The History of Irish Music, by Larry Kirwan

June 28th, 2015

Out of the Mailbag, Comes Songs & Stories:
The History of Irish Music, by Larry Kirwan​
ISBN: 9780963960115, 346 pages
a story from this month’s issue of the Ohio Irish American News

A History of Irish Music Back Cover A History of Irish Music cover

I love reading and learning, especially the history of Ireland, of music and of my friends. In Larry Kirwin’s The History of Irish Music, all my passions are rolled into one book. Whether in writing or in person, Kirwan’s style is the same: genuine, laced with humor, illuminating and as accepting as a politically active bandleader can be.

Kirwan’s musical history is full of seminal people, moments and music set against the backdrop of an Ireland undergoing political, religious and economic quakes. The shores change to America, the song remains the same, on the cutting edge of music; Kirwan tells it as he experienced it, firsthand. I loved it.

Throughout his career, with Deep Thinkers and seminally, as the leader and founder of Black 47, Larry has met, worked with, interviewed, and sang with and for, the biggest names in music. Black 47 went out with a bang after 25 years together, in a Farewell Tour that ended at the same locale as they started. Sixteen Black 47 and two solo CD’s, fourteen plays and musicals, two novels and a memoir, Kirwan also hosts and produces Celtic Crush for SiriusXM Radio and writes a column for the Irish Echo. He is President of the Irish-American Writers and Artists.

Larry’s perspective is personal, not word of mouth. Donal Lunny, Planxty, Sinead O’Connor, Shane McGowan and The Pogues, Christy Moore and Moving Hearts, Horselips, The Wolfe Tones. Liam Ó’Maonlaí and Hothouse Flowers, Punk music, Thin Lizzy, Sharon Shannon and the Waterboys, Moving Hearts, Paddy Reilly, U2, Saw Doctors, The Ramones, Damien Dempsey, Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys, those on whose the music world turned, are part of his repertoire too. Larry’s insight and commentary are fascinating, delivered in a straightforward conversational style, in print. Highlights are scratching the surface, but are a wee taste of the pure:
“There have always been two strands to the Celtic Music tradition – songs of entertainment and songs that talk about our history, politics and cultural identity. We’re definitely in no danger of losing the former – as long as there’s an Irish Rover, a Wild Rover or any other kind of rover to be lauded we’ll have entertainment. That goes for the hedonistic Celtic Rock side of things too with songs like Streams of Whiskey, Drunken Lullabies and Funky Céili. But take away the politics, the history and our ongoing resistance to political and economic oppression then our music loses its life-affirming and, for my money, interesting, quotient. Nor does every song need to be a fist-pumping anthem or political tract set to a four-on-the-floor beat; sometimes you just need to take into account the loss and loneliness of someone far away who is wondering how the hell he ever ended up enmeshed in a foreign culture, and if he’ll ever make it home. That’s the root of Irish music and if we lose that we risk becoming a parody of ourselves no matter what level of professionalism, proficiency, and entertainment we aspire to.

“I’m always more concerned with moving an audience rather than merely entertaining it, for touching hearts and even souls is much more gratifying than tickling fancies or expectations.

“I loved fair days but match days were their equal. They unleashed a wildness that took the old town by the scruff of its neck and shook it free of its slumbering nonchalance. Wexford adored its hurlers, especially when it seemed as though they might defeat their archrivals, the mighty Kilkenny, and reach the All Ireland final. The cries of the vendors, the surge of expectant faces up lanes and back streets towards the Gaelic Athletic Park, the repressed excitement that would erupt during sixty gasping minutes of belting and pucking the sliotar up and down the grassy pitch, hurleys splintering, blood spouting, with no thought of personal safety by any participant – all of this inspired the people to shrug off the patina of feigned respectability imposed by church piety or latent Victorian propriety. Suddenly you’d come face to face with the old hidden Gaelic Ireland – the thorny outlines of an ancient culture that doffed its cap to no one.”

Kirwan went on to speak of influences and irrationalities, but returned to the root of the modern ballad tradition, the pivotal band that brought the ballads back to life, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem:
“Indeed by 1964 one third of all albums sold in Ireland had been recorded by the Clancys and Makem. They were so popular that the mighty showbands even felt called upon to don báinín (white) Aran sweaters and actually stop the dancing while they performed a set of “Clancy ballads.” Years later when I first made my foray into the showband world one of the more popular numbers was a quickstep version of the Clancy’s Bonny Shoal of Herrings. One can only imagine what that grave purist Ewan McColl would have thought of this polka-like resetting of his flinty sea shanty. … the Clancys and Makem swept the dust off all of them. They removed layers of calcification from patriotic laments like Roddy McCorley and Kevin Barry. By juicing them so jubilantly while never tampering with their innate power, they cast these songs in a new light. We had become vaguely ashamed of them, especially after the botched IRA border campaign of the mid-1950s. The Clancys and Makem cauterized some of the innate danger and subversion thus rendering the old songs more respectable, and ultimately acceptable, by placing them in a more theatrical framework. An acquaintance of theirs said to me many years later in a Manhattan saloon, ‘You could see the shadow of the gunman behind the lads, but you were damn certain he had no bullets.’”

9-11 and New York are indelibly ingrained in Larry; 9-11 changed him forever:

“Those nights were so intense; you would almost jump for joy when you saw a familiar face enter – at least he or she was alive. When someone wouldn’t have shown up for a month or two you feared the worst. In many cases you might not know a name, so you couldn’t inquire if they’d made it through. On gigs around the tri-state area people would show pictures of lost ones and request their favorite Black 47 songs. Hard as it was when you recognized a familiar face, oddly enough, it was even tougher when you didn’t – to think your music had meant so much to someone you hadn’t even known.”

I was honored to write an endorsement for Larry Kirwan’s The History of Irish Music. The modern history of Irish rock told firsthand in a conversational painting of the times transported me to the time, and the temperature of Kirwan’s experience. I loved the book. The History of Irish Music is a Top Shelf Selection.




Can You Grow Great Friendships?

June 25th, 2015

Can You Grow Great Friendships?

A good friend of mine’s birthday is 3 days before Christmas; one of my sister’s is Christmas Day. So we make an extra effort to acknowledge those days and not let their birthdays get lost in the holiday. The friend, we’ll call her Mindy, has a fantastic roommate who decided to really celebrate it, and threw a ½ Way to Mindy’s Birthday Party instead. Boy was Mindy SurPRIZED!

Happy 1/2 Birthday!

Happy 1/2 Birthday!

Great Lakes Brewery had the beer, the food and company. ½ of a birthday card, and ½ of a Birthday Cake, along with very full birthday appetizers and meal added to the surprise and the fun. She was delighted, and got a taste, sweeter and longer lasting than the cake, of how much she is loved. I wrote a complicated poem for her; I look forward to her insight on it.

I have so enjoyed going to the new Irish Music Sundays at Music Box Cleveland, on the water, on the West Bank of the Flats. I love heat, love summer, love being on the water, love music, love great food … Gotta make the o’donuts tho, they don’t bake themselves. Auld Pitch 3 weeks ago, a Ceili with The Portersharks on Father’s Day last week with 16 of my family, and this Sunday, I am looking forward to Marys Lane.
4 Oyster Bar Music Box
Fresh Oyster Bar, Crab Legs, various wraps and craft beers and the beautiful view are a few highlights, but the music is the star. 3 – 6 every Sunday thru the summer. I try a different food and beer each week. While I lighten my wallet, I add to my edumacation.

Auld Pitch

Auld Pitch

Friday night, 18 Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival volunteers gathered at the Berea Fairgrounds to continue creating our CICFestival Irish Village, the boreen green to our Temple Bar. The 33rd Annual Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival is four weeks away, and so many new and fun things are coming. I met some amazingly talented and work ethic rich new members of our team, shown the light by returning volunteers.
cicf paint 2
It takes a village, and our village is rising before our eyes. Saturday morning 19 people gathered, and more shops were painted into our village. Mama Julianna’s Pizza is so good! We stopped for a pepsi afterwards too of course. Getting to know the giving only makes me more grateful.

Whole group painters

30 bands and 8 stages, reunions and the planting of future wedding seeds are the mainstay of the festival, but other highlights/new plans for the festival this year include
• Marys Lane Movie – “See You Next Time” A mini-rockumentary short film on Cleveland-based Irish-American Celtic rock band Marys Lane as they journey in and around St. Patrick’s Day
• Irish Road Bowling – A cult-classic in Ireland, Irish Road Bowling is coming to Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival
• Online Advance Sale Admission, Weekend Passes and Whiskey Tasting Tickets @
Gate Admission is only $12 (that’s only $2.50 per band!) and Parking is free.
• Online CICF T-shirts, including the new LiveMoreLiveBeMoreIrish hit shirts, Men’s and Women’s cuts and pre and post fest sales.
• Whiskey Tasting – Friday and Saturday “Whiskeys of the World” with North American Irish Whiskey Ambassador Michael Eagan and the 2Gingers Girls
• Expanded Irish Beer Garden with BRAND NEW Craft Beers – For the adults, featuring Smithwicks Pale, Guinness Blonde, Homestead (Licking Co) and French Ridge IPA (Millersburg) highlight the local and the International
• GAA Irish Football and GAA Hurling Demonstrations – Cleveland St. Pat’s Gaelic Football and Akron Guards Hurling Clubs will engage both kids and adults with demos of Ireland’s National Sports
• Cleveland Nature Center / Nature Tracks Mobile Units – For the kids, Nature Center and Metroparks will have their mobile units at the fest
• Authentic Irish Food Focus – more than 20 authentic Irish food favorites will be available, including Shepard’s Pie, Bridies, Fish & Chips, Bangers & Mash, Boxty, and an Irish Breakfast. American Fare and Kid’s favorites are also plentiful.
• Friday Happy Hour (5-7pm) – with $1 discount on all import and domestic beers and many food items.
• 100th Anniversary of the Easter Rising – the most seminal event in Irish history will be commemorated in play, song and performance this year and next
• 8 Stages; 30 bands, including Pipe Bands, Dance Schools, Plays, Food Court, Tir Na nOg (Land of Our Youth) Children’s Area, and so much more.
• Local Irish Band Showcase and Mad Sessiúns- featuring Ballinoch, The Roundabouts and Mad Macs Irish bands, Cleveland legends and performers at the fest from throughout Ireland, the U.S and Canada join in the sessiúns; Irish language, instrument and history workshops too
• Uber – Uber is offering festival patrons a $20 discount coupon to first time users.
• Recycling – CICF is proud to incorporate recycling of plastic cups, bottles and Program Books
• Temple Bar & Museum and our Irish Village – take a walk thru the expanded Irish Village and the Temple Bar, modeled after Dublin’s signature entertainment district – with live music, dancing, sessiúns (jam sessions), instrument, dance and language workshops and more. Displays on Irish Life, Music, Sports, Food, People and Places fill the monster Temple Bar and Museum.


I sent off the July issue of the Ohio Irish American News on Saturday morning before heading to the grounds, 32 pages! Each and every issue this year has matched or set a new record for the 9 years that month’s issue has been published. Head down, chin up, learn, and give more than you receive has taken us from success, to significance. Now, on to August issue.

buick loaded

Maureen & Rory catching the last train out

Back to the grounds on Sunday, to roll up the many new canvases left to dry overnight, with the help of Maureen and Rory Hennessy; I am oh so grateful to have gotten to know these two generous souls, first through the Rose of Tralee, and then through Irish Language Cleveland class. We wrapped and rolled, then danced our way down to music Box for the Ceili with The Portersharks. The dancing is beyond me with my back and joints, but watching the grace and glimmer is still fun – yet … I am envious.

Speaking of the back n joints, I have not written on that in a while, on purpose. I am in my 18th week of self injections of the biologic, Orencia. When I look back I see the difference, more than I notice in the present, as the effect is so gradual. I can raise my arms above my shoulders more freely, can sometimes open a bottle of water with my hand, not my teeth. Joints are not a continuous throb, just when tested by walking, standing or sitting for too long. I am blessed to see progress and reduction in pain; reversal of damage may be in my future yet.

Synovial Fluid is the lubricant in your joints. In RA, the body receives an alarm of an invader in the synovial fluid, and attacks it, mistakenly, and continuously. This attack causes great inflammation, which begets stiffness and pain. One RA treatment, fairly new, is classed as Biologics. Biologics have the distinction of being the first drug with the potential (everyone’s results are different) to reverse the damage of Rheumatoid. Literature says benefits from Orencia injections take up to 3 months, and accumulate for up to a year, so I am very hopeful.

For more than a dozen years, I have had treatment on my L5, a cracked vertebrae at the bottom right of my spine. All my discs are also ruptured and the L3 has started to disintegrate as well. A new insurance and a new Doctor in January led to another new Dr, a back specialist, last week. He took xrays, asked a bunch of general questions, then started to drill down. He would ask a question, I would reply, then he would shake his head, saying, that’s not L5. Ask another question, listen and say, that’s not L5. That went on for a short while and he said – all those facet injections and epidurals, they were in L5. Your pain is coming from S1.

In my head I thought, good God, we’ve been treating the wrong joint, for 12 years!

I go back for more, different xrays next week, then will attack based on the results. Head down, chin up. Soldiers are we …

Hope to see you at the fest; let’s grow a friendship.

Editor’s Corner, Ohio Irish American News, June issue

June 7th, 2015

June Editor’s Corner, Ohio Irish American News

June Cover, featuring Julie Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald Family, and The StepCrew, coming to the 33rd Annual Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival July 24-26, Berea Fairgrounds.

June Cover, featuring Julie Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald Family, and The StepCrew, coming to the 33rd Annual Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival July 24-26, Berea Fairgrounds.

It’s June; it’s summer. Man did it take a long time to get here. Our 9th Annual Festival Focus issue is the focus this month. With all the Irish and Celtic festivals going on in and around Ohio, there is much to see and savor in our way too short summer. The schedule, highlights and details are inside. Seize the moment; seize the day.

I am very excited about all the festivals. I have been involved in Cleveland’s for all of its 33 years, but this year, we are undergoing the most drastic changes in perhaps decades. If we want our audiences to get younger, in a move wholly dictated by survival and self-preservation, our offerings must get younger too. In that spirit, much new is coming, and the details of some of it is inside too.

Some of this and I suppose every, issue, looks to the past, for we are a nostalgic race, especially in light of the 100th Anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. For those not familiar, it is the most seminal event in modern Irish history, most akin to our American Revolution, with the same government opposed.

But like the festivals, we must preserve, promote and present our roots, while creating a future not dictated by our past. We create a future strengthened by those from the same place, but a generation, two, or more, removed; we don’t remove the past, we relish its richness.

Black 47’s Larry Kirwan witnessed much of the birth of Rock n Roll and modern day music in Ireland. The band retired last November, after 25 years together, but his memories are strong and brought alive in the retelling. He shares shocking, unknown, funny and poignant memories in his new book, The History of Irish Music, which I was delighted to write an endorsement for. The review is on Page 10, but get the book for its history, its humor and the very first-hand retelling of history, as it happened.

Did you know 100 years ago, Lincoln’s Funeral came through Cleveland? Did you know the Irish immigrant story of John Carroll? Did you know the Tuatha de Dannan, or about the North King Street Massacre? Roses speak, and the mighty Aiden Cronin, Irish Consulate General in Chicago, comes to Cleveland for a last goodbye as he moves on to his next post. … these stories and much more are inside.

We’d like to welcome our newest columnist, David McDonnell, Our Sports Man on the Irish Street, writing to us each month from Tipperary, Ireland, on soccer, rugby, Irish Gaelic sports, boxing and the NFL from an Irish perspective.

There is far more to do than we could do, in this issue. I’m going to try anyway. Hope to see you out & about. A s always, please stop by and say hello. We love putting faces to our readers, commentators and sources of inspiration.



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

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


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


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