Ohio Irish American News: A Story from this Month’s Issue: Corner Bard By Sean McCabe

Corner Bard
By Sean McCabe

It was a thrill to see my uncles come home from America each summer. They had all emigrated to New York in the 1950’s and all three got jobs with the telephone company. One married, had a kid and settled down in Queens. One remained a bachelor and settled down in Brooklyn. The third disappeared, and wasn’t heard from for years.

All three uncles were a constant source of wonder for us youngsters, growing up as we did in our small Irish town, especially the married uncle, for he was always the most generous. He’d arrive in to our house accompanied by the uncle who had stayed to mind the family farm, and after hugging my mother and settling down to a nice tea in our kitchen, he would call us over individually and press a twenty dollar bill into our hands (I had five siblings). It was straight down to the bank then to get the money changed, and then straight to the sweetshop to buy ice creams. How little things change, I reflected recently, as I watched my own kids run to the candy store to spend their weekly allowance.

Twenty dollars was a lot then and we appreciated our uncles all the more for it. To my mind, with these visits, America certainly took on the form of a place where money grew on trees, where you could have anything you wanted. This image was helped by my uncle’s attire: he wore a white suit, and had a deep voice not unlike John Wayne’s. He even looked like John Wayne, to my excited eyes.

The yellow cigarette stained fingers and the packet of Marlboro’s always sticking out of the breast pocket of his blazer did not hurt the general impression of him as something larger than life, from a greater place. There was plenty of braggadocio about him, to be sure, but underneath it all, he had a certain touch of class. After all, it took a certain nerve to walk down the main street of our small town dressed in a white suit and talking like John Wayne… No wonder I had a desire from early on to come to America.

My other uncle, the unmarried one in Brooklyn, was a bit quieter and less flashy, but almost as generous. He was more sober minded, did not go to pubs much, but the twenty dollar gift was always dispensed. So we looked forward to his arrival almost as much.

They generally took a trip ‘back to the west’, as they would term their five-hour journey to Connemara, the place of their birth, in a rented car. Or else my mother drove them. They would stay in a hotel in Clonbur and visit their relations around Lough Corrib, the ones who had stayed, who had resisted the temptation to emigrate, and the ones who still spoke Irish as a first language.

My uncles would revert back to their native tongue in conversation. In talking to my mother in our house, the language of choice was Irish. No amount of years of living in New York had altered my two uncle’s proficiency in the language. They liked speaking it. They liked coming home and came home just about every summer.

It was the need to connect with their native place, to get back to their roots, although both of them were often fond of complaining about how dull life was in my hometown, or on my uncle’s farm (who had stayed). I definitely would not have envisioned either of them returning permanently to their native soil. New York was in them. They were American now.

I suppose they were a part of at great wave of emigration that occurred in the 1950’s. We all know that there is another wave of emigration occurring at the moment. It seems to happen every thirty years or so. And now the destination seems to be Australia and Canada more than the U.S.
It is not a good thing for the Irish economy, in the long term, but the world is a smaller place now. In the 1890’s most of them were gone forever, never to return. In the fifties, they made it back if they could for holiday visits. In the eighties many stayed and eventually settled and went home frequently. In the nineties many emigrants returned home to live, during the years of the Celtic Tiger.

Emigration is not the big tragedy it used to be. Most who leave this year will eventually return after a few years of working abroad. The Irish are much more educated than they used to be and are more mobile in both directions than ever before. Emigration is not the all-or-nothing situation it used to be. In fact the word itself may be a bit outdated.

And so, the moral of the story? There isn’t any? I don’t know. I do know that as a boy my imagination was sparked by the idea that I had three uncles living in New York City, that I would go there one day myself and see all those big cars I had seen on television, or maybe meet some of the superheroes I had seen in the movies on the street hailing a cab or in the window of a restaurant. Needless to say they would notice me, and stop what they were doing to talk to me! Ah yes emigration! Faraway shores! Adventure! All fuel to a boyhood imagination!

As for the third uncle, the one who disappeared? He did turn up in a nursing home on Long Island in 1994, the year I arrived in America. He was a cool guy, like the other ones. He had that twinkle in the eye, despite the misfortunes that had hit him during his life. And as the song says: life just happens that way.

The Irish experience has always been one of exile and return. He had always been the big mystery of the family, which gladly got solved in the end. Somewhere out there, there’s another kid (or kids) imagining and dreaming about an uncle far away who’s going to make a return visit soon.
*Sean McCabe’s novels and songs can be bought and/or downloaded via his website: mccabesband.com

Today is Sean’s Birthday, Happy Birthday – here’s to creating More stories!

Ohio Irish American News: A Story from this Month’s Issue: Owens Sports

Owens Sports
Golf – A New Number One

As I write this I am watching a wee bit of history being made, Irishman Rory McIlroy has just made his final putt at the 2012 Honda Classic, to not only win yet another tournament in his short career, but more importantly, to fulfill a lifelong ambition in becoming the number one ranked golfer in the world. Well done young man, well done indeed.

Rory McIlroy

It has been quite amazing to watch ‘the new Tiger’ progress through the ranks of the PGA Tour over the past few years. How many times in sport do we hear about the new Tiger, the new Beckham or the new Jordan? It seems the media loves to put these potential megastars up on a pedestal to soak up their new found glory, yet at the same time, they relish coming back to say ‘I guess he did not have it in him’ when those they built up fail to reach the heights of glory expected.

Rory t has handled himself and the expectations of the media over the years with nothing but professionalism. In a time when golf has needed a new nice guy to like, the recent success of the young Irishman has been nothing short of a magical story for the golfing world. Watching his interviews, he is easy to like, watching him play, you can do nothing but admire him.

Since making his pro debut in America in 2009, at the Match Play Championship at the age of nineteen, McIlroy has made quite a first impression, despite some ups and downs in success. He plays without an apparent care in the world.

This was very apparent in his recent victory at the Honda Classic, when he didn’t flinch when Tiger Woods went birdie-eagle for a 62, his best final round ever, and nearly nine shots better than the average score on the final Sunday of the tournament. McIlroy could surely hear the roar from a mile away, but gathered himself and rolled in a birdie putt of his own. He followed with three par saves over the last five holes for a two-shot victory, elevating him to No. 1 in the world. What a finish, and what a joy it was to watch it.

Football – The 2012 Euro’s
The 2012 European Championships are fast approaching. Before we know it, we’ll be crowded around a TV in our favorite watering hole with a pint in hand shouting ‘come on Ireland’ and ‘get into them Ireland’. The Irish team has been warming up, not just on the field, but in the recording studio, where they got in to help record the ‘official’ song for the upcoming Euro’s.

Ireland’s Official Euro 2012 Song, Rocky Road to Poland, was recorded in February at Dublin’s Windmill Lane Studios by Damien Dempsey, Bressie, The Coronas’ Danny O’Reilly and The Dubliners, who, incidentally, will be in Cleveland later this summer.

Listeners to the Ray D’Arcy Show on Irish radio show Today FM were tasked with rewriting the lyrics to The Rocky Road to Dublin for the track, with winning lines chosen by Dempsey and producer John Reynolds for inclusion in the song, which will be released in April by EMI Music Ireland. D’Arcy said: “Rocky Road to Poland – this is what soccer anthems are made of: soul, passion and an inflatable hammer. Having the old and new guard of Irish music on the song is a real treat.

With only a few months to go until the 1st match against Croatia, this is a good time for all to get familiar with the lyrics. Who knows – maybe we’ll have an IANOhio reader’s party where we all get together and give it a lash!

Rocky Road to Poland
T’was in the merry month of June, from our home we started, Left old Eireann’s Isle, to Poland we departed, Hope within our hearts, we can win the trophy, We are all a part of Trapattoni’s army, Get behind the team, hear the Irish scream, C’mon you boys in green, Ireland’s bouncing back again, We have got our Trap, the cat is in the sack, We’ll not forget you Jack, On the rocky road to Poland.

One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Irish eyes are smiling, Let your voices ring Trapattoni’s army, everybody sing.
You’ll never beat the Irish x 4

Make your mother proud, inflate your plastic hammer, Bate your bodhrán loud and learn your Polish grammar, Credit Union loan, sold the Opel Corsa, Hired a camper van, picked it up in Warsaw, Been so close before, hopes slammed in the door, Now we’re back for more, we can win the battle, C’mon you boys in green, never have we seen, Such a fearless team, on the rocky road to Poland.

One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Irish eyes are smiling, Let your voices ring Trapattoni’s army, Everybody sing.
You’ll never beat the Irish x 4

Ireland Abú. We love.

Trivia
First last month’s question: The Republic of Ireland last qualified and played at the European Football Championships in 1988, but when did they make their first appearance in the competition? 1988; which is the same year they made their 1st appearance at the European Football Championships. This month’s question: Which famous Irish folk singer wrote a song about an Irish fan going to watch his beloved Irish play at the 1988 European Championship’s in West Germany?

*Mark Owens is originally from Derry City, Ireland and has resided in the Cleveland area since 2001, where he is employed by State Farm Insurance Companies, having previously spent time studying at John Carroll University. Send questions, comments or suggestions for future articles to Mark at: markowens@ireland.com.

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Ohio Irish American News, A Story from this Month’s Issue: The Honor of the 40/8

The Honor of the 40/8
By Joe Casey

On Sunday, February 5th, I had the honor of attending a memorial service to honor the lives of four U.S. Army Chaplains who perished on February 3, 1943, when a German submarine torpedoed their troopship. The nondenominational service told the stories the four chaplains, who were lieutenants in the United States Army: Rev. George L. Fox (Methodist), Rabbi Alexander D. Goode (Jewish), Rev. Clark V. Poling (Reformed Church in America) and Fr. John P. Washington (Roman Catholic). I was there because of the priest, but I was amazed at the stories of all four, all from different faith traditions, brought together by war.

John and the other three clergymen applied for and were accepted into the army chaplaincy in 1942. They met and became close friends during their time at chaplains’ school at Harvard. Rev. Poling stated “We had a special kind of unity” and in that unity they found strength.

In late 1942, the chaplains were transferred to Camp Myles Standish in Taunton, Massachusetts and attended Chaplains School at Harvard University. In January 1943, the chaplains embarked on board the USAT Dorchester at Boston Harbor, which was transporting over 900 soldiers to the United Kingdom via Greenland.

Fr. John Washington

On February 2, 1943 the German submarine U-223 spotted the convoy on the move and closed with the ships, firing a torpedo, which struck the Dorchester shortly after midnight. Hundreds of men packed the decks of the rapidly sinking ship and scrambled for the lifeboats. Several of the lifeboats had been damaged and the four chaplains began to organize frightened soldiers. They distributed life jackets from a locker; when the supply of life jackets ran out, each of the chaplains gave theirs to other soldiers. When the last lifeboats were away, the chaplains prayed with those unable to escape the sinking ship. Twenty-seven minutes after the torpedo struck, the Dorchester disappeared below the waves, with 672 men still aboard. The last site of the four chaplains showed them standing on the deck, arms linked and praying together.

Each of the four chaplains was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart. In 1961, the four chaplains were awarded the Chaplain’s Medal for Heroism, for the giving of their lives in the line of duty. The medal was authorized by an act of Congress on July 14, 1960. The medals were presented posthumously to their next of kin by Secretary of the Army Wilber M. Brucker at Ft. Myer, Virginia on January 18, 1961.

The memorial service on February 5, 2012 was held at United Methodist Church in Berea, Ohio. It was sponsored by the Cuyahoga County Voiture Locale #11 La Societe des 40 Hommes et 8 Chevaux and also the Albert E. Baesel American Legion Auxiliary Unit #91.

Note: La Societe des Quarante Hommes at Huit Chevaux is an independent fraternal organization of U. S. veterans, more commonly known as the Forty & Eight.

The Forty & Eight was formed in 1920 by American Legionnaires as an honor society and from its earliest days it has been committed to charitable aims. Membership is by invitation for members of the American Legion who have shown exemplary service. All Forty & Eight members are thus veterans of congressionally recognized wartime periods via their Legion membership.

The Forty & Eight’s titles and symbols reflect its First World War origins. American servicemen in France were transported to the battle front on narrow gauge French railroads (Chemin de Fer) inside boxcars (Voitures) that were half the size of American boxcars. Each French boxcar was stenciled with a “40/8”, denoting its capacity to hold either forty men or eight horses. This ignominious and uncomfortable mode of transportation was familiar to all who traveled from the coast to the trenches; a common small misery among American soldiers who thereafter found “40/8” a lighthearted symbol of the deeper service, sacrifice and unspoken horrors of war that truly bind those who have borne the battle.

Other Things That Matter too ..

What a weekend.  If you missed yesterday’s blog, please read it.  Very important.

Back to the present:

We are in full-on, all hands on deck preparation for the 30th Annual Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival, July 20-22 at the Berea Fairgrounds.  The bands are all set (probably), and now we shape the event itself  (www.clevelandirish.org or www.facebook.com/clevelandirish).


We have quite a few fantastic new displays coming to our internationally recognized Celtic Heritage Hall.  Travel & Tourism, Irish history and happenings, music, sports, food and fun make up the majority of the 300+ displays in the cultural and sports hall and Abbey Theatre  I have sent all the displays off to print, and soon the assembly from print to display board will commence.

Wait’ll you see the festival grounds.  A new Wind Turbine has changed the landscape of the Gazebo area – we adapt.  We will have new food offerings this year too! I had lunch with Sully’s owner John Sullivan on Saturday.  Sully’s Irish Pub will be bringing great new menu items, which will include Sully’s favorites, and a few new surprises in our ever-expanding offerings to fest patrons.

I was sixteen years old when my dad and a group of friends gathered in my parent’s living room to organize Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival.  I remember the discussion, and he very deliberate choosing of the name; including the word Cultural was and is very important to us.  Thirty years later, the mission has not changed.  We hope you will come out and support the event on our Pearl Anniversary.  Over ½ a million dollars has been given to local and national charities since we started, due to your generous support.  Let’s add a few more pearls to the strand before we’re done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I am honored to serve on the board of the Northeast Ohio Rose of Tralee.  Seven finalists have been selected and the Rose will be crowned on Friday April 27th in Westlake.  Westlake is twined with Tralee, which is in Co. Kerry, Ireland.

The winner will represent Northeast Ohio in the Regional Sectionals in Portaoise, Co. Laois, Ireland May 30th – June 3rd, then that winner will advance to the International Rose of Tralee,  August 17th – 21st, in Tralee, Co. Kerry, Ireland. Good Luck NE Ohio Rose, I know you will knock-em dead.

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The Ohio Irish American News seems to come more quickly with each passing month, and year.  I got the 1st proof of the May issue Friday night.  This is Issue #65, but nothing is reaching retirement this weekend.  Hard times, can’t hold us down forever.  Somehow, we continue to grow and continue to impact the community we love so much.

Fittingly, wood is one of the symbols for a 5th Anniversary.  Strength and solidifying relationships – wow does that fit us perfectly. We are on solid ground, thanks to all the supporting relationships, and great stories, our community has given us.

Great stories in the May issue include one that is a bit of a coincidence with Bishop Lennon’s announcement of his decision to not challenge Rome’s open the churches decree, but we include A Passion for a Parish: St. Colman’s, written by guest columnist Dan Coughlin; The Hooley on Kamm’s Corners, Irish Dance in America, Finding Home on the Road, historical retrospectives, book reviews, sports and more stories will come to newsstands May 3rd.

Pick up a copy of the Ohio Irish American News at your favorite Irish Pub, club, restaurant or music hall.  If you would like to get it a day or two earlier, or can’t get Out & About, subscriptions are only $25  year/ $45 for 2 years.  All issues are also archived online at our website, www.ianohio.com.

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A few weeks ago, Sporty Kilbane gave me a shout for some help with a brochure for his training and fitness company, called w25 Warrior.  I sent it off to him Saturday.  He has a great big picture philosophy for overall health and fitness and is in phenomenal shape himself.  If you are looking for a trainer who sees more than just muscle, give him a call.  Tell him OB sent ya.

***

I rushed home from Sully’s in Medina, and then to my sister’s 50th Birthday party in Vermillion. She has a core group of 5-6 friends all the way back to grade school that still gather.  God the stories!  So much I had forgotten, or never even knew, came rushing back. Dinner at Touche was good.  The waitress had a million watt gorgeous smile and my sis, as she is often wont to do, shed tears before the nite was over.  These were good tears, of our many blessings and joy.

One is never enough, Big Sexy’s 50th Birthday party was also Saturday night.  Great to see Jeanie & the Man, Fun Size and Little Sexy too.  I have shared in countless, always laughter filled parties with the former owners of Sheehan’s.  I will never forget seeing Paddy Reilly, Tom Sweeney and Danny Dole singing show tunes about 3am at a Cleveland Irish Fest after’s Party at Sheehan’s, while Kilfenora Ceili Band played pool and Pegger drank without a cup.

Some of the best afters’ parties, parties and best memories of my life have come with these folks.  Happy Birthday Jimmy ~ I am truly honored to know ya.

***

Crikey this is long, sorry! See you Wednesday at author and columnist Erin O’Brien’s book signing at Loganberry Books.

Comment, and share your story with me; thank you for allowing me to share mine with you.  Follow me, where I go:

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Ohio Irish American News: A Story from this Month’s Issue – Illuminations: Gunrunning for Freedom

By: J. Michael Finn

Sailing a 51-foot yacht through the middle of the British fleet would be a challenge for the most experienced sailor. For Erskine Childers and his nationalist crew, it was particularly challenging, and dangerous. Unknown to the British, below decks, the yacht was overloaded with a cargo of smuggled rifles and ammunition, destined for Ireland.

In 1914, the Protestants in the north of Ireland received an illegal shipment of arms in order to fight the planned implementation of Irish Home Rule, which had been recently passed by the British Parliament. In response, the Nationalist Irish Volunteers and their leader, Patrick Pearse, felt that arms for their group were needed. Pearse said, “The only thing more ridiculous than an Ulsterman with a rifle is a Nationalist without one.”

Alice Stopford Green, an Irish historian and nationalist, conceived the smuggling idea itself. She enlisted a group of nationalists in the plan: Erskine Childers, his American-born wife Molly Childers, Sir Roger Casement, and Mary Spring Rice. Mary Spring Rice and Molly Childers established and ran a campaign to raise funds for the arms, and were successful in raising ₤2,000. Pearse and the IRB approved the plan. Sir Roger Casement made contacts for the purchase in Germany.

Childers and Spring Rice

The Childers offered their yacht, the Asgard, a 51-foot pleasure craft, to run the guns into Ireland. The yacht had been a wedding present from Dr. Hamilton Osgood, Molly Childers father. The English born Erskine Childers was an experienced sailor and well-known author. He wrote The Riddle of the Sands (1903), which is considered to be one of the first spy novels.

Since the British fleet was used to seeing the Asgard cutting through the Irish Sea under full sail, and since Childers knew the coastal waters, they were the natural choice to do the running. Although Molly Childers was unable to walk due to a childhood injury, she was also an experienced sailor, who often piloted the Asgard while tied in position at the ship’s wheel.

The arms were to be purchased from Germany, and included 900 Mauser M1871, 11mm caliber single-shot rifles and 29,000 rounds of black powder ammunition. The second-hand guns, dating from the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871), were still functional, although the black powder ammunition caused them to overheat and jam after firing.

On July 7, 1914 the Asgard left Howth Harbor for the nineteen-day journey to Germany and back. Aboard were crewmembers Erskine Childers, Molly Childers, Mary Spring Rice and three other crewmen.

At the mouth of the Elbe River in the North Sea, they met the German ship, which had left the city of Hamburg carrying the purchased weapons. The arms were transferred to the Asgard. The arms and ammunition completely filled the boat’s cabin, leaving little space to sleep or prepare food, all of which was done on top of the cargo. As a cover, the shipping documents indicated the arms were bound for Mexico.

On their way back, the little craft ran directly into the British fleet; the battleships and cruisers were out in force, in anticipation of the outbreak of the coming world war with Germany. Holding his breath and being sure not to draw suspicion, Childers was able to navigate through the massive ships without being stopped.

Then, the yacht ran into the roughest storm to hit the Irish Sea in thirty years. Childers lashed himself to the wheel to be kept from being swept overboard, all the while steering the overloaded boat to keep it from being swamped by the high seas. On the morning of July 26, 1914, with the storm behind them, in broad daylight and with Mary Spring Rice steering the vessel, the vessel arrived into Howth Harbor.

A large contingent of 1,200 Irish Volunteers were waiting for the arrival of the Asgard. As a cover story, the Volunteers were told they were going to have a picnic at Howth. Also present on the dock was Countess Constance de Markievcz and her contingent of Fianna boys. They had arrived from Dublin, bringing with them hand carts and wheelbarrows.

The Fianna boys quickly unloaded the Asgard. Every Volunteer was given a rifle and the ammunition was loaded into the hand-carts and wheelbarrows. The Asgard, along with Childers and his crew, sailed back to England and the Volunteers marched in column back to Dublin, followed by the ammunition.

The harbormaster at Howth had informed the authorities about the situation and a detachment of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers were dispatched from their barracks at Kilmainham. At Clontarf, the soldiers marching north met the Volunteers marching south; there was a brief skirmish but no shots were fired, mostly pushing and shoving.

The British were unaware that the rifles held by the Volunteers were not loaded. One Volunteer was injured by a British bayonet. Thomas MacDonagh and Bulmer Hobson succeeded in calling a truce and engagied the soldiers in conversation long enough for the back ranks of the Volunteers to quietly relay the guns and ammunition away and hide them in the nearby Christian Brothers monastery. The arms and ammunition were never discovered by the British and were used two years later to arm the Volunteers during the Easter Rebellion, mostly in the General Post Office.

Shortly after the Easter Rebellion, the Asgard was put into long-term dry-dock in northern Wales, where it was sold in 1928. In 1961, the Irish Government procured the ageing vessel. The Irish navy used it for sail training until 1974, when it was dry-docked and put on display inside Kilmainham Jail in Dublin. Since December 2007, the Asgard Restoration Project has been underway at the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks, Dublin.

Erskine Childers served on the negotiating committee for the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921, but sided with the anti-Treaty forces during the Civil War. Childers was arrested by the Free State Army in November 1922, was tried and convicted of arms possession. He was executed by firing squad. His last words, spoken to members of the firing squad were: “Take a step or two forward, lads. It will be easier that way.”

Mary Spring Rice suffered ill health for several years and died in 1924 in a sanatorium in Wales at the age of forty-four. Molly Childers health problems continued and she was confined to a hospital in Massachusetts from 1947 until1950, at which time she returned to Ireland. She died on New Year’s Day 1964, survived by eight grandchildren and twelve great grandchildren. Their son, Erskine Hamilton Childers, was elected to the Dáil and served from 1938 until 1973. He then served as fourth President of Ireland from 1973 until his death in 1974.

*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.

Don’t Tell; Don’t Trust; Don’t Feel: Sexual Violence, and other things that matter

It’s been a busy couple of days, days filled with thought provoking ideas, sharing, and the reemphasis that we are not alone, no matter our hurt, no matter our success.

I went to the FACES OF CHANGE Changemaker’s Breakfast in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month on Friday.  Hosted by Channel 3’s Erin Kennedy, the breakfast was to share stories, to share hope, and to gather those who can make a real difference in Cuyahoga County.

Did you know that more than 150,000 people in Cuyahoga County have been raped and never sought healing services?  These survivors are three times more likely to suffer from depression, four times more likely to contemplate suicide, and twenty-six times more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol.

Powerful speakers Representative Nan Baker, Senator Nina Turner and CEO of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, Megan O’Bryan, gave stats and stories, support and for some, a chance at salvation, through their efforts and legislation.

One of those who stood in witness to the hurt, and the recovery, spoke of “Mokita” – the truth we all know, but agree to not talk about – let’s not agree, let’s talk about it.  And for those affected by sexual assault, the victims, their families, their work places, their cities, our country – a bend in the road is not the end of the road. You are not alone; we shall overcome.

One in four girls, one in six boys will suffer from sexual violence.  Give the above, for those rocked by sexual violence, is a roundabout with only one exit more apparent?  If we keep going in circles, and keep driving the same road over and over again, we only create ruts.  “And the only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.”

Is there depth of our caring?  Depth of our heart? Depth of our commitment, to each other? You can get out of a rut; you cannot defeat the grave.  Will we give people an escape from the grave, a lift out of the rut of hurt and fear? We have to build new roads, offer exits that take those hurt to a road of healing, promise and a break in the circle of Don’t Tell; Don’t Trust; Don’t Feel.  To be a Changemaker in word, and in action, iStand with Survivors of Sexual Assault.

For thirty-seven years, “Cleveland Rape Crisis Center supports survivors of sexual violence, promotes healing and prevention and creates social change in our community“, said information at the event. “In Northeast Ohio, there are hundreds of thousands of rape survivors living in painful silence.  The need is overwhelming. Resources are not.”  Let’s change that.

Some days you win the rage, some days you’re simply glad to make progress. For you, for your mother, sister, niece, cousin, your neighbor, for Cuyahoga County, I urge you to get involved. iStand with Survivors of Sexual Assault is more than a slogan; check it out, and do what you can.

Comment, and share your story with me; Thank you for allowing me to share mine with you. Follow me, where I go:

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Ohio Irish American News: A Story from this Month’s Issue – Taking the Michael Out of Paddy

Taking the Michael Out of Paddy

It has been interesting to watch from afar the developments in Derry with the lead up to the City of Culture 2013. While the city has much to celebrate, especially in respect to its rich heritage, there is also a sense that it is still trying to shake off the vestiges of the past.

In the years following Sinn Fein’s crucial decision to demilitarize and become more actively involved in constitutional politics, they have been met with opposition from those within their own ranks who were not prepared to forsake the path of violence. Continuity IRA, and its equally RAAD (Republican Action Against Drugs), have worked to subvert the very positive moves towards establishing peace in the city. And while the leadership of Sinn Fein might hope that this radical element disband, and move out of the way, there is no sign of that happening any time soon.

As Derry prepares to showcase itself to the rest of the world, it must address the enemy within. As the Irish playwright Denis Johnston put it when speaking of the Irish Free State’s treatment to those opposed to the state, ‘No nation is the result of an immaculate conception’.
Those who are not interested in the progress of the city, and who seek to sabotage its development, should not have the support of the people. And, if my reading of the situation is correct, they don’t. They do not speak for the people they claim to protect, or speak for. Rather, they appeal to a cynical minority, who are trapped in the cycle of violence and who are committed to the rough justice of vigilantism, which, in reality, means shooting known drug dealers (usurping the normal course of justice), bomb scares, and planting bombs in order to disrupt the peace process.

Next year Derry will celebrate its past. It will re-trace its ancient roots back to the 6th Century of St. Columba, demonstrating the evolution from a monastic settlement to modern European city. But against this backdrop of jubilation and pride will loom the shadow of the gunman threatening to kneecap the city’s hopes and aspirations.

The recent recession has hit Derry quite hard. Its economy is not showing signs of recovery, unemployment is high, and the ongoing violent activity further erodes any hope of progress. While visiting the city, and I’m there twice a year, the despondency is quite clearly shown when yet another bomb is discovered, or another young man is convicted and shot by a kangaroo court (the most recent case involving the shooting of a young man in Buncrana).

Like most places in Northern Ireland, Derry is no stranger to violence and any tour of the city involves a recollection of old and more recent atrocities and injustices. Whether it’s the 17th Century Anglican Cathedral, which hosts artifacts from the Siege, or the Bloody Sunday memorial, conflict is part of the living fabric of the city. But against this backdrop of political turmoil, there are signs of change.

At edge of the Craigavon bridge stands the statue of two men reaching out to one another, almost touching, symbolically representing the desire towards understanding and tolerance. The peace bridge spanning the religious divides, both physically and metaphorically. The Bogside artists mural of peace points to a future based on reconciliation and justice. But more than these physical tokens of hope are the people of Derry. Even in this time when the movement towards a more peaceful future falters from week to week, there are those who refuse to go back.

The women who have recently banded together in a campaign again RAAD, and the working class Derry men and women, who despite the bleak economic situation, have show resilience and determination to move forward. Those who think beyond simply making a good out of a bad hand dealt to them, and who want something better for themselves and their children. It is these people who are the true voice of the people of Derry, the majority.

But as often is the case, the majority of good people are forgotten when the extremists take centre stage. It’s important to see that the attempts to hijack the peace process by the dissidents are being met with a sense of solidarity among those who want change. As the time draws near for Derry to step up and own a title that it deserves, city of culture, the ground swell of dissatisfaction with those who threaten peace grows. Such expressions of faith should be encouraged, and supported.

2013 is the year when Derry presents its best face to the world. But in order to do this, the city needs to take itself seriously as a city of culture, and in turn communicate this message with confidence to the dissenters. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing the city provide an outlet to the enormous talent and creativity it holds within its borders.

For the whole year, Derry will have the opportunity to embrace its destiny as it enters the limelight. And, as it does, tourists from all over Europe and North America will find a city that is able to rise up from its knees and stand up with pride and dignity.
My hope for Derry is that, to quote one of its singer/song writers, ‘things can only get better’.

Terry Boyle
*Terry, originally from Derry, now resides in Chicago and teaches Irish and British Literature at Loyola University, Chicago. terenceboyle@sbcglobal.net

Erin O’Brien Book Singing Wednesday

Erin O’Brien: The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts
Public Event · By Loganberry Books

Wednesday, April 25, 2012
7:00pm until 9:00pm

Local author Erin O’Brien will read from and sign copies of her new book, The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts.

Loganberry Books
13015 Larchmere Boulevard, Shaker Heights, OH 44120

Dance, Dance; Fake is Not Free

Dance, Dance; Fake is Not Free
by John O’Brien, Jr.

“It’s a travesty to turn healthy, naturally beautiful girls into this grotesque parody of femininity — and frankly bizarre that it’s all done in the name of our rich Irish heritage.”  – Fionola Meredith, Belfast Telegraph, April 4, 2012

The echoes of JonBenét Ramsey in the present day dance world creep me out.  It is not the cable show, Tiaras and Toddlers, but at times, it is not far off.  It is seen on stage, but shockingly apparent in the off-stage preparation, the makeup, wigs and more that dominate, both competition and conversation, when camaraderie and playing used to be the order of the day.

I have a mixed history.  All three of my older sisters danced with the Tesse Burke School growing up.  I went to a practice or two, when I had to accompany a parent, but never danced myself.  So I saw, and didn’t.  Back then I saw it as graceful, and part of the fabric of my heritage, but never did I see it as tricked out.  I know the nervousness of the kids, and the pressure and pride transferred from teacher to child, whether parent or certified.

I see mother’s scolding, eyes fill with tears, and big lives trying to find glory in little ones, but that is a story for another day. It’s not all about the dress, for the wigs and fake eyelashes scream out for redress too.

Cleveland Feis is held every Memorial Day weekend at the Cleveland State Convocation Center. A Feis (pron. fesh) is an Irish dance competition.  When standards are reached, competitors move up, eventually they are accomplished enough that they can compete in the World Championships of Irish Dance, called the Oireachtas (pron. Ore ahct tus). When a dancer is dead on, the excitement, the buzz, can be felt all around the stage.  It transcends.

I know many of the organizers of the Cleveland Feis, past and present.  It is similar to most other feis’.  Dedicated and passionate about our heritage, organizers can only acknowledge the nature of the beast inherent in today’s Irish dance.  It seems everyone rues it, but all feel powerless to change the runaway train.  Who’s driving?

Until the prizes for purity outweigh the ones for glamorama, those frustrations will only simmer.  You make Holy Water by putting it on the stove and boiling the hell out of it.

The Trophy is driving the cart right now. Walk along and see the $1,000 dresses for resale by a family whose child outgrew it in a year and now competes in another, more expensive dress, or maybe it was passed on from the tall older sister, but her sister was built differently, and it does not fit. Salesmen are hoping for a recovery, knowing depreciation will run out before the threads do.  Vendors line the outlying competition areas with wigs, fake eyelashes and cans of tan.  This is not tradition; this is not the purity of the centuries old dance.

My generation, the generation whose children are now grade to high school age, would get points deducted if young girls wore make up. So it is very hard to understand how the pendulum has swung so far the other way, on the motivation of what? Starring in the next Flatley show?  The big wigs are not worn on Broadway; popularity, the crowd, ebbs and flows, what is tradition should not.

Kids are impressionable, and want to shine alongside their friends.  But where did this all start?  And where does it stop?  How has a form of cultural identity, so embossed with the stamps of authenticity, of “tradition”, “culture” and “pure” become so embossed in fake makeup and sequins, fake hair and fake tans? How could everything so synthetic, be considered as honoring tradition, and be rewarded with medals and trophies and prestige for what is judged the best of the day?  How are the traditions of dance preserved and promoted when only the steps are even remotely similar to what was, less than a generation ago?

This is not tradition; it is travesty ~ expensive, mixed-message, self-defeating travesty.

Why is there no compulsory make over for the boys? In my lifetime, the only change of appearance is that boys went from kilts to slacks, almost always black, no decoration. It removed a stigma of boys in skirts.  So are the boys evaluated on technical merit and the girls on make-up and wigs?

Flatley changed the Irish dance world, mostly for the better, and certainly for the exposure.  But his penchant for baring his chest is often ridiculed today.  In Irish dance, there is a lot to admire, a lot to pass on, a lot to cherish.  But every rage needs a bucket of water now and then.

Students can learn for the fun, for the exercise, to meet new and old friends or share their Irish heritage – judged competition is only for those who want to be so judged. Balance, coordination, foot speed, over-all core strength, confidence, maturity, how to interact with fellow competitors and adults and grace under pressure are just a few of the many benefits of taking Irish dance classes for girls and boys.

In a world scarred by low self-esteem, bullying, suicide and Chardon High School, a society whose hottest, most identifiable faces are more and more people whose only claim to fame is fame itself, we cannot endorse, indeed glamorize more of the same. The benefits described above have life-long lessons.  Whether on reality TV or on feis stages, substance must be returned to its throne.  The Lord of the dance, must be the dance itself, not the paints and powders that fall off at first kiss.

I have been involved in presenting, preserving and promoting the Irish culture and heritage for nigh on thirty years with Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival, more than ten as an author and freelance writer, and for more than five as Co-Founder, Co-Publisher / Editor of the Ohio Irish American News.  I am a progressive more than a purist, but I have pure love. It is hard to dance with the devil on your back.

My rant is near-on over, my heartache is not.

So Who’s Comin’ to the Fest?

2012 30th Annual Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival
July 20-22, 2012
Berea Fairgrounds

www.clevelandirish.org
www.facebook.com/ClevelandIrish
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Lineup (to date):

 

Ronan Tynan, Boston, MA.
In 1998, Tynan joined Anthony Kearns and John McDermott (later Finbar Wright) as The Irish Tenors, an instant worldwide sensation. He hasn’t stopped since.  One of Ireland greatest voices.

Eileen Ivers, New York, NY
From blazing a trail with Green Fields of America, Cherish the Ladies and as the original fiddler in Riverdance, Ivers continues her ground breaking music with passion and an electricity you can feel – a show not to be missed!

Tommy Fleming, Ballina, IRL.
Tommy’s beautiful voice and poetic introductions have made him one of the great voices in Ireland.  Welcome back Tommy.

Patrick O’Sullivan, Ballingeary, Cork
A singer and accordion player, as known for his country music as his Irish,  Patrick’s following grows with each performance; bring your dancing shoes!

Dance Schools:
     Tesse Burke School of Dance,
     Brady Campbell School of Dance,
     Leneghan School of Dance

McLean Avenue, New York, NY.
Get ready to sing, get ready to dance.  You’ll recognize Padraic Allen from the Whole Shabang, paired with Buddy Connolly, this vibrant band appears at the fest for the first time.

Cahal Dunne, Cork, IRL
Composer, pianist, comedian, storyteller – Ireland’s Happy Man has won many awards for his song writing and many hearts for his joyful singing.  Legions of fans love him!

De Dannan, Galway, IRL.
Led by founding member Frankie Gavin, De Dannan walks a path of excellence few could imitate; welcome these Irish music legends to the fest for the 1st time.

Clancy Legacy, Bristol, R.I.
Aoife Clancy, Robbie O’Connell and Donal Clancy first performed together in 2006.  The sound and stories – the Clancy legacy is in great hands!

Carbon Leaf, Richmond, VA.
American Rock tempered by their Irish heritage and influences. Singers, songwriters and festival favorites, CL placed first in the International Songwriting Competition and won an American Music Award.

Homeland, Dayton, OH.
The pipe, the drum and the lyric drive Homeland songs as old as time, and ones with the ink barely dry. Welcome back Boys!

High Kings, Dublin, IRL
Song and story, the ballad tradition has a new master from these sons of Ballad Boom legends.  High Kings are selling out shows across the U.S.  Come see Ireland’s Folk Band of the Year.

Kilroys, Cleveland, OH.
Happy Silver Anniversary to The Kilroys, celebrating 25 years playing our music in Cleveland. The real deal, these seven siblings  have fans of every generation.

Maura O’Connell, Nashville, TN.
Widely acclaimed throughout her career as a vocalist and interpreter of grace and insight, Maura’s last minute guest appearance with Cherish the Ladies at the fest brought the house down. Back by popular demand.

New Barleycorn, Cleveland, OH.
From their earliest days of big hits like The Men Behind the Wire and Song for Ireland, The New Barleycorn have carried on the song tradition and earned their reputation as one of the great ballad groups.  With Alec’s golden voice and John’s banjo power, this international band based in Cleveland is one of Irish music’s best.

Dermot Henry, New York, NY.
A singer? A comedian? Dermot is a master entertainer that can draw a tear or a laugh with equal frequency. Comedy, history, song and laughter from one of Irish music’s great entertainers.

Cherish the Ladies, New York, NY
Led by the irrepressible (and world champion) Joanie Madden, Cherish has secured its place as one of the great – and first all-female band – in Irish music  – Joanie’s even in the Hall of Fame.  The Best of the Best!

Brigid’s Cross, Cleveland, OH.
This trio draws huge crowds every time they play – a great song, a bit of history and lots of laughter in every show.

Screaming Orphans, Donegal, IRL.
These four funny, high-spirited, musically obsessed sisters have the good fortune to have been raised in the magic of Bundorin, Co. Donegal.  Dancing, laughter, and yes, fan screaming, is a trademark of their shows.

Pipe Bands:
     Great Lakes Pipe Band
     87th Pipe & Drum
     Firefighters Pipe & Drum

The Kreellers, Detroit, MI.
Born and bred on the song tradition, Paul & Derek proudly follow the tradition of Makem & Clancy and The Dubliners, with great voice, and a way of making any audience dance and sing.

Seven Nations, Windermere, FL.
A festival favorite, 7N brand of original Irish and Scottish music, matched with exciting fiddle and stellar song writing leave audiences roaring for more.

Michael Crawley– On the pipes or on the guitar, with great vocals, Crawley brings a song to life; see one of Cleveland Irish music’s rising stars.

Fintan Stanley, Louth, IRL.
Fintan is recognized as one of the great box players in the world, and hilarious! A show not to be missed.

Dennis Doyle, Glendale, CA.
A Harp and Gaelic language master, teacher and historian, Dennis has appeared at our festival more than any other entertainer.  See his shows and workshops for one of our true treasures.

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www.clevelandirish.org