February March 2014 Issue – Irish America https://irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine Mon, 22 Jul 2019 14:31:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 82361074 Boston’s Man of the People: Marty Walsh https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/bostons-man-of-the-people-marty-walsh/ https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/bostons-man-of-the-people-marty-walsh/#comments Mon, 13 Jan 2014 12:20:52 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=18396 Read more..]]> There was world renowned musician Yo-Yo Ma on center stage, playing an audacious solo of Danny Boy on his cello before 8,000 enraptured listeners. Mid-way through the performance and without missing a note he suddenly turned around to smile and nod at a pretty, proper Irish woman named Mary Walsh sitting behind him with her two sons, Martin and John, on either side. The mom and Ma exchanged a wink and a nod, then chuckled at each other, and soon the entire audience was smiling too.

It was a poignant, lighthearted moment, full of joy, sentimentality and emotion, as power brokers, sign holders, tax payers and well wishers gathered at Boston College’s Conte Forum to carry out this special ritual of democracy: anointing Boston’s new mayor,  a man who exudes a sense of purpose that seems especially  promising going into the New Year.

Martin Joseph Walsh, 46 year old son of Irish immigrants from Connemara in County Galway and denizen of Dorchester, Boston’s largest neighborhood, became Mayor of Boston on January 6, 2014, reclaiming a post that the Irish held for most of the 20th century but had been exiled from these past twenty years. The Boston Irish are back, and Walsh is the undisputed king of the castle known as City Hall.

But it’s not just the Boston Irish who have rallied around him, for Walsh is a man of the people but also a man for the people – all of them. With his immigrant background, blue collar roots, community involvement, personal struggles and populist style,  Walsh has connected with people from all walks of life over the past two decades, building an inclusive coalition of Bostonians who care deeply about their city and strive to improve it.  These are the people who elected him.

One of his enduring qualities, say Walsh’s family and friends, is his unfailing empathy for others, particularly for people who are struggling to better themselves.

“He loves to help people, all the time,” says Lorrie Higgins, his longtime partner of eight years, whom Walsh calls the love of his life and best friend.

“Marty has seen people’s struggles, has personally known struggle himself and has been the beneficiary of the love and compassion of his extended Irish family,” says attorney Jack Hart, former state Senator from South Boston and close friend.

“That’s why he connected with the voters of this city and why he deeply understands the struggles people face and will work hard to give everyone across the city the hope of a better tomorrow,” Hart believes.

At the inauguration, hope of a better tomorrow seemed to shine on the faces of those gathered: a melting pot of Asian, Black, Hispanic, and White, young and old, gay and straight, white collar and blue collar, American-born and immigrant.  This is the New Boston over which Walsh will preside.

Let’s call it New Boston with an Irish twist, for while Boston has become a minority-majority city for the first time in its history, with 51 percent of residents categorized as people of color, the election made it clear that politicians from the city’s Irish enclaves still have the knack for putting together successful campaigns.

In the primary, twelve candidates from African-American, Jewish, Italian, Cape Verdean, Puerto Rican, and Irish backgrounds entered the fray. Four were first-generation Americans born of immigrant parents, including Walsh.

The primary election left two candidates standing: Boston City Councilor John Connolly and state representative Walsh.  Both candidates conducted themselves in the finals with civility, passion and seriousness, thanks to the character of each man and due to the pressing issues facing Boston. But still, many pundits grumbled openly that “two white Irish guys” was not what they envisioned the New Boston looking like.

The inauguration itself showed how embedded the Irish are in the city’s religious, civic and political institutions.  On stage were Governor Deval Patrick, the state’s first African-American governor, and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, followed by a slew of Irish names like Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, BC President Father William P. Leahy, City Clerk Maureen Feeney, Suffolk County clerk Michael Donovan, and city councilors named Linehan, O’Malley, McCarthy, Flaherty, and Murphy.

In the front row sat former mayor and U.S. Ambassador Ray Flynn, state Senate President Therese Murray, and a couple of lord mayors from Ireland.  Coincidently, even the African-American chief justice who swore Walsh into office was named Roderick Ireland.

The Boston Fire Gaelic Pipe Band serenaded the crowd as the flags were presented, followed by music from public and charter school children, representing a United Nations of voices. Yo-Yo Ma  took the music to its highest level, before handing over the stage to famed Irish tenor Ronan Tynan, who brought the audience to its feet, and to tears, with his amazing rendition of God Bless America.

The Miracle Boy 

In his novel, Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game, author William Kennedy observes, “Some men moved through the daily sludge of their lives, and then with a stroke…transformed themselves. Yet what they became [is] not the result of a sudden act, but the culmination of all they had ever done: a triumph for self development, the end of something general, the beginning of something specific.”

For Walsh, becoming mayor is surely the culmination of all that came before.  He struggled mightily in his early years, overcoming obstacles that would have waylaid a lesser man. At a recent youth summit at Roxbury Community College, teenagers from across the city nod their heads in unison when Walsh shares the motto he lives by, “Perseverance, not quitting. Hard work, not giving up.”

When Walsh says, “We are a city of second chances and redemption, a place where hard times have forged character throughout our history,” it’s as if he is referring to himself.

Walsh’s parents, John Walsh and Mary O’Malley, both emigrated from Connemara, Galway to Boston in the 1950s. John came from Callowfeenish in Carna, while his mother Mary hails from Ros Cide in Rosmuc.

Hart recalls that Walsh “recently spoke about how his parents came from Ireland to America with virtually nothing, even pointing out that his late father, as a child, went to school every day without shoes on his feet.”

“My father was one of fourteen children,” Walsh says. “He went to England in 1949, and worked on the roads for six years. He went there to send money home to his mom.”

John Walsh arrived in Boston in 1956, following his older brother Pat, who had come a few years earlier to New York before heading up to Boston. They both joined the Boston Laborers Local 223, with Pat eventually rising to become the local’s legendary Business Agent. Other siblings joined them in Boston: Matty, Bridget, Barbara, Anne, Peggy and Kate.

Marty’s mother Mary comes from a family of seven daughters and one son, says Marty’s cousin Joe O’Malley of Dorchester, whose father Peter is Mary’s only brother. She arrived in Boston in 1959.

“She came out to her aunt, Nora O’Malley Curran, in  Norwood, and lived there for two years,” Walsh says. She worked in suburban Brookline and Dedham, eventually finding work in a church rectory.

Shortly after her arrival, Mary and John met at Intercolonial Hall in Dudley Square, Roxbury, where weekly Irish dances drew immigrants and Irish-American GIs returned from the war.  They married, settled in Dorchester, and started a family. Marty and his younger brother Johnny grew up in a three-family house on Taft Street in St. Margaret’s Parish.It was a loving household, with uncles, aunts and cousins nearby, part of a vibrant Irish immigrant community that had settled St. Margaret’s and neighboring St. Williams parishes.

When he was seven years old, Marty was diagnosed with Burkett’s Lymphoma, a rare childhood cancer. He endured four years of radiation treatment and chemotherapy, having to wear a wig to school and spending months at Children’s Hospital. He missed most of second and third grade and had to repeat fifth grade. He received his First Communion at mass on Christmas Day, because doctors didn’t expect him to live long enough for his class ceremony the following May. His family came out from Ireland for the communion, and with the entire neighborhood at the church, watched him walk to the altar, alone, to receive the sacrament.

“They gave me six weeks to live,” Walsh recalls later. “The nuns at St. Margaret’s deemed me the miracle boy when I got better.”

Then, at age 11, doctors declared that Marty had beaten the odds and was now cancer free. His life returned to normal and he was a happy teenager, hanging out with his friends, and attending Newman Catholic High School in Boston’s Back Bay. Upon graduating high school, Walsh surprised and disappointed his parents by joining the union.

“My father didn’t want me to join the union, he wanted me to get a college degree, but I wanted to do it,” Walsh says.

Without a lot of schooling himself, John Walsh was a self-educated man with a great respect for learning and education, according to Bill McGowan, an immigration leader and accountant who did the Walsh family’s annual tax returns.  McGowan’s wife Bridget Reaney is from Connemara so they got to know the Walshes at various social occasions over the years. McGowan recalls John as “a fabulous storyteller who knew the history of Ireland like the back of his hand, he was consumed by it actually. Every time I came to the house it’s all he wanted to talk about.”

Eventually Marty would go to college, but he took the long and winding road.  Working hard and partying hard, he faced another challenge in his twenties when it became clear to his family and friends, and finally himself, that he was an alcoholic. He later describes the “feelings of guilt, shame, remorse, all the feelings you get as an alcoholic,” that prompted him to get clean and go into detox. That’s when he took the journey of self-discovery, as novelist Kennedy would describe it, and put his life in order. He moved from a laborer on the job site to a union official in the front office, then became a top official at the Boston Metropolitan District Building Trades Council. He took night classes at Boston College to earn his degree, eventually settling into a life of public service that would consume him, but ultimately rescue him.

There was some poignancy in Walsh’s inauguration speech when he referenced the daily prayer of the recovering alcoholic. Describing the enormous tasks he had just vowed to shoulder over the next four years, Walsh said, “These are big goals, but as President Lincoln said, ‘The best thing about the future is that it comes One Day at a Time.’”

Glad Tidings and Free Advice

During that speech, Walsh promised Bostonians that he would listen, learn and lead, and that’s what he’s done so far.  He’s convened public hearings on youth violence, human services, arts and culture, and public safety, soliciting ideas from the voters. He hired trusted political allies like chief legal council Eugene O’Flaherty, press secretary Kate Norton and policy chief Joyce Linehan. He named popular cop Bill Evans as police commissioner and brought Brian Golden, a former State House colleague, to the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Walsh hired former City Councilor Felix Arroyo, one of his opponents in the mayoral race, as Boston’s head of Health and Human Services, a testament to the inclusiveness he has promised.

In truth, the challenges facing Boston are similar to those facing most American cities: keeping the middle class vibrant through good jobs, affordable housing, and solid education; making sure the tax rate is fair and evenly distributed; and keeping health costs low and inner city crime even lower, all the while distributing resources and opportunities fairly across a city replete with boundaries of ethnicity, race, and class.

People who have followed Walsh’s career and know him personally are convinced he can do it, and they have offered him heartfelt encouragement.

Governor Patrick, his close ally at the State House, advised Walsh to always remember “The people…who look to you for a reason to hope, counting on you to see their second chances just as you have lived your very own. [To remember] not the powerful people only, but the powerless, the strivers and seekers who make this good city great.”

Ray Flynn, whose family came from Spiddel, says  “Marty Walsh will bring the traditional values of caring for the poor and needy which Irish Americans are noted for. The Walsh family represents all that is special about the Irish coming to America: hard work, family, public service and integrity.”

South Boston’s Bill Linehan, who was elected President of Boston City Council on inauguration day, promised to work together with Walsh, noting,  “I’ve known him for a long time. I truly believe he’s a team builder and a collaborator.”

And nationally, many Irish-American leaders are sending Walsh their best wishes, and some free advice.

“Congratulations to Mayor Walsh and I wish you the best of luck as you embark on your first term as Mayor of Boston,” wrote Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who Walsh has cited as someone who impressed him when O’Malley was mayor of Baltimore.

“One of the things I keep on my desk is an old “Irish Need Not Apply” sign as a reminder of our nation’s conflicted, yet awe-inspiring journey,” O’Malley continued. “No matter how difficult the challenges may be, remember that the journey of a great people is much more than one person, though every person is important.  It’s more than any four year period, though every four year period is important. It’s a journey that reminds us that we’re all in this together. This belief has sustained me during the darkest and brightest days as mayor of Baltimore, the city I love. I pray it will do the same for you.”

Michael E. Lamb, Controller for the City of Pittsburgh, with Connemara roots, believes “Marty’s blue-collar, working class, labor union background will be enormously helpful. He understands the value of family sustaining jobs and the important role of public education. His background has naturally instilled in him a sense of social and economic justice.”

His brother Jim Lamb, president of the Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh and a longtime Northern Ireland peace advocate, likes Walsh’s approach to building coalitions. “The unfortunate reality is that city politics – whether its in Belfast or Dublin, Pittsburgh or Boston – is all about turf and loyalty,” he says. “The only way to get anything done is to reach out and build those alliances with elected officials and other leaders, regardless of party.”

Speaking of Belfast, Walsh visited the city in 2010 to view the city’s new ice hockey arena, where the Boston Bruins played the Belfast Giants. Walsh met community organizers and discussed economic development. Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir recently sent Walsh a congratulatory message and invited him to visit Belfast again.

Irish-American leaders also hope Walsh takes an active role in the nation’s immigration reform movement.

“One of the first things you’ll see Marty address in the City of Boston is immigration,” says Bill McGowan, who helped create Boston’s immigration movement in the 1980s that led to the Donnelly Visa.  As a child of Irish immigrants, McGowan says Walsh has a special understanding of how immigrants contribute to American society.

Bruce Morrison, former U.S. Congress-man and a leading advocate for immigration reform in D.C., says, “Marty Walsh is the kind of grass roots political leader that gives voice to the needs of real people. One of those needs is to remake our immigration system so that it allows immigrants to contribute to the growth and prosperity of communities like Boston without undermining the job opportunities of those already here.

“Marty can speak up…for a system of future flows that keep the door open to traditional communities like the Irish, while welcoming newcomers from places that are new to the American experience,” says Morrison, who authored the Morrison Visa bill in 1992.

Rekindling the Connemara-Boston Connection 

A side benefit of Walsh’s heightened profile is that it shines a light on the deep-rooted connections between Connemara and Boston. While crediting Dorchester as the place that nurtured and shaped him, Walsh also speaks lovingly of his ancestral home of Connemara, a place that still fills him with pride and joy.

“Every summer I’d go over as a kid to my grandparents’ house in Rosmuc, where my mother is from,” Walsh told Boston Globe travel writer Thomas Breathnach.  I loved it there: planting cabbage or sowing potatoes in the fields, feeding the chickens or fishing on the pier.”

Today, the people of Connemara are proudly claiming Walsh as a native son.  The headline in the Galway Advertiser read, “Marty Walsh victory in Boston heralded as ‘great day for Galway,’” while the Connacht Tribune announced, “Connemara man elected mayor of Boston.”

Colm Gannon, an All-Ireland button accordion champion from Dorchester who moved back to Spiddel and opened his own music store, says that Walsh’s candidacy has filled Connemara with “the sense of pride and anticipation (that) is overwhelming. The place is filled with Marty Walsh bumper stickers and Marty for Mayor tee shirts. I can honestly say that the buzz throughout the whole campaign was electric.”

Likewise, a special bond exists in Boston for Connemara, as immigrants stayed true to their cultural traditions even as they assimilated into American life. Johnny Joyce, from Innishbarr in Lettermore, came to Dorchester in 1955, followed by several of his sisters who settled in Boston and Pittsburgh. Joyce’s home sickness promoted him and Martin O’Donnell to form the Boston Irish Rowing Club, where immigrants could gather to race their prized currach boats

on Boston Harbor and socialize afterwards.

Dorchester’s publisher Paul Feeney, whose parents came from Spiddel, wrote in his weekly Boston City Paper that Walsh’s victory was a testament to that immigrant community. “How proud we are of our parents and grandparents, our aunts and uncles from the old country who have inspired us all with their love of America, their deep religious faith, their hard working nature and the pride in their culture.”

Walsh’s cousin Joe O’Malley says,  “When I was growing up in Dorchester, you were either from Connemara or Kerry. Whether it was the currach races in Boston Harbor, or the ceili dances at the Irish Social Club, the Connemara community always came together. When Marty was running for state representative in 1997, everyone came out of the woodwork to help.”

It was the same with the mayor’s race,  when local notables like boxing champ Sean Mannion, Irish speaker Michael Newell, and sean nos singer Mairin Ui Cheide all volunteered on the campaign.

Mayor Walsh has a full agenda right now, but still, the nagging question around Boston is: Will he be going to Ireland anytime soon? It certainly seems so. Days after his November victory, Walsh spoke to Raidió na Gaeltachta, greeting the audience in Irish. He promised to visit Connemara in 2014, and rumor is that that trip will take place in April.

When he returns, Walsh will be assured of a royal welcome befitting a native son who has done Connemara proud. And meanwhile, here in Boston, it is apparent that there is no Last Hurrah for the Irish coming to this town anytime soon.

https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/bostons-man-of-the-people-marty-walsh/feed/ 3 18396
The First Word: We Are All Immigrants https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/the-first-word-we-are-all-immigrants/ https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/the-first-word-we-are-all-immigrants/#respond Mon, 13 Jan 2014 12:19:49 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=18398 Read more..]]> And  so it begins. A new year, and already a happy one with the election of an Irish mayor in Boston.

And who better to embody the tough, tireless, tender trajectory of our Irish story, than Marty Walsh, son of immigrants and champion of the working class.

Marty’s campaign, aimed at a range of ethnic and social groups, echoes the political leadership of Boston’s first Irish mayor Hugh O’Brien. Also a master of coalition building, O’Brien’s election in 1885 was the start of an era that carried John Kennedy, the grandson of another Boston mayor, all the way to the White House in 1960.

O’Brien emigrated with his family when he was five years old. It was a time when things were difficult for the Irish and it seemed well-nigh impossible that they would ever rise above the religious bigotry and economic hardship that they experienced.

But they endured. And Irish working men and women went on to lay down roots and dream big dreams for their offspring.  O’Brien’s own rise was extraordinary. Apprenticed to a printer at 12, he was foreman of the plant at 15. He went on to become a successful businessman and start his own newspaper. As mayor he gave Boston her Emerald Necklace of parks, and while he championed the poor, his conservative and transparent stewardship won him the respect the Yankee elite.

Marty Walsh’s election embodies the leadership the clan has shown in the ensuing years; in politics, the labor movement,  and every facet of American life. And his election too, has lifted the hearts and hopes of Irish people everywhere.

Is it a sign of better times ahead for the Irish, here and at home? At the very least, it reminds us that we still have some political clout.

And we are going to need it.

Given the downturn in Ireland’s economy, the Irish are once again hitting the emigrant trail. Over 40,000 left for Australia in 2011 and 2012. But sadly, despite the bonds between our two countries, very few have made it to these shores. It’s not that they don’t want to. They can’t.

The 1965 immigration act, while it favored more people from Asia and Latin America, greatly restricted the Irish, closing down most avenues for legal immigration. As a result, Irish immigrants are fast becoming an invisible entity in America. Our once vibrant Irish societies and organizations (see “The Fifth Province,” page 40) are in danger of extinction. And while, to newer immigrant groups, we have come to personify the American success story, we have grown scarce on the ground ourselves.

Senator Ted Kennedy said of the 1965 act, “what we were trying to do was eliminate discrimination . . . but it worked in a very direct and significant way against the Irish.”

Ciaran Staunton, the head of Irish Lobby for Reform Movement, who was once part of the same laborer local as Marty Walsh, is trying to get the message out that immigration reform is not just a Hispanic issue. He says that most people are not aware that the 1965 bill in large part put an end to Irish immigration. “J.F.K.’s election in 1960 signaled the end of the ‘No Irish Need Apply Signs,’ but five years later, they took that sign and hung it on the Statue of Liberty,” he said.

“If Marty Walsh’s parents were to come here today they wouldn’t get in. We’re meeting with people whose grand- parents were immigrants and I tell them that under the regulations today, their grandparents wouldn’t get in,”  Staunton continued.

Thanks in main to IIRM’s lobbying, alone, and in coalition with other groups, the immigration reform bill passed the Senate last year. If the same legislation passes the House it will allow 10,500 visas a year for Ireland.

Speaker of the House John Boehner has said that he is hopeful that the House can act on immigration legislation early this year. Paul Ryan (R.WI) has given assurances to the I.I.R.M. that he would be favorable to the bill, but the majority of Republicans in the House remain to be convinced. And that’s where you come in. It is up to you to get involved. You have it in your power to make the difference by making your voices heard.

In 1885, when Mayor O’Brien was setting up his office, the statue of Liberty was just making her way into New York Harbor where  she would become the “Mother of Exiles,”  the greeter of immigrants. With your help, she will once again open her arms to the Irish.

Mortas Cine.


For more information on the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform visit http://irishlobbyusa.org.

Source for Hugh O’Brien:  Irish Boston: A Lively Look at Boston’s Colorful Irish Past by Michael Quinlin (Globe Pequot Press).

https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/the-first-word-we-are-all-immigrants/feed/ 0 18398
Glucksman Ireland House NYU at Twenty https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/glucksman-ireland-house-nyu-at-twenty/ https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/glucksman-ireland-house-nyu-at-twenty/#respond Mon, 13 Jan 2014 12:18:36 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=18422 Read more..]]> 2013 was an extraordinarily busy year at 1 Washington Mews. Starting last February, a plethora of activities has highlighted the range of this jewel in Greenwich Village: a memorable 20th Anniversary gala, conferences, exhibits, publications, concerts, workshops and all this on top of a range of classes offered to undergraduate and graduate students in the fields of Irish and Irish-American Studies. The current anniversary-related initiative is a stunning exhibit of eighteenth-century letters from Bordeaux’s Irish community, which draws on world-class collections of art and never-before-seen historical documents. “The Bordeaux-Dublin Letters, 1757: The Voice of an Irish Community Abroad” runs at the Mamdouha S. Bobst Gallery in NYU’s Bobst Library through April 1.

In 1757, in the middle of the Seven Years’ War, an Irish wine ship en route from Bordeaux to Dublin was captured by the British Navy. In 2011, the mailbag from the Dublin-based ship the Seven Sisters was discovered in the British National Archives by New York University professor Tom Truxes. The majority of the letters had never been opened. The 125 letters in this exhibit are located in the historical context of the first truly global war and explicate the role of the Irish diaspora in eighteenth-century Europe and America.

The letters take readers into a private and intimate world inhabited by ordinary men and women separated from their homeland by war. One of the most touching of letters was written by the wife of the ship’s captain. It contains expressions of longing and affection, along with the much more pragmatic concerns of bringing home olives and prunes. The following is an excerpt from “Mary Dennis, Dublin, to Mr Jon Dennis, Comander of the Too Sisters to be left at Mr Christopher Gernons, Merchant in Bordeaux, France:

My dear life, 

I take this opertunyty to let you know I am in good health & I hope this may find you din ye same it is ye greatest blessing I Desire if I cold hear you were safe & well I have bean very uneasey this past bad Wether but I trust in god for a happy Sight of you as there is as to reasons & paper fine & Corse & nuts & evry thing as befor ollivfs & peper if cheapan imbargo I think it Wold be proper to bring What you can to sell in ye shop or it is 2s per [ream] hear it is better have a Stock & you may Remit C munny for them at yr Return […]

My Dr I beg you will not omit Riting as it is ye onely Pleasure I Can have in yr ab-s tance I beg you may take care of your self & I beg of the Allmyty God to Preserve heare Continue in this filthy Castle […] on this Occeason You thought a Creditt 

you from all Eavill & grant me a hapy sight Wich is ye Fervent prayers of



The themes are universal. There are students asking their parents for money, and fathers chastising their children for being disobedient or lazy. There are letters filled with petty gossip and letters expressing the frustrations of Irish prisoners of war languishing in French jails. As a time capsule of 1757, the Bordeaux-Dublin letters offer a uniquely candid glimpse into the lives of ordinary people who never imagined that anyone else would ever read them.

The exhibition is open to the public from 9:00am to 6:00pm daily on the ground floor of NYU’s Bobst Library at 70 Washington Square South. A photo ID is required to enter the Mamdouha S. Bobst Gallery.

To learn more about Glucksman Ireland House NYU and the book that accompanies this exhibit go to http://irelandhouse. fas.nyu.edu, or email ireland.house@nyu.edu.

https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/glucksman-ireland-house-nyu-at-twenty/feed/ 0 18422
Irish Scientists Discover Genetic Basis for Memory Formation https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/irish-scientists-discover-genetic-basis-for-memory-formation/ https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/irish-scientists-discover-genetic-basis-for-memory-formation/#respond Mon, 13 Jan 2014 12:17:38 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=18423 Read more..]]> Scientists from Trinity College Dublin have shown for the first time that two genes involved in many neurological diseases act together to regulate specific aspects of protein production in nerve cells and allow the development of a simple form of memory called habituation. These findings have implications for our understanding of memory formation in general, and will also aid ongoing research in related diseases.

Habituation occurs when we are repeatedly exposed to a stimulus and our response is lessened over time as a result. Two everyday examples include our ability to stop hearing ambient noise when concentrating on a particular task, and the fact that we stop feeling the clothes we are wearing once we are dressed.

The scientists behind the discovery worked with fruit flies to explore the fundamentals of memory and learning and to investigate the molecular function of the two genes, called ‘Atx2’ and ‘FMRP’. Atx2 is associated with Motor Neurone Disease and Spinocerebellar Ataxia type 2, while FMRP is known to impact mental retardation and Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The Trinity scientists, led by Professor of Neurogenetics Mani Ramaswami,  showed that flies that normally learned to ignore a familiar, unpleasant smell, failed to do so if they had defects in either gene. They proposed two potential explanations for defective protein regulation based on their results. Mutations that cause a loss of function in both genes lead to a failure to reduce protein production when associated proteins are not required, while an increased or altered function of the genes leads to a ‘hyper-repressed’ state in which the stimulation of specific protein production is prevented when these proteins are required.

Dr. Jens Hillebrand, Research Fellow in Genetics at Trinity and co-lead author on the paper, added: “It is nice to be able to potentially explain why FMRP and Atx2 diseases in humans are symptomatically different, even though the two proteins have rather similar normal functions.”


https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/irish-scientists-discover-genetic-basis-for-memory-formation/feed/ 0 18423
Celebrating with Concern https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/celebrating-with-concern/ https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/celebrating-with-concern/#respond Mon, 13 Jan 2014 12:16:40 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=18424 Read more..]]> CEO of Aer Lingus Christoph Mueller was honored by the international humanitarian organization Concern Worldwide U.S. in early December. Mueller was

recognized at Concern’s annual Seeds of Hope dinner for bridging the gulf between business acumen and charitable efforts since assuming Aer Lingus’s top position in 2009.

At the event, Dr. Joseph Cahalan, CEO of Concern, said that Mueller was “a driver of social change through

charitable partnerships and programs that make a lasting impact on people… whose lives have been devastated by natural disaster or whose potential has been compromised because of extreme poverty.” Notably, Aer Lingus leads an in-flight fund-raising campaign on behalf of UNICEF that has raised $16 million to date. More recently, the company provided its planes to deliver emergency relief supplies to the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan.

“I accept the award on behalf of all Aer Lingus employees, past and present, who have shown their generosity of spirit, throughout the years, to those less fortunate than them,” Mueller said in his acceptance speech at the Waldorf Astoria. The dinner raised more than $1.8 million for Concern.

Tom Moran, Chairman & CEO of Mutual of America and Chairman of Concern Worldwide U.S., remembered the late Aengus Finucane, the Irish priest who founded Concern. He spoke of Finucane’s influence on his life, of the many trips that he himself has made with Concern to some of the most troubled spots in the world, and the organization’s ability to change lives and create a better future for impoverished children and their families.

Earlier in the month, Concern also hosted their Winter Ball at the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park, which raised $135,000 for Concern’s programs in 27 countries around the globe, the largest amount brought in at the event since the inaugural Ball 13 years ago.

https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/celebrating-with-concern/feed/ 0 18424
The Quiet Man is A National Treasure https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/the-quiet-man-is-a-national-treasure/ https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/the-quiet-man-is-a-national-treasure/#comments Mon, 13 Jan 2014 12:16:14 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=18431 Read more..]]> There was much rejoicing among Golden-Age film lovers on December 18, 2013, when they learned that the classic 1952 John Ford film The Quiet Man was officially added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry. Each year the organization selects 25 movies that have the largest number of supporters by way of campaigns and petitions.

Devoted Quiet Man fans can now be assured that their favorite film is properly recognized as an important cinematic treasure and that it will be preserved and protected for generations to come. In a statement offered from her home in Boise, Idaho, Maureen O’Hara said, “I am overjoyed that the Library of Congress has inducted The Quiet Man into its National Film Registry. It was the thrill of our lives for John Ford, John Wayne, myself, and everyone to make it. I had never seen Ireland more majestic than she was that summer in 1951. It was the first time she would ever be captured in technicolor and we all knew while we were making it that the real star of The Quiet Man would be Ireland herself – and she truly is.

“I loved playing Mary Kate Danaher. I liked the hell and fire in her. The Quiet Man is my favorite of all the pictures I made. I love it so much because it was the first great movie about Ireland, made her look wonderful, and shared her customs and traditions with the rest of the world. Yet I believe it has become a classic and endured for over sixty years because it’s a simple and timeless story about people in love. Thank you for preserving this cinematic treasure for all future generations. May its message of love endure throughout the ages.”

O’Hara and John Wayne were romantic leads on screen and became life-long friends when the cameras weren’t rolling, which is why on May 23, 2013, at the age of 92, Maureen boarded a plane to make a sentimental journey to the John Wayne Birthplace Museum in the rural community of Winterset, Iowa. It was her first visit to the landmark and she was invited as the honored guest for their annual John Wayne Birthday celebration fundraiser to support the museum.

“He was the softest, kindest warmest, most loyal human being I’ve ever known,” Maureen said of Wayne. Her late brother, Charles FitzSimons had his own analysis of the couple’s lusty appeal: “Their chemistry was unique for two reasons…Wayne was a big man, he was physically powerful and he had no qualms about his abilities as a man or his masculinity, and it came across. He was a believable male! Maureen was the female version of that. She didn’t have to put on coquettish airs or she didn’t have to try to be a sex pot. The same thing came through from her naturally and when these two [interacted] you had a fantastic situation, and that’s why they were such an incredible team!”

Wayne was often questioned about his association with the fiery O’Hara, and his favorite answer was always, ‘“O’Hara?  The greatest guy I ever knew.”

When Maureen arrived in Winterset, with her grandson Conor FitzSimons, his wife Elga, their children Everest and Baylee, and her nephew Charles FitzSimons, she received a Hollywood royal welcome with red-carpet treatment for the next three days as the town buzzed with Wayne/O’Hara related activities. The visit concluded with a dinner attended by over 800 guest, who were audibly delighted when Maureen took the microphone to speak about her dear friend. She was interrupted repeatedly by applause and ended her remarks by returning returningWayne’s compliment, “John Wayne was a helluva guy.”

It was writer Laura Bynum who, upon discoveing that The Quiet Man wasn’t part of the National Film registry, began a campaign to have her favoirte movie included.

In a conversation with Laura, she revealed that the task was not without its challenges. She began in the summer of 2012 with a Facebook campaign, reaching out to fans of  O’Hara, Wayne, and John Ford, as well as classic film lovers and hibernophiles. Patrick McCormick, head of the White O’Morn Foundation, the Quiet Man cottage restoration group, was particularly instrumental in helping to get the word out through his many contacts in Ireland and the U.S. She also reached out to the members of the voting board and began a letter writing campaign to directors in Hollywood.

“The film had so many fans who were willing to carry the ball a little further down the field and keep the momentum going,” she said. The thing she hadn’t anticipated in all of this was just how The Quiet Man had emotionally affected so many people.

By the end of Laura’s campaign, the Facebook page she created had over 2,000 likes from across the world. “The film is loved the world over,” she said, “and my experience with this effort has proven to me that film is a unifying thing.”

Now that the film is part of the National Registry, The Quiet Man truly is a “Happily Ever After”  story.



June Parker Beck is the founder and editor of the online publication Maureen O’Hara Magazine and its accompanying Facebook page. Since 1991 she has written extensively on the many dimensions of Maureen O’Hara and her relationship to Ireland. You can visit Maureen O’Hara Magazine at: moharamagazine.com, or visit the Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Maureen-OHara-Magazine-on-Facebook-Official-Site/131269913567989.




https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/the-quiet-man-is-a-national-treasure/feed/ 3 18431
Irish Eye on Hollywood https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/irish-eye-on-hollywood-35/ https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/irish-eye-on-hollywood-35/#respond Mon, 13 Jan 2014 12:15:07 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=18400 Read more..]]> Maybe they should call it the Father and Son Dance Film Festival!

After all, it was an Irish family affair at this year’s Sundance Film Fest, which ran from January 16 – 26 in Park City, Utah.

First up is Frank, starring Domhnall Gleeson, Michael Fassbender and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

The film has been described as an offbeat comedy about a musician struggling to make it with a band fronted by a self-proclaimed musical genius who is so odd he wears a large, fake head when he performs on stage.

Directed by Lenny Abrahamson (Adam & Paul, What Richard Did), Frank is based on a memoir by Welsh journalist Jon Ronson and bears similarities to the life of musical artist Frank Sidebottom.

Reacting to the Sundance selection, Frank director Lenny Abrahamson said, “I can’t think of a better place for this film to begin its life.” Producer Ed Guiney added,“Sundance is the perfect place to launch the worldwide campaign of this great new film from Lenny Abrahamson. And it’s great to be there with fellow Irishmen and collaborators, Michael Fassbender and Domhnall Gleeson.”

Indeed, Gleeson’s father, Brendan, was also represented at Sundance. Gleeson stars in Calvary, a dramedy about a tortured priest directed by John Michael McDonagh. The film re-teams Gleeson and McDonagh, who brought the excellent comedy The Guard to cinemas in 2011. Calvary features an A-list Irish cast, including Chris O’Dowd, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran and, yes, Domhnall Gleeson.

Also screening at Sundance was The Last Days of Peter Bergmann, a short film about the case of a mysterious Austrian who showed up in Sligo in 2009.

Brendan Gleeson will also team up with fellow veteran Irish thespian Fiona Shaw in an upcoming thriller based on an Edgar Allen Poe short story. Gleeson and Shaw — who recently wowed New York stage audiences in a performance of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” —will join Michael Caine, Kate Beckinsale, and Ben Kingsley in Eliza Graves. The original short story might well have been the inspiration for the phrase “The inmates are running the asylum,” because that’s exactly what the main character, a Harvard medical school graduate, encounters when he takes on his first job — a mental institution where the one-time patients are now posing as doctors. Look for Eliza Graves to hit screens late this year or early next.


February is going to be a busy month for Irish film stars.

Slated for a February 7 release is One Chance, about singer Paul Potts, a Welshman who stunned the audience, viewers and judges on the TV show “Britain’s Got Talent.” Colm Meaney stars in the film, along with James Corden and Alexandra Roach. Down the road, look for the always-busy Meaney to appear in a biopic about global football icon Pele. The film (simply entitled Pele) will feature Meaney as the coach of the Swedish national team that lost to Brazil in the 1958 World Cup, in which a 17 year-old Pele played.


Also in February, Irish veteran of stage and screen Gabriel Byrne becomes the latest star to (if you will) get sucked into the vampire trend.  Byrne will appear in Vampire Academy, based on the best-selling series of books by Richelle Mead, about the battles between good and evil among the undead at an elite school. Sarah Hyland, Olga Kurylenko and Zoey Deutch lead the cast of Vampire Academy, which features the inevitable tagline: “They Suck at School.”


February will also see the release of two long-awaited films from two of Ireland’s top stars: Colin Farrell and Liam Neeson. The latter’s latest action flick, Non-Stop, is slated to hit screens in mid-February. Non-Stop, also starring Julianne Moore, is a kind of Speed at 30,000 feet. Neeson plays an air marsha l who begins receiving texts which state that one passenger on the fight will be killed every 20 minutes until certain ransom demands are met. Meanwhile, Colin Farrell’s long-awaited time-traveling film Winter’s Tale (based on the novel by Mark Helprin) will also hit screens in February. Winter’s Tale also stars Russell Crowe, Will Smith and Jessica Brown Findlay.


Finally for February, two Irish names we haven’t heard in a while: Stuart Townsend and Paddy Considine. Townsend was on the rise in the early 2000s, starring in films such as About Adam, Queen of the Damned, and The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, while also dating A-lister Charlize Theron. But after a number of quiet years recently, Townsend is jumping back into the fray with the film A Stranger in Paradise. A thriller set in the world of high finance, A Stranger in Paradise is about an ambitious money manager who is banished to Thailand, on the run from people trying to kill him. Meanwhile, Paddy Considine (who was inspired by his real-life Irish father in Jim Sheridan’s In America) will appear in the German romantic drama Girl on a Bicycle, about an Italian bus driver who has second thoughts after proposing marriage to his German girlfriend.


Rumors of a Dusty Springfield biopic have been swirling around London and Hollywood for years. Well, the rumors are heating up once again, now that Grammy-award winning singer Adele has been mentioned as a possible star.

For years, Nicole Kidman was said to be considering the lead role in any film about the celebrated “Son of a Preacher Man” singer, who was born Mary Catherine Bernadette O’Brien in London in 1930 and always described herself as “just an Irish Catholic girl.”

In a separate project, comes word that “Boardwalk Empire” writer David Stenn has completed a script about the years when Springfield moved to Tennessee to record the now-classic album Dusty in Memphis. Adele has long counted Dusty Springfield as an influence, and is now said to be considering starring in the film.

Springfield’s many fans are hoping a strong movie about her life and work will create renewed interest in this beloved crooner.

As the Irish Times columnist Brian Boyd put it recently, Springfield “is always left off that now all-too-familiar roll-call of great musicians of Irish descent. We have tested and tasted too much of the ‘Irishness’ of The Smiths, Oasis, John Lydon, et. al. But, in truth, Dusty was bigger and better than any of the boys.”


But if you still feel you must see Nicole Kidman in a film about an icon with Irish roots, then you’re in luck. Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, Kidman’s Grace Kelly biopic Grace of Monaco will be released on March 14.


Ed Burns has been making headlines starring in the critically acclaimed TNT drama “Mob City,” about cops and crooks in 1940s Los Angeles. Burns gets in touch with his dark side to portray infamous gangster Bugsy Siegel in the show, which was created by Hollywood big wig Frank Darabont, who directed such Hollywood hits as The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. “Mob City” also features another actor whose parents, like Burns, came from Ireland: Neal McDonagh. In “Mob City,” McDonagh plays a crime-fighting cop dedicated to tackling the West Coast mob. McDonagh is the son of Irish immigrants from Tipperary and Galway who raised their family in Dorchester, Massachusetts. McDonagh’s other small screen credits include HBO’s “Band of Brothers” as well as ABC’s “Desperate Housewives.”

In other Ed Burns news, the writer/director has apparently changed his plans for a sequel to his groundbreaking 1995 film The Brothers McMullen. Burns now says catching up with the Long Island Irish clan in the 21st century was simply not working out, and he is now thinking of going further back in time.

On Twitter, Burns recently wrote: “I had to throw out the McMullen sequel idea. I just didn’t fall in love with any of the ideas I had about where to find them 20 years later. So instead of a McMullen sequel, I’m writing a prequel. Set in 1986, Jack is a senior in college, Barry a senior in (high school), Pat finishing 8th grade.”

https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/irish-eye-on-hollywood-35/feed/ 0 18400
Those We Lost https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/those-we-lost-20/ https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/those-we-lost-20/#respond Mon, 13 Jan 2014 12:14:17 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=18434 Read more..]]> Peter O’Toole


Peter O’Toole, the actor who rose to international fame nearly overnight as T.E. Lawrence in the 1962 epic Lawrence of Arabia, died December 14th in a London hospital. His daughter, the actress Kate O’Toole, said in a statement that he had been ill for some time. He was 81 years old.

He was 6 foot 2 inches with sandy blonde hair, eyes like a hurricane, and a jaw like a rocks glass. The epitome of the 1960s leading man, he was known as much for his on-screen bravado as his so-called “lost weekends” off screen. After his first leading role in Lawrence as the British archaeologist-turned-soldier who led an Arab uprising against the Ottoman Empire during WWI, O’Toole was nominated for his first of eight Oscars. The 60s and early 70s continued to see O’Toole invoking power and extravagance in his roles that led to subsequent Oscar nods: Henry II in 1964’s Beckett and another Henry II, opposite Katharine Hepburn, in 1968’s The Lion in Winter; Arthur Chipping in 1970’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips; and in the last film of his peak career years, the mad 14th Earl of Gurney in The Ruling Class.

But the roles O’Toole took were not always magnanimous filmic accomplishments (for example, Woody Allen’s 1965 What’s New, Pussycat?), and several were universally panned, like Night of the Generals (1967) and Caligula in 1979. But those years too saw his off-screen reputation grow. Known as having a predilection for gambling and the tracks, he allegedly lost most of his Lawrence of Arabia earnings in two nights gambling with his co-star Omar Sharif, The New York Times reported. So perhaps it wasn’t so facetious when he once explained in an interview that he took lesser roles because “it’s what I do for a living and, besides, I’ve got bookies to keep.”

“We heralded the ‘60s,” he once said, according to The Irish Times. “Me, [Richard] Burton, Richard Harris; we did in public what everyone else did in private then, and does for show now. We drank in public, we knew about pot.” Though he gave up most drinking in the late 70s, he continued to smoke unfiltered Gauloises through a long cigarette holder the rest of his life.

Irish President Michael D. Higgins too counted O’Toole as “a friend since 1969,” when Higgins spent part of the year in Clifden with him, meeting “almost daily,” he told The Irish Times. “All of us who knew him in the west will miss his warm humour and generous friendship.”

According to The Washington Post, another explanation he provided links his ups and downs to his Irish heritage. “The Celts are, at rock bottom, deep pessimists,” he said. “I don’t know what it is, but there’s something in me that after I build something, I knock it down – just for the hell of it.”

Peter Seamus O’Toole was born in either Connemara or Leeds on August 2, 1932. (Some sources also say “Seamus Peter.”) While O’Toole himself said his birthplace was uncertain, he was raised in Leeds by his mother Constance, a Scottish nurse, and his father Patrick, an Irishman from the west and a frequently indebted traveling bookie, yet whose affected upper class mannerisms and dress earned him the nickname “Spats.” According to The New York Times, O’Toole liked to joke that he was brought up “not working class but criminal class.” His father in fact lost most of the use of his right hand after his knuckles were broken by debt collectors.

To support the family, O’Toole left school at 13 to work in the various industries Leeds had to offer, eventually making it to the copy room of The Yorkshire Evening News. This would have been a perfect job for O’Toole, who told The Washington Post in 1978 that his passion was language, if only he was any good at reporting. Instead, his editor fired him, telling O’Toole: “Try something else, be an actor, do anything.”

That was in the late 40s and O’Toole had already had some amateur acting roles, but his editor’s words spurred him, and by 1955, O’Toole had graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art on a full scholarship. He spent the next years honing his craft on stage and receiving national acclaim in numerous Shakespearean roles, including Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice,” which was seen by the casting director of the upcoming Lawrence of Arabia.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that O’Toole seemed to regain some of his former clout as an actor, and in 2003 he was awarded an Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement. At the time, he had been nominated seven times and never won. His eighth Academy Award nomination came in 2006 for his portrayal of an aging actor consigned to play dying kings and sympathetic, but feeble-minded old men in Roger Mitchell’s Venus.

O’Toole retired from acting about a year ago and since lived a quiet life in his London home. In addition to his daughter Kate, he is survived by his other two children, his daughter Pat his son Lorcan, and his sister, Patricia Coombs.



Mike Hegan

1942 – 2013

Mike Hegan, the record-setting first-baseman who got his start at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland and ended his career as a color commentator for the Indians, died at his home in South Carolina late December. He was 71.

James Michael Hegan was born with baseball in his blood. His father, Jim Hegan, was the eminent Cleveland catcher from 1946 to 1957. After graduating high school, the younger Hegan played baseball and football at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts for a year before signing to the minor league system of the Yankees in 1961, where his father had recently joined the coaching staff. The Yankees brought him up to the major leagues in 1964, the same year they went to the World Series and lost to the St. Louis Cardinals. He was traded in 1969 to the recently-formed Seattle Pilots, where Hegan had arguably his best season, hitting the franchise’s first home run in the first inning of the first game and making it to the All-Star team that year.

When the Pilots moved to Milwaukee in 1970 and became the Brewers, Hegan played 178 games as firstbaseman without committing an error, an MLB record he held until 2008. He retired in 1977 with a batting average of .242 and 53 home runs and returned to his hometown in 1989 to spend the next 23 seasons in the Indian’s broadcasting booth as one of the team’s signature voices. He is survived by Nancy McNeil, his wife of 50 years, their two sons, and four grandchildren.

Conn McCluskey

1915 – 2013

Tyrone general practitioner turned civil rights advocate Dr. Conn McCluskey died at the age of 98 in December. Together, he and his wife, Patricia McCluskey, who passed away in 2011, are two of the primary founders of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland. They are survived by their three daughters and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

According to The Irish Times, even before he was born, Dr. McCluskey experienced sectarian discrimination. His parents moved to a house in a Protestant section of Dungannon but were intimidated into moving to the Catholic Warrenpoint, where he was born. By the early 1960s, McCluskey had experienced enough of the effects of Catholic discrimination on his own, particularly by the unionist-led Dungannon city housing authority. In 1963, he and his wife founded the the Homeless Citizen’s League as a direct response to its discriminatory housing practices. As former Independent Councillor Michael McLoughlin told The Tyrone Times: “As a Dungannon GPO, Dr. McCluskey had firsthand experience of the terrible deprivation experienced by the majority Dungannon population, who were subjugated by the minority.”

By 1967 he was the vice-chairman of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and his influential social justice pamphlet, “The Plain Truth,” played a key role in spreading awareness of the issues facing Catholics throughout the North.

Though he eventually left the campaign for civil rights at the outbreak of the Troubles, fearing it had become too radical, the former Irish nationalist politician Bríd Rodgers remembered the influence of the McCluskeys at the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland, saying “Many of the younger generation may not realise that in some measure they owe the status of equality that they now take for granted to the sacrifices of a general practitioner in Dungannon and his wife.”


Bernard L. Shaw

1945 – 2013

Bernard Lee Shaw was a San Francisco cop for 15 years before joining the staff of the Hearst Corporation in 1983 as vice president of corporate security. The company announced his death in December at the age of 68.

But he is known primarily for his marriage to Patty Hearst, who was famously kidnapped in 1974 by the Symbionese Liberation Army, an urban terrorist organization, and later convicted and sent to prison for committing crimes with the group itself.

Shaw was born into a working-class Irish-American family in San Francisco and was seen as an unlikely match for the heiress, who, in an interview with Conan O’Brien, once joked: “My parents gave us a Sears vacuum cleaner as a wedding present. They thought it wouldn’t last,” according to The New York Times.

The couple met in 1976 when Shaw was hired as part of a 20-man security team for Ms. Hearst, who survives him now as Mrs. Hearst Shaw, while she was released on bail pending conviction. When she was sentenced to prison, he reportedly visited her four times a week and they were married in 1979 after President Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence. He is also survived by their two daughters, two daughters from a previous marriage, and one granddaughter.

https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/those-we-lost-20/feed/ 0 18434
Jimmy Fallon Family Tree https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/jimmy-fallon-family-tree/ https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/jimmy-fallon-family-tree/#comments Mon, 13 Jan 2014 12:13:49 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=18401 Read more..]]> Megan Smolenyak, the roots detective, takes a look at Jimmy Fallon’s Irish side.

Not yet forty, Jimmy Fallon already has an impressive history to look back on.  Between “Saturday Night Live” and hosting “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” he’s logged more than a decade on air, and is now primed for his take over of “The Tonight Show.” Not bad for a Brooklyn-born, Saugerties-raised kid who launched his career at the Bananas Comedy Club in Poughkeepsie.

Husband to Nancy Juvonen and proud daddy of Winnie Rose (who debuted on Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr when only days old last July), he’s a third generation James Fallon whose entire family tree was firmly planted in Brooklyn until his parents moved their branch about a hundred miles to the north. In the shadow of the Catskills, Jimmy and his sister Gloria enjoyed an all-American childhood complete with pets, visits with Santa, Catholic school, lots of snowman building, trips to Lake George, proms, and grandparents (who also made the out-of-the-city trek) essentially in their backyard.

Perhaps his name and the proximity of his grandparents help explain why Jimmy self-identifies as Irish. Fans are frequently treated to light-hearted references to his heritage, such as this remark that’s familiar territory for many: “I try to get tan, but I’m Irish so I burn bright red – lobster red. But then it becomes a nice cinnamon toast color.”

But just how Irish is this affable guy-next-door who comes into our homes on a nightly basis? As a professional genealogist who’s peered into the Irish past of everyone from Joe Biden to Beyoncé, I decided to take a closer look.

Jimmy, it turns out, is predominantly but not entirely Irish. To create a Jimmy Fallon, take five parts Irish and combine with two parts German and one part Norwegian. Make sure the five-eighths Irish portion is loaded with names like Daly, Devaney, Driscoll, Feeley, Graham, Kenny, Monahan, O’Brien, O’Neill, and Riordan, and add a gentle multicultural twist by sprinkling in a couple of Irish immigrant ancestors born in France and Spain. For good measure, start the distillation process in the counties of Cork, Galway, Leitrim, and Longford. Letting this concoction breathe for anywhere from 51 to 133 years after arrival in America yields one talented host and comedian that pairs well with a house band called The Roots.


Starting with the Stickevers

Since even Jimmy’s Irish roots are quite diverse, exploring a chunk at a time will make his ancestry easier to follow, and his only American-born great-grandparents, William and Mary Fallon, provide a logical place to dive in.  Departing the old country in sporadic bursts between 1841 and 1883, William and Mary’s parents and grandparents were the first of Jimmy’s ancestors to make their way to the United States.

Launching the immigrant parade were William Fallon’s grandparents, Henry and Mary (née O’Brien) Stickevers, who alighted with an infant son on July 17, 1841. They initially settled in Jersey City adding a second son to the household before moving to Brooklyn later in the 1840s and having two more children.  Henry was naturalized in 1848 making him Jimmy’s first American ancestor.  Despite being born in France, his naturalization record shows him renouncing his allegiance to the “Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.” Stickevers is an unusual name in Ireland, but indications are that they were probably from County Galway.

The Stickevers sons followed in their father’s occupational footsteps and became blacksmiths, but life would not be easy for their youngest child and only daughter, Louisa, a future great-great-grandmother of Jimmy’s. Born around 1851, she lost her father to a pulmonary hemorrhage in December 1861 and her mother to consumption in October 1863.  In between, a paternal uncle who would have been a likely surrogate father was killed on June 14, 1863 in Port Hudson, Louisiana fighting for the Union in the Civil War. Not long after this, the brother closest to Louisa in age also died, but she at least had the safety net of two remaining older brothers to shelter her until her wedding to Thomas Fallon in 1878.

Enter the Fallons

Thomas Fallon had journeyed from County Galway in the early 1870s, and shortly after marrying her, swept Louisa off to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she had their first child – a daughter named Maria who died when only four months old – in 1879. Two more children followed before the young family moved back to Brooklyn in the mid-1880s, and another two after. The baby of the brood, William, was Jimmy’s great-grandfather in the making.

Thomas worked all his life as a laborer, mostly as a handler in a lumber yard, and the fact that things were tight is evidenced by the family’s plot in Holy Cross Cemetery. Even though Louisa lived until 1908 and Thomas until 1924, there is no headstone for them.

In 1914, the youngest Fallon son, William, married Mary Ann Monahan, the oldest child of immigrants James P. and Martha (née Worth) Monahan who had both arrived in America in the early 1880s before marrying several years later. Though of Irish stock, Martha Worth had something in common with Henry Stickevers in that she was also born outside of Ireland – in her case, in Spain. James supported Martha and the seven Monahan children in classic Brooklyn occupations, working initially as a fireman and later as a ferry engineer.

William and Mary Ann Fallon had at least nine children, six of whom survived to adulthood. Hints of the origins of Jimmy’s playful and occasionally mischievous humor can be seen in a poem his great-aunt Geneve wrote about her brother, Joseph. I wonder how Joe felt when “My Little Brother” appeared in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle?

My little brother who is only eight years old,

Never does what he is told.

I believe he’s very bold.

For my mother has to scold

Because he never does what he is told!

There’s no mention in the poem of Jimmy’s future grandfather, Geneve’s then thirteen-year-old brother, James, but he may have provoked a different kind of reaction in the family when he tied the knot with a German immigrant the following decade. Though his choice of bride may have surprised his parents, his older sisters (including two who married brothers) were the first to break the tradition of marrying fellow Irish, so in all likelihood, Luise Schalla was welcomed into the family without much fuss or comment.


Sturm und Drang for the Schallas

It’s almost an exaggeration to refer to Luise (who later went by Louise) as an immigrant, but she and her twin sister were born in Osterholz-Scharmbeck and crossed the Atlantic when just over a year old. Curiously, the girls’ parents had emigrated about two decades earlier, but opted to go back to Germany for the birth of their daughters. Once they returned to New York, however, they swiftly petitioned to become American citizens, and by 1928, had ensconced themselves at 466 47th Street in Brooklyn, a house that remained in the family until 1996.

James Fallon obviously got along with his Schalla in-laws – well enough that he moved in with them upon taking Louise as his wife – but sadly, this cozy arrangement didn’t last long. Louise’s father had asthma, prompting him to construct a makeshift apartment in the basement because he could breathe more easily there. In a tragedy that’s difficult to fathom today, Louise rose one morning to get a bottle for her nine-month-old firstborn, only to detect the smell of gas. She dashed downstairs to her parents’ subterranean abode, where she discovered what was later starkly spelled out on their matching death certificates: “found on bed in cellar of home, having been overcome by illuminating gas from open gas jet on range.”

I often say that our ancestors make those of us living today look like wimps by comparison, and the strength of Jimmy’s grandparents illustrates just this.  In spite of this devastating shock, the fledgling family soldiered on, with the birth of Jimmy’s dad shortly after the first anniversary of the calamity marking a turning point for the better.


You Say Feeley,

I Say Feehily

James Jr. would eventually go on to marry Gloria Feeley, the granddaughter of one Norwegian and three Irish transplants. Her paternal grandfather, Thomas Feehily, disembarked in New York on September 5, 1903 with the original version of his name intact, but must have tired of correcting others’ spelling because he adopted the simpler “Feeley” by the time of his 1910 wedding to Mary Jane O’Neill. Embarking upon married life as an ice cream maker in a factory, he shifted gears in almost a literal sense and spent most of his life working as a motorman for Brooklyn Rapid Transit and its successor, Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit.

Thomas was from Drumlish in County Longford, and thanks to the invaluable online posting of the 1901 census by the National Archives of Ireland, it’s possible to spy Thomas with his parents and siblings a couple of years before he crossed the pond. Similarly, the Irish Family History Foundation makes short work of locating the 1863 marriage of his parents, Thomas Feehily and Mary Kenny.

Thomas Jr.’s bride, Mary Jane O’Neill, came from the same neck of the woods.  Originally from Killoe, County Longford, her family moved to nearby Corriga, County Leitrim in the 1890s.  The 1901 census record shows Mary Jane with her parents, three brothers and two sisters just three years before her emigration and divulges that her father, Bernard, was retired from the Royal Irish Constabulary.


Holy Hovelsen!

While Gloria Feeley’s paternal grandfather was named Thomas Feehily, her maternal grandfather sported the decidedly un-Irish-sounding name of Hans Hovelsen. A relatively late arrival who found his way from Fredrikstad, Norway to New York in 1910, he was the second husband of Mary Frances “May” Driscoll.

May was born in Kinsale, County Cork in 1881 to Joseph and Margaret (Daly) Driscoll. Thanks yet again – this time to the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for its Irish Genealogy website that houses digitized church record images – the 1880 marriage of Joseph and Margaret can be found online.

Not long after May’s birth, Joseph took off for America which helps explain why there’s a roughly nine year age gap between May and her closest sibling.  Once the family was reunited in Brooklyn, her parents made up for lost time adding five more children in the 1890s. There might have been even more if Joseph, a ship rigger, hadn’t passed away in 1901, leaving Margaret widowed with a handful of children between the ages of six and nineteen.

The Driscolls apparently managed better than many, as can be seen from their memorial at Holy Cross Cemetery, a marked contrast to the total absence of a Fallon headstone in the same cemetery.  It’s sweet to note that even an infant brother is included in the inscription, which also reveals that another of May’s brothers died in service during World War I.

May Driscoll married a steamer steward named William Shaw in 1908 and had a trio of sons. In an unfortunate repetition of history, she – like her mother – was widowed around the age of forty.  Perhaps it was through her sister who had married a Norwegian that she met Hans Hovelsen, a Norwegian longshoreman she took as her second husband in 1920. May and Hans had a pair of daughters, and it was her youngest, Gloria Rose, who would become Jimmy’s grandmother.


A Rose Is Still a Rose

In one of those countless twists of fate that have a ripple effect down through the generations, had May not been widowed, Jimmy’s grandmother would never have been born and he would not exist. How fitting, then, that his daughter, Winnie Rose, shares her middle name with this near-miss ancestor, a subtle but enduring family heirloom.

P.S. Jimmy, after you’ve read this article, hang on to it. Winnie’s bound to come home with a family tree homework assignment one day and will appreciate the easy A.


Note: The photo below and many other personal family photos can be found at a blog written by Jimmy’s sister, Gloria: http://www.latenightwithjimmyfallon.com/blogs/growing-up-fallon/.

https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/jimmy-fallon-family-tree/feed/ 25 18401
Portals to the Past https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/portals-to-the-past/ https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/portals-to-the-past/#respond Mon, 13 Jan 2014 12:13:16 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=18463 Read more..]]> I love to drive around Ireland, especially if I have the luxury of time. I aim my car in the direction that I hope to end up, and then take the by roads, leaving the highway behind. Many of the old “main” roads are still in use and, though narrow by today’s standards, they are still wide enough for another car passing in the opposite direction.

It is down these backroads, with hedgerows on either side, that an older Ireland is revealed. These are the country roads of my childhood, and I drive them with the maxim that getting lost is taking travel directions from the Gods.

I’ve sent many happy motoring hours this way. One recent drive led me to the Clare Glens, where the waterfalls of the River Clare separate counties Tipperary and Limerick. From the Glens I drove a short

distance to the village of Newport, and on to the ancient Benedictine monastery Glenstal Abbey, where the monks sing in Latin at evening vespers, and where I unexpectedly ran into someone I knew, a professor visiting from Notre Dame, but that’s another story.

You can expect the unexpected in Ireland, but what makes the trip truly special is how easy it is to step back in time. It’s a place where the ancient coexists alongside the present day, and you can find yourself communing with the ancestors while standing on an old battle site, or bending over a holy well.

Not everyone likes to get lost, of course, and when I’m with one of my family, they insist on doing the driving.

Last summer, my brother Noel took me for a drive around the South East, where I snapped these photos. We crossed over into three counties (by design) and came across several historical sites in just one afternoon.

Leaving New Ross, Co. Wexford, we followed along the River Barrow to St. Mullens, Co. Carlow stopping at Ballicopagan cemetery where the Mac Murchadhas, Kings of Leinster are buried. It was Dermot MacMurrough who, in an effort to hold onto his own lands, appealed to Henry II to send his Anglo-Norman soldiers to Ireland, and, as the saying goes, they never left. Buried alongside the MacMurchadhas are rebels who fought and died in the 1798 Rebellion, another rising that did not fall our way. Seeing these graves so close together brought to mind the lines of a James Shirley a poem I learned in school: “Sceptre and crown /must tumble down / and in the dust be equal made.”

Leaving St. Mullins we continued on to Graiguenamanagh, Co. Kilkenny, where we parked the car and walked to an old bridge. Taking in the view of the river, I notice another sign of battles’ lost. A plaque that reads: “This portion of the bridge was blown up on 13th June, 1778 by Crown Forces to prevent the insurgents crossing over into Kilkenny.”

We walk on to Duiske Abbey. Graiguenamanagh translates as “village of the monks,” and  the 13th century Cistercian Abbey now serves as the parish church. It is so peaceful, that at first I don’t notice that we aren’t alone. There is a singer and an accompanist rehearsing for an event to be. Noel and I quietly look around so as not to disturb them, but as we turn to go, a beautiful soprano voice fills the air. It’s a hymn to Mary, one that was a favorite of my mother’s. As I stand rooted to the spot overcome with emotion, I picture the notes wafting their way up to the heavens, connecting with the souls of the ancestors, and bringing them peace.

https://irishamerica.com/2014/01/portals-to-the-past/feed/ 0 18463