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Jeff Meade

News, People

Meet John Tobin, the 2016 Conshy Grand Marshal

John F. TobinCall it a cop cliché, but John Tobin, a retired Norristown police officer, has a thing for doughnuts.

That’s how his wife Beth Anne became the first to know that he was going to be the grand marshal of the 23rd annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in Conshohocken on March 12.

“As one of the guys who started this whole thing, I had my way of doing things,” says Tobin, who is credited as the member of Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 1 who talked Norristown Mayor Jack Salomone into allowing the AOH to sponsor the parade, which then marched down Main Street in the county seat. “Our way was, you called up the person and talked to them and made sure they were happy with being selected, and you made sure they were going to be there.” Continue Reading

Michael Toner, in the role of Phil Hogan in Eugene O'Neill's "A Moon for the Misbegotten," at the Walnut Street Theatre.

Michael Toner’s Next Act: Returning to the Stage After a Devastating Injury

Michael Toner, one of Philadelphia’s best-known character actors and well known to many in the Irish community, has appeared on the stage for decades. Like many actors, he has never had any desire to do anything else, and that’s what he thought he was always going to do.

That confidence was shattered sometime before 1 a.m. on Tuesday, June 9.

Toner, 69, was struck by a hit and run driver and critically injured on 11th Street below Market in Center City Philadelphia. The force of the collision severed his left leg above the knee. Toner doesn’t remember anything about the accident, though he recalls what happened before.

“I was in the middle of [the run of] a one-man play, ‘Crossing the Threshold into the House of Bach’ by David L. Simpson, at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church on the Penn Campus,” he says. “I was going to catch my commuter train home.” How long Toner lay in the street isn’t clear, but he says he owes his survival to a passing Good Samaritan. “A homeless man found me and called an ambulance.” Continue Reading

Enya? Is that really you?
People, Photos

The 2016 Irish Immigration Center Calendar Totally Rocks, Dude

You’ll be forgiven if the new 2016 calendar from the Irish Immigration Center of Greater Philadelphia makes you do a double take.

You’ll see album covers from many big-time Irish musicians and bands: There’s Bono, Van Morrison, The Corrs, Enya, The Pogues, Imelda May, and … heyyyy, wait a minute. Enya looks suspiciously like someone who is pretty well known in local Irish circles, Kathleen Murtaugh. And unless we’re mistaken, isn’t that Barney Boyce on the Thin Lizzie cover? And Sean McMenamin on the U2 cover?

You’re not seeing things. There’s a lot of local character—and plenty of local characters—populating the calendar, put together Immigration Center Director Siobhan Lyons and Assistant Director Leslie Alock, with photography by Denise Foley, and wardrobe, set design, musical instruments, makeup and all kinds of other help from many of the center’s friends. (You can read about all of them here.)

pogues maybeThe project is a follow-on to the highly successful and popular fund-raising calendar the center produced last year.

All of the shots were staged in late September-early October, five of them at the center, and seven at locations throughout Philly, such as the Tin Angel, Newtown Square Railroad Museum and Laurel Hill Cemetery, Alcock explains.

“It was just a real collaborative piece of work,” she says. “Everyone was open to suggestions and helping out.”

The idea for this year’s calendar came from comedian Chris Williams, says Lyons. Williams is married to Fiona McCabe, vice consul general at the Irish Consulate in New York City.

It was clear the center wanted to do another fund-raising calendar, Lyons says, but what kind of calendar? What theme? “Chris said, ‘Maybe you can do Irish album covers and you could make the calendar square,’” Lyons says. “I said: Bingo! It was hard to think how we’d top the last one because I loved it, but we did.”

Help for the project came from all quarters. Center volunteer Maura McGee, for example, “who works with making curtains,” Alcock says. “She helped me find fabric. We got it for 15 dollars or so. It was just pinned around Kathleen. Tom Donahue he provided all the instruments.”

And, really, we could go on.

The models, she says, were delighted to be asked, and they themselves put a lot of effort into making sure they had their characters down just right. “Everybody did a bit of research on who they were going to be,” she says.

Getting everybody in the right place at the right time was a challenge, but car pooling did the trick, and everybody looked at it as a fun day out, she says. Without question, there were a lot of laughs.

There were also some strange moments, Alcock adds.

The calendar organizers recruited Mike Scott to play the part of Bono. Alcock landed the job of straightening out his long hair. “Never did I think when I was training as a social worker that I would be combing the hair of a 70-year-old man.”

If you want one—of course, you want one—you can buy them online here or pick them up at the Immigration Center, 7 South Cedar Lane, in Upper Darby. The calendars cost $20, discounted to $15 for seniors.

Here’s a collection of pics from Thursday night’s Immigration Center Christmas party, featuring many of the calendar models.

KathleenJoyJohnJimmyJimJim McCCathyBrianBarneyAggieSeanPetePatsyVince

Continue Reading

People, Videos

The Top Irish Philly Videos of 2015

We posted nearly 30 videos in 2015. We’ve recorded concerts—lots of them–and done interviews. We were there to make a video record of all of the winners of this year’s Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame. We were also there to witness the presentation of the Delaware Valley Branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Lifetime Achievement Award to one of our all-time favorite people, Kevin McGillian.

Looking back on so much good stuff, it was tough to come up with favorites, but we tried.

Here’s a playlist of the best of Irish Philly videos 2015. Maybe they’ll bring back memories. (And if you want to take a gander at all of of our videos—there are hundreds—or subscribe to our YouTube channel, head over here.

To navigate through the playlist, click on the three little horizontal lines at upper left. (Next to: 1/7)

Dance, Music, News, Photos, Videos

Need a Little Christmas? Right This Very Minute?

We got your Christmas.

This past week saw more than a few Irish holiday-oriented events, and we have souvenirs from three.

On Sunday, the Divine Providence Village Rainbow Irish Step Dancers joined the Tara Gael Dancers at the Irish Center for a memorable Christmas show. The Rainbow dancers are a group of developmentally disabled women taught by local Irish step dancer Kathy Madigan. They live at the archdiocesan home in Delaware County.

They never fail to inspire, and their most recent holiday performance was no exception. Continue Reading

News, Photos, Videos

The Christmas Tree Arrives at the Plough

I’ve always wondered how they got that huge Christmas tree into the Plough & the Stars.

And make no mistake—every year, the Plough, at 2nd and Chestnut, manages to wedge a fir tree that stands over 20 feet into a corner or the restaurant, not far from the fireplace. (Not too close, though.)

I had heard rumors that it was lowered into place through trap door just an arm’s length from the restaurant’s second level. I Never quite believed it, but still … how else? Continue Reading

Pipe Major Emeritus Joe Tobin
News, People, Videos

Getting the Last Word In

There’s the buildup to the Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame Dinner. Nominations. Selections of honorees. Meetings. Jobs handed out. More meetings.

Finally, there’s the night itself, when all of the honorees gather together in the ballroom at the Philadelphia Irish Center to receive their awards and their richly deserved applause.

Honorees this year were Mary Frances Fogg, Dr. Denis Boyle, Kathy DeAngelo and Dennis Gormley, along with the Philadelphia Emerald Society Pipe Band, recipients of the Barry Award. Joe Tobin, pipe major emeritus, accepted on behalf of the band. Continue Reading

Mick and Liz
Music, Videos

Watch: Two Great St. Malachy Concert Videos

You can read about Ed Reavy on Wikipedia:

“Ed Reavy was an Irish-American musician, composer of numerous traditional Irish dance tunes. Born in Barnagrove, County Cavan, he emigrated to Philadelphia in 1912 where he settled in the Irish-American enclave of Corktown.”

Or you can just get out of Wikipedia altogether and listen to some of the finest traditional Irish musicians play Reavy’s music. We recommend the latter. One note is worth a thousand words.

Mick Moloney and friends, playing at the 28th annual Irish Concert at St. Malachy Church last Sunday, ripped through a bunch of Reavy tunes as their last full set. We have the video here. You’ll be listening to Mick, uilleann piper Jerry O’Sullivan, accordion player Billy McComiskey, local fiddle phenom Alexander Weir, four-time All-Ireland fiddler Dylan Foley, concertina great Brenda Castles, and fiddler Liz Hanley. Continue Reading