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“Beyond the Words: Portraits of Irish Writers” at Villanova University

The island of Ireland is known for its outsized literary tradition: Its novelists, poets, and playwrights have produced many of the world’s most significant works, across centuries, genres, and styles. As a student of that grand tradition, Philadelphia-area photographer Robin Hiteshew has made a decades-long project of capturing the images—and even the essences—of as many contemporary Irish writers as he can. Fifty-eight of his finest portraits will be presented at the Villanova Art Gallery from March 13-April 14, 2020, in his exhibit, Beyond the Words: Portraits of Irish Writers.

Visitors to Beyond the Words will encounter the likenesses of poets Seamus Heaney, Eavan Boland, Eamon Grennan, and Michael Longley; and novelists Colm Toibin, Anne Enright, and Glenn Patterson, among many others. Some writers—like Heaney—sat for Hiteshew multiple times over the course of several years, and each portrait captures a different moment in the writer’s evolution. Always, the images represent a collaboration between the photographer and the subject. Hiteshew says, “My goal is to try and capture in a portrait something about who the person is. I hope that the viewer will come away from the photograph knowing something about who that person is in some kind of intangible way. But also, I hope that the viewer will leave wanting to know more about the writer—to read his or her work, perhaps.”

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Genealogy, News, People

A Final Farewell to John Ruddy

Frank and Bill Watson are joined by a third piper at the gravesite in Ardara, Donegal. Photo courtesy of Donegal News.

Frank and Bill Watson are joined by a third piper at the gravesite in Ardara, Donegal. Photo courtesy of Donegal News.

By Harry Walsh in Ardara
Reprinted with permission of the Donegal News

DONEGAL man John Ruddy was buried in Ardara on Saturday afternoon, 181 years after he was believed to have been murdered at Duffy’s Cut, 20 miles west of Philadelphia.

Ruddy, from Inishowen,was among a group of 57 Irish labourers were who sailed from Derry on the John Stamp in June 1832. Within five weeks of arriving, all had perished.

On Saturday afternoon, he was accorded honours denied during his short, cruel life as his remains were interred following a poignant burial ceremony conducted by Canon Austin Laverty, Parish Priest, Ardara.

The casket was carried to its final resting place by Earl Schandelmeier, a Historian at Immaculata University, which was the driving force behind the Duffy’s Cut project, accompanied by three pipers in kilts. They were closely followed by Sadie Ruddy, who lives in Portnoo, and her first cousins James and Bernard Ruddy from Quigley’s Point, all three of whom are direct descendants of the deceased.

Canon Laverty told those assembled that “this brings a form of closure to a sad and shameful chapter of American history and re-enforced how desperate times were in this country at the beginning of the nineteenth century.”

Looking out across the graveyard towards Loughros Bay and the Atlantic Ocean beyond, Canon Laverty noted that Slieve Tooey – visible in the distance – was possibly the last piece of Ireland that Mr Ruddy and those who left Derry in 1832 saw through the mists of their tears.

“In a strange way it’s appropriate that his mortal remains are laid here to rest in his native county,” Canon Laverty said.

Prof William Watson of the history department at Immaculata who spearheaded the research and excavation with his twin brother Frank Watson were then joined be fellow piper Tom Connors to play Amazing Grace.

Speaking afterwards a clearly emotional Mr Schandelmeier said that he had been overwhelmed by the whole project.

“This has gone from being something which was on a piece of paper, and time spent looking through the archives, to finding a guy whom we are able to bring back to his homeland today.

“Lots of things happened to allow that to happen – it was almost synchronisity. Things were lined up and it was as if he was almost delivered to us.

“The body we excavated had a one in a million anomaly. There are not a million Ruddys and there are not a million people in Donegal, and here’s a Ruddy and he has it and two of his aunts have it and they also have a story in the family of a guy coming over to the US in the 1830s, working on the rail road and vanishing. What are the odds of that? How could it not be him? It’s been truly miraculous and, as a result, today was incredibly moving,” he said.

“This is history which has been brought to life. It’s not just black and white any more. He has a face, teeth, we’ve uncovered the instruments he ate with – he’s a human being.

“Sad events like this happen every day all over the world. People die unnecessarily – their memories are lost and no one cares. It’s great to be able to give him some dignity – if it’s 181 years ago or if it was yesterday,” he said.

Philadelphia-Columbus railway

The story starts in 1828, when Irishman Philip Duffy won a contract to build Mile 59 of the Philadelphia-Columbus railway.

Mr Duffy enlisted “a sturdy looking band of the sons of Erin”, according to an 1829 newspaper article. The men moved heavy clay, stones and shale from the top of a hill to an adjacent valley, hence the name Duffy’s Cut. They were poor, Irish-speaking Catholics who would have been paid “$10 to $15 a month, with a miserable lodging, and a large allowance for whiskey” according to a British historian of the time.

Cholera broke out and the workers’ camp was quarantined. Some escaped but returned because the surrounding affluent Scotch-Irish population refused to help them.

“Of all the places in the world, this was the worst place for them to be,” Prof Watson explained. “They were expendable. Because they were recently arrived Irishmen, they were assumed to be the cause of the epidemic. It was anti-Catholic, anti-Irish prejudice; white-on-white racism.”

Prof Watson learned of the story in 2002, when he found a secret report that had been kept by his grandfather, an assistant to the president of the Pennsylvania Rail road.
In 2005, excavations near the Amtrak line unearthed old glass buttons, crockery and a clay pipe stamped with an Irish harp – “the oldest example of Irish nationalism in North America”, says Prof Watson.

Four more years passed, and the project enlisted the help of a geologist armed with a ground-penetrating radar. The first remains, those of John Ruddy, were discovered.

Mr Ruddy never grew an upper right first molar, a rare genetic defect. When the find was reported in Ireland, two dozen members of the Ruddy family contacted Watson. One of them, William Ruddy, travelled to Pennsylvania to give a DNA sample.

Prof Watson says “hundreds and hundreds, probably thousands” of Irishmen died building US rail roads and canals.

“The doors are opening slowly” to excavate the bones of the other 51 victims from Amtrak and private property at Duffy’s Cut.

Immaculata University is establishing an institute to explore at least six more mass graves in Pennsylvania and neighbouring states.

“The industrial revolution was made by Irishmen,” says Prof Watson. “Nobody talks about the toll it took on them. We’re looking at the seamy underside of the industrial revolution.”

See the story as it originally appeared in The Donegal News.

Special thanks to Sean Feeny of The Donegal News.


Philly Irish Group Says Jersey Hall of Fame “Defames”

Thomas Nast's self-portrait

Thomas Nast's self-portrait

Whenever visions of Santa Claus dance in our heads, the image we often conjure up is the cheery, red-cheeked elf drawn by 19th-century cartoonist Thomas Nast.

Acclaimed as the father of all political cartoonists, Nast drew for Harper’s Weekly in the mid- to late-1800s. His drawings of St. Nick are undeniably iconic. (The Republican elephant and the Democratic donkey? Those were his too.)

So, you might ask, how could the artist who brought Father Christmas to life have so many Irish-Americans in such an uproar?

Simply this: Nast’s cartoon characterizations of the Irish in general, and Irish Catholics in particular, are construed by many Irish as deeply offensive. In Nast’s illustrations, the Irish were depicted as drunken, violent hooligans who resembled monkeys … and Roman Catholic cardinals were snapping alligators threatening the American way of life. This year, Nast’s illustrations are no longer simply a matter for the history books. Nast, who lived in Morristown, N.J., is among the nominees for the 2012 New Jersey Hall of Fame—and that has New Jersey politicians, including Gov. Chris Christie, and organizations such as the New Jersey Ancient Order of Hibernians, questioning his inclusion.

Locally, Philadelphia’s Irish Anti-Defamation Federation (IADF) is orchestrating a letter-writing campaign which the group hopes will lead the Hall of Fame to drop Nast from consideration. The group met Thursday night at the Philadelphia Irish Center to map out strategy.

Recently, IADF Chairman Tim Wilson sent a letter of protest to Hall of Fame Executive Director Don Jay Smith, in which Wilson suggested the Hall of Fame board of commissioners failed to appreciate Nast’s “deplorable history.”

"The Usual Irish Way of Doing Things" by Thomas Nast

"The Usual Irish Way of Doing Things" by Thomas Nast

“Thomas Nast is infamous in American history as one who portrayed Irish immigrants and Irish-Americans as violent apes and drunks. Nast, both in his verbal rhetoric and in his drawings, was openly prejudiced against the Irish people, and Roman Catholics from all groups of citizens in America,” Wilson wrote. “Thomas Nast’s paid ‘work’ has been cited by social historians as instigating the Nativist riots in America, wherein Roman Catholic churches were burned to the ground, and Irish neighborhoods laid waste.”

Wilson demanded that Nast be removed from this year’s ballot (you can see it here) and from all future consideration, and he requested a public apology.

In an interview before the meeting, Wilson said, “They (the Hall of Fame) argue that he is famous, that he’s a part of history. They think we should overlook his bigotry because of Santa Claus, the elephant and the donkey.”

They should think again, Wilson said.”We’ve put up with the stereotyping. Now people are just getting tired of it.”

Wilson noted that the New Jersey Ancient Order of Hibernians is a member of the Hall of Fame voting committee, which reviews nominees and pares them down to a field of 50, divided into five categories. In this case, Wilson said, the Ancient Order of Hibernians “were never contacted.”

In an interview Friday, Executive Director Smith said all members of the Hall of Fame Voting Committee were contacted. At the time, the committee included the former president of the state AOH. “No one ever said anything about Nast not being wanted or not worthy.”

"Merry Old Santa Claus" by Thomas Nast

"Merry Old Santa Claus" by Thomas Nast

The Hall of Fame board of commissioners includes many Irish-Americans, Smith added, and not one has raised an objection. Furthermore, Smith observed that Nast has been nominated three times, but no one has questioned his presence on the ballot … until now.

The decision now rests with the public, which votes for the nominees online.

Smith said no one associated with the Hall of Fame intended to “upset or offend anyone.” He went on to suggest that Nast’s cartoons need to be considered in the light of history. Nast’s ultimate target was the notorious “Boss” Tweed and New York City’s Tammany Hall Machine. Irish immigrants were regarded as key supporters of that infamously corrupt regime.

“People should consider these flaws in the context of the time,” Smith said. “Political cartoonists are the attack dogs of journalism. They always stir people up more than the written word.”

Moreover, Smith said, Nast’s Irish cartoons make up a small percentage of his work, and his characterizations of the Irish lasted only as long as the Tammany Hall Machine remained in power.

Voting for the Hall of Fame continues through January 1. The 2012 inductees will be announced later that month.


School Days, Irish Style



The kids of Gael Scoil 2011.

The kids of Gael Scoil 2011.

By Tom Slattery

Not only did Mercer County’s AOH Division 10’s 4th annual Gael Scoil attract a record number of students, but it also added new cultural sessions, some high-profile teachers and an Irish breakfast. As the student count kept rising, the committee had to scramble to keep up, but like any good show, the audience was unaware of the backstage maneuvers.

At the last minute we had to go to a three-track program; however, this was almost seamless because we had put in place a formal monitoring system, with a supervisor moving the monitors as necessary. Yes, you have to have at least a male and a female monitor in each session to accompany the kids for nature calls and to report quickly on any student or facility problem. You also have to have a registered nurse on duty for emergencies which are going to occur when you have 64 7- to17-year-olds moving around, including an hour session outside learning Irish football and hurling.

But it was the infusion of qualified (actually, overqualified) faculty that marked the success of our 2011 offering. Dr. Christine Kinealy, author of seven books on the Great Hunger, gave two classes for the older children (12-17). Of course, she presented An Gorta Mor, along with a session on Irish Women. Carol Russell, author, art critic and Northern Ireland activist gave a class on Irish Literature, again for the older kids. Mary Kay Mann, an outstanding musician who also teaches, ran two classes on the tin whistle, each class with close to 30 students. The only way to prevent pure mayhem was to have three monitors in the room holding onto the whistles until Mary Kay had a chance to introduce the topic and was ready for the kids to sound off. Realizing the number of younger kids, we added a second storyteller, Dave Emerson, who has already been invited back for 2012.

Pat McCabe, a Dubliner and brother of Mick, who started the program, once again came over from Dublin to help the GAA run their sessions; however, as a chef by trade he indicated he would like to cook up something for the kids. As a result, with the generosity of Breffni Foods of Hamilton, owned by Division 10 member Frank Connell, and a contribution by Gerry Maguire, another Division 10 member, the 64 kids and some of their parents were served a great Irish breakfast of sausage, bacon, eggs and scone. Michael Snowden, a horseman who has taken two horseback riding vacations in Ireland and who was attending as a driver, ran two showings of National Geographic’s video “The Irish Horse,” and showed pictures he took in Ireland—including riding the horses into the Atlantic Ocean. These were run for the younger kids. We also showed “The Secret of Kells,” a great documentary making full use of today’s graphics, in the cafeteria during lunch. Lunch (pizza, juice and cookies) was included in the program.

Other sessions included Irish Language once again run by Daltai na Gaeilge, this time just for the younger students; two musical instrument sessions taught by Mark and Tim Carroll; a bagpipe demo and talk by Marty and Ian Ferrick; an Irish Song session led by Tom Glover; a step dance exhibition by the DeNogla Dancers; Irish Geography by Jim MacFarland; a session on Irish Heroes and one on the Wee People by Tom Slattery.

Saturday afternoon we handed out the “hoodies,” which always seems to create the sense of a school and camaraderie. On Sunday, like every Sunday before, all students wore their hoodie.

Sunday’s lunch time has become a beehive of activities, with the entire school moving around the spacious cafeteria, which is decorated not only with the Irish flag but also with the 32-County and Four-Province flags. One group is eating, while another is baking (scone), and still a third is making Brigid’s Crosses. Those who finish ahead of their classmates are able to view the copy of the Book of Kells, check out the GS library of 40-plus Irish youth books, or just relax and listen to the traditional Irish music in the background.

Sunday’s last half-hour was a great wrap-up. The kids all got called up to get their Certificate of Completion. This year they also received a scroll tied together with a green ribbon. The scroll contained the Irish Declaration of Independence. In their binders they got handouts from some teachers, a tri-fold on the Book of Kells; and info on the Irish Way Program presented by the Irish American Cultural Institute, who also loaned us a copy of the Book of Kells.

Of course, all of the above does not just happen. Starting in late September, the committee starts biweekly meetings. Within a month we move to weekly meetings. The committee, which has been intact since the first Scoil, includes GS founder Mick McCabe, Division 10 members Don Carroll, Gerry Maguire, Gerry O’Rahilly (Division President), John Walsh (Division Past President), as well as Trenton Division 1 member Jim MacFarland and Montgomery County (PA) member Tom Slattery. This year we added June Balaz, Division 10 LAOH, to oversee the Monitor program.

Key to keeping the cost low ($100 for first child in family, $75 for each additional) is the generosity of Notre Dame High School in Lawrenceville, N.J., which permits us the use of their fantastic facility, along with major sponsors McCabe Concrete, CCC Celt, and Niall Brady. Thanks to those who sponsored students; AOH Philadelphia Division 88, NJ AOH State Board, and Bob McNally.
Thanks to LAOH 10 for supplying the scone baking assistance; and to James “Trader Jim” Walsh who made the tin whistles available for every child. Thanks to Daltai who made the language support pins available to the children.

Planning for 2012 is already under way. We look forward to creating a fourth-track for the young’uns (6- and 7-year-olds) that will pave the way for future entry into the 8- to 17-year-old main program.

You can follow the Gael Scoil history on . At their March 10 banquet, the Friendly Sons & Daughters of St. Patrick of Mercer County presented their annual Community Service Award to the Gael Scoil.

 Photos by Gerard O’Rahilly


“I Was Completely and Utterly Shocked”

Stephanie Lennon enjoys a serenade by Vince Gallagher.

Stephanie Lennon enjoys a serenade by Vince Gallagher.

By Stephanie Lennon

My Irish heritage has always been a huge part of my life. Growing up, Irish music was the theme song in our home, the tea kettle was always warm, and visits between Donegal, Ireland and Philadelphia were customary. I grew up with a complete sense of my family in Ireland, as well as my Irish citizenship (I hold dual citizenship).  I have been lucky enough to sit in the old farmhouse that my grandmother grew up in, hear stories of fairy rings and banshees, and watch my cousin, Brendan Devenney, win “Man of the Match” during Donegal GAA games. More often than not, it was the Irish who made the trek across the Atlantic to enjoy time with “the Philadelphia Lennon’s,” but we also traveled across the pond to experience our native soil firsthand. 

As I was walking out the door on November 27, my cell phone rang and it was my cousins from Donegal. They were calling to wish me the luck of the Irish during the 2011 Philadelphia Mary from Dungloe Pageant. They asked if I was nervous, and without hesitation, I replied no. The previous night, as I said my evening prayers, I asked my grandmother, Mary Cannon Lennon, who hailed from Newtowncunningham, Donegal, to send me some Donegal Luck from heaven.

As soon as I entered the Irish Center, I felt completely comfortable. Michelle Mack, the chair for the Mary from Dungloe contest, and Kiera McDonagh, the reigning Philadelphia Mary from Dungloe, greeted each one of us. As the introductions started flowing, I found connections to the other girls. Each one of us was unique, with amazing resumes to wow the likes of Miss America. We brought our own energy and unique personality, as well as our passion for our Irish heritage. This contest, which emphasized personality, community involvement, knowledge of Irish history and most importantly a love for Irish heritage allowed each of us to highlight our individuality within the framework of the Philadelphia Irish society.

Throughout the night we exchanged stories, experiences and laughs. We danced the reels together and shared good craic and by the end of the night, I felt that I had made eight new friends. It wasn’t until midnight that I felt nervous. As we followed the grand march on stage, I started to wonder. After what seemed like hours, Theresa Flanagan Murtagh, the emcee, announced the runners up. Then, followed by a loud drum roll, she announced my name as the 2011 Philadelphia Mary. I don’t think I heard it at first, but out of the corner of my eye, I saw my family jump out of their seats in applause and it hit me.  I was completely and utterly shocked.

I don’t know if it was my grandmother, Mary from Donegal, looking down on me from heaven or the fact that she met my grandfather at the original Irish Center shortly after they both immigrated to Philadelphia. Either way, I am blessed with the honor of being the 2011 Philadelphia Mary from Dungloe. I am looking forward to the coming year, as I represent the Donegal Association at various events and functions, including the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the International Mary from Dungloe contest in Ireland this summer.

News, People

A Singular Honor for Sister James Anne Feerick

Sister James Anne, receiving flowers at the St. Patrick's Day Parade in 2008.

Sister James Anne, receiving flowers at the St. Patrick's Day Parade in 2008.

Sister James Anne Feerick, I.H.M., longtime dedicated Catholic school educator, is the 2011 Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day grand marshal.

Sister James Anne has been a member of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary since 1960. Currently, she is director and teacher at the IHM Educational Center in Bryn Mawr. Earlier in the week, she was named the recipient of the Mayo Association of Philadelphia’s 2010 President’s Award—so you could say that this was a spectacular week for this stellar graduate of West Catholic Girls High. (Sister is also the longtime chaplain of the Mayo Association.)

Associated with the parade for many years—as a judge since 1985 and, in 2008, a member of the Ring of Honor—she dates her involvement in the parade back to 1956, when she first started marching in it.

It would be hard to find anyone more steeped in Irish tradition than Sister James Anne. Going back to her youth, she was a violin player who performed on Will Regan’s Irish Hour and was secretary of the old Irish Musicians Union in Southwest Philadelphia for two years.

Of course, people who know her also recognize her as a superb Irish dancer. She started as a student at Sean Lavery School of Irish Dance in West Philadelphia (from 1949-1960), and she’s been on her toes ever since. As an educator, she often taught students Irish dance as a way of developing coordination.

Fittingly, the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Observance Association chose as its 2011 theme: St. Patrick, Bless Our Religious Sisters Who Serve, Inspire and Educate.

Sister James Anne is the first woman selected as grand marshal since Rosemarie Timoney, in 1997.

In what apparently marks a banner year for Irish women, Kathy McGee Burns, previously 1st vice president of the parade association, was elected president. She is only the second woman to serve in that capacity. (The first was Marie C. Burns, 1993-1994.)

McGee Burns already is a very busy and accomplished woman. She is the first president of the Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame. She also was the first woman president of the Donegal Association. In 2010, she was selected to receive one of the first Inspirational Irish Women awards. Also in 2010, she was named winner of the third annual Joseph E. Montgomery Award from Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 62.

The board also elected two new members, two new board members, Mike Driscoll, owner of Finnigan’s Wake and a longtime notable parade booster, and police Sgt. John Stevenson.

News, People

2010 Irish Hall of Fame Inductee: Kathleen Sullivan

Honoree Kathleen Sullivan

Honoree Kathleen Sullivan

By Kathy McGee Burns

Ordinary riches can be stolen.
Real riches can not.
In your soul are infinitely precious things.
They can not be taken from you.
—Oscar Wilde

Riches to Kathleen Sullivan are family and friends. They are the core of her being and she holds them dear to her. Sullivan, former city representative under Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell, is being honored this year at the 10th Annual Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame Dinner, for her tireless efforts to bring the Irish Memorial to Penn’s Landing.

The night we agreed to meet for this interview was one of those hot, muggy, thick July evenings. We met for dinner and started out on the terrace of the restaurant. She sat there cool, calm and composed, beautifully dressed in a white linen suit and a black ruffled blouse looking positively stunning, sophisticated and self assured. Sullivan is a true Irish beauty–burnished copper hair and flawless white skin. She is one of those women about whom the Bards wrote their lilting lyrics. And, underneath that Celtic façade there lays a dynamic woman.

There are many layers to Kathleen but the foundation is family. Her Irish roots are Wexford (via her Mom, Kathryn Hannify) and Cavan (Dad, Larry Sullivan). Larry and Kate met at ages 15 and 16. It was love at first sight and they married three years later. The Sullivans settled in Kensington, in Ascension Parish, and had nine children. Kathleen was fourth from the top. Sullivan remembers a childhood with little money, but lots of fun and nuturing. The Sullivans were competitive, loving and a true team. Everyone pitched in. Her early upbringing, she says, dealing with so many diverse personalities, taught her how to resolve conflicts.

Love of community is a second layer to Kathleen. She is proud to be from Kensington and raved about growing up there. The Sullivan kids competed citywide in basketball, soccer, swimming and other sports they learned and practiced at McVeigh Center, their home away from home. One of Sullivan’s coaches was a former Olympian, Pearl Nightingale, who took her swim team to a new level and taught lessons in leadership Sullivan says she’ll never forget. This was a lesson to Kathleen in leadership.

Kathleen Sullivan graduated from Little Flower High School where she made “All Catholic” as a basketball player and was offered a full scholarship to Penn State. At the same time she was offered a job at a prominent Philadelphia law firm for $90 a week and 21 days of vacation. To the young Kathleen Sullivan, the job presented both an exciting challenge and the opportunity for a respite from academics. Later, Kathleen went to court reporting school and worked for Judge Charles Lord for 18 years.

But she had come to regret turning down the scholarship. Her mother encouraged her to go to night school and get her degree but she hesitated. She was concerned that she would be 40 years old by the time she finished. Her mother told her: “You’re going to be 40 no matter what.”

So at the age of 39, Kathleen Sullivan graduated summa cum laude from Temple University with a degree in journalism. After graduation, a friend suggested she volunteer with one of the mayoral candidates. She chose Ed Rendell, a fortuitous choice. Impressed by her talents and energy, Rendell assured her, “I’m going to win this election and I will make you one of my city officials.” That was Kathleen Sullivan’s start in public service—the new layer of her life.

She told me that her years of working as his city representative were priceless for her. Though it was a 24/7 job, she says, he was “one of the smartest people” she’d ever met: tough, a perfectionist who expected everyone else to follow suit. She said she was touched when, at the end of his years as mayor, he told her that they were like John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in “The Quiet Man,” always fighting tooth and nail about issues but he knew she had his best interests at heart.

During the Rendell administration, the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick launched plans to build a memorial dedicated to the Irish immigrants who were forced to flee Ireland during “an gorta mor,” the Great Starvation. Board member and director emeritus Jim Coyne took over the job. He knew that they needed someone of importance to be an honorary chairperson.

He met with Rendell, who loved the idea—along with bringing a beautiful piece of art to the city, it would attract tourists. He immediately appointed Kathleen Sullivan to come on board as his liaison. The Glenna Goodacre sculpture on Penns Landing was uinveiled in 2003.

Jim Coyne, who nominated her as a Hall of Fame Honoree, said Sullivan was a faithful member from that day on and she now serves as vice president of the Irish Memorial. She rolled up her sleeves, helped with fund raising and was a quiet source of support with the city and state.

Joe Martz, who was city managing director during the Rendell years and an old family friend, said about Kathleen Sullivan: “She is incredibly modest, very smart, has an enormous heart and is comfortable in every situation.” Not to mention “a phenomenal” golfer, he adds.

“What makes Kathleen Sullivan special,” he wrote, “is the size of her heart, the breadth of her mind and the depth of her soul.” He said that she enriches the lives of many people and that what he knows about her family and friends, hers is a particularly “rich life.”

News, People

2010 Irish Hall of Fame Inductee: Vince Gallagher

 Vince Gallagher with fellow radio host Marianne MacDonald.

Vince Gallagher with fellow radio host Marianne MacDonald.

By Kathy McGee Burns

 There’s a dear little isle in the Western Ocean
An island of purity, holy and grand
Whose name fills its daughters and sons with emotion
When heard on the shores of a far distant land.
It’s Ireland, God Bless her.

This is the song Vince Gallagher loves the most. He carries Ireland in his heart and soul. In turn, we all get to share Ireland with him because of his dedication to the Irish Center, where he has served as president for many years. He has worked very hard to bring that “dear little isle” to Philadelphia where we, the immigrants, exiles, descendants and lovers of Ireland, can feel at home again.

It’s fitting that Vincent Gallagher, the Founder of the Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame, is being honored at the Tenth Anniversary of this great organization (his baby).

Ten years ago Gallagher, a native of Ardara, County Donegal, attended an awards presentation in New York and found himself unhappy with the way the Philadelphia honorees were being treated. They weren’t getting enough attention. He complained to his friend and fellow Ardara native, Jim McGill, who said, “Why don’t you show them how it should be done?”

Several well-placed phone calls later, Vince had his committee and the Delaware Valley Hall of Fame was born.

This is what makes Vince Gallagher so brilliant. He knows how to put people together….and they all want to work for him.Burly, funny, sentimental, laughing, generous, talented, all of these adjectives describe Vince.

Here is a tribute to Vincent Gallagher from his friends and family:

Mary Crossan
President of the Donegal Association
There are people who tell you what you want to hear and then there is Vince, who tells it like it is! Vince is the busiest and the most generous man on the planet. He is the Past President of the Donegal Association and continues to work bringing in ads for a successful Ball. He is currently President of the Irish Center which is a tireless job. But he has a good team and the place looks great! We know that Vera is Vince’s first love and music is his second. He also bowls twice a week, works a full time job and still has time to support many worthwhile causes. Congratulation, Vince, on a well deserved honor.

Nancy Potts
The first time I met Vince Gallagher, I was a student in college. I had come home for the weekend to find him sitting at our kitchen table, only to learn he was dating my Mother. I was the only one of five children living at home at the time, and because of this I felt it was my duty and responsibility to be my Mother’s protector. To say I was a little suspect of this stranger would be an understatement. Furthermore, I couldn’t understand a word he said. But, as is Vince’s way, he disarmed us all with his warm way and quick wit; and proved to be a caring, loving and honorable man. The highest compliment that I can give to Vince is that I have come to love and respect him in a way that only a daughter can love a Father. Vince is a man of integrity and all who know him are better for it. Our entire family congratulates Vince on this wonderful honor. It is well deserved!

Denise Foley
DVIHOF Board member

There are three things I love about Vince Gallagher:
1. When he’s telling a funny story—and he’s often telling a funny story—he starts laughing so hard that you can’t understand him and you start laughing because you can’t help yourself—his laugh is so contagious. Someday I hope to stay with him to the end of the story.
2. He has a heart as big as Ireland. When Vince finds out someone is in need, the first thing he does is reach in his pocket. He’s one of the most generous people I’ve ever met in my life. And he is also one of those people who’s happier if the beneficiary of his generosity doesn’t know it came from him. He’s not after gratitude or praise—he acts from his heart. There are a lot of people in the Irish community who don’t know that the help that came out of nowhere, just in the nick of time, came from Vince Gallagher.
3. Seeing Vince with his wife, Vera, never fails to touch my heart. His love for and devotion to her is tender and true.

Gerry Timlin
Friend, Musician, co-owner, The Shanachie Pub in Ambler
I couldn’t be happier that Vince is going into the Hall of Fame. It’s difficult to think of anyone more deserving of this great honor. Vince contributes so much to the Irish community in this area by way of his never ending effort to help the Irish culture, tradition and music. His radio show, the Irish Center and everything else he does, most of which goes unnoticed by many, is a reflection of the man himself. Always giving! Vince can’t say no and that’s just who he is. I was asked to play and sing a song at the dinner and I’m not only happy to do so but I’m honored. Over the years, Vince has been a wonderful friend and I want to congratulate him on this award which I think is long overdue. Well done, Vince and thank you for all the great times.

Rev. Msgr. Joseph McLoone
Vince Gallagher is the type of person every organization needs. He is a worker. He does not wait to be asked, he just goes about doing it and is happy for others to pitch in and help. He quietly and efficiently gets things done. He is very faithful to his dear wife, Vera. He outwardly looks a little stern but is a very kind, caring and compassionate person. Vince and my mother are from the same town. We share the same Donegal roots.

Rosaleen Ferry
Vince’s Sister
From the moment Vince was born, he was a welcomed guest in the Gallagher family. He was the youngest of nine and loved by each and every one of us. [Rose Gallagher, his Mother was 46 yrs old at this time and her bright-blue eyed boy weighed over 11 lbs]. Madge, his older sister, actually named him. All the sisters would help to take care of him. Baby Vince would crawl into his Mom and Da’s bed early in the morning. One day, he startled them by saying,” Up early, on the go! Up, Up, nine o’clock and the clock is slow.” Vince sang before he talked. On the farm, where the Gallaghers were raised, everyone was out to the hayfields or on to the bog, but the youngest was always missing. Vince would be sitting behind the fence or a load of turf, singing a song. He played the tin whistle and his favorite song was “Doggie in the Window.”.Vincent is very good-natured. He would do anything for you. If he had a $1, he would give away 50 cents.
He is Irish to the backbone. He will help anyone…let them be you, let them be sick or let them be strangers!

Michael Bradley
Friend, Director of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Vincent Gallagher is one of the most kind, hard working and generous men I have ever met. Occasionally he can be straightforward and tell you something that you don’t want to hear, but the answer is always honest and you know exactly where you stand. That is what I love about him; there’s no beating around the bush, he doesn’t have time for that. Yes, and occasionally he is not the most detailed oriented; I’ve gotten the phone call where he shouts into the phone “MEET ME AT THE IRISH CENTERRRRRR” and then hangs up before you can ask when or where! The Irish Center would not be where it is today without the hard work and money (out of his own pocket) of Vince Gallagher. The Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame is complete now that its founder, Vincent Gallagher, is a member. Vince, Congratulations, best wishes, and sit back and enjoy your day for once in your life, and let everyone else wait on you for a change! You deserve it!.

The Boyce Family
Vince Gallagher’s passion for the Irish Community has made a difference for so many, particularly for the hundreds of musicians who learned from and performed with him over the years. In fact, most of our family started performing with Vince at a very early age. His encouragement and support greatly contributed to our collective dedication to and love for Irish music. Whether or not you’ve ever shared the stage with Vince, it’s hard not to enjoy his singing, his candid performing style, and his bazillion song repertoire! As a leader of organizations, Vince helps others figure out what’s needed to get a job done, and without hesitation, rolls up his sleeves to get it done. The renovations at the Irish Center are a result, in part, to Vince’s hard work. Thanks to the tireless efforts of him and many others, the Irish Center is a welcoming home for the Irish in Philly. Vince is also a good friend. He’s there when life is grand, and he’s there when life throws the odd curveball. Regardless of the need, Vince supports others, often at their loneliest of moments and without anyone knowing about it. A person in need becomes a friend of Vince. Vince uses his talents to add good to the world and to the community. We’re so glad to have his good heart, his dedication to the traditions, his fast moving pace, his unmistakable BIG laugh, and his lovely voice in our lives. He’s made an impact on Irish music in our area and beyond, and through his great example, particularly for our family, musicians who learned the business and art from him, will continue to keep the music alive as a result. We wish Vince the best as he receives this well-deserved recognition.

So now, Vince, we’ve heard from so many who love, admire and respect you. You are a man of a million friends…not bad for a Irishman who comes from the home of the Patriot, Warrior, and the Bards…his own native land.

Kathy McGee Burns is the president of the Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame.