Some old favorites–Albannach, Screaming Orphans, Timlin & Kane, Searson, the Brigadoons, Jamison, the Hooligans–were back, but there were some new acts at this year’s Mid-Winter Scottish & Irish Festival. We saw Gabriel Donohue with Vonnie Quinn, the Mudmen, McLean Avenue and, while Brother wasn’t there, Angus Richardson and Drew Reid were and they joined Albannach on stage to make it Albannach Plus 2.
We sampled Scottish barbecue (pork and peat!), fish and chips, McDougall’s Irish Victory Cakes, bacon chocolate (yes, you read that right–it was good), Guinness (thanks Sean Crossan!) and, for the umpteenth year in a row, did not have haggis. (We tasted some in Bethlehem at Celtic Fest–we don’t like liver.)
Irish Consul General from New York Barbara Jones spent a couple of days in Philadelphia meeting with local government leaders and heads of Irish organizations in the region. She was welcomed on Friday night, February 5, with a party at the Irish Center in Philadelphia attended by representatives from many of the county societies and organizations such as the Irish Immigration Center, the Irish Memorial, and the Philadelphia Rose of Tralee Centre.
Vincent Gallagher, president of the Irish Center, provided the music, and the Cummins School of Irish Dance and the Circle of Friends Irish ceili dancers, both headquartered at the Irish Center, provided the dancing.
Call 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.”
A funny thing happened this year to Wayne’s Mary Lou Sterge. The guy who came to remodel her house asked her to dance.
But no, it’s not what you think. The guy was Louie Bradley, chairperson of the board of the Delco Gaels, youth Gaelic sports club in Delaware County. Last year, Bradley was the winner of the silver mirrored trophy, along with dance partner Michelle Quinn, for the Delco Gaels’ “Dancing Like a Star” fundraiser, in which eight couples compete in various dance styles that they’ve learned over several months of intense rehearsals.
“Louie recently remodeled my house. My house looks great, and now I’m dancing,” said Sterge, a fundraiser, after rehearsal last Sunday at the McDade-Cara Irish Dance School studio in Newtown Square. She and her partner, Tom Gregory, were sharing some pizza after an hour of dancing to Ike and Tina Turner’s Proud Mary, he in silver platform shoes he bought from the internet.
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.”
The Irish Immigration Center’s annual Christmas party had a bittersweet tinge to it on Thursday night. It’s the last party Siobhan Lyons will preside over as executive director.
The Dublin-born Lyons has taken a new job as CEO of Citizen Diplomacy International of Philadelphia, an international relations organization that, among other things, runs international exchange programs for the federal government and the city of Philadelphia and matches leaders from other countries with their counterparts in the US. Their slogan: “Make friends. Make contacts. Make peace.”
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.
Weatherwise it may feel like spring, but you’ll still get into the Christmas spirit this week in Irish Philadelphia.
This Sunday, musicians Gabriel Donohue and Cathy Maguire will arrive via horse carriage at the Dubliner on the Delaware in New Hope for an afternoon and evening of Christmas and other music. The show benefits Fisherman’s Mark, a Lambertville, NJ, nonprofit serving the local community.
On Wednesday, Cherish the Ladies, along with singer Don Stiffe, will be performing some of the songs and tunes from their new album, “Christmas in Ireland,” at The Grand Opera House, 818 N. Market Street in Wilmington, DE.