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News, People, Photos

Irish Consul General Visits Philadelphia

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. Continue Reading

News, People

Meet John Tobin, the 2016 Conshy Grand Marshal

John F. TobinCall it a cop cliché, but John Tobin, a retired Norristown police officer, has a thing for doughnuts.

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.” Continue Reading

Dance, News, People, Photos

Getting Ready for Dancing Like a Star

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. Continue Reading

Enya? Is that really you?
People, Photos

The 2016 Irish Immigration Center Calendar Totally Rocks, Dude

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.)

pogues maybeThe project is a follow-on to the highly successful and popular fund-raising calendar the center produced last year.

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.

KathleenJoyJohnJimmyJimJim McCCathyBrianBarneyAggieSeanPetePatsyVince

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People, Videos

The Top Irish Philly Videos of 2015

We posted nearly 30 videos in 2015. We’ve recorded concerts—lots of them–and done interviews. We were there to make a video record of all of the winners of this year’s Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame. We were also there to witness the presentation of the Delaware Valley Branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Lifetime Achievement Award to one of our all-time favorite people, Kevin McGillian.

Looking back on so much good stuff, it was tough to come up with favorites, but we tried.

Here’s a playlist of the best of Irish Philly videos 2015. Maybe they’ll bring back memories. (And if you want to take a gander at all of of our videos—there are hundreds—or subscribe to our YouTube channel, head over here.

To navigate through the playlist, click on the three little horizontal lines at upper left. (Next to: 1/7)

News, People, Photos

An Immigration Center Christmas

The Irish Immigration Center’s annual Christmas party had a bittersweet tinge to it on Thursday night. It’s the last party Siobhan Lyons will preside over as executive director.

The Dublin-born Lyons has taken a new job as CEO of Citizen Diplomacy International of Philadelphia, an international relations organization that, among other things, runs international exchange programs for the federal government and the city of Philadelphia and matches leaders from other countries with their counterparts in the US. Their slogan: “Make friends. Make contacts. Make peace.” Continue Reading

News, People

It Sure Looks Like Dancing

It might be a stretch to say that poetry saved Liam Porter’s life, but the longtime newspaper reporter and editor thinks it might have helped turn his life around after he lost his job at The Inishowen Independent  during Ireland’s drawn-out economic recession.

Poetry wasn’t the only light he saw in the darkness, but that was a good thing, because there was plenty of darkness.

“I was applying for jobs and going on interviews and not getting any positivity,” says Porter of Raphoe, County Donegal, who has about a dozen family members living in the Philadelphia area. “You begin to devalue your own self-worth. My wife was working, but it was hard to be home every day to see the postman coming and bringing another bill and knowing I couldn’t contribute. Our girls were going to dance classes and all of a sudden we had to say ‘You can’t go there. We don’t have the money.’ It came to the point where I was calculating that maybe they might be better off without me. Then you know you’re not in a good place.” Continue Reading