February March 2015 Issue – Irish America https://irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine Sat, 20 Jul 2019 03:40:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 82361074 Stephen Colbert: One Last Report (It’s Genealogical) https://irishamerica.com/2015/01/stephen-colbert-one-last-report-its-genealogical/ https://irishamerica.com/2015/01/stephen-colbert-one-last-report-its-genealogical/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 02:00:08 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=21068 Read more..]]> It was a damp morning in late February 2008 when the phone rang. Harvard scholar and PBS host Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr. was calling with one of his random genealogical requests. He was going to be on The Colbert Report later that day. Did I, by any chance, know anything about Stephen Colbert’s roots? Luckily for him, I had two hundred years of family history at the ready.

Unnaturally obsessed with the ancestry of my fellow Irish Americans, I had already snooped into Stephen Tyrone Colbert’s past and discovered that he was about as Hibernian as they come. Fifteen of his 16 great-great-grandparents were either born in Ireland or of Irish heritage, and rather remarkably, their descendants continued to marry only with other Irish Americans for three generations until Stephen himself slightly disrupted the flow when he wed Evelyn “Evie” McGee.

In his own words, “I have broken the pattern, and am in a mixed-race marriage. I’m Irish, and my wife is Scots-Irish. Somehow we make it work.”

Several weeks after Gates’s call, my nosiness was rewarded when I woke up to the best St. Patrick’s Day gift possible – an email from Stephen thanking me and remarking that he was “thrilled to hear we are pretty much pure Irish.” Fortunately for all of us, this should-be poster child for Irish Americans has recently been anointed as David Letterman’s heir apparent and will take over The Late Show in September. Though many will mourn the loss of Colbert, we will now be able to mellow out each evening with the man himself, rather than the character he has portrayed since 2005. And as anyone who’s ever met Colbert will attest, the real man is brilliant, quick-witted, multi-talented, family-oriented, devout, and kind.

An Ancestral Tour

So what sort of family tree produces a Stephen Colbert? Geographically concentrated in New York and Illinois upon arrival in America (in some instances, after a brief interval in Canada), the opposite is true in Ireland where all four provinces can lay claim to a piece of Stephen’s past. So dense and deep is his Irishness that I have little choice but to share it in digest form in order to give a short, yet fairly comprehensive tour of his ancestral map. To that end, I’ll focus on the immigrant generation, who mostly emigrated between the 1820s and 1860s, and provide a brief sketch of each pair of his great-great-grandparents. As you peruse these eight clusters, don’t be surprised if you notice some family patterns.

Family resemblance? (from left to right): Stephen T. Colbert, father James W. Colbert, uncle Andrew E. Tuck,  grandfather Andrew E. Tuck, great-grandfather John C. Fee, and great-great-grandfather Patrick Connolly

Family resemblance? (from left to right): Stephen T. Colbert, father James W. Colbert, uncle Andrew E. Tuck, grandfather Andrew E. Tuck, great-grandfather John C. Fee, and great-great-grandfather Patrick Connolly.


Since we usually have the greatest interest in the surname we start out with, it’s a Murphy’s Law corollary that Colbert is the most mysterious branch in Stephen’s pedigree. It’s also a geographic exception with a third great-grandfather named Anthony, born in the 1790s, who settled in Shepherdstown in what was then Virginia. His descendants would swiftly scatter to Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, and California with Stephen’s line opting for the Land of Lincoln.

Though stories have floated down through the generations of a possible French origin for the Colbert name, the few paper trail indications that exist all point to Ireland, including the marriage record of Stephen’s future great-grandfather, George William Colbert, that notes his race as Irish.

Family lore also holds that George converted to Catholicism in order to marry Angeline Garin, an event which is said to have provoked a cross-burning in their yard. The tale relates that George calmed his new bride saying, “Let it burn. It sheds a lovely light.”  While it’s not been possible to verify the incident, the dual-religion aspect rings true as George’s parents were married in the Lutheran church – perhaps because of his mother, Susan Ann Fletcher, who introduced the only non-Irish ancestry into the mix, a combination of German and English.

Marriage license recording George W. Colbert’s race as Irish.

Marriage license recording George W. Colbert’s race as Irish.


George Colbert’s bride, Angeline Garin, was born in Carrollton, Illinois to immigrants Michael Garin and Bridget Caffery. Given that both Michael and Bridget, along with some of their parents and siblings, had crossed the Atlantic in the 1850s, the Famine was undoubtedly a driving factor in their decision to emigrate. The couple married around 1868 and settled amidst a cluster of family members in the Illinois counties of Greene and Macoupin.

The Garin name was a simplified version of one that was spelled variously as Gearon and Guerin in earlier days, and a search of available church

registries revealed that Michael’s parents, Michael Gearon and Johanna Nicholson, had married on January 29, 1834 in Limerick. Regrettably, the picture is hazier for Michael’s wife, Bridget Caffery, as documents pertaining to her family contradict themselves and mention both Dublin and Belfast.


Yet another pair of great-great-grandparents who decided to keep their secrets to themselves is John Tormey and Honora Manning. In fact, the few traces they left make it unclear whether they were born in Ireland or New York. All that is reasonably certain is that they had a son, Henry John Tormey, born between 1862 and 1866 in Staten Island. A couple that may be them appears in Castleton, New York in the 1860 census, but then the trail fades. It might have helped if their son had stayed put, but working as a railroad conductor, he bounced around from Staten Island to Port Jervis to Jersey City and finally to the Bronx. It’s lucky for Stephen that Henry was a wanderer, though, because it was in Port Jervis that he met his future wife, Maggie McCrory.

Baptism form (in Latin) of daughter of John and Margaret Tormey that shows her parents’ birth places of Staten Island and Hibernia.

Baptism form (in Latin) of daughter of John and Margaret Tormey that shows her parents’ birth places of Staten Island and Hibernia.


Margaret Ann McCrory was the daughter of Henry McCrory and Margaret McCreash, and it’s the McCrory branch that indirectly contributed Stephen’s middle name of Tyrone. According to Colbert, “The McCrorys were O’Neills way back, and the story was that one of the O’Neills had been the Earl of Tyrone, and so they named me Tyrone after him.”

While there is a Tyrone connection way back in the mists of time (see p. 62), the more immediate link is to Belfast where Henry “McRory” and Margaret “McReesh” were considerate enough to leave a critical clue for future generations by marrying in the Catholic Parish of St. Patrick, which has sacramental registers dating back to 1798. The McCrory-McCreash nuptials took place on October 8, 1842.  


Shifting gears from Stephen’s paternal ancestry to his mother’s side, more is known about the Tuck portion of his family tree than any other thanks to memoirs left by his great-grandfather Andrew Tuck (1833-1917). Andrew wrote at length about the challenging start to his parents’ North American experience.     

Andrew Tuck's 1917 obituary.

Andrew Tuck’s 1917 obituary.

John Tuck and Judith (aka Julia) Dunn married in 1817 in what was then Queen’s County and is now County Laois. More specifically, John was from Ballyhorahan and Judith from nearby Camross. In the 1820s, John journeyed to Canada while Judith stayed behind with several children. The intention was for him to save money and return to Ireland to bring his wife and children back with him, but he made the mistake of turning over his earnings to his employer for safe-keeping. When the employer got into financial difficulties, John was left empty-handed and separated from his family.

After a number of years apart, Judith took matters into her own hands and traveled to Canada with their, by-then, only surviving child, John Jr., and surprised her husband by showing up at the quarry where he worked one day in 1832. Shortly thereafter, the reunited family moved across the border to Lisbon, New York, where Andrew was born, as he put it, “about the 9th of November, 1833 – I had no exact date of my birth – but the consensus of those who ought to be good authority is that it was about the 9th of November.”

Andrew Tuck’s memoirs go on to share details about walking to school (seven fences to cross if you took the short-cut and snow that caked up under your heels, crowding your feet out of your shoes), his family (including the birth of each child and the loss of a son to typhoid fever), his land purchases and building endeavors over the years (transaction by transaction, and decisions as minute as opting for a railing on a back stairway), his politics (“I was something of a political curiosity – an Irishman, a Republican”), his views on slavery and pride in voting for Lincoln (“It required courage, confidence and firmness”), and just about everything a curious descendant might hope for.


Andrew Tuck was fortunate enough to marry a woman he greatly admired named Maria Lynch. Maria was one of at least seven children of Thomas Lynch and Bridget Rowan, and like the Tuck-Dunns, her family had back-doored into upstate New York through Canada. From Smiths Falls, Ontario, they had moved to Ogdensburg and later Lisbon, New York.

The family made steady appearances in local records from the 1850s into the 1880s, but with the exception of a sister of Maria’s named Julia, vanished. Julia became a Grey Nun, assuming the name Sister Scholastica, a fitting choice as she would spend decades teaching. Her 1943 obituary offered a little insight into her personality and standards, commenting that, “It would have been difficult for a pupil to appear before her after shirking his duty.”

Extensive digging eventually turned up an article in a local newspaper that provided a vital clue in the disappearance of Maria’s parents. On April 23, 1886, their house burned down. Wasting no words, the piece stated, “Nothing was saved. No insurance.”   

It was this event that led the now-elderly Lynch immigrants to make one last move to Illinois where they would spend their twilight years with several of their children who were living in the Chicago area. And it was the death certificate of one of their sons that would furnish the only hint of their origins in Ireland – a frustratingly vague designation of Connaught.


The Fee line is another one that left a generous paper trail, mainly because of their business interests.  Owen Fee, who would marry Margaret McMahon in the late-1830s, was originally from County Monaghan, where tithe applotment books include a man of his name in the townland of Drumaconvern about a decade earlier. His bride is believed to have been from Cootehill in the neighboring county of Cavan.

Owen emigrated in March 1835 and filed his intent to become a citizen in Rochester, New York in 1837. He worked as a butcher there, but passed away unexpectedly in 1855, leaving his widow Margaret with five children, the youngest of whom was only four. Margaret continued to run the family business as a grocery until her oldest son converted it to a saloon and deli in the early 1860s. Assessment lists from 1863 show Margaret being taxed as a “retail liquor dealer,” but it was that same year that her sons formally launched Fee Brothers which is still operating – and owned by cousins of Stephen’s – today.

fee-bros logoThe company evolved over time, adapting to circumstances as necessary. During Prohibition, for instance, it became a supplier of sacramental, “standard altar” wines, which seems appropriate since two of the founding brothers, including Stephen’s great-grandfather John C. Fee, were among the first altar boys when St. Bridget’s Church was established in Rochester in 1854. Today Fee Brothers offers a variety of cocktail mixes, bitters and cordial syrups, and sports a logo which portrays the four brothers along with the slogan, “Don’t squeeze, use Fee’s” (left).


Rounding out Stephen’s eight pairs of great-great-grandparents are Patrick Connolly and Elizabeth Maloy. When Patrick made his way as a teenager from Knockaturly in County Monaghan to Roch-ester, New York in 1834, he was taking the first step toward building a new life as a successful merchant – initially in candles with his brother, James, and later specializing in “lace and fancy goods.” About the same year he crossed the ocean, his future wife was born in Rochester to Charles and Margaret Maloy who had emigrated from Kings County (now  County Offaly) in the 1820s.

Patrick and Margaret had one son and eight daughters. Two daughters died young and two dedicated themselves to the Sisters of Charity, serving in hospitals and orphanages. Their third child, Carolina, would eventually marry John C. Fee, joining two prosperous, Rochester families. It says something of the Connollys that when Patrick passed away, school books were among the first possessions specified in his estate papers to be held in reserve for his family.

Cherish the Ladies

All of this sprawling heritage was funneled to Stephen by way of his mostly second-generation great-grandparents, striving grandparents, and over-achieving parents. His father, in particular, was a man of singular accomplishment. Having acquired his medical training and skills at Columbia and Yale, James William Colbert, Jr., M.D., served with the U.S. Army’s Medical Corps and as Assistant Dean of the Yale University School of Medicine, before becoming, at 32, the youngest person to hold the deanship of a medical school (at St. Louis). He later moved to the National Institute of Health, and then to the Medical University of South Carolina. Along the way, he still found time to serve on a number of health and medical boards, and as co-chairman of Doctors for Kennedy during the 1960 Presidential campaign.

John F. Kennedy  and James W. Colbert,  Jr., M.D. in 1960.

John F. Kennedy and James W. Colbert, Jr., M.D. in 1960.

And then there’s his mother, Lorna Elizabeth (Tuck) Colbert, who bore and raised 11 children, the youngest of whom was Stephen. Tragically losing her only brother in the immediate aftermath of World War II and then her husband and two sons, Paul and Peter, in a plane crash in 1974, Lorna was able to do far more than persevere. As Stephen explained at the time of her passing, “Her love for her family and her faith in God somehow gave her the strength not only to go on, but to love life without bitterness, and to instill in all of us a gratitude for every day we have together.” Giving us a sense of her spirit and joie de vivre, he continued, “I know that it may sound greedy to want more days with a person who lived so long, but the fact that my mother was 92 does not diminish. It only magnifies the enormity of the room whose door has now quietly shut.”

Young Stephen  (in jumper) with his  parents and ten older  siblings, 1968.

Young Stephen (in jumper) with his parents and ten older siblings, 1968.

Listening to these words again after having just steeped myself in Stephen’s family history, I realized that they carried some echoes from the past. As we’ve already seen, Stephen’s extended family features nuns who ran schools, hospitals and orphanages. His great-great-grandmother, Judith (Dunn) Tuck, had ventured to North America in 1832 to reunite the long-separated pieces of her family. Another second great-grandmother, Margaret (McMahon) Fee, had taken over her husband’s business when he died and mortgaged her home to enable her oldest son to establish Fee Brothers in 1863. When his great-grandmother Maria (Lynch) Tuck passed, her obituary noted that she “was of a splendid type of unostentatious Christian womanhood, a sacrificing helpmate and a devoted mother.” And in his last letter home before his death in a vehicle accident in Austria, Stephen’s uncle had written home, “Mother, how can a man be better while in a shower of your love and understanding?”

The remarkable women of Stephen Colbert’s family tree (left to right): wife Evelyn McGee-Colbert, mother Lorna (Tuck)  Colbert, grandmothers Marie (Fee) Tuck and Mary (Tormey) Colbert, great-grandmother Carolina (Connolly) Fee, and great-great-grandmother Elizabeth (Maloy) Connolly.

The remarkable women of Stephen Colbert’s family tree (left to right): wife Evelyn McGee-Colbert, mother Lorna (Tuck) Colbert, grandmothers Marie (Fee) Tuck and Mary (Tormey) Colbert, great-grandmother Carolina (Connolly) Fee, and great-great-grandmother Elizabeth (Maloy) Connolly.

 Ruminating on the topic of marriage, Andrew Tuck, the ancestor who left such thoughtful memoirs, reminisced that his future wife first made an impression on him with the way she acquitted herself when called on in geography class. He recalled a minister who preached “when a man married, he raised or lowered himself a step,” and referred to this sentiment as “an absolute truth.” Clearly regarding himself as having come out ahead in the bargain, he went on to say of his own marriage, “Ours was the case of the unknown wife of the fairly well known husband, and when the latter left home, he often left more brains at home than he took with him, where often most needed, and with better results.”

Andrew was spelling out what had gradually dawned on me. The secret recipe of Stephen Colbert’s family tree is one of amazing women and the men who were smart enough to find and marry them. He might jokingly claim that he broke the family pattern by entering into a “mixed marriage” with a Scots-Irish woman, but with his wise choice of Evie McGee, he’s keeping alive the tradition that matters most. ♦


The Late Show with Stephen Colbert premiers September 8th.

Megan Smolenyak is a genealogist and the author of six books, including Trace Your Roots with DNA and Who Do You Think You Are?, a companion to the TV series. She has uncovered the Irish heritage of everyone from Barack Obama (3%) to Barry Manilow (25%), and focuses her attention on Stephen Colbert (94%) in this issue. Read Sheila Langan’s 2013 profile of Smolenyak here


More Articles by Smolenyak:

“Jimmy Fallon Family Tree”

“Joey From Scranton: Vice President Joe Biden’s Irish Roots”

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First Word: Telling It Like It Is https://irishamerica.com/2015/01/telling-it-like-it-is/ https://irishamerica.com/2015/01/telling-it-like-it-is/#respond Fri, 23 Jan 2015 01:59:51 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=21097 Read more..]]> Our cover story on Stephen Colbert’s Irish roots reminds us that with his ascension to the Late Show throne this coming fall,  he will be joining a venerable group of Irish-American hosts on late night television, past and present.

While today’s audiences are familiar with Conan O’Brien who hosts Conan and Jimmy Fallon who took over from Jay Leno on The Tonight Show, the Irish have been among the most popular “talk” personalities in the medium since the early days of

television. These esteemed broadcasters include the very first Tonight Show host, Steve Allen (his mother was a Donoghue), whose show premiered opposite Ed Sullivan’s popular Sunday night variety show. Then there was the one-time king of daytime talk television, Phil Donahue. Later, Rosie O’Donnell’s popular talk show helped seal the notion that the Irish are good at talking or at least good at asking questions.

Yet, for all the reputation that we Irish have as great talkers and storytellers, I think of us as a quiet people.

In the Ireland I grew up in, so much was communicated with a nod or a wink or a raised eyebrow. People talked in whispers, and it seems to me, looking back, there was a “say nothing to no one” wariness about the place. A sort of subdued battle-weariness from the brutality of centuries of occupation, ending in the brutal civil war that divided the country in two.

Censorship was rife, especially during the Troubles. Under Section 31 of the Broadcasting Authority Act, people rather than content were censored. This prevented RTÉ, the national broadcaster, from interviewing Sinn Féin spokespersons on radio or television even when the subject was not related to the conflict. (At least one RTÉ journalist that I know of, Jeannie McKeever, was fired for breaking this rule. She had previously worked for The Irishman newspaper in San Francisco, a forerunner to Irish America.)

When Gerry Adams finally got to speak on television on his first trip to the U.S. in 1994, generations of Irish people had never heard his voice before.

There was also censorship of movies and newspapers (The News of the World was still, in theory, banned when it ceased publication last year), and of course, books. Some of our best known authors, including John McGahern and Edna O’Brien, fell victim to the aptly named Committee on Evil Literature.

Such righteous legislation meant that there was a damping down of the voice of the people by those in power. But there was also a kind of self-censorship that went on – how else to explain the damning silences on abuses of children in industrial homes and the treatment of unmarried mothers?

Section 31 was in place until 1994. No surprise then that it took an American, George Mitchell, to chair the talks in Northern Ireland which, after some years, finally led to the Good Friday Agreement and the laying down of arms.

While more recent times have signaled new social advances in Ireland, there are still silences about dark happenings in the past that need to be broken. For instance, the families of those who disappeared during the Troubles need information, even if it’s just where their relatives are buried.

But let’s turn now to the Irish in America.

After centuries of learning to hold their tongues, our Irish forebears found their voice in America and used it well. As political reformers, writers, journalists, broadcasters, and union leaders they made their presence felt in a country where freedom of speech was not just a given but was protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

By far the best political satirist in the United States today, Colbert has used his constitutional right to free speech to highlight issues of paramount importance to all of us, and he has never been afraid to speak truth to power. (Google his 2006 performance at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner for a real treat of humor with guts).

We can only hope that Colbert will keep some of the audaciousness of the fictional character he played on the Colbert Report when he takes over The Late Show, broadcasting from the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York in September.

As Megan Smolenyak illustrates in her wonderful exploration of Colbert’s  roots, there’s a good chance that the ironic humor that Stephen “Tyrone” (so named for his N.I. ancestors) employs to such good measure is inherited from his Irish great-grandfather George Colbert.

George converted to Catholicism on his marriage to Angeline Garin, also Irish. As Megan reports, when the wedding provoked a cross-burning in the couple’s yard by anti-Catholics, George calmed his new bride saying, “Let it burn. It sheds a lovely light.”

Mortas Cine.

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Compadre Plant Matrix https://irishamerica.com/2015/01/compadre-plant-matrix/ https://irishamerica.com/2015/01/compadre-plant-matrix/#respond Fri, 23 Jan 2015 01:57:07 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=21109 Read more..]]> Botanists at Trinity College Dublin have launched a database that documents significant ‘life events’ for nearly 600 plant species across the globe. Working with like-minded individuals across five continents the team has gathered data over a near 50-year span. At a time of climate change, the researchers hope their COMPADRE Plant Matrix database will foster collaborations between scientists and allow them to better answer questions like how we can conserve species critical for ecosystem services, which may provide food for billions.

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The President’s New Year Message https://irishamerica.com/2015/01/the-presidents-new-year-message/ https://irishamerica.com/2015/01/the-presidents-new-year-message/#respond Fri, 23 Jan 2015 01:56:17 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=21113 Read more..]]> President Michael D. Higgins’s Christmas New Year message, broadcast from Aras on Uchtairan on December 31, remembered the Irish abroad, those who assist them, and the communities which have welcomed them.

Higgins also encouraged those “who may be feeling distressed or lonely to look beyond the long dark nights, to the promise once again, of the dawning light of Spring,” adding that “the story of Bethlehem, of the homeless Joseph and Mary anticipating the birth of their child, is at the heart of this holiday and it invites us to reflect on how we relate to the stranger, the vulnerable in our midst.”

He went on to say that Christmas is a season of peace, “a time to recall all that can be achieved through reflection, forgiveness and reconciliation,” and spoke about the “great honor” of being Ireland’s first head of state to pay a state visit to the U.K.

“It was an immense privilege and pleasure to be thus able to manifest the friendship between our two peoples, who no longer look at each other with doubtful eyes,” he said.

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100,000 Protesters March Against Water Charges https://irishamerica.com/2015/01/100000-protesters-march-against-water-charges/ https://irishamerica.com/2015/01/100000-protesters-march-against-water-charges/#respond Fri, 23 Jan 2015 01:55:19 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=21116 Read more..]]> Up to 100,000 protesters opposed to the introduction of water charges brought Dublin to a standstill in December when they rallied outside the Irish parliament building. The December 10th protest was the largest yet in what has become an increasingly strife-filled argument between the Irish government and the taxpayers. The charges, which are mandated by the 2010 E.U. bailout agreement, will mean that the Irish will pay some of the highest rates for water in the E.U.

“I don’t believe I should have to pay for water next year [2015],” one protester told the BBC. “I already pay for water as it is through general taxation.”

The immense size of the rally escalated already high tensions in Dublin, with some protesters throwing stones and bottles at police lines, resulting in the hospitalization of one Garda officer and the arrest of two protesters. The O’Connell Bridge was blocked for much of the day, and even Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister, Joan Burton, was not exempt from the standstill as she was forced to remain in her car for three hours, according to The Irish Independent.

Frustration with the charges is far-ranging, and even the Oscar-winning Irish musician Glen Hansard came out to perform for the protesters.

“I think there is a general sense of anger, a seething dissatisfaction and I’m just like anyone else,” he told The Irish Times.

British actor and comedian Russell Brand also lent his voice to the protest in a video posted to YouTube.

“We should support the people who are protesting in Ireland for the most basic of rights, water,” he said.

Although the water charges are set in place for this year, leftwing TD Paul Murphy says he hopes to pass a bill to annul the water charges come April.

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Winter Solstice in Newgrange https://irishamerica.com/2015/01/winter-solstice-in-newgrange/ https://irishamerica.com/2015/01/winter-solstice-in-newgrange/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 01:54:10 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=21121 Read more..]]> There were 30,532 entries for a lottery to experience Winter Solstice 2014 at Newgrange in Co. Meath. Fifty names were drawn, and each of those fifty people were invited along with a guest to gather at dawn (8:58 a.m.) from December 18th to December 23rd.

Newgrange is the best known Irish passage tomb and dates to around 3200 B.C. At dawn on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year (December 21st) and for a number of days before and after, a shaft of sunlight enters the chamber through an opening in the roof box.

To the Neolithic culture of the Boyne Valley, the winter solstice marked the start of the New Year – a sign of nature’s rebirth, promising renewed life to crops, animals and humans. It may also have served as a powerful symbol of the inevitable victory of life over death, perhaps promising new life to the spirits of the dead.

Those of you thinking you may want to enter the lottery next year can fill out an application form in Brú Na Bóinne Visitor Centre when you visit Newgrange. If you don’t think you’ll make it to Ireland before the drawing deadline, you can also email your postal address, a contact telephone number, and an indication whether or not you have ever visited Newgrange. Upon receipt, a member of staff will complete an application on your behalf. Applicants must be over 10 years of age and an adult must accompany anyone under 18. Only applications on the official form can be entered into the draw.

The drawing for places at Newgrange for Solstice 2015 will take place on September 25, 2015. Children from three local schools will choose the winning applicants. The successful people will be notified by mid October.

For more information visit: newgrange.com.

Email: brunaboinne@opw.ie

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Rising Sea Levels A Danger for Ireland https://irishamerica.com/2015/01/rising-sea-levels-a-danger-for-ireland/ https://irishamerica.com/2015/01/rising-sea-levels-a-danger-for-ireland/#respond Fri, 23 Jan 2015 01:53:30 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=21124 Read more..]]> In a global warming special on RTÉ’s environment series Eco Eye, experts warned about the catastrophic dangers of climate change on Ireland. They predicted that rising sea levels would bring significant coastal damage and the extinction of many plant and animal species, and large areas of country could disappear into the ocean.

The show’s presenter Duncan Stewart travels to Iceland to investigate how its melting glaciers are contributing to the rise in sea levels.

Dr. Barry Dwyer, an environmental scientist with the Coastal Marine Research Centre at the Irish Naval Headquarters, said that two percent of Dublin could be swallowed by the sea, along with more than three percent of northern counties.

“The big problem is storm surges that we have in Ireland with sea level rises, and then add another storm surge on top of that and that becomes a two-meter storm surge,” Dwyer said.

“In the more northerly counties we are looking at up to 3.5 percent of the entire land area being inundated, and that doesn’t account for the big wash that would come off the storm surge and the destruction from that.”

As we went to press, Ireland’s worst storms in 15 years wreaked havoc on coastal and inland communities with devastating floods and gales.

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U.S. Lifts Ban on Irish Beef https://irishamerica.com/2015/01/u-s-lifts-ban-on-irish-beef/ https://irishamerica.com/2015/01/u-s-lifts-ban-on-irish-beef/#respond Fri, 23 Jan 2015 01:52:08 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=21127 Read more..]]> The U.S. agreed last year to lift the ban on Irish beef. The ban had been in place for 16 years, following a Europe-wide ban in the late 1990s due to an outbreak of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease.

Ireland is the first country in the European Union to regain access to the U.S. beef market and the reaction in Ireland is one of jubilation. “This is a huge prize, given the size of the market and the demand we know exists there for premium grass-fed beef,” said Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, speaking on Irish radio. Ireland’s beef exports to the U.S. may total at least 50 million euro ($59.6 million) to 100 million euro this year, with the potential for shipments “to go way beyond that in the future,” he added.

Drought and rising feed prices have had a severe effect on U.S. beef production. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. cattle numbers are at their lowest point since 1951, making Irish beef competitive in the North American market.

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Hop Into Dublin https://irishamerica.com/2015/01/hop-into-dublin/ https://irishamerica.com/2015/01/hop-into-dublin/#respond Fri, 23 Jan 2015 01:50:34 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=21140 Read more..]]> Is there a better way to take in Ireland’s capital than sitting back with coffee on a hop-on hop-off coach tour while a great Irish storyteller fills you in on the history?

Unlike many major cities Dublin is small, but perfectly formed, with its center measuring just over 44 square miles. The first settlement on the site dates back to prehistoric times. Tales of battles, revolts, literature and the development of the city flow from the Vikings and High Kings right through to the Georgian period and continue today. Dublin is alive with stories about its every nook and cranny, which is good, because the one thing us Irish love to do is tell stories.

A new service on the streets of Dublin is CityScape luxury hop-on hop-off bus tours. The group has a fleet of coaches on the move  with 14 tour guides, all with different interests and tales to tell, along their 28-stop route. The tour runs from Phoenix Park on the north side of the Liffey to Ballsbridge in the south, and with so many stops and different guides and historians to learn from, you won’t need to book any other guide of the city.

Dublin's Georgian façades.

Dublin’s Georgian façades.

I spent a cozy afternoon on one of the CityScape buses last December, and as the winter chill filled the air and Dubliners went about their everyday business I was transported in the lap of luxury.

With a piping hot coffee provided on board, I listened to tour guide Terry Quigley talk about his Dublin. A native of the Liberties, in Dublin’s city center, Quigley is a history student at St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra. His passion for history and the city where he was born and bred had me rapt for almost three hours as we drove the circuit of the city.

What a treat, as a native Dubliner, to be entertained with these stories, hidden gems of history, many of which I’d never come across before. Our guide seemed to know stories about every mysterious hideaway in the city. Aside from a rich knowledge of the main tourist attractions and understanding of the characters and events that shaped Dublin, what I thoroughly enjoyed were the forgotten and hidden gems our tour guide imparted.

Heading towards the Guinness Storehouse, named after the area of Dublin called St. James’s Gate, Terry pointed out the presbytery of St. James’s Church, where pilgrims would have their cards stamped to signify the start of the trail to Camino de Santiago, Spain.

He told us “In the Middle Ages 20,000 people a year used to depart from Ireland to go to Santiago. Of course if you are wealthy enough you would have your servant do the pilgrimage for you and you would reap all of the spiritual rewards.” The church still performs this service today.

Trinity College

Trinity College

Driving along the north quays of the River Liffey, he told us about the wealthiest Cistercian Abbey in Ireland, St. Mary’s Abbey, now buried deep beneath the Capel Street area.

“You go downstairs, about two meters, into the old Chapter House,” he told us. “What you’re really doing is going two meters through 800 years of history.”

Where the King’s council met and Silken Thomas declared rebellion, the abbey remained until after the Reformation when the stones in the buildings were used to build up the quays of the river and even build a bridge, where Grattan Bridge stands.

Moving down the river, we hit the financial and tech hub of the city, where modern glass buildings line the Liffey, housing international brands and tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Twitter call home. As we crossed the river our guide reminded us that there has been human settlement on this land since 6000 B.C.

The Temple Bar Pubfront in close up with artwork of medieval characters.

The Temple Bar Pubfront in close up with artwork of medieval characters.

Terry said, “Along the quays were found fish baskets, which are like woven nets, preserved perfectly in the mud and silt and they dated back to Mesolithic times, 6000 B.C. They were hunter gatherers, they moved around, they didn’t farm – they hunted and fished. They must have fished here along the sand flats. It’s just nice to remember that as you’re walking through the city.”

As our tour guide said, exploring Dublin past and present is “like peeling back the layers of an onion to see how the city has developed.”

The variety among CityScape’s tour guides means that every time you get on a bus you’re bound to hear a new story. The guides come from backgrounds as varied as archaeology, thatching, acting, music, history, sports, journalism, and others.

“That’s the fun of it,” says Aoife Dunphy, a spokeswoman for the tour group.

“You can get on and off the bus over three days and never hear the same stories twice. There’s just so much to learn.”

The Guinness Storehouse at St. James Gate.

The Guinness Storehouse at St. James Gate.

CityScape prides itself on bringing the traditional art of storytelling in Ireland to the tour guide business. The tour guides have been specifically trained as storytellers, with tales from numerous sources, events, and oral histories. The result is a fascinating and entertaining collection of tales offering little-known glimpses into the history of Dublin and its present day.

From prehistoric settlements to Viking invasion, Dublin’s architecture, colorful locals, the Great Hunger, the Easter Rising, the good, the bad and the ugly, our tour gave us a picture of the many layers of history that make Dublin so special.

Of course the city’s not all about old history, and the guides also know what’s going on about town. They will point out great spots for a bite to eat, what exhibitions are on, where to stop for a pint and any upcoming events that cosmopolitan Dublin has to offer.

On a bright winter afternoon we picked up tourists, business people, and some resident Irish along for the ride as we drove through a magical winter wonderland of Dublin. All the while I simply sat back and enjoyed the stories and banter along the way.

The flexible three-day hop-on hop-off tickets allow visitors to explore the city in depth. Currently CityScape is also running a deal that includes a free night at the dog races, 30 percent off a tour of the five-year-old Aviva stadium and one euro off entry to the Guinness Storehouse, Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction.

Stopping at top tourist attractions, historic monuments, the main thoroughfares of the city and near most major hotels, their route takes in the key vacation must-sees and some local secrets too. Starting off at Kilmainham Jail just south of the Liffey where many Irish revolutionaries were interned and executed, we traveled across the river and out of the city center towards Phoenix Park, Europe’s largest city public park and home to the U.S. Ambassador’s residence and Dublin Zoo and home to Ireland’s President.

The Wellington Memorial in Phoenix Park.

The Wellington Memorial in Phoenix Park.

Heading back into the city along the north bank of the river, our tour passed Collins Barracks, now home to the National Museum of Ireland, and the Jameson Distillery, along towards Parnell Square, the Garden of Remembrance and the Irish Writers’ Museum.

Heading south we passed the General Post Office (GPO) and O’Connell Street then passing the stunning Custom House and Ireland’s International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) on our way to the relatively new neighborhood of Grand Canal Docks and on to the Aviva Stadium in Ballsbridge and the Royal Dublin Society (RDS).

From the area of Dublin 4 and reentering Dublin 2, the tour brought us from Victorian Dublin back into the Georgian elegance of Merrion Square along to Ireland’s government buildings and museums on Kildare Street. Then it was back to Dame Street, past Trinity and on to Viking Dublin and to St James Gate, home of Guinness.

The tour passes too many of Dublin’s highlights to mention but  with 28 stops on the route, there are more than enough of them to keep you entertained for your three-day hop-on hop-off adventure in Dublin.


Exclusive online offer! 

Irish America readers will receive a further 15% off ticket price by entering promo code:


when booking online at www.cityscapetours.ie

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Irish Eye On Hollywood https://irishamerica.com/2015/01/irish-eye-on-hollywood-43/ https://irishamerica.com/2015/01/irish-eye-on-hollywood-43/#respond Fri, 23 Jan 2015 01:49:20 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=21154 Read more..]]> 1As television dramas become more prestigious, Irish acting talent continues to flock to both cable and network shows. We already know that, this year, Irish American cable-drama veteran Denis Leary (“Rescue Me”) will unveil his new show about an aging rock star called Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll. The comedy-drama will be on the FX network and will also star John Corbett (Sex and the City) and another Irish American comic Bobby Kelly. Meanwhile, Colin Farrell will star alongside Vince Vaughn in the next season of HBO’s drama True Detective. The chilling first season (starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson) earned raves and spooked audiences with its gritty portrait of New Orleans’ gruesome underworld. Joining Farrell in the new season will be Tralee-born star Timothy V. Murphy, best known to TV audiences for roles in Criminal Minds, NCIS: LA, Sons of Anarchy, and the Irish show Glenroe. Finally, the Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul, starring Bob Odenkirk as sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman, will also feature Tipperary native and Walking Dead star Kerry Condon.


Denis Leary (left) with the cast of Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll.

As for the big screen, Northern Irish actor Jamie Dornan gambled when he took on the starring role in the erotic thriller 50 Shades of Grey, which hits screens in February. At one point Dornan feared devoted fans of the books might hate the movie so much they would murder him “like John Lennon.” With 50 Shades behind him, Dornan is not resting on his good looks or his bondage equipment. He’s currently filming two movies; the first (as yet untitled) features A-listers such as Bradley Cooper, Emma Thompson, Siena Miller and Uma Thurman about a chef (Cooper) who sets out to dominate the world of high-end restaurants. Dornan is also filming The Ninth Life of Louis Drax, a smaller-scale project also starring Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul. Dornan plays a doctor examining a young boy who nearly died, and whose brief life seems to contain an inordinate number of coincidences.

The Irish had another strong showing at the Sundance Film Festival in late January, with a number of films expected to come to the U.S. with rave reviews. Perhaps the most highly anticipated is Brooklyn, which had its world premiere at the world-famous Utah festival organized by screen legend Robert Redford. Brooklyn stars Saoirse Ronan and Domhnall Gleeson and was directed by John Crowley (Intermission, Boy A). It is based on Colm Tóibín’s acclaimed novel of the same name.

In the film, Ronan stars as a young Irish immigrant in 1950’s New York who is torn between a lover in New York and family responsibilities back in Ireland. There is no official U.S release date for Brooklyn just yet. Either way, Saoirse Ronan had a busy Sundance fest. She also starred in the Sundance drama Stockholm, Pennsylvania, about a teenager who vanished only to be reunited with her parents almost 20 years later. Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City) also stars, as the teen’s grieving mother.

Saoirse Ronan and Domhnall Gleeson in Brooklyn.

Saoirse Ronan and Domhnall Gleeson in Brooklyn.

Another Irish flick earning plaudits at Sundance was Glassland, starring Irish actor Jack Reynor (What Richard Did, Transformers: Age of Extinction) as well as Toni Collette. Directed by Kerry native Gerard Barrett, Glassland is a dark look at a taxi driver driven to desperation to save his mother from a harrowing addiction.

Another Irish film screened at Sundance was The Hallow, a supernatural flick set in both London and Ireland, about a scientist from England who traipses to Ireland to study an ancient forest believed by locals to be populated by demons.

Two up-and-coming Irish stars recently received praise and are poised to have strong years in 2015. Dublin actor Emmett Scanlan was tabbed an “International Star You Should Know” by Variety magazine. The 35 year-old Emmet starred alongside Jamie Dornan in the BBC drama The Fall (available in the U.S. on Netflix). Scanlan told Variety that the classic American movie Rocky turned him onto acting. “I remember being a kid watching the movie by myself in the living room,” he said. “Right then, I knew I wanted to do what Stallone did. I wanted to act.” Scanlan even played an Irish bare-knuckle boxer in the 2009 film Once Upon a Time in Dublin. Scanlan also had a role in the 2014 hit Guardians of The Galaxy and will next be seen playing a haunted hitman in the film Breakdown. He will also appear in the April biblical TV series A.D.  (More on that later.)

Meanwhile, Waterford native Moe Dunford is earning raves for his searing portrayal of a schizophrenic in Patrick’s Day. Dunford was selected as one of 2015’s European Shooting Stars, an honor previously nabbed by acclaimed Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson as well as former James Bond Daniel Craig. Dunford has appeared in the TV series Vikings, but his turn in Terry McMahon’s Patrick’s Day (which shared Best Irish Feature honors at the Galway Film Fleadh with the aforementioned Glassland) opened many eyes on the cinematic scene.

“Moe’s physicality and sly charm first drew us to him – the ingredients of a modern-day Hollywood hero – but his work in Patrick’s Day sealed the deal,” the European Shooting Stars jury declared. “As schizophrenic Patrick, he shows compassion and subtlety always putting the character first, never letting Patrick’s issues overwhelm the performance.”

As these up-and-comers earn attention, Irish film veterans are also holding their own.  Kenneth Branagh goes big once again behind the camera with his latest directorial feature Cinderella. The most recent version of the fairy tale hits theaters on March 13, and stars Lily James as the title character, along with Cate Blanchett and Richard Madden.

Pierce Brosnan

Meath native and former James Bond actor, Pierce Brosnan.

Branagh, meanwhile, will soon be seen in the latest installment of the BBC detective drama Wallander, written by fellow Northern Irishman Ronan Bennet. Wallander seasons have traditionally been shown in the U.S. on public television and can also be accessed via Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services.

Pierce Brosnan also has two new movies on the way. First up is The Coup, opening March 6, also starring Lake Bell and Owen Wilson. The Coup is an action thriller about a businessman who moves with his family to a new country just in time for a violent government overthrow, leaving all foreigners vulnerable to execution. Then, in April, Brosnan appears in The Moon and the Sun, playing French King Louis XIV, in a film based on the novel of the same name by Vonda N. McIntyre. Set to open April 10, the mind-bending sci-fi flick also stars William Hurt, Kaya Scodelario, Benjamin Walker and Paul Ireland (who is actually Scottish) and revolves around the king’s quest for eternal life. The Sun and the Moon is directed by celebrated children’s movie and TV director (not to mention Irish American) Sean Patrick McNamara.

Monaghan-born Charlene McKenna, who stars in the New Roma Downey biblical series, A.D.

Monaghan-born Charlene McKenna, who stars in the New Roma Downey biblical series, A.D.

Also in March, Irish actors Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson and Michelle Fairley join an impressive cast which also includes Chris Hemsworth for Ron Howard’s latest epic  In the Heart of the Sea. The film is set in the early 1820s, and explores the crew of the whaling ship The Essex, which was rammed by a whale while out at sea, forcing the crew to fend for themselves under life-threatening circumstances. It is believed that the tragedy of The Essex is what inspired Herman Melville to write Moby-Dick.

Finally, Roma Downey’s forthcoming biblical series A.D. (set to premiere in April) is a very Irish affair.  Aside from Downey’s contribution as producer (following the smash success of the TV series The Bible as well as the movie spinoff Son of God), Irish acting talent slated to appear in A.D. includes Emmet Scanlon as well as Monaghan native Charlene McKenna (who won an Irish Film and Television Award for her performance in Raw) and Vincent Regan, whose parents were born in Ireland. Irish talent behind the camera working on A.D. includes director Ciaran Donnelly (Titanic: Blood and Steel).

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