August September 2007 Issue – Irish America https://irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine Thu, 18 Jul 2019 14:56:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 82361074 Governor Martin O’Malley’s March https://irishamerica.com/2007/08/governor-martin-omalleys-march/ https://irishamerica.com/2007/08/governor-martin-omalleys-march/#comments Wed, 01 Aug 2007 12:00:56 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=10622 Read more..]]> Youngest mayor of a large city at 37, governor at 43; it’s possible that Martin O’Malley, fueled by family, Jesuit ideals and Irish history, will march all the way to the White House.

Martin O’Malley is easy on the eye – very easy on the eye.

He’s handsome, young, and he’s got talent. He paid his way through college playing music – Irish music. His band, O’Malley’s March, has opened for Shane MacGowan, Tommy Makem, The Sawdoctors, and the Baltimore Symphony. And he can speak. He’s an orator in the truest sense. His speeches bring to mind Lincoln, J.F.K. and his brother Bobby, with whom he has been compared, and Martin Luther King.

O’Malley is Governor of Maryland; he could be in Hollywood, or winning Grammy Awards, or at least making tons of money as an entertainment lawyer.

But he’s in public service.

He accepted the call because of two factors, family and education.

Born in 1963, and raised in Bethesda and Rockville, Maryland, the eldest son in a family of six children, O’Malley grew up in a household where involvement in the community was encouraged. His mother worked for Senator Barbara Mikulski and nurtured her son’s interest in politics. His father was a lawyer rooted in civil rights. O’Malley remembers as a teenager waiting for his father outside Maryland’s notorious House of Corrections maximum security prison. “He went in and he came out, it must have been the summer, just soaking wet. He said, ‘The free and civilized people should never hold even convicted criminals in a place like that.’”

One of the first things O’Malley did as governor was close the dilapidated prison, which was built in 1878, saying it was “not suited for modern-day incarceration, much less maximum security.”

But O’Malley is not soft on crime. He drew criticism recently when he vetoed a measure that would have opened up the possibility of parole for low-level, non-violent drug dealers.

When he was elected Mayor of Baltimore in June 1999, at the age of 37, O’Malley promised zero tolerance on drug-related offenses.

“We buried almost a dozen officers who gave their lives in the line of duty, and an entire family was firebombed in its sleep for having the temerity to call 911 about the drug dealers who were making life impossible for their children in front of their home.” The pain, when he talks about this particular incident, is evident on O’Malley’s face. But he’s proud that by the end of his two terms, violent crime was at its lowest levels since the 1960s.

O’Malley’s election over two black candidates in a largely African-American city  marked a watershed in American politics. He was an immensely popular mayor. He rode on the back of city fire trucks, worked with sanitation crews, and visited schools and community centers, rousing citizens to join his campaign.

“It was really about justice. It was about all of us being in this together. It was about the dignity of every individual and about our responsibility to make our piece of this world a better place,” he says.

In November, O’Malley was sworn in as Governor of Maryland, the only Democrat to beat an incumbent Republican governor. He continues his “we’re all in this together” standard, increasing funding for public education (O’Malley credits his Jesuit education as a huge influence in his life), and putting forward a legislative package to make state government more accountable and more efficient.

O’Malley has caught the eye of Democratic Party elite. He was the only mayor to speak at the Democratic National Convention in 2004.  He further increased his credibility with the party when he filled in for Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire on June 2, 2007.

People are saying that O’Malley will run for president someday – it’s only a matter of time. O’Malley believes that people overestimate his ambition and underestimate his conviction. “I’m primarily interested in being the best governor I can be and as effective as I can possibly be,” he says.

His wife, Catherine “Katie” Curran, whose Irish roots are in County Kilkenny, is a dynamo in her own right. A former Assistant State Attorney, she is now a Maryland state judge (her father, J. Joseph Curran, served as State Attorney General from 1987-2007). The couple has four children, Grace, 16, (named for Grace O’Malley, The Pirate Queen, from whom O’Malley is descended), Tara, 15, William, 9, and Jack, 4.

I met with Governor O’Malley in Washington, D.C., on May 29. We talked for several hours.  An edited version of that conversation follows.

So why public service?
I went into public service because I grew up in a house where that was considered an honorable and important thing to do. My parents met putting together a Young Democrats newsletter. Both of their parents had been very involved in the Democratic Party. On Mom’s side, from Fort Wayne, Indiana, her dad was the chair of the party through the Roosevelt years. My dad’s father was a ward leader in Pittsburgh during the Roosevelt years.

My mom had her collection of campaign buttons and pictures of John F. Kennedy. My father was someone who, albeit a lawyer in private practice, raised us to be involved in the public affairs of our community and country. So that’s the motivation in my heart.

I worked for Barbara Mikulski as her field director in 1986 when she was running for U.S. Senate and afterwards she brought me up to the Hill so I could see beyond the campaign.

Then, when I was in college, I worked on the campaign of Senator Gary Hart and that was a very empowering experience as well.

Some of my friends, because of their disappointment over his withdrawing in 1987, were turned off. That actually drove me to be more involved.

Was there a time when you considered going in another direction – say the music business?
I went to law school because I wanted to be just like my father, who was a lawyer. I have three brothers and all four of us are lawyers, so that tells you a little something about the force of my father’s character. The Jesuits at Gonzaga High School used to say “expectation becomes behavior,” and my father expected that we would, of course, do what we wanted to do, and no doubt that would involve becoming lawyers and being involved in the public life of our community [laughs].

So the Jesuits were also an influence.
It’s what Father Quigley at Georgetown talked about, “that tomorrow can be better than today and that each of us has a personal and moral responsibility to make it so.” I do think my Jesuit education was important.

I would come from a lily-white neighborhood every day with a lot of other lily-white kids and we file down the street from the train station on our way to high school. We would go by St. Aloysius Gonzaga Church, in the basement of which, Fr. McKenna, a modern day saint, ran a mission and a soup kitchen for homeless men. He tried to get them into jobs and face up to their addictions. It made an indelible impression on many of us, and it certainly had an impression on me, when every day I walked by that mission and then went to class.

As Mayor of Baltimore you were able to connect with the largely African-American population. Why was that?
I think that an awareness of Irish history and an awareness of the Irish-American experience enabled me to shed some of the baggage that most of us who are white in America have when it comes to communicating and establishing understanding with our neighbors of color.

I grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, and if you go to the Rockville Library, my name is on a little card somewhere – I took out every book in that library on Irish history, and read every book I could possibly find on Irish history. Whenever you read a people’s history long enough, you become aware of the triumph of the human spirit, and the sort of universal eternal truths that are the core of the human experience.

It is fairly obvious that education, or lack of, and poverty go hand in hand. Where do you weigh in on Brown versus Education and the recent ruling by the Supreme Court?
With the caveat that I didn’t read the cases when they were briefed and I’m certainly not an expert, it disturbs me greatly to see the direction in which the court is moving, especially for Chief Justice Roberts to say “the way one stops discrimination is to stop discriminating.”

Well, that’s a wonderful thought, and it also completely ignores a very painful 300-year history that sees tremendous gaps in education and disparities in terms of health and concentrations of poverty, which have stemmed from slavery and the subordination of people of color. While I do think that we have made progress, we still have a long way to go before we can say – whether it’s about minority business development or achievement in education — we are beyond the need for some affirmative steps for healing and making real, equal opportunity to all people in our country.

On the same day as the Supreme Court decision, the Immigration Bill was shot down.
It was a bad day.

I was very disappointed. Our failure to reform immigration in a comprehensive way is a real tragedy on many scores, not only for the families it affects directly, but also for us as a country.

There are worse problems than people wanting to come to America, and that is people no longer wanting to come here because we cease to be the tolerant, open place that we have always proclaimed ourselves to be.

And in the sort of mean-spiritedness that killed the immigration reform compromise, I think you see a vision of America that is totally 180 degrees the opposite of the Statue of Liberty and the words emblazoned there, and what those kids in Tiananmen Square admired and were willing to die for. It’s really sad.

America seems to want to build a wall around itself.
Richard Florida who wrote The Rise of the Creative Class and The Flight of the Creative Class talks about that sort of walled America where we used to assume that we would always have adequate numbers of engineers and doctors; that we would always be on the leading edge of health care discoveries and scientific advances because we’re a place where people like Albert Einstein and other great minds wanted to come to live in a free society where their talents could be used to the fullest for the betterment of themselves and their families but also, hopefully, for mankind. In the world’s eyes that image has been greatly tarnished.

Do you think the anti-immigrant sentiment is related to 9/11 and issues of homeland security?
I think that making investments in security would greatly tame the xenophobia. When people are scared it’s easier for some politicians to make a group of people all scapegoats or all the enemy.

You have been outspoken on homeland security.
I found myself having to navigate through those rocks when there was a proposal by Dubai to take over the Port of Baltimore. I fought it tooth and nail and hit it with everything I had. I think there are some responsibilities that are still very fundamental and which only we can fulfill for ourselves, and one is security and we are not doing it. We haven’t taken the steps we need on border security, or port security, or airport security. If you read the latest 9/11 Commission Report, we are scratching our heads and wondering why five years later most metropolitan areas still don’t have interoperable communications, or better plans in place to fight pandemic flu, let alone some bio-terror attack.

There seems to be more emphasis on wiretapping individuals than on the bigger picture.
It’s a very scary time. It’s just after an attack that the Constitution is in the greatest danger. That was true in World War Two and it’s true now in the wake of terrorism. I do think that we are starting to wake up a bit; whether it’s the wiretapping or the allowing, promoting, adopting of torture as an acceptable tactic.

My father was a World War Two veteran. He had 33 bombing missions over Japan in a B-24 Liberator and I went to see him at the house where we were all raised, and he was sitting alone on the back porch. I sat down across from him. He held up the paper with the Abu Ghraib headlines and pictures of the hooded prisoners who were being tortured by the American Army and he said, with tears welling in his eyes, “Are you proud of the great country that I’m leaving to you.”

Bruce Springsteen in the last presidential campaign said that America’s government has strayed too far from America’s values and it’s time to pick up the pieces and move forward. “Because the country we carry in our hearts is waiting.” And I do think that people are finally, in greater numbers, feeling that way. But we need to find our voice – the opposition party – and speak from the foundation of American principles, which are really universal principles of all humanity. And we need to be very clear and plain in addressing those, and I think that if we do we can get back to the America that we carry in our hearts.

Have you endorsed a presidential candidate?
Yes. Definitely. I’m very committed to Hillary Clinton. I endorsed her publicly in late April. And I endorsed her privately at your Top 100 event in March. I do feel that she, uniquely among those running in a strong field, has the ability to restore America’s credibility and standing in the eyes of the world, virtually overnight, with her election.

These Bush years have been so disastrous for America’s security and America’s moral leadership in the world that we have so much ground to make up. For my kids’ sake I want to do it as quickly as possible, and I think that Hillary’s a strong and disciplined person. I think she has the respect because of her role as first lady, and because of the terrific job she’s doing as a U.S. senator. I worked with her on homeland security issues and there was no U.S. senator better, from a mayoral perspective, than she. No doubt informed by the attacks of September 11 on New York.

What about Iraq?
I think we need to get out of there as quickly as we can. Our men and women did their job and they need to come home. Their continued presence only puts them in further jeopardy and makes them a target and it makes us less safe, not more. It depletes our National Guard and I would like to see them brought home as quickly as possible.

They were not sent there to prevent a civil war, they were sent to take out Saddam Hussein and they’ve done that. I’ve sadly been to more funerals as governor in six months, line of duty funerals, than in seven years as mayor of Baltimore. That’s saying something.

Certainly the Clinton White House was crucial in the Northern Ireland peace process. You wrote a song about Northern Ireland, “Song for Justice.” Is it time to write a new song in light of the new power-sharing Assembly?
Yes. It probably is time to write a new song. It’s amazing how far things have come from a situation that just so recently many would have said was hopeless and intractable and impossible, and I’m just glad that I was able to live to see it.

I was 20 when I wrote Gary Hart’s position paper on Northern Ireland. I had to go through great machinations to get it in front of him, but I knew he felt that the only way to get the logjam broken was through American involvement, and once he got it he signed it.

Hart become the first major presidential candidate to endorse the idea of a U.S. peace envoy and all-party talks – those were the two core elements, which were new at the time. Then, once Hart won New Hampshire, Mondale was, in essence, forced to adopt the same position and thereafter it was always something that was expected of Democratic candidates. It was the same position that Bob Kerrey had in 1992, and that Bill Clinton had.

Whether it was writing position papers, or songs, or keeping Northern Ireland alive as an issue, Americans were crucial to the peace process.
I’m very proud of the American role in that. I’m happy that I lived to see it. It also gives me great comfort now because whenever I get frustrated in working with my Republican colleagues I look at Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness and I say, “By God, if they can do it, so can I.”

Yes. It’s time to write a new song.

Will you have time to play a new song?
I haven’t been playing much. We have recorded the guts of an underground CD. It’s called Banished to the Basement, but we don’t know if it will ever see the light of day. I’ve just had to put the band on the side. There was no time for it during the campaign, and of course, you know your opponents will key on the things that others see as positive attributes and try to lampoon and turn them into negatives, so I’ve just gotten away from it.

The last six months have just been a real roller-coaster of adjustment to the new job and to a much broader, more diverse group of people that I serve, and it’s just hard to stay current with the band. I really do miss it.

I do think that playing music is a bit of an international language, understood inherently by all people, and it helped me bridge racial divides as mayor of a majority African-American city. Whenever I would visit schools, kids would come up to me and say “Hey, Mayor, I play the clarinet.” “Hey, Mayor, I play the drums.” There was that sort of commonality. In Baltimore when I was mayor no one had any problem with it and I think people actually appreciated it. They give you a little more freedom at that level, I think, than as governor.

Your band O’Malley’s March has opened for Shane MacGowan.
Yes. I think that Shane’s magic is his ability to capture the energy and the passion and the anger and the empathy and the sweetness altogether and to express it in the right language.

The other thing is he likes the old stuff. As new as he makes it, it is still rooted in tradition and that’s hard to pull off and that’s what I really respect him for. When I gave him one of my CDs when we warmed up for him, as nervous as can be in his presence, he looked on the back and asked, “You write these?” I said I wrote a few of them but I prefer the old stuff, and he said, “I prefer the old stuff too.”
I don’t know what came first, the [Irish] history or the music. My mother used to play the Clancy Brothers records, not just on St. Patrick’s Day, and she was German.

Where do your O’Malley ancestors hail from?
My O’Malleys were from up in the mountains between Galway and Mayo in the valley where The Quiet Man was filmed. If you keep going through Cong, the road up through Ouchterard and you go out to where Peacock’s is, and if you bang a right and go through that pass it will dead-end right there at Maam. And half the houses in Maam are owned by O’Malleys.

Do you have any cousins over there?
I do. I have the storybook relationship with a long lost cousin. We make up for 120 years of not writing to each other by e-mailing. He’s a schoolteacher whose name is Thomas O’Malley and he helped hook me up with the whole family genealogy.

My great-grandfather kind of stepped out of a blank page. All we knew was that he was from Galway, as many people in Pittsburgh were. I got his death certificate, found out his father’s name [Thomas] and his mother’s, and wrote over to Galway for death certificates. I narrowed it down – there were only two Thomas O’Malleys with sons named Martin born approximately the right time. Only one of them was born in the exact year, the one who immigrated to America.

Pierce, the former bass player for The Sawdoctors, lives near Clonbur, and so I caught him after a show. I said, “Look, I think my family comes from a little crossroads called Kilmilkin, do you know where it is?” And he said, “I do, and I will take a photo of your ancestral home.” And like the gullible Yank, I said, “How will you know which one is mine?” And he says, “There are only three of them. And I’ll take a wide angle.”

Pierce arranged for me to have dinner with Thomas O’Malley, who told me that the Martin O’Malley in his family had immigrated to England to Newcastle-on-Tyne. “I said was he a miner?” And he said, “Yes, he was a miner,” and I said, “Well, that’s what he did in America as well.” And then Thomas said, “He wouldn’t have settled by any chance in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania?” And I said, “Yeah, that’s where my father is from, and there’s three hundred other O’Malleys here to this day because he did.”

Thomas turns to his sister and he says, “Therese, get out the picture of ‘Question mark’ O’Malley.” So Therese pulls out a picture of this well-groomed guy in a high collar with a big mustache, and his eyes look like an amalgam of my father and my father’s brother, and pictures I’d seen of my grandfather. He said, “This photo we got out of what would be his [Martin O’Malley’s] long-deceased brother’s family photo album, along with that letter from Newcastle. We can identify everyone else but we couldn’t square this guy.” And there at the bottom of the picture it said, Stanton Studios, Forbes and Market, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Thomas said, “Is that your great-grandfather?” and I said, “It absolutely is.” And he said, “Have you seen a picture of him before?” I said, “No, but there’s no doubt in my mind that that’s my great-grandfather.”

Are you hopeful for the future?
I am. I suffer from being an optimist. The nice thing about Maryland is that it’s a pretty manageable state. We have about five and a half million people, where some other states have huge challenges in job loss and loss of population. Our challenges are the opposite, because of the great institutions, the centers for scientific learning and discovery, and the NSA [National Security Agency]. We’re growing by leaps and bounds – we have thousands of jobs slated to come here from the most recent base realignment that happened with the military installations, and what gives me optimism is the notion that we have the talent in Maryland to unleash what Jeffrey Sachs [director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University] calls the weapons of mass salvation – the cures to malaria, dysentery, TB, or other horrible things that from an American perspective are entirely preventable and yet kill tens of thousand of people every month, all around the globe, many of them children. That’s how our nation regains its moral leadership of this world. It’s not from the smart bombs, it’s from the smart, compassionate hands and heads that come together in this place.

What are your thoughts on the future of America?
We go through bad phases but I do think we move forward. I do think this period of American history will be regarded as an aberration. I do think that however it gets deconstructed, wherever the blame falls, for the bad things that have happened and the good things we chose not to do, that this period of American history will ultimately be regarded as a detour from our principles and not, you know, some sort of inevitable cycle of the rise and fall of empire. Because we’re not an empire, we’re a republic and that’s the truth that we’ll return to. ♦

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The First Word: The Might Green https://irishamerica.com/2007/08/the-first-word-the-might-green/ https://irishamerica.com/2007/08/the-first-word-the-might-green/#respond Wed, 01 Aug 2007 11:59:04 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=10625 Read more..]]> “The Irish courage, spirit and humor so clearly shown by our immigrant forebears are going to be even more crucial to meet the challenges of the financial markets of the 21st century.”
– Donald Donahue, Chairman-elect and CEO, The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation.

Who knew that the Irish would be so good with money?

It’s not as if we have had a lot of practice!

Ireland’s booming economy is a Johnny-come-lately kind of guy. Pennies rattling, not bulging pockets, were more the norm until a few years ago. But good the Irish are, as evidenced by those on this year’s Wall Street 50 list.

I say it every year at this time – surely our ancestors could not have imagined such success. But we did have our financial “stars” even back in 1868.

When I read about Rupert Murdoch buying the Dow Jones Company (and I’m rooting against him and his anti-Irish media), I think about John J. Kiernan who gave Charles Henry Dow and William David Jones their first jobs. (I believe Kiernan would be rooting against Murdoch too.)

Kiernan, the son of Irish immigrants,  began his career at age 12 as a messenger boy for Magnetic Telegraph Company. In 1868 he started his own financial news-gathering business. Daily he rowed out to ships newly arrived from London and other distant ports to scavenge days-old newspapers. The information he gathered was distilled into news items, then relayed by Kiernan and his messengers to subscribers who paid for late-breaking news items. (Bell Telephone would not be created until 1877.)

Kiernan’s office, known as Kiernan’s Corner, was at Wall and Broad Streets, where the New York Stock Exchange is located today. Once his financial news service was a success, he turned to politics, serving two terms as a state senator, and authoring bills to improve New York harbor and its ferry service.

He also sought to improve conditions in Ireland and, in 1880, introduced Charles Stewart Parnell, leader of the struggle for Irish Home Rule, to the financial movers and shakers on Wall Street, with a plea for “subscriptions” to improve living conditions among Ireland’s distressed tenant farmers.

Of course, there is a sad end to the tale. While Kiernan was involved in politics, Dow and Jones launched their own financial news sheet in 1882. The upshot was that Kiernan lost his agency, and died of pneumonia at 48.

Kiernan’s story first appeared in the pages of Irish America back in 1995, written by Paul McCarthy who found
a one-page, 252-word account of Kiernan’s death a century after he passed. I bring it to you again, because too often we forget the contributions of those who went before; those immigrants who took that first step into the unknown, and the children born of those immigrants.

They faced down anti-Catholic, anti-Irish, and anti-immigrant sentiment. They ploughed the hard fallow, and they left their mark on every institution, every movement, every war memorial.

And now, alas, after so many centuries, and family ties that stretch back generations, the defeat of the Immigration Reform Bill may have sounded the death knoll on Irish America.

Unless something can be done, those Irish-born on our Wall Street 50 list will be the last of their kind.
If you believe, as Donald Donahue does, that “the Irish courage, spirit and humor so clearly shown by our immigrant forebears are going to be even more crucial to meet the challenges of the financial markets of the 21st century,” support the Irish Lobby for Irish Immigration and make your voices heard.

www.irishlobbyusa.org ♦

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Chicago’s Irish Spire https://irishamerica.com/2007/08/chicagos-irish-spire/ https://irishamerica.com/2007/08/chicagos-irish-spire/#respond Wed, 01 Aug 2007 11:58:47 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=10627 Read more..]]> Irishman to build tallest building in Western Hemisphere.

Dublin native Garrett Kelleher, 46, aspires to erect the biggest, most expensive skyscraper ever built on the shores of Lake Michigan. The beautiful, curving “Spire” is the creation of Zurich-based Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

Kelleher, a father of six – number 7 is on the way – says he doesn’t need to sell any condominiums in advance to guarantee financing like most projects of this scale require.

The Anglo-Irish Bank has guaranteed financing for 70 percent of the venture estimated to be a $2 billion project, and that’s good enough for Mayor Richard M. Daley and the Chicago City Council, which gave Kelleher their blessing in May.

Kelleher hired Daley’s brother’s law firm to represent him before the City Council, which certainly didn’t hurt.

Skeptics warn that Kelleher may start construction on the project, then have to stop at 20 stories up if millionaires don’t materialize to buy the pricy condominium units. Kelleher won’t give any estimate on how much the units will cost.
Mayor Daley says he’s not worried.

“Every time you build a building, you have to trust people it’s going to get done. This is going to be an exciting building,” he said.
Chicago has been smarting since 1996 when the Council on Tall Buildings made a controversial ruling that a shorter building with a taller spire on top in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, displaced the Sears Tower as the world’s tallest building.

The 2,000-foot-tall Spire won’t win back the “World’s Tallest” honors formerly held by the Sears Tower – a 2,300-foot-tall building is set to open in Dubai in 2008. But if it’s built, the Spire will be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and will dwarf Chicago’s Sears Tower, John Hancock and Aon Center.

Kelleher and Daley hope it will be ready to greet the 2016 Summer Olympics, which Daley and Aon founder Patrick Ryan (Aon is Gaelic for “one”) are trying to lure to Chicago.

A Dublin dentist’s son, Kelleher first came to Chicago as teenager to play tennis. He played on Trinity College’s team until he left the school without earning a degree. (Last year he and a partner won the Irish National over-45s doubles championship.)

Kelleher came back to Chicago in the 1980s as a painter and re-habber of three flats and started a company that painted buildings. The company failed to pay taxes and had a lien on it until it was called to Kelleher’s attention by a Chicago business newspaper in April, 2007.

Kelleher made a name for himself when he returned to Dublin in 1996 and his Shelbourne Development Co. owned the Virgin Megastore on Aston Quay at the base of the O’Connell Street Bridge. He developed projects in Dublin, London, Brussels and France. Still, his name was not all that well known outside development circles.

Despite an estimated net worth of $750 million, the Irish Independent said he was “practically unknown” in a profile earlier this year. Requests for interviews were always turned down by his people, who said, “Mr. Kelleher does not do press interviews.”

But the massive attention of the Spire project and his purchase this year for $50 million of Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Athletics football club have forced him to hold public meetings in Chicago, where he has turned on the Irish charm to win over skeptical neighbors of the proposed Spire.

Kelleher has had to confront the press and face questions of how he plans to finance this audacious undertaking. He admits none of his developments so far have been on this scale and he is “pushing the envelope” of his experience.

Kelleher inherited the project from Christopher Carley, who could not get the financing to make the project work.

Chicago Sun-Times commercial real estate columnist David Roeder has called Kelleher’s proposal “financially illogical to the extreme,” saying he will need to charge $2,000 a square foot to pay off the $2 billion building in a market where the absolute top rate now is $1,200 a square foot for high-end condos. But Kelleher told Roeder he will market the units “here and in New York, in London, in Dublin, in Paris, in Madrid, in Barcelona, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Hong Kong, Japan, Beijing, Shanghai, Johannesburg, Melbourne, etc.” He believes there is a market out there of people willing to pay top dollar for a prestigious address.

Kelleher showed his commitment this year by buying an $8.5 million mansion on Astor Street, which, at least until the completion of The Spire on Lake Shore Drive, remains Chicago’s most prestigious address.

In keeping with his close-to-the-vest style, Kelleher declines to say when or if he will hold a groundbreaking ceremony.

He did announce in June that he had purchased 34 steeel and concrete caissons which will be drilled 120 feet into
bedrock to support the tower. Construction equipment was on-site in June ready to start digging. ♦

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A Statue of John B. is Unveiled in Listowel https://irishamerica.com/2007/08/a-statue-of-john-b-is-unveiled-in-listowel/ https://irishamerica.com/2007/08/a-statue-of-john-b-is-unveiled-in-listowel/#respond Wed, 01 Aug 2007 11:57:27 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=10630 Read more..]]> On Saturday, this past June 2nd, the day of the unveiling in Listowel’s Small Square of John B. Keane’s statue created by father-and-son sculptor team Seamus and James Connolly, famous for their 2006 Kilkee sculpture of Richard Harris, the entire town and half of Dublin’s literary elite stood in tribute, listening to the words of, among others, Listowel’s mayor Anthony Curtin, who proclaimed proudly, ”He put us on the map.”

Niall Toibin, famous comedian and John B.’s favorite Bull McCabe, gave an emotional oration about his dear friend: ”When all is said and done, the best debt of gratitude you can give an actor is a job, and boy did he give us jobs! Several generations of thespians owe an enormous debt of gratitude to John B.”

Jimmy Deenihan, a politician, spoke, then Joanna, John B.’s daughter, with typical Keane charm, pronounced, “Here John B. has a bird’s eye view of his town, thanks to the idiosyncrasies of our one-way system,” referring to the quaint and often inconvenient way one must drive through the whole town to backtrack one’s path, surely an encouragement to stroll by foot for the human touch John B. so loved instead.

Joanna Keane O’Flynn is Chairperson this year of Listowel Writers Week, the festival John B. helped to initiate 37 years ago with Tim Daneher, Bryan McMahon, Nora Relihan, and others. His close friend Father Kieran O’Shea launched the Mercier Press collection of John B.’s poems, ”The Street,” at Listowel Writers Week in 2003, on the first anniversary of John B’s death.
In spirit stood his dear cohort, Bryan McMahon, co-organizer of the festival, who had passed away the year previous. He was locally known as the “Master,” and wrote an award-winning novel, The Master, but in reality he shared that unofficial title with John B. In their plays, Bryan McMahon captured the voice and spirit of the intelligentsia, while John B. captured the colorful language of the local farmers.

John B.’s son Billy now runs the famous literary pub with John B’s wife Mary, carrying on its splendid atmosphere of true outpouring of heartfelt creative effort. Two other sons, Conor and John, and cousins and grandchildren and other family members crowded around the statue of John B, sauntering into the square with his hand extended in an outward gesture of greeting, like you might see him coming down the street from a distance. Everyone, especially the children, seemed to want to reach up and touch the spirit of the man inside the bronze.

See www.writersweek.ie to join in the fun next year. ♦

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Irish Eye on Hollywood https://irishamerica.com/2007/08/irish-eye-on-hollywood-18/ https://irishamerica.com/2007/08/irish-eye-on-hollywood-18/#respond Wed, 01 Aug 2007 11:56:41 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=10634 Read more..]]> With the summer upon us, TV is a vast wasteland of reruns – except, of course, for Denis Leary’s brilliant Rescue Me on FT, which some critics believe will take over the title of Best Drama on TV now that The Sopranos is over.

But what else is Leary working on, aside from his post-9/11 Irish-American firefighter drama? Though he’s appeared in over 30 movies (including The Ref, Wag the Dog and The Thomas Crown Affair) Leary is focusing on TV right now. He will produce a Fox legal drama called Canterbury’s Law starring Juliana Marguiles, which will air in January. Leary and Rescue Me co-creator Peter Tolan have also put together the pilot episode for an NBC cop drama called Ft. Pit.

Leary has written a movie he hopes to direct, but according to one recent interview, there is only one thing that would really get him involved in another movie project: a chance to work with the legendary Paul Newman.

And even then, Leary would prefer he woo the recently-retired Newman to play a small role on Rescue Me.

“I have a secret evil plan,” Leary told The New York Observer.

Spider Man 3 and Shrek the Third were monster summer blockbusters, but did you know that a small Irish film actually made more money in the U.S., at least by one standard? True, the film was only showing on two screens. But the independent musical Once, starring Glen Hansard of The Frames as a Dublin street singer, averaged more money per screen its opening week than most Hollywood hits and has become a sleeper hit of the summer. Following great word-of-mouth attention at the Cannes Film Festival (where it won the Audience Award) Once has slowly been spreading across the U.S. as the film’s stars, Hansard and Marketa Irglova, and Irish director John Carney tour the country performing the film’s soundtrack.

(Hansard and Irglova have actually been musical collaborators for years, even recording an album, The Swell Season, in 2006.)

“It’s great. We’re seeing a lot of the country from the ground, and we’re meeting real people, which is not what happens when you’re just flying into airports. I’m actually getting the scale of this large place you guys call home,” Carney recently told the movie web site Rotten Tomatoes about the Once musical tour.

“I don’t know what it is about this film, but it seems to have connected with people, which is great, because we started it off as a small labor of love and a pet project. To have something that we did from our hearts be received warmly is vindicating and kind of rewarding as an artist.”

Carney also had an interesting response when asked if Irish films are underappreciated in the U.S. “No, we don’t have any good films. We don’t make good films in Ireland. We have yet to find our niche, and our voice. We’ve tried to make films in the last 10 years for an American audience. They all bombed, and rightfully so. If you’re in that fight, you’ve lost the war, because America’s a massive marketplace. So we need to make films for ourselves, primarily, and then if a couple of them strike, that’s great.”

This summer, the world will learn a lot more about 18th-century Irishman Tom Lefroy, who stepped out with a young British lass named Jane Austen before she went on to become one of the most important writers in British literature.

The troubled Austen-Lefroy courtship is at the center of the August 3 release Becoming Jane. The movie is set in 1795, when Jane Austen is a mere 20 years old. But like a character out of one of her books, she has a fierce independent streak, big dreams and a desire to marry solely for love.

Her family, however, wants her to marry well, so they are not thrilled when she falls for Lefroy, a relatively well-off Irish Protestant judge, who nevertheless is not the kind of aristocrat the Austen family is seeking.

That may very well be why young Jane falls for him so deeply, even though she is risking alienation from her family and society.
Lefroy may or may not have inspired Mr. Darcy, one of Austen’s most famous characters from Pride and Prejudice. Becoming Jane stars Anne Hathaway as Austen and Scotsman James McAvoy as Lefroy.

Colin Farrell has worked alongside some of Hollywood’s hottest leading ladies, so it’s no surprise he’s teamed up with Angelina Jolie. But this project is no blockbuster of romance and intrigue. The film is a documentary called A Place in Time and was actually directed by Jolie.

Jolie had the idea to send camera crews to chronicle a week of everyday life in almost 30 spots around the world.

Farrell is one of over a dozen celebrities who served as correspondents on the project. Jude Law, Ryan Gosling and Hilary Swank are some of the others who visit orphanages, refugee camps and impoverished villages. OK, so this project begs to be made fun of, with all of these pretty people dropping in on the wretched of the earth. Still, the film, which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival, has earned praise. The National Education Association and New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein are among those who have advocated using A Place in Time as a teaching tool in classrooms.

Farrell’s name also comes up when you ask Gabriel Byrne what is left for him to accomplish: an Irish Magnificent Seven western, to be made along with fellow Irish thespian Pierce Brosnan.

“The idea was to pay tribute to the Irishmen who had such an impact on the West and to give us all the chance to work together,” Byrne said in a recent interview. “I was saying to Pierce, ‘Just think of the poster: Liam Neeson, Pierce Brosnan, Steven Rea, Gabriel Byrne, Ciaran Hinds, Colin Murphy, Colin Farrell and Cillian Murphy – let’s just use all those guys to make a western.’

“None of us can ride horses except Pierce, but we could get somebody to write the story and do it. It’s an ongoing kind of thing where we sit and we have a drink and we say, ‘Yeah, it’ll be a great thing to do.’ And then we don’t see each other for six months.”

The much-hyped Black Donellys has been taken off the air, but expect big things down the road from at least one of the cast from the Irish Hell’s Kitchen show. Olivia Wilde got her start on the Dublin stage, so it may seem as if she’s a relative of the great Oscar Wilde. But “Wilde” is actually a stage name partially chosen because of the actress’s rebellious streak. (She was also performing in The Importance of Being Earnest when she chose the name.) Either way, the actress, who recently appeared in films such as Alpha Dog and TV shows such as The O.C., actually does have Irish literary roots.

She is a member of the famously left wing Cockburn family, which was reared in Ireland.

Olivia’s dad, Andrew, and mom, Leslie, worked in TV journalism while her sister Chloe is a writer. Her grandfather and two uncles, Alexander and Patrick Cockburn, were also journalists. She has dual citizenship, and the Cockburn family maintains a home in Ireland.
Wilde recently wrote and performed an Off-Broadway play, Beauty on the Wine, and is eyeing numerous movie projects.

Also on the TV front, Irish America cover girl and rehabbed Miss USA Tara Conner will soon be hosting a new version of the MTV dating show Singled Out.

Finally, the latest Harry Potter movie is out July 11 (with youngster Evanna Lynch among the Irish talent in the cast), but Warner Brothers already seems to be looking for a successor when the blockbuster series is done.

The film studio may even be relying on an Irish author, Derek Landy, to be the next JK Rowling for his own blockbuster children’s adventure book Skulduggery Pleasant.

Warner Brothers recently bought the rights to make any of Landy’s books into a movie. Landy’s work has already been translated into 25 languages. Set in modern-day Dublin, Landy’s darkly comic novel is about a detective named Skulduggery Pleasant and his female accomplice Stephanie.

Their adversaries in cosmic battle are known as the Faceless Ones. ♦

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Irish Art in London is the Prey of the Celtic Tiger https://irishamerica.com/2007/08/irish-art-in-london-is-the-prey-of-the-celtic-tiger/ https://irishamerica.com/2007/08/irish-art-in-london-is-the-prey-of-the-celtic-tiger/#respond Wed, 01 Aug 2007 11:55:53 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=10636 Read more..]]> The London art world was taken by surprise at its annual auctions this spring when the Irish rich, clamoring for Irish art, replaced the usual art buyers. Even the experts were impressed.

Grant Ford, director of Sotheby’s contemporary art worldwide, said: “Perhaps the biggest difference was the influx of new wealth from moguls of the Celtic Tiger – they have jumped into the auction game and pushed record prices like never before.”

“It’s astonishing,” said Elizabeth Martin, owner of Elizabeth Martin Fine Art. “A few years ago it would have been unthinkable that Irish art would raise millions in a week.”

Elizabeth and her colleague Ellen O’Donnell Rankin led a group of American art collectors through London’s finest galleries, art studios, auction houses and museums. The group took in the public collections of the National Gallery, went on private tours of the Irish art previews and attended sales at Sotheby’s and Christie’s.

“The new Irish art enthusiasts have completely changed the market,” Ms. Martin continues. “They live in Ireland and have easy access to the art. Many come over, and still others see paintings at previews hosted by the auction houses in Ireland before the London sales week.”

Christie’s and Sotheby’s held major Irish art sales on consecutive days.  Other notable auction houses, James Adam of Dublin and Bonham’s of London, coordinated a joint sale in Dublin later in the month.

At Sotheby’s, the sale of 111 works by Irish artists fetched over $12 million. The top lot in the London sale, a painting by Belfast-born artist Sir John Lavery, sold to an Irish buyer for about $1,500,000 – almost double the initial estimate.

The work of several contemporary artists, including Seán Scully, John Noel Smith, Robert Ballagh and Louis le Brocquy, also sold. Mr. le Brocquy’s oil portrait, Image of Samuel Beckett, sold for almost $800,000 significantly higher than anticipated.

“We experienced a big jump in the number of new buyers from Dublin,” said Ford. “With 164 great Irish works available, this was our biggest auction in the twelve years we have been presenting the Irish sale.” ♦

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Boston’s Fenway Park https://irishamerica.com/2007/08/bostons-fenway-park/ https://irishamerica.com/2007/08/bostons-fenway-park/#comments Wed, 01 Aug 2007 11:54:33 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=10639 Read more..]]> Fenway Park – home of the Boston Red Sox – is the nation’s enduring symbol of baseball, America’s favorite pastime. Officially opened on April 20, 1912, the park has outlasted all other major league baseball parks, becoming a shrine for baseball lovers everywhere.
Writing in The New Yorker magazine in 1960, John Updike described Fenway Park as “a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark. Everything is painted green and seems in curiously sharp focus, like the inside of an old-fashioned peeping-type Easter egg.”

The contractor who built this lyrical ballpark was Irish immigrant Charles E. Logue (1858-1919), one of Boston’s renowned builders of Irish descent. Logue arrived from County Derry in 1881 at age 23, and quickly gained a reputation as a skilled carpenter and ambitious young man.

Logue’s timing was perfect when he formed the Charles Logue Building Company in 1890. The Boston Irish had finally begun to wrestle control of the city from the intractable Yankees with the election of Hugh O’Brien, Boston’s first mayor, in 1884.

According to Boston historian Dennis Ryan, Charles Logue became a major contractor in the Irish community, building Boston College’s campus as well as churches for the Boston Archdiocese. Mayor Patrick Collins appointed Logue to the Schoolhouse Committee in 1904, citing the need for a practical builder, and Mayor John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, President John F. Kennedy’s grandfather, relied on Logue to build a “busier, better Boston.”

But Fenway Park would become Logue’s enduring landmark.

Ground was broken for the park in September 1911, and the stadium was finished the following spring, a considerable achievement given the harsh New England winters.

According to the Boston Red Sox web site, the official opening took place April 20, 1912: “The Red Sox defeated the New York Highlanders — later known as the Yankees — before 27,000 fans, 7-6 in 11 innings. The event would have made front page news had it not been for the sinking of the Titanic only a few days before.”

Fenway remained an Irish gathering place for years to come, when there wasn’t a baseball game scheduled. On June 29, 1919, for example, Irish leader Eamon deValera held a Freedom Rally at Fenway Park that attracted nearly 60,000 people, spilling onto the infield.

The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) also played at Fenway over the years.

On June 6, 1937 All-Ireland Football Champions from County Mayo defeated the Massachusetts team, 17 to 8. And on November 8, 1954, the All-Ireland hurling champions County Cork beat an American line-up, 37 to 28.

Today the legacy of Charles Logue remains intact. Red Sox president Larry Lucchino has a framed photograph of Charles Logue in his office, “for a little inspiration,” according to the Providence Journal.

And Boston’s Irish Heritage Trail, which depicts the city’s 300 years of Irish history, is planning to add Fenway Park as an Irish Landmark in its forthcoming walking map this summer, joining the Rose Kennedy Greenway, Irish Famine Memorial, and other local landmarks. Logue’s descendants have also remained a presence in the area, thanks to Logue Engineering Company, Inc. in Hingham. According to its web site, Charles remained president of the company until his death in 1919. His son A. Emmett Logue and grandson A. Emmet Logue, Jr. ran the company until 1972. Great-grandson Jim Logue started Logue Engineering in 1975, and his son Kevin is now the fifth generation of Logues in the family business.

“We are very proud to have him as a part of our family and everyone is always interested to hear of our connection with Fenway Park,” Kevin Logue said.

Indeed, Bostonians everywhere are proud of his sturdy stadium that has outlasted all other major league parks in the nation. To Charles Logue and his family from everyone who loves baseball – well done!

www.boston.redsox.mlb.com/bos/ballpark/history.jsp

www.logueengineering.com/index.html

www.irishheritagetrail.com ♦

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At the Crossroads of Dance https://irishamerica.com/2007/08/10646/ https://irishamerica.com/2007/08/10646/#respond Wed, 01 Aug 2007 11:53:50 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=10646 Read more..]]> Drawing on the patterns and movements of Irish step dancing, choreographer and dancer Darrah Carr has created a new form of dance that she calls ModErin, a fusion of modern and Irish. Fascinated with the idea of dissolving the boundaries between the strict forms of Irish dance and the freedom of movement of modern, Carr founded Darrah Carr Dance Company in 1998. Recently the company joined tap dancer and choreographer Barry Blumenfeld’s Tap Fusion Company at the Duke Theater on 42nd Street in New York’s theater district. The performance proved a delightful combination of tap, Irish and modern dance.

In an artistic directors’ note in the program, Darrah and Barry explain the union between these two styles of dance as “starting from the same place, just wearing different shoes.” This theme was elaborated upon in dances such as “Que Tombo!” (What A Fall!) in which dancers wearing taps on their hands and legs pushed and pulled each other across the stage. Challenging one another to a competition of sorts, they sounded beats and trebles out on their hands and legs clapping and stomping to keep the time.

The show also featured the premiere of Carr’s “The Ballad of Eileen Pink and James Gray.” The dance fused the intricate patterns of Irish dance with Appalachian social dance. Carr notes that while the influence of Irish dance may not be immediately visible to the audience, all the movements have their roots in the traditions of the Irish. Darrah explains that dances like “The Ballad of Eileen Pink and James Gray” began in the studio. “I literally sat down and made a list of Irish dance terms and jumps and modern dance and ballet turns and combined the two,” Carr said.

The expanded boundaries of dance became even more apparent in Carr’s choreography of the piece called “ModErin” in which dancers wore both the soft shoes traditionally used for Irish dance and the hard-toed shoes that closely resemble tap shoes. The traditions of Irish dance were visible in the intricate patterns the dancers followed as they weaved across the stage to the sounds of music by Dublin-based band De Jime. Contrasting traditional with the modern, the piece featured pairs at elbow-length apart and those whose bodies melded together and even sank to the floor. The alternations between the traditional and the contemporary had the effect of freeing the dancers from strict adherence to either form, essentially creating a new form altogether.

Blumenfeld was no less inventive in his usage of contemporary concepts and techniques. In “Trip” Barry combined dance and modern technology, performing a virtual duet with motion-sensors that produce music.

Essential to both Darrah Carr Dance and Barry Blumenfeld’s Tap Fusion is the question of how to blend different types of dance by exploring the places where they intersect and overlap. The results are an illuminating mix of ancient forms with modern movement that serves as a veritable history of Irish dance and its current manifestations. ♦

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Faces of the Fallen https://irishamerica.com/2007/08/faces-of-the-fallen/ https://irishamerica.com/2007/08/faces-of-the-fallen/#respond Wed, 01 Aug 2007 11:53:44 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=10642 Read more..]]> The Faces of the Fallen exhibition, which commemorated the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, recently closed.

The story of Faces of the Fallen begins with a visual artist, a national newspaper and a cup of tea. When Annette Polan opened her morning Washington Post sometime in the fall of 2004 she saw, not just thumbnail photographs of her countrymen and women fallen in the first wars of a new century, but a portrait gallery. She determined to paint these portraits.

Within six months, this vision had become an unprecedented tribute by America’s artists to America’s heroes: a two-and-a-half-year-long exhibition of 1,319 original works, contributed by Polan and 248 other artists, seen by more than 650,000 visitors to the Women In Military Service For America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery (WIMSA).

“My reaction was immediate because there had been too few public acknowledgements of our losses in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Polan explained. “I hoped then that the power of the artists who created these portraits would help pull Americans together to remember and pay homage to the men and women who had died so far away.”

The portraits were arranged chronologically by date-of-death, and often by incident.

At the exhibition opening, family members congregating at the portrait of a loved one met others who shared the same tragedy and, in several cases, the artist who had commemorated them.

They brought their loss, anger, grief, remembrance and pride, and left hundreds of mementos, now carefully preserved under the direction of the National Park Service.

“Your sacrifice to this country means the world to us all. We will remember and miss you. You keep my family and me safe everyday. I’m glad I am an American,” reads one representative message, improvised on paper torn from the exhibition catalogue. And another, “I miss you, Pappy.”

This unanticipated legacy comprises photos, medals, notes from comrades, family, friends and neighbors, business cards, cigarettes, silk flowers, a lipstick, teddy bears, school and military ribbons, even a box of pasta.

The Vietnam Memorial wall prepares you, but the impact of this number of faces occupying actual space is overwhelming. “I didn’t know that number looked so big,” said one young girl.

“Sadly, our exhibition portrayed less than half the number of brave men and women who have lost their lives,” Polan acknowledged. “I grieve that the count in Iraq alone has now reached 3,500. We didn’t add additional faces to our ‘snapshot’ exhibit but hope that their families understand that Faces of the Fallen is a tribute to them as well.”

Arriving at the project shortly before the opening, I was immediately impressed by the voluntary organizers who can best be described as a “kitchen cabinet” of Annette’s friends. Views were put aside in favor of the shared identity of Americans. This transcendent purpose, honored by participants and public alike, remained the hallmark throughout.

“In its first year alone, we twice extended the closing date for the exhibition, and we were honored to do so yet again,” explained Women’s Memorial President, General Wilma Vaught. But Faces of the Fallen was not designed as a permanent exhibition, and there are other demands on the Arlington National Cemetery space, notably WIMSA’s tenth anniversary in November. Accordingly, a team from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs dismantled the exhibition in June, following ceremonies addressed by General Peter Pace in his last public appearance before the White House announced his termination as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

“Together, in that beautiful place, we created a community of support and belonging,” Polan concluded. “Understanding that, although grief changes over time, it does last forever.”

Faces of the Fallen continues on the web: www.facesofthefallen.org. ♦

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Commodore John Barry https://irishamerica.com/2007/08/commodore-john-barry/ https://irishamerica.com/2007/08/commodore-john-barry/#respond Wed, 01 Aug 2007 11:52:09 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=10649 Read more..]]> From Irish immigrant to Commander of the American Navy, John Barry is a hero to remember.

There are many Irish men and women whom one could declare a hero of our time but none is so profoundly remembered as Commodore John Barry, known to those in the nautical world as “Father of the American Navy.”

Barry was born in a thatched cottage in a small rural village called Ballysampson in County Wexford in 1745. Son of a modest Irish farmer, Barry, towering at six foot four inches, left Ireland’s most southeasterly shore and traveled the Atlantic in search of adventure. He encountered more than he could have dreamed and rose in the process from cabin boy to senior commander of the entire United States fleet.

It was Barry’s uncle Nicholas who taught the aspiring captain everything he needed to know about life at sea. A fisherman himself, Nicholas allowed his nephew to join him on his boat as a cabin boy and there he worked his way up from seaman to able seaman and eventually a Mate’s ranking.

Barry’s experience with his uncle befitted his plan to cross the Atlantic and work in maritime trade.

Eventually making Philadelphia his home in 1760, Barry gained enough experience to take on the role of commander abroad the Barbadoes in 1766 and there amplified his knowledge enough to command several other merchant ships that he sailed to the West Indies.

Before his reputation began to precede him, the burly Irishman made nine round trips to the West Indies and back without incident, becoming somewhat of a hero. Huge crowds would gather to welcome Barry and his crew home to Philadelphia upon their return from seafaring. In 1772, his flawless reputation came to the attention of one of Philadelphia’s top business-owners, Reese Meredith. He asked Barry to command his full-size vessel Peg, a very prestigious job for a young captain at the time. His business associations didn’t stop there. Robert Morris, a revolutionary financier, assigned Barry to a 200-ton ship called the Black Prince. It was during his time sailing the seas on the Black Prince that Barry recorded the fastest day of sailing of the 18th century. He traveled 237 miles in a 24-hour period.

Barry’s life wasn’t all happy sailing. The commander, who married his first wife Mary Cleary in 1767, lost her to illness seven years later at the sweet age of 29. Barry was at sea when his wife died. (He remarried in 1777 but never had any children of his own; however, his new wife Sarah Keen Austin and Barry raised two young boys from Barry’s deceased sister Eleanor.) Four years later he suffered another heartbreak when his brother disappeared at sea and was never heard from again.

War of Independence

At the outbreak of hostilities between England and the colonies, Barry offered his services to Congress. His ship the Black Prince was purchased by the government and named Alfred, in which John Paul Jones, as a lieutenant, first hoisted the American (Grand Union) flag. Awarded a captain’s commission in the Continental Navy by President of Congress John Hancock in 1776, Barry was sent to command his first warship, the Lexington. Having had reservations about the British from a young age (his family was evicted by their English landlord and forced to relocate to the village of Rosslare), Barry knew it was his duty to serve his adopted country against their mutual adversary. After a very successful one-hour battle at sea with the British warship Edward, Barry reported to Congress the following;

“I have the pleasure to acquaint you that all our people behaved with much courage. This victory had a tremendous psychological effect in boosting American morale, as it was the first capture of a British warship by a regularly commissioned American cruiser,” he wrote that April.

Hazel-eyed Barry always stood tall against British assaults on Philadelphia, sometimes using small ships and always destroying any British boats coming his way. He even went as far as capturing several of their shipping fleets in lower Delaware.

At an auspicious time in his career, Barry docked up his ships and went to work under General John Cadwalader at the Battle of Trenton and even fought in the Battle of Princeton.

The Irish commander always showed consideration and kindness to his crew regardless of where they were. In 1778, following two days of unvarying battle, his ship at the time, the Raleigh, had its foretopmast cracked. Barry was forced to steer off course into unfamiliar waters in Maine’s Penobscot Bay with no land in sight. Nevertheless, Barry guided 88 of his men to safety in
rowboats to Boston.

Barry’s legacy is never-ending. Aboard the Atlanta on May 28, 1781, he was wounded in fighting but urged his crew to remain firm, and in the midst of severe damage the English gave up. When the English captain came on board the Atlanta, as was the tradition when surrendering, Barry offered him compassion: “Your King ought to give you a better ship. Here is my cabin, at your service. Use it as your own,” he said.

Barry commanded several continental journeys in the following warships: the Lexington, the Effingham, the Raleigh, and the Alliance. Unlike many of Barry’s equals, he survived all his sea encounters and after his final battle in 1783, he got involved in maritime trade. He would sail to the Orient, specifically China, and return with local treasures, which he in turn would sell to the Philadelphians who longed for such luxuries.

Although Barry spent most of his years occupied with nautical subjects, he still found the time to be a member of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, the Hibernian Fire Company, and the Order of the Cincinnati. Earlier in his career he enrolled with the Charitable Captains of Ships Club, an organization set up to help widows and orphans of men lost at sea.

Barry also penned a book of sea signals in 1780, which was used for successful communication between ships in the same regiment. His last active day of duty was on March 6th, 1801, but he remained head of the Navy until he died.

Although his existence was full of danger and adventure at sea, it was a long battle with asthma that finally took Barry’s life from him on September 12, 1803 at his country home “Strawberry Hill,” three miles north of Philadelphia. Barry’s remains are located in a little cemetery behind Old St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Philadelphia.

A statue in his honor was donated to the city of Philadelphia 100 years ago by the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick and erected in front of Independence Hall. There is also a statue in Washington, D.C. and another in his Irish home of County Wexford. A recent celebration took place to mark the 100-year anniversary of the Philadelphia statue on May 27. As throngs of Irish-Americans had gathered to witness the erection of the effigy in 1907, swarms more gathered to participate in its centennial anniversary in May. President Ronald Reagan in his era  declared September 13, 1981 as John Barry Day, and President George H.W. Bush repeated the act in 1991.

Barry’s legacy is remembered in more than just statues. Four naval ships also carried his good name, including a World War II destroyer, the U.S.S. Barry DD933 a Forest Sherman class destroyer launched in 1955 and now in a museum in Washington, D.C., and the DDG52, an Arleigh Burke Missile Destroyer currently in service. A more recent memorial is the Commodore John Barry Bridge, which is part of Route 322 between Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  The bridge crosses the waters of Delaware River South, waters once governed by the plethora of gunboats ruled by the Irish Commodore.

Barry was regarded as the Father of the American Navy because of his skill in training young officers, a title bequeathed on him not by recent generations of followers, but by his contemporaries, who were in the best position to know him. ♦

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