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JUNE/JULY 2013 CANADA $4.95/U.S. $3.95

Boston Strong Reflections on The Boston Marathon in The Wake of Tragedy

Melissa McCarthy The Farmer’s Daughter From Illinois Makes Good

The Country Girl Inside Edna O’Brien’s Popular New Memoir

Colum McCann On Writing Towards What You Want to Know

The JFK 50 Reflections on John F. Kennedy’s Irish Visit

Donegal The Perfect Place to Get Away From it All

Judy Collins Music, Life, Love and her Irish Heritage

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Contents June / July 2013 Vol. 28 No. 4

14 40 55 50


FEATURES 30 DONEGAL Often called the “Forgotten County,” Donegal is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in Ireland, and according to Enda Cullen, the friendliest people.

34 EL TROUBADOUR The legendary singer and social activist Judy Collins speaks with candor about her life in an interview with Patricia Harty.

40 THE AMERICAN COUSIN Reflections and recollections on President Kennedy’s visit to Ireland on the 50th anniversary of that historic event.

46 COUNTRY GIRL In an excerpt from Enda O’Brien’s popular new memoir, Country Girl, the author sets up house in Donegal, where she hopes to avail of “peace that passeth understanding.”

50 COLUM MCCANN The award-winning author talks to Sheila Langan about journeys of inspiration and his new novel, TransAtlantic.

55 THE SCENE STEALER Melissa McCarthy, the star of Mike & Molly and Bridesmaids, talks to Patricia Danaher about her Irish roots, family and road to fame.

60 MARY LAVIN’S AMERICAN ROOTS In the male-dominated field of Irish writers, Mary Lavin was a pioneer. Daphne Wolf examines Lavin’s American roots and the influence they may have had on her work and spirit. Cover Photo: Kit DeFever

64 WHAT ARE YOU LIKE? Miss America Mallory Hagan answers questions about her life. By Sheila Langan

66 HOMAGE TO THE BOSTON MARATHON The race has been an inspiration from its beginning, an annual pilgrimage, and will forever now be a testament to courage and triumph over evil. By Michael Quinlin.

76 PLACE NAMES The Irish heritage of Emmetsburg, Iowa is explored by Adam Farley.

78 MUSIC IS IRELAND’S HEART In her Sláinte column, Edythe Preet discusses how Ireland’s identity is linked to a musical instrument and the role music plays in Irish life.

80 THE BOYS OF SUMMER Holly Millea talks to her father about Bill, his Irish twin and best buddy.

82 LAST WORD Father Dan Dorsey writes that Irish Americans should not forget that they were once aliens in the land.

DEPARTMENTS 6 First Word 8 Readers Forum 12 Hibernia

16 Irish Eye on Hollywood 70 Crossword 74 Books

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Vol.28 No.4 • June/July 2013

{the first word}

IRISH AMERICA Mortas Cine Pride In Our Heritage

Founding Publisher: Niall O’Dowd Co-Founder/Editor-in-Chief: Patricia Harty Vice President of Marketing: Kate Overbeck Art Director: Marian Fairweather Deputy Editor: Sheila Langan Copy Editor: John Anderson Advertising & Events Coordinator & Music Editor: Tara Dougherty Editorial Assistants: Adam Farley Michelle Meagher Director of Special Projects: Turlough McConnell Financial Controller: Kevin M. Mangan

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

Subscriptions: 1-800-582-6642 E-MAIL: Irish America Magazine ISSN 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 201, New York, NY 10001. Telephone: 212-725-2993. Fax: 212-244-3344 E-mail: 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.

Grace and Healing Our hearts weep for Boston. This most Irish of American cities has seen its share of tragedy, but when the bombings at the marathon turned a sporting celebration into a scene of destruction, it was a fresh horror that is hard to process. This city, where at least a quarter of the population are of Irish heritage, is one of the cornerstones of our history in America. When the news of the blasts hit, all that history came flooding back. Knowing the measure of the city’s hardscrabble past gave reassurance that Bostonians would rise above this tragedy, because that’s what they have always done. It was to Boston that thousands of Irish at the edge of desperation would find their way during the Famine years. They crowded into the waterfront close to the docks where the men might find a day’s work and the women might find jobs as domestics. The unsanitary conditions were breeding grounds for disease. *Sixty percent of children did not reach their sixth birthday, and on average, the adult Irish immigrant lived just six years after arrival. (Patrick Kennedy, great-grandfather of JFK, was one of those adults who did not survive. He died of cholera, which had earlier taken his first-born son, John III, at just 18 months.) And still they clung on, and enough survived and eventually thrived. “Out of those narrow lanes, blind courts, dirty streets, damp cellars, and suffocating garrets will come forth some of the the noblest sons of our country, whom she will delight to own and honor,” wrote Orestes Brownson in the Quarterly Review in 1843. Boston gave us two of her finest sons, and they too were taken from us. First John in 1963 and then Bobby in 1968. They would weep for their beloved Boston today. But we can hear JFK’s strong voice saying, “We have come too far, we have sacrificed too much, to disdain the future now.” And indeed, the people of Boston inspired the nation as we witnessed ordinary citizens turn into heroes, and the emergency services and police operating at their highest levels. In the days following the bombings the community rallied to help families affected by the tragedy. A “Dance Out for Jane” was held for the Richard family of Dorchester. Eight-year-old Martin Richard was killed in the blast. Jane, his seven-year-old sister, lost her leg, and their mother, Denise, suffered a head injury. Jane was an Irish step dancer at the Clifton Academy of Irish Dance in Milton. When tragedy strikes, it is often to the artists that we turn to raise our spirits and funds. Two New Yorkers, David Fagin and Jaime Hazan, wrote a song called “Boston Strong” that got a lot of play on YouTube. Hazan was a 9/11 first responder during the attacks on the World Trade Center. In the wake of 9/11,“Amazing Grace” was the tune we heard most often at memorial services for the fallen. Judy Collins plucked this 18th-century hymn from near obscurity in the late sixties, and it has never really left our cultural consciousness since. Judy, who also composed her own anthem for 9/11 first responders called “Kingdom Come,” still believes in the power of music to heal. And I do too. Mortas Cine,


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{readers forum} Aunt Peggy, far left with her head turned towards the young man.

Aunt Peggy

A Sacred Place

A compelling piece. The author skillfully brings out both Peggy’s strong, optimistic character and her own curious seven-year-old self, reacting with affection and sometimes wonder to her unusual great-aunt. I found myself inspired by Peggy’s devotion to duty over self and her ability to retain her joie de vivre, despite life circumstances that others would have found stifling.

Amazing photos and great story. Thanks for the inspiration to visit Ireland! Karen Kefauver posted online April 1

Visiting this fascinating island especially during puffin season would be great. Wonderful photos. Marjorie Larney posted online April 1

Liz Reumann posted online April 1

I strongly recommend Sun Dancing: Life in a Medieval Irish Monastery and How Celtic Spirituality Influenced the World by Geoffrey Moorhouse (1997). It’s a great read that recreates the daily life of the monks during their time in the monastery. I’ve been to Ireland several times but never to the Skelligs. Your article has inspired me to make the trip soon.

Wonderfully evocative photo and essay! I love the girl jumping into the air to the right of the photo. And what vivacious writing … I can see Peggy’s smile! Honor Moore posted online April 1

Great writers put you viscerally in the environment they write about. This did that. Beautiful.

Robert Gladding posted online April 26

I loved the last sentence. It takes the sad pale off the idea of Peggy growing old mourning this fantastic life in New York, and replaces it with the evidence that she was a truly happy woman. But still, there are many questions I wish I could ask your Aunt Peggy. You did a marvelous job creating this whole person out of a photo and one visit. Bravo! Maggie Braff posted online April 2



Steve Bonner posted online April 2

The Friendly Sons A warm Aloha from the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick in Honolulu, Hawaii. Thank you for publishing a wonderful article that focused on our early “rebel” members and also on the later efforts for Famine Relief. Our chapter was formed in Honolulu in 1954 when Hawaii was but a Territory, and we have been wise enough to recently allow women as members. I had the honor and privilege of starting our 46th annual Saint Patrick’s Day Parade on March 17, 2013 in Waikiki. The final Parade of the Day. My great-great-grandfather Michael Murphy, a Wexford man, also left the dock at New Ross in May of 1849, bound for Baltimore, Maryland. (I am also a member of our fine Baltimore Chapter). Mahalo, Jim Murphy, Baltimore, Maryland (until winter arrives)

PS:With regard to your JFK coverage, shouldn’t there be a statue to Bridget Murphy, the strong female single parent, who raised her five children and saved the Kennedy Clan [thus allowing them] to reach their ultimate destiny? I am in the Cincinnati Glee Club. We had probably our finest season. I love to sing at the charitable events. Mark posted online March 2


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{readers forum} The Fight to Save St. James Church [I’ve heard] so much about St. James, but this article is the first I have read that includes the real facts, struggles and the politics done in a very professional way. St. James represents history and beauty and the vibrant nature of what a true parish should be. Thanks for the article. – Ann Hileman, posted online April 7

Thanks for the article. We, the people, are the church and we shall overcome this disappointing gesture by archdioceses across the USA! God Bless You! – Dan Anderson, posted online April 9

What Are You Like? Mary Robinson I was very moved by this wonderful interview. I found it not only inspiring but comforting to know that Mary Robinson sets such a wonderful example in her leadership in making a difference in the lives of those in need and giving hope to people in every walk of life. She is a very special lady.

Day” article. Disappointed at what was available, we started Celtic Mongrel LLC – an online store that carries intelligent, witty shirts based on Irish and Celtic history, music and literature. Ingrid & Eric Porter Denver, CO

The McCabes are gathering on August 19 at the Slieve Russell Hotel in Ballyconnell, County Cavan. Email

June Parker Beck Editor Maureen O’Hara Magazine

Nuala O’Faolain I am a big fan of Nuala and this trailer is beautiful. I tried contacting RTE for the documentary but they were unable to inform me where to view it. I would love to watch your full documentary. If its anywhere online please let me know where I can find it. Thank you. Meabh Hanrahan, posted online April 5

Note: Nuala isn’t yet in distribution in the U.S., but watch this space for updates and more information. It most recently screened at the Minneapolis film festival, to wide acclaim.

St. Patrick’s Day Beyond the Stereotypes Thanks much for mentioning the dozens of offensive St. Patrick’s Day t-shirts in your “Sober St. Patrick’s 10 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2013

Association and to all non-members wishing to learn more about the “Kellys” and their experiences. Join us in our Gathering on May 17-19 2013. The venue for 2013 is the beautiful Dundrum House Hotel, Cashel, Co. Tipperary.

Correction: McCabe Crest

Kelly Crest

More Gatherings The February/March issue listed a number of clan gatherings taking place in Ireland throughout 2013, inspired by the larger Gathering initiative. We have since received notice of more gatherings: A most cordial welcome is extended to all members of the global Kelly Clan

The Irish Eye on Hollywood article of the April/May issue contained an error about Goodfellas: Joe Pesci played Tommy DeVito, not Tommy Carbone. The role of Frankie Carbone was played by Frank Sivero. The same article misstated that rising Irish actor Jack Reynor is the son of Tara O’Grady and Fair City cast member Paul Reynor. He is the son of Tara O’Grady, and the grand-nephew of Paul Reynor.

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


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Maze Prison to Become Peace Center


eter Robinson and Martin McGuinness have jointly praised plans for the redevelopment of the 347-acre Maze-Long Kesh prison site near Lisburn, Co. Antrim into a Peace Building and Conflict Resolution Centre. The plans include a business campus for renewable technology and life sciences linked to the universities. Above: The plans for the Peace Maze Prison, also known as and Conflict Resolution Centre. the H-Blocks, housed numerous Right: Part of the old Maze Prison. republican and loyalist paramilitary prisoners during the Troubles and is most remembered as the site of the 1981 hunger strikes in which ten republican prisoners died, starting with Bobby Sands. Since the closing of the prison in 2000, following the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, debates had been ongoing over what to do with the site. Even now that the plans have been approved, controversy still persists. Some loyalists express concern that the site, fully funded with an £18 million European Union grant, will become a “shrine to

IRISH TWINS SET WORLD RECORD aterford twins Katie and Amy Jones-Elliott are headed to the Guinness Book of Records after they were born 87 days apart. As reported by the Irish Mirror, Maria Jones-Elliott, went into labor after four months of pregnancy but gave birth to only one of her


daughters,Amy, at a slight 1 lb. 3 oz. Katie would not arrive until three months later. The chances of survival for both girls were minimal, but they overcame all odds.Their doctors told the Irish Mirror that the Jones-Elliotts have “achieved the medical equivalent to the lottery.” Maria said, 12 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2013

“I call the girls our little miracles. [When] I held Amy for the first time I stroked my bump and prayed to God. I just wanted my girls to be together and safe and well.” On August 27, 87 days after Amy was born, Maria was induced and gave birth to Katie at 5 lbs. 10 oz. Katie was put into her sister’s incubator and, according to Maria, Amy immediately smiled. The twins’ father, Chris, expressed gratitude to the doctors and nurses at Waterford Regional Hospital, saying “The medical team did an incredible job.” The Guinness Book of Records is waiting for formal confirmation of the 87 days before they can officially set the twins’ record. Until Amy and Katie, the record was held by Peggy Lynn of Danville, Pennsylvania, who gave birth to twins Eric and Hannah 84 days apart, in November 1995 and February 1996. – M.M.

terrorism” that would highlight the struggle of Northern Irish nationalists given its association with the hunger strikes, according to the Irish Times. Daniel Libeskind, the New York-based modern architect who will design the Peace Centre building, is also responsible for New York’s 9/11 Memorial and Berlin’s Jewish Museum. He said that the building must have a dominant communal aspect, calling it “a hope-filled common ground.” In a joint statement, Northern Ireland’s First Minister Robinson and Deputy First Minister McGuinness hailed the project as “one of the biggest development opportunities anywhere in Northern Ireland.” McGuinness added, “the new centre will send out a powerful signal to the international community that we are building a better, brighter and shared future together.” – A.F.

EVIDENCE THAT YOU CAN’T BRING DOWN THE IRISH conomic decay, rising unemployment and unspeakable debt would make anyone feel down, but new research shows that it ain’t necessarily so for the Irish. A study conducted by researchers from the University of California at Irvine, Boston University, the University of Kansas and the Gallup/Clifton Strengths Institute and published in the Journal of Personality suggest that Irish people are the most optimistic – in particular Irish women. The study analyzed 150,048 people in over 142 countries on subjects of optimism, hope for the future and wellbeing. Ireland was ranked highest in optimism followed by Brazil, Denmark, New Zealand and America, while on the other end of the see-saw, those in Egypt, Lebanon, Zimbabwe, Haiti and Bulgaria were the most pessimistic. Young women with financial stability and an education were found to be the most optimistic about their futures, while older, poor, ill-educated men were the least. As quoted from the Journal of Personality, Matthew Gallagher, the lead author of the study and clinician at the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University, said the study provided “compelling evidence that optimism is a universal phenomenon linked to improved perceptions of physical health and improved subjective well-being worldwide.” He continued, “Our results therefore suggest that optimism is not merely a benefit of living in industrialized nations, but reflects a universal characteristic that is associated with and potentially may serve to promote improved psychological functioning worldwide.” – M.M.




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{news from ireland} TWO IRISH CHILDREN CONFIRMED BY POPE FRANCIS IN ST. PETER’S wo young Irish children from Co. Cork received the opportunity of a lifetime and were confirmed by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, April 29th. Twelve-year-olds Emily Mulcahy from Cobh and Edmond Roche from Fermoy were the only Irish among a small group of 44 selected from around 22 countries to partake in the special Confirmation ceremony at the Vatican. Their ages ranged from 11 to 55 – the youngest were two Italians and a Romanian and the oldest was 55-year-old Maria Silva Libania from Cape Verde. The Vatican invited Emily and Edmond’s diocese, the diocese of Cloyne, to choose a boy and girl to be sent to Rome to be confirmed by the newly elected Pope Francis. Their names were randomly selected out of a hat. Emily attends Saint Mary’s school in Cobh and Edmond Gaelscoil na hIde in Fermoy; both are altar servers. They were the only children from Ireland and the UK to be part of


William Crean, Bishop of Cloyne, with Emily Mulcahy and Edmond Roche. PHOTO:THE DIOCESE OF CLOYNE

the ceremony. Emily’s mother, Margaret, told the Irish Independent that the ceremony was “absolutely magnificent, a bit overwhelming to be honest.” The candidates lined up on a red carpet and were blessed by Pope Francis in Italian and kissed on the cheeks before being anointed with holy oil. Following the ceremony, they were greeted by His Eminence again, and then went on to a concert and reception. – M.M.



wo weeks after an Irish jury concluded that poor medical care – including the refusal to perform an emergency abortion – led to the death of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar in a Galway hospital in October, the Irish government proposed new legislation that will allow for abortions in situations where a woman’s life is in danger. The proposed legislation, titled the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, puts into law rights that already exist in the Irish constitution as a result of the X Case Supreme Court judgment of 1992. Under the new proposals, varying levels of approval must be obtained depending on the nature of the threat to the mother’s life. One doctor would be able to authorize a termination in an emergency. In cases where a pregnant woman’s life is at risk but not imminently, two medical practitioners, one of whom must be an obstetrician or gynecologist, would need to approve the procedure. A woman citing the possibility of suicide as her reason for seeking a termination would have to obtain approval from two psychiatrists and an obstetrician. The government was prodded into action by the Council of Europe, which has urged Ireland to enact legislation to ensure that the limited rights to abortion granted by Ireland’s Supreme Court in 1992 can be carried out in practice, with clear guidelines for action. Calls for legislation came with renewed vigor after news spread that Halappanavar, who was miscarrying after 17 weeks of pregnancy, was told that doctors could not remove the fetus while it still had a heartbeat. In a press conference before the bill’s proposal,Taoiseach Enda Kenny maintained that “the law on abortion in Ireland is not being changed.” He explained that the bill restates the general prohibition on abortion, but provides necessary legislation for emergencies. Kenny has faced pressure from pro-life groups and the Irish clergy, who oppose the bill. During a pro-life rally at the shrine of Our Lady of Knock in Co. Mayo, Cardinal Sean Brady commented that excommunication could be in store for politicians in support of the new legislation. Kenny asserted that his responsibility is to the Irish constitution, not the church.“Everybody’s entitled to their opinion here but as explained to the Cardinal and members of the church my book is the constitution and the constitution is determined by the people,” he said. “We live in a Republic and I have a duty and responsibility as head of government to legislate in respect of what the people’s wishes are.”– S.L.

ollowing his induction into the Irish America Hall of Fame (turn to page 18 for coverage), it’s only fitting that Vice President Joe Biden should pay a visit to the home of his Finnegan and Blewitt ancestors. The vice president confirmed that he would be visiting Ireland some time this year at an Irish brunch he held in March for Taoiseach Enda Kenny, in honor of St. Patrick’s day. Taoiseach Kenny was thrilled with the announcement and invited Biden for a friendly round of golf. “I am very glad to hear you say you are coming to Ireland this year,” he said. “Just to say that publicly for those of you down there in the Fourth Estate: Biden is on his way. . . . We hope that we can have a little round on the golf course if we get an opportunity.” According to the Irish Independent, the trip is being planned for August. Biden will likely be bringing his grandchildren, and the family may stay in Ireland as long as a week. Dublin and Mayo, where the vice president’s Blewitt ancestors lived, are said to already be part of the itinerary, and Co. Louth, home of his Finnegan line, is also under consideration. Ireland may receive visitors from the White House even earlier in the summer. The Irish Times reports that plans are in the works for First Lady Michelle Obama to travel to Ireland with her daughters on June 17 and 18 while the president attends the G8 summit of world leaders across the border at Lough Erne in Co. Fermanagh. Dublin and Moneygall, Co. Offaly, birthplace of the president’s ancestor Falmouth Kearney, will be likely stops on their tour. – S.L.







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{hibernia} Gabrielle Giffords Honored with JFK Profile in Courage Award


abrielle Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who survived a deadly mass shooting in January 2011, was honored with the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award on May 5, at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston. Since resigning from Congress to focus on her recovery, Giffords has become a leading voice in the charge for gun control. She and her husband, former astronaut and naval officer Mark Kelly, are the founders of the political action committee Americans for Responsible Solutions. The award, named for President Kennedy’s 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book Profiles in Courage, has been given annually since 1990. Caroline Kennedy, who is president of the Kennedy Library Foundation, presented Giffords with the award. She spoke of the pain that gun violence has brought to so many families, including her own with the assassinations of her father and her uncle Robert Kennedy. “Our family is still suffering from the

heartbreak of gun violence. No one should have to lose a husband, a wife, a father, a child to senseless murder,” she said. “But as [Gabrielle Giffords] has shown, out of that pain and tragedy, we must find the strength to carry on, to give meaning to our lives, and to build a Gabrielle Giffords and Caroline Kennedy. more just and peaceful world. “Gabrielle has turned a personal nightmare into a movement for political chases recently failed to pass, despite change. After an assassination attempt widespread support in polls. “I believe we ended her congressional career and left all have courage inside, I wish there was her with grave injuries, she fearlessly more courage in Congress. Sometimes it’s returned to public life as an advocate for hard to express it, I know.” She added, new legislation to prevent gun violence.” “It’s been a hard two years for me, but I Kelly helped Giffords, who is still recovwant to make the world a better place,” ering from her injuries, accept the award. Earlier in the day, Giffords and Kelly “The determination and the valor my spent time with victims of the Boston wife shows every single day has reMarathon bombings at Spaulding Rehabdefined the word courage for me,” he said. ilitation Center. “We know how violence changes lives.” Caroline Kennedy also paid a special Taking the microphone at the end of tribute to the first responders and citizens of Kelly’s speech, Giffords called for more Boston – as she described them, “the men courage in Congress, where a measure for and women who illuminated a path to hope universal background checks on gun purwhen this city was gripped by fear.” – S.L.

Breslin on Breslin


n June 10, at 8:30 p.m. (EST) readers in the tri-state area will be treated to a half-hour of veteran newspaper columnist and novelist Jimmy Breslin on what it means to be Irish, what makes him write, the responsibilities of a journalist, fiction vs. journalism, and preferring criminals to politicians. The half hour with Breslin is a preview of the highly anticipated Irish Writers in America series by CUNY TV, the television station of the City University of New York. The series, currently in post-production, will feature 23 Irish and Irish American authors, including John Banville, Billy Collins, Roddy Doyle, Anne Enright, Pete Hamill, William Kennedy, Dennis Lehane, Colum McCann, Alice McDermott, Edna O’Brien and more. The preview will also feature interviews with novelist Colm Tóibín, who was just nominated for a Tony Award for the Broadway adaptation of his novella The Testament of Mary. To watch, tune in to CUNY’s broadcast Channel, 25.3. Or, for viewers in New York City, Channel 75. Irish Writers in America – Jimmy Breslin and Colm Tóibín will be repeated during daytime broadcasts throughout the week of June 10. Visit for more information.


New North America Head for Tourism Ireland


n late April,Tourism Ireland announced that Alison Metcalfe, who is currently the U.S. vice president of marketing, will replace the longserving Joe Byrne as head of Tourism Ireland North America on June 1. Metcalfe has worked with Tourism Ireland and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board since 1992, initially in Canada. She was promoted to her current position in 2007, and led the recent U.S. review, “Make Ireland Jump Out.” Prior to joining Tourism Ireland, Metcalfe worked with VisitBritain (formerly BTA) in London, Portugal and Toronto. North America is the island of Ireland’s secondlargest tourism market, with close to one million visitors traveling to Ireland in 2012, generating $1 billion in revenue.

“This novel is beautifully hypnotic in its movements, from the grand to the most subtle.” —EMMA DONOGHUE FROM THE AUTHOR OF L E T T H E G R E AT W O R L D S P I N


A masterful blending of history and fiction that spans Ireland and North America, leaps centuries, and unites an amazing cast of characters. A RANDOM HOUSE



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{ irish eye on hollywood} By Tom Deignan


he summer of 2013 will have plenty of cartoons, gross-out comedies and other popcorn flicks. But, for the Irish, the summer will open and close with two serious dramas about the always controversial topic of terrorism. First up is Shadow Dancer, to be released in the U.S. on May 31. Set in the early 1990s, Shadow Dancer is about Colette McVeigh (Andrea Riseborough), a single mother who is also an IRA operative. Colette is sent off to plant a bomb in London, but changes her mind. She is, nevertheless, arrested and interrogated by an MI5 agent (Clive Owen) who gives her an opportunity to avoid a prison sentence if she informs on her fellow IRA soldiers. These include her own brother, who is played by Aidan Gillen (born Aidan Murphy in Dublin), best known for playing the reform Baltimore mayor Tom Carcetti in the acclaimed HBO series The Wire. Colette ultimately decides to inform, which causes a lot of trouble when she returns to Belfast to live with her mother (Brid Brennan) and her brother (Domhnall Gleeson), who has his own problems with the IRA. Based on a book by Tom Bradby, who worked as a TV journalist in Belfast, Shadow Dancer was directed by James Marsh, best known for documentaries such as Man on Wire and Project Nim.

Above: Clive Owen and Andrea Riseborough in Shadow Dancer. Right: Eric Bana and Ciarán Hinds in Closed Circuit.

At the end of the summer, look for Closed Circuit starring Eric Bana (Hulk, Munich) and Rebecca Hall (The Town). Closed Circuit also stars Northern Irish star of stage and screen Ciarán Hinds and was directed by Dublin-born John Crowley (Intermission). Closed Circuit features Bana and Hall as former lovers who end up together on the defense team of a terrorism suspect. Set to be released August 28, the film also features Anne-Marie Duff, who starred in the Irish film The Magdalene Sisters and plays Fiona Gallagher on the UK version of the cable drama Shameless. 16 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2013

Another Irish director – who’s been making movies for three decades now – will unspool his latest on June 28. Byzantium is the new film from Sligo-born Neil Jordan, whose directorial debut was 1982’s Angel and who gained early acclaim with Mona Lisa and The Crying Game. Byzantium, which stars Irish Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan, is the latest film to explore the trials and tribulations of vampires. Also starring Gemma Arterton and Daniel Mays, Byzantium is based on Moira Buffini’s play A Vampire Story and follows the lives of two women who have been alive for, well, a century or two. If you need a break from the terrorists and vampires, check out Irish thespian Brendan Gleeson voicing Victor Doyle in Smurfs 2 on July 31. Then get back to the scary stuff in late August with Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. This frightening flick is just brimming with Irish talent, including Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Jared Harris, son of the late Richard Harris. Mortal Instruments, based on the popular young adult novels, is about a family turned upside down when their mother is abducted from their New York City home by a monster. Jonathan Rhys When that happens, seemingly ordiMeyers nary teenager Clary Fray is forced to go into superhero mode. Along the way she must confront scary truths about her family’s past and perhaps even her destiny. She’s also got to make sure her mother is safe and decide what kind of life she is going to have after these traumatic events. Mortal Instruments also features up-and-coming Laois native Robert Sheehan (whose scary résumé includes Demons Never Die and Season of the Witch) and Dubliner Aidan Turner (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey). Belfast-born director and actor Kenneth Branagh became a

household name for his Shakespearean projects. Recently, however, he’s been trading in Hamlet and Macbeth for super heroes and fairy tales. Branagh entered a new phase of his career a few years back when he directed the critically acclaimed blockbuster Thor, based on the Marvel comic book. Now, Branagh has several projects coming up, including a bigbudget update of the Disney classic Cinderella. Downton Abbey’s Lily James recently signed on to play the famed title



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role. James is best known for her role as Lady Rose McClare on the hit PBS show. And if that’s not blockbuster enough, in December, Branagh will unveil Jack Ryan, the latest cinematic take on Irish-American author Tom Clancy’s famed character. This time around, Chris Pine tackles the title role once played by Ben Affleck, Harrison Ford and Alec Baldwin. Also featured in Jack Ryan (which Branagh directed) are Kevin Costner and Keira Knightley. The film is slated to open Christmas Day 2013. Back to Saoirse Ronan. Her controversial teen-assassins flick Violet and Daisy will finally be released in the U.S. this June. The film has played in the U.K. to mixed reviews, but they were apparently good enough to warrant a stateside release. The film also stars Alexis Bledel of Gilmore Girls, with the young duo teaming up as violent criminals. June also brings the latest film from Irish-American Aidan Quinn. Entitled Rushlights, the film follows two teenagers from L.A. (Josh Henderson and Haley Webb) who get into trouble when they try to pull off an inheritance scheme after making their way to a small Texas town. Rushlights also stars Beau Bridges. Kevin Irish-American stars Connolly and Kevin Dillon of the

former TV hit Entourage recently confirmed that an Entourage movie is in the works. Based loosely on the Hollywood exploits of Irish-American (and Entourage producer) Mark Wahlberg, the show comically explored life in the Hollywood fast lane for Queens-kid-turned-movie-star Vinny Chase (Adrian Grenier). And while some people might think making a movie of Entourage would be going to Above: Kevin the well one too many times, Kevin Connolly. Right: Connolly is not one of them. Speaker Quinn pres“Oh, are you kidding? That’s like ents Liam Neeson with the Irishman of getting asked to go re-do your senior year in high school,” Connolly told HuffPost Entertainment. “I can’t wait.” Speaking of television, Irish actor Chris O’Dowd recently began his role in the HBO series Family Tree. The comic faux-genealogy series has an impressive creative team behind it, including Christopher Guest and Michael McKean, two of

Left: Kenneth Branagh. Top: Chris O’Dowd learns about his roots in the HBO mock-umentary series Family Tree.

the folks behind the famed mock-umentary This is Spinal Tap and other comic gems. Similarly, Family Tree is shot documentary style, and follows a character as he looks into his highly disturbing family roots. Later this year, O’Dowd will appear alongside many other Irish talents in Calvary, a black comedy written and directed by Irish filmmaker (and brother of playwright Martin) John Michael McDonagh, the writer-director behind the Brendan Gleeson film The Guard. Gleeson will also appear in Calvary alongside O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly (Flight, Sherlock Holmes) and aforementioned Irishman Aidan Gillen. In Calvary, Gleeson plays a priest looking to make the world a better place. His parishioners, however, are generally petty and small-minded. He faces a crisis when he is told something in the confessional that may get him killed. Finally, no Irish movie column would be complete unless we caught up with the latest Liam Neeson action thriller. Neeson is currently in New York shooting A Walk Among the Tombstones. Neeson referred to the film in late March, when he picked up his Thomas J. Manton Irishman of the Year Award from New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. “An hour ago I was in Brooklyn, trying to catch two bad guys,” he joked. “I will try to catch them again tomorrow, and the IA day after that.”




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Celebrating the 2013 Irish America Hall of Fame he 2013 class of Hall of Fame honorees were inducted at a luncheon and ceremony on March 21, at the Marriott Essex House in Manhattan. Before a gathering of close to 300, a bagpiper led in the 2013 inductees: Vice President Joe Biden, art collector and benefactor Brian Burns, businessman and philanthropist Bob Devlin, hotelier and humanitarian John Fitzpatrick, former U.S. congressman and immigration reformer Bruce Morrison, and former ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith, who received a special award for her work on behalf of Ireland. Enjoy these excerpts of insight, gratitude and humor from the inductees’ speeches, edited lightly for length.



Joe Biden “All the stories, all the pride, all that created this sense of unity among Irish Americans – it’s interesting when you think about it: Why are we as proud as we are? “Why would my mother say things to me like – and coming from very modest means – ‘Joey, remember, you’re a Biden.’ It’s like, ‘What the hell’s a Biden?’ It was like we were talking about some dynasty, but it was real. It was palpable. And I’ve often wondered as I’ve grown up [about] this sense of pride that we have. It is so strong. I realize it permeates other ethnic American groups as well, but there’s something about us Irish, about how we view ourselves and how we were viewed by others. I think we are at one the same time dreamers and yet realists. We have a combination of spirituality, and yet we’re doubters. We’re compassionate, yet we’re really demanding. “My mother used to say ‘Joey, nobody, 18 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2013

The 2013 Irish America Hall of Fame inductees: John Fitzpatrick, Bruce Morrison, Jean Kennedy Smith (who was inducted in 2011), Bob Devlin and Brian Burns.

nobody, nobody is better than you. Everyone’s your equal, but no one’s better than you. Treat everyone with respect, but demand respect. Demand respect from everyone with whom you deal. Never bow.’ “I remember when I was going to meet the Queen of England as a young Senator. Before I left the house, I got a call from my mother. She said, ‘Joey, be polite, but do not [bow].’ I got the great honor of introducing my mother to Pope John Paul. My mother said, ‘Joey, don’t kiss his ring.’ “There was this thing, this thing about never bending. As my dad would say, it’s all about dignity. Everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity, no man, under any circumstance, has a right to treat someone in a way that doesn’t acknowledge their dignity. And in the end, I think it really is about faith, and family, and country. “I choose to believe that it was true that from the arrival of the first famine ships, like the Dunbrody, which set sail in 1845, to the ship the Finnegans sailed on, the Marchioness of Bute, which arrived in 1850, to the thousands of Irish immigrants that enter our country today, 50,000 of whom have not yet reached safe harbor. They’re here, they’re Americans, but they’re not citizens; they’re undocumented. We have to find a fair and effective and a decent way to bring them out of the shadows, along with 11 million other undocumented immigrants from all across the country, the vast majority of whom are Hispanic, many Asian as well, so that they can earn

– earn – a pathway to citizenship. As the great Irish poet Bono said (he’s an interesting guy by the way), ‘America is not just a country, it’s an idea.’ It’s an idea that’s been embraced by the Irish for the past two centuries. And because of that embrace, it’s an idea that has borne great fruit not only for us, but quite frankly for the whole world. And what we all know, is that there’s a never-ending need to continue to nurture that idea of America as a place that’s all about possibilities. . . . “My friends in Congress are always kidding me because I’m always quoting Irish poets. Everybody thinks it’s because I have some scholarly bent – it’s not. I used to stutter so badly and my uncle Ed, who was a well-educated man and lived with us as a bachelor, had two volumes of Yeats on the bureau, and at night I’d put this little light on and stand in front of the mirror and read Yeats [out loud]. And I’d practice and practice and practice not to contort my face, just to try to breathe and get it done. “One of my favorite contemporary poets is Seamus Heaney. And in his poem ‘The Cure at Troy’ he wrote, ‘History says, don’t hope on this side of the grave. But then, once in a lifetime, the longed for tidal wave of justice rises up, and hope and history rhyme.’ “There are over 11 million people out there, good people, who are waiting for hope and history to rhyme. And I think we above all other people, who felt that brunt of prejudice, that disregard of our talent, the marginalization of our reli-



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John Fitzpatrick meets fellow inductee Vice President Joe Biden.

Bill Reilly of Sober St. Patrick's Day and Ed Kenney of Mutual of America.

Brian Burns, Patricia Harty and Turlough McConnell.

Eileen Burns, inaugural inductee Don Keough and honoree Brian Burns.

David McCoy of the House of Waterford Crystal presents John Fitzpatrick the Hall of Fame award with Founding Publisher Niall O'Dowd and Co-Founder/Editor-in-Chief Patricia Harty.

2011 inductee Jean Kennedy Smith and 2012 inductee Tom Moran, head of Mutual of America.

2011 inductee Bill Flynn and Hugh Gordon of Coca-Cola, Patricia Harty, honoree Bruce Morrison, Michael Dowling, CEO of North Hanora O’Dea Kilkenny and Consul General Noel Kilkenny. Shore-LIJ Health Systems.

Honoree Bob Devlin with sons Michael and Matt, and grandsons Jack, Luke and Ian.

Colum McCann, Edna O'Brien, Niall O'Dowd and Maureen Dowd.

Brian Stack, presiAlison Metcalfe of Tourism Ireland, Andrea Haughian of Invest NI and Lorraine Turner of dent of CIE Tours International. the Northern Ireland Bureau.

Historian Christine Kinealy and daughter Siobhan with Vice President Biden.

Musician Gregory Harrington, 2012 inductee Loretta Brennan Glucksman and Kieran McLoughlin.

Ruth Riddick, Lynn Bushnell of Quinnipiac University and Don Bushnell.

American Airlines guests Edward Sweeney, Patricia Ornst, Jennifer Hensley and Vincent LeVien. JUNE / JULY 2013 IRISH AMERICA 19



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{hibernia} Jean Kennedy Smith gion, the characterization of our families, I think we have both the capacity and the obligation, not just to take those 50,000 Irishmen out of the shadows, but everyone out of the shadows. “Ladies and gentlemen, it is a rare privilege and a great honor, and I mean that sincerely. I would have never dreamed that I would be in this position. Oh I, I wasn’t surprised that I’d be Vice President, but I am surprised I’m in the Irish America Hall of Fame. Thank you all very very much.”

Brian Burns “I’d like to first bow to my wife, Eileen, who’s been an extraordinary partner and adventurer. Every time I think of taking on a project, she says, ‘What’s stopping you?’ “It was some eighty years ago that my dad was introduced to Joe Kennedy when he was the youngest judge and youngest professor at Harvard Law School. Joe asked him if he would join with him to form the Securities and Exchange Commission under President Roosevelt. . . Now my dad’s been dead for some 57 years but he left us all with a flame – we’re only here for a short while and we better get going, not waste our time. So I’ve tried not to do that, and causes in Ireland and for Ireland have really caught my attention. “There’s one person I want to mention who has been my inspiration for many decades. Almost everyone here, I’m sure, has done great things for Ireland and haven’t forgotten their antecedents. But he is not only suis generis – no matter how many of us are honored, Donald Keough is primus inter pares, the first of all of us.”

Bob Devlin “This is a great occasion and I am very grateful and honored to be part of a heritage that I have a tremendous amount of respect for. When I think of the beautiful Emerald Isle, and the spirit and soulfulness of the people there, and those that came to America under great hardship

Jean Kennedy Smith, former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland and the last of the seven Kennedy siblings, accepted a special award in recognition of her family’s extraordinary legacy and her own great work as Ambassador. Don Keough, the former President of Coca-Cola, who in 2010 was the Jean Kennedy first inductee into the Irish America Smith with JFK Hall of Fame, asked the audience to Trust CEO Sean consider what America would be like Reidy and inauwithout the contributions of the gural inductee Don Keough Kennedy family: “Jean, you represent the best of Irish America. From a family that selflessly devoted itself to extraordinary work on behalf of the poor, the unfortunate and the downtrodden. How would this country look without this family? Would African Americans have full, complete civil rights? I don’t know. Would the disabled and the mentally challenged be able to walk out of their houses and have the joy of victory, the joy of success, the joy of participation that came from the Special Olympics here and around the world? And would there be peace in Ireland? Well, let’s think for a minute about that last statement. As Ambassador to Ireland, Jean played an absolutely critical role in creating the space for the process.” Humble to no end, Kennedy Smith, who was not initially going to give a speech, dashed up to the podium to express her gratitude to all others who worked towards peace in Ireland: “There were a lot of people involved, many of them are here today, many of them Americans, who helped immeasurably. So my hat goes off to them. This is a shared prize.” and distress, I am humbled. They brought with them values, talent, capabilities, and also commitments, that are just unbelievable – those values, and traits of loyalty, integrity, commitment, dedication, hard work, a love of family and friends, and certainly one with a wonderful and engaging sense of humor.”

John Fitzpatrick “It’s important to note that the Irish America Hall of Fame is headquartered at the Dunbrody Famine Ship back in New Ross, County Wexford. This is very special to me as I was born in Wexford and spent most of my young childhood down in Wexford so I’m really looking forward to going back and visiting it. The museum’s location serves to remind us... of who first came here to escape that

horrible Great Famine – they overcame a lot and helped to build America into the great country it is today. “

Bruce Morrison “I want to say a special thanks to Niall [O’Dowd] for twice giving me the opportunity that has led to this day. First, by christening that portion of my Immigration Act of 1990 as Morrison Visas, without which the brand would never have existed, and also for inviting me to be part of the Americans for a New Irish Agenda group to give us the chance to play that role [in Northern Ireland]. . . . I’d also like to thank the people of Connecticut, for choosing me once upon a time to be a member of Congress, and then choosing somebody else to be governor, which freed up my IA time to work on the peace process.” LEFT to RIGHT: Quinnipiac University president and 2012 inductee Dr. John Lahey with Joe Byrne of Tourism Ireland; Minister Fergus O'Dowd and Vice President Joe Biden; Niall O’Dowd presents Vice President Biden with the House of Waterford Crystal boat bowl.


The Programme of Events JFK50 Celebrations Marking the 50th Anniversary of the visit of President John F. Kennedy to Ireland Join in the celebration at the Dunbrody Famine Ship and Emigration Center and the Kennedy Homestead in New Ross, County Wexford, this summer with a thrilling calendar of events to commemorate President Kennedy’s trip to Ireland fifty years ago. Come visit the Irish America Hall of Fame with latest inductee and legendary songstress Judy Collins and be a part of this exciting gathering! In a symbolic gesture to travel the reverse path of the Kennedy family, the Gathering Torch will be lit from the John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame in Arlington, VA, and will then make the journey to New Ross to light the Emigrant Flame in celebration of the Kennedy Homecoming.

The Flame









( President Kennedy's Birthday) at Arlington, Virginia: the Lighting of the Gathering Torch from the Eternal Flame at the graveside of President John F. Kennedy.

The Torch is brought to Boston as it retraces the steps of President Kennedy's great-grandfather Patrick who emigrated from Ireland during the Great Famine. (To be confirmed.)

A special ceremony of the Gathering Torch takes place in Liverpool where Patrick Kennedy boarded the Washington Irving bound for Boston.

The Arrival of the Torch on board the Irish navy vessel Orla in New Ross, Co Wexford, from Liverpool retracing the first leg of Patrick Kennedy's journey on board the Dunbrody. Special Guests Michael Flatley, Michael Londra, Judy Collins, Extreme Rhythm.

The Anniversary 21st of June at 6:00 p.m The induction of Judy Collins into the Irish America Hall of Fame And including the posthumous induction of Commodore John Barry

21st of June at 8:00 p.m Gala Kennedy Homecoming Ball presented by The Kennedy Homestead and Brandon House Hotel in association with Irish America magazine Guests of Honor The Kennedy Family With special guest Judy Collins

22nd of June at 2:00 p.m. The official opening of the new Visitor Centre at the Kennedy Homestead

22nd of June at 4:00 p.m. The official opening of the new Exhibition at the JFK Arboretum DB ad.indd 1

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Those We Lost Helena Carroll 1928 – 2013

The Irish actress Helena Carroll died late March in Marina del Rey, California of heart failure at the age of 84. Since emigrating to the United States in the 1950s, Carroll had been a mainstay of supporting roles on TV, in film, and on the stage. Born in Glasgow in 1928 to the famed playwright Paul Vincent Carroll, Helena was raised between Scotland and Ireland before studying acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Once settled in New York, she acted in numerous Broadway plays, including as the undertaker’s wife, Mrs. Sowerberry, in the original production of Oliver! in 1963, opposite Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the 1983 revival of Noël Coward’s Private Lives, and in 1999’s Waiting in the Wings, starring Lauren Bacall. Ireland was never out of mind even in New York, where she founded the Irish Players acting repertory in the mid 50s to stage Irish playwrights’ work, including her father’s most famous play, Shadow and Substance. In 1987, she also appeared as Aunt Kate in John Huston’s movie The Dead, an adaptation of James Joyce’s short story. Her final appearance on stage was a fitting one: a 2005 revival of Brian Friel’s Philadelphia, Here I Come! at the Irish Repertory Theater in New York, for which she was nominated for a Lucille Lortel Award. – A.F.

Gerald Lynch 1937 – 2013

The longest-serving president of John Jay College, Dr. Gerald W. Lynch, passed away on April 17 after suffering from a brief illness. He was 76 years old. Dr. Lynch was a psychology professor at John Jay before he was named acting president in 1975. Only a few weeks into his new position, the City University of New York system plunged into an economic crisis, with the fate of John Jay’s future teetering in the balance. When the CUNY system was ordered to cut nearly 100 million dollars from its budget, Dr. Lynch was at the forefront of the fight to keep John Jay open. He encouraged and joined in student protests, and he obtained support from high profile politicians and law enforcement officials. His efforts were successful: John Jay was one of the few CUNY schools not to face closure or a merger. Dr. Lynch was formally sworn in as president in March 1977 and served for 28 years, until 2004. Under his tenure, the university developed one of the most prominent criminal justice programs in the country. Gerald Weldon Lynch was born in Manhattan on March 24, 1937, to Alice Margaret and Edward Dewey Lynch. He received his bachelor’s degree from Fordham University and a doctorate in 22 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2013

clinical psychology from New York University. Dr. Lynch joined John Jay’s faculty as a psychology professor in the mid-1960’s; he was later named the dean of students before becoming the vice president and acting dean of faculty members. In 1998, Dr. Lynch was one of two U.S. delegates named to the Independent Commission on Policing in Northern Ireland, a group charged with examining the RUC and recommending future changes in the police force there. He leaves behind his wife, Eleanor Sherry Lynch, his son and daughter, Timothy and Elizabeth; and a granddaughter. – M.M.

Patricia McCormick 1929 – 2013

Fifty-nine years after first being given her last rites in a bullfighting ring in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, bullfighter Patricia McCormick died peacefully at a nursing home in Del Rio, Texas, across the Rio Grande from its sister city, Ciudad Acuña. She was 83. Born in St. Louis, Patricia Lee McCormick was one of the first North American women to become a professional bullfighter, and was the first American woman to be invited to join Mexico’s matador union in 1952. Profiles by Time, Sports Illustrated, and Look magazines did much to solidify her reputation as a highly skilled, elegant, and respected bullfighter, but she still faced discrimination as a female fighter and was never allowed to take the alternativa, an official ceremony that would have raised her above the title of novillera, an apprentice. Nonetheless, she did compete in the same arenas, and on the same bills as male matadors. Between 1951 and 1962, McCormick engaged more than 300 bulls in the ring and retired only partially due to injuries (she was gored by a bull’s horns on six separate occasions), primarily citing that the bulls had become too small. Never one for undue spectacle, McCormick removed herself from the publicity of bullfighting upon retirement, moving to Pasadena to pursue art while acting as an administrative assistant at the Art Center College of Design, and then returning to Texas in the early 2000s. “She was prestige. She was real prestige,” Fred Renk, a fighting bull breeder in Texas, told the Los Angeles Times. “When she walked into the bullring, people cheered and she’d just bow her head.” – A.F.

Milo O’Shea 1926 – 2013

The legendary Irish actor, or “actor who is Irish” as he preferred, passed away in a hospital in New York City on April 2 from complications of Alzheimer’s, his devoted wife Kitty Sullivan at his side. He was 86. A much-loved member of the Irish community in New York, he will be very missed. Milo began his long and varied career as an actor, comedian, movie and television star as a child in his native Dublin and made his first appearance on the New York stage in Staircase in 1968. The Charles Dyer play about an aging gay couple was Broadway’s

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first serious look at a homosexual relationship, and Milo was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor. Milo worked hard to avoid being typecast. “I like to be known as the actor Milo O’Shea who does everything,” he said in 1986, in the first of several interviews with Irish America. After two years on Broadway, as Irish priest Fr. Tim Farley in Mass Appeal, he promised himself that he wouldn’t play another priest for at least another five years. In film, he was the villainous Dr. Durand Durand in Barbarella, appeared in Romeo and Juliet and alongside Paul Newman in The Verdict. He starred as Leopold Bloom in Joseph Strick’s 1967 film version of Ulysses. For all his success in movies, Milo returned to the stage whenever possible, most recently in 2005 in the Irish Repertory Theater’s production of Finian’s Rainbow at the Westport Country Playhouse. He attributed his love of the stage to his parents. His father was a singer and his mother a harpist and a dancer. He grew up going to the theater in his native Dublin at least once a week. As a boy actor he worked on both radio and stage and, at the tender age of 17, his father encouraged him to join a touring company of players. The actor never regretted his move to the States. “I could have stayed at home,” he said, “and gone from pantomime to pantomime, but I wouldn’t have been content. To grow as an actor you need to explore new horizons.” Milo is survived by his wife, actress, singer and harpist Kitty Sullivan. The couple met while performing together in My Fair Lady. He is also survived by two sons from his first marriage to Maureen Toal; his son Colm and daughter-in-law Deirdre and their three children, Paul, Mark and Ellen; and his son Steven and his partner Melanie Carrick. – P.H.

Michael J. Roarty 1928 – 2013

Michael J. Roarty, the man who transformed the branding of Anheuser-Busch beers and made them international sensations (particularly in Ireland), died in March at 84. Roarty was the vice president and director of marketing at Anheuser-Busch between 1977 and 1990 and helmed some of the company’s most famous beer ads, including “Weekends were made for Michelob” and “This Bud’s for you.” By the end of his tenure, the company’s stock and sales volume both had more than doubled, and he had been inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame. He was also named Irish-American of the year by this magazine. While at Anheuser-Busch, Roarty forged several business partnerships that increased the visibility of the beer brands under its banner. In 1980, he convinced Anheuser-Busch to support the thenstruggling ESPN TV station and solidified Anheuser-Busch beers’ synonymy with sports-lovers. Later he would persuade Anheuser-Busch to enter a license agreement with Guinness, bringing the distribution of Budweiser to Ireland while

simultaneously giving it a jolt of popularity by linking the brand with Ireland’s tradition of thoroughbred horse-racing by spearheading the world-ranked Budweiser Irish Derby. Born in Detroit to Mayo and Donegal immigrants, Roarty never kept Ireland far from his mind. In addition to his contribution to the Irish economy through Anheuser-Busch, he served as president of the Ireland-U.S. Council from 1993 to 2002, increasing membership support and significantly expanding the range of the Council’s program initiatives. He is survived by his wife, Lee, his son Sean, his daughter, Mary, and four grandchildren. – A.F.

Bridget Mooney Spence 1983 – 2013

After nine years of living with breast cancer, Bridget Mooney Spence passed away on April 4 at her home in Sudbury, Massachusetts, her husband and mother by her side. A leading force in the fight against breast cancer, Spence, 29, worked with Event 360 as a national sales and service coordinator, specializing in events and fundraisers for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. She served on the Komen Foundation’s Young Women's Advisory Board and helped to organize and participated in many of their 3-day walks. A powerful and personable speaker, she was featured in the foundation’s national ad campaign, and was most recently interviewed on ABC's 60 Minutes in 2012. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, she was the daughter of Dorothy Hermann Mooney, a teacher, and William J. Mooney, an accountant. She attended Boston University and spent a semester studying in Dublin. Spence received her diagnosis of stage IV metastatic breast cancer in 2005, two weeks after graduating cum laude with a degree in international relations. She was otherwise healthy and had no family history of the disease. For metastatic breast cancer, the five-year survival rate is less than 20%. Through her own determination, the support of her family, friends and doctors, and her participation in a number of important clinical trials, Spence survived for almost nine more years. Her story is chronicled on her blog, My Big Girl Pants, which she started in 2010 as a way of keeping family and friends up-todate on her journey. As it gained more followers, it also became a means for encouraging open conversation about living with cancer. In the introduction, she wrote: “I am living well. I am living fully. I am happy. I am one of the happiest people I know. I just got married in August (best wedding ever!!). . . . I think these facts can help people, even though my situation might scare you.” In posts that ranged from a practical wishlist for breast cancer survivors to appreciations for her husband, Alex; from updates on fundraisers and medical trials to a public goodbye, her voice is warm, brave and candid throughout. Spence is survived by her husband; her mother; her older brothers Daniel, Patrick and John; her sisters-in-law; a niece, Annabelle; her extended family; many friends; and the countless people she helped and continues to inspire through her tireless work with Event 360 and the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and through her writing. –S.L. JUNE / JULY 2013 IRISH AMERICA 23



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Mass Burials at Kilkenny Union Workhouse


ight years ago, builders of a new shopping complex at MacDonagh Junction in the new city quarter of Kilkenny, uncovered human remains on grounds that once housed the Kilkenny Union Workhouse. A year later, a full excavation was carried out, concurrent with construction, by Brendan O’Meara of Margaret Gowen & Co. Ltd, a private archeological consulting firm, and the scale of the initial discovery was realized – 63 burial sites and no less than 970 skeletons dating to famine times. It is the largest mass burial site ever unearthed in Ireland. Since the discovery, Jonny Geber, a paleo-pathologist at Queens University Belfast, has been leading a team of researchers to determine “how the calamity struck the lowest levels of society and what the conditions in the workhouse were like.” His research and conclusions were featured in the May 2013 issue of Current Archeology. Workhouses were introduced to Ireland

Above: MacDonagh Junction today. Right: The old Kilkenny Union Workhouse..

by the British government in 1838 as the most cost effective way of taking care of the poor and the destitute. It became incumbent on the landowners in the district to pay the costs of the upkeep of the workhouse. During the worst years the famine, workhouses in Ireland swelled far beyond capacity, with dire results.

Seoul Celebrates Irish Korean War Heroes


memorial for the 159 Irish people who died during the Korean War was unveiled at the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul on April 25.The unveiling was part of the larger Revisit Korea program, which brought 11 Irish veterans, family members of those who served, and active soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment to Seoul for the 60th anniversary of the Armistice Agreement, which ended the war. The Irish Association of Korea, with the Embassy of Ireland, the Somme Association and the Royal Ulster Rifles Association, organized the service to honor the Irish soldiers who fought between 1950 and 1953.There were 159 Irish casualties throughout the course of the war, as a number of Irishmen fought with British and UN forces. Seven Irish Columban priests and an Anglican nun, Sister Mary Clare Witty, also died during the conflict. The greatest number of Irish fatalities took place during the January 1951 Battle of Happy Valley, in which the Royal Ulster Rifles, which included many Irish, played a key role as Seoul’s last defense against the North Korean and Chinese forces. The unveiling marked the first official commemoration of the Irish role in the Korean war, a fact Eamonn McKee, Irish Ambassador to Korea, attributed to improved AngloIrish relations. “A key dimension has been the Irish peace process, as after the Good Friday agreement of 1998 most identities and traditions were accepted as part of the shared island of Ireland,” he told the Irish Times.“There has been a recovery of many facets of what it means to be Irish, and this includes Irish service in the British military.” The new memorial replaces an earlier Memorial Pillar, which was carved by a Korean Mason in 1951, and given to Belfast in 1962 as a gesture of thanks.To this day it stands in the grounds of Belfast’s City Hall. – S.L.


The Kilkenny Union Workhouse was designed to hold a maximum of 1,300. In July 1847, 2,340 people were confined there. By 1851, that number had risen to 4,357. Evidence gathered by Geber and his team shows that when an outbreak of typhus hit the workhouse in 1847, mass burial sites were created over a 43month period, between 1847 and 1851. Moreover, Geber found that over half of the remains found were of children. Of the 970 skeletons recovered, 499 showed signs of scurvy, caused by a lack of Vitamin C in the diet, implicating the disease as a greater influence on mortality than previously thought. Potatoes were the exclusive source of Vitamin C for the Irish pesantry, with the average adult eating 12-14 lbs of potatoes per day prior to the destruction of the crop due to blight in successive years, beginning in 1845. Geber’s findings suggest that pre-existing conditions that were improperly diagnosed or impossible to treat at the time (given 19th-century medical knowledge) were the main cause of death. For example, many of the bones unearthed show that sources of Vitamin C had been reintroduced into the inmates’ diets after a period of deprivation, indicating that advanced scurvy was already present prior to their entering the workhouse, and that once inside, the poor received at least some relief from malnutrition. Even so, Geber’s research points to the extreme conditions of poverty and substandard care under which the workhouse inmates were forced to live during the famine years. In May 2010, the remains were reinterred in a nearby cemetery and a famine memorial garden was officially consecrated. MacDonagh Junction, combining a mix of high quality retail, residential, business and leisure developments, now sits on the site of the former Kilkenny workhouse. Many of the original buildings were preserved. – A.F.



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Quote Unquote “This past week we have experienced a surge in civic awareness and sense of community. It has been inspiring to see the generous and at times heroic responses to the Patriots Day violence. Our challenge is to keep this spirit of community alive going forward. As people of faith, we must commit ourselves to the task of community building. Jesus teaches us in the Gospel that we must care for each other, especially the most vulnerable; the hungry, the sick, the homeless, the foreigner; all have a special claim on our love. We must be a people of reconciliation, not revenge. The crimes of the two young men must not be the justification for prejudice against Muslims and against immigrants. . . . The Gospel is the antidote to the ‘eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth’ mentality.” – Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, in his homily at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on April 21.

“I do think the movies [have] influence, I hate to say it, on our societies. And the games [that] deal with killing, which our kids play these days have a strong, twisted effect. . . .The kill ratio in movies is overwhelming. I never really took the violence in the Bond movies too seriously, the plot was not so real. We are a violent race without question and now what we can do with computer graphics is terrifying. . . . Assault weapons should be banned without question and guns should be monitored. The gun law in America is absolutely crazy and out of control.” – Pierce Brosnan, a former James Bond, in an interview with The Sun. April 26.

“The last century was a century of violence. This must be a century of peace. My generation’s century is now gone, but the future is still in your hands. . . . There is no other alternative to the peace process.” – His Holiness the Dalai Lama, speaking to the youth of Derry for the city’s Culture of Compassion event on April 18.

“I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy [III], my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston’s 2012 Gay Pride Parade. I’m seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy. I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn’t even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator. If I’d been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride. . . .When I told Joe a few weeks ago that I was gay, he was grateful that I trusted him. He asked me to join him in you the truth. 2013. We’ll be marching on June 8.”

“It’s madness, to tell Madness, when it’s semi-sane, generates a certain vividness.”

– Edna O’Brien, in response to O magazine books editor Leigh Haber’s question “What makes the Irish notoriously great storytellers?” May 2013.

– Jason Collins of the Washington Wizards in the May 6, 2013 issue of Sports Illustrated. Collins is the first openly gay pro-athlete in an American team sport.




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The Irish of the Miramichi The region’s tough but triumphant Irish roots are celebrated every year at Canada’s Irish Festival.


the wake of the disaster, breaking from the planting season to round up food, clothing, bedclothes and medical aid for the troubled ship. After some debate, town officials sent workers to Middle Island to convert fish shacks into temporary shelters. The heroic efforts of a local physician, Dr. John Vondy, 28-years-old, the only doctor who chose to live on Middle Island while caring for the sick, ended a month after the Looshtauk docked, when he contacted Typhus from his patients and died. Vondy, who had received his medical training in London, had returned to his native Miramichi to practice. All this is hard to envision under a summer’s blue sky on the bucolic island today, especially when the greater world comes to pay respects as Canada’s self-appointed “Irish Capital” stages its Irish Festival on its streets, waterfront, arenas and public gathering spots. A Celtic cross monument and a trail around the island, now connected to the river’s bank by a causeway, provide simple and moving tributes to a terrible time. “From that tragedy has sprung a tremendous sense of pride in Irish culture and the ancestors,” says Veronique Arsenault, the festival’s president. “We must always remember that, learn from it and move forward.” Over four days, from July 18 to 21, local folks and more than 10,000 visitors will celebrate the festival’s 30th anniversary. They will party, parade, eat, dance, see art exhibits and theater, enjoy an almost endless stream of musicians, and check out the New Brunswick provincial archives and census records of Irish immigrants. The closing moments of the festival always come back to 1847, with a



t’s no secret why folks along the mighty Miramichi River celebrate their Irish heritage so fiercely. When your roots and a good part of the history that followed are steeped in sorrow and loss, rejoicing in what is good about life and your culture is that much more important. This region, about two hours’ drive north of New Brunswick’s economic center, Moncton, has taken body blows over the centuries, from famine and fire to war and mill closings that have tried the resolve of a largely Irish population. But first amongst the woes, surely, was the string of coffin ships, full to overflowing with Irish fleeing starvation, that made their way up the Miramichi from the Atlantic Ocean in 1847. In this region of 28,000, about 60 percent of whom are Irish, it is simply referred to as “The Tragedy of 1847.” The first ship to arrive was the Looshtauk. Turned away at Sydney, Nova Scotia by officials terrified of the sickness and close to 100 dead on board, Captain John Thain hoped for better fortune up the Miramichi, where, in lieu of a quarantine station, the authorities had hastily erected a lazarattoo on Middle Island in the center of the river. The Looshtauk had sailed from Liverpool on April 17 with 462 passengers living in deplorable conditions and arrived at Middle Island on June 2, in complete crisis. After months of misery, 242 of the passengers perished at sea or on the island. But matters worsened as six other ships followed the Looshtauk up the river in the days and weeks that followed, only one ship with a clean bill of health. To their credit, the townspeople in what was then called Chatham rallied to help in

Clockwise from top: The Middle Island memorial cross; The heroic Dr. John Vondy; Fiddlers on the banks of the Miramichi; The engraving on the memorial cross.



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remembrance of June 2 of that year and the misery that followed. “It’s very emotional,” said Hughie McElvaney, mayor of Monaghan, the Irish town that twinned with Miramichi at the first Irish Festival in 1998. “So many Irish were lost there.” But the Mayor was also was impressed with the spirit of the citizens. “What struck us here was the Irishness of the people, their hospitality and the joy of the celebration, the dancing and singing. To know they’re headed to their 30th anniversary is great.” McElvaney, who visited last summer with a small delegation to honor the lives of those who perished, was so moved he reached into his own pocket to help the Nelson Doyle Dancers, a local Irish group, make a trip to Ireland. When he learned fundraising had fallen short and several dancers wouldn’t be able to go, he made up the difference. For Paul Parsons of Portland, Maine, an

Clockwise from above: Miramichi’s water tower shows its Irish pride; Pipers and parades during Canada’s Irish Festival; Mayor Hughie McElvaney and the Nelson Doyle Irish Dancers in Monaghan.

Acadians fled to the island to forge new lives, but disaster soon struck. In 1756, ships with provisions sent from Quebec were delayed due to strong headwinds and then postponed as winter closed down the St. Lawrence River. The settlement slowly starved. By the end of the 19th century, the island appears to have been deserted. It was acquired by the O'Brien family in 1920 and willed to the government of Canada in 1973 following the death of Joseph Leonard O’Brien, a former lieutenant governor of New Brunswick. The anguish of the Acadians is depicted by historical character actors on the island. It is riveting theater. Visitors looking for lighter entertainment will enjoy a 90minute bilingual river trip on the Max Aitken with Captain Azade Hache, who offers Miramichi lore with his own whimsical take. And for a bit of adventure, Stewart’s Tubing offers a journey down a tamer, stretch of the waterway on inner tubes. For a really different experience for folks on a budget, tree house accommodation at Camping Miramichi is an option.


Irish dance and music enthusiast, the Miramichi festival was “the largest Irish-Celtic celebration I have been to.” Parsons, 33, said he was impressed with the way the town was dressed up, the breadth of entertainment, and the fact that the Irish Ambassador to Canada attended. He also counted O’Donaghue’s as one of the nicest Irish pubs of the hundreds he’s sampled.

The Acadians Nearby Beaubears Island, accessible by ferry, also has a very interesting history. The largest refuge for Acadians (descendants of the 17th century French colonists) in maritime Canada during

what has been called The Great Expulsion or The Great Exportation. The French-speaking settlers were torn from their lands in 1755 by fearful English crown forces when they refused to swear allegiance to King George II as the Seven Years War between England and France was about to break out. Somewhere between 1,500 and 3,000

Essentially small cabins on supports built around pine trees, it’s a small step up from camping and a novel overnight stay heavy with pine scent and bird calls. Two of the best accommodations in the area are the Rodd Miramichi River, a modern hotel with lots of amenities, and the Governor’s Mansion, an antique-filled rambling inn with large rooms, comfy beds and massive breakfast spreads. IA – John Kernaghan JUNE / JULY 2013 IRISH AMERICA 27

Calling all Flynns, O’Malleys and Schweitzenburgs. No matter how much, or how little, Irish you have in you, you’re invited to come and experience The Gathering Ireland 2013. The year-long celebration of Irish culture promises a trip like none other. You can immerse yourself in countless festivals and events, incredible music and art, exhilarating sports, and there are thousands of ways to connect with your family, friends and Irish roots. If you’ve ever wanted to come “home” there’s never been a better time to do it.

Don’t miss this once in a lifetime chance. Be part of it.

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The Gathering Ireland 2013 is in full swing! The year-long festivities calling the global Irish diaspora home started in January and the celebration continues for the rest of the year. Ireland is just waiting to welcome you home!

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bringing all aspects of Ireland – culture, music, the arts, sports, and heritage – to glorious, indelible life. It’s a grassroots effort. The people of Ireland, in villages, towns and cities have been powerful in organizing many of the events at a local level.

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The Gathering Ireland 2013 is a year-long opportunity to connect with the entire island. A nonstop series of events and festivals are well under way,

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A Year to Remember It’s no exaggeration to say that The Gathering offers an entire year to experience Ireland-its culture, people, places, and traditions-as never before, with 365 days of annual and grassroots events ranging from large-scale festivals to intimate family reunions. There are over 2,500 events planned to date!

Come Home to Ireland One of Ireland’s fondest wishes is that The Gathering inspires the millions of Irish diaspora around the globe, as well as their friends and extended families, to reconnect with their Irish roots. Ireland is opening its arms and welcoming home its sons and daughters from all over the world, and the ‘Cead Mile Failte’ (one hundred thousand welcomes) will be warmer than ever. And for anyone who has ever enjoyed a good Guinness, loved delving into the rich fabric of a Joyce novel or watched Riverdance with absolute amazement, The Gathering is your chance to connect with Ireland and experience its culture during this year-long celebration.

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An appreciation by Enda Cullen

Apologies to readers from other counties but my mother used to say that Donegal and Clare people were the friendliest people in Ireland. She has passed on to a better place now and I never found out why she thought that, but like most of her beliefs I have found them to be true. As a family we always went to Donegal on holiday. It could be Downings in the north where my dad helped the locals make hay, or Bundoran with its amusement arcades, in the south. I recently went back to Downings for the first time in 40 years. There were a lot more holiday homes and a large fishing trawler was moored up where I only remember small fishing boats. It was also the pier where as a small boy I swore off fishing for life. I 30 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2013

was casting back and caught an irate woman’s poodle with my hook! For a Catholic nationalist family from Armagh the holiday had to be across the border. The journey was 60 miles over mountainy and winding roads but when we spotted the first shop with sandcastle buckets and nets full of plastic soccer balls we knew that we were close to our destination. We were not alone. The Bundoran of the 1960s, especially during the July holidays, was full of people “escaping” from Belfast and its Orange Order marches. A friend fed up with not being allowed down the Garvaghy Road in Portadown decamped with his family to Rossnowlagh in Donegal. Waking in his holiday home on

12th July he was faced with a large Orange Order march that takes place, peacefully and with cross community support, every year! With peace as the norm, Donegal is still full of July holiday makers from its neighboring counties. Teach Hudí Beags, (Gallagher’s bar), in the Donegal Gaeltacht is full of Northerners playing and listening to traditional Irish music – most of them have holiday homes in the area. Their children attend the local Irishspeaking schools in the spring and summer vacations. Gallagher’s is a place that offers a warm welcome, and despite being called an “English man” by Bean Hudí for my deficiency in the Irish language, I enjoy the mighty craic to be found there.



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1| Slieve League sea cliffs, the highest cliffs in Europe. 2| Kilebegs, a natural harbor with a a long tradition of fishing. 3| Snow-covered Mount Errigal. 4| Sheep grazing in Malinbeg, Glencolmcille.




People often refer to Donegal as “the forgotten county.” The most northerly county on the island, it’s not in Northern Ireland. And economically, it neither benefited nor had the social drawbacks of the now deceased Celtic Tiger. Time and infrastructure has stood still in this, the least commercialized part of Ireland.

Consequentially, emigration has had a major effect on the county. Scotland has strong connections with Donegal as economic circumstances forced many Donegal people to seek employment in the factories of Glasgow. Susan Boyle, the Britain’s Got Talent phenomenon, has her antecedents in Donegal (as does Tony Blair’s mother). The Donegal Tigers are a group of young north west Donegal men who travel the world constructing tunnels. They worked in the 1940s and 1950s on the subways of New York and London. The 1990s saw them work on the Channel Tunnel between England and France, and they are currently being courted to work

on the 17 billion euro expansion of the London subway network. These brave men are often the first to be called following earthquakes and building collapses. My wife’s mother is from Donegal although she spent over 60 years of her life living in London. I visited the house that she was born in and I marvelled at how anyone could raise a family in the early 1900s in such a wilderness. Her nearest village was Frosses and her favorite joke was “Why does one side of the village not talk to the other side. The answer is that the graveyard runs along one side of the village. The scenery of Donegal is among the most spectacular in Europe. The Slieve League cliffs are the highest sea cliffs in JUNE / JULY 2013 IRISH AMERICA 31



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1| Gleneagh National Park. 2| Seafood lunch at the Smugglers Creek Inn overlooking Rossnowlagh beach 3| The green pastures of Kilcar.


Europe, Mount Errigal stands majestically, and often snow covered, above Gweedore. Glenveagh National Park (from the Irish Gleann Bheatha meaning “glen of the birches”), covers over 105 square miles. Once owned by John Adair, who evicted his tenants to clear the land and not spoil his view, the estate was purchased in 1937 by the American Henry McIlhenny, of Tabasco sauce fame, who gifted the gardens and castle to the Irish nation in 1981. Today the park is home to the largest herd of red deer and the once 32 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2013

thought to be extinct golden eagles, which were reintroduced to the park in 2000. The park is magnificent, however my favorite aspect of the county, are the magnificent sandy beaches where you can walk for miles without meeting another soul. (Talking of souls, I once met David Soul, of Starsky and Hutch fame, galloping a horse across Tullaghan Strand.) If you are more inclined to surfing, there’s plenty of that too. Numerous surfing schools have mushroomed over the

past few years, that, alongside the excellent camping and accommodation, have attracted visitors from all over the world who are keen to ride Irish waves. As befits a county with such a large coastline, Donegal has excellent seafood. Restaurants that can compete with Dublin but at a more realistic price. “Tech Leo’s,” or Leo’s Tavern, in Meenalick, on the Gweedore Peninsula, is owned by the father of Enya and her Clannad siblings. The music sessions in Leo’s are legendary as is the great seafood chowder. While the



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black tea or coffee on each of the three days of the Pilgrimage. My parents made the pilgrimage every year in fulfillment of promises to God, no doubt they had included petitions for my school examination success. I’m afraid to say so but the tradition died with them. But some 30,000 pilgrims participate in the main sessions from early June through the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, August 15th, every year. It’s interesting to note, though that since the credit crunch, attendance from Ireland and England is up over 70 percent. Sex in the City star Sarah Jessica Parker and her actor husband 4| Sunset Matthew Broderick are regular over Horn Head visitors to Donegal and are well 5| Enjoying known to the locals around the the surf on the Killybegs area. They are able beach at to escape the paparazzi and Bundoran. have been seen in local pubs enjoying traditional music. Broderick is a big fan of Magees, the Donegal tweed maker whose tweed suits are ideal for Irish winters and days at the local horse races on Ballintra beach. Donegal is blessed with an abundance of very good golf clubs. Among my favorites are Ballyliffin on the Inishowen Peninsula where the Christian Brothers used to give golf lessons to the locals. 5 County Donegal Golf Club at Murvagh is one of the longest links golf clubs in the world. The fifth hole, the Valley of Tears, me to join her on an island retreat in Co. is aptly named and currently possesses Donegal for a relaxing and therapeutic three of my golf balls. Golf in Donegal is weekend. I politely declined when I disunlike the expensive pastime in Dublin or covered that I was being invited to a pilKillarney. Here you can have a leisurely grimage retreat known as Station Island round of golf and without mortgaging on Lough Derg, a place where fasting, your house. walking barefoot, and keeping continuFinally, I would like to share my jewel ously awake for a period of 24 hours, are in the crown of Donegal. Nestled in the the tradition. main street of Bundoran, in south The Pilgrimage site, which dates to the Donegal, is Brennan’s pub. This establishMiddle Ages, is called St. Patrick’s ment has been in the Brennan family for Purgatory and is open to pilgrims of all over 100 years and very little has religions. Exercises include a prayer changed. Nan and Patricia, the current sequence called a station, which has its landladies, serve the best Guinness in roots in a Celtic form of prayer that Ireland. Television has yet to enter involves physical movement accompanied Brennan’s and consequentially you are by mantra. Nine stations are completed encouraged to talk to strangers. Cursing is over a three-day period; five stations are strictly taboo and I have personally made in the open air on the penitential watched an inebriated and foul-mouthed beds, in bare feet, and four are said in the man being “cut off” and politely told to Basilica during the first night “Vigil.” leave. I have met and enjoyed the craic In addition to staying awake, for the with people from all over the world here first 24-hours, pilgrims have one “Lough and as the old Irish saying goes, “There’s IA Derg Meal” of dry toast or oatcakes and no tax on talk.”


views from the Ostan Gweedore hotel restaurant in Bunbeg are breathtaking as is the food. On my last visit I was enjoying local surf and turf when a propeller plane flew low over the hotel on its way to nearby Donegal airport. My waiter informed me that it was “the female pilot” taking the shortcut. Back in Bundoran, Michael McWeeney, the owner and head cook of the Marlboro House, provided me with a great meal and still had time to tell me about his adventures in San Francisco. Not that long ago a colleague invited




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“I want to keep on singing . . . on and on, and never retire.”

Judy Collins

el Troubadour Judy Collins, one of the most influential folk singers of the sixties, and the voice that has been called the voice of the century, still believes that music can heal the world. Interview by Patricia Harty. IT ALL BEGAN WITH A SONG. As a young 14-year-old, Judy Collins heard “The Gypsy Rover” on the radio and it changed the course of her life. She was studying classical piano and had already made her orchestral debut, but the ballad, a tale of a girl who runs off with a dashing stranger, won her heart. She persuaded her father to get her a guitar, broke her piano teacher’s heart, and began the musical journey that would take her out of Colorado and put her on the road to being recognized of one of the greatest singers of our time. Collins made her first album in 1961, at age 22, won a Grammy Award in 1968 for “Both Sides Now,” made the cover of Life in 1969, and today, more than 40 albums later, at least six of them Gold, she is still recording and playing concerts – up to 100 a year. Collins has lived in the same New York City upper west side apartment for over 40 years. She shares the space with her husband, Louis Nelson, the artist known for the Korean War memorial in Washington, D.C., whom she met in 1978, and their three cats, Coco (black and white), Tom Wolfe (white), and Rachmaninoff (gray). The apartment reflects the artistic nature of the occupants: a grand piano in the living room, walls filled with art work, including paintings by Judy’s sister Holly, family photos, Tiffany lamps, Buddhas and other artifacts, and a recording studio. For a number of years now, Collins had been recording her own albums, and a handful of other artists. Collins is physically lithe and carries herself with the grace of a dancer. She is unhurried, though she’s packing a full schedule. Her body, toned from daily exercise, and her clear skin belie the illnesses of her youth – polio when she was 10, TB in her early 20s, hepatitis and mono, spinal and leg injuries from a fall, and later struggles with an eating disorder, and addictions to alcohol and cigarettes. Born in Seattle on May 1, 1939, Collins moved with her family to Los Angles at age 10 and shortly thereafter settled in Denver, where her father Charlie Collins hosted a radio show. Blind since the age of 3, Charlie had grown up on a farm in Idaho and had learned to maneuver the world without a cane. Educated at a school for the blind, he was well versed in literature, world affairs, and music, and the five Collins children, three girls and two boys, were brought up knowing that much was expected of them. At 19, Judy married Peter Taylor and soon gave birth to their son, Clark. To support the family while her husband was in college, Collins sang in bars around Denver. After his graduation, the young couple moved East, where Peter taught English literature at the University of Connecticut, and Judy became popular on the college radio station. But the folk scene was taking off in Greenwich Village in


Photo by: Kit DeFever



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New York City, and this is where Judy was drawn, as were other artists of the day. Judy would meet them all, and record many of their songs – Bob Dylan (while they were guests at Albert Grossman’s house she listened outside Dylan’s bedroom door as he composed “Tambourine Man”), Leonard Cohen (who challenged her to write her own songs), and Joni Mitchell whose song “Both Sides Now” proved a breakthrough hit for Collins, earning her a Grammy Award in 1968. She also met the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, who were on the scene when she was offered her first record deal. On that album, A Maid of Constant Sorrow, released in 1961, the 22-year-old Collins would record three Clancy standards, “A Bunch of Thyme,” “Bold Fenian Men” and “The Rising of the Moon.” As her career was taking off, Collins’ marriage was breaking down. While she was plying her trade and learning her craft she was missing out on her son’s early life. And in the spring of 1962, she met Walter Raim, a guitar player who would be the catalyst for the breakup of her marriage. The affair didn’t last but the ramifications did – divorce and a custody battle for her son, which she lost. It would be several years before she would have custody of Clark again. Throughout her life, no matter what was happening to her personally, Collins was, and is, a committed social activist. In the 60s and 70s she supported civil rights, and women’s rights, and she traveled South to register black voters. She was in on the founding of the Yippie movement and testified in support of the Chicago Seven during their trial, angering the judge when she sang “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” on the witness stand. With the 1966 album In My Life, Collins moved away from straightforward folk music, and has remained untethered to one genre of music. She has a knack of finding a good song and breathing life into it. Her 1968 recording of “Amazing Grace” brought the 18thcentury hymn back into the present

day (it was top of the charts both in the U.K. and U.S.), and it has remained part of our cultural consciousness. Stephen Sondheim’s “Send In the Clowns” was also a huge hit. She appeared with the Boston Pops Orchestra and on the Muppet Show, and made many appearances on Sesame Street. She even took a turn on the New York stage, appearing with Stacy Keach (whom she lived with for a time) in the 1969 revival of Peer Gynt. Collins also produced and codirected an award-winning documentary on her former piano coach Antonia Brico (1974). And she has written several books based on her life, in which she tackles difficult issues such as the suicide of her son Clark in 1992, and her own battle with alcoholism. Her books include Sanity and Grace: A Journey of Suicide Survival and Strength (2006), and Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life in Music (2011). The latter title comes from the song written about her by Stephen Stills. (The two met in 1967 and had a two-year passionate affair.) Today, Collins continues to pursue her creative passions. She created her own label, Wildflower Records, in 2000 to record her own music and support the work of other artists. She writes songs and books and continues to perform. When we met at her apartment in late April, she had recently had a guest spot on the TV series Girls (she said it gave her street cred with her nieces and nephews) and was preparing for a June 8 concert at the Town Hall, New York. She was also planning a trip to



Judy with Coco, one of her three cats.

the U.K. and Ireland, where she will record a concert for PBS, and where she will be inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame in New Ross on June 21.

Was music part of your childhood? Music was very much a part of my childhood. I listened to all Rodgers and Hart and Great American Songbook [recordings] because my father played them on air. He was also a musician and sang. I played Bach and Beethoven and Debussy and Mozart, and I sang the opera arias, but I also listened to pop music – the stuff that was on the radio – “Earth Angel” and so on, when I was in high school. So I was exposed to a lot of different kinds of music before I started singing folk music.

Was your father disappointed when you gave up classical piano?

Charlie Collins

Well, he only rented the guitar that he got me so maybe he was optimistically hopeful that it wouldn’t last, but he loved the folk songs and Irish songs.

Tell me about him. He was very musical, very dramatic, very handsome, articulate, well read – he read everything in Braille We loved to brag that our father could read in the dark. We were raised on great literature and great music and we had a very liberal education. He was also very radical in his politics. We wouldn’t

“We loved to brag about the fact our father could read in the dark. We were raised on great literature and great music and we had a very liberal education. He was also very radical in his politics. We wouldn’t call it radical now, he was actually a humanist and a FDR Democrat and very outspoken on the radio. He’d talk about anything and everything. He read Dylan Thomas on the radio. He’d read Emerson, and he’d sing.” 36 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2013



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call it radical now, he was actually a humanist and a FDR Democrat and very outspoken on the radio. He’d talk about anything and everything. He read Dylan Thomas. He’d read Emerson, and he’d sing, and then he’d talk about Joe McCarthy and he’d talk about the war in Vietnam. Not in appreciative ways, either one. And he was really a very, very interesting man altogether. He also drank a lot. I got that Irish bug from him certainly.

Do you know from whence the Collins hail?

And didn’t you push him to perform his own work? Yes. I confess. I did get him to perform. Back then he’d always said, “I can’t sing. I can’t play the guitar. I can’t perform these songs in public.” But I knew he had a mesmerizing voice. So, I was doing a benefit for WBAI, the radio station, and I said, “Why don’t you come down and sing ‘Suzanne,’ it will drive the crowd crazy. My recording of the song was up on the charts for 38 weeks at the time. And he said, “No, I can’t do it,” and I said, “Come on. It’ll be fun.” I forced him to do it. He walked out on the stage and started to sing – it was a big audience, about two thousand people – then he stopped in the middle and walked off. He said, “I can’t go on.” and I said, “You have to go on. I’ll go up and sing it with you, but you do not leave the stage and not go back on. It’s

My Irish relatives came into Virginia probably around 1886, I don’t know for sure – they didn’t keep records. Now, the English side who came in through Canada are unbelievably well-documented, but the Collinses didn’t keep records. But I’m sure that’s where the music comes from. We celebrate the Irish all the time in our family. My father loved Irish Judy with her music and used to sing “Danny son Clark Boy” and the “Kerry Dances,” which I will sing on my PBS special from Ireland. It [“Kerry Dances”] has a special place in the family. My nephews and nieces sing it, and my granddaughter.

How well did you know the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem? I adored the Clancys and I sang with them a number of times. They were recording already for Electra and the first television show I did, they were on it. It was that 1961 television show that got me my record label because the guy who ran the label was there and he said, “Oh, you have to record for me.” Later I stayed in touch with Tommy Makem and recorded a television show with him before he died.

You had a big hit with Leonard Cohen’s song “Suzanne.” Can you tell me about your relationship? Leonard was the one who started me writing my own songs. It was 1966, and I had recorded several of his songs and he said, “How come you’re not writing any of your own songs since you’ve recorded all mine?” I saw him the other night and he said, “I owe you so much” and I said, “No, the debt is mine” because if he’d never asked me why I wasn’t writing songs, I never would have.

asked, “How do you feel about performer royalties?” The question went straight over my head. I said, “I don’t really know what you’re talking about.” He said, “Well, you’re not getting paid for your radio play.” So then, of course, the dawn begins to break. This is almost the only country in the free world where that’s true. Nearly everywhere else, an artist gets paid for their performance whether they wrote the song or not.

Do you miss the way recordings were made – the sound of the needle on vinyl? No, not at all. When I first started recording music at home we had a wired tape recorder and these bundles of wire that would get stuck and you couldn’t align. It’s strange how everything has changed, but I don’t miss any of it. I have my own studio here in the house, which I’ve had since 1994, and I’ve done a lot of albums here, but I can also go and record a concert at the Metropolitan Museum and have it be transferred as is, without any other work on my part. So, the sound that we get in theaters and in concerts is excellent and the equipment keeps getting better.

How do you keep your voice in such good shape?

really bad.” So he went back on stage and we finished singing “Suzanne” together and the audience went crazy.

I studied for years with a great teacher – 32 years. I went to him in 1965, I was desperate because I was losing my voice and a guitar player for Harry Belafonte, a guy named Ray Boguslav said, “You must go and see Max Margulis immediately.” And I did, and I persuaded him to take me on as a student. He was very eccentric. He had very few students.

You also had a hit with Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” before Joni was well known. Can you tell me about artists’ rights and royalties: How does it work?

Did his method involve vocal exercises?

Joni would get her standard [writer’s] royalty and I would get my performer’s payment if the record was selling in the stores. However – and this is a big ball of contention, something that’s been going on for 90 or a hundred years – no performer gets paid for radio play. People began to think, in some parts of their illeducated brain, that the radio stations were doing us a favor by playing our music. When I went to Washington the first time to protest piracy, someone

No. It’s about clarity and phrasing. Of course, I’ve done this for a long time now, so I know how to warm up and I know how to be clear and to phrase. When Max was on his deathbed he said to me: “I don’t want you to worry. Just remember the phrasing and the clarity and you will be fine.” His philosophy was that there was one voice: singer, speaker – it was all one instrument and you could either wreck it or you could use it until you fell over. JUNE / JULY 2013 IRISH AMERICA 37



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“I had a conversation with Pete Seeger, around his birthday and I said, ‘How are you feeling about the world?’ And he said, ‘You know, I have never been so optimistic.’ He said, ‘Think about all the things that people are doing all over this country and all over the world that are positive.’”

And it seems like you are going to keep going until you fall over. What drives you to keep performing? It’s very compelling what I do. I think I have a compelling life. I write books, I write songs, I record, I make CDs. I travel. I tour. I think it’s important to keep working. I would never retire. Never, ever. Unless I am pushed off the stage or a cliff, I don’t think I will be retiring.

Do you get nervous before you perform?

world, I couldn’t work most of 1977. My life was a total shambles. I couldn’t sing. I had lost my voice. I am quite sure it was the booze. I had a hemangioma on my vocal cord. My doctor said, “If you do this [operation] you have a chance but if you don’t do it, you have no chance and you’ll never sing again.” That was my choice and I had the operation and it worked. Then I stopped drinking. I finally went into treatment and got the help that I needed in 1978.

I never suffer performance anxiety.

Because you do yoga and meditate? I meditate for its own sake. And I do something called ‘self-realization.’ It involves a set of yoga practices and a set of breathing situations in which there’s a mantra and a lot of prayers and so on. It takes about a half hour and I try to do it twice a day, wherever I am. You don’t have to have special shoes for it. You don’t have to be in a special place to do it. You just do it – if you’re in the plane, if you’re in the car, if you’re sitting doing your make-up. It’s very portable.

Do you watch what you eat? Yes. I had an eating disorder for years. It really kicked in when I gave up smoking. I was always on diets. Everything was very extreme and I never gained a lot of weight because I was always exercising. I discovered exercise very early on, and for me, that’s the big secret. It’s endorphins. If I’m exercising every day, I’m fine. I really am. If I’m not, I’m in trouble, but I learned that very early on, even in the dark days of my drinking. It’s probably what kept me alive.

Do you think there’s a genetic component to alcoholism and depression? There’s definitely a genetic component and it has to do with things that run in families – depression, chemical imbalance. As I said, I inherited the “Irish bug” from my father, who liked to drink. Although I looked good on paper – I had hit records, and concerts all over the 38 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2013

Cover of Bohemian, a recent album

Wasn’t it around this time that you met your husband, Louis Nelson? We had met four days before I went into treatment and in fact, the day that we met is the day that’s on the wedding rings that we both wear. I talked to him a lot on the phone when I was in treatment and then I came back and we had our first date in July. So, I was actually nearly three months sober by then. It just seemed to be the right fit. We’ve been together ever since. Not bad for a hippie.

How did you get through that dark period following your son’s suicide? People reached out to me and I had a support system and people that I could call, and when I went on the road my family came out with me. My mother came and traveled with me, and my sister Holly. I got through it with a lot of help,

and when I started to feel a little stronger, I realized that I had to do some kind of active participation in suicide prevention. So I got involved here in New York, but then I found out that [the meetings] were run by the drug companies, and financed by the drug companies, so I backed off of that and instead I have done some speaking out on the issue. I was invited to speak in Belfast on radio about this, and so many people called in. It’s a terrible problem. I was even brought up to Harvard to talk to their medical community about it. I talk about it maybe four or five times a year. I do either a fundraiser or a dinner or something for suicide prevention and I speak to groups in hospital environments and in educational and mental health environments. There was no way for me to deal with it unless I talked about it. I had to go to lots of survivor group meetings and I had to think about who was doing what about it. The taboo about suicide is huge. It’s something that the church used to punish people for by not allowing suicides to be buried in hallowed grounds.

As the 50th anniversary of JFK’s death nears, what are your memories? I had just sung for him in the spring, a few months before his death. I was on my way to Washington, D.C. to visit my friend, the photographer Rowland Scherman. I got off the bus at La Guardia and I heard that President Kennedy had been shot, and when the plane landed in Washington, I found out that he was dead. I couldn’t imagine that someone with the force of his personality and charisma could be gone. And five years later, in 1968, Rowland was on the Robert Kennedy team during the run up to the election. He’d gotten closer to the Kennedy family and they liked his work a lot, and he was in that group when RFK was shot at the Ambassador Hotel. Three days later Life sent him to take pictures of me. Isn’t that strange? I’d forgotten about it, until this morning when I was writing an introduction to a book of Rowland’s photos. We did take pictures



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and made great music and that was the only thing to do. It was such a tragedy. We thought about it and said, “Let’s go ahead with the sessions” because what else would we do?

Judy and Louis on their wedding day

Do you still believe music will heal the world?

are all working on something. They’re doing victory gardens to try to get Monsanto down off the perch, or they’re trying to figure out how we get the immigration bill passed. I mean, I think the country is being utterly ignored by the Congress – I think it’s so disgusting that they couldn’t pass something on gun control. It’s very depressing, but something will turn around and change. It’s got to.

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. I did a concert at the Metropolitan Museum, and one day I was having lunch with Emily Rafferty, the museum president. We were talking about the power of art and how people need it – no matter who you are and where you are – to deal with just being on the planet. Emily said that the day after 9/11, [Mayor] Giuliani, in one of his more intelligent and gracious moments, called her and said, “You must open the museum.” She said, “How can I – there are no phones, everything is down.” Somehow, through word of mouth, and running around town and finding the staff, they opened. She said thousands of people just streamed into the museum in the following days because in the museum, they could see that people had lived through horrors before and survived. It was a touching thing.

ers. One of them, Captain Jim McGrath, lost 91 friends that day. Can you imagine? Your whole working population from your firehouse and others, just gone. I think artists will continue to write about it, and think about it a lot, and since this new terrorist attack in Boston, which is what it was, I think there’s a renewed feeling of what a new and terrible world it is in a lot of ways.

Can you talk about “Kingdom Come,” your own anthem to 9/11, and how it came about?

There were so many protests in the 60s and 70s. Do you think today’s young people are apathetic?

In the aftermath of 9/11, Louis and I were invited to one of those parties with all the firefighters – it was a big effort of trying to give them something that was pleasant, a musical evening. Kevin Bacon was there, as were other artists. One of the firefighters said to me, “See this tattoo behind my ear here and on my neck?” It said “343,” the number of firemen that died on 9/11. That image really stuck with me, and I would talk about it a lot, until finally my husband said, “Why don’t you write a song about it?” We were up in the country at the time so I found a way to do it on the guitar, and when I thought I had it, I sang it in a number of firehouses for the crews because I wanted to be sure I got it right. I’ve met some incredible firefight-

I don’t think they’re apathetic but Do you believe in an afterlife? I do think that they need leadership. I Oh, that’s interesting. Do I? think they can be galvanized by I certainly believe in God. issues. They certainly are I certainly believe in other active in a lot of ways. I had realms of experience, by a conversation with Pete all means, and there was Seeger around his birththe discussion we were day and I said, “How are having the other day you feeling about the about psychics and the world?” And he said, things that happen to us “You know, I have in meditation. How never been so opticould you not be a mistic.” He said, “Think believer in something about all the things that other than what’s going people are doing all over on here? It’s pretty this country and all over IA pathetic if this is it. the world that are positive. Marjorie Collins Little groups here and there, Thank you, Judy Collins. but they are everywhere and they

What do you have on your iPod? Oh, gosh. So much – everybody from Adele to Shawn Colvin, Amy Speace to the Irish Rovers. I have all kinds of things and I’ve just been listening to a lot of a singer/songwriter whose name is Hugh Prestwood. I recorded six of his songs on different albums: He was big in the 80s and I rediscovered him. He sent me a whole bunch of new material and I’m just absolutely crazy about it. I’m going to put him on my label.

What’s your favorite song that you’ve written? It always changes. Right now, the most important one to me is one I wrote about my mother, called “In the Twilight,” which is on my last album. She passed away at 94, in December 2010. She was quite a lady. She had a kind of, I want to say stillness and ability to go through what was demanded of her that was really quite remarkable, and she was a great cook and a great housekeeper and she had a great sense of humor. She was – we called her the original party girl. I think of her putting on her Chanel perfume and her pretty clothes and she was off to the races. She’d dance all night.





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American I


n June 1963, President John F. Kennedy made a series of state visits throughout Europe; to Germany, where he made his famous Ich bin ein Berliner speech, to Italy, to England and to Ireland, the country his great-grandfather Patrick Kennedy had left in 1848. Dave Powers, assistant and close friend to the president, described JFK’s four days in Ireland as “the happiest of his life.” He landed in Dublin, traveled to New Ross, the Kennedy homestead in Dunganstown and Wexford. He visited Cork, spoke at the Dáil and Dublin Castle, dined at Áras an Uachtaráin and stopped in Galway and Limerick before departing from Shannon. Here, excerpts from the JFK Library’s oral histories by Joseph E. O’Connor, which include views with everyone from Eamon de Valera to the Kennedys’ distant cousin Josie Grennan, paint a picture of what the visit was like for those in Ireland. Recollections from today speak to its enduring significance.

Dr. Sean Lemass,

who at the time of Kennedy’s visit was serving as Ireland’s forward thinking Taoiseach. “President Kennedy was regarded generally as a man of extraordinarily lively mind, a man who was intensely interested in the current event, in the things he saw, in the people he met, in the things they said to him. And certainly this was the characteristic of him that struck me most forcefully immediately after I met him. He was continuously asking questions about everything he saw, inquiring about the people whom he’d been introduced to, allowing no statement which interested him to pass without requiring an elaboration of it. “Even during our drive together after his arrival at the airport to the city of Dublin, up to the Áras an Uachtaráin where he met President [De Valera], this type of conversation was going on all the time. He wanted an explanation of everything, and he was asking questions from an intense and lively interest. At first, I may say, I thought this was attributable to his interest in Ireland, to the emotional impact of his visiting Ireland as the first United States President ever to come here while in office, and as the first President of Irish ancestry ever to include Ireland in a state visit. But later on, I came to the 40 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2013

conclusion that this was a natural characteristic of him; that this lively interest in everything was something which he had all through his life. And certainly I encountered it again when I went back to Washington later in that year, and thought it was very natural on his home ground.”

Above: JFK with Eamon de Valera and Sean Lemass. Right: At Áras an Uachtaráin on the last night of the visit, with Sean and Kathleen Lemass, Bean de Valera, Jean Kennedy Smith and Eamon de Valera.



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Josie Grennan The Kennedys’ cousin “We were all very excited, but we regarded his coming as a cousin coming home. . . . We felt very at home with him from the time he stepped out of the car. It was just as if he had been here a couple of days before. “Of course, before he came everyone was very tensed up. They didn’t know who they were going to meet or what they were going to meet. But I think he made them all just draw at their ease. A lot of the neighbors that helped that day were in the kitchen and they weren’t in the official party. They were supposed to keep in the background

President Eamon de Valera “When we heard he was coming to Ireland, we were very pleased. And when he arrived, he got a reception such as no other visitor, to my knowledge anyhow, has ever received. He was received with open arms by young and old. He was cheered wherever he went along the streets. It was a triumphal procession from the airport to up here. He paid his first call here. But we regretted very much that he didn’t stay with us here. He didn’t stay with us because he pointed out that he wanted to be in very close contact all the time with Washington. And that meant that the installation of a great deal of equipment and tons of equipment were necessary to keep that contact. He was here for luncheon, and he was here for a garden party. And when he was here, his officials asked, could they link us up so he would be able to get in contact, if necessary, at any moment with Washington. That was arranged, and by accident I picked up one of the phones here at my desk, and immediately got an answer from Washington faster than I would get it from even our house phone here. So it showed that the linkup was very thorough.”

Mary Anne Ryan, Josie Grennan (née Ryan), Mary Ryan and Jim Kennedy at the Kennedy homestead in Dunganstown.

and they had been told by some of the officials that they were to stay away. But they were in the kitchen there and when [the president] was going out they opened the door. He went in and he chatted . . . chatted away with them. Some of them were shaking hands with him, for instance, three times. “He wasn’t president when he was here. . . . That’s the way he wanted to be, I think. He wanted to be just one of ourselves.”




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JFK50 Frances Condell Mayor of Limerick “Sometimes we got the impression that the Americans were—they didn’t care very much about us and that perhaps we weren’t as forward in many aspects of life as you of America. And sometimes we felt that perhaps they, you know, their appreciation was given to us with their tongues in their cheeks. But this welcome of President Kennedy, this appreciation by President Kennedy was so spontaneous, that we felt this, and we appreciated this spontaneity of his. And then he, himself, was so genuinely appreciative, I think, of his Irish ancestry. “We’ve had so many emigrants, you see, to the United States, that here, at last, we felt was an establishment of Ireland out there. And we feel, in Ireland, that we have contributed in no small measure to the building up of the United States, you know. And here . . . I must say that the wealth, or anything like that, of the Kennedy family, that has never entered into the picture here. He was one of us, and that was it. “We had one glorious flag of America done in floral arrangements. So when the President walked out, he was very taken with this floral arrangement of the flag and when we were coming back from his being mobbed, you know, by the Frances Condell the then welcome of the people, he major of Limerick whose persistence engineered a saw this, and he turned around and said, ‘Haven’t I last minute visit to Limerick, the ancestral home of the seen this somewhere Fitzgeralds. before?’ [Laughter] And I said, ‘Yes sir, we borrowed it. We knew that you liked it so well.’ [Limerick was added as a stop at the last minute because Condell refused to give up on a visit, arguing that the Fitzgeralds were from Limerick, and when her wish was granted, there was no time or money for flower arrangements so Condell “borrowed” the flowers from Cork where Kennedy had been the previous day]. But we found him a very easy guest and terribly appreciative of the welcome afforded him, and most anxious indeed to establish contact, I think, with the Fitzgeralds, who were there en masse. . . . He suddenly saw a man who was a relative of his, who was very alike to his own grandpa. He turned around to the Ambassador, and he pointed, and he said, ‘Isn’t he the image of Grandpa?’ So, of course, he had to go out and shake hands with him. And when we thought of the security arrangements which we had made, and then to see him going out, and the people were almost on his back.”


The presidential motorcade in Cork City.

Dave Powers

Assistant to JFK

“Not only was it four of the happiest days of President John F. Kennedy’s life, but it was four of the happiest days of mine. From that first arrival at Dublin Airport and the greeting by President de Valera and the Irish people, and then that long ride down O’Connell Street, all the way to Phoenix Park. I rode in the car behind our president, with our secret service and the Irish police, and you have a better idea of the welcome. [A half million] people turned out to see their ‘cousin from America,’ and it was such a wonderful, wonderful greeting. I can remember the shops, everywhere you looked, you saw the American flag and the Irish flag crossed like this [crosses hands], and a smiling picture of President Kennedy, and above it read Céad Mile Fáilte, and he fell in love with that, he worked it into some of his speeches.”



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Angier Biddle Duke

White House Chief of Protocol

“He rode in to town with President de Valera from the airport, and I rode behind with the Prime Minister [Sean Lemass] – and Kennedy was so proud of the turnout and really so delighted to see his ‘countrymen.’ After the Berlin hordes, of course, it just didn’t compare – as a matter of fact, it would be unfair to compare the hysterical passion of the Berlin multitudes to the jolly, friendly, hand waving crowds on the streets of Dublin. It’s a different population, different size, different motivation, and everything else, but it was almost touching to hear the Prime Minister

being so proud – he said that this was the greatest welcome that had ever been given. “When I was introduced in County Wexford, the President introduced members of his party, and he came to me and he said, ‘I want to introduce my Chief of Protocol who hasn’t got one drop of Irish blood’—it got a big laugh from the crowd, and it sent me back to my genealogical tables. I was able to tell him a month or so later that I had found a great-grandmother by the name of Artelia Rooney, and I wanted him to know it.”

Andrew Minihan

Above: In Galway, greeting children who dressed in the colors of the Irish flag. Left: Kennedy and Dave Powers.

“He could have been any of our cousins.” Cathal O’Shannon, journalist

Mayor of New Ross

“We had made plans to welcome him as we in New Ross would welcome a returning son. . . . I told the other members of the committee, ‘The best thing we can do now is that we will agree with everything [the Department of External Affairs and the American Embassy] say. If they say “Turn left” we’ll say, “Yes, that’s all right. We’ll turn left.” But what we’ll actually do is we’ll do it our own way and the day the President arrives he’ll have a New Ross welcome, not an American welcome or not an External Affairs welcome, but a pure New Ross one.’ “I was waiting at the platform for him and I wasn’t – I’m not a type of individual who gets really excited, but at the last few minutes I did get a bit jittery, you see, especially when there was a Chief of Protocol to introduce me to Mr. X, and Mr. X was to introduce me to the President. By this time the President was in sight and the people were shouting their heads off. [When] his car arrived he jumped out and he came straight forward to me and he said, ‘Mayor Minihan, my brother Ted [Edward Kennedy] sent you his kindest regards and he said he had a whale of a time with you here in New Ross.’ And I knew from that minute that I was speaking to a man. He was no longer the real President of America or anything formal. He was a human being and naturally I fell for him and so did everybody else. I mean, he just had that humanity about him. He had the whole lot of it, you see. “We had been ordered by the American Embassy not to let people shake hands with him because of his back injury. But the man, he himself, wanted to meet the people. When he came down off the platform his bodyguards were trying to push him into the car and he said, ‘No, I’m going to meet the people.’ So they said, ‘Right, sir. Come this way.’ And he caught me by the arm and he said, ‘Mayor, we go this way,’ going the opposite way. So he went around amongst the people and everybody was absolutely thrilled with him.”




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Reflections from Today “To put the visit into the context of the times: there was still dancing on radio in 1963. We used to listen to the thumps of feet on the studio floor. RTE had begun transmission in 1961, north Kerry probably got reception for the first time in 1962. “Secondary schools had closed for the holidays, so any 14-year-old who knew that Kennedy was the most interesting member of the triumvirate, the others being Patrick Pearse and the Pope, with the Holy Ghost hovering only a little distance above them, had to watch every single bit of every single TV program on Kennedy’s visit to Ireland. My mother got permission from the Rices, who had the only TV set in our part of the village, for me to watch all the coverage. Mrs. Rice, a primary school teacher, was working, and though there were crowds for the evening repeats of the transmission, I was alone with the dog for almost all the day transmissions, including the Berlin Wall appearance, that little warm-up for his trip to Ireland. Everyone else in the village must have been busy. I would run to Rices’ house, turn the handle of the front door, pat the dog, sit on one of the high-backed dining chairs and go to heaven. “There he was, the vibrant leader of the anticommunists and Catholic Irish all over the world, the embodiment of all that was good, protector of the downtrodden, especially us. I saw shining lights reflected in the eyes of the lucky ones who could see him in person. The Dubliners were swish; the Wexford cousins looked just like us. We, the Irish, had finally taken our rightful place among the nations of the Earth. Elevation to an exalted state of being was almost within our reach. I even saw people getting in and out of a helicopter; Kennedy had to stoop quite a bit. “The only part of the visit that I did not see live was what was the last official part, with the mayor of Limerick, Frances Condell. We listened on the radio. They told us Mrs. Condell was a Protestant and the first woman to be elected mayor in Ireland. That she was a Protestant apparently took from her stature. Ma said she had to be a good woman, anyway. Though I can’t remember any of Kennedy’s speeches or anything other people said to him, he became human, at least for a little while, during Mrs. Condell’s speech, especially when she presented him with a lace christening gown for the baby that was expected. “Then, if I remember rightly, he flew to England from Shannon airport. I couldn’t understand why he would want to go there.” Sheila van Wulfften Palthe


The reception at the Kennedy homestead in Dunganstown.

“When President Kennedy spoke to the Dáil, he said the Irish, his own family among them, who went to America in the 1840’s ‘left behind hearts and fields and a nation yearning to be free.’ He quoted James Joyce, who’d called the Atlantic ‘a bowl of bitter tears.’ He said he’d come again in the spring. He couldn’t keep that promise but I am very happy that his daughter Caroline will be with us in June to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his visit. We will all welcome her home very warmly.” Taoiseach Enda Kenny

“I remember my sister Ann, who worked in Dublin, saw the motorcade, and I was amazed that my sister had seen this Irish, Catholic powerful man – everything we aspired to be.” Martin Sheerin President Kennedy's appearance at New Ross Quay. Among those accompanying him are Vice Chairman of the New Ross Urban Council Gerald O'Donovan, Dave Powers, and US Ambassador to Ireland Matt McCloskey.



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“I was in the U.S. at that time but we all shared in the glory of the trip. A part of the story that has been sadly overlooked is the Fitzgerald (Limerick) side. It has all been about Wexford and New Ross but the true politicians were the Fitzgeralds, they were the family that got JFK started on his road to the White House. “(My own confession: I’m from Bruff, Co Limerick, where the Fitzgeralds came from.)” Carl Shanahan

“My father and mother met JFK at the Ball in Dublin. My father was TD from Meath and at the table was Enda Kenny’s mother and father. I remember my parents getting ready. Even as a boy I knew how important this was. When my mother came home very late she woke me up and took my hand and said ‘Now you’ve shaken the hand that shook the hand of the President of America.’” John V Farrelly, Meath County Councillor, former TD

“He connected to the people here – a natural affinity. Strange because in those days heads of state didn’t talk to ordinary people. And when President Obama came he seemed as relaxed as Kennedy was.” Eugene McGale

“I remember his speech in Wexford. He said if his grandfather hadn’t emigrated, he’d be working in the Albatross Fertilizer factory.” Dan Hackett

Top: Kennedy’s Irish cousin Mary Ryan steals a kiss. Above: Talking to local children at the Kennedy homestead in Dunganstown. JUNE / JULY 2013 IRISH AMERICA 45



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COUNTRY GIRL In an excerpt from her new memoir, Edna O’Brien returns to Ireland to build a house in which she hopes to avail of the “peace that passeth understanding,” only to find that even the best laid plans can go awry.


t was to Donegal, in the most northwestern tip of Ireland, that in the 1990s I headed, in order to build a house. The very placenames so rough and musical, the country dotted with lakes and hemmed in by the mountains of Errigal, Muckish, Blue Stack, Doonish West, and Snaght. Stephen Rea and his wife, Dolours, were the ones who led me there, Stephen in his wry Belfast way saying, “It’s the best of the north and the best of the south without the fuck-up of either.” In this he was gloriously mistaken. The venture would have its excitements and its obstacles, dramas and melodramas, and the getting of a site at all necessitated a wiliness to interpret that no might possibly mean yes and that any yes was equivocal. Overnight a site that might have been promised would next day be withdrawn, because of a phone call to a son or a daughter or a brother or a sister, in England or America or Australia, who opposed it. In my ongoing search my solicitor Paddy Sweeney and the contractor Phil Ward trudged with me, often sinking into mire and quagmire, only to arrive on a spit of land that might, just might, be for sale. In Bloody Foreland, the gales were such that we were literally flung together and torn apart, like flaps of old newspaper. On another occasion Sasha, as future architect, was directed from the airport to where we stood on another bit of isolated barony, the waves hammering the headland across the way and more waves rolling ponderously around our feet. He pointed out to me that it was not only the shifting sands that were an obstacle but the hidden channels of water under the sands, so that, as in “Kublai Khan,” I would end up with a house that first floated and then literally was carried out to sea. I had almost given up. Then one morning, in London, my friend Manus Lunny tele-

phoned me to say that as his plane took off from Carrickfinn, he noticed a FOR SALE sign on a post down below. It was in a quiet cove, which the locals called Point, and already I saw myself there, availing of the “peace that passeth understanding.” That evening, I boarded the selfsame plane, on its return journey up to Carrickfinn, and had my first spectacular view of the county. It was like a moonscape, rock and water, and the vast basin of sea scarcely stirring. The houses, all white, were like dovecotes, set so snugly down in this seemingly washy tender archipelago. I would see those houses more distinctly as Paddy, Phil, and I drove along the sea road, the small houses with hall doors varnished red and loads of washing on every clothesline. Postcard picturesqueness. The evening was balmy, and down on the shore, fawn cows ambled about, the scene, in its simplicity and timelessness, recalling the paintings of Constable. Admittedly the Church of Ireland, a stone building on a hilltop, did look forlorn, and the glass door of the public telephone, swinging open, was the last word in desolation. There it was, at the end of the road, the FOR SALE sign, no gate, a small overgrown drive, willows clinging to each other, and the little ruin of a cottage facing the Atlantic. There were two dwellings nearby, a cottage and a larger house on a hill, with sloping front gardens. Mount Errigal towered above the sea, streaked with whitish marble, like veins of new snow. They called her “she.” They said, “She’s shimmering for you,” and she was, the crystallized lava from millions of years before there to greet us. It was a secret corner where families had lived for decades, with the ingrained memories of a suspicion of the stranger, which I was. What did I envisage as I stood there? Nice neighbors, getting to know the many facets of the sea, the seabirds, and perhaps a last sustained love. JUNE / JULY 2013 IRISH AMERICA 47



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Across from us the lights of Gweedore came on in twinkling succession, linking to the lights of the long low hotel, so that the effect was of looking toward a metropolis. Remembering that Maud Gonne had ridden on horseback among the peasants of Gweedore, as their cabins were being razed to the ground, I thought I would name my future house after her, except that in the end and accidentally it came to be called the Pink House. Since I had left London that morning, two other parties had put in a bid, so that, as Paddy informed me, the sale would proceed by auction. I was on tenterhooks all next day, as I lay on a single bed in the small hotel, awaiting calls, which came regularly, as the price escalated. Rain slid down the narrow window with such swiftness that I thought I was in a car, with the windscreen being endlessly washed, and I questioned the common sense of my adventure. By four o’clock the site was mine, and that evening Paddy, Phil, and I drove up there. A rainbow looped from Errigal across the estuary, bending its last painted toe exactly above the ruin. All three of us saw it and smiled. It faded slowly, with such cadence, getting fainter and fainter, the orange tint being the last to fade, a rind of tangerine. The men undid the padlock, pushed the door in, and we were in a small kitchen with a steep stairs to an upper floor. Everything smelled of damp and mold, since the place had been vacant for almost twenty years, and in one corner, on the mortar wall, there was a fresco that seemed to be a likeness of Christ, the Good Shepherd, in red raiment, holding a wand. I made Phil swear that no matter what alterations we would make to the place, the Good Shepherd would stay. The site was thirty feet above sea level, and rather than have the rocks dynamited, Sasha decided that our “dacha” would be built on different levels. Many distressing meetings with the planning officer were to follow. We did not always see eye to eye, baffled at the insistence of “classic contemporary,” which was the vernacular of the moment. The house, we were told, must not veer too far from the existing tradition, so that the big rooms I wanted (more sprees) had to be housed inside a series of small buildings that ran on one from another, like a series of cottages. After we abided by all these stipulations, it was finally built, and would in fact be painted in three different shades of pink, as the local paint shop had only a given number of cans of each shade and we bought them all. Just before building began, I returned one night to Donegal on a hunch, suspecting there was foul play. When I stepped into the kitchen, even before I turned on the torch, the first thing I smelled was the aftermath of a recent fire; the walls were sooted and the Good Shepherd so charred as to be unrecognizable. I went across to my neighbor, an elderly woman to whom I had once spoken and in a spirit of camaraderie had given a patch of ground for her oil tank, which by rights was within our boundary. Her lights were out, her curtains drawn, and so I sat on one of the big rocks and wrote a distraught note, wondering if she had noticed the fire. Her letter to London, a week later, could not have been more reassuring. She painted a hypothetical picture, that since it was Halloween some youths from Dungloe (nine miles away) must have cycled up, seen the FOR SALE sign that was thrown on the ground, broken in out of curiosity, and decided, as a prank, to make a fire, one that unfortunately got out of hand. I both believed it and didn’t believe it. In the very next post, I got a letter from Birmingham which read, “We, the six sisters, intend to contest our late father’s home-made will.” This led me to fear that the purchase might be invalid. Other writers had moved into strange places and were warmly received. J. M. Synge, an author whom I love, 48 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2013

had men and boys walking at his heels, telling him stories, girls giving him maidenhair fern that they pulled from between the rocks, and by fires at night he had heard stories of such imaginative pulse that they informed his great works. Lesser writers also wrote enviable accounts of settling in Provence or Tuscany or the Greek islands, whereas I was in jeopardy. The fire and the warning letter were mere preludes to sinister occurrences. Gorse bushes on a hillock in front of my house were also set fire to, and I received an incensed call from the elderly woman’s daughter, who lived in the house on the hill, ringing to tell me that our intended house was too large, it spoiled her view, it was out of keeping with the surroundings, and it must go. Then one night in London, a man who did not give his name, but had a Donegal accent, rang to tell me that my house would fall, block by block and, moreover, that the cement that was being used was rotten. It was only then I learned from my builder that each evening, after they left the site, the cement blocks they had put up were being removed, before they had hardened, and thrown down in defiance. Phil, being a local, kept telling me not to lose heart and that bad feelings would blow over. They didn’t. A blue boat appeared in the mooring of our house, and letters to remove it were ignored. Eventually, a letter from my solicitor was answered by one of the many members of the clan, saying that if I were a decent countrywoman, I would cut out all this “bull” and hop along to my aged neighbor and put her mind at rest. It was impossible to know who was most instrumental in all the trouble, whether from this house or that, or a house in the hills that I hadn’t even seen, an entire community perhaps colluding with one another. My visit to the local Garda station was met with some coolness. Here was I an outsider, building a big house and incurring spleen with neighbors whom they knew well and might even be distantly related to, since they all had the same surname. Only with the threat of the court in Letterkenny, and the High Court in Dublin, if necessary, did the aggravations stop, but the hostilities simmered on. he move came in December, and the sound of the big removal vans trundling up the narrow road was thrilling after four years of setbacks and stalled hopes. The list from the auction room where I bought furniture is testament to the extravagances that I went to. There was, for instance, a Chinese red lacquer cabinet, painted with pagodas and a garden landscape, on a gilt-caned timber stand, Chinese panels of parcel-gilt and polychrome, giltwood armchairs with two-seater canapé en suite, hand-carved ornate dining table and chairs, in mango and mahogany hues, along with suites of metal garden chairs and pear-shaped mirrors, etched and surmounted in Venetian style, with leafy cresting and foliate apron. The beautiful Gothic fireplace, made of sandstone, suffered a gash along its forehead as the movers dropped it in the short descent down the three balcony steps into the salon, but irrepressible as I was, I heard myself say it merely added an authentic touch. I, who crave silence, had the quietest bedroom in the world, and all I could hear was the sheep as they nipped the thin pickings, between the boulders, in the field next to me and the whirr of the little airplane as it set out early each morning. “Tara’s Halls” was how my friend David McKittrick christened it when he came with his wife, Pat, for a little housewarming. Carlo’s children, Georgia and Euan, eight and five respectively, were putting on a play. The preparations all that day were intensive: apart from penning the epic, there was the printing of the programs, which were then decorated in water




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color, the choosing of costume and props, and deciding in which wing of the balcony to stage the performance. It was to be after dinner, and we were made to stay at the “mango and mahogany” table, since surprise was imperative. We stayed a long time. Eventually Georgia came in, woebegone. Her brother had stage fright. He had taken off his war paint and his costume, which he had stamped on, and had locked himself in the Rock room, declaring that he was the most useless boy ever born. It took endless coaxing. His mother and father pleaded with him; so did I. Sasha vowed to get in by the window and, what with that and the promise of double the asking price for the programs, Euan finally emerged wearing a man’s hat and a silk kimono with a buckle that with its magic propensities would be a significant part of the unfolding drama. Georgia was in white like a vestal. The performance, considering the buildup, was remarkably short, and the dialogue, insofar as we could interpret it, was a mishmash of English, Teutonic, and Elven. “There . . . there” were his first words, as with much puckering and collusion, he pointed to the foeman dragon, who was represented by a fallen chair behind a curtain. The curtain, I should add, was a beautiful bale of lemon-colored tulle that I had intended for several windows, but that evening it was “All for Hecuba and Hecuba for me.” The ensuing acoustic consisted of a lot of Naa Naa and Raa Raa, and the repetition of the word “Longsaddle,” which presumably meant an imminent escape on horseback. The dragon behind the curtain must be put to sleep, by a sorcery from a certain object. The object was a clock, one of the three clocks that had stopped since I moved in, obviously disliking the salt sea air. The clock, when put to the head, could stun a person. This we learned as it was put to Georgia’s head and she obligingly fell into a swoon. The idea was that she would creep in under the curtain and stun the dragon. Here she spoke her first line of dialogue, which had been dutifully translated in the program. She said nervously, “Sut an?,” which meant “How long?” Euan tried to reassure her, said his heart sang to her, then circled her face and forehead with the buckle as protection, and off she went. The parley with the dragon was mute, except for the ringing of a little Druid bell which had also been filched from my bedside drawer. Slipping out of character, Euan used the occasion to tie his bootlace, and then resorted to Naa Naa and Raa Raa until she emerged smiling, carrying two important things, a scroll tied with red ribbon and a white lace mantilla. “Getting married,” she said, in a sweet, scarcely audible voice, while her brother, having read the scroll, formally placed the veil on her head, and then, hands joined, they stepped down off the balcony and out by a set of double doors onto Longsaddle and into the proverbial sunshine. The applause was astounding. There were five curtain calls, in which the porter’s armchair, chosen no doubt for its claw feet, represented the dragon. Everyone, including the protagonists, shed tears of pride and joy, the promised sums of money were handed over, and glasses, large and small, brimmed with champagne. n that same balcony, Stephen Rea and Marie Mullen read from Yeats and Joyce for a program I was preparing for the BBC. One sunny Sunday, Stephen rounded up some gifted musicians, among them Neil Martin, who played on the cello his song cycle of the Oileán na Marbh, the Island of the Dead. It was music that he had written for poems by Cathal Ó Searcaigh, in which a mother of one of the many unbaptized children speaks of her sorrows and rage at the Catholic Church, which would not


allow such children to lie in Christian grounds. In one of the accidents of history, some soldiers who had been torpedoed by German U-boats during the Second World War were washed in by the tide on that Donegal coast and were buried next to the children in unmarked graves. The loneliness of the music, coupled with the loneliness of the place and the sob of the sea, gave me the feeling that all was right and that I had settled in, yet the certainty could be undone by a night of storm when I was alone. he storm had no regard for seasons, came any time, bawling its rage. Waves powered by winds and crosswinds came roaring in, cresting, then toppling on the foam, as the next and the next onslaught came crashing in the same confused and angry froth. I went around checking the hasps on the windows, all twenty of them, and tucked towels in the jambs of the front and back doors. in the yard outside, the security lights crazily kept coming on and off, and through the kitchen window I saw that the willows had succumbed and lay in a heap. Birds dropped down into the floe, flung this way and that, and one, maybe a cormorant, was a mere tatter up there, a plaything spinning out of control, like a stringless kite. Rain sluiced over the ledges of rock in the yard, oozing into the Pink House and its foundations. I blessed myself and prayed for morning. Mornings: clear as crystal, the sea silken, with every color to it, the pale blue and pale pink of the matinee coats that I’d seen in the souvenir shop in Dungloe, alongside the ubiquitous green marble Cross of Cong, and a miniature Belleek lavatory bowl with the sign that read FOR BUTTS ONLY. But there was no capturing these colors for long, as there would always be a bit of a downpour, nicely called “sun showers,” and the sheets on my neighbor’s clothesline would get a second dousing. I lived for those mornings, that primordial calm that comes after storm, the world, as it were, being put to rights again. I would go outside, the sands dove-white with the mimicry of the waves on them and scarves of mustard-colored seaweed drying on the rocks. Yet, storm or sunshine, there was the gnawing realization that I wasn’t writing that much. I would joke and say that the rooms Sasha had designed were too big, too palatial, and did not make for concentration, but I could have hidden, and indeed did, in the porter’s chair to keep distractions out. Places are at the heart of writing, and I was no match for that rugged world of crag and granite and scree. I inclined toward softer, leafier places, ditches choked with wildflowers, weeds, and convolvulus, small rivers where the brown and speckled trout ran. I could not imagine myself into it, its dictions too gnarled for me.


nd so the day came when I was wrapping the glasses and the several ornaments, hanging torn sheets over the mirrors, emptying drawers, finding leaflets about caring for one’s carpet and novel ideas for cocktail recipes. Great stacks of cardboard boxes were already packed, and the sitting room had a sacked appearance to it. I jumped at hearing a light tap on the door. It was a young woman, one of the “six sisters,” who had built a small house on a hill above mine. She wore a long calico skirt and a white drawstring blouse with blown poppies on it. Her shyness was evident from the way she hesitated. I had often seen her in the years that I lived there, deft as a mountain goat, moving from rock to rock, and one Christmas Day, when she thought there was nobody about, she peeled off all her clothes and literally ran into the ice-cold water. She emerged a few minutes later, a verdant Eve, slathered with seaweed, which clung to her, the


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What You W Colum McCann on journeys of inspiration, his intensive research process, and his new novel. Interview by Sheila Langan. he annoying writerly adage says to write what you know. Great – if you possess a particular passion for accessing the extraordinary in the humdrum. Terrific – if your past is rich with enough adventure or incident to provide a lifetime of inspiration. But what if it isn’t? This is the problem that Colum McCann confronted in the summer of 1986, when he came to America, to Cape Cod, with the intention of writing a novel. It’s a problem he has been constructively solving ever since, over the course of two story collections – Fishing the Sloe-Black River (1994) and Everything in This



Country Must (1998) – and five novels – Songdogs (1995), This Side of Brightness (1998), Dancer (2003), Zoli (2006), Let the Great World Spin (2009), which won the National Book Award, and the forthcoming TransAtlantic. Excerpted in the previous issue of Irish America, TransAtlantic is a stunning work that spans 150 years of history, interspersing three great voyages across the Atlantic (by abolitionist Frederick Douglass, pioneering pilots Alcock and Brown, and Troubles peace-broker George Mitchell) with the stories of four generations of mothers and daughters. At forty-eight, McCann is a writer of fiction and non-fiction, an Irish New Yorker, a husband and father of three, a creative writing teacher, and a habitual

wearer of thin scarves, with a true gift for immersing himself in the stories of others. Born in Dublin in 1965, McCann, the second-youngest of five siblings, grew up around writing. His father, Sean, was a features editor for the Dublin Evening Press, and has authored books on topics ranging from Irish writers to roses. Colum got plum reporting jobs from an early age, calling in the results of local soccer matches when he was 12. He studied journalism at the College of Commerce in Rathmines (now part of the Dublin Institute of Technology), landed his own column, and won a Young Journalist of the Year award for an investigative report on victims of domestic abuse in the Dublin housing estates. But he wanted to write a novel, so he



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left all that behind and came back to the States to give it a shot. He had previously spent the summer of 1982 in New York, working as a go-fer for Universal Press. In Cape Cod, he bought a typewriter and a big roll of paper. But when there wasn’t much on the paper by the end of the summer, the Kerouacian vision 21-year-old McCann had for himself flickered. “I realized that I’d had a very nice, middle-class life and had very little to write about. I needed to do something,” McCann said recently, sitting at a window table in the Neue Galerie’s Café Sabarsky, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where he lives with his wife, Allison, and their children. So he set off across the country on a bicycle. He went with a friend as far as New Orleans, then by himself through Texas, into Mexico, to New Mexico and San Francisco. He had undertaken long-

Wilderness Llamas, which he said will never see the light of day. Still, he maintains that they were necessary. “What’s interesting about it to me now is that they were semi-autobiographical. In other words, I was getting rid of myself, ridding myself from the work,” he reflected. “I think that’s what one has to do. Don’t write about what you know, but towards what you want to know. There’s a great freedom in the fictional experience.” He gives similar advice to his students at Hunter College, where he has taught a master’s level writing course for the past eight years. Colum credits Allison, who he became close to around this time, with asking him why he always wrote about the same sorts of things. “It was very simple, but it was also a huge lightning bolt for me,” he said. “She was absolutely right and I started asking myself, ‘Why am I using the same

u Want to Know distance journeys before, in Ireland, biking from Dublin to Belfast with CoOperation Ireland, walking from Dublin to Clifden, from Belfast to Kerry, but this was different; a kind of pilgrimage towards experience. He met “Amish people, Native Americans in New Mexico, stayed with black families in Mississippi, wealthy families in Colorado.” There were some close calls, like four dehydrated days lost in the Utah desert, until a couple in a Winnebago found him near the side of the road and took him to a doctor in Vernal, Utah. He found odd jobs as a bicycle mechanic, a house painter, digging ditches, tending bar, and eventually circled back to Texas to work as a wilderness guide in a program for at-risk youths. There and a little later, while studying for his B.A. at the University of Texas at Austin, he started writing. The result was two works, titled Uncle Saccharine and

phrases over and over again, why am I covering the same territory?’ And that’s when I really started to write.” Two years they spent living in Japan, in Kitakyushu, the city that was almost the target of the second atomic bomb in WWII, gave him the distance he needed to complete Fishing the Sloe-Black River and Songdogs. For all of his many encounters and all of the times he has told the story of his first few years in the U.S., he has never written about it directly. “I think that somehow it’s still informing me, it’s still coming out,” he explained. “I don’t go on long journeys like that much anymore because it’s harder, I have a family.” Still, his writing now takes him on adventures of a similar nature. “You do make these difficult journeys in your imagination,” he acknowledged. “Instead of it being physical, now the challenge is sort of mental in the sense of how do you get




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into the head of Frederick Douglass, or a hooker, whoever – that’s the challenge.” He still doesn’t care to write about himself. “I mean, I live on the Upper East Side of all places. I’m a middle-class white male. I go running in Central Park,” he said wryly. “I enjoy my life immensely and I’m very lucky, but there’s nothing directly in it that I want to write about.” Instead, he believes, his responsibility is to go toward the things that he wants to know about and experience them. A hallmark of McCann’s process is intense and immersive research – almost like a writerly version of method acting. Perhaps this is why he is able to present each of his characters with such exquisite empathy and range. Each of his novels has taken around three years to research and write. For This Side of Brightness, which pairs the experience of sandhogs who dug subway tunnels with the lives of homeless people dwelling underground in modern New York, he smoked cigarettes near the tunnel entrances until he was able to befriend some of the people who live there and see what their world is like. For Dancer, based on Rudolf Nureyev, he traveled to Russia, and following a chance meeting with a dancer in an Irish pub in St. Petersburg was able to stand on the stage of the Kirov. He spent time in Roma camp sites in Eastern Europe while writing Zoli, inspired by the Polish-Romani poet Pupuza, and reached out to all corners of New York life for Let the Great World Spin. One question, born from equal parts curiosity and envy, is how does he do it? “You have to go in as gently as possible and give people a chance to look at you, a chance to make up their mind about you,” he said. “You have to be a little naïve, but purposefully naïve. There’s a part of it that’s calculating. “There are some writers I admire, like [John] Banville, for instance, who just seem to pluck it out of the air and not use any research, and that’s fine, that’s their bag, but it’s not the way I want to operate. I want to get out, engage with the world, look at history.” One of the best things about McCann’s novels is the way his sentences pick you up and whoosh you along, through his characters’ journeys and their thoughts, both fleeting and profound. Take a second to see how many action verbs fill the pages of Let the Great World Spin and TransAtlantic, and you’ll begin to understand why his writing has such a sense of 52 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2013

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perpetual motion; why you feel like you’re ‘with’ the characters at all times. In TransAtlantic, McCann moves seamlessly through three historic journeys: Jack Alcock and Teddie Brown’s first non-stop transatlantic flight, from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Clifden, Ireland; Frederick Douglass’ 1845 tour of Ireland, as the first threats of famine spread across the land; and former senator George Mitchell’s trip to Belfast in 1998 for the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. The fictional Ehrlich women – Lily Duggan, a maid in the house of Douglass’ Irish publisher; her American-born daughter Emily; Emily’s daughter Lottie, who reverses her grandmother’s immigration and settles in Northern Ireland; Lottie’s daughter, Hannah, who bears the great struggles of the Troubles and the smaller personal injustices of Celtic Tiger Ireland – weave the factual panels of the novel together. Colum was initially interested in Douglass, whose Irish story has gained attention in just the last few years, and in the ripples his visit might have made. “You have this great American, Frederick Douglass, who goes over to Ireland and achieves some point of conscious-

and was pleased to find that it came almost right in the middle between Douglass’ and Mitchell’s trips. To access Douglass’ story, McCann read his autobiography and accounts of his time in Ireland. He consulted with scholars specializing in Douglass and the Famine-era. “It was interesting for me to go back in and try to figure out what it




ness and conscience, and it changes him. He enables all sorts of things to happen in American history, to trickle down. Then at the far end you have this senator who goes in and does something of a similar magnitude, but this time for the Irish people. So did Douglass enable Mitchell in some way?” McCann was peripherally aware of Alcock and Brown’s record-setting flight,

1. Colum McCann with his father, Sean, in February 2012, when the Dublin Institute of Technology presented him with an honorary doctorate. 2. Colum and Allison. 3. Philippe Petit crossing the Twin Towers on a tightrope. 4. With George Mitchell, who was honored at an event held by the Crumlin Children’s Medical Research Foundation. 5. Alcock and Brown’s Vickers Vimy plane, which landed in a bog in Clifden, Ireland after completing the first non-stop trans-atlantic crossing.



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was like [in 1845]. At first I was so clueless. I had bicycles until someone informed me they wouldn’t have been common in Ireland at that time – all the little things.” Before Colum wrote the Alcock and Brown chapter, his friend the writer Scott Olsen invited him to North Dakota, where he took McCann up in a small plane and let him pilot it for a little while. “He said ‘You will know if you’re a pilot if at the end of this you want to go up again.’ I didn’t.” George Mitchell, who currently lives in the same neighborhood as McCann, presented a slightly different challenge: someone heroic and historic, but also






someone real, alive, and accessible. In a recent New York Times article to mark the 15th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement, McCann sang Mitchell’s praises. “[His] great dignity was that he knew the process belonged to others. Hundreds, or rather thousands, of people were responsible for peace. Mothers. Grandfathers. Philanthropists. Poets. Politicians. Even the gunmen. Mr. Mitchell and his team had been exposed to a giant dictionary of grief. He gave the dictionary back to the country to invent a new language.” When asked if this made for a different writing experience, McCann at first maintained that it didn’t; that he approaches all of his characters in much the same way – perhaps, even, with a bias towards the fictional ones. “It’s a tough question, because I do feel that I have a responsibility, that I should get it as right as I can. This is kind of paradoxical, but especially for those who are anonymous. The major figures can look after themselves, it’s not as if they’re going to rise and fall on the basis of what I have to say. But my own characters, the ones who are made up, I have a real responsibility to them.” Still, he acknowledged that there was something humbling and slightly nerve-wracking about writing the Mitchell chapter. McCann hadn’t met the former senator before, and didn’t until after he was done writing from his perspective. He did, however, talk with Mitchell’s wife, Heather, and got all the facts, down to the name of his driver and the route he took to the airport, before imagining Mitchell’s inner life. When he was done, he shared a draft with Heather, and was relieved when their quibbles were of the “actually, he always wore black leather brogues” variety. Writing about Mitchell also provided an entree for writing about Northern Ireland, which comes into greater focus later in the book. “I’m quite concerned about the North – my mom is from Derry. I had written a little bit about it before, but to write about the Peace Process was an important thing for me,” he said. McCann is no stranger to approaching the difficult moments in recent history through fiction. Let the Great World Spin,

which used Philippe Petit’s 1974 tightrope walk between the Twin Towers as a centerpoint for accessing the stories of people all across New York, allowed many readers to think about 9/11 in a way that was gentle, deep and cathartic. One of his missions as a writer who often turns to real people and real stories for inspiration seems to be to shape the past in a manner that is in some way redeeming. All this came into essence on April 23, when he visited Newtown High School in Connecticut. The people there continue to process and recover in the months since the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The high school English department decided that all of the seniors, some of whom lost relatives that day, should read and share in a discussion of one book. They chose Let the Great World Spin. McCann called it possibly the greatest honor of his literary life. “I went up there and taught four classes. It was a really compelling if not lifeaffirming experience to be with those kids, who have been through so much. We talked about grace and healing and recovery, and they were just amazing, as were the teachers. For me it was one of those great moments where everything comes together with your desire for your work to be social or socially engaged, for it to be used in relation to other things, which is what I’ve always believed in.” He plans to go back to Newtown High School for the next few years, and hopes to involve the students there in Narrative4, a literary non-profit he is founding with a group of other writers, which will give children from around the world who have been through traumatic experiences the chance to share their stories with one another, and to hear their own stories told through collaborative efforts. In one chapter of TransAtlantic, Emily and Lottie Ehrlich travel to England to visit Brown for the 10th anniversary of his flight with Alcock. “You took the war out of the plane,” Emily tells him. It’s a small sentence, but it’s important. On a literal level, she is referring to the fact that he and Alcock flew a decommissioned WWI Vickers Vimy bomber. But in another sense, the line speaks to the act of taking something that has caused pain and presenting it in a new light, one that holds the promise of a new way of understanding and looking at things. Or, as McCann put it, “taking the events of the time and putting a different weight, IA a different moral weight on them.” JUNE / JULY 2013 IRISH AMERICA 53

You’ve heard of the Dog Whisperer? Meet the Ancestor Rescuer...

MEGAN 2 SMOLENYAK swald © Colette O

Author of Who Do You Think You Are?

“Megan Smolenyak2 decodes our fascinating, complicated past in this tour de force of detective work.” —KEN BURNS

★ “This splendid book makes genealogy come alive in the most vivid and compelling manner.” —FROM THE FOREWORD BY


★ “Megan is a genealogist’s dream, a forensic investigator who can also tell a great story.” —SAM ROBERTS, THE NEW YORK TIMES


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Melissa McCarthy

The Scene Stealer Goes

Center Stage

Melissa McCarthy is taking Hollywood by storm in her own signature manner. The star of Mike & Molly and Bridesmaids talks to Patricia Danaher about her Irish roots, family and road to fame.



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McCarthy with Paul Rudd in Judd Apatow’s This is 40; With Bridesmaids cast members Kristen Wiig, Rose Byrne and Chris O’Dowd; In a scene from Bridesmaids; With Mike and Molly co-star Billy Gardell.

here is no one more amazed than Melissa McCarthy at where she is today. “Overnight success” was 22 years in the making for the Chicago-born actress who was nominated for a 2012 Oscar for her part in Bridesmaids. At 42, and with a multitude of accolades and offers at her feet, Melissa retains that actor’s anxiety that it could vanish as suddenly as when success finally arrived. Her grandparents emigrated in the early 1900s from Cork to Chicago, where they had ten children. Melissa’s Irish identity is something she feels very keenly. She grew up on a farm in Illinois, living with her grandmother and parents and assorted aunts and uncles. There are three nuns in the family and she was educated at two Catholic convents. Her husband, Ben Falcone, whom she met in LA ten years ago, when they were both part of the legendary Groundlings comedy troupe, is also of Irish descent. His parents lived in Galway for many years before Melissa and Ben met.

“There’s a scrappiness to the Irish that I can very much relate to,” Melissa said. “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. My dad’s friends in Chicago were all Irish and we grew up thinking of ourselves as Irish. His dad was a Carty, but the name got changed to McCarthy when he emigrated. I’m truly a Carty.” She and her husband have visited Ireland a few times and are particular fans of Dublin. Last year, she was given an Oscar Wilde award by the Irish American Alliance, but she lost her voice and wasn’t able to attend the party at JJ Abrams’s studio in Santa Monica. “When I was awarded it, it made me think of my grandma and grandpa and the struggles they had, immigrating to a new country. It would have made them very proud and I thought about them a lot. “I’ve got about a million Chicago Irish cops in my family, and if things hadn’t worked out for me as an actress, I could With Sandra Bullock in the upcoming The Heat.




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have seen myself as a teacher,” she told me in December at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. Dressed in an ankle-length brown dress, she arrived with a sizeable entourage and was very much at ease, while apparently taking none of it for granted. Her close friend Octavia Spencer, who won the 2012 Academy Award for Best Actress (which Melissa was also nominated for), also broke through to the big time in the past few years, and the two pals regularly pinch themselves at the way things have gone. “It’s just a crazy thing. We’ve both struggled for over two decades and to have had such a fun, wild last few years has just been amazing for both of us. I think it’s been ten years

She also cheers other plus-sized actresses making it big on screen on their own terms, like Australian Rebel Wilson. “Rebel’s not taking anyone’s seconds and I can't wait to see her unleashed on the world. I’m excited to see her writing, because she just doesn’t care in the best possible way. As wild as she is on screen, she’s so sweet and proper in person, and that’s just the best mix.” Melissa broke into the comedy scene just over two decades ago. “I went to New York when I was about 20, thinking I was going to make it big in fashion design. I had about $32 on me and I decided to take a limo from the airport – the first of a series of bad financial decisions! A friend of mine persuaded

“I think the point of us actors is that you should forget you’re watching actors. It should be like a slice of life – whether that’s a beautiful person or a regular Joe.” overdue for her. We’re occasionally a little dumfounded at what’s happening. We’re secure for about a minute and a half and then that goes away and we’re panicking and wondering if we’ll ever work again.” Melissa’s body shape is more like that of the average American than your typical Hollywood star, and instead of automatically being excluded from roles, she is now getting cast in part because of her size. It is something she is very relaxed about. “No one knows anything in Hollywood. You’re told you’re too tall, or you’re not tall enough or you have the wrong accent. I find it all batty. I mean, I never want to watch just one visual. I think the point of us actors is that you should forget you’re watching actors. It should be like a slice of life whether that’s a beautiful person or a regular Joe. When everybody starts to look alike, I tune out. I’d rather watch someone who’s like me, just to break up the monotony of every little thing being perfect at all times. And I think it’s not good for young girls to just see one visual all the time, that’s not realistic. I also don’t think everybody should be thin. I mean, come on, give us a little variety.”

me to do stand-up and I dressed up like a crazy drag queen in gold lamé. I looked like a woman trying to be a man, looking like a woman in a crazy wig and shoes and I went to an open mike night and for the first time I thought, ‘This is fun, making a group of people laugh in a room,’ so I never went back to my fashion studies.” All her recent success has given her the confidence and funds to start her own clothing line, which is currently in development. She won the 2011 Emmy for best actress in a comedy for her TV show Mike and Molly, and has written and sold a movie (with Bridesmaids co-writer Annie Mumolo) and a television pilot (with her husband) to Hollywood studios. One of her most recent on-screen roles was in the new Judd Apatow movie This is Forty, which also starred Roscommon-born actor Chris O’Dowd. Bridesmaids was the film that launched O’Dowd in Hollywood, and Melissa becomes positively joyful when his name comes up. “He’s one of the most charming, funny men I’ve ever met, because I don’t think he’s trying to be anything other than what he is. He’s truly, wickedly funny and it’s just natural. JUNE / JULY 2013 IRISH AMERICA 57



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He’s bigger than life to me. Bridesmaids affected me and my career so much and, as well as Chris, it was wonderful working with such a nice and caring bunch of women. At some point in my 20s, I thought, ‘maybe I should be bitchier or a bigger smart-ass and that’ll do it.’ But I’ve learned, especially on Bridesmaids that if you do it kindly and you do it smart, you can still get ahead. I feel like I’m still learning.” Up next, Melissa teams up with fellow funny lady Sandra Bullock in the crime caper The Heat. McCarthy plays a Boston cop Shannon Mullins, who reluctantly teams up with FBI special agent Sarah Ashburn to take down a drug lord. “We had no interest in making [a film about] two wacky cops that are bad at their job and they’re fighting over lipstick in the car,” she said during a recent press conference, emphasizing the strength of the two main characters. Away from the public eye, Melissa says she’s blissfully happy at home in LA with her husband and the chaos of bringing up their two girls Vivian (5) and Georgette (2). “I am cuckoo for my husband Ben and my two little creatures. In our house, there’s always a dog barking and someone has done something strange in one room that involves a diaper and two tubes of red lipstick! It’s not a quiet house, but I love the chaos. This morning, I felt like I was in a fist fight with two live bears. I know I could take them physically, but the two-year-old didn’t want to eat and the other one wouldn’t get out of Above: Melissa and husband Ben Falcone at the 2012 Academy Awards. Left: With Mike and Molly co-star Billy Gardell.

her ski boots. When I finally got them into the car and off to school, my husband and I had a crazy fight and now I can’t wait to get home and go back to all that noise!” she says with a raucous laugh. 58 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2013

She rarely goes online and hardly ever uses email, partly because she doesn’t want to, and partly to protect herself from the noise of the critics in the blogosphere. “I don’t read anything – that sounds like I’m not literate! I can read, but I don’t read random stuff online. I don’t use email. I worked a long time just to get someone to come and see me in a play or a show and now I’m really glad there’s someone there to give me a job and let me do what I do, so I don’t need to keep looking out for what strangers say about me.” Given the fickleness of Hollywood, Melissa continues to write and although she’s enjoying success and visibility right now is under no illusion that it won't all vanish. “You create your own work. I started this at 20, when instead of moaning and thinking no one would ever hire me, I put on my own show. I played 65 at 20 and I thought, why not? There was an older woman’s play that I loved, so I did it. You can’t tell somebody who is generating their own work that they can’t work. They’re doing it themselves. So there!” IA

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Mary Lavin with her daughters, Elizabeth, Caroline and Valdi Walsh.

Mary Lavin’s

American Roots In the male-dominated field of Irish writers, Mary Lavin was a pioneer. Daphne Wolf examines Lavin’s American roots and the influence they may have had on her work and spirit. 60 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2013


leaning out old books from my parents’ house, I salvaged a yellowed paperback titled Irish Short Stories and Tales (with a price tag of 35¢). Inside were stories by James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, Sean O’Faolain, Frank O’Connor, Liam O’Flaherty and Oscar Wilde. Of the 32 celebrated Irish authors whose works were represented, only one was a woman. And she was born in East Walpole, Massachusetts. That Mary Lavin ever shouldered her way into this Irish allboys’ club is thoroughly amazing. As her 1996 obituary in The Independent observed, her writing had always been “confronted by the distinctly male genre of the short story,” whose masters “had virtually established copyright on what an Irish story should be.” Lavin had her own ideas about that. Unlike her male counterparts, she never wrote about Ireland itself, either politically or historically, although nearly all her stories take place there. Her char-



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was Walsh’s spouse, introduced readings by Irish writers Anne Enright and Belinda McKeon, and a talk by Tóibín. The setting was apt, as Caroline and her mother had lived there when Lavin was the university’s first writer-in-residence, in 1967-68 (she returned again in 1970-71), and there were audience members at the event who remembered them both. Lavin’s talent gleamed in the format of the short story; she compared it to “an arrow in flight, or…a flash of forked lightning…all there on the sky at once.” Published in magazines like The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly, and in numerous collections, her writing earned many prizes, like the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, two Guggenheim Fellowships, and the Katherine Mansfield prize. She was president of the Irish Academy of Letters and a Saoí (granted for “merit and distinction”) in the elite association of the Irish arts, Aosdána. At the Gerson Reading, Ryan recalled how Lavin loved to take the floor at parties to tell stories. Her second husband, Michael Scott, was always urging her to stop wandering off on tangents and finish her tale. “A story has a beginning, a middle and an end,” he would remind her. “Yes,” Mary agreed, “but not in that order.” That was her way of writing a story too, Ryan said, and she would “keep whatever was central to that story out of the story, and go round and round and round and round until that center began to emerge of its own accord.” Being born in America skewed the way Mary Lavin saw Ireland. Even though she had lived in Ireland since 1921, returning to the United States only for visits and for her terms at the University of Connecticut, the fallout from her Yankee childhood swirls silently acters were people who just happened to live in inside her stories. She was Irish yet, Ireland, often widows or single women, whose in the words of writer and critic lives were marginal and of little consequence to Seamus Deane, “She wears her outsiders. It seems a great wonder then that her Irish rue with a difference.” story “The Widow’s Son” was included in my Lavin’s parents never would wee 1957 volume at all. Of course, that is the dishave met – or married – if they had turbing part too. not left Ireland in the first place. She was a woman in a male-dominated genre, They met on the high seas, travelwho first saw Ireland with the gaze of an ing in reverse from America to American girl. According to her son-in-law, Irish Ireland. According to Leah novelist James Ryan, Lavin reveled in her ability Levenson’s biography, The Four to hold two opposite views about a topic without Seasons of Mary Lavin, Lavin’s ever having the desire to resolve them. Just so, mother, Nora Mahon, the daughter her stories embraced the paradoxes of gender and of a prosperous merchant family in geography that kept her from fitting neatly into Athenry, County Galway, was on any mold, infusing her work with a timelessness her way home after an unsuccessful that keeps it provocative and fresh today. trip to the U.S. to find a husband. The 100th anniversary of her birth in 2012 Tom Lavin, a poor emigrant from Mary Lavin and sparked much attention to Lavin’s writing, beginFrenchpark, County Roscommon, William Walsh at Bective House. ning with the re-publication of two collections of was far from Nora’s ideal choice, her stories: Tales from Bective Bridge (Faber and PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE RYAN FAMILY but, after three years of relentless Faber), and Happiness, and Other Stories (New Island Books). courtship, she agreed to marry him and sail back to America. Last April, Irish writer Colm Tóibín spoke on Lavin at a sympoBitterly homesick in East Walpole, Massachusetts, Nora took sium, “Mary Lavin Remembered,” at New York University’s every chance she could to return to her family in Galway, immersGlucksman Ireland House, where he was joined by American ing Mary’s early life with the normalcy of darting back and forth writer Mary Gordon and NYU Professor of Irish Studies Greg across the Atlantic Ocean. Being at a physical distance from Londe. Ireland had provoked unforeseen options for her parents, and the This spring, the annual Elizabeth Shanley Gerson Irish miles of salt water in Lavin’s pedigree gave her something other Literature Reading at the University of Connecticut hosted Irish writers could not claim: the detachment of an outsider’s eye. “Mothers and Daughters,” a tribute to Lavin and her daughter, the Lavin returned with her mother to Ireland permanently when she late Irish Times literary editor Caroline Walsh. James Ryan, who was 9. In a 1979 conversation with Irish writer and scholar





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Maurice Harmon, Lavin said the move to Athenry decided her future career: “How great a shock it must have been to the eyes and ears of a child to leave that small town in Massachusetts and in a few days arrive in a small town in the west of Ireland. For all I know it was the shock to eye and ear that made me a writer. The kind of person who writes is born. I never wanted to be a writer, never, never, never.” In Athenry, thrust into her mother’s large and opinionated family, Lavin confronted many cultural changes as well: farm animals in the streets, a less rigorous curriculum at school, and no electricity. In the 1992 RTÉ film, An Arrow in Flight: A Tribute to Mary Lavin, Caroline described the experience as “being catapulted” into a place where her mother’s entire world was challenged. From the start Lavin was “picking it all up…seeing inequities…seeing poverty and…the pain of emigration.” Glucksman Ireland House NYU on April 27th 2012. Left to right: Greg Londe, Cormac Catholicism was different, too. In East O’Malley, James Ryan, James and Caroline’s daughter Alice, Mary Gordon, Colm Tóibín. Walpole, she had gone to Sunday school, a strictly Protestant practice in Ireland, and to Mass in a local cineNot only did Tom Lavin work for Bird, but Mary attended the ma. To her, the people in Athenry seemed unable to think for themBird Elementary School, and by 1920, Nora, Tom and Mary were selves, and were, she said, “very much at the mercy of what we living at the same street address as Bird and his family. How would now call superstition.” The eight months she spent in many of Bird’s progressive attitudes filtered into Tom’s converAthenry, and the shell shock of her transplantation, fueled her writsation at home? Did young Mary, growing up in an atmosphere ing throughout her career. where the outward principles of social justice were taken for In her story “Tom,” published in The New Yorker in 1973, Lavin granted, react to the poverty and class distinctions she found in describes an Irish-American family in which the mother’s version Ireland even more sharply? of Ireland, a place of serenity, order, and pretty (if delusional) While the young writer may have been shaken into being when memories, is pitted against the father’s “Ireland.” On a trip home she first arrived in Athenry, it was in the countryside of County to Roscommon the father, Tom, is shocked to find his former Meath, where she lived for many years when not in Dublin, that sweetheart is now a shriveled old woman, and the familiar cabins Lavin and her writing flourished. She loved the Midlands countryof his childhood, mounds of rubble. The fictional Tom says most side, but would never have set foot on Bective Bridge if it hadn’t of the people he knew had left for the United States long ago. been for the Bird family. “ ‘Ah, I knew you were an American, sir,’ an old man tells Tom. After Mary and her mother moved from Athenry to Dublin, Tom ‘Sure, Americans have plenty of money for traveling the world and reluctantly left Massachusetts to join them. When Bird’s son, going anywhere they like.’ ” Charlie, a horse racing and hunt enthusiast, decided to buy a counInstead of identifying himself to the woman he remembered so try estate not far from Dublin, he hired Tom, whom he knew from fondly, Tom allows her to believe that he is his own son, then East Walpole, to be his agent at Bective House. abruptly shifts his big car into reverse to drive away without an The arrangement was fortuitous. Tom and Nora were not happy explanation. “And the black mood that came down on him didn’t together, and now they could live apart without disgrace – he at lift till we’d crossed the Shannon.” Bective and she in Dublin, while on weekends Mary happily visitA curious but integral ingredient in Lavin’s transatlantic DNA is ed her father, who adored his only child. When Tom died, Mary Charles Sumner Bird, the owner of what was in 1920 a successful and her husband William Walsh took over as estate agents at building products mill in East Walpole. Founded by his grandfather Bective House, ultimately buying the nearby Abbey Farm for in 1795 as a paper mill, by 1812 it was producing the rag stock themselves. used for printing the U.S. dollar. Levenson says Tom’s salary from the Birds allowed Mary to The younger Bird, who ran unsuccessfully for governor of dress well, drive a sports car while a college student, and even travMassachusetts twice on the Progressive Party ticket, genuinely el to the States when her father went there on business for his cared about his employees, introducing 8-hour shifts, a minimum employer. wage, and a workers’ mutual benefit association. Paternalistic as he Mary became friends with Charlie’s wife, Julia, who introduced may appear now (he did not support unions), he nevertheless built her to their neighbor, Edward Plunkett, Lord Dunsany. An author recreation halls, reading rooms and parks for his employees and himself, he encouraged the young writer, introduced her to friends their families, and worked to give them access to good housing. in the publishing world, and wrote the preface to her first collecTheodore Roosevelt wrote to Bird in 1916, “You have been a tion, Tales from Bective Bridge. tower of strength to the men and women of this country who strive Lavin was widowed twice, in 1954 when her husband, lawyer for better things in our national life.” William Walsh, died, leaving her with three young daughters, 62 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2013



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Valdi, Elizabeth and Caroline, to raise by herself, and again with Just as Lavin’s writing does not fit a genderized mold, neither the 1990 death of Scott, a former Jesuit priest and a friend since will it submit to geographic or national determinism. college. Having steered through much of her life alone, she was Colm Tóibín told the NYU audience that Lavin’s stories do not able to infuse her portraits of widows and single women with presupport the notion that it “is the job of writers to write their cision and deep feeling. Far from being exercises in self-pity, these nation.” He said Lavin believed “that nations change, but other tales celebrate the complex and surprising ways that people navithings don’t, and it is the job of the artist to care more about the gate their way through grief and loneliness. other things.” American writer Mary Gordon told the Glucksman House audiAlthough Lavin claimed she couldn’t imagine setting her stories ence that critics have often judged female writers like Lavin as too anywhere but in Ireland, Tóibín said she puts the nation, and tame, too safe, to be equal contenders in the ring with men. Catholicism too, into the background, and “removes all the props “Can we ever get over Hemingway’s tiresome boxing by which we might read [her characters] easily, refuses to allow us metaphors?” Gordon quipped. “Isn’t it possible that the ground of to come to know them by an easy set of signals…They live in a heterosexual male traditional subject matter has been so welltwilight time not of national life but of their own life. plowed, and well-tilled, and perhaps so “Mary Lavin was more interested carefully over-landscaped now that it is in a character she had invented in all indistinguishable from a golf course?” its strangeness and individuality than Gordon said Lavin “wrote what she she was in the wider society; she was wanted and needed to write, even though more interested in families than polino one else thought it was important.” The tics; she was more interested in the writer rejected the assumption that widdrama around the solitary figure than ows and unattached women, who were the drama around Irish history or not “the conventional objects of male large questions of identity,” Tóibín desire, sexual or filial,” should be margincontinued, all of which “make her al figures in fiction – or in life. Instead, work seem so undated.” Lavin found their lives bursting with danIn the RTÉ film, Lavin said she gerous possibilities and what Gordon never considered becoming a writer called the “richness of suggestion.” until she was jolted by the shock of Such was Lavin’s own experience. In meeting a woman in her husband’s An Arrow in Flight, she recalls with a devlaw office who said she had just had ilish smirk that, when Scott renounced his tea with Virginia Woolf (the subject religious vows and asked her to marry of Lavin’s Ph.D. thesis). Convinced him, “I half resented it. I’d had a whale of she was wasting her time in academa time as a widow.” ics, Lavin wrote her first story, “Miss Lavin wrote in bed, early in the mornHolland,” on the backside pages of ing in her country house in Bective, that thesis. County Meath, with a breadboard on her Yet Lavin had told Maev Kennedy knees. She wrote in the National Library of The Irish Times 16 years earlier in Dublin or in St. Stephen’s Green with that she began writing “Miss Caroline playing at her side. She wrote in Holland” (“almost absently mindedthe evenings after she made dinner. ly” in Kennedy’s words) after return“Most male writers have wives to do ing to Ireland from her first visit back the housework,” she once told an interto the United States with her father. Bust of Mary Lavin by Helen Hooker O’Malley. viewer, “I don’t.” She recounted writing “And I couldn’t tell you why I wrote in “coffee shops, cafes, and bus terminals where I could get some it,” Lavin had confessed at the time. quiet time to myself.” Family vacations happened only when a Maybe the trip back from America as an adult affected her just check, like a Guggenheim Fellowship, arrived in the mail. as deeply as it had when she was a child. After all, “Miss Holland” But Lavin refused to conform to any neat definitions, even that is the story of a woman, recently torn from a life of comfort and of a feminist. world travel by the death of her father, who attempts to make “I write as a person,” she said emphatically. “I don’t believe that friends with the inhabitants of the vulgar boarding house where her I am a woman who writes. I am a writer. And I write about people diminished circumstances have brought her. as I see them whether they are men or women. Gender is incidenLavin is as interested here in Miss Holland’s self-deception as tal to me in that sense.” she is in the vast oceans that can separate people seated at the same Still, Greg Londe finds that Lavin’s “stories of widows and of dinner table. Still it is only Miss Holland, the stranger, the newmarriage were implicitly deeply political.” Although critics like comer, and the woman alone, who is capable of anything so rich Elke D’hoker, objecting to the “absence of a clear critique of patriand complex as delusion. archy in her work,” have tried to distance Lavin from feminism, Whatever drove Mary Lavin to write, she wrote with an indeLonde argues “she is still absolutely a feminist writer.” Her analypendent woman’s voice and with the sharpened eyes and ears of the sis of the forces that control women’s lives is blatant and powernew kid in town, and Irish literature is only the richer for that. IA ful, but comes from within her characters and her stories. Daphne Wolf is a PhD candidate in the History and Culture program at Drew “It is never a proclamation,” Londe said, “but rather a chronicle University in Madison, NJ. She received her MA in Irish Studies from NYU. of persistence and suffering.” JUNE / JULY 2013 IRISH AMERICA 63



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{what are you like?} By Sheila Langan

Miss America Mallory Hagan A native of Opelika, Alabama, Mallory Hagan moved to Brooklyn, New York in 2008, at the age of 19, with $1,000 and big ambitions. While studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology, she won a succession of beauty pageants at the city and state level: she was Miss Brooklyn 2010, Miss Manhattan 2011, Miss New York City 2012 and Miss New York 2012. On January 12, she was crowned Miss America 2013 – the first-ever Miss Brooklyn to win the title. During the competition, she tap danced to James Brown’s “Get Up Offa That Thing” and won the swimsuit portion of the evening. Hagan proved not only cool but also eloquent under pressure when Good Morning

What went through your mind when you were announced as Miss America 2013? I was completely shocked and overwhelmed. I knew that nothing in my life would ever be the same, and that is a lot to take in. Three months later, how do you feel about having won the title? I feel great! I have had so many cool opportunities and have been given the chance to impact lives all over the country. I genuinely feel like I have the most amazing job. What do you hope to achieve over the course of the year? I hope to bring more awareness to Child Sexual Abuse. Last week I had the opportunity to visit Capitol Hill and speak with several Congressmen about the recently removed federal funding for the Child Sexual Abuse Act, and I hope to continue to impact lawmakers and politicians to keep them focused on preventing child abuse. Additionally, I will 64 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2013

America weatherman Sam Champion asked if, in light of the Newtown, CT tragedy, she supported the idea of armed guards in schools. “I don’t think the proper way to fight violence is with violence,” Hagan replied. “I think the proper way is to educate people on guns and the ways we can use them properly. We can lock them up, we can have gun safety classes, we can have a longer waiting period.” Her mother and father, Mandy Moore and Phil Hagan, attended her crowning ceremony, along with 32 family members and friends from Alabama. Mallory’s mission for the months ahead is to promote awareness of child sexual abuse and support various education initiatives.

continue to promote STEM education and Children’s Miracle Network.

When you were competing for the pageant titles, how did you prepare? It’s a day in and day out process. Almost everything I did was in preparation for Miss New York and Miss America. It’s a 24/7 job to be a part of the Miss America Organization and that is what I love about being involved. Do you identify more with Alabama or New York? I definitely identify more with New York. I enjoy the fast-paced atmosphere, the ever-changing scenery and the many cultures that call it home. There’s just something electric that you can’t find anywhere else. What do you know about your Irish heritage? My great-great-great-grandfather Aaron Hagan and his son, James Frederick Hagan, are buried in an Irish clan ceme-

tery in Georgia. Unfortunately, no one has been able to trace their voyage from Ireland to the U.S.

Who is your hero? My parents are my heroes. They both had many odds stacked against them and they managed to be the most incredible, loving, dedicated parents in the world. Best advice ever received? To whom much is given, much is expected. What was your first job? If we discount babysitting for the summers, my first job (with a real paycheck) was at the concession stand the Opelika Rec Center when I was 14. Do you strike up conversations on long plane journeys? Absolutely not! I have this incredibly ridiculous travel pillow that actually goes over my head. I slide it on and doze off into an in-air coma.



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Movie you will watch again and again? Pretty Woman! Your favorite place? The Brooklyn Bridge. I swear it’s magical. Favorite sound? A baby’s laugh… I always wonder what they are thinking. Favorite smell? Lilies or fresh-cut grass. Favorite meal? Everything that comes with Thanksgiving – turkey, dressing, creamed corn, broccoli casserole, greenbean casserole, ham, deviled eggs… the list goes on! Favorite drink? Sweet tea. My Southern roots haven’t gotten too far away from me. What event changed you the most? My best friend, Marlena, passed away when I was 15 years old. Losing a friend at a young age forces you to explore emotions and face life in a whole new way.

What is on your bedside table? Currently? My Amway iPad, a lamp, a hotel telephone, a “Nutella and Go” wrapper and a bottle of water. Your favorite quality in friends? Ambition. All of my friends are people who dream big and aspire for more in life. None of my friends are complacent. Your greatest passion? My greatest passion, right now, is my job. Only 91 other women are lucky enough to have been in this position and I do my best to remember that with every day that comes and goes. Being Miss America is something I dreamt about as a little girl…it is my greatest passion.

Favorite country you’ve visited? Zimbabwe. I had the opportunity to visit Victoria Falls and then lead an empowerment conference with the students of Chimukopa Elementary School outside of Harare. Country you would most like to visit? Italy! I have heard it’s just beautiful and the food is to die for. Best opening line in a book or piece of music? “Dearly beloved… we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life…” [The opening line of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.”]

What trait do you most deplore in others? Narcissism – it’s the absolutely worst trait any person can have. In yourself? I’m a procrastinator. It seems as though growing up if I accomplished a task before the due date, I never made as good of a grade as I did if I completed it in the knick of time. Talk about being rewarded for less-than-desirable behavior! What is your motto? Be Kind. Be Courageous. Be You. If you weren’t doing what you are doing, what would you do? Completing my degree in Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing at The Fashion IA Institute of Technology. JUNE / JULY 2013 IRISH AMERICA 65



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Following the unspeakable tragedy, the city of Boston showed amazing courage and resilience. Michael Quinlin writes of how the race served as an inspiration from the beginning.


o prepare for the Boston Marathon you must approach it as a pilgrimage, a personal journey into your interior, a promise you make to yourself that you will triumph through sheer endurance and tenacity, and you will take your place alongside thousands of others who ran this course in their time across three centuries. You think about Boston so much that it becomes dreamlike. You could be pacing yourself through the mountains of Kenya, rare air, scorched sun, bristled shrubs, or galloping down the back roads of Ireland, moss green fields, steady drizzle and cows staring as you pass by. You could be run-


ning hard down the California coast, wheezing up the hills of Pittsburgh, chasing exhaust fumes across New York’s bridges. No matter how weary you become, you imagine the finish line in Boston and that keeps you going. The race has been an inspiration from the very beginning. Officials from the Boston Athletic Association, returning from the 1896 Olympic Games in Greece, had just witnessed a great human drama in sports, the world’s very first marathon. The runners raced through the Greek countryside as the crowd waited anxiously in the stadium. They heard an Australian was in the lead, then an

American, Boston’s own Arthur Blake. But soon an astonished, exhilarant roar went up in the stands as Spyridon Louis, a Greek runner, entered the stadium in first place, having passed the exhausted front runners, the crowd going berserk, yelling “Hellene, Hellene!” as Louis crossed the finish line. The Boston men knew at once they had to stage such a marathon in their beloved City on a Hill, in their Athens of America. They launched the Boston Marathon the following April, 1897, and fifteen runners showed up. Sprinter Thomas Burke of Boston’s West End, who had won the 100 and 400 meter races in Athens, was



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and the Battle of Marathon) as well as the fact that it was held on Patriots Day.” The race took place, a firm retort to fear, and Kennedy, wearing a bandanna on his head with an American flag stitched on the side, became a hero that day. The late John A. Kelley was the quintessential Boston Marathon runner. Born in 1907, he ran his first marathons in 1928 and 1932 but didn’t finish either race. Then, in a remarkable burst of endurance and tenacity, Kelley finished every single Boston Marathon from 1933 to 1992, fifty-nine years in a row! Johnny won the race twice, placed second 7 times, and finished in the top ten 18 times.

be part of a grand tradition, of something significant.

Cheering on the Runners Above all, the Boston Marathon is a great spectator sport. As the race grew in stature and scale, so did the number of onlookers, who showed up initially out of curiosity and even sympathy. But those sentiments turned to pure admiration and respect for anyone undertaking this brave, foolhardy quest, pounding feet up Heartbreak Hill, trying to break from the pack, or to keep up with the pack, staying hydrated, fighting blisters and muscle


official race starter. He drew a line in the dirt with his foot, shouted “Go,” and the runners took off, watched by curious bystanders. Bicyclists rode alongside the runners, offering food, water and encouragement. John McDermott, a twenty-twoyear-old lithographer from New York, won the race. Some say he was from Ireland, others thought he came from the Maritimes. He ran again in 1898, finishing fourth, and then disappeared from the public record. There has always been an Irish contingent at this marathon – this is Boston after all. Just as Kenyans and Ethiopians dominate the marathon today, Irish Americans


ruled the race in the early years, with winners like Jack Caffery, John Lorden, Tim Ford, Michael Ryan, James Duffy and James Henigan. “Bricklayer Bill” Kennedy, who ran the Boston Marathon 28 times, won the race in 1917. The year was significant, says his descendant, author Patrick Kennedy, because it occurred just two weeks after the United States entered World War I, and Boston Harbor was on alert. “There were already reports of Boston fishing boats being sunk by German subs,” Kennedy says. “Some suggested cancelling the marathon, but others pointed to the race’s military roots (the story of Pheidippides

Photos: Left: John A. Kelley, who ran the race 59 years in a row (from 1933 to 1992.) The statue depicts a young and an old Kelley, crossing the finish line together. Middle: The start of the race. Above: A makeshift memorial.

Today the race is international in scope, transcending ethnic and national boundaries, but the Boston Marathon is an American original, distinct in all its contradictions: supersized but intimate, brash and orderly, patriotic yet apolitical, cosmopolitan and local, a race for professionals and amateurs alike. Prize money goes to elite runners, while thousands of runners collect millions for charity. Certain runners eye the elusive two hour milestone, others struggle to break five hours. Everyone dreams a similar dream, to reach the finish line, to

cramps, discouragement and frustration, imagining the finish line, so far away yet so within reach. For a time, the course ran parallel to a railroad track, and train cars full of passengers chugged alongside the runners, a movable feast of cheering fans. Marathon runners need their energy boost at various points of the race, and they always get that in Boston: from the families in the outlying rural towns and suburban streets, handing out lemonade and Band-Aids; from the college students screaming out of dormitory windows,



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atmosphere of the day, blending in with visitors from around the world. And that is how it was on April 15, 2013 at the 117th Boston Marathon. Twenty-seven thousand people registered to run the race, and half a million spectators lined the 26.2 mile route, many of them gravitating toward the finish line at Copley Square in Boston’s Back Bay, to connect with their friends, to witness history being made. Police officers, firemen and ambulance workers lined the route, directing traffic and keeping order. Thousands of volunteers in blue and yel-



waving school colors; from tourists on day trips and business travelers at conventions; from commuters working in office buildings; and from a massive entourage of family members proudly cheering on their kin, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, grandparents and grandchildren, along with co-workers and neighbors. Every runner has a fan club at the Boston Marathon. Marathon Monday is also Patriots Day in Massachusetts, a state-wide holiday created in 1894 to commemorate the Revolutionary War battles in Lexington and Concord. The battles are re-enacted in those towns by local people dressed in colonial garb, wielding antique muskets and snare drums, pitching tents on the moist fields, keeping tradition alive of how America came to be. Patriots Day also marks the start of school vacation week, and the Red Sox always play a home game at Fenway Park. That is why thousands of Bostonians come to town each Patriot’s Day, taking their kids to the race, catching the ball game, breathing in the carnival



low tee-shirts gave directions, answered questions, kept the crowd off the course, and encouraged worn out runners. The elite runners started early, the women leaving at 9:32 a.m., the men at 10:00 a.m., followed by the rest of the pack at 10:40, a virtual sea of humanity, from all nations, walks of life, religious beliefs, stages of fitness. Some were chasing victory, some running for a charity, all of them on their personal journeys, moving in unison toward the finish line. My wife, Colette, and I have attended our share of marathons over the years, when I worked at Boston City Hall and my she worked for John Hancock, the race sponsor. But this Patriots Day, we are in our back yard in Milton, pulling up dandelions, chatting with neighbors, taking it easy. The temperature is mid50s and the sun shines bright. Our son dribbles his basketball nearby, birds chirp like newborns, and lawnmowers rumble in the distance. Like so many others on this day, we are in our own world, seven miles from the finish line but a million miles away.

How the Race Ended

Clockwise: Erin Kiley, 22, a step dancer from Fairfield, Conn., signed a T-shirt backstage at the John Hancock Hall, where the benefit for Jane Richard was held. A sign expressing love from California. Richard Donohue, his wife Kim and baby Richie. Donohue, a transit cop, survived a gunshot wound. Martin Richard 8-years-old was killed by the blast. 68 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2013

And that’s where this year’s Boston Marathon story begins, at the finish line. Who could have foreseen the reckless act of evil on a day when children are on vacation, eating hot dogs and ice cream? Thousands of people stand at the finish line, awaiting that last batch of runners chasing down their dreams, seeing that final stretch of Boylston Street, heading toward the roar of an enraptured crowd in love with Boston, at this very moment in time when Boston is at its finest. The news from the finish line comes in short bursts, and there is early confusion about whether the explosion was accidental or deliberate. Word spreads over the wire of an explosion at the John F. Kennedy Library, three miles away, which



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Country Girl: A Memoir


Continued from page 49.

Left: Joe Harrison pinned a ribbon on 7-year-old Nora Cox at the performance to honor Jane Richard, who was injured in the Marathon bombings that also killed her brother Martin. Above: The runners.

turned out to be a small electrical fire, but for a moment the thought of 9/11 enters your mind. Then the heartbreak began to emerge in slow, painful motion. The Richard family of Dorchester was at the finish line. Eight-year-old Martin Richard was killed, his mother and father were wounded by shrapnel, his seven-year-old sister Jane, an Irish step dancer at the Clifden Irish Dance Academy in Milton, lost her left leg. Twenty-nine-year-old Krystle Campbell died instantly, waiting for her boyfriend to finish. “Along with her million dollar smile came head-to-toe freckles and gorgeous bright red hair, connecting her Irish roots and kid-like manner,” wrote her employer. Fiddler Tommy McCarthy remembers Krystle as a regular at his pub, the Burren, in Davis Square, where she enjoyed the live Irish music. He has dedicated one of his songs, “Listen, I Know,” to raise funds for the Krystle Campbell Foundation. Lu Lingzi, a 23-year-old Chinese graduate student at Boston University, died at the finish line, watching her first Boston Marathon. She played the piano and loved dogs. A memorial service at BU played the piano music she loved as friends gathered around Lu’s parents, who traveled from China to Boston to retrieve their only child and bring her home. Thursday night after the marathon, 26year-old Sean Collier, a policeman at MIT, was murdered by the bombers while sitting in his police car on campus. All he wanted to do in life was to be a cop, his brother said at Sean’s memorial, which was attended by Vice President Joe Biden and by police officers from around the world, including Ireland. Later that night our friend, 33-yearold Richard Donohue, a transit cop, was caught in a gunfight and a bullet ripped

through his leg, severing his femoral artery. He lost so much blood that he went into cardiac arrest. Firefighters stemmed the bleeding, gave him CPR and rushed him to Mt. Auburn Hospital, where emergency doctors and nurses saved his life. He is recovering now, his wife Kim and their seven-month -old son Richie by his side, along with his close-knit family. A runner himself, Donohue cherishes a more pleasant connection to the race: his great-great grandfather, Lawrence Brignolia, won the Boston Marathon in 1899.

Boston Strong We visited Copley Square Park recently, where a makeshift memorial has sprung up in the tiny park sandwiched between the Boston Public Library and Trinity Church, not far from the finish line, and right near the medical tent that saved so many of the injured from dying. Bouquets of flowers and stuffed animals, rosary beads and candles, sports shirts and hats from the Celtics, Bruins, Red Sox and Patriots — all placed carefully, with reverence, in silence. Scrawled on message boards are traces of love, support and resolve from the world over, from Texas to Tibet, California to Japan. To prepare for the 118th running of the Boston Marathon, you must approach it as a pilgrimage, a personal journey into your interior, a promise you make to yourself, to each other, that courage can supplant fear, that good must triumph over evil, and that Boston will endure, stronger than ever, the race, and the city. IA Boston is strong. Michael Quinlin is the author of Irish Boston and the editor of Classic Irish Stories. He is founder of the Boston Irish Tourism Association.

weed they called sea lettuce. What impulse had made her do that? I would see her often in the evenings, with her tin can, searching the undersides of the rocks for mussels for her dinner, but we had never spoken, neither of us had dared to break the ice. She came in, wondering if I needed any help, and before I could answer she had already begun to pack things. There was something I had always wanted to ask her. Had she resented my being there, those ten years? “Yes. Twice.” The first was when she saw a second chimney put in the gable wall that was the stone wall of the house she had grown up in. The second was the night we moved in, lights in every room, so that to her, a few hundred yards up the hill, it was a fairy castle from which she had been banished. There was one other small thing I had to ask. What had made her plunge into the cold sea that Christmas Day? “Ah now” was the evasive answer. Piling the books, she asked if I had read them all, and mentioned the only one she had read in years, The Bridges of Madison County. Then her eye fell on an open page of one of the books and she read aloud: “The sea, and Homer . . . it’s Love that moves all things.” She liked it, copied it on the back of one of the cocktail recipes, and put it in the pocket of her long skirt. He was a tall man, a stranger from the Land of the White Nights and the Cloudberries, and the previous Christmas he had docked his boat over in Gweedore harbor and she’d left a daft note in an empty beer bottle that was on the deck of his boat, which was named after a Norse goddess. No, she did not dream of sailing the high seas with him, she would never leave that coastline, she was married to it, the way one cannot be married to a man. Pointing to the low window, she said, “That’s where they laid my mother out, the night she died.” She was a child at the time. Her mother had given birth to eleven children in that tiny house, and she belonged to it, in a way I never could. Under the stairs I found a last bottle of champagne, and we sat on the edge of the long table that the movers would soon dismantle, looking out to sea, not saying a word. IA Country Girl: A Memoir. Publisher: Little Brown. Reprinted with permission. JUNE / JULY 2013 IRISH AMERICA 69



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{crossword} By Darina Molloy

ACROSS 1 (& 44 across) Irish Minister for Agriculture & Food (5) 6 (& 29 down) The ___ _____: New movie of F. Scott Fitzgerald novel (5) 8 This year’s Irish Open is to be played on this course (11) 10 See 34 down (10) 12 See 5 down (5) 14 The first Literary Festival of Food & Wine was held here in May (10) 15 Endurance sporting events held in Ireland (9) 16 United Nations (1, 1) 17 See 38 across (8) 20 Irish cake (4) 21 Not available (1,1) 22 ___ Maria (3) 23 Nickname of Richard de Clare (9) 25 Web address country code for Vietnam (2) 26 Iowa (1,1) 27 ____ Park: amusement attraction in Co. Meath (5) 30 Statutory Irish body in charge of road construction, not to be confused with gun lobby in U.S. (1,1,1) 32 The Roman name for Ireland (8) 36 One of Dublin’s two train stations (7) 37 The third Stooge after Larry & Curly (3) 38 (& 17 across) He sent the first-ever tweet from space as gaeilge (4) 39 Text or teen-speak for obviously (4) 40 Stephen King story: ‘Children of the ___’ (4) 41 (& 6 down) New Tom Hanks movie (5) 42 See 35 down (6) 44 See 1 across (7) 45 See 13 down (7)

DOWN 1 2 3 4 5

An abbreviated saint or street (2) New Mexico (1,1) Sister river to the Suir and Barrow (4) New Colum McCann novel (13) (& 12 across) Irish developer who has filed for bankruptcy in U.S. (4)

6 See 41 across (3) 7 The optimistically-named ship in expedition of 34 down (9) 9 Inaugural festival of traditional Irish culture in New Jersey in June (8) 10 See 24 down (10) 11 (& 31 down) Sonia O’Sullivan’s twitter handle is Sonia __ ____, or ‘Sonia running’ (2) 13 (& 45 across) Dublin crime journalist murdered in June 1996 (8) 15 Winter national fruit of Pakistan (5) 18 ____ Jones (3) 19 A resentful emotion (4) 20 Man-made pile or stack of stones (5) 24 (& 10 down) Supposedly the best view of Dublin city is from here! (8) 28 (& 37 down) ‘Lisdoonvarna’ singer (7)

Win a subscription to Irish America magazine Please send your completed crossword puzzle to Irish America, 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 201, New York, NY 10001, to arrive no later than July 5, 2013. A winner will be drawn from among all correct entries. If there are no correct solutions, the prize will be awarded for the completed puzzle which comes closest in the opinion of our staff. Winner’s name will be published along with the solution in our next issue. Xerox copies are acceptable. Winner of the APRIL/MAY Crossword: Frank J. Collins, East Northport, NY 70 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2013

29 31 33 34 35 37 40 42 43

See 6 across (6) See 11 down (4) Surf heaven in Donegal (8) (& 10 across) Kildare born polar explorer (6) (& 42 across) Original female Riverdancer (4) See 28 down (5) Cars registered in County Clare bear this abbreviation (1,1) A pithy farewell (3) Leonard, in short (3)

April / May Solution

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{roots} By Adam Farley

The Collins Clan


ollins, also sometimes found as the Hunger Games trilogy). College, he entered the Dept. of Cullane or O’Cullane, is one of The earliest Collins of note is Foreign Affairs in 1974. Tommy the most common surnames in the Irish language poet Seán Ó Collins (b. 1957) is a filmmaker Munster. It originates from the Coileáin (anglicized as John and producer born in Co. sept of Ó Coileáin, which extended from Collins) (1754–1817), best known Donegal and raised in Derry. His County Cork to south Limerick. The name for the famous poem “Machtnamh 2007 film Kings, Ireland’s first biitself is thought to come from the Irish an Duine Dhoilíosaigh” (translated lingual feature film, was nominatcoileán, meaning a whelp or a young dog. as “Lament Over Timnoleague ed for a record 14 Irish Film and In the 13th century, the Ó Coileáins were Abbey”) in the 18th century. A poet who Television Awards and won five, includchased southward into Cork after losing a merged romanticism with Gaelic tradiing Best Irish Language Film. war with the Geraldines and settled near tions, Ó Coileáin was a favorite to translate The eldest of three William Collinses, their kinsmen, the Ó Cuilleáins. It is not by later Anglo-Irish writers like Samuel born in Co. Wicklow in 1740, was an art unlikely that both these names derive from Ferguson and James Clarence Mangan. dealer and biographer of the famous the Irish diminutive of cú, or hound, which Continuing with artist Collinses, Judy English painter George Morland after emiwe well know from the most grating to England. His son famous of Irish hounds, the William Collins (1788-1847) Hound of Ulster, Cú Chulainn. informally studied under Both Ó Coileáin and Ó Morland and became one of Cuilleáin were eventually anglithe most popular pre-romancized to Collins, which was an tic landscape painters of 19thexisting English surname, so century England. William the number of Collinses around Collins III better known as the world is pretty staggering. Wilkie Collins (1824–1889), Although the surname is itself a was a novelist, essayist, playdiminutive (and the English wright, and short story writer Collins is actually a double who penned more than 200 Billy Collins Wilkie Collins diminutive, from the medieval Eileen Collins works, most notably The nickname “Col” for Nicholas, which Collins (b. 1939), on Woman in White (1859), which has became Colin, little Col), the Collinses of this issue’s cover, is one been adapted for TV roughly once history have little reason to be called pups. of the best-known songevery 20 years by the BBC since Jerome Collins (1841–1881) was the writers and folk musi1957. He is also the namesake for founder of Clan na Gael and was an early cians of the 20th centuMatthew Broderick and Sarah 19th century Arctic explorer. The astronaut ry, associating with Joan Jessica Parker’s son, James Wilkie Eileen Collins (b. 1956) was the first Baez, Joni Mitchell, Broderick. female pilot and commander of a space Bob Dylan, and Leonard Contemporary author Michael shuttle and has graced the cover of this Cohen, among many Collins (b. 1964) was shortlisted magazine on more than one occasion. But others, in New York’s for the prestigious Booker Prize for she’s not the only astronaut by the name of Greenwich Village folk his book The Keepers of Truth. Collins. Irish-American astronaut Michael scene from the early This brings us to the most Collins (b. 1930) commanded the Apollo 1960s onward. famous Michael Collins of all, Michael Collins 11 module while Buzz Aldrin and Neil Billy Collins (b. and perhaps the most famous of all Armstrong moonwalked, prompting the 1941), dubbed by the New York Times in the Irish Collinses. Defying the etymology 1970 Jethro Tull song “For Michael 1999 as “the most popular poet in of his surname, “The Big Fella” of Fine Collins, Jeffrey and Me,” about being left America,” was U.S. Poet Laureate from Gael (1890–1922) was definitely no whelp behind. 2001-2003 and New York State Poet in stature or politics, commanding troops Another American Collins, Susan Laureate from 2004-2006. His short ode in the Irish War for Independence and the Collins (b. 1952), is the senior Senator for the centennial of Grand Central Irish Civil War before being killed in an from Maine and has been described by Terminal, “Grand Central,” can currently ambush in 1922. Time as one of “the last survivors of a once be read inside many New York City subIf there is a theme among these common species of moderate Northeastern way cars as part of the MTA’s Poetry in Collinses, it’s the one stated at the outset: Republican.” She is currently the chairMotion program. from the A train to the Arctic, from woman of the Senate Committee on Returning to Irish-born Collinses, the Senate to the stars, the Clann na t-Ó Homeland Security and Governmental Michael Collins (b. 1953) is the current Coileáin (or Clann na t-Ó Cuilleáin, Affairs (and is not to be confused with Ambassador to the United States. depending) aren’t diminutive in the IA Suzanne Collins, the best-selling author of Educated at Blackrock College and Trinity slightest. 72 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2013

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{ review of books}

Recently published books of Irish and Irish-American interest.

Recommended A History of Ireland in 100 Objects

n late 2010, Fintan O’Toole, literary editor and long-time writer for the Irish Times, had an hour or two to kill in London. He wound up in the British Museum, where the complementary exhibition to the BBC series A History of the World in 100 Objects was on display. He wondered if it would be possible to chronicle the history of Ireland in the same way, and thus the acclaimed series that ran in the Irish Times each week from February 2011 to January 2013 was born. All 100 objects and their stories have been collected in book form, published by the Royal Irish Academy. As Ireland celebrates its presidency of the European Union for the next few months, the collection is also available as an app, which can be downloaded for a reasonable $2.99. As O’Toole explains in the book’s wonderful introduction, the task of narrowing Ireland’s history down to 100 items presented its own special challenges. There was, of course, the risk of


generalization. On the other hand, Ireland’s history is young and insular in comparison to that of the rest of Europe – the earliest evidence of human life in Ireland goes back to only 8000 B.C., while southern Britain was populated over a quarter million years ago. “We have,” O’Toole writes, “three characteristics present from the beginning of Irish culture: concentrated in time, shaped by distinctive conditions and small in scale.” The objects, many of which can be seen at the National Museum of Ireland, span the centuries from 5000 B.C. to 2005. There’s a wooden fish trap from the Mesolithic era, found preserved in a bog in Co. Meath. There’s St. Patrick’s Confessio (460–90), the oldest surviving example of prose writing in Ireland. Books of Survey and Distribution from the mid-17th century chronicle the shift in land ownership in favor of Protestant families, while an emigrant’s suitcase from the 1950s tells the story of Ireland’s diasporic expansion. The final object was selected by readers from a shortlist of ten. A decomissioned AK47 assault rifle, it speaks to Ireland’s recent history of strife and commitment to peace; its links with the larger world, and its own unique story. – Sheila Langan (238 pages / Royal Irish Academy / $50.00)

This Magnificent Desolation

homas O’Malley made his literary debut in 2005, with In the Province of Saints, a wrenching but beautiful novel about coming of age in rural Ireland of the late 1970s. This Magnificent Desolation, which takes its name from astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s remarks during the moon landing, is O’Malley’s second novel. Here, O’Malley again inhabits the mind of a young boy: Duncan Bright is 10 years old when the book begins, and is in the curious position of knowing as


Daniel O’Connell’s chariot, 1844. It was made for his glorious reentry into the city of Dublin after charges of conspiracy were overturned by the House of Lords. The chariot, with O’Connell on the gilded seat, was drawn through the streets by six splendid grey horses, as a crowd of 200,000 cheered wildly. 74 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2013

little about himself as we do. He remembers being born – the voice of God talking to him; his mother’s pale face and red hair – but nothing else about the first ten years of his life until 1980, when he emerges from a mental fog to find himself in an orphanage in the Minnesota plains run by the intelligent and caring monks of the order of the Gray Fathers of Mercy. These first few chapters of the book are the most accessible and the most memorable, as the orphanage and the story Duncan creates for his past are brought to life. Hundreds died in the great winter storm of 1970, but on that night Duncan’s mother was able to walk to the orphanage and leave him at the flagstone, swaddled in a sheepskin blanket. As most of his fellow orphans do, he assumes she is dead but harbors hope that she will come back for him. Maggie Bright isn’t dead – a faded opera star with a taste for Old Mainline 454 whisky, she has been eeking out a life in San Francisco – and she does come back for him. In San Francisco, they learn to care for each other, and with Joshua, a Harvard-educated Vietnam vet Maggie grew up with in Boston, they form a sort of family. Throughout there are hints of the otherworldly. Angels swirl at Duncan from a lamplight and one appears as an irate fry cook at a greasy San Francisco diner. The dead speak to him in dreams, and an electric explosion that should kill him, Maggie and his friend Magdalene simply wafts over them like ”clouds of arching blue spider webs.” Though other characters acknowledge these presences, we are never entirely sure if they are real or if they are products of Duncan’s beautiful mind. Much like the world he has created, O’Malley’s writing is ephemeral, imbued with a soft and strange magic. This isn’t a book that sucks you in, but one that holds the reader at a slight distance, mystifying and mesmerizing at the same time. – Sheila Langan (416 pages / Bloomsbury / $26.00)



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Fiction The Engagements

“Marriage is a good deal like a circus: There is not as much in it as is represented in the advertising.” - E. W. Howe n her first two books, Commencement and Maine, J. Courtney Sullivan proved herself deft at weaving together individual stories to create books that were weighty networks of experience, run through with lines connecting families, friends, histories. In her third book, The Engagements, out in June, Sullivan applies the same style to a narrative that spans nearly a century, following multiple generations of interconnected families and taking a hard, complicated look at the history of engagement rings (and ultimately, marriage) in American culture. The stories of five couples are


interwoven with the life of IrishAmerican Mary Frances Gerety, who coined the tagline “A Diamond is Forever” in 1947 while working on a DeBeers campaign for N.W. Ayer. Gerety herself never married, but indirectly influenced the choices of innumerable couples since that ad was born, making a diamond engagement ring an expected synonym for adulthood, love and commitment. We see some of these stories unfold in the crush of disappointment, as Delphine, for one, finds herself surrounded by the detritus of a marriage that ended in New York as passionately as it began in Paris. We see the constant tension and underlying anxiety of a working-class Philadelphia couple trying to hang tight to their high school affection amidst adult failings. We see second marriages infused with strength and faith, and one woman who builds a family without buying into the marriage-industrial complex at all. Throughout, that hard diamond glistens as a manufac-

Mystery Black Irish Stephan Talty’s first novel, Black Irish, is a grisly thriller that delves into the deeply rooted Irish-American history and community of Buffalo, New York. Silence and secrecy are the meatand-potatoes of South Buffalo’s tight-knit Irish community, known as “the County.” This puts Homicide Detective Absalom (Abbie) Kearney at a critical disadvantage as she desperately hunts down a savage serial killer whose victims belong to a secret Irish organization to which her father has ties. With jet-black hair and half-Irish blood, Abbie does not share fully in the ancestral history the County prides itself for and has always felt an like something of an outsider. Even though she bears the name of her adopted father, the esteemed cop John Kearney, the County are wary of her and abide by unspoken codes of secrecy, frustrating her investigation. Black Irish is rich in the history of Buffalo’s involvement during and post Ireland’s war of independence from England, and Talty seamlessly weaves together historical fact into a fictional tale that will have you burning the midnight oil. His descriptions are meticulous, and the murder scenes are chillingly graphic. After dozens of enigmatic chapters, the conclusion of Black Irish blindsides you in just a few pages.This may leave some readers unsatisfied, though others will love its abruptness. Either way, with its intense tempo, raw dialogue and elegant craftsmanship, Black Irish will satisfy the most fanatical of crime novel lovers and is a summer must-read. – Michelle Meagher (324 pages / Ballantine Books / $26.00)

tured symbol of hope and despair, reminding us how little we really know about the lives beneath the shiny token. – Kara Rota (400 pages / Knopf / $26.95)

Non-Fiction Whitey’s Payback and Other True Stories

.J. English, a past contributor to Irish America and the author of The Westies, Paddy Whacked and Savage City, has published a collection of his best crime articles spanning over two decades. The first story, a seemingly impossible assignment he wrote for Playboy in 1991, delves into the serious shortcomings of the Witness Protection Program. The last is a short but sweet 2012 post from English’s website, about the death of Teresa Stanley (the long-time companion of Boston Mob boss Whitey Bulger) whom English had previously interviewed. Parts of those interviews appear earlier in the collection, in a Daily Beast article about what it was like to be in love with Bulger. The stories in between cover topics ranging from the decline of the Mob, to the ceaseless killings in Ciudad Juárez. In the collection’s introduction, English provides an explanation for his interest in the darker corners of the crime world, compelling and eloquent as only he could phrase it: “A vast ecosystem we observe in the upper world on a daily basis. The way I see it, one cannot exist without the other. In the United States, business, politics and crime are frequently intertwined. What is happening below the surface shapes the world as we know it. What is presented to the public is occasionally wrapped in bullshit and lies.” The question he poses to readers brings it all back to the basics of the American dream: “How far would you go to achieve power and prosperity for you and your own?” The answer for many of the masterminds, accomplices, lone wolves and incidental figures profiled in the following pages, is pretty damn far. – Sheila Langan


(230 pages / Mysterious Press /$11.99) JUNE / JULY 2013 IRISH AMERICA 75



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{irish place names} By Adam Farley

Emmetsburg, Iowa


f you find yourself in north-central Iowa, staring at a statue of Robert Emmet in front of a courthouse, you probably are there by choice. At 50 miles from the nearest interstate exit, Emmetsburg, Iowa isn’t exactly a regular stop for tourists or cross-country road trippers. But the town has a long Irish history that hibernophiles will admire. If the statue of Robert Emmet strikes you as familiar, it may be because you have seen it before. It is in fact one of four copies of the same bronze cast. The original, by sculptor Jerome Connor, was erected in St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin in 1916. Another was cast and donated to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. in 1917, then Eamon de Valera dedicated one in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco in 1919. The Robert Emmet in Court House square, Emmetsburg, was also cast in 1919 and is the centerpiece of this patch of Iowa, which used to be known simply as the “Irish Colony,” before it was officially incorporated as Emmetsburg on November 17, 1877. Settled in 1855 by pioneers who left the crowded Atlantic cities for prairie land, the initial Irish colony, on the southern shores of Five Island Lake, was occupied by a number of Irish families, including the Nolans, Laughlins, Nearys and Hickeys. By 1858, a steady flow of Irish settlers had arrived and talk turned to drawing out a proper town and renaming the Irish Colony. “Emmetsburg” was proposed in remembrance of the famed nationalist turned martyr who, at just 25, was executed on charges of high treason for staging a rising in 1803. The name was easily approved, and though the town wasn’t officially planned out and the name was declared only on a hand-painted sign, the city’s relationship with Irish culture and tradition was cemented. After the Civil War the railroad was expanding as Americans moved westward. In June, 1874, executives from


the railroad company drafted a route through Emmetsburg that would dislocate nearly all the existing businesses. As a compromise, the railroad executives also mapped a new town and made an agreement with the local businessmen – if they moved out of the way of the railroad, they would have their pick of new locations. By December 1874, the old haphazard Emmetsburg was completely transformed and once the railroad was completed, the

Left: The statue of Robert Emmet in Emmetsburg, Iowa. Above: coin issued by the town in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Below: One of Emmetsburg’s prominent Irish families: William and Mary Millea with 11 of their 13 children. For more on the Milleas see page 80.

town boomed, and went on to become the seat of government for Palo Alto County. In 2007 and 2009, Emmetsburg, population, 3904, was named one of the Top 100 Places to Live in the U.S. by

Irish culture still dominates this prairie town which has produced its share of NFL players over the years. St. Patrick’s Day is the largest celebration of the year. On March 17, 1962, the Lord Mayor of Dublin and the Mayor of Emmetsburg signed a proclamation declaring their two cities sister cities, and “as such shall join in rejoicing and properly celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day.” Since then, a member of the Irish government has been invited to Emmetsburg each St. Patrick’s Day weekend to oversee the three-day-long festivities, and so far, they’ve never turned the invitation down. Situated next to the Robert Emmet statue is the Blarney Stone, given to Emmetsburg in 1965 by the people of Dublin in recognition of the town’s Irish heritage. But it’s not just solemn monuments to heritage in Emmetsburg; visitors can take some Irish blarney home with them. The town operates the Blarney Cannery Co., which sells non-perishable, 100 percent pure, canned Irish Blarney and Blarney Repellent, which the company claims is “especially good for long-winded neighbors, relatives, and door-to-door salesmen and is particularly effective during political conventions and campaigns.” As part of the annual St. Patrick’s Day festivities, a pot of gold coins “magically” appears at the headquarters of the St. Patrick’s Association on the morning of the celebration. The coins always feature Robert Emmet, but every year the pose is altered, making them very popular among green-blooded numismatists. It’s easy to see why Emmetsburg considers itself the preserver of Irish culture in the Midwest. Indeed, the current mayor offers a hearty “Céad Mile Fáilte” in her message to visitors and citizens on the town’s website. And considering that the town actually has a self-described “Welcome Wagon” that delivers a welcoming basket of household items and gifts from local businesses to all new residents, it’s not hard to see why Irish Parliamentarians keep coming back each IA St. Patrick’s Day.


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Everyone feels at home in an Irish Pub! Now IrishCentral has your one-stop online guide to finding that perfect place to sit back, have a pint and unwind, wherever you may be!

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{sláinte} By Edythe Preet

Music, Music, Music Edythe Preet writes that music defines Ireland’s identity.


or every country there is an iconic image that immediateto the famous poem “The harp that once through Tara’s halls the ly brings the nation to mind. The United States has the soul of music shed, now hangs as mute on Tara’s walls, as if that Statue of Liberty. Dragons evoke thoughts of China. The soul were fled. So sleeps the pride of former days, so glory’s Fleur de Lis is quintessentially French. While national thrill is o’er, and hearts that once beat high for praise, now feel symbols range the gamut from mythical beasts, crowns, and that pulse no more.” Thankfully, a new generation of Irish statues to insignias, monuments, buildings and more, music is harpists is bringing back the sweet sound of Ireland’s most symconspicuously absent. Except in one case. bolic musical instrument. Of all the world’s nations, only Ireland’s state identity is Two other time-honored Irish musical instruments are the tin linked to a musical instrument. The Harp. As the country’s offiwhistle and bones. One of my father’s favorite recitations went cial emblem, it is found on the presidential seal, passports, the like this: “When I was a child my Ma gave me a wooden whis5-cent euro coin, official documents, the flag of Leinster, and the tle, but it wooden whistle; then she gave me a steel whistle, but seal of Ireland’s National it steel wooden whistle; then she University. Businesses, too, use gave me a tin whistle and now I the Harp in their logos as a way to tin whistle!” brand their ‘Irishness.’ Ryan Air A simple six-holed woodwind, shows the instrument on the tail of the Tin Whistle is a flute-like its airplanes, and as anyone who’s instrument found in most culever visited an Irish pub knows, tures, the earliest example of the Harp is imprinted on every which dates from the Neanderthal glass, can, bottle and barrel of era. While the oldest ‘whistles’ Guinness Stout. were made from wood or bone, When the harp arrived in Ireland during the Industrial Revolution is uncertain, but its history dates they began being manufactured back at least 1,000 years. Legend from rolled tin. Often called a holds that the first harp was owned ‘penny whistle,’ the term doesn’t at the dawn of time, by Dagda, a refer to the instrument’s cost but chief of the Tuatha de Danaan. rather the fact that whistlers were Lost temporarily during a war with once paid a penny a tune. Today, the evil Formorians, when it was the tin whistle is a popular instrurecovered the harp had the ability ment that often introduces the to call forth winter and summer. start of a reel, and handmade And thenceforth, whenever the examples can cost several hunDagda played it, he could produce dred dollars. melodies so poignant, sweet or Of all Irish traditional instrucalming that the music would Ireland’s most famous tin-whistler, Paddy Moloney of ments, Bones are the most make his audience weep, smile or The Chieftains, circa the 1970s. ancient. In their most elemental sleep. form, Bones are exactly that: secDuring Medieval times, the retinue of every Irish king and tions of animal rib bones or leg bones. They are usually 5-7 chieftain included a resident harp player whose music was the inches in length and somewhat curved. Played by being held principal entertainment at feasts, as well as accompanying poetloosely between the fingers, their distinct sharp sound provides ry recitations and the singing of psalms. With a sounding chama rhythmic clacking background to a tune’s melody. While some ber carved from a single log, usually willow, and brass strings, really adroit bones players can hold a set in each hand and crethe Irish harp when plucked with the fingernails produces a clear ate contrapuntal rhythm, Irish bones players are unique in that melodic sound. The oldest example of the Irish Harp is housed they use only one set. at Dublin’s Trinity College. Some claim it belonged to the last Unlike the aforementioned instruments, the handheld drum High King of Ireland, Brian Boru (d 1014) who is said to have called a Bodhran does not have an ancient musical past. Its conbeen an accomplished harpist. struction consists of a goatskin tacked to one side of a circular Through the centuries the harp stood as such a cultural Irish wooden frame measuring 10-18 inches across and 3.5-8 inches icon that during the Cromwell Era it became a symbol of resistdeep, and it is played either with the bare hand or a small carved ance to England, and Queen Elizabeth I issued an order to hang wooden stick called a ‘tipper.’ Some historians theorize that the all Irish harpists and burn their instruments. The edict gave rise Bodhran may have been derived from a tambourine; others 78 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2013



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Ancient harp, believed to be Brian Boru’s, is once I through it was a simple task, housed in Trinity I now know that a fine player can College, coax a wide spectrum of sounds Dublin.

claim that it was originally a tool used to separate grain from chaff when gathering wheat and may have been ‘drummed’ in annual harvest rituals. Whatever its origin, the Bodhran emerged as a key Irish instrument during the ‘roots’ revival of traditional music that began in the mid-20th century and it has provided the backbone beat for every Irish music group ever since. A dear friend who plays the bodhran masterfully is a member of The Dublin Four (, a group of Irish ex-pats living in Los Angeles who play the music they grew up with. Having attended numerous of their performances, I have had the opportunity to really study the playing of the bodhran. Where

from this simple instrument. The other musical instruments identified with Irish music – the fiddle, guitar, and banjo – are not Irish at all, but they have been embraced by Irish musicians so lovingly and wholeheartedly that no set of Irish music would be complete without them. One of the most enjoyable ways to experience the music of Ireland is to stop by an Irish pub when the music’s on, the craic’s high, and the Guinness is flowing! Raise your glass emblazoned with the Irish Harp, toast the great tradition of Irish music, and be sure to sample some delicious pub grub. But that’s another IA story! Sláinte!


If there’s no Irish pub in your region, you can still enjoy the experience of listening to great Irish music and nibbling on delicious pub grub! Just pop a CD in your music machine and whip up some of the recipes below!

Angels on Horseback

(personal recipe) 1 pint oysters, shucked Bacon strips Wooden toothpicks that have been soaked in water for one-half hour

Preheat broiler. Wrap each oyster in a bacon strip and secure with toothpicks. Large oysters can be cut in half before wrapping. Broil until bacon is cooked, turning at least once so bacon cooks evenly. Serves 4-6 as an appetizer.

Shepherd’s Pie 3 2 4 2 1 1 2 2 8 1 4

(personal recipe) pounds ground lamb, beef OR turkey large onions (diced) tbsp flour tbsp olive oil tsp fresh parsley, minced tbsp fresh rosemary, minced cups chicken broth cups frozen mixed carrots & peas Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced cup milk tbsp butter

Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add ground meat and brown. Pour off extra grease and add onion. Cook for 5 minutes, or until onion is soft. Add flour, mix well and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in chicken broth, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add fresh herbs, peas and carrots. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and pour into buttered 9x9-inch baking dish. Set aside. Place potatoes in a large pot, bring to boil in salted water to cover, and cook until potatoes can be pierced easily with a fork. Drain off water, cover and steam until potatoes are dry. Add butter and milk then mash. Spread mashed potatoes over meat mixture in baking dish. Broil for 3-5 minutes until potatoes are golden brown. Serve with crusty bread and butter. Makes 4-6 servings.

Rustic Apple Tart 1 1 1 ⁄2 1 1 ⁄2 6 1 ⁄3 1 1 ⁄4 1 1

(personal recipe) 1/4 cups flour tsp sugar tsp salt stick cold butter, cut in small chunks cup ice cold water large apples, peeled, cored & cut in chunks cup golden raisins (optional) tbsp sugar tsp cinnamon egg yolk tbsp heavy cream

Combine flour, sugar and salt. Cut butter into flour mixture until the texture is grainy (a food processor does the job nicely!). Remove to a large bowl, pour in water gradually and gather into a dough ball. Pat out into a 1-inch thick circle, wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Turn dough onto a floured surface and roll out until approximately 1/4 –inch thick. Fold into thirds from the sides, then fold top and bottom to middle. Roll out again until four inches larger than a 9-inch pie pan. Place pastry in pie pan with extra hanging over the sides. Mix apples with raisins, sugar and cinnamon and place in the pie pan. Fold edges of pastry up leaving an approximately 3-inch open circle in the middle. Mix egg yolk with cream. Use a pastry brush (or your fingers) to paint the pastry with the egg mixture. Bake in a preheated 350F degree oven. Cover with aluminum foil after the first 20 minutes so steam will cook the apples. Remove foil after 30 minutes and continue baking until pastry is golden brown. Makes 1 tart.




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{photo album} Family Pictures

The Boys of Summer


or years my father, Roger Millea, a retired urologist, has refused to use a computer. So for his 83rd birthday, I flew to Rapid City, South Dakota, presented him with an iPad, and tutored him against his will in the ways of email and the internet; encouraging him to connect to the modern world and more specifically to me in New York City. In the two years since, I’ve yet to receive an email from him. Eager to agitate him into action, I scanned some photos, attached them to a file, hit “send” and called Dad to talk him through the process of opening them up and downloading them to iPhoto. But first he had to find that “Mad Pad.” I could hear him over the speakerphone, excavating his room, searching for the thing, which he found in a bottom dresser drawer buried under old tube socks along with a hearing aid he never wears. Up and running, he clicked through the photos, the years, the memories of being born and raised in Emmetsburg, Iowa, the middle of thirteen children. I knew that his father Bill worked for the Post Office and his mother Mary worked at home, raising their children, but I didn’t know she also loved reading literature—she was a founding member of the Fortnightly Book Club—and writing poetry. “What a great lady she was,” my dad says. “She was the glue that held everything together. And the most outstanding person I’ve ever known.” Seeing this picture of himself with his big brother Bill in their Emmetsburg baseball uniforms, he remembered how they started playing ball in the 4th grade and never stopped, even after graduating. “Bill was the catcher and I was the 1st baseman,” Dad says. “Emmetsburg had two schools, public and Catholic. We went to the Catholic high school and played three sports: football, basketball and baseball in the spring and it was wonderful because there Irish Twins: Bill and Roger Millea in a high school photo., circa 1942. were a lot of little towns around there within twenty miles. And we always played our games on a school day, so we didn’t have to go to school. We’d take off on a good measure. He was a real character.” beautiful spring morning and go to one of those little towns Dad was about fifteen in this photo, Bill a year older. “We and play 9 innings of baseball. It was beautiful. And come were Irish twins, born 15 months apart—we slept in the same summer, Bill was always the engine that got up the teams. bed, of course,” Dad recalls. “That was during the Depression For Bill the game was everything.” you know. There wasn’t a lot for kids to do then except work For my father it was a way to socialize. “We were warming and make up games. We depended on one another for enterup for a game one day and Jean Turk and another girl came tainment. From the time we were hatched, we were competing along,” Dad recalls. “I was standing on 1st base, visiting with with each other. When Bill became an altar boy, I did, too. them when I heard my brother Bill call out, ‘Are you awake, When he did this or that, I had to do this or that.” Sonny?’ as the baseball, which he had thrown, hit me just Boys being boys, “We’d spend hours wrestling and abusabove the right eye. ‘Pay attention to the game!’ he added for ing one another,” Dad says, fondly. “Bill was always torment-




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ing and teasing me. He had a nickname for everybody, and a string of them for me: Beggar, Louse, Sonny… I only had one nickname for him and that was Bowels. There was only one time I ever got the best of him, and I felt a hell of a lot worse about it than he did. One night my father, mother and Bill and I were playing Chinese checkers, we were 11 or 12 years old. Dad asked, ‘Whose move is it?’ And I said, ‘I think it’s Bowels’ movement.’ It floored Bill and he started to cry. That’s as bad as I’ve felt about anything in my life.” (When I recount this story to my Uncle Mike, their younger brother, he laughs: “Do you know what Bill’s nickname for me was? Stinks!”) When Dad and Uncle Bill were in high school they spent their summers working on the railroad. “We were working

following post from my cousin Tim Millea, Uncle Bill’s son. “I came here to pass along a note written to my sister Maureen and us by Uncle Roger. As some of you know, our Dad has been suffering from dementia — what the cause is is anyone’s guess — and while he doesn’t remember us too well lately, we still get lots of smiles and laughs from him and he is a joy to be around. That said, recently we had a brief incident where Dad didn’t wake up for a few days that had us all pretty worried. Of course, next thing we knew he was awake, smiling and eating ice cream again, though he is certainly weakening over time. Long story short, that incident prompted an email from Uncle Roger — written in that inimitable Uncle Rog style — that I think is worth sharing ‘as is:’ ’nuff said. Love to all the Millea clan.”

“From the time we were hatched, we were competing with each other.” ten hour days,” Dad says. “I’ll never forget one Sunday night we went up to Okoboji amusement park to a dance and we got home and it was quite late, midnight or 12:30. We had to be at work at 7:30 in the morning. So I jumped into bed. Bill was kneeling there saying his prayers. And the next morning I jump out of bed and Bill is still kneeling there, fast asleep. Bill was a very devout Catholic. That was one of the things about him that permeated everything we did. He was extremely compulsive about right and wrong—and he was right. That’s the way it was.” My father sighs heavily. “God, there are so many memories. That was a long time ago. Those were happy days.” Uncle Bill, who had a long and successful career in the home office at Mutual of Omaha, played softball “in the late afternoons and on weekends until he was at least fifty and probably older than that,” says Dad, who, without the urging of his older brother, retired his glove. Weeks after reminiscing with my father on the phone, a miracle happened, or rather two. I found out about them when I went on Facebook and checked in on the Millea Family page and read the

On Aug 6, 2012, at 7:12 PM, Roger Millea wrote: Dear Maureen, I am saddened by the illness of your father . Hew tried to raise me to be a useful and prductive citizen. We played in dozens of baseball games together. We fought many battles together. We slept tog,ether for years. He had nicknames for every one he knew and could be an abrasive asshole but he was all that he was always there when help was needed. Bill Millea is the prototype of the moral man. I lpove him and know that he has a hig Place in heaven awaiting him. He is indeed one natures noblemen. You May have noticed that I. Don’t type worth a shit but this the only event Important enough for me to attempt to express myself via computer. Love to all you, Uncle Roger – Submitted by Holly Millea Left: Bill and Roger Millea.

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




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{the last word} By Father Dan Dorsey

Love Thy Neighbor A

couple of years ago, in my compelling stories of refugees forced to 25:40). Love of God and love of neighcapacity as President of the flee because of oppression. Exodus tells bor have become one: in the least of the Glenmary Missioners, I was the story of the Israelites who were victims brethren we find Jesus himself, and in visiting one of our priests in of bitter slavery in Egypt. For 40 years Jesus we find God.” (par. 15). south Georgia. It was February, cold and they lived as wanderers until God fulfilled Is not our neighbor the immigrant who gloomy, and we had spent an entire day his ancient promise and settled them on lives in the shadows? driving around three counties. As we land they could finally call home At the east entrance to the crypt of the drove, Fr. Vick pointed out the Roman Catholic Basilica of different trailer parks — each the National Shrine of the Imone more rundown and dilapimaculate Conception in dated than the other. He noted Washington, D.C., stands a the individual trailers and the sculpture of the Holy Family fact that six men lived in one, a resting from their flight into family of eight in another, and Egypt. Their fatigue and so on. Because of their quesweariness are poignantly captionable legal status the occutured in this work by Anna pants were paying top dollar in Hyatt Huntington. It is a powrent. erful image to reflect upon as Finally, late in the afternoon, the intense debate around we stopped in the tiny hamlet immigration and the place of of Stillmore, population 500. illegal immigrants within our The town is located alongside society intensifies. a poultry processing plant and I do not support or encouralmost all its inhabitants are age illegal immigration, but in employed at the plant. Fr. Vick my ministry I have witnessed asked if it was okay to make a family separation, exploitabrief stop. He needed to drop tion, and the loss of life caused off supplies to some “new “The Holy Family at Rest– the Flight Into Egypt,” by Anna Hyatt Huntington. by the current system. Millions arrivals”– a few personal remain in the shadows, marhygiene items along with some food to The Israelites’ experience was so ginalized from society without legal prolast them until they could begin work at painful and frightening that God ordered tection. This suffering must end. the plant the following Monday. his people for all time to have special As Irish Americans we can offer a Inside a dimly lit, chilly shack were care for the alien. “You shall treat the unique and rich perspective given our three teenagers – a boy, 17, his sister,16, alien who resides with you no differently history, an aspect of which is our ability and another sister, 15. They had arrived than the natives born among you; have to identify with and assist the poor, the the day before after a dangerous and the same love for him as for yourself; for voiceless, the “alien” in our midst. exhausting coyote-led journey from cenyou too were once aliens in the land of I am asking you to please join me in tral Mexico. The look of fear and bewilEgypt.”(Lv19:33-34). In the Gospel of advocating and supporting comprehenderment on their faces remains imprinted St. Matthew we are told to “welcome the sive immigration reform that would on my memory to this day. As they spoke stranger,” and reminded, “As you did it allow people to enter the United States haltingly in hushed tones to Fr. Vick, I to one of the least of these my brethren, legally in order to work and support their thought of my own nieces and nephews you did it to me” (25:35, 40). families. who were their age, and inwardly I wept In his powerful encyclical, Deus Let us Irish Americans never forget… for what they had endured and what they Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI remindwe “were once aliens in the land…” IA would endure in the future. ed us that Jesus calls us to expand on What is the faith response to the estiwho we see as neighbor. Citing the paraFr. Dan Dorsey is director of formation mated 11 million illegal immigrants curble of the Good Samaritan, Benedict said and past President (2003-2011) of rently living in the United States? What that the term neighbor can no longer be Glenmary Home Missioners, a Catholic society of priests and brothers who, is the response of those of us of Irish limited to “the closely knit community of along with coworkers, are dedicated to descent whose ancestors more often than a single country or people. This limit is establishing a Catholic presence in rural not fled Ireland because of economic now abolished. Anyone who needs me, areas and small towns of the United States depravation or religious persecution? and whom I can help, is my neighbor…. where the Catholic Church is not yet Biblically it is clear what is expected of ‘As you did it to one of the least of these effectively present. us. Both the Old and New Testaments tell my brethren, you did it to me’ (Mt



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At®, we’re in the business of helping deliver smiles. Whether it’s recognizing office milestones, thanking customers or celebrating special occasions with family and friends, our truly original flowers and gifts are the perfect choice for your corporate and personal gifting needs. Save at checkout with Promo Code


St ock Yards® Kings & Queens

Steak Co llection

For corporate programs and personal services, contact Earl Hurd at 516-237-7831 or

The Popcorn Factory Smiley Snack Asst Tin 2G

1-800-Baskets.c om® Thank You Deluxe Balsam Basket Fields of Europe™ for Summer

Call 1-800-FLOWERS® (1-800-356-9377), Click or Come in.

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©2013 The Coca-Cola Company. “Coca-Cola,” “open happiness” and the Contour Bottle are registered trademarks of The Coca-Cola Company.

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Irish America June/July 2013  
Irish America June/July 2013  

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