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History, News, Photos

Philadelphia Remembers the Heroes of 1916—Including Its Own

Imagine, said Villanova History Professor Craig Bailey, PhD, that in 1776, the Revolutionary army under the command of General George Washington had lost to the British and “all our founding fathers were captured and executed.”

Although Bailey was preaching to the converted and well-versed this week at Villanova University’s Falvey Library—many in the audience were members of the region’s 1916 Easter Rising commemoration group—it was an apt way of putting the 1916 Irish rebellion into a perspective the average American could understand. It was the lost battle that eventually led to Ireland’s independence,

The Proclamation read on the steps of the General Post Office in Dublin by teacher and revolutionary Padraig Pearse, addressed to “Irish men and Irish women,” owes at least some of its sentiment to Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence prose aimed at freeing American men and American women from the yoke of British colonialism. Continue Reading

News, Photos

The Philly St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Pictures: 290 of ‘Em

That’s right: 290.

There were three of us down along the parade route on Sunday: Denise Foley, Gwyneth MacArthur and me. Between the three of us, we had the parade well and truly covered, from the first blast of the air horn to the final pints.

I could yammer on. I’ve been known to do that. I had an editor who said I couldn’t clear my throat in less than 2,000 words.

Jerk.

Better, though, to let the pictures tell the story. That’s what you want, anyway, right?

So here are three huge photo essays for your happy perusal. Continue Reading

News, Photos

2016 Sober St. Patrick’s Day Party

You can have fun at a St. Patrick’s Day party without raising a pint—and that’s what they did Sunday after the Philly parade down at WHYY.

The public station’s Commons was a great room in which to celebrate, and that’s what the visitors who crowded the room did with gusto.

Music was pretty much non-stop, with great bands like The Yanks and Reel to Reel, local talent like fiddler Alex Weir, flutist Paddy O’Neill and guitarist Darin Kelly, and a massive ceili at the end.

There were dancers from McDade-Cara and Emerald Isle, visits from the Philly Rose of Tralee Mairead Comaskey, and all of it was emceed by WHYY’s Ed Cunningham. Continue Reading

News, Photos

2016 Irish Memorial Ceremony

It was a picture-perfect day down at Front and Chestnut, site of Philly’s imposing Irish Memorial.

While lots of people were remembering St. Patrick’s Day by wandering from bar to bar, wearing goofy hats, tacky t-shirts and green plastic Mardi Gras beads—and actually, we won’t bust your chops too much—a very large crowd of Irish and Irish-Americans honored the memory of those who got us her in the first place.

As they do every year, they celebrated in song—thank you, Theresa Marie Flanagan, for your rendition of “James Connelly”—and in dance.

They prayed for the memory of those who fled Ireland during An Gorta Mor—the Great Hunger.

They gave speeches. (Mayor Kenney’s was particularly moving.) They planted shamrocks. They laid a wreath.

We have the pics. Continue Reading

News, People, Photos

Biggest Little Parade Around

The Conshohocken St. Patrick’s Day Parade may only stretch out for a mile, but it’s jam-packed with marchers, bands, dancers, and floats. The sidewalks in this small town are also jam-packed, and there seem to be more people every year. It’s become such a tradition, some families show up decked out in green with food, drink, lawn chairs and even tables!

The festivities started with a 5K race up and down Fayette Street a few times, an outing that also brought out families who were running together.

John Tobin was grand marshal.

You can see our photos of the parade and the 5K below. Continue Reading

Music, News, People, Photos

Dropkick Murphys Welcome Vets Backstage

The Dropkick Murphy’s front man Ken Casey doesn’t just give his name to his charity, The Claddagh Fund—he gives his all. When DKM blew into town last weekend for a sold-out concert, part of its 20th anniversary tour, at The Electric Factory, Casey and crew carried a banner in the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade promoting the band and the charity, which raises money to help underfunded nonprofits in Boston and Philadelphia.

One of the Boston-born Casey’s pet projects is any organization that serves military veterans, so he met with some from one of the Claddagh Fund’s grantees, Healing Ajax, backstage before the show, where they mingled with fans who made donations to the fund to get into the meet-and-greet.

Healing Ajax is a peer support program in which veterans help other veterans adjust from the battlefield to the homefront. Many of the vets are young men from the Iraq and Afghanistan fronts who may be dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, or other mental health issues. Continue Reading

History, News, Photos

Duffy’s Cut Memorial 2016

A large crowd gathered Sunday at West Laurel Hill Cemetery to remember the 57 Irish immigrants from Donegal, Tyrone, and Derry who came to work on the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad in June 1832, and who died six weeks after they arrived on a lonely stretch of track in Malvern.

Brothers Bill and Frank Watson have led the archeological research leading to the discovery of their hidden grave, and they continue to unravel the secrets of the victims—including the lone woman, Catherine Burns, whose remains were repatriated to her native County Tyrone last July. Among the speakers: Bill and Frank Watson, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, and Donegal Association President Frank McDonnell.

Given the ignominious death of the Irish immigrants and the prejudice they endured, the memorial ceremony brought to mind many of the issues currently being raised during the current presidential campaign.

“Let us not forget that when somebody says something ugly about newcomers in this country today, they’re talking about these men,” said Mayor Kenney, turning toward the large Celtic cross memorial. “They’re talking about my ancestors. They’re talking about your ancestors.”

We have close to 25 photos from the ceremony, and one video that sums it all up. Continue Reading

News, People, Photos

Pre-Parade Festivities in Philadelphia

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney recalled the first time he ever met Paul Doris. Doris, who was born in County Tyrone and came to the US in 1974, drove Kenney and then Mayor Ed Rendell to the Philadelphia airport to meet Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams, who had finally gotten a visa to come to the United States. On the way in Doris’s station wagon, said Mayor Kenney at Thursday’s pre-St. Patrick’s Day Parade ceremonies at City Hall, he and Doris gave Mayor Rendell a short course in Irish politics before he met the famed Northern Irish politician. “Not being Irish, he really didn’t know much,” said Kenney.

So when Kenney hugged Doris, this year’s parade grand marshal, it was the real deal–two old friends, in different places in their lives, meeting up again and bonding over Irish things.

Kenney used the moment to draw a parallel between the antipathy towards the immigrants of today and the Irish immigrants who came to the city in droves, fleeing starvation and oppression in their native land. “As we debate this issue, let’s remember 1844 when a group called the ‘know nothings,’ or nativists” burned down two Catholic Churches and took part in a “pitched battle” with troops at another because of anti-Catholic and anti-Irish sentiment. That bigotry was “directed to us very vigorously and violently,” said the mayor, the first Irish mayor in this very Irish city in 20 years. Continue Reading