Patrick Gallagher’s new novel Prevalent Insanity tells the story of Kevin O’Donnell, a professor at a Philadelphia-area university in the 1980s, and his search for pictures that his Irish uncle may have taken just days before the earthquake that rocked San Francisco in 1906.
This story is quite the adventure and it has a large scope. Gallagher takes the reader on a gripping ride with comic elements and settings ranging from Philadelphia to places like Missouri, Donegal, Santa Fe and San Diego. The novel has been in the works for many years.
Gallagher started by writing short stories while he was in school at the University of Pennsylvania in 1966, but he began work on this book years later. “I started this book at the end of 1982. I wrote about three chapters a year for a bit and then I put it aside for 14 or 15 years, believe it or not,” Gallagher says.
Over this time, the novel naturally went through some changes. “My writing style is not to map everything out and then write it, I’m just getting into it and seeing where it goes,” says Gallagher. In those interim years, Gallagher visited Santa Fe, Pueblo and Saint Joseph, Missouri, three locations that play a large part in the novel.
Just in case you have any doubt what Mary Kay Mann’s musical interests might be, your first clue might be the tiny wooden figure of Mann playing a Celtic harp on the mailbox outside her home, down a narrow tree-lined street in Media.
Step inside the house and you’re greeted by Celtic harps in the living room, which she uses for teaching.
You’re also greeted by her cats, Muffin and Bob. Muffin isn’t allowed on the table, but she leaps up to greet me, anyway.
Mann teaches Celtic harp, but she also teaches tin whistle and Irish flute, both traditional instruments. She also sings. And hailing back to her musical origins, she also teaches classical flute. Mann also performs.
“I always wanted to play music since I was 2 years old or something,” says Mann. “When we moved to the public school district, I was around 10 and they had classical flute lessons for free so I started with that.”
This summer at Matt Paul’s soccer camp, two Irish-American soccer coaches are helping young athletes develop skills and take their game to the next level.
Ronan Higgins and Aiden Scollin have both been playing the game of soccer from a very young age.
Soccer has been present in Higgins’ life for as long as he can remember as both of his older brothers played it. “I probably had a ball on my feet when I was 3 years old,” Higgins says.
Higgins’ family has strong Irish roots, “My dad is from Galway so he grew up over there and moved to America when he was around 19 or 20 years old. He played a few different sports like basketball, soccer and Gaelic football.”
Now, the family lives in Lafayette Hill. As a kid, Higgins loved watching his older brothers play in their high school soccer games when he was younger. His long journey as a soccer player has led him to becoming a captain of Dickinson’s soccer team heading into his senior season this fall.
If you are looking for fish and chips in the spirit of a classic Irish “chipper,” look no further than the Yankee Chipper, a fish and chip shop that just opened up in Wyndmoor, Montgomery County, recently.
The Yankee Chipper is owned by cousins Eric Connor and Shana Cox. Connor has been working in the restaurant industry for much of his life, including when he lived in Dublin for about three and a half years.
“I’ve always wanted a restaurant, and I thought of the concept a couple of years ago,” Connor says. “There weren’t really any restaurants in Philadelphia just focused on good fish and chips. And since we come from a big Irish family, it just kind of made sense for us to do an Irish-themed place.”
The name of the game at the Yankee Chipper is authenticity. These fish and chips take a lot of time and effort to prepare. It is a labor-intensive process. The way the cod is butchered, in particular, is incredibly important for Connor.
Maggie’s Boots is one of the many music groups gearing up for a summer of events after not being able to play live music very much over the past year. They are a traditional Irish music ensemble made up of Hollis Payer on the fiddle, Rob Curto on the button accordion and Melissa Brun on cello.
Payer has been playing music from a very young age and played violin, piano and guitar throughout her youth. Her interest in Irish music came after hearing The Chieftains.
“I certainly played folk music, but I didn’t know Irish traditional music until I heard what The Chieftains were doing and I just thought, ‘What is this?’ and I immediately gathered up all the money I could and went to Ireland with my fiddle and just traveled around for three months,” Payer explains.
She spent those months hitchhiking and going to music sessions and began learning traditional music. Back in America, she started learning under musicians like Kevin Burke and James Kelly. “I tell people that Kevin Burke was my first fiddle teacher because when I came back from Ireland, I moved to Portland, Oregon, and that’s where he lives,” says Payer. “I didn’t even know he was famous. I just started going to him to learn more about playing the fiddle.”
She notes that there is a deep history of Irish music in Philadelphia, but there are pockets of people playing the music everywhere now. Payer also teaches tune and fiddle classes which led her to meeting one of her bandmates.
The Commodore John Barry Arts and Cultural Center—otherwise known as the Irish Center—will hold its summer fundraiser at Tip O’Leary’s in Havertown on Sunday, July 11. This will be the Irish Center’s first big live event since COVID restrictions have been lifted. After a year that put financial strains on many, this fundraiser is vitally important for the Irish Center, located in the Mount Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia.
“This time every year, we do a fundraiser,” says Lisa Maloney, vice president of the Irish Center board. “It’s for regular operating expenses and for maintaining the building. We work within a very limited budget.”
Last year, everything was shut down so an in-person event was out of the question. Instead, they sent out an appeal letter asking people for donations so that the Irish Center could make it through the year.
It’s a little like lacrosse, a bit like field hockey, and even has a smidgeon in common with baseball. It’s ancient, it’s Irish, and it’s one of the fastest-moving games—and at times incredibly physical—in all of sports.
It’s called hurling. I arrived at Mander Playground in Fairmount Park one warm spring night to learn what I could about the game.
Out on the field, about 20 members of the Philly team, Na Toraidhe—Irish Gaelic for “the pursuers”—are running back and forth in organized drills. They’re smacking a small ball called a “sliotar”—about the size of an American baseball—with flat-bladed bats called “hurleys.” They’re tossing the ball back and forth to each other. They’re almost effortlessly picking up the ball with the front edges of their hurleys.
The tourism industry was one of many industries badly affected by the COVID pandemic. As travel restrictions begin to lift this summer, though, many people will be eager to book trips and start traveling again. On July 19, Ireland will start easing border restrictions for tourists from the United States.
The lifted restrictions came as great news for Marianne MacDonald, who has been running group trips to Ireland called Trad Tours since 1998.
“I had been on a couple of tours and I branched out from a tour I was on and took on some people in the group in a taxi to go out and do dancing in County Mayo,” MacDonald says, “and one of the couples said, ‘You know, you should really do your own tour because now we’re getting to see the real Ireland and getting to meet Irish people.”
The primary goal of these tours is to experience a connection to Ireland through the people, traditional music and dance.
This is the kind of authentic experience of Ireland that MacDonald has been providing for years with Trad Tours. MacDonald is able to give these authentic experiences because she has done a lot of traveling herself, but she has also made some unique connections.