The St. Patrick’s month schedule was busy for singer Raymond Coleman right up until March 16—and then the coronavirus pandemic hit, and the bottom fell out for Irish musicians everywhere.
Coleman had gigs scheduled as the clock wound down, with pubs, clubs and bars closing everywhere in the Delaware Valley and nearby.
On that last day, he recalls, the Jersey pubs were closing at 8 p.m., and he had a job scheduled at a bar in West Chester, but that was canceled.
At the last possible moment, someone called with a booking.
“The last gig was at the Holy City Publick House in Gloucester, N.J.,” he recalls. “They called me and said, ‘Do you want to play?’ I said, why not. I may as well get that last gig in before God knows when we’re going to be play again.
Kersti Powell, left
When Kersti Tarien Powell, D.Phil., an assistant professor in the English department at Saint Joseph’s University, first proposed a minor in Irish Studies back in the fall, some people wondered aloud: Don’t we already have one?
The answer at the time was no, but, she says, there was broad agreement: “Of course we should have Irish Studies.”
Powell formally submitted her proposal in January. Then, she says, it went to different governing bodies at the Catholic university on City Line, including the College of Arts and Sciences and the University Council. She got the go-ahead in February. “It was approved at every stage,” she says. “So that was really nice.”
Now comes the tricky part.
Under normal circumstances, Powell explains, a student would express an interest in adding or changing a major or a minor and fill out and sign a paper form. But these are not normal times. As with most universities and colleges, the coronavirus pandemic has forced changes in Saint Joe’s academic way of life.
“Since classes went online in March, in a couple of weeks, the university had to develop new means to deal with students who want to sign up for majors or change their major or sign up for new minors,” Powell says. “So now we have an online portal where they can do that.” As soon as the portal went live, the first couple of students signed up for the Irish Studies minor. “I was able to approve them and that was very exciting. We were literally starting to recruit students as the pandemic hit. It was an amazing thing to see happening.”
Between the years of 1848 and 1850, over 4,000 young women, ages 14 to 20, left Ireland’s workhouses for the shores of Australia as part of Earl Grey’s Orphan Scheme. They had been carefully selected as part of a plan to ease the burden of poverty and starvation during An Gorta Mor (The Great Hunger) in Ireland, while at the same time providing Australia with the female presence lacking in that country. For the girls who made the journey, it was a way of escaping a life of predetermined hardship for the promise of the unknown, the possibility of something better.
But not all the futures were to be created equal. Some would thrive, establish families and find happiness; others would struggle to survive, and some would end up dying in destitution. Catherine and Anne Hegarty from County Roscommon were two sisters who arrived on the same ship, but whose lives turned out very differently.
Catherine Hegarty is the second great grandmother of my “Aussie cousin” Carol’s husband, Terry. Terry didn’t know anything about this branch of his family, but in 2015 he decided to take a DNA test and start digging. Over the past five years, he and Carol have made some incredible discoveries about what brought his ancestors from Ireland to Australia, and along the way uncovered a story that deserves to be told.
Frank Daly and his band Jamison Celtic Rock were on tour in Florida when the novel coronavirus first began to hit home.
“We had done the Cape Coral Festival the first weekend in March, and then a few of the guys flew back home,” Daly recalls. “Alice Marie (the band’s fiddler), Kyle Walter (drummer) and I stayed the week, and then we were going to play the St. Augustine festival the following weekend. The other three guys were going to fly back down for that weekend. And we were hearing stuff from people back in Philly that things were going to get bad and they might shut things down—and there might be a quarantine. And you know, we’re down there in Florida and on the beaches and playing gigs in Fort Lauderdale, where there was literally no mention of it at all.”
Then came word that the St. Augustine festival was off. That, Daly says, was a blow because it would have been the first time Jamison had performed there, and they were really looking forward to it. “It was kind of a smack in the face,” he says. “Like, this was real.”
Imported asparagus are available all year round, but there is nothing to beat those locally grown in its short spring season: in Ireland, traditionally beginning on April 23 and ending on Midsummer Day.
Although its delicate flavor and seasonality makes it highly desirable in the kitchen, asparagus is much more than just a pretty vegetable; it’s long been recognized as a good source of dietary fiber and is high in antioxidants.
Green asparagus is widely grown and eaten, while white asparagus (regular asparagus just planted under piles of soil that prevent the spears from developing chlorophyll, which gives the vegetable its green color) is also very popular in northern Europe, where “asparagus menus” are a specialty in restaurants in asparagus-growing areas.
Asparagus is delicious steamed, grilled or baked, and as a starter or a side dish, it’s often served with hollandaise, vinaigrette, or olive oil. It’s also a versatile ingredient in soups, omelets, and tarts.
Go grab a bunch now!
CREAM OF ASPARAGUS SOUP
SERVES 4 TO 6
- 1 1/2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
- 4 ounces unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 6 tablespoons flour
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock or broth
- 3 cups milk, warmed
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried dill
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- Croutons, for garnish (optional)
For Henry, the 3rd Earl Grey (son of Charles, the 2nd Earl Grey for whom the tea is named), it seemed like the perfect solution to two problems he was facing in 1848 as British Secretary of State for War and the Colonies. He was hearing from Australia, where the ratio of men to women at the time was 8:1, that they needed more females to join the population. And at the same time he was being inundated with reports on the terrible overcrowding in the Irish workhouses, where conditions were deplorable even amidst a nation of starving people.
Ireland, no stranger to hard times, was facing an unprecedented period of starvation and poverty. What was once designated as “The Famine” has since been more fittingly reclassified as “An Gorta Mor,” or “The Great Hunger.” But no matter what you call it, people were looking for ways out of the unrelenting destitution and death that had become a way of life.
Are you missing a classic wedge salad from your favorite restaurant?
No worries … easy as pie to make at home, especially if you use Ireland’s favorite blue cheese, Cashel Blue from County Tipperary.
ICEBERG WEDGE WITH BLUE CHEESE-CHIVE DRESSING
For the dressing
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons chopped chives
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese, such as Cashel Blue, plus more for topping
For the salad
- Small head iceberg lettuce, quartered
- 1/2 cup chopped cooked bacon
- 1 cup chopped tomato
- 1/2 cup chopped red onion (optional)
- Fresh chopped chives, for topping
Genealogy, for the deeply rooted, is far more than the mere act of collecting names and dates. At its best, and in its most gratifying moments, it is about the connection to people long gone but without whom we wouldn’t be here to discover them. We don’t just find them in a census, we make their acquaintance. And when we’re especially fortunate, we reincarnate a character who has been languishing for generations in an ancestral attic.
Sometimes, of course, we do feel lucky just to find a name and a date. Elusive ancestors can be a real pain. But when the names and dates lead to photos, and newspaper articles, and old love letters, we’ve hit the jackpot. And I get as excited over other people’s ancestors as I do my own. Take, for example, the fellow in the photo at the top of this article.
His name is Owen Kaney and he was the great grandfather of my stepfather-in-law. Born in Philadelphia on April 22, 1843, to Irish immigrant parents, he is without a doubt a great ancestral character. And I don’t know nearly enough about him; for instance, I haven’t figured out yet where in Ireland his parents were from, and I don’t know much about his life before the Civil War. But I do know that before his death on February 26, 1888, he crammed a lot of living into his 44 years.