Regan Sweeney and Olivia Lisowski finish each other’s sentences. They’re a font of shared experiences, with a deep love of Irish dance, music and culture.
And one more thing: family.
“Our families are very close, ever since we were little,” says Regan. “We’ve done everything together—more siblings than cousins. And we’re lucky to have that because she (Olivia) lives in Havertown, I live in Malvern, and we just do a lot of the same things together. Since our moms (Sheila McGrory Sweeney and Maureen Heather Lisowski) are sisters, they’ve really instilled in us the idea that family is important.”
They also share each other’s victories. For Regan, a member of the McDade-Cara School of Irish Dance, it was a 1st place finish for her Loyola University Maryland Irish dance team at the Southern Region Oireachtas in the college ceili competition. The week before, she finished 17th in her solo competition at the Mid-Atlantic Oireachtas in Philadelphia.
For Olivia, a sophomore at West Chester University, it was being crowned Mary from Dungloe by the Donegal Association of Philadelphia. The college ceili competition and Mary from Dungloe happened on the same night in early December.
You might say Anna Mai Fitzpatrick’s role as a lead dancer in the U.S. touring company of Riverdance was preordained.
When Anna Mai was 3, her mother Sharon saw Riverdance on television in one of the show’s earlier incarnations and signed her up for Irish dance lessons in her local primary school.
Not everyone who begins Irish dance carries it much beyond adolescence, but for Fitzpatrick all those jigs and reels evolved into a passion that carries on today into her 20s.
Along the way, she won a third place in the under-19 category at the World Irish Dancing Championships—no mean feat—and came out on top in the Great Britain Championships and the British Nationals, among other honors.
Proud Irish-American Ray Sheehan is something of a party animal, and yes, it’s fun, but it’s also a serious business.
Sheehan is a partner at UpcomingEvents.com, a Philadelphia-based event company. The company is responsible for producing and promoting a wide variety of events in the Delaware Valley area and beyond. Some examples: the recent Taste of Philly culinary sampling experience in the Wanamaker Building’s Crystal Tea Room, and upcoming events like the New Year’s Eve Buffet & Fireworks Family Celebration at the Hilton Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing.
The company has also produced some very large-scale events throughout the nation, including big-ticket items at Major League ballparks.
UpcomingEvents.com also publicizes other, smaller-scale events, such as the recent Celtic Christmas in Bensalem.
Sheehan’s interest in event promotion all started about 20 years ago, when he was going to school at Temple’s School of Tourism and Hospitality Management.
“I was just a promoter,” he says. “We were doing events in bars and restaurants. I was a D.J. We were just getting the attention of these bars and restaurants by just throwing parties.”
Tara Regan is a remarkable young woman.
Start with her course of study at Bloomsburg University: social work, with minors in political science and American Sign Language (ASL). She’s always wanted to be in a helping profession. The ASL makes her valuable to a particular client population and the political side of things, she believes, will make her more effective in dealing with the policy side of being a social worker. Too, her cousin is Second District U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle. “On the 4th of July and such, we would always talk politics,” she says. “I would be 12 years old, telling him what I think.”
Look back, too, on her time playing the rough and tumble Irish sports of hurling and camogie with the Glenside Gaelic Club and the Philadelphia Shamrocks. She’s also played field hockey since she was 9—and she continues to play intramural field hockey at Bloomsburg. She also performed in plays at Bishop McDevitt High School. “I always loved acting and theater. I’m really big into Broadway. I love Broadway shows.”
Finally, though, catch a glimpse of the small round white sensor on her arm, and when you hear the story behind it, you’ll understand one reason why Tara Regan, 19, of Glenside, is the new Miss Mayo.
The Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame held its 2019 Dinner this past Sunday night, honoring four well-respected representatives of the local Irish community. They included: Judge Patrick Dugan and Sister Marguerite O’Beirne, OSF, with a Commodore John Barry Award presented to Russell W. Wylie. The beloved Liam Hegarty, of Gaelic Athletic Association Fame—and so much more—was honored posthumously.
About 400 friends and relatives of the honorees filled the Philadelphia Irish Center ballroom wall to wall. All told, one of the best DVIHOF celebrations ever. Standing O’s all-round.
It was the first of November, the night the John Byrne Band hosted a release party for Byrne’s new CD, “A Shiver in the Sky,” at World Café Live.
Maura Dwyer, who plays both fiddle and cello for the band, had just gone offstage to the green room to warm up the violin. Before she did that, she had propped the cello up in a corner, which, she says, is usually a stable position. Suddenly, she heard the sound of guitarist Andy Keenan crying out in alarm onstage. That was followed by a resounding bang.
Long story short: Dwyer’s cello had tumbled off stage, breaking in two pieces.
John Byrne, who was also offstage, has a pretty fair idea how it happened.
“We were sound checking the drums,” Byrne explains. “I guess the vibrations from the kick drum (the bass drum) somehow did it. The cello went right off the stage. Nobody was even near it. None of us could believe it.”
Judge Patrick Dugan
There are Irishmen walking on the streets of Dublin who aren’t as Irish—DNA-wise, at least—as Judge Patrick Dugan.
“I’m 99 percent, with some British Isles in there,” laughs Judge Dugan, sitting in his memento-bedecked office on the 13th floor of the Justice Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice where his view encompasses the south side of City Hall and bustling Penn Square.
Dugan, chief judge of Philadelphia Veterans Court, descended from great-grandparents who emigrated to the US from Mayo and Cork, but his childhood wasn’t steeped in his Irish heritage. “We knew we were Irish but I wasn’t hearing folklore and stories,” he says. “I had my awakening as a young man. It came when I was watching news of ‘the Troubles’ and trying to understand how we got there.”
His newly awakened interest led him to the Ancient Order of Hibernians. He’s a member of Div. 25 in Fox Chase. Every year he gives a speech at their annual Day of the Rope, which remembers the four members of the Molly Maguires, dissident miners, who were hanged in the jailhouse in what is now Jim Thorpe, Pa., after what is now widely considered to be a judgment by a kangaroo court.
It’s a different speech each year but, he says, the theme is always the same. “It takes us back to what our people had to endure when they came here,” he says. “I get something new out of it every year and I reach more people who I hope understand what labor went through, what Irish immigrants went through, to get where we are as a people.”
Liam with his partner Paul Maguire at a business meeting
William “Liam” Hegarty was part of a generation that his friend, Donegal native John McDaid, describes as “the last off the boat.”
McDaid was talking about the fact that fewer and fewer Irish immigrants are taking that well worn path to the United States, even during the last worldwide recession. “The next generation won’t be Irish in the same way,” said McDaid, former secretary of the Delaware County Gaels youth Gaelic sports program, during this summer’s Continental Youth Championships (CYC) which was dedicated to Hegarty, chairman of the annual international event
Liam Hegarty tragically died of a heart attack on Dec. 3, 2018, at the age of 51.
Liam, said McDaid, wanted to make sure these children of immigrants never forgot their Irish roots. “He said the more we stayed involved, the more they will be involved.”