Little by little, we’re getting into the Irish swing of things again. Not a lot, but a few events worth mentioning as we head into the next couple of weeks.
We’ll start with Saturday, July 11. John Byrne and Andy Keenan will be playing at Burlington County Farmers Market, 500 Centerton Road, Moorestown, New Jersey. The tunes start at 8:30 a.m. John says they’ll be tucked away in their chicken cage—not completely sure what that means—safely distant from their audience. Details here.
If you’ve missed Jamison Celtic Rock—who hasn’t?—check out the band’s acoustic act Sunday, July 12, at Keenan’s Irish Pub, 113 Olde New Jersey Avenue in North Wildwood. Otherwise known as the Irish Riviera. The music starts at 6 p.m.
This was supposed to be the Commodore Barry Arts and Cultural Center’s big year.
The Mount Airy-based center makes most of its money from hosting events—from ceili dances and Irish language courses to big banquets and wedding receptions that typically fill the center’s spacious ballroom to capacity. For 2020, the calendar was so crowded with paying events, there was a waiting list.
And then in mid-March the pandemic hit, and the center had to close.
“In January, we were preparing the budget. We were booked solid the entire year,” says Center board member and vice president Lisa Maloney. “This has been years in the making. We really thought we were on a positive plane. We had a lot of different events coming in, and we were very excited—and then Covid came in. We now have no income coming in at all. We don’t have big expenditures, but we do have the monthly costs of running the building.”
On the one hand, the Great Hunger in Ireland and the Dust Bowl in the United States would seem to have little in common. On the other hand, well … you’d be wrong.
True, The Great Hunger, or An Gorta Mór, in the 1840s—commonly known as the potato famine, but it was more complicated than that—resulted in the death by starvation of a million Irish people, and the emigration of a million more. The Dust Bowl of the 1930s, while incredibly tragic, resulted in the deaths of comparatively few—roughly 7,000—but also resulted in new migration patterns amounting in the tens of thousands of Americans, many of them to California, and unparalleled poverty.
But it’s not as simple as that, says Bill McCray, volunteer with a background in training and development and facilitator of a new two-week virtual Irish Diaspora Center study group called “The History of An Gorta Mór and the Dust Bowl.”
The group meets by Zoom Tuesday, July 28, at 7 p.m. and Tuesday, August 4, at 8:30 p.m.
When the great covid-19 shutdown began, percussionist Sean J. Kennedy went back to school.
A Lower Gwynedd resident and band director at Sandy Run Middle School in the Upper Dublin School District, Kennedy is also an award-winning author of percussion texts whose work has been performed at Carnegie Hall and a working musician who has performed with many orchestras over the years.
One of the first tunes he learned as a kid was “Downfall of Paris,” dating back to the 1700s, said to be one of Ben Franklin’s favorites. It’s taught to young drummers everywhere because it blends many, if not most, of the basic drum rudiments that form the building blocks of percussion. Rudimental drum exercises like the paradiddle—right left right right-left right left left—and rolls.
Long before gluten-free was a food phenomenon, a friend gave me this recipe for an unusual, flourless—thus gluten-free—cornmeal cake that became my go-to summer dessert.
The original recipe suggested a fruity wine syrup topping, but I also love it as an upside-down cake with the fruit on the bottom.
Serve it for dessert or at teatime with whipped cream, a dollop of tangy crème fraiche or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
You’ll find more teatime recipes in my new cookbook Teatime in Ireland.
To order a signed copy—buy one get one free with a CHRISTMAS IN JULY special offer—visit irishcook.com.
“Through their personal interaction with the Irish Bridget, native-born Americans came to see the Irish less as ‘others,’ and more as fellow humans. Credit is due to the Irish Bridget for pioneering the way for the Irish to become accepted by native-born Americans and for helping the Irish, as a group, move into the American middle class.” ~ Margaret Lynch-Brennan ~ The Irish Bridget: Irish Immigrant Women in Domestic Service in America, 1840-1930
Just to be clear, the term Irish Bridget, coined sometime in the mid nineteenth century, was not meant to be in any way complimentary. Beginning around 1840 and continuing in increasing numbers through the years of An Gorta Mór and beyond, young Irish women immigrated to the United States. What made these women different from the ones who had come before them was their ages (some as young as 13), their single status, they often traveled unaccompanied, and they arrived determined to work hard, save money and eventually marry and have families of their own. Their best path to realizing these dreams, they discovered, was to obtain employment as live-in domestic servants in the homes of middle and upper-class families.
As the numbers of young Irish women employed in domestic service in the U.S. grew, a stereotypical representation of the Irish maid developed; she was characterized as inept, ill-mannered, and incompetent. She was seen as something of a buffoon. The name Bridget stuck to this version of the girl who arrived from Ireland and found herself willing and eager to work, but untrained for the duties and responsibilities she would face in the American household. While the exact number of Irish born women who worked in domestic service from the second half of the 19th century to the first third of the 20th century will never be known, it’s been estimated that in East Coast cities in the 1850s, they made up the largest single group among servants. And by 1900, 54 percent of women who had been born in Ireland and were living in the U.S. were employed as domestic servants, and another 6.5 percent worked as laundresses.
As the Philly area goes green, beginning to emerge from statewide pandemic restrictions, the very good news is that your favorite watering hole or restaurant might have opened already, at least on a limited basis, and even begun to expand from the outdoors to the indoors. Same as the good old pre-Covid days? Nope, but we’ll bet it’s going to be plenty good enough for those of us who have missed our normal routines … and our favorite dish or brew.
All of them are taking the state-mandated precautions—for example, requiring masks of patrons while waiting and when not at the table; taking the temperatures of staffers before each shift; requiring staffers to wear masks at all times; and spacing tables six feet apart. Some require reservations; some don’t. A few place time limits on how long you can stay, or restrictions on how many people can be seated at a table. And you’ll find more variations on that theme, all designed to keep staff and patrons safe. Hours may be subject to change.
Some of these places have entertainment lined up. You might even find happy hour, karaoke, quizzo, or a guy with a guitar.
What follows is by no means an exhaustive list. We’d advise you to check with your local pub, bar or restaurant to find out their status. Those that haven’t opened up yet often have pickup and delivery available. For that matter, even if the following are now offering street or patio dining, they’re usually also offering pickup and delivery, as they have for weeks.
For now, here’s what we’ve got:
Irish dancers and musicians will have no trouble remembering Muriel Prickitt, who passed away at age 87 on June 7 at Samaritan Hospice in Voorhees, N.J ., following a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. She was simply everywhere and had a hand in virtually everything relating to Irish music and dance.
An exquisite set dancer and legendarily fast accordion player, this force of nature was known by all. She is mourned—and celebrated—by friends and relations almost past counting.
One of those who honors her memory is Gerry Buckley, of Ardagh in County Limerick, Ireland. Buckley was a founding member of the Delaware Valley chapter of Irish music, dance and cultural organization Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. In 1989, the newly wed Gerry and wife Fiona moved to Voorhees, N.J., where they met Muriel Prickitt through the set dance community.
“My wife was a set dancer before she moved over,” Buckley recalls. “She was looking for someplace where she could go set dancing, and she met Muriel and (Prickitt’s companion) Tom Quinn. I forget where they actually met, but they got to talking and Muriel mentioned that she was going for set dance lessons in Jenkintown. She said, ‘Why don’t you come along?’ and that was it.”