Judge Patrick Dugan
There are Irishmen walking on the streets of Dublin who aren’t as Irish—DNA-wise, at least—as Judge Patrick Dugan.
“I’m 99 percent, with some British Isles in there,” laughs Judge Dugan, sitting in his memento-bedecked office on the 13th floor of the Justice Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice where his view encompasses the south side of City Hall and bustling Penn Square.
Dugan, chief judge of Philadelphia Veterans Court, descended from great-grandparents who emigrated to the US from Mayo and Cork, but his childhood wasn’t steeped in his Irish heritage. “We knew we were Irish but I wasn’t hearing folklore and stories,” he says. “I had my awakening as a young man. It came when I was watching news of ‘the Troubles’ and trying to understand how we got there.”
His newly awakened interest led him to the Ancient Order of Hibernians. He’s a member of Div. 25 in Fox Chase. Every year he gives a speech at their annual Day of the Rope, which remembers the four members of the Molly Maguires, dissident miners, who were hanged in the jailhouse in what is now Jim Thorpe, Pa., after what is now widely considered to be a judgment by a kangaroo court.
It’s a different speech each year but, he says, the theme is always the same. “It takes us back to what our people had to endure when they came here,” he says. “I get something new out of it every year and I reach more people who I hope understand what labor went through, what Irish immigrants went through, to get where we are as a people.”
Liam with his partner Paul Maguire at a business meeting
William “Liam” Hegarty was part of a generation that his friend, Donegal native John McDaid, describes as “the last off the boat.”
McDaid was talking about the fact that fewer and fewer Irish immigrants are taking that well worn path to the United States, even during the last worldwide recession. “The next generation won’t be Irish in the same way,” said McDaid, former secretary of the Delaware County Gaels youth Gaelic sports program, during this summer’s Continental Youth Championships (CYC) which was dedicated to Hegarty, chairman of the annual international event
Liam Hegarty tragically died of a heart attack on Dec. 3, 2018, at the age of 51.
Liam, said McDaid, wanted to make sure these children of immigrants never forgot their Irish roots. “He said the more we stayed involved, the more they will be involved.”
If you couldn’t catch Cherish the Ladies and singer Don Stiffe in their Celtic Christmas show at the Philadelphia Irish Center, we have the next best thing: a boatload of photos!
The longtime and well-loved Irish supergroup performed to a packed house. They had a great time, too—so much that they’ve promised to come back again and wow the audience with their Christmas show next year.
Take a look at our photos. Consider them an early Christmas present.
We have a couple of videos, too.
Pearse Kerr has all the qualities of a great storyteller: pace and timing; a skill for voices and dialects; a ready laugh that shakes a room.
But most of all, he has stories.
They’re the stories of a young boy who witnessed his first violent death when he was 12 and living in Belfast. He and his family were leaving his grandmother’s house when they saw a British Army foot patrol approaching up the road. In Belfast in the 1970s, it wasn’t an unusual sight. “We were watching them,” he says, “when someone jumped out at them with a handgun and shot one in the back of the head.”
This was life during “The Troubles.”
Known fondly to many as the “dancing nun,” Sister James Anne, IHM, born Nancy Feerick, is the daughter of Irish immigrants Anne (Caulfield) and James Feerick. She started Irish dancing when she was 7, studying with Sean Lavery School of Irish Dance in West Philadelphia for more than 10 years. She also played the violin, performing on the Will Regan’s Irish Hours, a long-running radio show that debuted before World War II on Philadelphia’s WDAS station. She also served as secretary of the old Irish Musicians Union in Southwest Philadelphia for two years.
Her home was always filled with music, recalls Helen DeGrand, who first convinced Sister James Anne to join the Mayo Association of Philadelphia, where Sister James Anne has served as chaplain for 20 years. “When I first came to this country from Ireland in 1968, some of the first people I met were the Feericks” says Mrs. DeGrand. “They were the party people. She was in the convent then, but [her brother] Jim would be playing the piano and [her brother] Mike would be playing the fiddle. We used to go to the Shamrock Club every weekend and we always saw them at some point.”
Don’t let a little chance of rain spook you. Hey, what does Hurricane Schwartz know? Tomorrow is a great day to head out to Cherokee Day Camp and Festival Grounds in Bensalem for the Philadelphia Fleadh. There’s fabulous music on five stages from Jamison, No Irish Need Apply, The John Byrne Band, the Bogside Rogues, the Shantys, the Paul Moore Band, the Kilmaine Saints and more. There’s a feis open to all dance schools, a ceili sponsored by Comhaltas, and loads of kids’ activities and kids under 12 get in free! It’s a great family outing.
The group Glengesh is at the Dubliner on the Delaware on Saturday night. They were asked to sing the National Anthem at Irish Heritage Night at the Phillies a couple of weeks ago.
The Sharpie-written notes on the “Banner of Hope” offered the answer to the question, “Why did you get up at 3 in the morning to do a 5K in the rain?”
“In loving memory of my dear Lori. Love you. This one’s for you.”
“In memory of Paddy, Love, Brigid.”
“Missing you always!” This tiny message appeared under a drawing of a yellow butterfly whose artist added a smudge of orange and two tiny antennae with care.
Some left lists of names; Sinead. Johnny. Keiran. Wee Pat. Eddie.
All of them, messages to people who died by their own hand.
More than 250 people gathered outside Lloyd Hall on Kelly Drive at the top of Boathouse Row starting at 3 AM last Saturday to participate in the “Darkness Into Light” 5K to benefit Pieta House, an Irish organization that provides free counseling to those considering suicide or self-harm. Fox29’s Bob Kelly hosted the opening ceremonies and helped rally the runners and walkers who were already soaked by the persistent drizzle.
Tomorrow morning at 4:15, a group of runners and walkers will brave the rain, the chill, and the dark to do a 5K course, all to raise money for an Irish organization that helps those who are considering suicide.
The “Darkness Into Light” 5K will be duplicated around the world, from Canada to Ireland to Australia, anywhere Ireland’s diaspora live. It’s a major fundraiser for Pieta House, which offers free counseling for those in the depths of despair. Pieta House opened its first North American branch last August in New York. Local supporters hope to open a Pieta House in the Philadelphia area. Read more about it here.
The event start at Lloyd Hall on Kelly Drive, along the Schuykill River, and will end on the Art Museum steps at the head of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Latecomers are welcome.