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News, People, Sports

Update on Local Gaelic Athlete Injured in Kelly Drive Accident

Paddy McStravog, 26, a member of Na Toraidhe Hurling Club and the Kevin Barry Gaelic Football Club, is awaiting a third surgery on his badly injured left leg following a motor vehicle accident on Kelly Drive near Falls Bridge on December 30. McStravog, who resides in Manayunk, is from Dungannon, County Tyrone. He arrived in the United States in March 2019.

Driver Paul Young, 35, of Mitchelstown, County Cork, and passenger Scott Ball, 36, did not survive the crash.

McStravog, a bricklayer by trade, is in Penn Presbyterian Hospital. He underwent 10 hours of surgery to repair injuries to his ankle and lower leg immediately following the accident. “He had gone in for a second surgery, but they didn’t complete that because his leg was too swollen,” says Katrina Terry, club secretary for Na Toraidhe. 

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News, People

Philly St. Patrick’s Parade Marches On … Next Year

With COVID-19 still very much an issue and a city moratorium on large gatherings in effect, the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day 250th parade is postponed until next March.

But fear not—you’ll probably be able to get your parade fix, at least in a little way.

The Philly parade was the first major event to be canceled in the city last year when the pandemic first started to take root. It was a major disappointment, but completely understandable. Making the same call this year also made sense, says Michael J. Bradley, Jr., a member of the St. Patrick’s Day Observance Association’s executive committee and parade director from 2002 to 2019.

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News, People

Looking After Their Own: Irish Community Rallies to Support Sean Hughes and Family

Grange, County Armagh, native Sean Hughes is in a medically induced coma in a Delaware hospital after suffering a severe head injury in a job site accident.

Hughes, a resident of Drexel Hill for the past five years, is a member and player of the Young Irelands Gaelic Football Club. Now, members of that tightknit community—and for that matter, hundreds of people from literally everywhere—are coming to the aid of Hughes, his wife Emily O’Neill and son Sean, 2 years old.

An online fund drive sponsored by the Young Irelands thus far has raised close to $70,000 in financial assistance for the family in just a few days.

No one expected the campaign to have a global reach.

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People, Religion

Documentary Shines a Bright New Light on the “Heart of Camden”

The beloved community organizer, poet and peacemaker Monsignor Michael Doyle, native of Rossduff, County Longford, Ireland, is regarded by many as a living saint, though he would dispute such a thing.

To those admirers, Doyle is the life force behind “Heart of Camden,” the multifaceted nonprofit launched in 1984 and responsible for resurrecting the Waterfront South neighborhood in the beleaguered New Jersey city across the Delaware from Philadelphia.

Retired recently after 40 years as pastor of Sacred Heart Church on Ferry Avenue, Doyle’s contributions to that community are manifold, including rehabilitating well over 200 abandoned homes sold to low-income families. He is also the driving force behind the acclaimed Sacred Heart School, which brings hope to children throughout the neighborhood. He established a free clinic—and, really, all of that is just scratching the surface of a life filled with and motivated by a passionate desire for justice and a longstanding commitment to the fight against the cancer of racism.

Now, a recently released 42-minute documentary shines a new light on Doyle’s life and legacy. Taking its cue from Doyle’s creation, it is called “The Heart of Camden: The Story of Father Michael Doyle,” produced by filmmaker Doug Clayton and narrated by acclaimed actor Martin Sheen, a longtime admirer.

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History, News, People

SJU Program Explores John Hume and the Northern Irish Peace Process

Former President Bill Clinton described the late John Hume as “the Irish conflict’s Martin Luther King.”

A native of Derry, a founder of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and co-recipient with David Trimble of the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize, Hume is remembered as a determined driving force behind the Northern Ireland peace process, leading up to the Good Friday Agreement.

Hume died August 3. His contribution to the cause of peace in Northern Ireland will be commemorated October 22 in a Zoom-based event sponsored by St. Joseph’s University’s Irish Studies and the English Department. The presentation features a screening of “John Hume in America,” followed by a Q and A with the film’s director, Maurice Fitzpatrick, with an introductory lecture by Nicole McClure, Ph.D. of Kutztown University, “Visualizing Truth, Seeing Empathy: Documentary Films, the Troubles and the Peace Process.”

The first official event for the fledgling Irish Studies program, it was scheduled to take place in early April. Then the pandemic hit and the event was canceled, necessitating the move to online later on.

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Music, People

Musical Duo Mines Century-Old Irish Traditional Recordings for Modern-Day Gold

You might call Philly-native fiddler Caitlin Finley and uilleann piper/flutist Will Woodson a little old-fashioned.

Well, maybe a lot old-fashioned.

Now residing in Portland, Maine, the traditional Irish music duo has a deep affection for the tunes of Irish traditional music pioneers—from a century ago—and they want to share their fondness with other Irish musicians.

It’s called the Phonograph Project, an effort to dissect the playing of musicians such as famed fiddlers Michael Coleman, John McKenna and James Morrison. Much of their music was released on 78 RPM albums for the first time in the 1920s—and it is highly distinctive, dating back to when they themselves learned the tunes decades before in Ireland.

Finley, a medical physics assistant in radiation oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, is—like so many of us—now working remotely.

She and Woodson first got to know each other when both were living in New York City and playing in local pubs. “We really enjoyed playing music together and then lost touch for a couple of years,” says Finley. “Will, in the meantime, had moved up to Portland and I had moved up to Boston, and then we just wound up reconnecting through the music scene and started playing a bunch of music together again.”

Finley, for one, first became interested in the old recordings when she took lessons from the famed Brian Conway in New York. She was about 15 at the time. Conway and his sister Rose introduced her to a lot of the old tunes. “At that point,” she says, “I was pretty much hooked.”

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Dance, Music, People

Keeping the Tradition Alive: The (Virtual) Ceili Group Festival

Devotees of traditional Irish music and culture look forward to the Philadelphia Ceili Group Festival every year. It’s an exhaustive three-day affair, with concerts by world-class musicians, workshops, dance, crafts, and much more.

The festival always falls in early September, filling the Commodore Barry Arts and Cultural Center (the Irish Center) in Mount Airy with eager and enthusiastic fans.

The coronavirus pandemic renders it impossible to converge on the Irish Center this year, of course. The center has been closed since March. All of which left the Ceili Group Festival in a state of flux. How could the festival possibly go on?

Easy—or perhaps not so easily—the festival will happen as planned, but virtually. And in some ways, this might be the biggest and most vibrant festival ever.

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History, People

New Author Probes the Hidden Stories Behind “The Troubles”

Ryan Conner

Twentieth century Irish history is marked by political turmoil, starting with the birth of the Republic right on through to the long, violent period known simply as “The Troubles.”

Throughout his years at Council Rock High School, Ryan Conner, a recent graduate of William & Mary, absorbed a good deal of United States and world history—but the island’s turbulent recent history never showed up in the high school curriculum. So now, he is writing the book he wishes he had been given to study.

The book has a tentative title, subject to change to something more user-friendly before publication—“One Man, One Vote: Northern Ireland’s Civil Rights Movement 1963 to 1972”—and it is currently undergoing additional research and revisions.

Conner’s book traces its origins to an initiative called the Book Creators Program, run through the Creator Institute, and overseen by a professor at Georgetown University. He learned about it from a friend.

“It’s a very, very popular program,” Conner says. “I started the program and the first five or six months were dedicated to doing the research and creating a roughly 25,000-word draft. In my case, that required getting the first draft done by mid-June, which I did successfully. One of the benefits of the program is that the professor has a relationship with a publishing house called New Degree Press. Assuming the authors meet their checkpoints and deadlines, produce enough words of quality material, and take the standard amount of time for revision and editing, then there’s a path to publishing (through New Degree).”

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