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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

News, People, Photos, Videos

Irish American Business Chamber Honors Northern Irish Company

For the first time in its 16-year history, the Philadelphia-based Irish American Business Chamber and Network gave its top award—the Ambassador’s Award—to a company founded in Northern Ireland. The ceremony took place on Friday, February 26, at The Union League in Philadelphia with more than 400 people in attendance

The IABCN honored Almac, a pharmaceutical and health care development company with North American headquarters in Souderton, where it employs more than 1,000 people. The company was founded by Sr. Alan McClay in Craigevon, Northern Ireland.

Also honored were IACBN founder, Bill McLaughlin and his wife, Natalie, who run McLaughlin & Morgan, a business and development firm in Philadelphia (the Taoiseach Award) and Msgr. Michael Doyle, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Camden whose work has led to many improvements in the city’s waterfront area. Continue Reading

News, Photos

Philly Parade Fundraiser Draws Record Crowd

When you can fill a place where you could hold two wedding receptions simultaneously, you know you’re doing something right. The FOP Hall in Northeast Philadelphia–where the bar is big enough to accommodate a police car and does–was jam-packed on Sunday, February 28, for the biggest ever fundraiser for the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The parade marches down the Parkway on Sunday, March 13.

Fundraiser organizer Mary Frances Fogg, vice president of the St. Patrick’s Day Observance Committee, was a green streak on Sunday as she dashed from raffle tables to the stage for the nonstop prize giving. Fox29 personalities Kathy Orr, Bob Kelly (with his wife, Carrie and son, Austin) and Mike Jerrick were on hand to conduct a pep rally for foils who had plenty of pep to start with. This is Fox29’s first year broadcasting the parade, though it will be Orr’s thirteenth year as parade host. She previously announced the parade when she was chief meteorologist at CBS3, where Kelly was traffic reporter. Continue Reading