Seamus Kelleher, the multitalented guitarist-singer-songwriter and alum of the celebrated band Blackthorn, has struggled with depression and anxiety for decades. When he was 20, he spent five weeks in a psychiatric hospital.
During that time, when he was living in his hometown of Galway, he recalls going into his kitchen, pulling out a bread knife and holding it to his wrist.
“This is a very clear memory,” he says, “I was incredibly depressed. I was suicidal. I had no intention of doing it then, right? None. But that was my insurance policy. If it didn’t get better, I could end it. And that was at 20 years of age. I had my whole life ahead of me, great rock and roll bands. On the surface, I had everything. But for me, if the pain got any worse, that was my exit strategy.”
Kelleher says he entertained thoughts of suicide again, about seven or eight years ago, but he was extremely fortunate to have been surrounded by people who recognized that he was in bad shape and steered him in the direction of the help he so badly needed.
How will Brexit affect U.S.-Irish relations? Are there any new insights into business ties between the States and Ireland? What issues are affecting the local Irish and Irish-American community?
These concerns and more are up for discussion Wednesday, February 17, in a virtual town hall meeting sponsored by the Irish Diaspora Center.
Ireland Consul General Ciarán Madden and U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-5) will be on hand to answer questions in a discussion moderated by Professor Joseph Lennon of Villanova.
The town hall is an outgrowth of a conversation with Rep. Scanlon at last year’s open house for the Irish Diaspora Center in Havertown, according to center executive director Emily Norton Ashinhurst.
“We had our grand opening at the new center on March 1, and she came and joined us,” says Ashinhurst. “We talked about the potential for her getting a town hall going, to talk to the Irish community. She is part of the Friends of Ireland Caucus.”
More live tunes are in the offing this weekend … take advantage of it while you can and support our great local Irish musicians.
Here’s what’s up.
Saturday, February 13
Jamison Celtic Rock fiddler Alice Marie and Shaun Durnin play Haggerty’s Café, 2373 MacDade Boulevard in Holmes, from 7 to 11 p.m. A pretty nice start to your weekend.
If you’re shore-bound, Neil Mac Thiarnáin and Moira Fanning play the Anglesea Pub, 116 West 1st Avenue, North Wildwood, starting at around 9 p.m.
Sunday, February 14
Love is in the air—with a bit of Irish music as the Valentine’s Day soundtrack—as the Shantys take the stage at the Fainting Goat, 105 South MacDade Boulevard in Glenolden. The show starts at 5 p.m.
When it comes to anxiety, depression, addiction, self-harm—and even thoughts of suicide, the act of suicide or the emotional aftermath afflicting survivors—no one is immune. Any of those issues can affect anybody at any given time.
During the pandemic, this has been particularly true. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports “considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19.”
Research also reports higher rates of mental health concerns among Irish and Irish-Americans compared to other ethnic groups, says Emily Norton Ashinhurst, executive director of the Irish Diaspora Center in Havertown, Delaware County.
“I think that’s something that we all need to face,” Ashinhurst says, “and we need to recognize that getting help is not a failure. It’s actually setting yourself up for success.”
Paddy McStravog, 26, a member of Na Toraidhe Hurling Club and the Kevin Barry Gaelic Football Club, is awaiting a third surgery on his badly injured left leg following a motor vehicle accident on Kelly Drive near Falls Bridge on December 30. McStravog, who resides in Manayunk, is from Dungannon, County Tyrone. He arrived in the United States in March 2019.
Driver Paul Young, 35, of Mitchelstown, County Cork, and passenger Scott Ball, 36, did not survive the crash.
McStravog, a bricklayer by trade, is in Penn Presbyterian Hospital. He underwent 10 hours of surgery to repair injuries to his ankle and lower leg immediately following the accident. “He had gone in for a second surgery, but they didn’t complete that because his leg was too swollen,” says Katrina Terry, club secretary for Na Toraidhe.
With COVID-19 still very much an issue and a city moratorium on large gatherings in effect, the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day 250th parade is postponed until next March.
But fear not—you’ll probably be able to get your parade fix, at least in a little way.
The Philly parade was the first major event to be canceled in the city last year when the pandemic first started to take root. It was a major disappointment, but completely understandable. Making the same call this year also made sense, says Michael J. Bradley, Jr., a member of the St. Patrick’s Day Observance Association’s executive committee and parade director from 2002 to 2019.
Twenty years ago, seven of Philly’s top Irish rock musicians and bands helped raise money for the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Philadelphia by contributing tunes to a benefit CD called “Up the Celts.”
Now, a new CD is on the streets—Up the Celts Volume 2—with 15 contributors this time around, including Jamison, Raymond Coleman, The Shantys, the Birmingham Six, the Bogside Rogues, the John Byrne Band, and more.
As with so many projects and initiatives, this one was held up by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We started off this project in February,” says Brian Coleman, AOH Philadelphia County Board president. “We had all the bands on board right at the beginning of March—and then, you know what happened.”
Grange, County Armagh, native Sean Hughes is in a medically induced coma in a Delaware hospital after suffering a severe head injury in a job site accident.
Hughes, a resident of Drexel Hill for the past five years, is a member and player of the Young Irelands Gaelic Football Club. Now, members of that tightknit community—and for that matter, hundreds of people from literally everywhere—are coming to the aid of Hughes, his wife Emily O’Neill and son Sean, 2 years old.
An online fund drive sponsored by the Young Irelands thus far has raised close to $70,000 in financial assistance for the family in just a few days.
No one expected the campaign to have a global reach.