Father Suresh Raj, OFM Cap., Neumann Chaplain with Sister Marguerite
Sister Marguerite O’Beirne has covered some considerable distance in her life and journeyed far greater than the 3,176 miles it took to get from Cloonloo, County Sligo, to Neumann University in Aston, Pennsylvania. But at the heart and soul of every step taken has been both the presence of faith and her dedication to the importance of education.
Born in 1942 to Joseph O’Beirne and Margaret Mullen, in a time not so long ago, but when electricity had not yet arrived in the rural areas of Ireland, Sister Marguerite was one of six children. Part of a close and loving family, her office at Neumann, where she has been vice president for Mission and Ministry since 1997, is adorned with photos of siblings, nieces and nephews and her home back in Sligo.
After her days as a student at St. Ronan’s National School in Cloonloo (the Irish spelling is “Cluain Lough,” meaning “Meadow by the Lake,” which in this case is Lough Gara), she attended the Convent of Mercy Secondary School in Boyle. It was there that her opportunity to continue her own education availed itself. Representatives from several religious congregations visited the school to invite the young women to join them. Sister Marguerite was drawn to the mission of the the Sisters of St. Francis, and in 1958 she went to Mallow in County Cork for six months of studying there. She learned that she was going to the Sisters of St. Francis in Philadelphia, and in January of 1959 she was one of a group to start a new life in the United States.
Russ Wylie, second from right
“The way I approach it is, if I can be kind to others in my little orbit, in my family and the people who are around me, if everybody did that, it would be a wonderful world. So I’ll just keep trying to do that. And that’s the best I can do.”
If, indeed, everyone was able to do just a small bit of what Russ Wylie does, the world would be a better-than-wonderful place. The man who is being honored this year with the Commodore John Barry Award by the Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame has lived a life guided by that principle, one that along the way has resulted in considerable and far reaching contributions to the Philadelphia Irish community. His work on behalf of the 69th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Old St. Mary’s Church, the Commodore John Barry Memorial at the United States Naval Academy, St. Anne’s Church, Duffy’s Cut and the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick has insured that the people who may have once been consigned to merely a place in history will instead live on for future generations to know and actively remember.
Born in 1949 and raised in South Plainfield, N.J., Russ grew up influenced by the kind of example he himself lives by today. He describes his father, Russell D. Wylie, as “the kindest man that I’ve ever known.” Trained as a machinist, his dad worked his way up to the position of plant manager at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, N.J., which at the time was the top research facility in the world. “He was fascinated by scientific things. He didn’t go to college, he went to technical school. But he could do anything. He and his dad had a custom auto care business in Plainfield, where they would do custom upholstery, redo convertible tops, work on the inside and do bodywork. They’d even do custom work for private airplanes. My dad taught me a lot of stuff, we had a workshop down in the cellar of our house, and he taught me carpentry, painting … we had a lot of good memories working together in the shop downstairs. My mom [Edwina Hazen] was a nice lady, she loved gardening and was very close to her sister, my Aunt Marian. I’m very fortunate to have been drawn to my parents in this life.”
It’s a late Saturday afternoon at Paddy Whack’s Irish Sports Club, tucked away in a strip shopping center off Roosevelt Boulevard in Northeast Philly.
Inside, fiddler C.J. Mills and frequent partner, singer-guitarist Seamus McGroary, are blazing away at a set of reels, playing for two little girls in sparkly dresses who are performing that day for Celtic Flame School of Irish Dance.
Suddenly, Mills leaps from the stage and climbs atop two high-top bar chairs, and plays away as if fiddling while poised inches away from the ceiling tiles is something he does all the time.
In fact, it is what he does all the time. He’s also renowned for jumping up and down while he plays on stage, as if he can’t contain the energy of the tune he’s cranking out. And he’s also known for playing with his electric fiddle propped behind his neck, which he does while he’s performing the balancing act on the chairs in Paddy Whack’s.
It took a while for him to learn how to play the fiddle version of a high wire act, but he loves doing it—and the audience loves that he does it.
Two Portraits of Richard St. George
During a multi-day visit to Philadelphia, where most of the focus fell on the modern era politics of Brexit and the interest of the Irish diaspora, Ambassador Daniel Mulhall’s presence at the Museum of the American Revolution’s launch of their new exhibit “Cost of Revolution: The Life and Death of an Irish Soldier” was an opportunity to talk history.
Ambassador Mulhall, along with Dr. Martin Mansergh, historian and former Irish political advisor who helped negotiate the Good Friday Agreement, gave context and insight into the influence of the American Revolution on Ireland’s own path to independence. In addition, Dr. Mansergh is a descendant of Richard St. George Mansergh-St. George (from here on referred to as Richard St. George, as he is in the Museum’s exhibit) who is the subject of the “Cost of Revolution” exhibition, providing a personal connection to the historical narrative.
The evening’s events were planned by an Honorary Event Committee including Honorary Chair, Governor Edward G. Rendell; State Representative Mike Driscoll; Charles E. Hopkins; Marita Krivda Poxon; Kevin Kent, Esquire; Honorable James Murray Lynn; Joseph S. Martz; Edward D. McBride and Kathleen M. Sullivan. The crowd was welcomed in by bagpipers William Watson, Frank Watson, Tom Conner and Lee Nolan, and then treated to traditional Irish music throughout the evening performed by musicians including Paddy O’Neill, John McGillian and Darin Kelly.
The Philadelphia Ceili Group kicked off the 45th Annual Festival with its time-honored tradition of Singers Night. Hosted by Terry Kane (one half of the popular Jameson Sisters) and dedicated to the late Frank Malley, who was a driving force behind both Singers Night and the Festival itself, last night also brought poignant tributes to other beloved Irish Philadelphia musicians who have recently passed away.
The late Eugene O’Donnell, Kitty Kelly-Albrecht and Eugenia Brennan were all at the forefront throughout the evening, remembered in favorite songs and personal stories. Among the performers who took the stage were Ellen Tepper (the other half of the Jameson sisters) on the harp, Matt Ward, Rosaleen McGill, Jim McGill, Steve Stanislaw, John Handy, Kathleen Warren, Don Simon, Seamus Carmichael, Don Gill, Trish Callahan and Mike Albrecht.
Jeff took some photos and I got some videos. So, if you couldn’t be there in person, enjoy! And join us for the rest of the weekend; tonight’s Rambling House hosted by the River Drivers and the Ceili Dance with the McGillians & Friends starts at 8 p.m., and tomorrow’s day of concerts and activities begins at 11 a.m. and continues throughout the day and evening. For more information, check out the Philadelphia Ceili Group website.
Irish musicians throughout the world are familiar with the music of Philadelphia’s Ed Reavy. That so many know his work is largely a tribute to his son, Joseph M. Reavy, 91, recipient of Mid-Atlantic Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann’s Gradam Comaoine/Outstanding Contribution Award, conferred June 8 at the 2019 Mid-Atlantic Region’s Hall of Fame Banquet. It was Joe Reavy—a talented multi-instrumental musician in his own right—who collected and transcribed his father’s many tunes into a thick book of sheet music.
He is characteristically self-effacing when he talks about the project.
“I don’t want to put myself in the forefront,” he says. “This is my father’s music. I published it so people would know it. He had an unbelievable musical memory, but my father did not write out the music. Of course, I read music and so I did most of the work, unless it was very, very technical stuff, and then I would call on someone else to help with it. Musicians—especially among advocates and people who loved his music—welcomed this (compilation) because they could put it in front of other musicians who maybe didn’t know too much about Irish music. I spent two years’ time with my father; almost every week we worked on it.
“It was just wonderful working with him. I learned so much. Even though he didn’t know how to write out the music, he knew how to talk about music. He had the greatest memory for tunes.”
Hanrahan’s bartender Bobby Callan has lived in the Drexel Hill area all of his 30 years. He has a house in Clifton Heights now, but he grew up three blocks from this bustling Irish bar on Burmont Road, catty-corner from the Aronimink Avenue SEPTA station.
Callan got into the bar business a few years ago when one of his best friends suggested that he join him in working at a dive bar. “He said to me, ‘This is easy. It’s great. You get to meet new people.” He took to bartending, but after a while he tired of the dive bar scene. Fortuitously, he played on a local softball team, and a Hanrahan’s employee who was on the team recruited him.
Occasionally, there is an occurrence of the kind of inspired synchronicity that causes one to say, “Ah, yes, it was meant to be.”
Wednesday evening at the restored Kelly House in East Falls was just that sort of occurrence. An enthralled audience of about 50 listened as Irish musician and folklorist Mick Moloney presented, for the first time, the Princess Grace Irish-American Sheet Music Collection. The talk was followed by the performance of several of the songs by Mick, Athena Tergis and Liz Hanley.
The Kelly House, in a partnership with the Center for Irish Studies at Villanova University and its director, Dr. Joseph Lennon, is fulfilling one of the missions set forth by Prince Albert of Monaco when he purchased the family home several years ago. With the assistance of, and collaboration between, family members Susan Kelly Von Medicus and her brother John B. Kelly III in Philadelphia, the house is taking on a new life and purpose.