls’ High, it was the first public high school for women in the state. Her scholarly interests and abilities earned her a full-tuition scholarship at University of Pennsylvania, from which she graduated in 1967. Edythe’s reputation as a trailblazer and a free spirit was cemented in her wide range of travels, and fascination with cultural traditions, even outside her own heritage. In 1970, she married Gary Preet in a ceremony officiated by a Native American chief in the Hollywood Hills. In 1974, they settled in California with their daughter Jillian, and Edythe would live there the rest of her life. She designed clothes, even opening a boutique that had her own creations on display. However, her interest in history and cultural tradition made Edythe an invaluable source of information, and the passing down of recipes and customs, often linked closely with celebrations and mythology. She started writing Sláinte for Irish America in 1994, and never missed a chance to inform readers of the wholesome joys the Irish have found in bringing people together through food and festivity. She also wrote a monthly column for the Los Angeles Times International Syndicate (Food for Thought), contributed culinary pieces to The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Oregonian, and San Jose Mercury News, and even functioned as editor-in-chief for Casual Living Magazine from 2002 to 2004. Even in retirement she kept busy, founding The Heritage Kitchen in 2004, and producing gourmet foods personally for clients until illness prevented her from doing so, and writing for Irish America. Her cousin Lori remembers her fondly as being like a mother to her. “Edy had a universal spirit, and she loved meeting and connecting with people,” Lori told Irish America. “She was brilliant, adventurous, and at times, a force to be reckoned with! Her love language was creating a food experience for you. She took you across the world through her writing and through her cooking.” Edythe is mourned by her daughter, Jillian, and a large circle of extended family and friends, including cousins Dianne Spotts and Lori Rapp, who furnished a great deal of context for this tribute. We at Irish America will miss her greatly not only as a contributor, but as a wellspring of joy and an enthusiastic bearer of the torch illuminating our past. A final Sláinte to you, a bhuanchara!
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1957–2020 ulitzer Prize-winning journalist, compassionate storyteller, and cherished friend of this magazine Jim Dwyer died in early October, aged 63. The reporter’s dedication to drawing the world’s attention to injustice and tragedy offered a voice to the oppressed, initiated legislation lifting a heavy burden from the working poor, and engineered the heightened, sharpened conscience of his readers. His efforts earned him numerous accolades, including a well-deserved place on Irish America’s selection of “Greatest Irish Americans of the 21st Century.” Jim was born in Manhattan to Irish immigrants from counties Kerry and Galway Philip and Mary (née Molloy) Dwyer. One of four boys, he had a Catholic education through 1979, when he obtained a B.A. in general science at Fordham University. It was there, however, that he realized his vocation lay in journalism. As he told The New York Times before his death, “I couldn’t resist it. It was a joy for me to discover how much I loved reporting and writing.” After getting his master’s in journalism at Columbia University in 1980, Jim was hired by Union, New Jersey’s Hudson Dispatch, moving to two other New Jersey publications in succession before taking a job at New York Newsday in 1986, where he covered the metropolitan subway system – one particular piece on a derailment for which he was awarded his first Pulitzer. He then moved on to The Daily News, then to The New York Times in 2001 as a general assignments reporter. The transfers didn’t change his mission, however: using his powerful rhetoric as a weapon, he tackled issues including police brutality, wrongful convictions, dangerous and unlawful working conditions, and the handling of the coronavirus epidemic, as well as social inequality that the crisis made painfully obvious. “He had more friends than almost anyone in journalism because he was brilliant, thoughtful and very funny,” Times editor Dean Baquet and metro editor Cliff Levy wrote when they broke the news of Jim’s death to his colleagues at the paper, calling him “a wondrously inventive writer and relentlessly dogged street reporter.” With a tip from Irish America’s Niall O’Dowd, Jim broke the news of the I.R.A. ceasefire in 1994 in one of several columns on the state of the Troubles that helped earn him a second Pulitzer Prize. He was one of the first and few American reporters to dare travel to Northern Ireland during such a tension-fraught time. He took on the Times’ biweekly column About New York in 2007, and when asked by the Columbia Journalism Review if he had “the best job in journalism,” he agreed wholeheartedly. “A big part of my job is to talk with brilliant scientists, great artists, the amazing people you meet just walking around the streets of New York,” he pointed out. “What could be more fun than that?” Jim leaves behind his wife of nearly four decades, Cathy; brothers Patrick, Phil, and John; and daughters Catherine and Maura
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Those We Lost | tributes Pete Hamill
1935 – 2020 eloved journalist and author, treasured friend and contributor to Irish America, Pete Hamill died in early August, aged 85. Hamill’s prolific body of work of novels and short stories, storied 40-year career with widely respected publications, his unfettered love of the New York where he was born and raised, and his unparalleled gift for telling a story made him a legend in his field and firmly planted him on the right side of celebrity. The oldest of seven born to Billy and Anne (née Devlin) Hamill, two immigrants from Belfast, Pete was born in Brooklyn in 1935. Long before becoming a journalist, he launched his career in newspapers at age 11 by delivering copies of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. After a fouryear stint in the Navy and a short-lived attempt at a career in graphic design, he was hired as a reporter in 1960 by the New York Post. The job sent him all over the country and the globe – in 1966 he was enlisted as the paper’s Vietnam correspondent, just one of his many postings including Lebanon, Nicaragua, and Northern Ireland. He also wrote pieces for New York Daily News, The Saturday Evening Post, New York Newsday, The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, Esquire and New York magazines. His thoughtful, descriptive, often poetic style that caught on effortlessly with his readers was less that of a deliberately distinct and objective outsider than it was the voice of someone inevitably in the know, close to the goings-on, but with a finger on the dial and an experience and keen perception that allowed him to see the bigger picture. That insight was assisted by the fact that he was very often coincidentally placed near the heart of major events. A good friend of Robert F. Kennedy, he was on the scene when the senator was fatally shot in 1968 and did not hesitate to help neutralize the assassin; he was mere blocks away from the World Trade Center when it was attacked on 9 / 11, and reported on the story for the Daily News. His was a voice that people had come to count on, that forged a bond with his loyal readers to the end of his life, and paid deference to the working-class New York of his birth. “If the pavement of this city could speak, it would sound like Pete Hamill,” confirmed New York Times columnist Dan Barry in his tribute when Pete was presented with the Irish American Writers and Artists Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014. Upon his induction into the Irish America Hall of Fame in 2016, Pete attributed his passion for writing and knowledge to his Irish parents and heritage. “They were giants,” he said in his remarks, “and I rode in on their shoulders and the shoulders of many other people, who gave me my craft, my life, the books I read, and the books I wrote.” Pete is survived by his wife, Fukiko Aoki, siblings Kathleen, Denis, and Brian, daughters Deirdre and Adrienne, and a grandson. His brother John, a writer himself and decorated Vietnam War combat medic, died just a month later.
1983 - 2020 LS activist and fundraiser Patrick Quinn died in late November, aged 37. After his own diagnosis with the degenerative motor neuron disease in 2013, Quinn dedicated his life to spreading awareness and the pursuit of a cure with widely received campaigns – the best known being the Ice Bucket Challenge. Born and raised in Yonkers, New York, Quinn was the son of another Patrick, an immigrant from County Down, and Rosemary, a fourth-generation Irish American with roots in counties Clare, and Westmeath. Quinn was a strong, passionate athlete in high school at Iona Prep, and then went on to Iona College in New Rochelle. He was diagnosed with ALS – better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which as yet has no cure – at age 30. Taking the horrific prognosis in stride, Quinn started his own awareness website, Quinn4thewin, to share his experience and launch fundraisers statewide. He befriended Peter Frates, who was diagnosed in 2012, and together they hosted events and challenges to raise money for research. The Ice Bucket Challenge gathered enough steam to raise $115 million in the U.S. – $220 million internationally. At the fifth anniversary celebration of the Ice Bucket Challenge, Quinn took the stage. “I’m not losing. I also don’t plan on just living,” he said. “I plan on continuing to inspire the world to find their smile. Life is too amazing for me to let this disease get in the way. What makes one truly alive is not just living. It’s the way in which we live.” When he was profiled for Irish America’s Hall of Fame in 2015, he credited his heritage for that steely determination. “I was put on this earth to make a difference in the course of such a horrific disease,” he told us. “And I also believe my tough Irish blood has something to do with that.” Quinn was predeceased by his friend and Ice Bucket Challenge copromoter, Pete Frates, who died in 2019. He leaves behind his parents Rosemary and Patrick, brother Dan, and half-brother Scott.
1931 - 2020 conic talk show host and six-time Daytime Emmy Award-winner Regis Philbin died in July, aged 88. A 60-year career in television earned him a number of close friendships, the affection of countless viewers across the country, and a Guinness World Record for most hours spent in front of a television camera – clearing 16,700. Born and raised in the Bronx in New York by parents Frank and Florence, Philbin took part in every Saint Patrick’s Day parade while a student at Cardinal Hayes High School. He cherished his Irish roots, coming from his father’s father, an immigrant from County Mayo. That connection to his heritage only strengthened when he attended Notre Dame University, where an affection for the Fighting Irish and strong attachment to his Catholic faith took firm root and never let go – his funeral service and burial were held by the school on July 29. After graduating in 1953, Philbin served for two years in the U.S. Navy. His first job in television was as a page on The Tonight Show, but he made his big break on The Joey Bishop Show as Bishop’s sidekick. When Bing Crosby was a guest on the show, Bishop asked the singer to perform Irish
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Those We Lost | tributes lullaby “Toora Loora Loora” for his starstruck fan. Philbin joined WABC’s The Morning Show in 1983, and was paired with famed co-host Kathie Lee Gifford in 1985. When she left in 2001, he hosted the show alone, during which interim he won a Daytime Emmy before being partnered with Kelly Ripa in 2001. He retired in 2011. Philbin’s former cohost Kathie Lee Gifford posted her own tribute. “I smile knowing somewhere in Heaven, at this very moment, he’s making someone laugh,” she wrote. “There has never been anyone like him. And there will never be.” Philbin was predeceased by his brother Frank and son Danny, who died in 2007 and 2014, respectively. He leaves behind his wife and occasional cohost, Joy, daughters Amy, Joanna, and Jennifer, and four grandchildren.
1941-2020 elebrated Australian-American singer and activist Helen Reddy died in late September, aged 78. Best known for the empowering feminist anthem “I Am Woman,” Reddy won the 1973 Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, and was the first Australian singer to reach number one on the U.S. charts. Born in 1941 in Melbourne, Australia to parents Max and Stella, Reddy’s Irish roots go back four generations to greatgreat-grandfather Edward Reddy, born in Dublin. She got an early start as a performer, taking part in vaudeville shows on the Australian circuit with her parents from the age of four. She took what turned out to be a temporary leave of absence from show business at age 12, choosing to live with her aunt Nell (whose given name was also Helen). An early, brief marriage at age 20 and the birth of her daughter Traci led her to relaunch her career as a performer. The release of 1971’s “I Am Woman” saw a slow but steady climb to the top of the Billboard Hot 100, largely fueled by individual call-in requests. Reddy saw the song’s success as a matter of timing. “There were a lot of songs on the radio about being weak and being dainty and all those sort of things,” she told the Chicago Tribune in 2015. “All the women in my family, they were strong women. They worked. They lived through the Depression and a world war, and they were just strong women. I certainly didn't see myself as being dainty.” After becoming a U.S. citizen, Reddy was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to the California Department of Parks and Recreation in 1977, where
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Jean Kennedy Smith
1928-2020 hilanthropist, advocate for the disabled and former U.S. ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith died in midJune, at age 92. The longest-lived of her generation of the Kennedy political dynasty, Kennedy Smith offered a glimpse of steel backbone behind a veneer of what many referred to as shyness in her career as a diplomat. Kennedy Smith was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, the eighth of nine offspring of financial and political legend Joe Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. Her family’s roots in New Ross, County Wexford and several visits to Ireland growing up fueled an interest in the country’s state of affairs early on. As the more guarded, reserved among her siblings at a time when women were not encouraged to take an active role in politics, it was some years before she embraced the limelight that her family attracted. But her love for them knew no bounds, and she was an enthusiastic participant behind the scenes in all of her brother John’s campaigns for office. She founded Very Special Arts in 1974 to bring programs dedicated to creative pursuits including music, dance, and writing to the physically and mentally disabled on an international level. Helen Reddy She set a shining precedent for women across the country as well as her in own family when, at age 65, she was named the U.S. ambassador to Ireland in 1993, after visiting Dublin and discussing the possibility with her brother, Edward, who asked President Clinton for her appointment. She defied policy by visiting Northern Ireland, which was British territory, and was the deciding factor in obtaining crucial U.S. visas for Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams and Joe Cahill in 1994, enabling an I.R.A. ceasefire. Though in the midst of an extremely precarious situation, she blossomed in her position, and told Irish America in an interview, “Next to President of the United States, Ambassador to Ireland is surely one of the best jobs an Irish American can hold.” Kennedy Smith resigned the position a few months after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. That year, she was recognized as an honorary Irish citizen by President Mary McAleese, and at the ceremony Taoiseach Bernie Ahern offered high praise, saying, “You have helped bring about a better life for everyone throughout Ireland.” She was awarded the Tipperary Peace Prize in 2009, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. Kennedy Smith is mourned by daughters Amanda and Kym, sons Stephen, Jr. and William, and six grandchildren.
she served until 1980. She had a starring voice role in the 1977 Disney film Pete’s Dragon, for which her performance of “Candle on the Water” garnered an Oscar nomination. Though diagnosed with dementia in 2015, she still made it to the 2017 inaugural Women’s March, where she performed “I Am Woman” as a thrilled crowd clapped and sang along. Reddy is survived by her daughter Traci Wald Donat, son Jordan Sommers, half sister and Australian actress and singer Toni Lamond, and granddaughter Lily Donat, who performs a song in I Am Woman, the Reddy biopic released in IA September.
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photo album | Ellen Whelan Lyons
ABOVE: Ellen when she immigrated. TOP: Ellen as a grandmother.
Please send photographs along with your name, address, phone number, and a brief description, to Patricia Harty at Irish America, 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 1606, New York, NY 10001. If photos are irreplaceable, then please send a good quality reproduction or e-mail the picture at 300 dpi resolution to submit@irishamerica. com. We will pay $65 for each submission that we select.
t was the accidental discovery of a vintage photograph which enabled me to meet my first Irish-American relative, my great grandmother, Ellen Whelan Lyons of Co Waterford, Ireland. At a family reunion in South Dakota, my cousin, John Maloney, had tossed out on the table a bushel basketful of old photos. My wife Nona retrieved from the pile a photo of an impressive young woman, because, she said, “I liked her face and her look, thinking she was an interesting woman.” Six years later, UPS delivered a large framed portrait of an older woman with a note from my cousin, Betty Coughlin who wrote on the back of the portrait: “This is our great grandmother, Ellen Whelan Lyons, born 1821, Co. Waterford, died 1889, Madison, SD. It was found hanging on the wall in a nursing home for the past eight years in the room of Margaret ‘Bog’ Coughlin, a grand-daughter of Ellen Whelan Lyons.” Ellen Lyons Smith, a grand-daughter, wrote of the family migration as heard directly from her namesake: “Grandma’s name was Ellen Whelan - Phelan or Ó Faoláin. Her father was a landlord and the family enjoyed a comfortable living. Grandma was educated by governesses and had many opportunities of culture not enjoyed by the average person in Ireland at that time. When I was age 15, Grandma told me the story of her romance- – how her father had selected a husband for her in their own social sphere. She refused and made her own choice, Jeremiah Lyons, the son of a poor flax farmer. One can understand the slight, fair girl being attracted to the stalwart Jeremiah, the true Irish type with the broad shoulders, deep-set eyes, rosy cheeks, and black hair. She never regretted her decision, though their early life together was not easy from a worldly point of view.” Florence Finley Kolbach, a cousin, chronicled the odyssey of Ellen and Jeremiah Lyons who as young newlyweds were forced to flee famine and oppression and sail from Dungarvan, County Waterford, Ireland in 1845. Filled with hope for a better life and $1,500 sown in Jeremiah’s underwear, they made the crossing to America. But when Jeremiah caught the cholera on board ship, he was isolated from Ellen and their two young daughters, Bridget and Margaret. Upon arrival at the docks, unknown to Ellen, Jere-
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miah was placed in a pest house along the shore line in New York City where he was nursed by anonymous caretakers. For three months, Ellen searched for her husband in every shanty and shack in the city until, in the words of the story recited at every family reunion: One day a man said, “Well, yes, but it just couldn’t be him,” “He was so old and bearded and thin.” If she wished she may come in and look/ There were no records on the book/ He seemed to be traveling alone/ His memory was gone, and he was without name or home. Thus she found her Jerry lying on a bed of straw, His face was drawn in a look of awe/ What had happened in the past there was no telling/ He raised his head and whispered “Ellen.” The $1,500 had disappeared. After Ellen had nursed her Jerry back to health, they joined with other recent immigrants from Ireland and worked alongside Chinese contract laborers to build the railroad from New York to Chicago. In that windy city, with a growing family – including my grandfather, Will – they became successful farmers and later moved farther west to Iowa and finally to Dakota Territory where they spent the autumn of their lives with their pioneer sons and daughters. With the best of their years laid by, they made their last home with daughter Bridget Lyons Rea in Madison, SD where: “They helped twist hay, to burn and keep warm. On New Year’s Eve, in eighteen eightynine, in the midst of a South Dakota snow storm, Death’s Angel called for Ellen and bade her come. Five years later Jerry joined her in their last home.” I have been privileged to visit their graves in St. Thomas Aquinas Cemetery, Madison, South Dakota. I believe that my immigrant great-grandparents, Jeremiah and Ellen Lyons, are the real radicals in America’s history. They lived in their adopted land, not as victims of the oppression they had fled, but as confident and contributing citizens who saw that their own fulfillment was in helping to build this country, its schools, farms and businesses. When I reflect on their odyssey, I realize that the pathway to my home began in a pest house where the kindness of strangers in New York City gave my first American relatives a taste of the goodness and greatness of its people. – Submitted by Robert F. Lyons, Kennebunk, Maine
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