The Irish in America

WHERE GENEALOGY COMES FULL CIRCLE


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The River Shannon Project

What a cool project! Playwright and Limerick native Helena Enright is looking for people to talk to about the River Shannon and how it has figured into their lives.

Helena is collecting stories of the Shannon – from folklore passed down from Irish emigrants in America to modern first-hand experiences of life in Ireland. Read on to learn more about the project and how to contact Helena…

From The River Shannon Project Facebook page

From The River Shannon Project Facebook page

For immediate release: Tuesday 4th March 2014

 

The River Shannon Project begins with your stories.

Limerick City stands at the point where the River Shannon meets the sea water of the estuary. It is an integral part of the landscape and the folklore of the city. How do you relate to the river?  What does the River Shannon mean to you? Perhaps you have a story to tell about the River Shannon or know of friends or relatives who have?

Viva Voce, in collaboration with Limerick born playwright and actress Helena Enright, are creating and developing a new performance which will celebrate the people of Limerick’s real life associations with the River Shannon.  The play will be performed on a boat on the river in Limerick as part of the Limerick City of Culture 2014.

‘I am look for all sorts of stories relating to the river Shannon. As our longest river it has a special place in the folklore and literature of the country and I am interested as to how it features in people’s lives today. Perhaps people have Irish ancestors who have told stories of the river or perhaps they themselves have visited Ireland and made a special connection to the river.   The main focus of the project is oral testimony so I would like to interview people about their memories of the river or what the river means to them. I cannot make this project happen without the people of Limerick both here and abroad. I would love the project to include memories and stories from Limerick people all over the world.’

A Facebook page has been set up where people can upload pictures and comments about the River Shannon.  There is also a Twitter page @rivershannonpro and we are encouraging people all over the world to leave a tweet describing the river in 140 characters or less. You can also follow our board in Pinterest http://www.pinterest.com/Hels75/the-river-shannon-project/

The River Shannon Project began as part of the Elemental Arts and Culture Festival in Limerick in 2012 and in for the 2013 festival Helena created an audio walk along the banks of the river.  There are also plans to stream the play live on a boat in Boston and New York. Helena will be visiting New York and Boston in early April to meet with and interview people.

Dr Helena Enright is an experienced researcher and freelance theatre practitioner whose has been working in the arts for over twenty years.  She has worked as an actress and producer in both theatre and film, and also as a teacher and facilitator on many outreach, community, school and university theatre projects in both Ireland and the UK.   She is also an award winning playwright and director whose plays include Less Than a Year (2006), Walking Away (2007), Under Pressure (2008), Aquéro (2010) and The Exeter Blitz Project (2012).

Four of these plays have incorporated the testimony of real people and have dealt with subjects such as domestic violence, cancer, road fatalities and war.  In 2011 she completed a PhD in Performance Practice at the University of Exeter on the staging of personal testimony.

 

Media Contact:

Helena Enright, Artistic Director

Tel: +353 87 3975526

Email: rivershannonproject@gmail.com

 @rivershannonpro on Twitter, use #rivershannonpro   

http://www.facebook.com/RiverShannonProject

Click here to view and download the flyer for The Shannon River Project.

 


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Maureen’s Memories: Dancing in the Dark

Maureen is back with another delightful story, tying together her childhood in Milltown, County Kerry and her life and family in the United States. Enjoy! And make sure you check out Maureen’s other stories, links are at the end of this story.

Dancing in the Dark

Our family spent the dark winter nights sitting cozily by the kitchen hearth with oil lamps and candles our only sources of light. We happily passed the time on cold evenings telling tales, singing and reading. When a neighbor dropped by, they were always offered tea and home-baked goodies which were readily accepted. They in turn eagerly shared their own tune or story.

Present-day Milltown, County Kerry

Present-day Milltown, County Kerry

I remember grandfather, John Teahan, telling us that on the rare occasion he went downtown to Milltown for a few pints at Shea’s Public House, he was always guided home by a mysterious light.  It was a long mile and a half trek in the pitch-black darkness of the countryside back to his farmhouse in Lyre. He never speculated about it, but we grandchildren liked to think it was our late grandmother, Mary Falvey Teahan, guiding him safely home. Many years later my sister, Kitty, thought it was just a young neighbor on the road who, concerned for his well-being, silently lit the way with his flashlight.

My brother, Donal, recalls that our sister, Helen, always said she saw the apparition/spirit of the same grandmother sitting by the fireplace at the Lyre farmhouse in the evenings. We never knew our Granny Teahan and had no idea what she looked like. She passed away in 1917 and there were no photos of her. Were we surprised when our cousin later told us his father said Helen was the spitting image of his mother, Mary Falvey! Our sister, Helen, was gorgeous, with a delicate, Grace Kelly-like beauty.

Before electricity, the only middle-of-the night excitement was the one time a man arrived by horse and frantically knocked at our door. He had ridden in from the countryside, asking directions to Dr. Sheehan’s house. My Mam assumed his wife was in labor, but we never found out just what the emergency was.

Joan Teahan Kelly

Joan Teahan Kelly

I was about eight years old when the Shannon Hydro-Electric Scheme finally brought power to Milltown. We couldn’t afford to light our house; it just wasn’t in the budget. So our home wasn’t on “the grid” and we never missed or felt we needed it.  Although, I’ll admit we children would stay up late into the night when we should have been sleeping watching the blinking lights in Miss Hannah’s shop across the street. Dennis Sugrue, Milltown’s Renaissance man, had installed them around the windows of his aunt’s shop. What a Christmas novelty it was as we excitedly counted the seconds in anticipation of the next blink!

We weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the new electric lights. Every night, a man came in from the countryside. He never spoke a word to anyone, shopped, or went into the pubs for refreshment. He just stood silently under the lamppost, stayed there about a half hour, and then returned back the way he came. At the time we thought him eccentric, but now I think of him as a visionary who utilized light therapy before it became common.

It was an oppressively hot, humid day when my sister Joan’s youngest, Christine Kelly, married Jim Clougher on June 30, 2001. She had planned a summer wedding to avoid the disaster of a winter storm. Sadly, her Mom had passed away just two months before on May first and so didn’t live to see her daughter marry, but some say Joan was there that day!

As we sat in St. Columbkille’s Church, Brighton, Mass. that afternoon, it was clear that dark storm clouds were rolling in. The Mass and ceremony were lovely and the rain held off as the wedding party later greeted well-wishers outside the church. But as we drove to the reception at Lombardo’s in Randolph, it became apparent we couldn’t escape the thunderstorm.

Still, we were able to enjoy the cocktail hour and dinner without a hitch. The newly married couple had their first dance together as bride and groom. Christine was able to dance with her father, Joe Kelly. As the guests started dancing, the lights flickered off and on three times before they went out for the rest of the evening. The wait staff lit the candles on the tables and placed more around the hall.

Christine and Jim

Christine and Jim

People began to walk out to the hallway to see the spectacular light-show Mother Nature was putting on in front of the floor-to-ceiling picture window. Lightning reflected off the crystal chandelier above the spiral staircase as we looked out from the second-floor balcony, making for a surreal sight like out of a movie.

Back in the hall, the reception continued on without electricity, guests able to converse comfortably, not having to raise their voices above the din of blaring music. Spontaneously, a table would break out in song and people would dance and thoroughly enjoy themselves.  When I looked up at the head table during dinner, I thought I saw Joan sitting there for a moment.

Christine and Jim’s slight disappointment when the lights went out soon turned to astonishment because they felt in their hearts that Joan may have had something to do with it! And they weren’t the only ones there that strongly felt the same way! We told them some day they would laugh about it. And they have, along with their children, Kelly, Patrick and Brendan. Someday, God willing, their grandchildren will laugh at it, too.

Lombardo’s couldn’t have been more hospitable, but they just couldn’t explain how three backup generators failed. When Christine and Jim checked out the next morning, the desk clerk told them the other wedding parties left in disgust. Not surprisingly, the Clougher’s wedding reception went on until the wee hours of morning. The newlyweds were very relieved that their guests continued to enjoy themselves despite the darkness. In fact, many people told them that night was the most fun they’ve ever had at a wedding! Never underestimate the Irish, who have never needed power to have great craic.

Christine_&_Jim's_wedding

About the author…

Maureen, 1953

Maureen Angela Teahan was born in September 1928, Milltown, County Kerry, Ireland. She was the firstborn of a large family. The household included a maternal grandfather and an older cousin, all living in a small thatched home. Maureen was educated at Presentation School and received her Leaving Certification from Presentation Secondary School, Milltown, 1944. She emigrated from Ireland in 1947 and lived in Lawrence, Mass.  Maureen worked at the Wood Worsted Mills for two years until they closed and moved their operations south. After that she was employed as a nanny for a year, also in Lawrence. Then she moved to Boston and worked for the First National Stores (FINAST) in the meat department. During that time she met her future husband and left FINAST when she married Patrick Murray in 1952. Maureen raised three children and was active with volunteer work, the church and community. Her hobbies included reading, sewing, cooking and gardening for as long as she was able.

More Maureen’s Memories…


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St. Patrick’s Day Fun in Holyoke

SPD_parade+_Holyoke

St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Holyoke, Massachusetts

In case you aren’t ready for St. Patrick’s Day to be over for 2014, there’s one more big celebration to come. On Sunday, March 23rd the Massachusetts town of Holyoke hosts the second-largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the United States (only the New York City parade is larger!)

Holyoke residents are fiercely proud of their Irish heritage, and they know how to show it. The town of about 40,000 will welcome up to 400,000 visitors to its annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. Here’s what the parade website has to say:

The Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade has been a cherished institution since 1952. Each March, our city streets fill with happy folks from near and far celebrating Irish heritage, civic pride, faith, family, friendship and tradition. A regional event attracting over 400,000 on street spectators, this Parade is the Pioneer Valley’s biggest homecoming of the year!

Festivities will kick off at 12:30pm on Thursday with the raising of the Irish flag at Holyoke City Hall. Then, at 1:00pm is a preview of the “Grand Colleen” float.

 Photo by Manon L. Mirabelli| Holyoke 2014 Grand Colleen Sheila S. Fallon, of Holyoke, with her father, Daniel Fallon

Photo by Manon L. Mirabelli| Holyoke 2014 Grand Colleen Sheila S. Fallon, of Holyoke, with her father, Daniel Fallon

Many thanks to reader Ed O’Connor for telling me about the Holyoke parade. I am always learning something new about the Irish in America! Good luck to everyone in Holyoke – I hope you have a beautiful Spring day to celebrate your Irish heritage!


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We Have a Winner!

Before we put all the excitement of St. Patrick’s Day behind us for another year, we need to announce the winner of our Book Giveaway! Next time we will have to challenge you guys a bit and make the trivia question tougher – everyone who entered had the correct answer.

Source: writersweek.ie

Source: writersweek.ie

The famous Listowel Writers Week is held each year over the June Bank Holiday weekend. This year the week of writing workshops, competitions, and festivities runs May 28th – June 1st. The full program will be announced in April on the Writers Week website.

We wish we could give you all a copy of Vincent Carmody’s lovely book about Listowel, but there could be only one lucky winner.

THE WINNER IS…

ED MOONEY 

from County Kildare

Congratulations, Ed! Send us your address and your book will be on its way – click here to email us.

A big thanks to Vincent Carmody for sharing his Listowel with our readers through his stories and for donating the signed copy of his book, Listowel – Snapshots of an Irish Market Town 1850-1950

Listowel (courtesy of Vincent Carmody)

Listowel (courtesy of Vincent Carmody)


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Reminder: St. Patrick’s Day Giveaway!

Just a friendly reminder to enter our St. Patrick’s Day Giveaway by 11:59pm EDT tomorrow, March 17th. The winner will be announced Wednesday, March 19th. Simply answer the Listowel trivia question below, fill in your contact information, and hit the submit button.

But first, take a look at what people have to say about the prize, a signed copy of Vincent Carmody’s Listowel – Snapshots of an Irish Market Town 1850-1950:

“A beautifully designed and executed book, wherein the discards of history are put on parade to become a treasure throve of insight into the life of an Irish Market town. Listowel is transfigured; If space allows movement; place is pause at every turn of a page.”     Dr. Patrick J. O’ Connor

“That Vincent Carmody’s Listowel, Snapshots of an Irish Market town is evocative and beautiful is not surprising, but it is also an artful history. Concisely and lucidly told, it is a mosaic of faces and the telling artifacts of everyday life.”    Richard White, Professor of American History, Stanford University

“This book is about more than the shops and the pubs. It is a reminder of the transience of life, of the way that humans move on but a streetscape remains. Beautifully presented, it will appeal to anyone from North Kerry and should give other towns reason to wish they had someone who would do the same for them.”    Frank O’Shea, Irish Echo 

Listowel (courtesy of Vincent Carmody)

Listowel (courtesy of Vincent Carmody)

Good Luck!


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St. Patrick’s Day Giveaway!

Listowel (courtesy of Vincent Carmody)

Listowel (courtesy of Vincent Carmody)

St. Patrick’s Day Weekend is here and it is time for our Giveaway! This is your chance to win a signed copy of Vincent Carmody’s beautiful Listowel – Snapshots of an Irish Market Town 1850-1950. It’s easy to enter – just answer the question at the bottom of this post, fill in your name and email address, and submit the form.

But first, a bit about the prize. Here’s what the publisher has to say about Vincent Carmody’s book:

This book by Listowel native, Vincent Carmody, is an account of life in a prosperous market town from the years 1850 to 1950. The town in question is Listowel, Co. Kerry, but it could be any town at that time. This is a valuable social history, full of information, gossip and anecdotes, amply illustrated with old billheads and photographs. You will see here handwritten receipts, gentle requests for payment to recalcitrant debtors and rare posters, flyers and other assorted memorabilia from that slower age.

Vincent Carmody’s lovely book paints a picture of a gentler age, an age of craftsmen and industry. This was the era of the horse and donkey and the handwritten letter. It was an era of fairs and markets.

Vincent takes you back in time in this comprehensive account of life back then.The book is a one off, a collector’s item, a treasure for anyone who  values historical artifacts and stories.

Now for a little Listowel trivia! Submit the form below by 11:59 pm (EDT) on Monday, March 17th. We will select the winner at random from the correct entries. We will announce the winner on Wednesday, March 19th right here on The Irish in America. Of course, all personal information will only be used for notifying the winner – we promise!

Good Luck! Winner will be announced here on Wednesday, March 19th!


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Listowel Man Remembers…

Vincent Carmody brings us a moment in history when two seemingly disparate, yet equally impactful events in his life, took place. We take a side trip to Ballybunion for this one.

Irish-singer-Bridie-Gallagher-dead-at-87

Bridie Gallagher (photo from Wikipedia)

In the latter part of July 1969 my first cousin Eileen McCaffrey (nee Buckley) and husband Brian were down in Listowel from their home in Portmarnock, County Dublin, for a holiday.

Being fairly young and carefree we decided to visit the nearby seaside resort of Ballybunion to sample the nightlife.

Entering the town we saw large signs announcing that the most famous Irish female singer of the day, Bridie Gallagher, (The Girl from Donegal) was appearing at the Hibernian Ballroom on that night, for one night only.

Cousin Eileen, was beside herself with excitement, “we have to go and see Bridie” she said, ‘did you not know that she attended the same primary school in Creeslough, County Donegal, at the same time as Brian’, she told me, ‘although she was in a more senior class’.

So after socialising ‘down town’ we made our way back to the Hibernian and the Bridie Gallagher appearance. We got some good seats and enjoyed the singing as the night enfolded, during the performance; Eileen scribbled a note which was taken to the stage, asking that Bridie sing one of her most popular songs ‘Sure their cutting the corn down in Creeslough today’ and dedicate it to an old school friend.

Looking down from the stage at the enormous crowd, she said ‘ Ach, Brian, wherever you are in the crowd, don’t leave till we meet up and catch up on old times’.

NeilArmstongSo after the performance we met up and were ushered into the residents lounge.

Already in the room was quite a sizeable crowd assembled around two black and white television sets. What was being broadcast was the live telecast of the first lunar landing. The date, July 20th/ 21st 1969.

So as the century’s most famous moment unfolded and Neil Armstrong uttered the famous words, ‘one giant leap for mankind’ I and the others were in the wonderful company and sharing hospitality with probably one of the most popular Irish artistes of her time, Bridie Gallagher.

Are you getting excited for The Irish in America St. Patrick’s Day Giveaway? We will announce the details tomorrow…

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