A Harp in Heaven: A story from this month’s issue of the Ohio Irish American News

May 27th, 2015

Illuminations: Turlough O’Carolan
By: J. Michael Finn

Persons who play the Irish harp are known as harpers, those who play concert harps are known as harpists. By far the most famous Irish harper was Turlough O’Carolan. In his lifetime he composed over 200 pieces of music for the harp. Even more amazing, he was totally blind. He is considered by many to be Ireland’s national composer and is often referred to as either O’Carolan or Carolan.

OCarolan Statue

O’Carolan was born in 1670 in Nobber, County Meath, where his father was a blacksmith and metal worker. The family later moved to Ballyfarnon, County Roscommon in 1684. In Roscommon, his father took a job with the MacDermot Roe family. Mrs. Mary MacDermot Roe, the wife of his father’s employer, gave young Turlough an education, and the youngster showed talent in poetry. At the age of eighteen he was stricken with smallpox, a common disease in Ireland. Although he recovered from the disease, it left him permanently blind.

In those days there were few opportunities for someone blind. Mrs. MacDermot Roe apprenticed O’Carolan to a good harper. It is believed that his teacher was Ruairi Dall (Blind Rory) who was living with the MacDermot’s at the time. At the age of twenty-one Turlough was given a harp, a horse and a guide. He then set out to travel Ireland and compose songs for patrons. The patrons gave him food and lodging and in return Turlough would compose a piece of music, often naming the song in their honor. Music named for a patron is known as a planxty, a word that O’Carolan reportedly invented.

O’Carolan’s first patron was George Reynolds of County Leitrim, who suggested that Turlough try his hand at composition. With the encouragement of Reynolds, Turlough composed Si Bheag, Si Mhor, which means “Big Hill, Little Hill.” and refers to a site in County Meath where, according to folklore, two battling giants were turned into two hills by a wizard.

Turlough was not your typical classical musician. Sources say that he was cheerful and gregarious, enjoyed practical jokes, as with many harpers of the time, he also drank a great deal, and he had a temper.

A story about O’Carolan concerns an encounter he had with another harper, David Murphy. Murphy was a disagreeable fellow musician who was so mean he once threw his own mother down a flight of stairs. Murphy once told O’Carolan that his music was like “bones without beef.” O’Carolan encountered Murphy in a pub and a fight began between the two. O’Carolan eventually dragged Murphy kicking and screaming from the pub. While Murphy was screaming, O’Carolan remarked, “Put beef to that air, you puppy.”

Among his compositions, Farewell to Whiskey is about the aftermath of a doctor forbidding him to drink anymore, and O’Carolan’s Receipt is about getting a prescription from the another doctor to go back to drinking whiskey again. According to the biographers, he stayed up all night with the prescribing doctor and wrote the tune in his honor.

O’Carolan composed music and verse for some of the most famous families in the country. He was a product of Gaelic Ireland: he spoke and wrote in Irish and did not speak English very well, but, he appealed as much to the native Gael as to the Ascendency families.
The names of those for whom he composed music included Coote, Cooper, Crofton, Brabazon, Pratt, O’Hara, Irwin, Betagh, Stafford and Blayney, all of them Protestant land owners. But, he also composed for well-known Catholic families, such as the Plunketts. It has been written that often weddings and funerals would be postponed until O’Carolan could arrive to perform.

The Cruise family, too, figures prominently in his works. He is said to have fallen in love with Brigid Cruise, in whose honor he composed no less than four songs of praise. Legend has it that many years later, on a pilgrimage to Lough Derg, he recognized her by the touch of her hand.
O’Carolan’s fame came from his gift for musical composition and poetry. His usual method was to compose the tune first and then write the words. This was the opposite of traditional Irish practice.
Today most of his music is played as strictly instrumental music, but O’Carolan wrote words to roughly a third of his songs. All of these were written in Irish; only one was in English. Some of O’Carolan’s own compositions show influence from the style of continental classical music, whereas others such as Carolan’s Farewell to Music reflect a much older style of “Gaelic Harping.”

O’Carolan did finally settle down and marry, to Mary Maguire. They lived on a farm near Mohill, County Leitrim and had seven children. Mary died in 1733 and just five years later, feeling ill, Carolan returned to the home of Mrs. Mary MacDermott Roe.

When Turlough O’Carolan died at the MacDermot Roe house 1738, his former music pupil Charles O’Connor recorded his passing in sadness: “Saturday, the 25th day of March, 1738. Turlough O’Carolan, the wise master and chief musician of the whole of Ireland, died today and was buried in the O’Duignan’s church of Kilronan, in the sixty-eighth year of his age. May his soul find mercy, for he was a moral and religious man.” O’Carolan’s final composition was to the butler, Flinn, who brought him his last drink. And, in a final fitting salute, his wake lasted four days.

If you would like to read more about O’Carolan and his compositions, the definitive biography is titled Carolan: The Life and Times of an Irish Harper, by Donal O’Sullivan, originally published in 1958 and reprinted in1983 and 1991 (set of 2 volumes). Another biographer, Grainne Yeats, sums up O’Carolan in an excellent tribute: “O’Carolan bridges the gap between continental art music on the one hand, and the Gaelic harp and folk music on the other.

At his best he wrote music that is distinctively Irish, yet has an international flavor, as well. It is this achievement that suggests that Turlough O’Carolan does indeed deserve the title of Ireland’s National Composer.”

*J. Michael Finn is the Ohio State Historian for the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Division Historian for the Patrick Pearse Division in Columbus, Ohio. He is also Chairman of the Catholic Record Society for the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio. He writes on Irish and Irish-American history; Ohio history and Ohio Catholic history. You may contact him at FCoolavin@aol.com.


Forever Seven: Tom Clarke by Anne Waters. A Story from this month’s issue of the Ohio Irish American News​

May 25th, 2015

Forever Seven: Tom Clarke
by Anne Waters
A Story from this month’s issue of the Ohio Irish American News​

Tom Clarke was the first Signatory to the Irish Proclamation and the oldest of all seven. He is epitomised by his dedication and continual struggle throughout his life for Irish Independence. He was the spirit of the revolution, the indefatigable and undefeated hero, so highly respected that he was nominated as the first signatory to the Proclamation. Thomas MacDonagh refused to sign until Clarke had done so, stating, “No other man was entitled to the honour”. (ref 1).

Forever Seven Thomas Clarke

Tom Clarke was born in 1858 in the British Army Barracks on the Isle of Wight. His mother was from County Tipperary and his father , a native of County Leitrim, was serving in the British army. As the family of a British soldier, they lived in a variety of garrison towns and spent many years in South Africa. Eventually they settled in Co. Tyrone .

Dungannon fulfilled that sense of home for Tom. It was there he attended school and for a time worked as a classroom assistant. In 1878 he heard John Daly speak; this became the catalyst that precipitated the radicalization of Tom Clarke.

Daly, a committed Fenian, swore Tom Clarke into the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and Tom was soon at the centre of the organization. A clash broke out in 1880 between members of the Orange Order and the Ancient Order of Hibernians following which Clarke was involved in an ambush on police headquarters.

He felt it expedient to move for a time to America but before doing so he made contact with the Irish American Revolutionary Organization, Clann na Gael. Clarke’s involvement with Clan na Gael grew to such an extent that he became expert in bomb-making, so was sent to England on a mission in 1883. The mission’s activities aroused suspicion; Clarke and others were arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Clarke’s account of prison life is gruesome. Persons convicted of treason received the most harsh of treatments. Separated from the main prison body, the guards were able to inflict continual harassment with impunity.
In Clarke’s own words, they engaged in “a scientific system of perpetual and persistent harassing”. (ref 1).

Sleep deprivation, regular rations of bread and water and heavy laborious work all combined to break the health and spirit of the prisoners. Having close friends as compatriots in the prison helped ease Clarke’s burden, but many Irish prisoners had total mental breakdowns. It is a testament to Clarke’s mental and emotional strength that he survived relatively intact.

Meanwhile, in Ireland there was a campaign organised to lobby for prisoner release and Tom Clarke’s cause was championed by the activist Maud Gonne. In 1898 he arrived home and during a celebratory reception in Limerick he was introduced to Kathleen Daly, a niece of John Daly.
Kathleen’s family were somewhat opposed to a match, apparently on account of Tom being twenty one years older than Kathleen, but nonetheless she agreed to marry and they set up home in New York.
Clarke’s nationalist activities recommenced and in a similar vein to the other Signatories, he became involved in a newspaper, “Gaelic American”.
Despite a reasonably contented life, he was anxious to return to Ireland.

He had become enamoured with Bulmer Hobson, a leading member of the Irish Volunteers, having heard his speeches on Irish Nationalism. He felt a renewed vigour that the Fenian movement had younger blood emerging and wished to see a rebellion when the time was right.

In 1908 the family returned to Ireland and with assistance opened a newsagents shop. Tom now threw himself fully into the cause of Irish independence and shortly after his return was elected president of a ward of Sinn Fein and co-opted onto the Supreme Council of the IRB. He believed the younger generation were now essential to the rejuvenation of the cause.

Clarke formed a close friendship with Sean MacDiarmada and facilitated the entry of Padraig Pearse to the organisation. By 1911 Clarke, MacDiarmada and Bulmer Hobson were central figures in the movement.
Disagreement emerged following John Redmond’s speech at Woodenbridge calling on Irish men to fight for Britain. Bulmer Hobson supported Redmond, with Clarke and MacDiarmada taking an opposing view. Those who followed Clarke were now set on the road to rebellion.

The new Supreme Council of the IRB consisted of Pearse, Plunkett, Ceannt, Clarke and MacDiarmada, with MacDonagh and Connolly eventually making the full complement of seven signatories. Clarke directed the funeral arrangements for the old Fenian, O’Donovan Rossa, inviting many organisations to attend. Aware of the importance of the moment and the inspirational power of speech, he asked Pearse to deliver the now famous oration at the graveside.

The fifteen years Clarke spent in prison had taken a toll on his health. By 1916 he was showing signs of age. His frailty necessitated him travelling by car to the GPO on Easter Monday, but he stood side by side with Pearse outside the GPO on Dublin’s O’Connell St. when Pearse read the Irish Proclamation for the first time.

Clarke was highly respected as the guiding force and spirit of the movement. This spirit refused to be cowed and he objected strongly to the proposed surrender. He wanted to fight on and broke down in tears when the decision to surrender was agreed. This spirit stayed with him until the end. He dismissed the priest who came to hear his last confession, refusing the request to express sorrow for the Rising. He told his wife Kathleen how he had asked the priest to clear out of his cell: “To say I was sorry would be a lie, and I was not going to face my God with a lie on my tongue. “ (ref 1)

In a message to the Irish people he states: “I and my fellow signatories believe we have struck the first blow for Irish freedom. The next blow, which we have no doubt Ireland will strike, will win through. In this belief we die happy.” (ref 2)





1: 16 Dead Men Anne Marie Ryan , Mercier Press 2014.
2: Last Words Piaras Mac Lochlainn OPW Govt Pub. 2006

Living with Lardie: Another Audition Adventure: A story from this month’s issue of the Ohio Irish American News​

May 21st, 2015

Living with Lardie: Another Audition Adventure

A story from this month’s issue of the Ohio Irish American News​

My last story on the audition revealed the craziness of my youth. My wife accuses me of not being able to grow up. I am afraid this story may prove her right.

In the spring of 2010 Kay and I were watching the only Reality show we watch, “America’s Got Talent”. The program constantly flashes to the waiting room for people that are auditioning. It is a huge room of wildly dressed people. Singers, jugglers, crossdressers, dancers, gymnasts, cheerleaders, magicians, crossdressers, mimes, animal acts, crossdressers, strong people, dance teams, comedians, poets, crossdressers, poetry readers, child acts, ventriloquists, and did I mention crossdressers?

I jokingly mentioned to Kay that it would be fun just to be in that room. The people watching would be fantastic. She was on her computer and half- heartedly watching the show and less half -heartedly listening to me. “That would be fun,” says she. Well, say no more.

Living w Lardie

I immediately set out to figure a way to get into that room. Never mind that I was 69 years old and had no talent. I was going to audition for America’s Got Talent. (I wonder if there is a show “America’s Got No Talent” that would be right up my alley).

I started writing a little comedy material to see if I could still write something funny. I wrote two jokes and thought, “Yep, I still got it”. So I went to the internet and searched out how to get an audition. I found the site, researched it a little and applied for an audition as a comedian. Two days later I got this back

To: Richard Lardie : 11/05/10

We have you confirmed to audition in: Audition City: Chicago Location: McCormick Place 2301 South Lakeshore Drive Chicago, IL 60616.

Well, you can imagine Kay’s surprise when I told her she had gotten her wish. We were going to Chicago and we were going to be in that crazy room and we were going to audition for America’s Got Talent. You could have knocked me over when she said she didn’t remember saying she wanted to do that. I reminded her of the conversation and she still didn’t remember (so much for meaningful conversation while we are both on our computers and watching TV).

“You have no talent, what are you going to do?” I told her I was writing a comedy routine. “You’re not funny anymore.”

Wow and this from my biggest fan.

“That never stopped me before.” I retorted. Wait, that didn’t come out right? “Oh well, talent or no talent, we are going to Chicago and we are going to people watch in that crazy room. It will be another of our adventures.”

Then my biggest fan showed how supportive she can be. God love her. “I am only going if there is a casino near by”

You can’t fake support like that.

I wrote a new routine and practiced getting it down to 90 seconds. There was a casino on the border of Indiana and Illinois. We booked a night and made a weekend of it. The casino proved to be a losing proposition (go figure). To make sure we arrived on time , I didn’t tell Kay about the double time change. Chicago is an hour behind and daylight savings time ended that Saturday night. My audition was Sunday at 9:00 AM.

We arrived at 8:55 and that is when I discovered all people auditioning were told to be there at 9 AM. The line was long and wrapped around the building, but the sun was out and it was in the low 60s, so the waiting wasn’t hard. The line moved slowly but steadily towards the door. I assumed once we got in I would be able to do my routine and leave.

We got to the door at 10 a.m.. Yup, an hour in the line but we were finally in the door. That’s when I saw the corded lines, like at a bank weaved back and forth, back and forth up to the front of a huge lobby at the McCormick Place. We got to the head of the line at Noon. Three hours in line, but it was interesting. People were singing and dancing and reciting poetry and laughing etc. Mothers were doting on their sons and daughters and smiling proudly at anyone that would take notice.

I got to the registration desk and handed them my registration form. They stamped it, tore it, stapled it, and filed it. They handed me a big number and a pin to pin it on my front. They directed me around the corner and I thought I would be doing my routine but no. That is when we went into the room that we saw on TV. The room with all the people waiting to audition was jammed.

It was ballroom sized, with chairs scattered everywhere. People in all kinds of makeup and costumes were singing, dancing, flipping, juggling, playing guitars, saxophones, fiddles. There were mimes, puppeteers, magicians, gymnasts, and, did I mention, crossdressers? There were so many guys in drag it looked like a Jamie Farr/ Klinger convention. It was people watching at its’ finest.

Five more hours: at 5 p.m., they called my number to do my audition. They rounded up 10 of us and we went down the hall to an area that had smaller meeting rooms filled with people who were going to judge our act. They told us we would all go in at once and do our 90 seconds.

We stood at the door and at the last minute they announced that one of us was a comedian and he was going to go in alone. They opened the door and pushed me in.

Two women in their thirties sat there daring me to be funny. They asked my name and where I was from. We had a nice chat during which I got them laughing pretty hard. They asked if I was a comedian. I said.” When I got in line I was a juggler. I was going to juggle two bananas and a snickers but I was in line so long I ate my act.” They laughed a lot during my audition, but apparently not enough, or this story would be about me being on TV. It sure was a great adventure though.



The Last First Generation

April 29th, 2015

Editor’s Corner: The Last First Generation
A story from this month’s issue of the Ohio Irish American News

America is still an immigrant nation – I read a lot about the Irish American experience; I love American and Irish history, and the intriguing interlinks. I see stark similarities between the Irish and other immigrant Italian, Croatian, Polish, Hispanic and other cultures. Faith based, family centric, pick yourself up by the bootstraps, make your way, then reach a hand down and help another do the same – the power of multitudes and passionate belief in paying it forward.

For the Irish in Cleveland, they went to the West Side Irish American Club first. It was where you went to begin the search for success: for a job, an apartment, to find friends and a spouse.

They are not coming any more; this is a first – the first time there will no longer be significant numbers of 1st Generation Irish in Cleveland; my generation is the last First Generation. All of the Irish based organizations I am involved with are aware of it, lament it, are slow to respond to it, why? Because we don’t know how; it has never happened before.

Festivals and fairs, dance and Irish music schools and bands and Irish related businesses, feel the vacuum of replenishing Irish born blood in Cleveland; the volunteerism and active, physical support that birthed, nurtured, grew Irish owned businesses and providers, and provided the backbone of the community, and the city. In 400+ years of the Irish coming to America post Columbus; not since St. Brendan the Navigator first arrived in a currach in America in the 5th Century, 1000 years before Chris, has this happened.

Cleveland Dance Schools seem to be thriving and in high demand, but the cash cost is astronomical. Irish Network Cleveland, the newly incorporated Cleveland Irish Business Chamber of Commerce, Edit Corner INCLE Logowill debur some sharp edges for those immigrants and descendants looking for a job or a friend; the rebirth of Cleveland has opened so many eyes once again, to all that Cleveland has to offer; and the focus of This is Cleveland has returned to its roots, opening doors and dialogues with people and entities that want to come here. PEL Manufacturing is an Ireland based business that opened its US Headquarters in Cleveland early this year. The crack in the dam starts with one drop.

Don’t cry wolf, cry the great Craic in Cleveland, as awareness of an issue creates that first drop. My father and mother are immigrants, shall I not offer my hand to the next generation?

“Follow me where I go, what I do and who I know;
O’Bent Enterprises includes:




Congratulations to Murphy Irish Arts Drama Team on winning the World Championship at the 45th Annual World Irish Dancing Championships

Edit Corner Murphy Arts wins worldsin Montreal over Easter, performing The Miracle on Whiskey Island, written by Sheila Murphy Crawford. Held at the Palais des congrès de Montréal, more than 5,000 dancers competed.

Congratulations to Paul Fox of Skylight Financial Group, elected President of the MassMutual General Agents Association.


Drum Roll Please: May has Come!

April 28th, 2015

Drum roll please …
The May issue of the Ohio Irish American News​ has arrived! Our cover features Father-Ray Kelly​, the singing priest, who released his new CD, Where I Belong, after his personalized version of Hallelujah for a parishioner’s wedding was recorded and swamped Youtube. You will love the CD.

The review is attached, and also includes the fantastic debut CD of Fionnuala Moynihan.

Enjoy both, then get both!


Ohio_0515_24pages_page10 Ohio_0515_24pages_page11

Forever Seven: Joseph Plunkett

April 25th, 2015

Forever Seven: Joseph Plunkett
By Anne Waters

A Story from this months’ issue of the Ohio Irish American News​

Joseph Plunkett can be captured in two words, tenacity and determination. He was the youngest Signatory to the Proclamation and overcame tremendous odds to be present in the General Post Office (GPO) when the Proclamation was first delivered by Padraig Pearse. anne_waters_hdr

Joseph was born in 1887 into an affluent family. His father was a scholar, a Papal count, an ardent nationalist, standing as a candidate for the Irish Parliamentary Party in a number of elections. Joseph Plunkett’s early education was quite erratic, obtained in a variety of private schools and culminating in Stonyhust College in England for a period of two years.

Forever Seven JM Plunkett

He suffered from tuberculosis from a young age and accounts indicate that his mother was somewhat reluctant to believe he was quite so unwell. Nevertheless his illness necessitated long periods of convalescence, which enabled Plunkett to become widely read on a variety of subjects. He developed an enduring interest in poetry and photography and his fascination with Marconi and communications was a useful asset during the planning of the 1916 Rising.

In addition, his interest and knowledge in military strategy, much of it gained in Stoneyhurst College, was invaluable during the planning stages. Joseph Plunkett’s friendship with Thomas MacDonagh, another Signatory, developed when MacDonagh provided Irish language lessons for Plunkett.
They became close friends, and although they shared a common interest in Irish nationalism, their relationship transcended politics, both marrying two sisters, Muriel and Grace Gifford. Thomas MacDonagh assisted Plunkett with the publication of his first book of poetry in 1912, entitled ‘The Circle and the Sword.’ Subsequently Joseph became involved with MacDonagh in publishing the ‘The Irish review’, initially featuring articles on literature and arts, but eventually the articles became more political. (ref 1)

The 1913 ‘ Lockout’ in Dublin, which culminated in striking workers being locked out of employment by their employers, inspired Plunkett and his political activism became more noticeable. Plunkett’s sister Geraldine was as active as her brother and their sympathy for the workers caused such a rift with their mother that she halted their allowance. Joseph’s interest in Irish Politics continued as did the interest of his Father and his other siblings. In 1913 he was elected to the Provisional Committee of the Irish Volunteers.

Originally he was more in tune with the political thrust of John Redmond’s followers but became increasingly frustrated by them and eventually was sworn into the more militant Irish Republican Brotherhood, in 1914. His family owned a large estate house ‘ Larkfield’ on the outskirts of Dublin and Joseph and his sister moved into a small cottage on the land, allowing the premises to become the centre of training and an operational base for the 4th Battalion Dublin Brigade of the Volunteers in readiness for the forthcoming Rising. (ref 1 ) The outbreak of the First World War and, the call from John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, for Volunteers to join the British army, confirmed Plunkett’s decision to break with the politics of Redmond. The opinion of the Volunteers split, the majority favouring Redmond and others like Plunkett, O’Neill and Pearse opposing.

Joseph Plunkett’s problems with his health and his ability to travel for health reasons proved a useful subterfuge when he was chosen to travel to Germany in 1915. He was to meet with Roger Casement and to enlist military aid. Despite his efforts, no military assistance was forthcoming, although it was agreed to send a consignment of arms. On his return, Plunkett kept a low profile, venturing into public only to attend the funeral of O’Donovan Rossa.

Meanwhile, Joseph’s father and both his brothers fully committed themselves to the cause of Irish Independence and moved into the headquarters in Larkfield. Joseph Plunkett’s health was still a major concern and days before the rebellion he underwent an operation on his neck, necessitating the holding of Military Council meetings by his bedside.
(Ref 3).

On Easter Monday he was assisted by Michael Collins and WT Brennan-Whitmore to Liberty Hall, where he joined the march to the GPO with the main group of Volunteers, including a regiment led by his brother George. Plunkett’s grit and determination to be central to the rebellion was inspirational for the other volunteers. He is remembered for his flamboyant gesture when he brandished a sabre thought to have been that of another patriot Robert Emmet, (ref 3).

Desmond Ryan is quoted as saying, ‘During the worst stages of the shelling no one was more assiduous in keeping up the spirits of the defenders’ (ref 2) and Desmond Fitzgerald recalled Plunkett looking ‘appalling ill but at the same time very cheerful’ (ref 1)

Roddy Connolly, a son of James Connolly , remembers querying who was this sickly man and Connolly replying, ‘‘That’s Joe Plunkett, and he has more courage in his little finger than all the other leaders combined’ ”
Plunkett was involved in the decision to negotiate terms of surrender. At this point he was in a very weakened state and was taken firstly to Richmond Barracks and eventually transferred to Kilmainham Jail. After a court-martial and as a Signatory on the Proclamation, he was sentenced to death. His brothers were also court –martialled and imprisoned.

The poignant conclusion to Joseph Plunkett’s short life was the celebration of his marriage to Grace Gifford in the small chapel in Kilmainham Jail on the 3rd May. On learning that a marriage was possible Grace hastily obtained a licence and a wedding ring. The gaslight in Kilmainham Jail had failed, so Grace was led in a procession by soldiers with fixed bayonets glinting in candlelight, to pledge her wedding vows. As soon as the short ceremony was over she had to leave. They met just once more and were permitted to speak only a few words, surrounded once more by British soldiers. When Grace left she took with her a lock of Joseph’s hair.
Joseph Plunkett, the youngest of the Signatories, was the last to be executed. His final words to his priest: ‘Father I am very happy. I am dying for the glory of God and the honour of Ireland.’ (ref 2)

Ref 1 16 Dead Men (Anne Marie Ryan , Mercier Press 2014.
Ref 2 Last Words (Piaras Mac Lochlainn) OPW Govt Pub. 2006
Ref 3 http://thewildgeese.com/profiles/blogs/joseph-plunkett-and-grace-gifford3


Issue #100

Issue #100

Katherine Mary V: A story from this month’s issue of the Ohio Irish American News

April 21st, 2015

Katherine Mary V: Dedicated to Dad
By Katherine Boyd

This winter has been a trying one. My father, who is slipping into the quicksand of Alzheimer’s, slipped a little further away. He no longer knows my name. But in his eyes, I see a glimpse of recognition. And that’s something.kartherin_boyd_hdr
My mother fell. She broke her hip and needed emergency surgery. But she’s on the mend. And then there was my sweet son. He ended up in the ICU for a week, and in the hospital another week after that. It’s been tough.
But, today, I saw the first glimpse of spring. And with it came hope. The hope of new life, new beginnings, and the gift of sharing family memories with the next generation.

So this month, I dedicate my column to my Dad; he turns 81 this April. I have so many wonderful memories of time spent with him treasured in my heart, even if he can’t remember a single one.

The gardening bug bit me early. When I was 10, my family moved to a new house. It had a big back yard and Dad decided we needed a garden. He plotted out a rectangular patch of land in the backyard, then grabbed a shovel and started digging. Dad’s hands were blistered and bloodied by days of forcing that shovel into the earth… turning it from lush lawn to rich soil. I couldn’t figure out why Dad seemed so happy even though his hands hurt and his back was stiff from all the digging.

“Creating new life is never easy,” Dad explained one evening as he washed-up his muddy hands with the hose. “But connecting one on one with nature gives joy to man’s soul.”
Katherine Mary V Dedicated to  Dad
That summer, Dad and I worked side by side in that 10 by 20 foot patch of garden every day. I was in charge of watering and pulling weeds. Dad was in charge of mulching and keeping the rabbits out. Thirty-five years later, I can still remember the excitement of seeing our seeds turn to sprouts. And those sprouts turn into big bushy plants.

Day after day, I couldn’t wait to wake-up and run down to the garden to see what was new. It was hard work, but I loved spending time with my Dad and watching something so beautiful grow where there was once nothing but dirt.

By July’s end we were rewarded for all our sweat and soreness. We had baskets of beans and tomatoes and peppers; Mom would chop them up and use them in salads for lunch, or as a side for dinner. I beamed with pride that I was able to help feed the family.

My joy now is sharing a love of gardening with my three children. This will be the sixth year we’ve had a plot in the community garden.

It’s only 6-feet by 20-feet, but it contains some of the best lessons in the world. And I know we’re not just growing veggies for today, we’re growing memories that’ll last a lifetime.


*Katherine Boyd is an Emmy winning TV reporter and is currently an anchor on WTAM1100. She’s also a proud fifth generation Irish American.

Issue #100

Issue #100

Inner View: Ireland’s Four Courts Press Crosses the Globe: A story from this month’s issue of the Ohio Irish American News

April 20th, 2015

Inner View: Ireland’s Four Courts Press Crosses the Globe

Four Courts Press is Ireland’s leading and most active Academic Publishing House, in business for over 40 years. Four Courts Press was founded in 1970 by Michael Adams as a small press. Starting in 1992, Four Courts Press expanded rapidly from its theology base, first into Celtic and Medieval Studies and Ecclesiastical History, and then into Modern History, Art, Literature and Law.

A multi-award-winning company with a record for excellence in both production and academic quality, they publish almost 50 new titles a year, with over 900 titles in print and are available around the globe, either directly via their website www.fourcourtspress.ie, or through an extensive chain of bookstores, libraries and book wholesalers throughout Ireland, the UK, Europe and North America, and at conferences, seminars and other events in Ireland, the UK and the US.

In 2013 Four Courts author Colmán Ó Clabaigh, won the Irish Historical Research Prize, awarded by the National University of Ireland. The last time a book by a publisher other than Four Courts Press won this prestigious award was 2007.

Four Courts Press operate on an anonymous peer-review process. There have been over 10,000 reviews of their books, spanning forty-three years and almost fifteen hundred titles. Excerpts from more than a thousand of these reviews can be found under the Reviews section of each book on the Four Courts website.

Q & A with Four Courts Sales & Marketing Manager, Anthony Tierney:

Anthony Tierney

Tell me about you and your history with Four Courts?

I joined Four Courts Press in 2001. I studied English, History and Politics in The National University of Ireland Galway and went on to do a Masters in English Literature and Publishing. On completion of the MA Course I applied to every publishing House in Ireland and some in the UK and in America. The Publishing Industry is extremely difficult to get in to and there were not many openings at the time. Luckily, Four Courts Press contacted me and I was fortunate to get through a long but very pleasant interview process that consisted of a lengthy lunch and a proper grilling on my attitudes towards every aspect of publishing imaginable. The main lesson I learned at that lunch was that I had an awful lot to learn about the publishing industry. I still do.

Four Courts Press is called exemplary, prestigious and a model, what does this mean to you and for Four Courts Press?

At Four Courts Press we all love what we do. It sounds like such a cliché, but we all love books and more than anything we try to show this through the quality of the books that we publish. We set extremely high standards for ourselves and we try to use only high quality typesetters, jacket designers, and printers in order to make sure that each and every book that has the Four Courts Press colophon reaches those standards. 

We each take an active role in the commissioning, production, marketing and selling of the books that we publish and we there is an enormous sense of pride here in our office when each new book appears. Michael Adams worked extremely hard for almost forty years creating the a reputation for Four Courts Press as “Ireland’s Premium Academic Publishing House” and we intend to make sure that this reputation is upheld, and enhanced.

What dictated the direction(s) Four Courts has taken since its founding in 1970?

The growth of the publishing industry in Ireland, the expansion of the University sector in Ireland, the numerous advances in technologies that benefit publishers, and more recently the World Wide recession and cutbacks faced by Libraries and Universities, and the personal choices of Michael Adams, and subsequently the Managing Director, Martin Healy and our editors, Martin Fanning, Michael Potterton and myself have all had a direct impact on the direction(s) Four Courts has taken since its founding. In 1970 Four Courts Press was a small publishing house with an output of 6 to 8 books a year. In the forty-five years since then, we have remained a small company in terms of employees (5 full time members of staff) but our output is now in the region of 40-50 new titles each year.

Inner View The Irish Legal History series from Four Courts

What directions do you see it going? and for academic authors, what suggestions / advice can you offer?

The past three years were lean times for all publishers, not just in Ireland, but throughout the UK and in America. There is still a long way to go, but there are some positive signs in the economy and I think we are seeing people and libraries and Universities buy books again. The key I believe is to keep your standards high and if the books are good enough they will sell.

We have noticed an upsurge in the amount of submissions that we are receiving here at Four Courts Press and unfortunately this means that there are more rejections as it is simply impossible, physically and financially, to publish them all. But I would urge all academic authors to keep trying. The best way to approach any publisher would be to check their website out first and make sure that your book would fit in with their list. If it does, then send an e-mail (a short e-mail) outlining what your book is about and you should then hear back from the publisher.

We have a sampling of new titles accompanying the column; overall, what stories, themes, issues do most of these and Four Courts books overall cover or represent beyond their classifications into Celtic, Medieval and Modern History, Art, Literature and Law?

We believe that our list offers something for everyone. For those interested in everything from Archaeology to Philosophy, Theology and everything in between. We publish short 64 page works of local history and massive 600 page tomes on Irish, British and European Medieval and Celtic Studies. We also publish books on every era of history and we have a list of over 2,300 authors that hail from Ireland, the UK, all over Europe, America, Canada, Australia, and from a multitude of other regions around the World, so we do truly believe that we have a list that has something for everybody.

Any words for your American friends?

Four Courts Press has always had a wonderful relationship with America. We have a US Distributor based in Portland, Oregon and we ship copies of all of our titles to America within four to five weeks of them being published here in Dublin. So many Universities and Colleges in the United States have wonderful Celtic History Departments, Medieval history departments and also 16th/17th/18th/19th and Modern History departments, who order our books and use them on undergraduate and postgraduate courses. This all helps to spread our name throughout the US.

The librarians in all of the major Universities and Colleges in the United States all receive our Annual Catalogue each year and this helps generate sales of each title in the United States. 

We also attend conferences in the United States like the Annual Medieval Congress at Kalamazoo in Michigan and we try to forge links between Four Courts Press and groups like the American Society of Irish Medieval Studies (ASIMS).

Irish people and Irish American people love to read about their own family histories, their towns and localities and general Irish history and it is always a tremendous feeling to see one of our books do well in the American market. We also have a large number of American born authors on our list and look forward to this number increasing in the coming years.

Four Courts Press is incorporated in Ireland, with its registered office at 7 Malpas Street, near Dublin’s historic Blackpitts area.

Martin Healy Managing Director
Martin Fanning Publisher
Dr. Michael Potterton Senior Editor
Anthony Tierney Sales & Marketing Manager

A sampling of just released Four Court Press titles you may be interested in or at www.fourcourtspress.ie: @FourCourtsPress

Irish Farming Life (ISBN 9781846825316)
Strokestown and the Great Irish Famine (ISBN 9781846825552 / 9781846825545)
Tales of Medieval Dublin (ISBN 9781846824968 / 9781846824975)
Politics and Ideology in Children’s Literature (ISBN 9781846825262)
The History of Arsaces, Prince of Betlis (ISBN 9781846823985)
Periodicals and journalism in twentieth-century Ireland (ISBN 9781846825248)
The Works of Walter Quin (ISBN 9781846825040)
The Law School of University College Dublin (ISBN 9781846825422)
Woodstown (ISBN 9781846825361)

Issue #100

Issue #100



New Day LXLIX: Last Day for New Day

April 19th, 2015

New Day LXLIX: Last Day for New Day

New Day 99 – For a variety of reasons, I haven’t posted in 3 weeks. I see the struggle of others, especially Amy Reinshagen Carr and Mary McNeely Maloney, and see how brave they are; how stupid am I. Much I would take on from them, spare them and their families from.

Author Website: www.songsandstories.net

We sent off the 100th issue of the paper, it is less than 100 days to the 33rd Annual Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival, the new book is coming along … I have much to be grateful for, many flashlights to offer back for the blessings earned and bestowed.

I know there are an awful lot of you praying for me. I’d be ever so grateful if you would pray for Mary and Amy instead


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Illuminations: Why Was de Valera Spared? A story from this month’s issue of the Ohio Irish American News

April 19th, 2015

Illuminations: Why Was De Valera Spared?
By: J. Michael Finn

As preparations are made for the 100th Anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rebellion in Ireland, it is important to understand that there remain lingering historical questions about the event and its aftermath. One of those questions concerns Éamon de Valera; after executing 14 of the Rising’s leaders, why did the British spare de Valera’s life?


The most common answer to that question is because he was born in America. De Valera was born in New York City on October 14, 1882. While he was still an infant, his Spanish father abandoned his Irish mother in New York. De Valera’s mother felt she was unable to raise the child alone, so she sent Éamon to Ireland at the age of two, to be raised by her family in County Limerick (de Valera never saw his mother again until 1919).

During the Easter Rising, Éamon de Valera commanded the 3rd Battalion of Irish Volunteers at Boland’s Mill on Grand Canal Street in Dublin. His chief task was to cover the southeastern approaches to the city. Stories of De Valera’s bravery in action were countered by criticism of his alleged erratic behavior at his post.

He stayed awake for days, became disorientated and issued confused, sometimes ridiculous, orders. Some of his men at Boland’s Mill claimed afterward that he had a nervous breakdown during the fighting. After a week of fighting the order came from Patrick Pearse to surrender. Boland’s Mill was the last Volunteer fortification to surrender. De Valera was court-martialed by a British military tribunal, convicted, and sentenced to death along with the other leaders.

dev 1916

While de Valera awaited execution in 1916, many Irish-Americans, as well as, de Valera’s wife Sinead, communicated with the British government reminding them that De Valera was born in the US.
Copies of de Valera’s US birth certificate were sent to the American Embassy in Dublin to prove this. After it was announced that his sentence of death had been commuted to life in prison, newspapers mostly in America, reported that the commuting of the sentence was due to his American birth. Since 1916 the ‘American birth’ reason has been the most often repeated reason for de Valera’s reprieve, even in Ireland. Is it correct?

Notre Dame Professor Robert Schumhl, writing in the magazine History Ireland reports that when President John F. Kennedy visited Ireland in 1963, he asked then President de Valera what had saved him from the firing squad. De Valera replied that he had lived in Ireland since his early childhood, but he was born in New York City, and because of his American citizenship the British were reluctant to kill him.

Then, in 1969 de Valera changed this version of history by stating that, “I have not the slightest doubt that my reprieve in 1916 was due to the fact that my court martial and sentence came late.” He noted that British Prime Minister H. H. Asquith wanted, “no further executions save those of the ringleaders which they interpreted as those who signed the Proclamation. The fact that I was born in America would not have saved me.” This was repeated in de Valera’s authorized biography that was published in 1970. It should be noted that Tom Clarke, who was an American citizen, although not born in the US, was executed for his role in 1916.

According to Professor Schumhl, a discussion took place in 1916 between British prosecutor W. E. Wylie and British Commander General John Maxwell. Maxwell inquired about whether de Valera might cause future problems if his life was spared. Wylie is reported as replying, “I wouldn’t think so, sir, I don’t think he is important enough. From all I can hear he is not one of the leaders.”

There was no reported mention of de Valera’s birth or citizenship. De Valera’s MI5 dossier reportedly contained very little intelligence, only that he was a member of the Irish Volunteers and had no previous Fenian connections. He was not one of the signatories of the Proclamation and was not involved in most of the planning for the Rising.

Maybe de Valera was spared because he was just not that important. This fact would have run counter to the mythology that de Valera carefully cultivated for himself after the 1916 Rising of being the ‘lone survivor’ among the rebel leaders, the inheritor of the republican mantle. The ‘American birth’ reason certainly sounded more reasonable and repeating it only added to his future creditability in republican circles.

We do know that the way in which the British handled the executions was drawing considerable negative response from both inside and outside Ireland. The popularity of the republican movement was growing as the executions continued. The negative public response directed against the British was having its effect on the government.

Stopping the executions could have been a natural response to political pressure and the British may have realized that they were only creating martyrs (the sentence of Countess de Markievicz was also commuted to life imprisonment along with de Valera, as both were scheduled to be the next in line to die). Good luck may have played more of a factor than de Valera would have admitted.

An alternative theory has been proposed by New Jersey historian John Turi in his 2010 book, England’s Greatest Spy: Éamon de Valera. As the title indicates the author claims that de Valera was a British informant who was recruited while he was in prison and this spared him from execution. Turi claims that all of the events leading up to his imprisonment, indicate that de Valera was terrified of dying and that it would have been easy for a British intelligence officer to turn de Valera into a collaborator.

Turi’s research also failed to find any evidence in Irish or British sources that de Valera was ever court-martialed, although de Valera claims that he was. He also notes that de Valera was the only one of four Dublin commandants not to be tried and executed. He dismisses theories that de Valera was spared because he was born in America or because the British realized that further executions would be a mistake.

The only reasonable explanation, according to Turi, is that de Valera was “turned.” In all, Turi sets forth a dozen instances of what he calls “de Valera’s machinations that aided British interests” to support the informant claim. These include splitting the Irish-American lobby on his 1919 visit to the US and his possible involvement in the circumstances surrounding Michael Collins death.

In summary, the answer to the key question seems to be that historians remain unsure what exactly motivated the British to spare de Valera. De Valera himself seems to have changed his opinion with time. It shows that as much as we think we know about history there are always some questions that we may never be able to answer.

De Valera died in 1975, outliving most of his 1916 contemporaries. As the ‘last man standing’ he had the opportunity to write and, in some cases, re-write his own history. In the book Ireland 1912-1985, author J. J. Lee notes, “It may safely be predicted that the paradoxes of de Valera will intrigue historians for generations to come.”

*J. Michael Finn is the Ohio State Historian for the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Division Catholic Record Society for the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio. He writes on Irish and Irish-American history; Ohio history and Ohio Catholic history. You may contact him at FCoolavin@aol.com.

Issue #100

Issue #100