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.
This, says writer Liam Porter, is his favorite of the 366 poems he wrote over the course of a year after losing his newspaper job.
It might be a stretch to say that poetry saved Liam Porter’s life, but the longtime newspaper reporter and editor thinks it might have helped turn his life around after he lost his job at The Inishowen Independent during Ireland’s drawn-out economic recession.
Poetry wasn’t the only light he saw in the darkness, but that was a good thing, because there was plenty of darkness.
“I was applying for jobs and going on interviews and not getting any positivity,” says Porter of Raphoe, County Donegal, who has about a dozen family members living in the Philadelphia area. “You begin to devalue your own self-worth. My wife was working, but it was hard to be home every day to see the postman coming and bringing another bill and knowing I couldn’t contribute. Our girls were going to dance classes and all of a sudden we had to say ‘You can’t go there. We don’t have the money.’ It came to the point where I was calculating that maybe they might be better off without me. Then you know you’re not in a good place.”
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?
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.
There are a few more brass plates on the Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame plaque at the Irish Center this week.
Inducted at a gala dinner on Sunday night were Denis Boyle, MD, an Upper Darby doctor who cares for the homeless and undocumented; Kathy DeAngelo and Dennis Gormley, the musical duo who co-founded with friend Chris Brennan-Hagy, an organization that brings along young Irish traditional musicians; and Mary Frances Fogg, vice president of the association that runs the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade, whose government savvy has helped the organization cut through red tape–and who has been known to organize a picket line or two whenever the Irish are maligned.
Every year, Emerald Society Pipe Band members “pipe in” the inductees and this year was no different. Except that they also had to pipe themselves in. The pipe band, which is headquartered at the Irish Center, was given the Commodore Barry Award for their service to the Irish community.