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Easter Rising Commemoration 2021

A little rain—more like a downpour at the end—couldn’t stop the 2021 commemoration of the Easter Rising at Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon on Sunday.

A few dozen marchers, led by the Philadelphia Emerald Society Pipe Band and the Pennsylvania 69th Irish Brigade, wound its way through the cemetery to visit the gravesites of local Irish patriots Luke Dillon, Danny Cahalane and Joseph McGarrity.

Members of those families laid wreaths of flowers, and a representative of the 69th Irish Brigade sprinkled Irish soil over each gravesite.

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Easter Rising Commemorated

The 69th Irish Brigade fires a salute at Joseph McGarrity's grave.

The 69th Irish Brigade fires a salute at Joseph McGarrity’s grave.


To the sounds of bagpipes, several dozen people, many members of the AOH, Clan na Gael and Irish Northern Aid, marched through Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon on Sunday afternoon to remember a fight that, to them at least, has never ended.

Every year, the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin, which marked the stop-and-start beginning of the Irish Republic, comes alive again, and mingles with the memories of the 10 young hunger strikers in Maze Prison (Long Kesh) who died in 1981 when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who, ironically, died just this week, refused their demand that they be accorded special status as paramilitary prisoners.

At the grave of Philadelphia-based Irish republican financier Joseph McGarrity, Sean Conlon, a Sinn Fein councillor from County Monaghan who lived for 14 years in Delaware County, read from the Proclamation of Independence. The document, calling for the British to return Ireland to the Irish, was originally read outside Dublin’s General Post Office by Irish leader Padraig Pearse. Earlier, at the gravesite of “Dynamite” Luke Dillon, an Irish immigrant from Philadelphia who waged a literally explosive campaign in London in an effort to bring the war for independence to British doorsteps, Conlon referred to “the unfinished business of 1916,” a reference to the divided Ireland that continues nearly 100 years later.

Though the violence is largely gone and Ireland “some would say has been normalized,” said Conlon, the struggle won’t be over until “we end the partition and achieve a united Ireland, a new Republic based on the principles of the proclamation read in 1916.”

See our photo essay of the event.


Remembering the Patriots of 1916

Local Irish organizations, including Clan na Gael, Irish Northern Aid and the Ancient Order of Hibernians, gathered Sunday at Holy Cross Cemetery to commemorate the 95th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.

Gathering at the gravesite of Joseph McGarrity, who coordinated and provided financial support for those who sought to drive the British out of Ireland, they recalled the names of many patriots for whom Holy Cross is also their final resting place. There’s a fair number: Martin Noone, Danny Catalan, John Ryan, Danny Duffy, Luke Dillon, John Devoy, Tom Mylott. And it’s probably not all.

Ireland is an ocean away and 1916 is a long time ago, but in Philadelphia, they’re not forgetting.


Remembering the Rising

Tom Conaghan and Patricia Noone Bonner at a recent Rising ceremony.

Tom Conaghan and Patricia Noone Bonner at a recent Rising ceremony.

It has been 95 years since the 1916 Easter Rising, the abortive effort by Irish republican forces to bring an end to British rule. Still, the long-ago insurrection continues to resonate for many Philadelphians of Irish descent. After almost a century, a key stumbling block remains—Ireland remains divided.

Representatives of several groups, including Clan na Gael and Irish Northern Aid, will commemorate the rising—as they do every year—with a ceremony of remembrance Sunday at Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon. The memorial will take place at the gravesite of Joseph McGarrity, a confirmed physical-force republican from Philadelphia who provided a considerable sum of money to the Irish rebels.

Patricia Noone Bonner has been taking part in the ceremony for about 40 years. She remembers attending with her children. For her, the struggle remains unfinished. Memories of the 1981 Irish hunger strike at Long Kesh remain painfully fresh.

For Bonner, it’s all too personal. Her father Martin Noone was a dedicated republican from a little village near Ballina, County Mayo, who ultimately left Ireland in 1924, after the Irish Civil War, to find some measure of peace in Philadelphia, joining his brother in his home across the street from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church at 3rd and Wolf.

To this day, Bonner is not completely certain of her father’s role in the troubles of the time. “He would have been too young for 1916,” she says. “I do know he was in the civil war. He went against the treaty with England. He didn’t go with the free-staters led by Michael Collins. But he didn’t talk about a lot of stuff. He talked about some things, but he didn’t talk about everything.” Martin Noone died in 1960.

As to why local Irish continue to commemorate the Easter Rising, Bonner is clear: “The 1916 rising was hopefully going to be the start of a united ireland. For us, it’s like celebrating the 4th of July. We do it in memory of all those patriots who have died for Ireland, and those who were in it (the Rising) who did not die.”

At McGarrity’s gravesite, this turning point in Irish history is recalled through the reading of the Proclamation of Indepenence, originally recited by prominent Irish leader Pádraig Pearse outside the General Post Office.

Continuing to remember the Rising is important, Bonner says, because “it’s still not a united Ireland. I know they are working toward it. They’ve stopped the armed struggle part of it. And many of the Irish will keep that goal in there minds over there, just like a lot of us here.”

The ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, April 17, at 2 p.m. in Holy Cross Cemetery, 626 Baily Road, in Yeadon.


2010 Easter Rising Commemoration

Easter rising

An officer of the 69th Pa. Irish volunteers bows his head in prayer. (Click photo to view slideshow.)

It happened nearly a hundred years ago.

It lasted only seven days.

The good guys lost, and their leaders were imprisoned or executed.

It was the 1916 Easter Rising, a bloody, brave but unsuccessful attempt to expel the British from Ireland and to establish a sovereign republic.

Today, more than a few Delaware Valley Irish-Americans remember, and their goals are substantially unchanged from those of the patriots of 1916.

On Sunday, several Delaware Valley Irish groups gathered once again at Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon to commemorate the abortive (but successful in the long run) Rising. Led by the 69th Pennsylvania Volunteers and members of the Philadelphia Emerald Society Pipe Band, the group marched to the gravesite of Joseph McGarrity, the County Tyrone-born Philadelphia businessman and a leader of Clan na Gael. They reaffirmed the Easter proclamation’s “right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland.”

McGarrity holds a special place in the republican heart. The one-time successful entrepreneur was involved in efforts to arm the forces arrayed against Great Britain. He published a fiercely pro-republican newspaper called the Irish Press. He was a friend to Irish leader Eamon de Valera (with whom he later parted company). He never gave up on the armed struggle for independence and unity.

It was a brief ceremony, but moving, as always.


Recalling the Lessons of History

Remembering the martyrs.

Remembering the martyrs.

It was 93 years ago, long enough so that you might suppose the Easter Rising to be largely forgotten.

Suppose again.

This past Sunday, a group of local Irish and Irish-Americans gathered, as they always do, at the graveside of Philadelphia’s Joseph McGarrity, lifelong physical force republican and ardent fund-raiser for the cause of Irish freedom.

Things are better in the North now, as most people seem willing to admit, but in this group the separateness of the British outpost still grates. Unity is still the goal.

So they marched to that headstone, and they recalled the long-ago words of Pearse on that day in 1916:

Having organised and trained her manhood through her secret revolutionary organisation, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and through her open military organisations, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, having patiently perfected her discipline, having resolutely waited for the right moment to reveal itself, she now seizes that moment, and, supported by her exiled children in America and by gallant allies in Europe, but relying in the first on her own strength, she strikes in full confidence of victory.

Victory didn’t come as quickly or in precisely the form as many would have liked. Some would argue that the job is still not done. But clearly, in Philadelphia the 1916 sacrifice won’t be soon forgotten.

  • View video of the procession.
  • View video of the ceremony.
  • News

    Remembering Joe McGarrity and the Martyrs of 1916

    Patricia Bonner and Patty Loomer.

    Patricia Bonner and Patty Loomer.

    The Easter Rising ended—after one bloody, tumultuous week—more than 90 years ago. The heroes of the failed insurrection are long dead. Ireland is a prosperous republic, a leader on the world stage, thanks to their vision and sacrifice. (Thanks, too, to the disastrous miscalculation on the part of the British government in turning those courageous but flawed human beings into martyrs.)

    Northern Ireland, the scene of so much heartache for much of the 20th century, is not without its troubles—but now, perhaps, with a small “t.” Still, Ulster appears to be “set for a new course,” as Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness put it in a recent visit to the White House with First Minister Ian Paisley.

    A casual observer of history might wonder, then, why so many people—members of Irish Northern Aid, Clan na Gael, the Ancient Order of Hibernians—are still bothering to commemorate that abortive, long-ago rising.

    We’re standing at the Holy Cross Cemetery gravesite of Joe McGarrity, the one-time Philadelphia wine and spirits merchant, leader of Clan na Gael, and one of the one of the world’s great physical-force republicans. McGarrity, who came to the U.S. from County Tyrone in 1892, died in 1940. And still, here we are in this sprawling Delaware County burial ground, and we’re listening to Tom Conaghan, executive director of the Irish Cultural & Heritage House of Pennsylvania, read from the Proclamation of Independence, crafted by Padraig Pearse, leader of the 1916 rising. The words of that brief address, read out by Pearse himself from the steps of the Dublin GPO, still hold tremendous power:

    Irishmen And Irishwomen: In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.

    So, why? Why dredge up that abortive, long-ago rising and all those troubled dead generations, now that Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley are singing “Kumbaya” at the White House?

    Patty Loomer, a member of most of the organizations toting banners on that cool, drizzly Sunday afternoon, offered a few remarks during the ceremony. With her interest in history, organizer Pat Bonner tapped her to review the life of Joe McGarrity. This was her third time. To her, one big reason to march every year to Joe McGarrity’s final resting place is the man himself.

    “He borrowed money to get the ship to New York,” she recalls. “He had to borrow maney from a guy on the ship so he could get from New York to his aunt’s house in Philadelphia. Whatever he did, he was very determined.”

    The other reason is simple remembrance of Pearse and all the others who took such monumental risks for Ireland. Loomer says: “It’s a commemoration. It’s a reminder of all the people who sacrificed so much.”   

    We have photos from the day.