June July 2016 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 Gillian Murphy: On Her Toes https://irishamerica.com/2016/06/gillian-murphy-on-her-toes/ https://irishamerica.com/2016/06/gillian-murphy-on-her-toes/#comments Wed, 01 Jun 2016 04:59:29 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=25971 Read more..]]> After 20 years with American Ballet Theatre, principal dancer Gillian Murphy still loves the challenge of making the difficult look effortless.


Gillian Murphy celebrated her 20th anniversary performance with American Ballet Theatre on May 28, dancing the lead role as Lise in La Fille mal gardée (translating literally to “The Poorly Guarded Girl,” and also called “The Girl Who Needed Watching”). The ballet tells the story of a playful, imaginative girl who resists her mother’s attempts to marry her off to a rich nitwit, preferring instead her romantic, if poor, beloved. Nearly as impressive as her practiced pointe work was Murphy’s ability to use dance to tell a complex story, expressing an emotional range from mischief to frustration to joy and romance using only the controlled movement of her body and the look in her expressive eyes. When Lise snuck out to meet her beloved, or performed a complex and mesmerizing ribbon dance, Murphy’s talent needed watching indeed.

Unlike Lise, Murphy had her parents’ full support growing up as she identified her passion: ballet. With roots on both her Murphy and Sullivan sides firmly planted in County Cork, Murphy joined ABT at 17 in 1996 after a childhood spent learning to dance in the Carolinas. At 11, she danced the Black Swan pas de deux, and at 14 she attended the North Carolina School of Arts (UNCSA) training under Melissa Hayden. (A former prima ballerina of the New York City Ballet, Hayden stressed the importance of the Balanchine technique.) At 15, Murphy was a finalist at the Jackson International Ballet Competition. After joining ABT at 17, she was promoted to soloist at 20, and the rank of principal at 23. The roles she has taken on over the years have run the gamut to showcase the wide range that is one of the marks of her talent, including the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, Desdemona in Othello, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Princess Aurora and the Lilac Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty, Odette-Odile in Swan Lake, and Sylvia in Sylvia. Of this last, the New York Times wrote that “the illustrious Gillian Murphy, as Sylvia, has few roles that better show her bravura skills.” Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie called her, “a joy…for every minute of 20 years! She is gifted and smart, willing to absorb from her peers and be an example at the same time. We have watched her grow organically into her potential – blossoming into a truly unique American ballerina with an astonishing command and range of repertoire.” During her career, Murphy has been awarded the Prix de Lausanne Espoir, a dance fellowship from the Princess Grace Foundation, and the Princess Grace Statue Award. She also received an honorary doctorate in Performing Arts from UNCSA, and the school has endowed a scholarship in her name.

Gillian Murphy (Princess Aurora) and Alexandre Hammoudi (Prince Désiré) in Alexei Ratmansky's The Sleeping Beauty. (Photo: Gene Schiavone)

Gillian Murphy (Princess Aurora) and Alexandre Hammoudi (Prince Désiré) in Alexei Ratmansky’s The Sleeping Beauty. (Photo: Gene Schiavone)

Now 37, Murphy has played a vital role in keeping the art of ballet relevant to mainstream audiences, whether it’s answering questions in a Reddit AMA, playing a cameo as herself in Gossip Girl, or dancing in Center Stage and Center Stage 2: Turn It Up. Along with her husband, choreographer, director, and former ABT principal dancer Ethan Stiefel, Murphy is ballet royalty.

In other reviews, the New York Times called her “a redoubtable and complex artist,” and noted “the blazing clarity, the air-cleaving jumps, the dazzling turns and the plunging, hopping, complex footwork…the plasticity of her torso.” It is true that to watch Murphy dance is a stark reminder that ballet, first and foremost, pushes the limits of what the human body can achieve. But it is Murphy’s discipline, determination, and the art she brings to interpreting and inhabiting each of her heroines that make her a brilliant ballerina.

We meet up on Memorial Day in a café near Lincoln Center. Murphy arrived from rehearsal wearing a light summer dress and sandals. She is fresh-faced – no lipstick – and unbelievably young looking – but she’s not a girl. She’s a woman of quiet self-possession who takes the dance seriously, but not herself. She may have been born in London but she is a passionate American who believes “education and healthcare are fundamental to everyone’s life,” and the anti-immigrant sentiment being expressed by some Americans to be “very disturbing.”



How much of your life is your work?

It is a big part of my life. There is no denying it. This profession requires an intense level of dedication and devotion, but it also is incredibly fulfilling. I get to go out there and do what I love – just to dance to live music with extraordinary dancers, with these great partners and the rest of the company sharing their artistry. That is a big part of what I love about performance, too: it’s about being in that zone collectively with others. I like being a principal dancer and having all those solo moments, but just looking around the stage and sharing that moment with these other artists is a big part of my love of being out there.

It must be very important to trust the other principal dancer, your male partner.

Oh, that is key. Trust is key like in any relationship, but especially as it is a partnership and you are going to be lifted over their head, or twisted around or spun around the stage – you absolutely have to trust. But I have been very fortunate to have had amazing partners. I have no complaints.

I read that you said, “It is not enough to have natural talent. You really have to work at it.”

That is true. It is never enough to have the talent because you also have to have the tools, the training and you have to put the work in.

In your early life, how much work was it on a daily basis?

As a twelve year-old, I was taking class an hour and half every day, followed by some other rehearsals for an hour or two. As a fourteen year-old, when I was at North Carolina School of Arts, I had a ballet class every weekday. We would have one day off for the weekend, possibly two, but usually one. So ballet class and either pointe class, pas de deux, or modern class. So almost every day there was at least three hours of certain conditioning, training classes, and then, one to three hours of rehearsals on top of the full high school academic program.

Were your parents supportive of you wanting to be a dancer?

They were, yes. I was always dancing around the house when I was little and I really loved it from an early age. They were very supportive and my mother ended up driving long distances for me to get better training. When I was about twelve, I think they realized… First of all, they knew I loved it, and second of all, they realized I might have some potential. So we started driving to Columbia, South Carolina, which is an hour and a half away each way, several times a week when I was twelve, and then, when I was thirteen, we actually relocated there, just me, my mother, and my little sister. My father was working in North Carolina at the time, so it was hard for all of us to be apart from each other, but I think my parents understood how much I love to dance and how much I would need to have the right kind of training to make that happen.

Wedding day, September 19, 2015. Pictured with the Murphy side of the family  (from left to right: Kevin, Tessa, Amy (Kevin’s fiance), Gillian, Ethan, Thad, Carol (mom), Paul (dad) Murphy. (Photo: Mel Barlow)

Wedding day, September 19, 2015. Pictured with the Murphy side of the family (from left to right: Kevin, Tessa, Amy (Kevin’s fiance), Gillian, Ethan, Thad, Carol (mom), Paul (dad) Murphy. (Photo: Mel Barlow)

When did you know that you wanted to dance professionally?

I don’t think I knew what to expect in terms of like where my career would go or what was possible really. I just knew from a very young age that this is what I love to do. If this could be a profession, then I absolutely would love to at least try and make that happen. I have just been very fortunate and I’m really grateful for everything that has occurred.

I was very lucky also that my parents allowed me to go away from home when I was fourteen because that time in Columbia, training there, away from our home in Florence, was really critical, but the next critical step was moving on to even more advanced training which was the North Carolina School of Arts with Melissa Hayden. She really took me under her wing and I got the opportunity to do a lot of Balachine’s pieces at the a very young age and train there without compromising my academic growth.

You were actually accepted into ABT before you finished high school.

Yes. Georgina Parkinson was a ballet mistress and a coach at the American Ballet Theatre in New York, and she came down to North Carolina School of Arts to work on a piece and she saw me and she said, “Gillian, you are ABT material. You should come, audition, come take a class.” So I came up for her class on a Saturday in April. I’d just turned seventeen, and Kevin McKenzie [the director] offered me a place for the following Tuesday. I was graduating from high school a year early and I had another month of academics, so I asked to join in August. It was great. A couple of days after I joined, we went to Rio de Janeiro on tour, then to Korea. We work all over the world as a company, and as the designated national company, we perform regularly all over the United States.

Was it a big change moving to New York?

It was a bit of cultural shock. You know, I grew up in the Carolinas [with] a much slower pace, so moving to New York when I was seventeen was definitely different, but I’ve always liked it here. Especially because we do tour a lot. I think New York 24/7 day in-day out can be a lot. It is just so fast-paced, so much fun at all times, but the fact that we travel the world and every now and then my husband and I get out to Pennsylvania, to the woods and rivers – having that balance makes me appreciate New York much more.

Does dancing ever feel like work?

The only time when it becomes work is dealing with injuries. It becomes more complicated because you are pushing your body to do something that it clearly probably shouldn’t be doing at that moment. I have been very fortunate in my twenty years at the company in regards to injuries, but just recently I had a calf strain. So I actually didn’t rehearse as much as I might have wanted to because I need to let that heal. That takes away some of the joy of it, when you are dealing with a muscle strain or some sort of situation like that. But generally, I feel so grateful that this is what I do for a living and I understand that the discipline of hard work is part of that and it is a necessary part of growing, making progress, and getting the opportunity to be free on the stage. If you put that work in, then I feel like performance is where you trust that work – and [you are able to] just be more spontaneous and just enjoy the dance.

Gillian at 11 in Black Swan. (Photo courtesy Gillian Murphy)

Gillian at 11 performing the Black Swan pas de deux from the third act of Swan Lake. (Photo courtesy Gillian Murphy)

How important is it to have a strong sense of yourself, which is something I’ve read people saying about you?

I think that has been very important because it’s kept me grounded – that I am always grateful for talent, for the potential that I started out with but I don’t just take it for granted and I don’t take the opportunities I’ve been given for granted. I really just want to make the most out of this profession and art that I love so much. I take ballet as an art form very seriously and I think it can be very powerful and meaningful, but I try not to take myself too seriously. I have to have a sense of humor and take myself with a grain of salt and [I try to] keep that sort of grounded sensibility of striving for something more rather than getting caught up in applause or a good review here or there. Dancing cannot just be an exercise in ballet technique, which can get very much isolated in a bubble, but something human and a real and spontaneous expression of joy, or drama or pathos that just happens to be in this classical form.

You seem to spend so much time on pointe, more than anyone I have ever seen – sort of like you float around the stage effortlessly.

Lise runs on pointe, literally, quite a bit, and hardly ever comes down. But I do love that. I always loved pointe shoes and just that sort of ethereal feeling, kind of other-worldly feeling of being on my toes. I enjoy it. I mean, I am lucky that ABT also does more modern repertoire, so I am not always in pointe shoes and I can explore different types of movement and work with modern choreographers and do various styles. But my favorite – my real passion is for pointe shoes and classical ballet, Balanchine, Ashton, Tudor, et cetera.

I don’t know how you manage to do that ribbon dance [as Lise]. It seems so tricky!

There are some tricky moments with that ribbon! Doing a little jumprope with that ribbon in pointe shoes is not easy, but it is fun and I do love being on the stage. And music is fundamental to why I dance. When you have wonderful music and exceptional choreography, and the Metropolitan Opera House stage, there is no reason to pull back, really, and some of what we do is very difficult, but that is the art of ballet. To make it look effortless.

What was the music that you used to dance to when you were a child?

My father loved Amadeus, the movie, so he would play that quite a bit, the soundtrack. I remember loving that music when I was little and dancing to it endlessly.

Speaking of your Dad, where are your ancestors from?

Both sides are from Cork. My mother is English and she is a Sullivan. The Murphys moved to America around the Famine time, to the Midwest. I think around Wisconsin. My dad grew up all over the United States because his father was a cartographer. He was the oldest of six and they would move around constantly. His father was surveying and mapmaking the entire country.

Where did your parents meet?

They met in Barcelona. My father went to Dartmouth and he wanted to do a year abroad at university in Spain, and my mother was going to school there and they met there.

Have you ever been to Ireland?

I’ve never been. I always wanted to go. It’s really high on my bucket list. My brother Kevin just went. He brought back all sorts of Guinness shirts and paraphernalia. I have two older brothers Thaddeus “Thad” and Kevin, and a sister, Tessa, who is eight years younger than me. They were all born in America except for me. I was born in Wimbledon because my father was working overseas for a few years – he was with GE.

My parents live in Virginia now. They have been traveling a fair amount lately because my father retired. We should all do a family trip to Ireland. It’s time. ♦

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Inaugural Top 50 Power Women https://irishamerica.com/2016/06/inaugural-top-50-power-women/ https://irishamerica.com/2016/06/inaugural-top-50-power-women/#respond Wed, 01 Jun 2016 04:58:10 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=25987 Read more..]]> The women featured on this list perform some of the most pioneering work currently done in their manifold industries, from literature, media, and fashion to technology, business, finance, and politics. In many cases, they are representative of the crest of a new wave determined to shore up a more inclusive professional space for women, particularly in fields that have yet to reflect the full diversity of American demographics.

Together, they are bound by a deep appreciation for the influence of their heritage on who they are today and the opportunities made available by their forebears. Whether born in Ireland or a descendent of a more distant immigrant, our honorees are a testament to the scope, power, influence, and esteem the Irish diaspora increasingly holds in today’s global economy.

Irish America is proud to salute the inaugural Top 50 Power Women.

Beir Bua! ♦


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First Word: “Reach for the Stars” https://irishamerica.com/2016/06/first-word-reach-for-the-stars/ https://irishamerica.com/2016/06/first-word-reach-for-the-stars/#respond Wed, 01 Jun 2016 04:57:38 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=25991 Read more..]]> “We are adventuring into a new world.”
– Astronaut Eileen Collins.

The idea of an issue devoted to women has been brewing for some time but it really took hold these past months with all of the 1916 commemorations and celebrations marking Ireland’s rebellion. Finally, the Women of the Rising are getting their due, and there has been a plethora of articles showing us just how active women were in Ireland’s fight for Independence.

All the hoopla caused us to consider today’s women and that became the impetus for this special issue celebrating our Top 50 Power Women. Our honorees come for all walks of life, but they are bound by a deep appreciation for the influence of their heritage on who they are today and the opportunities made available to them by their forebears.

Unlike other countries, Irish woman emigrated in numbers equal to men. Between 1846 and 1875, half of the 2,700,000 Irish entering the United States were female. By the 1870s, female immigrants outnumbered the males. As single women, they found jobs as live-in maids and cooks and housekeepers in New York, Boston, and other cities. The work was hard, the hours long, and the pay not great, but they had a roof over their heads, and they sent money back home to keep the roof over their parents’ heads, and pay for passage over for younger brothers and sisters. (From 1850 to 1900 an estimated 260 million dollars was sent home to Ireland from daughters and sons in America).

We see the lives of those early Irish immigrants reflected in today’s immigrants who, struggling in low-paying jobs, are sending what money they can back home, and striving to educate their children. These immigrants have their champions in the labor unions, as the Irish did. None more so than our Top 50 Power Women honoree Mary Kay Henry, who as president of the Service Employees International Union represents about 2.1 million workers.

Mary Kay was instrumental in the fight to raise the minimum wage for fast-food workers to $15 an hour.

We see this empathy for others in so many of our Top 50 honorees. Maureen Mitchell is a powerhouse in corporate America, where she promotes diversity in the workplace. She is also passionate about helping young women in poorer countries achieve their dream through the non-profit She’s the First, an organization that provides scholarships to girls in developing countries to attend high school. Maureen became involved with the She’s the First because “it spoke to me of my mother’s background,” she tells Adam Farley in a far-reaching interview, in which she discusses her work, her upbringing as the daughter of immigrants, and what her success means to her.

In other interviews too, we see the power of women to enact change. Our most visible woman in Irish America is the dynamo Anne Anderson, Ireland’s ambassador to the United States. Anne is passionate about inclusivity, something that became important to her during her time at the U.N. “[Inclusivity] is something that I have always, instinctively been very attached to,” she tells Sarah Buscher, “a deep sense of equality, equal rights . . . women’s rights, human rights.”

Meanwhile, Roma Downey, the actress, producer, and director, is helping to bring a smile to the faces of children born with cleft lips and palates through her work with Operation Smile.

Others are spreading the joy through the arts. Several of our honorees, following the long tradition of Irish storytellers, are writers. The world of music and dance is also represented. Eileen Ivers, who electrifies the audience with her dazzling fiddle-playing, also spends her time bringing music to schools. “We want children to learn, to be influenced by the arts, to be moved by roots music, and to see that it isn’t an archaic art form. It’s relevant today. It’s an extension of the past right into the present,” she tells Kristin McGowan.

The Irish love of dance is given expression in Gillian Murphy, the star of American Ballet Theatre, who has been dancing since the time she could walk. She is astonishing in this season’s ABT repertoire at Lincoln Center. I caught her opening night performance in Sylvia, and the following week, her 20th anniversary performance in La Fille mal gardée, which had the audience bursting into spontaneous applause at her ability to make the most difficult feats look effortless and joyful.

Echoing the spirit of earlier generations, Gillian knows that it’s not just enough to have natural talent, success takes hard work and focus. “I think with true passion you can do so much more than you think is possible,” she told me when we spoke for this issue’s cover story.

This determination is a characteristic that all our Top 50 Power Women share; the knowing that to reach for the stars you have to stay on your toes. (And in Gillian’s case, a mother who will drive you an hour and a half each way to ballet class).

We applaud all our wonderful women profiled in this issue, and we remember those who went before. They passed on to us not just an ethos of hard work but their joy of expression, their love of a good laugh, and delight in music and dance; all the things that carried them through hard times and helped them celebrate the good. That is their true gift to us. ♦


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N.I. Assembly Gets First Opposition Government https://irishamerica.com/2016/06/n-i-assembly-gets-first-opposition-government/ https://irishamerica.com/2016/06/n-i-assembly-gets-first-opposition-government/#respond Wed, 01 Jun 2016 04:56:36 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=25995 Read more..]]> An opposition government at Stormont is beginning to take shape after the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) decided to opt for opposition rather than take part in the power-sharing executive after Arlene Foster of the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness were re-appointed as the assembly’s First and Deputy First Ministers in May.

It is the first opposition government in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement went into effect.

The UUP’s Mike Nesbitt (above left), citing the party’s new role as opposition said, “We have a job to do, because now we’re the only party holding the DUP and Sinn Féin’s feet to the fire to achieve a proper progressive program for government.”

Colum Eastwood (below left) of the SDLP agreed, stating, “we are going to work very, very hard to put forward alternatives to what the other parties have done and what they have failed to do.”

In theory, supporters of an opposition government say, the arrangement will allow for a more honest, accountable executive. In practice, however, according to its detractors, it could result in gridlock and the collapse of the executive and the power-sharing agreement outlined in the Good Friday Agreement.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams furthered that both opposition parties should have made their intentions clear during the recent election, and remained skeptical of the possibility for success.

“These were the two lead parties in government for nine years and they made a mess of it,” he told journalists in Belfast. “The political institutions were suspended twice and crashed twice.” ♦


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28th Annual Afri Famine Walk https://irishamerica.com/2016/06/28th-annual-afri-famine-walk/ https://irishamerica.com/2016/06/28th-annual-afri-famine-walk/#respond Wed, 01 Jun 2016 04:55:48 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=25998 Read more..]]> Palestinian poet and activist Rafeef Ziadah led the annual 10.5 mile Afri famine walk in Louisburgh, Co. Mayo, in May. The walk, which has been around since 1988, traces the footsteps of hundreds of famine victims who were turned away from local landlords at Delphi Lodge on May 30, 1849.

“Exhausted, weak and emaciated, many of them were blown into the water on their return to Louisburgh,” state council member Ruairi McKiernan said.

For walk leader Rafeef Ziadah, who is on a tour of Ireland at present, the walk has a special significance.

“I’ll be walking to honor those who walked  those roads during the famine, and for my own grandparents who were forced out of Palestine in 1948 when the state of Israel was created.” ♦

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Queen Elizabeth Denies Twelve-year-old’s Request for Return of the Six Counties https://irishamerica.com/2016/06/queen-elizabeth-denies-twelve-year-olds-request-for-return-of-the-six-counties/ https://irishamerica.com/2016/06/queen-elizabeth-denies-twelve-year-olds-request-for-return-of-the-six-counties/#respond Wed, 01 Jun 2016 04:54:14 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=26014 Read more..]]> After learning about the Easter Rising and subsequent Troubles, Reese Kilbride, a 12-year-old Irish student from Portmar- nock, Co. Dublin, wrote a letter to the Queen of England in February asking that she kindly return the six counties of Northern Ireland to the Republic.

“They had the six counties, they didn’t give back all of Ireland,” Kilbride told Irish radio station Newstalk. “So I thought they should give it back.”

Kilbride even included a picture that he drew of himself, his friend, and the Queen standing together in front of Buckingham Palace. To his surprise, an official response on Buckingham Palace letterhead came in April. The letter, signed by the Queen’s deputy correspondent Jennie Vine, was ultimately a letter of thanks and declined to return the counties.

“The Queen has asked me to thank you for your recent letter in which you wished to tell Her Majesty that you have been learning about the history of the Easter Rising 1916,” it read.

“While it was thoughtful of you to let The Queen know of your views, I must explain that this is not a matter in which Her Majesty would intervene.”

“Her Majesty has asked me to thank you for the pictures you drew especially for her,” it added. ♦

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Ireland Elected to U.N. Commission on the Status of Women for First Time https://irishamerica.com/2016/06/ireland-elected-to-u-n-commission-on-the-status-of-women-for-first-time/ https://irishamerica.com/2016/06/ireland-elected-to-u-n-commission-on-the-status-of-women-for-first-time/#respond Wed, 01 Jun 2016 04:53:36 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=26018 Read more..]]> In April, Ireland was elected to the UN Commission on the Status of Women for the first time during its U.N. membership. Charles Flanagan, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade said at the time that Ireland “will use this opportunity to strengthen the Commission’s role and to build on our international engagement on the full realization of the rights of women and girls.”

The election came a month before Ireland was roundly criticized by U.N. member states for its “restrictive abortion regime” in Geneva in May during its second Universal Periodic Review, which allows member states to pose human rights-related questions. Ireland faced questioning and skepticism for Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution, which states that “the biological existence of a fetus is put on an equal basis with the right to life of a pregnant woman.” ♦

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Bear Bone Discovery Potentially Re-writes Human History in Ireland https://irishamerica.com/2016/06/bear-bone-discovery-potentially-re-writes-human-history-in-ireland/ https://irishamerica.com/2016/06/bear-bone-discovery-potentially-re-writes-human-history-in-ireland/#comments Wed, 01 Jun 2016 04:52:42 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=26023 Read more..]]> An exciting artifact that changes what is currently known about human history in Ireland has been found in a cardboard box. A bear bone, which was discovered in a cave in Co. Clare in 1903 and lay unexamined in storage at the National Museum of Ireland until earlier this year, exhibits evidence that the hapless beast had been butchered by human hands 12,500 years ago, more than 2,000 years before scientists believed humans began to live on the island.

The bear’s patella, or knee bone (pictured left), was re-examined by Dr. Marion Dowd, an archaeologist at the Institute of Technology Sligo, and Dr. Ruth Carden, a research associate with the National Museum of Ireland, who had the bones temporal origins examined through radiocarbon dating.

“Archaeologists have been searching for the Irish Palaeolithic since the 19th century, and now, finally, the first piece of the jigsaw has been revealed,” Dowd told IT Sligo News. “This find adds a new chapter to the human history of Ireland.”

As a specialist in cave archaeology, Dowd was naturally interested in the bear patella and together with Carden, had the bone radiocarbon dated at Chrono Centre at Queen’s University Belfast, and then at University of Oxford to test the validity of the initial result. Both indicated that the bear was butchered about 12,500 years ago, while three separate bone specialists confirmed that the cut marks were made on fresh bone, ultimately proving that they were essentially the same age as the patella, and thus, that human life existed in Ireland some 2,500 years earlier than previously thought.

“From a zoological point of view, this is very exciting, since up to now we have not factored in a possible ‘human-dimension’ when we are studying patterns of colonization and local extinctions of species to Ireland,” noted Carden, to which she added, “This paper should generate a lot of discussion within the zoological research world and it’s time to start thinking outside the box… or even dismantling it entirely!” ♦

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Ashford Castle Is Named the Best Hotel in the World https://irishamerica.com/2016/06/ashford-castle-is-named-the-best-hotel-in-the-world/ https://irishamerica.com/2016/06/ashford-castle-is-named-the-best-hotel-in-the-world/#comments Wed, 01 Jun 2016 04:51:34 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=26027 Read more..]]> Ashford Castle, a massive hotel located at the shores of Lough Corrib on 350 acres of verdant Co. Mayo land, has been prestigiously ranked as the best hotel in the world by Virtuoso, a luxury travel network composed of 9,000 global specialists.

The award was given to the five-star luxury hotel at the Best of the Best Awards during Virtuoso Travel Week, a luxury travel show in Las Vegas. Boasting 82 rooms, a 32-seat cinema, a spa, and for those with more adventurous, exotic tastes, the hotel also hosts Ireland’s first school of falconry, not to mention the archery, fishing, shooting, and golfing facilities also on-site.

“Ashford represents a time stamp of the eras,” according to Virtuoso travel advisor Julie Smothers of Montgomery, Alabama. “Its staff members are like warm and inviting walking history books.”

Indeed, Ashford Castle holds a special place in Irish history and culture, as it was once owned by Lord and Lady Ardilaun of the Guinness family, and also hosted John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara during the filming of The Quiet Man.

Recently purchased by the Tollman family of Red Carnation Hotel Group fame, the new owners put $74.7 million into restoring this historic site, bringing about a new era for the castle and the accolades that have come with such an ambitious project.

Ashford Castle General Manager Niall Rochford Speaking told the Connacht Telegraph, “we are thrilled to have been awarded one of the luxury travel industry’s top awards.” ♦

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Donegal Man Shaves Seconds off Sheep Shearing World Record https://irishamerica.com/2016/06/donegal-man-shaves-seconds-off-sheep-shearing-world-record/ https://irishamerica.com/2016/06/donegal-man-shaves-seconds-off-sheep-shearing-world-record/#respond Wed, 01 Jun 2016 04:50:25 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=26031 Read more..]]> Co. Donegal man Ivan Scott (below left) has recently beaten the Guinness World Record for the fastest time in shearing a single adult sheep. Scott, 33, hails from Kilmacrennan and broke the record live on RTÉ’s Big Week on the Farm in April, shearing his sheep in 37.9 seconds, beating the previous record of 39.31 seconds which was set in Australia in 2010.

Scott is no tyro when it comes to the craft of sheep shearing either, as he is an eight-time All-Ireland sheep shearing champion. In New Zealand in 2012, Scott also set the record for the number of sheep sheared in eight hours after shearing on average over 1.5 lambs per minute, totalling 744 in the eight hour stint.

His most recent record was overseen by Guinness World Record adjudicator Glenn Pollard and chair of the Irish Sheep Shearing Association Tom Dunne, who assessed if the sheep was sheared to World Shearing Committee standards and ensured that the sheep did not suffer from any nicks or cuts after Scott rid it of its wool, which had to weigh in total three kilos after being sheared. Scott managed 3.92 kilos in his record breaking time. ♦

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