With solemn ceremony and rousing speeches, Philadelphia’s Irish community celebrated the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising on Sunday, April 24, the lost battle that led to the ultimate victory of Irish independence.
The event started in the blazing sunshine at The Irish Memorial, where a number of local dignitaries, including State Rep. Mike Driscoll and Philadelphia City Councilman Bobby Henon spoke. Using only an index card for reference, Irish-born Patsy Kelly, told the history of the uprising, in which about 1200 armed Irish men and women seized buildings in Dublin, launched by the reading of The Proclamation by Irish teacher Padraig Pearse.
That document, which proclaimed Ireland a free republic belonging to the Irish people, was read later at Independence Hall, first in English by Regina Mullen Bocchino and Dierdre Mullen, the granddaughters of Joseph McGarrity, a Philadelphia-based businessman from Tyrone who was considered the financier of the rebellion, and then in Irish by Temple University cardiologist Brian O Murchu, MD.
The family of Luke Dillon, a Clan na Gael supporter from Trenton and Philadelphia who participated in a bombing campaign in England prior to the uprising, laid a wreath at the Irish Memorial in his honor.
Most if not all of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Ladies AOH divisions were on hand, along with representatives from Clan na Gael, Irish Northern Aid, the county societies, the Emerald Pipe and Drum Band, the Irish Thunder Pipes and Drums, and the Second Street Society Pipes and Drums. They became a parade that marched up Market Street from the Memorial to Independence Hall, where a tent housed framed biographies and photos of the leaders of the uprising, most of whom lost their lives.
Their names were read by longtime republican stalwart Frances Duffy, as Jim Lockhart of AOH Div. 87 rang a bell for each of the dead.