You can’t walk through Gloucester City, NJ, without bumping into an Irishman. It has the ninth largest Irish population in the US and has had its share of Irish Festivals, but never a St. Patrick’s Day parade. Until last week.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is hoping that the folks who’ll be wearing the green for the next couple of weeks will be willing to part with the green too—and we’re not talking soda tax here.
Through a unique partnership between the Office of the City Representative and the nonprofit Citizen Diplomacy International (CDI), the mayor is asking the Irish community—and everyone else who feels Irish on St. Patrick’s Day—to donate to a special fund for two of the region’s largest and best known nonprofits established to end hunger and homelessness. It will run through the end of March, which Kenney will be proclaiming Irish Heritage Month at city hall ceremonies on Thursday, March 9.
You’ll be hearing more about the “Wear Green, Give Green” initiative during this Sunday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade which is being broadcast for the first time on Fox29 TV and, if you stop in to a pub for a pint along the parade route, you can read about it on your coaster, made and donated by Condrake, a Philadelphia printing firm.
For the first time in its 16-year history, the Philadelphia-based Irish American Business Chamber and Network gave its top award—the Ambassador’s Award—to a company founded in Northern Ireland. The ceremony took place on Friday, February 26, at The Union League in Philadelphia with more than 400 people in attendance
The IABCN honored Almac, a pharmaceutical and health care development company with North American headquarters in Souderton, where it employs more than 1,000 people. The company was founded by Sr. Alan McClay in Craigevon, Northern Ireland.
Also honored were IACBN founder, Bill McLaughlin and his wife, Natalie, who run McLaughlin & Morgan, a business and development firm in Philadelphia (the Taoiseach Award) and Msgr. Michael Doyle, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Camden whose work has led to many improvements in the city’s waterfront area.
Some old favorites–Albannach, Screaming Orphans, Timlin & Kane, Searson, the Brigadoons, Jamison, the Hooligans–were back, but there were some new acts at this year’s Mid-Winter Scottish & Irish Festival. We saw Gabriel Donohue with Vonnie Quinn, the Mudmen, McLean Avenue and, while Brother wasn’t there, Angus Richardson and Drew Reid were and they joined Albannach on stage to make it Albannach Plus 2.
We sampled Scottish barbecue (pork and peat!), fish and chips, McDougall’s Irish Victory Cakes, bacon chocolate (yes, you read that right–it was good), Guinness (thanks Sean Crossan!) and, for the umpteenth year in a row, did not have haggis. (We tasted some in Bethlehem at Celtic Fest–we don’t like liver.)
Irish Consul General from New York Barbara Jones spent a couple of days in Philadelphia meeting with local government leaders and heads of Irish organizations in the region. She was welcomed on Friday night, February 5, with a party at the Irish Center in Philadelphia attended by representatives from many of the county societies and organizations such as the Irish Immigration Center, the Irish Memorial, and the Philadelphia Rose of Tralee Centre.
Vincent Gallagher, president of the Irish Center, provided the music, and the Cummins School of Irish Dance and the Circle of Friends Irish ceili dancers, both headquartered at the Irish Center, provided the dancing.
That’s how his wife Beth Anne became the first to know that he was going to be the grand marshal of the 23rd annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in Conshohocken on March 12.
“As one of the guys who started this whole thing, I had my way of doing things,” says Tobin, who is credited as the member of Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 1 who talked Norristown Mayor Jack Salomone into allowing the AOH to sponsor the parade, which then marched down Main Street in the county seat. “Our way was, you called up the person and talked to them and made sure they were happy with being selected, and you made sure they were going to be there.”
A funny thing happened this year to Wayne’s Mary Lou Sterge. The guy who came to remodel her house asked her to dance.
But no, it’s not what you think. The guy was Louie Bradley, chairperson of the board of the Delco Gaels, youth Gaelic sports club in Delaware County. Last year, Bradley was the winner of the silver mirrored trophy, along with dance partner Michelle Quinn, for the Delco Gaels’ “Dancing Like a Star” fundraiser, in which eight couples compete in various dance styles that they’ve learned over several months of intense rehearsals.
“Louie recently remodeled my house. My house looks great, and now I’m dancing,” said Sterge, a fundraiser, after rehearsal last Sunday at the McDade-Cara Irish Dance School studio in Newtown Square. She and her partner, Tom Gregory, were sharing some pizza after an hour of dancing to Ike and Tina Turner’s Proud Mary, he in silver platform shoes he bought from the internet.
You’ll be forgiven if the new 2016 calendar from the Irish Immigration Center of Greater Philadelphia makes you do a double take.
You’ll see album covers from many big-time Irish musicians and bands: There’s Bono, Van Morrison, The Corrs, Enya, The Pogues, Imelda May, and … heyyyy, wait a minute. Enya looks suspiciously like someone who is pretty well known in local Irish circles, Kathleen Murtaugh. And unless we’re mistaken, isn’t that Barney Boyce on the Thin Lizzie cover? And Sean McMenamin on the U2 cover?
You’re not seeing things. There’s a lot of local character—and plenty of local characters—populating the calendar, put together Immigration Center Director Siobhan Lyons and Assistant Director Leslie Alock, with photography by Denise Foley, and wardrobe, set design, musical instruments, makeup and all kinds of other help from many of the center’s friends. (You can read about all of them here.)
All of the shots were staged in late September-early October, five of them at the center, and seven at locations throughout Philly, such as the Tin Angel, Newtown Square Railroad Museum and Laurel Hill Cemetery, Alcock explains.
“It was just a real collaborative piece of work,” she says. “Everyone was open to suggestions and helping out.”
The idea for this year’s calendar came from comedian Chris Williams, says Lyons. Williams is married to Fiona McCabe, vice consul general at the Irish Consulate in New York City.
It was clear the center wanted to do another fund-raising calendar, Lyons says, but what kind of calendar? What theme? “Chris said, ‘Maybe you can do Irish album covers and you could make the calendar square,’” Lyons says. “I said: Bingo! It was hard to think how we’d top the last one because I loved it, but we did.”
Help for the project came from all quarters. Center volunteer Maura McGee, for example, “who works with making curtains,” Alcock says. “She helped me find fabric. We got it for 15 dollars or so. It was just pinned around Kathleen. Tom Donahue he provided all the instruments.”
And, really, we could go on.
The models, she says, were delighted to be asked, and they themselves put a lot of effort into making sure they had their characters down just right. “Everybody did a bit of research on who they were going to be,” she says.
Getting everybody in the right place at the right time was a challenge, but car pooling did the trick, and everybody looked at it as a fun day out, she says. Without question, there were a lot of laughs.
There were also some strange moments, Alcock adds.
The calendar organizers recruited Mike Scott to play the part of Bono. Alcock landed the job of straightening out his long hair. “Never did I think when I was training as a social worker that I would be combing the hair of a 70-year-old man.”
If you want one—of course, you want one—you can buy them online here or pick them up at the Immigration Center, 7 South Cedar Lane, in Upper Darby. The calendars cost $20, discounted to $15 for seniors.
Here’s a collection of pics from Thursday night’s Immigration Center Christmas party, featuring many of the calendar models.