There were three of us down along the parade route on Sunday: Denise Foley, Gwyneth MacArthur and me. Between the three of us, we had the parade well and truly covered, from the first blast of the air horn to the final pints.
I could yammer on. I’ve been known to do that. I had an editor who said I couldn’t clear my throat in less than 2,000 words.
Better, though, to let the pictures tell the story. That’s what you want, anyway, right?
It was a picture-perfect day down at Front and Chestnut, site of Philly’s imposing Irish Memorial.
While lots of people were remembering St. Patrick’s Day by wandering from bar to bar, wearing goofy hats, tacky t-shirts and green plastic Mardi Gras beads—and actually, we won’t bust your chops too much—a very large crowd of Irish and Irish-Americans honored the memory of those who got us her in the first place.
As they do every year, they celebrated in song—thank you, Theresa Marie Flanagan, for your rendition of “James Connelly”—and in dance.
They prayed for the memory of those who fled Ireland during An Gorta Mor—the Great Hunger.
They gave speeches. (Mayor Kenney’s was particularly moving.) They planted shamrocks. They laid a wreath.
How do you capture the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day in one video? You broadcast the whole thing live on television.
Guess what? We have one lonely guy with a small video camera, running back and forth, and also shooting stills.
So we did the next best thing. We shot what we could, with an emphasis on action. If it danced or played, we tried to get it. Obviously, we didn’t capture everything that moved. If your band or dance school isn’t there, it’s not because we don’t love you. (You know that we do!) What we did instead was try to put together a little sampler that captures the fun and excitement of the parade in a little over five minutes.
A large crowd gathered Sunday at West Laurel Hill Cemetery to remember the 57 Irish immigrants from Donegal, Tyrone, and Derry who came to work on the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad in June 1832, and who died six weeks after they arrived on a lonely stretch of track in Malvern.
Brothers Bill and Frank Watson have led the archeological research leading to the discovery of their hidden grave, and they continue to unravel the secrets of the victims—including the lone woman, Catherine Burns, whose remains were repatriated to her native County Tyrone last July. Among the speakers: Bill and Frank Watson, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, and Donegal Association President Frank McDonnell.
Given the ignominious death of the Irish immigrants and the prejudice they endured, the memorial ceremony brought to mind many of the issues currently being raised during the current presidential campaign.
“Let us not forget that when somebody says something ugly about newcomers in this country today, they’re talking about these men,” said Mayor Kenney, turning toward the large Celtic cross memorial. “They’re talking about my ancestors. They’re talking about your ancestors.”
We have close to 25 photos from the ceremony, and one video that sums it all up. Continue Reading
Getting an early start on St. Patrick’s Day, the Next Generation youth Irish music group, accompanied by dancers from the Broesler School, gave a crowd-pleasing performance at the Garden State Discovery Museum.
We captured some video from the concert—an old favorite called “Mairi’s Wedding.”
Chris Brennan Hagy, Kathy DeAngelo and Dennis Gormley lead the group—as they have with dedication for years.
It’s almost time for the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day parade. Sunday, March 13, will be here before you know it. It will also be time to celebrate at the 2nd Sober St. Patrick’s Day at WHYY studios at 6th and Race, immediately following the parade.
St. Patrick’s Day—which would include parade day—can sometimes serve as an excuse for people to drink till they fall down or get sick in the street. Some of them, including a fair number of Irish-Americans no doubt, believe boozing and carousing is what day is all about.
Really? Not necessarily. OK, party—but your party can still be lots of fun without the hooch. And if you want to drink in anything, drink in some of the fun, food, dance and some of the best Irish music you’ll hear anywhere at the Sober St. Patrick’s Day party—and we hasten to add, this is all G-rated family fun. By all means, bring the kiddies.
Diarmuid Johnson, noted scholar and musician, is in town to present “The Crooked Road: A Ramble through Irish History in Words and Music,” Saturday, February 27th, at 8 p.m. at the Commodore Barry Club/Philadelphia Irish Center.
Johnson takes “a musical and poetic journey through Irish history leading up to the Easter Rebellion of 1916.”
The event is sponsored by the Philadelphia Ceili Group.
We chatted with him a few days ago. Here’s what he had to say.