The Irish in America


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Day Four of Irish American Favorites: Maryn

Newborn Maryn

Newborn Maryn

Today is a special day. My niece, and the first member of the fourth-generation of our branch of the Andy McCormacks in America, turns six-years-old today. The world came to a halt for us on June 4, 2007 when Maryn Eileen McCormack joined the family. We all had new roles – Father, Grandpa, Grandma, Great-Aunt, and Aunts, and immediately Maryn became the sun in our solar system.

Maryn at age one

Maryn at age one

Maryn has always been really cool. She’s never let all the attention and adoration go to her head. Before Maryn started talking, you could just tell she was taking it all in and figuring things out.

2011

2011

Maryn is smart, generous, loving, and inquisitive. She has a mind like a steel trap and an awesome imagination. The storylines of our games of Princess continue from week to week, as the plot develops and characters evolve. Sometimes her younger sister Ainsley and I try to freelance with events in our land of make-believe, but Maryn is always on us to get us back on track and keep to the story.

2009

2009

Maryn is one of my two favorite Irish Americans born in the twenty-first century. It has been a privilege to share the last six years with her and I love to experience her energy and enthusiasm for life. It is amazing to see her grow up, but in this Auntie’s opinion, I wouldn’t mind if she slowed down just a little bit!

Maryn_Christmas_2012

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARYN!!!!!

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Introducing…Connemara Language and Cultural Centre!

Connemara's Twelve Bens , courtesy of CLCC

Connemara’s Twelve Bens , courtesy of CLCC

I studied the Irish language for a few years and have family ties to the Gaeltacht of Connemara, so when I first saw Connemara Language and Cultural Center (CLCC) on Twitter, I assumed it was an organization promoting Irish language. I was only partially correct. CLCC is doing much more, and I can’t wait to share this innovative venture with you.

The folks at CLCC are energetic, positive, supportive people who are bringing something new and dynamic to education, tourism, culture, and leisure in Ireland. And it is all happening in the gorgeous Clifden, County Galway. I will let them explain it to you – keep reading for the latest CLCC press release, or click here to download the pdf version.

Connemara Language and Cultural Centre

Connemara Language and Cultural Centre (CLCC) is a newly formed educational tourism destination located in Clifden, County Galway. Clifden is the capital town of the geographical region of Connemara world renowned for its rugged and unspoilt beauty where the wild Atlantic Ocean has etched a landscape only Mother Nature could create.

CLCC_PR_photoCLCC is a unique venue combining an existing holiday village, Clifden Glen, located within a safe and fully self-contained 80 hectare site 1.5 km from Clifden town with an English as a Foreign Language School catering for families, groups and individual students. The site contains a licensed clubhouse, restaurant, laundry, 85  detached 3 bedroom lodges, children’s playground, 3 tennis courts, mini-golf course and nature walks, all bounded by the Owenglin, a prolific wild Atlantic salmon spate river. The site is set off the main road with no through traffic and is a haven of tranquility and safety adjacent to Connemara National Park with the magnificent backdrop of the Twelve Bens Mountain range.

CLCC in its initial stages is providing English Language Tuition for non-native English speakers with classes in the morning and adventure activities in the afternoon and cultural events hosted in the clubhouse in the evenings. Our professional, friendly and experienced staff including our qualified native English speaking language teachers are here to meet all our clients’ needs, whether customizing an English language course or providing specific activities to suit individual clients or families.  Our educational ethos is centered on interesting, enjoyable and creative lessons delivered by thoughtful and caring professionals while embracing the latest educational and technological tools available.

It is the introduction of educational services within the pre-existing site that makes CLCC innovative and we aim to meet all our clients’ needs on the one site with no commuting required from accommodation to classes or for entertainment or meals.

CLCC is currently developing Gaelic language classes for those wishing to improve their Gaelic or indeed complete beginners and Connemara is home to Ireland’s largest Gaeltacht, a region where Gaelic is still commonly spoken. CLCC

Synergy is a major factor underpinning the development of CLCC with each element of the business enhancing the other. Integration between native speakers is vital for language learners and with Irish families using Clifden Glen and Connemara for their annual holidays as well as local native Gaelic and English speakers’ integration is assured. Our activities and cultural activities enhance the learning experience with a focus on experiential learning and we strive to create a unique and memorable Connemara experience for each of our client’s.

We are justifiably proud of our culture and heritage in Connemara and we showcase this at our cultural events hosted in our clubhouse at CLCC. Connemara is unique both in Ireland and Europe with its own identity, heritage and culture and untouched by the excess of the 20th and 21st centuries.  It has inspired countless artists and embraced royalty with its captivating raw beauty, ever changing light and the un-spoilt  landscape abundant with wildlife, epitomized by the magnificent wild Atlantic salmon to be seen leaping through its many rivers and lakes. Its essence is perhaps encapsulated best by its roads and fields bounded by stone walls, hand built without mortar and aged with  lichen and moss over centuries yet perfectly preserved and withstanding the forces of nature and time. These roads promise unrivaled vistas to the traveler who ventures throughout their length and evoke memories and emotions, even in those who have never visited previously, and truly represent the road less travelled both in terms of spiritual journey and travelers met along the way. These walls speak of an era when time meant something different than it does today and when, despite or perhaps because of hardship in everyday life, few were the people who could be referred to as poor because all they had was money. Neighbors, community and friendship are still the essence of Connemara and visitors always remark on this warmth and hospitality and it is this and the landscape that draws them back year after year.

So whether to learn English or Gaelic or have an activity holiday come and stay at CLCC and experience this for yourself whilst creating your own Connemara Experience.

CLCC_logo

     http://www.connemaralcc.com/en/

     Click here to follow CLCC on Twitter! I think they would love to meet you!

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DAY 30: Jimmy and Helen

Helen and Jimmy McCormack

Helen and Jimmy McCormack

Can’t believe the month is already over. And here I sit with a list a mile long of things I love about Ireland! What to pick for my last favorite thing…

The entire Irish branch of the McCormack family tree is the best, and their warmth, humor, and hospitality make our visits to Ireland fantastic. But Jimmy and Helen are the ones who are usually stuck with the Yanks when we visit. They live on the farm in Ballyedmond, County Laois where my great-grandfather was born, so I suppose it is the natural place for us to end up.

I could go on forever about Helen’s magnificent cooking and entertaining panache or Jimmy’s GSOH (Good Sense Of Humor for those of you who don’t read the personal ads in the Farmer’s Journal on Thursdays) but what makes them so special is their generosity. Whenever we visit, they invite us into their lives and make us feel welcome.

A couple of years ago, Jimmy and Helen even came to our rescue. There was a problem with the self-catering accommodation my mom, dad, sister, and I had booked for our two weeks in Ireland. (We will save that story for another time, this is about my favorite things in Ireland, after all.) Jimmy and Helen found us a place to stay…

Lisheen Castle, Ballingarry, County Tipperary

Lisheen Castle, County Tipperary

Yes, we actually stayed in this castle. Our vacation went from disappointing to a fairytale in less than a day, thanks to Jimmy and Helen. It was a memorable couple of weeks.

An afternoon at Birr Castle

An afternoon at Birr Castle

But even more memorable than a castle are the evenings spent at the farm in Ballyedmond, after a day of site-seeing and a glorious dinner by Helen, relaxing while Jenny or Sarah do their homework, deciding whether we will go to the pub. That is a tough decision, sometimes it even requires a vote by secret ballot. The pub usually wins.

I am so fortunate to have family in Ireland like Jimmy and Helen, and all the McCormacks. Luckier still that they are my friends. Now, if I could only get them to come visit us in the States!

Thanks for following my month of Irish favorites…hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have!

Photos by Regan McCormack

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An Orange for Baby Jesus

Maureen Teahan Murray helped us kick off the holiday season by sharing her Thanksgiving memories a couple of weeks ago, and she is back with a special story, just in time for the first Sunday of Advent…enjoy!

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New Dungarvan Guide!

Exciting things are happening at the Waterford County Museum.

My sister, Regan, and I were lucky enough to visit Dungarvan this past September. Willie Whelan personally showed us around the Waterford County Museum and brought us on a quick tour of the town. A group of dedicated and talented volunteers make the museum happen, and they are doing a fantastic job. It is truly a gem, and this book is a must-have for anyone interested in Dungarvan or Irish history in general.

Read the press release for :

The Ideal Christmas Gift – Dungarvan: A Historic Guide & Town Trail
Waterford County Museum will launch their new 80 page guide book about Dungarvan on Wednesday 28th November. The guide book content includes a history of Dungarvan, articles on notable local personalities, historic sites in the locality, a town walking trail, numerous full page photos and maps. The book is produced to a very high standard and the museum will arrange shipping worldwide. All profits from the book go the upkeep of the museum.

One of the book’s authors William Fraher said that “I am delighted with the finish and appearance of the book. The larger scale landscape format allows the wonderful photographs from the museum archive to be seen to best advantage. I think it would make an ideal Christmas gift for anyone with relatives or friends living abroad”.

Co-author Willie Whelan stated that “We think this book will be attractive to local history enthusiasts, tourists, locals and school children. It also provides an authoritative basic historical guide to the Dungarvan area.”

Support from Waterford Leader Partnership has enabled the price of the book to be kept at €10 allowing as wide a range of people as possible access to their local history.

Pádraig Ó Cuirrín, President of Waterford County Museum welcomed the launch of the new book and added “I am really delighted that the museum has managed to produce such a quality publication. I would also like to acknowledge the support of the Waterford Leader Partnership in helping fund this book. Without the ongoing support that we receive from the Leader Partnership our work would be much more difficult. Dhéanfadh an leabhar seo bronntanas oiriúnach; go háirithe do cáirde agus gaolta thar lear.”

Dungarvan: A Historic Guide & Town Trail (printed by local company Printmaster) is available to buy in the museum at St. Augustine Street, Dungarvan for €10 or it can be bought on-line via www.waterfordmuseum.ie.

For more information about buying the book contact:
E-mail: history@waterfordmuseum.ie
Website: www.waterfordmuseum.ie
Phone: 058 45960

If you want to learn more about the Waterford County Museum…

1. Follow the Waterford County Museum on Twitter – every day they tweet great photos from their collection. Click here to follow them.

2. Browse around the website – there is a great search engine at the bottom where you chose a time period from the drop-down menu and search for articles about that era…try it out!

3. Get the Town Trail app from iTunes or Google Play for your iPhone (99 cents) or Android (free).


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I wonder if I will receive a postcard?

Gathering postcards are on their way…

On November 9th The Gathering Ireland announced its latest tools to attract visitors next year. From the Press Release

The Gathering Ireland 2013 has partnered with An Post to distribute postcards to 1.8 million households in Ireland this November. The postcards are being distributed to encourage Irish families to invite someone home for the Gathering Ireland in 2013 and should land in people’s houses over the coming days. The initiative is an important part of the Gathering campaign in order to encourage invitations to be sent to the four corners of the world. Everyone is being asked to use these postcards to send a message to family, friends and loved ones abroad and invite someone home next year for the Gathering Ireland 2013.  

In theory this is a great way to spread the Gathering word. There are a lot of people in the United States who have not yet heard about The Gathering. For example, I had dinner with an Irish-American friend last Saturday and when I mentioned the Gathering, I saw a blank look on her face. She had no idea what I was talking about.  My friend has Irish heritage on her both maternal and paternal sides of her family tree,  she visited Ireland for the first time as a high school student as a participant in the Irish American Cultural Institutes‘s Irish Way program, and she later returned to Ireland with family. My friend  loves Ireland and looks forward to returning one day. She (and her family) are exactly the Americans The Gathering should target. A postcard inviting her back to Ireland might be just the incentive she needs to book a trip…

How do those in Ireland feel about the postcards? Will you send them? And who will you send them to? Do you feel pressure to send the cards (see Emeralds blog post about the cards)? Please share your thoughts on this initiative – leave a comment.

On the receiving end, I would love to hear from anyone outside of Ireland who finds one of these postcards in their mailbox. Let me know what you think of it – will you take them up on the invitation?

I hope my Irish cousins don’t waste one of their postcards on me. I have never waited for an invitation before to visit Ireland!

A bunch of McCormacks in 2011


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Irish Workhouse Centre

Wondering what’s been happening at the Irish Workhouse CentreClick here for the very latest on the Portumna, County Galway, Ireland workhouse restoration and redevelopment.

I first learned about the Irish Workhouse Centre on Loretto Leary’s fantastic website, Breise! Breise! Loretto has written several articles on the project, as well as conducted interviews with the folks involved – see it all here.

The inaugural newsletter of the Irish Workhouse Centre is full of great information, including an article on the Female Orphan Scheme which sent orphaned girls from the workhouse to Australia.

As an introduction to Irish workhouses, the following historical tidbit appears in the newsletter:

Did you know that 163 workhouses were built in
total in Ireland? 112 were built from 1839 to
1842. It must have been a strange sight at the
time to witness all these huge, foreboding
buildings springing up in the main towns.
All the workhouses were designed by George
Wilkinson. The workhouses were built by private
contract and would have taken about two years to
build.

Psst…if you haven’t read it yet, the September issue of Irish Lives Remembered Genealogy Magazine is available (and free!) online. Click here to view and be sure to check out the article on page 26.


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Ireland Reaching Out to Middle America

Enjoy the latest press release from the folks at Ireland XO. It’s great to see them reaching out to the Irish communities in Chicago and Milwaukee!

Ireland XO reaches out to Mid-West Irish-American Diaspora

The Ireland XO Team in action at the Milwaukee Irish Fest: Mike Feerick, Dolores O’Shea, Rory O’Shaughnessy

Ireland Reaching Out began its first major outreach drive to the Irish-American diaspora with a busy and successful visit to Galway’s Sister City, Chicago and the Milwaukee Irish Fest 2012.

Loughrea, Co. Galway, August 27th 2012  The Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel has asked Ireland XO to trace the Irish roots of his wife who has Irish ancestry – this is just one of the many hundreds of requests that the team took home from their first major outreach to the Irish-American diaspora in the US Mid-West.

As part of a delegation which included both Galway City and County Councils as well as Fáilte Ireland, members of the Ireland Reaching Out Programme travelled last week to Chicago, en route to the 2012 Milwaukee Irish Fest. Supported by local volunteers from the Chicago area, the team “reached out” to the estimated 120,000 attendees at the Fest to sign up Irish-Americans interested in tracing their roots and one day returning to the parish of their ancestors. There was extraordinary interest shown by those engaged in linking to their Irish Heritage and the majority of them were planning a visit to Ireland for The Gathering 2013.

In Chicago, Ireland XO made presentations at the Irish American Heritage Centre and Gaelic Park in Chicago where Irish culture, language, music, dance and sport is celebrated by many thousands of members. In excess of 150 people attended both venues where Mike Feerick and Henry Healy of Ireland Reaching Out explained their work and  closer co-operation between the organisations is envisaged. In particular, the IAHC has an excellent library and archives as well as a monthly genealogy group which Ireland XO intends to leverage.

At the Chicago mayoral reception, John Mahoney, best known for his role in the TV hit comedy Frasier, and whose grandfather is from Co. Cork, praised the Ireland XO concept and encouraged both Diaspora and Irish parishes to sign up.  At Milwaukee, the ancestral details of over 600 Irish-Americans were signed up for the programme. These ranged from one Virginia State resident tracing his ancestor’s departure from the town of Ballina in Mayo in 1740 and now having 1,200 people on his family tree (all members of the Ballina, Co Mayo Diaspora!), to those who were finding out for the first time about the Irish origins of their grandfather.  Commenting on the feedback, Mike Feerick stated that “the immense opportunity for local communities in Ireland to connect with their Diaspora was starkly evident at the Milwaukee Irish Fest. We should not stop until all 70 million of the Irish Diaspora are reconnected!”

For further information on the Ireland Reaching Out Programme, or getting involved, please contactinfo@irelandxo.com  or telephone 091 842 013.

Bill Gaynor (Sister Cities), Henry Healy and Mike Feerick (Ireland Reaching Out), Austin Kelly (Sister Cities), Marian Ryan, general manager and John Devitt, President Gaelic Park Chicago.

 

Galway City delegation, members of the Chicago Sister Cities Committee, Ireland XO and Consul General Aidan Cronin with Mayor Rahm Emanuel

For further media information please contact:

Paula Kennedy, Press Officer,
Tel:               +353 (0)91 842013       / 086-069-5152

Email:               pkennedy@irelandxo.com

   

Mike Feerick, CEO of Ireland Reaching Out with Consul General Aidan Cronin

About the Ireland Reaching Out Programme
The Ireland Reaching Out (Ireland XO) project won the special award at the national “Pride of Place” Awards in Nov 2011 and in February 2012, was voted the “Best Community” initiative nationally by the Local Authorities Members Awards (LAMA).  The project was founded in South-East Galway by tech entrepreneur Mike Feerick in 2009 and has been funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Heritage Council, the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Ireland Funds, Galway County Council, Galway Rural Development (GRD), and Irish-American sources. Sponsors include Google, Guinness, An Post, and the National Library. In Dec 2011, the project launched a global partnership with the GAA, agreeing to link newly identified members of the Irish Diaspora to the network of nearly 500 GAA clubs worldwide. Well-known broadcasters and economists David McWilliams and George Lee have been prominent supports of Ireland XO pointing out the extraordinary economic potential of the project, which rises well beyond the immediate and obvious tourism opportunity. The Ireland Reaching Out project aims to connect over million people through the project by the end of 2013. It believes it can achieve a database of 10 million members of the Irish Diaspora, including delivering one million additional visits to the island of Ireland by 2016.

Ireland XO in the Press 2011/2012
TV3 Morning Show – Ireland XO wins Arthur Guinness Fund Award

RTE George Lee – The Business – The Irish Diaspora
New Tech Post (David McWilliams): Ireland Reaching Out Launch 2012
New York Times: In tough times; the Irish call their Diaspora
RTE Nationwide: The Obama Visit – Linking to the Diaspora
Irish-American Magazine; Bring them all Back Home

Ireland XO Press Section 


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The Gathering 2013

The Gathering 2013 initiative was launched earlier this year by the Irish government. The Gathering 2013 website introduces the project:

It’s about asking anyone who has Irish blood, a link to Ireland, or even just a love of our country – to join us for a series of amazing and diverse events throughout 2013.

Sounds good to me! Any excuse to go to Ireland is a good one. The Navy-Notre Dame Emerald Isle Football Classic on September 1, 2012 at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium is sponsored by The Gathering 2013 and will serve as an unofficial kick-off (no pun intended) to the 2013 festivities.

Sponsoring this event is a great move by The Gathering. The U.S. Naval Academy Director of Athletics had this to say:

We are delighted for The Gathering Ireland to be the Presenting Sponsor of the Emerald Isle Classic. This game represents exactly what The Gathering Ireland is all about, a unique coming together in Ireland of Navy and Notre Dame college football fans, some returning to their ancestral home and some travelling for the first time to Ireland. The Emerald Isle Classic presents a once in a lifetime opportunity to showcase Ireland to this group and also to the many millions of Americans watching the game through the broadcast.

Stay tuned to The Gathering 2013 for all the latest news.

People all over Ireland have begun planning for the 2013 Gathering. A number of local community meetings have already taken place in Roscommon, Mayo, Clare, Kerry, Cavan, Leitrim, Carlow, Meath, and Wicklow, with meetings in Monaghan and North Tipperary later this week. A meeting in Limerick is coming up in early September. Click on the county names for more information.

This is what is so exciting about The Gathering 2013 – get the counties involved on a local level. Residents of any given county or town will know best what their home community has to offer, as well as what visitors have enjoyed in the past. It is fantastic to see the enthusiasm throughout Ireland for The Gathering.

Of course The Gathering 2013 is about more than tourists visiting monastic ruins and tracing their roots, it is about business. The first Gathering event will take place in January 2013:

A two-day meeting of top executives, entrepreneurs and venture capital investors operating in Silicon Valley, Hollywood and the US east coast will travel to Cork…

Read the full article here.

For an Arts focus on The Gathering, look no further than Irish Gathering 2013 – “Ancestry Research, Stories from the Irish and The 2013 Festivities of the Gathering in Ireland!” Christine and Sabrina Joyce (great-grand-nieces of James Joyce) want to help visitors make the most of the time they spend in Ireland in 2013. They are working closely with a variety of artists to bring out the best of Ireland for The Gathering.

Waterford wants people with ties to the county to register on their website, while Galway has a plan for a Gathering of the Tribes. Don’t see your county anywhere in this post? Visit the County Council website for information on what the county has planned.

If you live in Ireland, what’s happening in your home county for The Gathering 2013? Leave a comment, I would love to share your plans.

Do you live outside of Ireland and are thinking about paying a visit next year? Anything special you would like to see or do while you are in Ireland?

Enjoy this Gathering video for Abbeyleix, County Laois. I wonder what my McCormack relatives have planned for us next year?


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Skerries is a Great Old Town

By now you must all know how much I love letters, so let’s take another look at the Stephen Owens Collection. Discovered at the Old Skerries Historical Society in County Dublin in the late 1970s by well-known Irish Emigration historian Kerby Miller, this is a small collection of letters sent from Stephen Owens of Clontarf, Minnesota in the USA to his niece Celia Grimes in his native Skerries, County Dublin, Ireland. The letters are from the first few years of the twentieth century.

I began to look at the letters of Stephen Owens in an earlier post (click here to get caught up.) I will pick up the action with a letter dated July 20, 1900.

Mr. Owens starts right out with the weather (typical Irishman and Minnesotan!) It is the hottest and driest summer in over twenty-five years in Minnesota. No rain and scorching heat have left the farmers with little in the way of grains to cut come harvest time:

Corn and potatoes are Pretty good but the American likes to live on flowers instead of potatoes.

Mr. Owens writes of his younger cousin, a daughter of his Uncle John, who works for a family in Lynn, Massachusetts. He had a letter from her in which she describes her employer and their summer holidays in New Hampshire. She wants very much to come out West to visit her cousin which leads Mr. Owens to write, “I would like to see all my friends before I Die, God bless us all.”

The next letter to Celia is dated April 1, 1902. Mr. Owens tells her of the new priest in Clontarf and how the beloved Father McDonald died of consumption. He goes on to tell Celia that she may miss her brother who recently left home for America, “but it is 49 years last February since I seen your Mother, my sister Eliza.” All those years later, Mr. Owens still misses his sister and family. He even misses Celia, and she was not even born when he was last in Skerries!

Main Street Skerries, ca 1900 (courtesy of the National Archives of Ireland)

In a previous letter Celia must have told her uncle that there is something of an Irish language revival in Skerries because he writes:

Skerries is a great old Town. It is getting very patriotic. I am glad to hear the young People are learning their Country’s language. It is a good sign…

The last letter from Mr. Owens in the collection is dated November 10, 1903. The tone of this letter is less than up-beat. He has been ill for five weeks and sometimes is unable to stand for the pain in his back and legs.

Mr. Owens is pleased to hear that Celia was reunited with her brother who came back from America, and he comments on the latest wave of migrants from Ireland:

…you sent 11 people out from Skerries lately. Them is the kind that is wanting, Old People is only in the way here in America they don’t want them. I suppose it’s that way in every country…

Mr. Owens is clearly facing the fact that he has reached the twilight of his years and he has apparently given up the notion of returning to Ireland to see all of his old friends and family – “I think when we meet next it will be in heaven.” It was another two years before Mr. Owens passed away in December 1905.

I contacted the Skerries Historical Society to see if they had the originals of these letters – I only have copied transcripts. Maree Baker, the librarian at the Society got right back to me and said that they did not have the original letters. She sent along a couple of items from the Grimes family that are part of their collection – a photo from the late 1920s and two memorial cards. Celia’s brother James is on the left in the photo and Maree said Celia could be one of the women to the right.

Grimes Family of Skerries (courtesy of the Skerries Historical Society)