The Irish in America


Leave a comment

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.

 


2 Comments

Meet Maureen (Part III)

I had a few more questions for our favorite Irish American, Maureen Teahan Murray. Maureen immigrated to Lawrence Massachusetts just about sixty-six years ago this month. She and her sister Joan left Milltown, County Kerry, Ireland in November 1947 and arrived in the United States just in time for Thanksgiving. Read the story of her auspicious arrival – click here. A full list of links to earlier Meet Maureen entries, as well as her delightful stories of growing up in Milltown follows this article.

And now we will get to know a little bit more about Maureen and her adjustment to life in America…

 

Merrimack River in Lawrence, Massachusetts

Merrimack River in Lawrence, Massachusetts

What was the biggest adjustment you had to make to life in the US?

Our biggest adjustment to life in the U.S. was waking up at 4:30 AM to eat breakfast and make our  lunch for work. We crossed the bridge in S. Lawrence, MA over the Merrimack River on bitter winter mornings. Finding it more comfortable to keep moving the 20 minutes it took to walk rather than stand waiting for the bus that would take us to the Wood Mill Factory.

Maureen worked in the “English Drawing Room” at the Wood Mill for a year-and-a-half. Here’s how she describes her job:

The men placed large wool bobbins on a frame and we pulled the wool fibre down onto smaller bobbins and secured them then started the machine. That filled even smaller bobbins of wool. Then the men removed them and we repeated the process. Someone else worked with the wool after we were finished preparing it.
Toohig Girls 1950

(photo courtesy of Fran Valcourt, Mary’s daughter)

Did you make friends with mostly other Irish/Irish Americans? Was that important to you?

Most of our new friends were Irish American-many first generation American born, but we didn’t seek them out. A few months after we settled in Lawrence I had to have an appendectomy. Dr. Frank McCarthy had a private clinic there and his receptionist was Mary Toohig. When I was in the hospital before the operation he told me he would send someone to see me. While recuperating, I was surprised to meet Mary and her sister, Ann. I expected medical professionals were coming to check on me. Still medicated at first I thought I was dreaming when I met the Toohig sisters. They were from a family of eight and their parents were both born in Skibereen, Cork. Almost sixty-five years later Mary is still one of my best friends.

Toohig Family

Toohig Family (photo courtesy of Fran Valcourt)

Early on, what/who did you miss most from Ireland?

 Family we left behind were sorely missed when we first came here. My father, and brothers and sisters, Kitty, Dolly, Helen, John and Donal. Also, our grandfather Teahan who lived on the farm in Lyre, Milltown. Eventually, Kitty, Dolly and Helen joined us in the states. Donal tried living here for a year but then went back to Limerick.

Although new friends made in America couldn’t take the place of family left behind in Ireland, friends like the Toohigs helped make Lawrence, Massachusetts feel a little bit more like home. Do you have any questions for Maureen about her immigration experience in America? Leave a comment!
Click on the following titles to read more about Maureen and her memories:


2 Comments

Fourth of July, Limerick Style

The folks in Limerick are at it again this Fourth of July hosting their very own celebration of America’s independence. Looks pretty impressive…I think the Limerick festivities could put many Fourth of July parties in America to shame! Kudos to Siobhan Downey, the driving force behind the Limerick Fourth of July, and all the volunteers. I love Siobhan’s vision – to make the Fourth of July celebration in Limerick as popular as St. Patrick’s Day in New York.Good luck and have a ball in Limerick!

LImerick_Fourth

L-R: Hannah Downey, Claire O’Sullivan, Carmen Bailey and Alia Aswad St Michael’s National School

Limerick Rolls Out the Red, White and Blue Carpet for 4th of July Festival

 

Press Release

Friday, 21st June 2013

 

Limerick will be decked out in red, white and blue this July to celebrate American Independence Day with a range of events around the city.

 

Following on from the success of the inaugural festival last year, Limerick’s 4th July Festival will host a range of events on the weekend of July 6th and 7th.

 

The 4th of July Festival is run by a team of local volunteers with the aim of making Limerick the prime destination for any Americans in Europe during their national day of celebrations.

 

Local business owner Siobhan Downey originally came up with the idea of Limerick celebrating the 4th of July.

 

Limerick_Fourth_3“I believe Limerick has the potential to be the number one destination for any Americans on this side of the Atlantic looking to celebrate their national holiday. By working with local volunteers, businesses and entertainers, the 4th of July in Limerick could be as big as St. Patrick’s Day in New York!” said Siobhan.

 

Festival volunteer Tim Kelly of Kelly Travel said Limerick has very strong links with the United States with many American multinationals employing scores of people in the city and county.

 

“Foreign direct investment is vital for the local economy and we have to do everything we can to make potential investors and employers feel welcome in Limerick,” explained Tim.

 

The main festival event is the FREE American style picnic and family fun day in the Peoples Park from 11.30am to 5.30pm on Saturday 6th July, with American style music, food and games along with the annual Limerick Animal Welfare dog show fundraiser.

 

The celebrations don’t end there though, festival fun at the Milk Market, an American Roller Party, ‘Route 66’ events and an All American Race Day at Limerick Racecourse are some of the highlights sure to make Limerick’s visitors from across the pond feel right at home, and get locals in the festive spirit!

 

For a full list of events visit www.4thJulyLimerick.com or follow the festival on Twitter @4thjulylimerick or find us on Facebook.

 

 

For further information please contact Tim Kelly 087 2833932 or email limerick4thjuly@gmail.com

 

Kelly Moran

Limerick Communications Office

88 O’ Connell St

Limerick

 

t: 00 353 (0)61 400010

w: www.limerickcommunicationsoffice.ie

www.facebook.com/LimerickCommunicationsOffice

www.twitter.com/LimerickOffice


2 Comments

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?


3 Comments

Ireland Celebrates America’s Independence Day

Wouldn’t you know that even the Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest held every year on the Fourth of July on New York’s Coney Island has an Irish connection?

Legend has it that on July 4, 1916 Irish immigrant James Mullan consumed 13 hot dogs in 12 minutes during a hot dog eating competition. The contest was set up by hot dog stand owner Nathan Handwerker when he witnessed four immigrant men arguing over who was the most American of the group.

How do you prove your American-ness? Naturally, eat the most hot dogs in a single sitting! At least this was Nathans’s solution – he didn’t want the disagreement to turn into a brawl and if they were busy eating hot dogs, they couldn’t fight.

Nathan was a genius. His effort at conflict resolution turned into one of the best marketing gimmicks ever. The contest is still going strong, nearly one-hundred years later. Read the full story here. In case you are wondering, Joey Chesnut won last year’s contest – 62 hot dogs in ten minutes. Only in America?

Thankfully we don’t need to gorge ourselves with hot dogs to prove our patriotism or to celebrate the Fourth of July. The McCormack family has typically taken a low-key approach to the holiday – usually just fireworks by the Mississippi and burgers on the grill – nothing too extravagant.

I think that is why I am so impressed by the Fourth of July festivities planned by the folks in Wexford and Limerick this year. Wexford’s Irish America Day features a parade, Mark Twain readings, a performance by comedian Des Bishop, American-style BBQ, fireworks, and much, much more.

The Prom Night being held July 2nd at the Brandon House Hotel and Spa is especially creative. They are even crowning an Prom King and Prom Queen. This is a trip down memory lane for anyone who attended high school in the USA. There will also be the posthumous induction of Liam Clancy to the Irish American Hall of Fame at the Dunbrody Emigration Centre on Wednesday. Visit the Irish America Day website for the full schedule of events!

It is the inaugural year for the 4th of July Limerick celebration as well. Limerick has an entire slate of events stretching out to the weekend following the Fourth (I know a lot of Americans who are also stretching the holiday out!) A couple of the events that look particularly interesting are the Hip Hop Festival (all weekend) and the Cookie Making demonstration on Saturday.

It looks like Dolan’s is the place to be for music with Brian McCann singing Billy Joel favorites on Wednesday, the Hot 8 Brass Band on Thursday, and the Last Waltz Tribute on Saturday. Limerick restaurants, bars, hotels, and retailers will also run special offers through the weekend. Don’t forget the Treasure Hunt on Sunday. I had a sneak peek at the questions and it is a fantastic hunt!

To top it all off, there will be fireworks over the Shannon on Sunday night. Click here for the complete list of events. I suspect there will be plenty of oooohs and aaaahs in both Wexford and Limerick over the Fourth of July.

If you are an American in Ireland, how fun to experience the Irish take on the American holiday. And if you are Irish, try to make it to either Wexford or Limerick next week to experience something a little different. The Fourth of July is the perfect time to think about your family and friends who have emigrated over the years and became Americans themselves. Plus, who doesn’t like to celebrate gaining independence from the British?

Where ever you are this Fourth of July, I hope you have a wonderful time. Enjoy!


Leave a comment

Wexford: Maps, Oral Histories, and an American President

In addition to the usual information on household and water charges there are a couple of surprises on the Wexford County Council website (they also tweet – check out the latest info here.)

Click on the Interactive Maps link to see a list of maps for nearly every aspect of life in County Wexford – great for visitors and locals alike. Looking for a beach? There are over thirty on this map. Or perhaps a day at a museum is more your style, or even a round of golf. These maps have you covered. Hopefully you will not require medical attention, but if you do, a map of local hospitals is right here.

I love the map of Wexford area attractions. All of the sites I mentioned last time are included, plus a few more. An easy tool for planning a visit to County Wexford!

In the Library section of the County Council’s website, you will find the Oral History Project, complete with podcasts of 130 interviews conducted with residents of County Wexford. The project provides anyone, anywhere the opportunity to listen to Wexford residents tell their stories:

Since 2008, over 130 have been interviewed. The recordings are available here as podcasts and on cd for borrowing from all branch and mobile libraries.Wexford people here are witnesses to and practitioners of aspects of local life which are disappearing fast.Hear about school and childhood, work, trades and crafts, fairs and festivals, shopping and lots more.

If you trace your roots to County Wexford, you may just find a cousin on the alphabetical list of interviews. Select a name from the list and a photograph and a short biography are displayed. It is also possible to browse the interviews by region and townland – another way to learn something new about life in your ancestor’s Ireland.

There were no interviews from Dunganstown, the site of the John F. Kennedy Homestead. Dunganstown is the birthplace of U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s great-grandfather Patrick, who emigrated to America in 1849. President Kennedy returned to the small cottage during his 1963 tour of Ireland. This is the speech President Kennedy delivered in Wexford:

It would be interesting to learn if anyone mentioned JFK’s 1963 visit in the Wexford interviews…

It looks like the homestead is closed until 2013 while a modern visitor’s center is built. It will be ready just in time to mark the fifty-year anniversary of Kennedy’s visit. The JFK Park and Arboretum, a beautiful place to visit, is also located in Wexford (it’s on the map!)

President Kennedy’s Irish roots spread across Ireland beyond County Wexford  – his maternal Fitzgerald great-grandfather came from County Limerick. Click here to read more about President Kennedy’s Irish connections.

This is a great video of President Kennedy in Galway and Limerick in 1963. Enjoy!