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Commodore Barry Club

Food & Drink

Dinner Is Served … at the Irish Center

Little neck clams. Irish stew. Guinness braised brisket and cabbage. Roasted half chicken. Pan pizza. Vegan meatloaf. Homemade brownies with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.

Is your mouth watering yet?

Save your whetted appetite for a new restaurant, opening in the cozy Fireside Room at the Commodore John Barry Arts and Cultural Center (the Irish Center). It’s called The Commodore, and it’s opening for a soft launch October 29 and November 1.

All of those delicious dishes and more are on the menu. And, of course, you are cordially invited.

This is a “soft” opening, meant to refine the concept, with plans to open on a regular basis afterward. Continue Reading

Genealogy, History, People

In Memoriam: William Brennan

Above: William Brennan, left, and Sean McMenamin, point out some items of interest in the Irish Center’s library to Irish Ambassador Michael Collins.

Frank Hollingsworth, a board member of the Commodore Barry Arts and Cultural Center, recalls a time when William Brennan was a guest at Villanova for a ceremony celebrating the digitization of the Commodore John Barry papers.

About 25 people were there, including the chairman of the board of Ireland’s County Wexford, Lori Dillard Rech, president of Independence Seaport Museum, and Villanova President Father Peter M. Donohue.

One by one, guests were invited up to the dais to give a brief talk about the historic event. When Brennan was asked to say a few words, Hollingsworth recalls, he stood up and offered these comments: “I think just about everything that can be said has been said. I don’t have anything additional.”

And then, Hollingsworth recalls with a chuckle, Brennan sat down.

Ironically, there was probably no one in the room who knew more about Barry than William “Billy” Brennan. His knowledge of Irish history, and in particular, the story of the Irish in Philadelphia, was encyclopedic, rivaling that of the late Dennis Clark. He was a keeper of the flame.

Brennan passed away July 28 at the age of 83. Continue Reading


Calling All Philly Irish: Time to Help the Irish Center

This was supposed to be the Commodore Barry Arts and Cultural Center’s big year.

The Mount Airy-based center makes most of its money from hosting events—from ceili dances and Irish language courses to big banquets and wedding receptions that typically fill the center’s spacious ballroom to capacity. For 2020, the calendar was so crowded with paying events, there was a waiting list.

And then in mid-March the pandemic hit, and the center had to close.

“In January, we were preparing the budget. We were booked solid the entire year,” says Center board member and vice president Lisa Maloney. “This has been years in the making. We really thought we were on a positive plane. We had a lot of different events coming in, and we were very excited—and then Covid came in. We now have no income coming in at all. We don’t have big expenditures, but we do have the monthly costs of running the building.” Continue Reading


Put on Your Dancing Shoes, Kids! Come to the Irish Center’s Middle School Social

The ballroom at the Philadelphia Irish Center is often home to social events of one kind or another, including concerts and pageants, or banquets and balls hosted by the city’s many county organizations.

It’s a popular place—but often, mostly among adults.

On Saturday, March 2, the ballroom will play host to a younger crowd. Much younger.

That evening, the Irish Center (also known as the Commodore John Barry Arts and Cultural Center), will host its first-ever Middle School Social for 6th, 7thand 8thgraders. The Center is located in Philadelphia’s Mount Airy neighborhood.

It’s all part of an effort to make the Center a more welcoming place for the next generation and their families. That, in turn, is an outgrowth of a survey the Center conducted fairly recently when it became incorporated as a nonprofit. Continue Reading


Irish Center Campaign Tops $20,000

Because they're happy: Susan Conboy plants a big one on Seamus Sweeney's cheek at the fundraiser.

Because they’re happy: Susan Conboy plants a big one on Seamus Sweeney’s cheek at the fundraiser.

The fundraising campaign to save the Philadelphia Irish Center topped $20,000 this week, following an intense web-based effort and a fundraising “house party” at Maloney’s Pub of Ardmore on Saturday night at which the Emerald Society Pipes and Drums made a $1,000 pledge.

Check out our photos from the Maloney’s event.

The Irish Center is seeking to raise $50,000 this year in order to pay its property taxes, which went up by 300 percent his year because of a citywide reassessment, and to replace a $25,000 range hood in the kitchen, which is the fundamental to the center’s livelihood as an event space.

The Maloney’s fundraiser, which was underwritten by a $600 check from the Mayo Association, is the first of several planned throughout the next two months. Up next: A concert/cabaret on August 17 at the Irish Center with Cahal Dunne, a singer, songwriter, storyteller, and comedian known as “Ireland happy man.” He won Ireland’s national songwriting contest with a tune called “Happy Man.” Tickets are $20 and includes the show, light refreshments, and door prizes. They’re available by calling the Irish Center at (215)843-8051.

On September 19, teams will compete for prizes in Quizzo , the pub version of Trivial Pursuit, at the Irish Center. Teams—there are at least 20 forming now—contribute $60 to play. Prizes and raffles are being sought now; the first donation came from Pat Durnin of McKenna’s Irish Shop, who is giving $25 gift certificates. To sign up or donate , visit the page on Facebook  or email Marianne MacDonald at

And save the date: September 6, for a comedy night at The Irish Center. More on that to come.

Also on tap: NBC10 visited the Irish Center last week to do a story on its financial woes. We’ll keep you posted about when that will run either on the site or our Facebook page.

To donate, go to the Irish Center’s website  or the fundraising site. We also have a banner ad on our pages that you can click through to donate.

How to Be Irish in Philly

How to be Irish in Philly This Week

The Philadelphia Irish Center

The Philadelphia Irish Center

This time of year, if you want to be Irish in Philadelphia you often have to go to New Jersey. But that’s okay, because many Irish Philadelphians do.

Slainte—Frank Daly and C.J. Mills of Jamison—will be at Keenan’s in North Wildwood on Saturda at 5, then with Jamison at Casey’s, also in North Wildwood, at 9:30 that night. Quite a day. Hope their voices hold out because Jamison is heading over to Shenanigans in Sea Isle City on Sunday.

The Broken Shillelaghs will be at the Gloucester County AOH (you don’t have to be a member to attend) on Saturday too.

But the big story on action news. . .er, Irish Philadelphia, is the Fundraiser for the Irish Center on July 19 at Maloney’s Pub, 2626 County Line Road in Ardmore. If you’ve been reading along with us, you know that the Irish Center, which was founded in 1958 and is the hub of many of the activities in the Irish community, just got slammed with a huge tax bill, the result of a citywide reassessment that affected many other private clubs in Philadelphia. An appeal brought the 800 percent increase in the center’s taxes down to a 300 percent hike, but the Center still can’t afford it. To make matters worse, the range hood in the kitchen needs to be replaced (it’s at least $20,000). Without it, the kitchen won’t pass a Board of Health inspection and the Center will lose its main source of income—events and catering.

The Center has faced money shortfalls before, but this is the first time it’s faced an imminent shutdown. The Center is the home to all the county societies, the Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame, the Philadelphia Ceili Group (and its annual traditional music festival), the Next Generation (the group of youngsters who learn and perform traditional music together), weekly ceili dance classes conducted by John Shields, and the Cummins School of Irish Dance. It’s where the Donegal and Galway, and Mayo Balls are held, the Philadelphia Mary from Dungloe is chosen, the Derry Society holds its socials, famous Irish musicians play in the ballroom or the cozy Fireside Room, the seniors meet once a month for lunch and some music, and Gaelic football fans watch their favorite teams on pay-per-view while eating a full Irish breakfast on Sunday mornings.

Think of what it will mean if those groups no longer have a central place to meet and there is no one stage where Irish traditional music can be performed.

If you can’t come to the fundraiser (it starts at 6 PM), consider making an online donation on the Irish Center’s website, the fundraising website, or by sending a check to the Commodore Barry Club, 6815 Emlen Street, Philadelphia, PA 19119.