Oh HAPPY Day …

Ladies & Gents, it is time to start festifying -Hear ye, Hear ye .. the 6th Annual Ohio Irish American News Festival Focus issue hits the streets tomorrow ~ there is going to be some singing and some dancing and some carrying on!

Sunday Nite: an evening of wit & wisdom, humor & prose, tales & occasional truths with Cleveland’s own favorite Irish authors:

Please join us SUNDAY EVENING for an evening of wit & wisdom, humor & prose, tales & occasional truths with Cleveland’s own favorite Irish authors: Dan Coughlin, Michael Heaton, John O’Brien, Jr and George Condon. Sunday May 27th, West Side Irish American Club (20 minutes west of downtown Cleveland, 2 miles off 480 & Stearns). 6:00 – 8:00, lite refreshments will be served.

Please help us in having a great turnout by sharing this and inviting any who also support the arts – Very grateful for your support and spreading the word!


All are Welcome, Admission is Free!

Ohio Irish American News: A Story from this Month’s Issue: Illuminations: Moya Llewelyn-Davies

Illuminations: Moya Llewelyn-Davies

By:  J. Michael Finn

Moya Llewelyn-Davies was one of several women reputed to have had affairs with Michael Collins. Like many events in the life of the legend, there is some dispute over whether the affair actual occurred.  A great deal of Moya’s life remains a mystery.

Moya was born Mary Elizabeth O’Connor in Blackrock, near Dublin, on March 25, 1881. Her father was James O’Connor, a Fenian, who, during the year of her birth was held in Kilmainham Jail for his political activities. He already had served a term in prison from 1865-1869, for “feloniously conspiring to depose the Queen.” He was on the Supreme Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and in the latter part of his life ran for election.  From 1892 until his death in 1910, he served as a Member of Parliament in Westminster for West Wicklow.

Moya lived with her father until she was 18 and in 1899, she left Ireland to live with an aunt in England, when her father remarried. There she joined the British civil service.

In 1909, she married Crompton Llewelyn-Davies, a successful lawyer who was thirteen years older than Moya and close confidant of Lloyd George. They had two children, Richard, who became a renowned architect, and Katherine, who became a Celtic scholar.

In 1913, Moya and her husband attended a céili in London and met a young Irishman working as a post office clerk, named Michael Collins. Collins became a regular guest at their home. Both Collins and Moya were members of the London branch of the Gaelic League, where they became proficient in the Irish language.

Crompton Llewelyn-Davies was the uncle of the boys used by author J. M Barrie as models for the characters in his work Peter Pan. Barrie was also friends with Lloyd George. Collins often met with J. M. Barrie at the Llewelyn-Davies London home.

During the War of Independence, Moya returned to Ireland to take an active role in Irish nationalism. Her husband also assisted in the Irish struggle for freedom by passing intelligence information to Michael Collins. The couple purchased Furry Park in Killester, three miles north of Dublin in 1919, which became a safe house for Collins.

Moya often used her car to smuggle guns and guns were often hidden in her house. Her connections with the British establishment provided an excellent cover for espionage. She once was having dinner with Collins and some friends at a Dublin café. When the café was raided by the military, Collins passed his gun to Moya, who was able to hide it under her clothes. All managed to escape arrest.

Moya’s activities were soon discovered and her house was frequently raided. In 1921 she was arrested and imprisoned in Mountjoy Jail. Her husband’s role was also discovered.  He lost his job. Collins reportedly made sure that Moya was provided with certain comforts while in prison. She was released when the truce was declared later that year.

There are several conspiracy theories that surround Moya, her husband and Collins.  They seem to lack any hard evidence, and are what the lawyers call circumstantial.  Some were spread by Collins’ republican enemies and some are denied by those known to be his confidants. These theories are:

Theory 1:  That Moya had an affair with Collins.  This is reported as fact by some of Collins biographers and is disputed by others.  Peter Hart, who wrote the book Mick, claims that there was no affair and that Moya was what we call today a stalker of Collins. He discounts the affair and offers testimony from people who knew Collins to deny the claim. Author Tim Pat Coogan refers to the evidence of an affair as “strong, but not conclusive.” Moya herself admitted to the affair. She did receive death threats while writing her memoirs after Collins’ death and her manuscript has never been found.

Theory 2:  That Collins was allegedly the father of Moya’s son Richard. There is good evidence that Collins did not meet Moya and her husband until 1913. Her son, Richard, was born in 1912, making this theory implausible.  Collins’ republican enemies circulated the story that the alleged Collins paternity was used by Lady Hazel Lavery to blackmail Collins into abandoning his republican principles when he signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921.

No evidence of this blackmail plot has ever been uncovered. The theory that he fathered Moya’s son has been denied by both the Collins family and the Llewelyn-Davies family. Lady Lavery has also been romantically linked with Collins, making the blackmail plot even less likely.

Theory 3:  That Moya, her husband and some of their friends were British spies and reported on Collins’ activities.  Crompton was a close confidant of fellow Welshman and British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, for whom he acted as election agent and sponsor. Through Moya and her husband Collins also met John Chartres, a former employee of British Intelligence who would later become one of the Irish secretaries during the 1921 treaty negotiations.

Moya, Crompton, J. M. Barrie and Chartres all were sympathetic to the Irish cause.  Labeling them all as British spies seems to be solely based on the fact of their connections with members of the government and British Intelligence. There is evidence that they reported intelligence information to Collins, but no hard evidence to justify this theory. It remains merely speculation.

Moya had always been a writer and reportedly assisted Collins with writing his book Path to Freedom. The work that would have the greatest contribution to Irish literature however, was her translation with George Thompson, of Fiche Bliain Ag Fás (Twenty Years A-Growing) Múiris Ó Súilleabháin’s autobiography describing his youth on the Great Blasket Islands off the Kerry coast.

Crompton helped Michael Collins draft the Free State constitution. He was later appointed Arbitrator and Inspector General in Land Matters for the Free State. He died in 1936.

Sadly, much of Moya’s life remains a mystery, due in large part to her missing memoirs. She died on September 28, 1943. Until 2003, her grave remained unmarked. In that year, Chrissy Osbourne, a relative, erected a small memorial in Deansgrange Cemetery near Dublin. The memorial reads: “In Memory of Moya Llewelyn-Davies of Killadreenan House, Newtownmountkennedy, Co Wicklow, died 28 September 1943, remembered by her admirers.”

*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.

Ohio Irish American News: A Story from this Month’s Issue: Guest Column, Home on the Road

By: Damien Fox

In the southwest of Ireland, unbridled Atlantic waves crash upon a picturesque County Clare coastline. Surrounded by rolling hills and lush green meadows, the West Clare landscape delivers well in favor of Ireland’s renowned “forty shades of green”. A few kilometers from that Atlantic coast lie two quaint homes tucked away in the quiet countryside from which came the two most important individuals in my life.

Nationwide recession blindsided Ireland in the late 1970’s. The dawn of the 1980’s triggered panic and discouragement within a generation of Irish people faced with high unemployment, inflation and public debt bringing many to an ill-fated crossroads: to stay or to go? This ultimatum swept the country as desperation quickly absorbed the island’s youth. When push came to shove, decade long fiscal stagnancy provoked the emigration of over 200,000 skilled and educated young people, victimized by an economy struggling to sustain itself.

Among those who left to settle in foreign ports of call around the world were my parents—two fresh-faced, naive twenty-something-year-olds exiled to a new life in “The Windy City,” with only one another and two modest suitcases in hand. And there, I truly believe, is where my story begins.

As far back as memory will bring me, I have always identified myself as being “Irish. My love affair with my heritage began at just two years old. Congressman Bruce Morrison’s 1992 visa program granted 48,000 green cards to Irish expatriates in the U.S., ending my parents four year wait to return home to Ireland. The time had come for my two-year-old self to meet my entire extended family for the first time.

The people in the photos that hung upon the walls of our home finally came to life. And I finally met the family in whose lives I had only ever existed through Kodak photographs and carefully crafted words in letters mailed across the Atlantic.

The arrivals hall of Shannon Airport was filled with love as our relations waited in anticipation for the Aer Lingus 747 carrying our family to touch down on Irish soil on January 31st 1992. Dressed in a grey suit and forest green tie, I clung to my mother’s hand as she gently led her little Yank to meet a family that already felt so much love for someone they had never even met.

My life revolved around Ireland from that day forward. With the births of my siblings came the opportunity to pass along my love for Ireland and everything it stood for. As family trips home to Ireland were planned, calendars were created to count down to our departure, months in advance. Bags were packed weeks prior for a journey that would result in late nights, sleepovers and generous relatives slyly slipping us a few “quid” behind our parents’ backs. Ireland was heaven on earth. There was simply no place I would rather be.

Tearful goodbyes scarred my childhood when our vacation time would end. Little did we know on occasion our “goodbyes” were quite final, for when we returned again, God would have called someone home. Saying goodbye before our return trip to America left me devastated; tears would fall as we drove through the winding roads en route to Shannon, leaving our family behind us. Onboard the plane, I would strain my neck during take-off, trying to take in every view of Ireland before the pristine landscape would be lost beneath the clouds below.

My parents built a wonderful home for us in Chicago, but most times I could only dwell on being away from Ireland. As our grandparents passed away, we stayed behind, while our parents made their lonely journey back to an Ireland that would never be the same, inevitably leaving them orphaned when they reached the other side.

As I grew into my teenage years, my love for Ireland never diminished, making it especially hard when recession reached American shores in 2006 and trips home came to a halt. With the housing market the first to go, my parents, like most Irish builders, were left invested entirely in a stagnant general contracting business and subsequently victimized economically for the second time in their lives. Left with high debts, mortgage payments, and school tuitions, trips to Ireland became a luxury that our family could no longer afford.

An examination of my own surroundings helped me to recognize a close-knit Chicago community that I could find a place in; a place not much different than the Ireland I had left behind, where I could bring my background and experiences to a unique collective where people’s differences, as much as their similarities, made them friends. Looking back, I shudder to think how life would have been had I not come to find “home” in America.

I have not returned to Ireland now for over half a decade. Luckily, my relationships established in childhood have remained strong to this day, despite the distance, while new relationships and experiences have shaped a successful, happy life in America. However, would I change anything if I had the chance? No, I would not. These experiences have shaped my identity, making me the person that I am today. My parents’ journey has paved the way for my own. I am home.
* You can reach Damien at: fox.damienj@gmail.com

Ohio Irish American News: A Story from this Month’s Issue: A Letter from Ireland


Like the proverbial phoenix, I’ve risen from the ashes of knee-replacement surgery. But I must say, the process was a divil for six weeks. I’m still dealing with physical therapy and some residual pain as I slowly regain knee flexion. Nevertheless, I’m glad to say the worst is over. Thanks to each of you for your thoughts, prayers, cards and emails. They were much appreciated and that’s no “April fools.” Happily, I’m now back writing at the keyboard.

I’ve tried to keep up with the latest developments at home via telephone calls and newspapers, though they’re certainly no substitute for being there. As you well know, we’ve had a wonderful early spring here in Ohio. I especially enjoyed watching a forsythia bush outside my bedroom window sprout buds, blossom and leaf out all in the span of a few weeks. The grass has turned green almost overnight and my wife is cutting it for the fourth time as I write. I know she’s hoping I’ll be back behind the mower soon.

As Ireland readies for Holy Week and its Easter celebrations, the country too has experienced a wonderful bout of record warmth. The west of Ireland saw the thermometer reach 72°F, just a degree short of the record for 27 March set at Trinity in 1965. In case you’ve forgotten, the all-time national high was established back in June, 1887 when temps reached 92°F in Kilkenny. On the other hand, the lowest recorded temperature was 2°F one January day in Omagh, 1881. But I clearly remember something colder than that one July summer’s day south of Galway after being caught in a driving rain and wind storm on my bike.

The mention of Galway brings two recent newsy bits to mind. The Sunday Independent Life magazine just named ‘Artisan’ the best restaurant in the city centre. Located on the first floor above Tigh Neachtain’s great old pub [1894] you’ll discover a small, attractive bistro serving both French and Irish influenced food [#2 Quay Street]. Chef Sylvain Gatay’s top-rated cuisine is modestly priced with lunch entrees averaging about €10/ea while his dinner plates are a bit dearer, topping €30. Book ahead and ask for a window table. That way, if conservation should lag, you could enjoy the constant flow of human traffic parading along Cross and Quay Streets below.

But whether you choose to dine there or not, you must stop in downstairs for a drink and the craic. The house has been in the McGuire family for generations and the pub hasn’t changed much in over one-hundred years. Previously, the place was home to Irish politician and humanitarian Richard ‘Trigger’ Martin, a friend of Irish revolutionary Wolfe Tone. Actually, the townhouse, one of Galway’s few remaining 16thC buildings left standing with its fine Oriel window still intact, is a wonderful place to wile away a lazy afternoon amid its wooden snugs and eclectic clientele while listening to some spontaneous musical offerings.

Then, if you are in the mood for a splurge in the West, book in for a few nights at Ballynahinch Castle, just off the Clifden Road, beyond Maam Cross near the fishing village of Roundstone. The rustic luxury of this 18thC residence is a wonder to behold. Located on a large estate with lake, river, woodland and trails, this palace of rural pleasure just received the Georgina Campbell Hotel of the Year Award for 2012. In addition, its Owenmore restaurant recently earned the Independent’s 2012 Galway hotel dining prize. So even if you don’t choose to stay, do stop in for a drink or relaxing luncheon. It will be an experience you’ll never forget.

Now, besides the latest hot spots around Galway, the City of Tribes is embroiled in another statuary controversy. You may remember my letter some months ago about the fuss over Mick Wilkins’ Magdalen Laundry memorial. Sure things are hotting up over a proposed statue to be located near Eyre Square in honour of Che Guevara. Yes, it seems the former Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, writer, intellectual, guerrilla leader and key figure in Cuba’s revolt [1950s] had Galway roots. His grandmother, Anna Isabel Lynch, was born here during the late 1800’s.

Both American and Cuban-American politicians are opposed to the tribute and Prime Minister Enda Kenny may quash the project, fearing such an accolade might damage the tourist industry in the West of Ireland.  I say build it. The people will come and maybe learn something.

Sure Che’s life was filled with controversy. He is still reviled and hated by many, yet numerous notable statesmen have lauded his accomplishments. If the world judged all its heroes by simply narrow standards, there would be far fewer statues in public places. Think of all the self-serving royalty, slave-trading entrepreneurs, inquisition proponents, military manipulators and political-power mongers who’ve received recognition. Let’s balance the good with the bad and say Che was a man who believed in freedom and was willing to fight for it.

Speaking of fighting for what he believed in, I see Michael Collins is short-listed as Britain’s second greatest ‘enemy’ by the British National Army Museum. Just behind Mustafa Ataturk, the man who led the Turks in repelling the Allied invasion of the Dardanelles-Gallipoli in 1915, at present the Big Fellow ranks ahead of Rommel, Napoleon and America’s own George Washington as the top military commanders who led their forces against the British in battle.

But the crowning blow of the month was the issuance of the Mahon Tribunal findings. It found former Fianna Fail party leader and Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern [1997-2008] guilty of accepting bribes and issuing payoffs.  Sure most know that corruption and bribery are endemic in Irish politics but this news came as a real disappointment. Bertie, who led Ireland through the Celtic Tiger phenomenon and the long drawn-out Northern Peace Process, was declared to be the political scum bag most hoped he wasn’t.

So on that unhappy note, I must leave you. With plans afoot for several weeks back home in the Emerald Isle, I urge you to come over as well. Slán, Cathal

*Cathal is a freelance writer and the author of Consumed in Freedom’s Flame, Forever Green, and Blood on the Shamrock.  His new book, Fear Not the Storm, was released in March.  www.cathalliam.com

OBA guest post: Learning, Through Watching My Pop Run | poise in parma www.poiseinparma.com

THE BLOG SWAP CONTINUES! After some other logistical difficulties in yesterday’s Ohio Blogging Association‘s Blog Swap (geez, who organized this thing?!), I offered fellow Cleveland blogger John at Songs and Stories the opportunity to share his post here on my blog today. I thank him for thinking quick on his feet and being flexible as we worked out the blog swapping kinks – and all his very kind words!


Learning, Through Watching My Pop Run
By John O’Brien, Jr.

Poise in Parma’s reader’s care about running and healthy living foremost, but life’s challenges too. She has lost over 100 pounds, has the heart of a lion and often inspires me. I’ve lost 70 lbs over a long period – I can’t run, so I walk; all over this vibrant Cleveland I love so much.

To keep moving is my challenge, and the retribution is a creeper that binds. I must walk, or I won’t be able to. At the age of 19, Rheumatoid Arthritis changed my major, my career, my life. I was studying Criminal Justice – police, then maybe Secret Service or U.S. Marshal was my plan.

“Lupus, or maybe Connective Tissue Disorder, we don’t know yet; you may finish college, but it will be in a wheel chair,” the Dayton doctor advised.

I changed my major, to Business Management. Either life got the last laugh, or I did; 20 years later, I am in the criminal justice field.

My dad was a runner, and marathon’s were his addiction. He was always phenomenal athlete, made a little famous when his Roscommon team won the All-Ireland Under 21 Gaelic Football Championship – much like winning a college football National Championship here in the U.S.

The last time I went to Ireland, sitting with my cousins in a pub/gas station/grocery store, I saw a few of the auld fella’s nodding in my direction. They smiled, I smiled back, and nodded, a little mystified.

I had a quick flashback to the first time I was in Ireland. We walked in to Mass. I sat down, and instantly felt all the girls around me laughing and at giggling at me. It took a half second, but then I realized that everyone around me was female; I was the only male on that side of the aisle – I moved.

Maybe it was something like that? But then they waved me over. “Yer John O’Brien’s son, aren’t ye?” “Yes,” I simply nodded. After an introduction, one of the fella’s leaned back, pointed at a picture on the wall and said, “There’s your Da.” I looked, it was. And it sunk in a little. The legend.

Growing up, Dad’s running didn’t resonate as a “healthy way of living” for me, or as offering life lessons. It was only in looking back, in incident insights only revealed when I went looking, that I saw all that he gained, and all that he gave, because he ran. I saw the discipline, the ability to grab another’s emotion, to channel and soothe it.

Dad got up early to run. I was supposed to get up early to deliver the Plain Dealer. When I didn’t, he smacked the bottom of my bed with the flat of his hand – instant head ache. Waking me up for the paper, in his typical Irish, non-verbal way, taught me watching out for others, and responsibility. And when he got cancer, the doctors words “You only beat this because you are in great shape”, made me grateful, not so much for the runner in my dad, but for the health of my dad, and how, thirty years later, he is still by my side, his home walking distance from mine.

Me n Pop

One of my favorite things about Poise in Parma is all the volunteer, wine tasting and other fun she somehow finds the time to orchestrate. I am on the shy side. Poise gave me the opportunity to volunteer at the Cleveland Food Bank one night, and I learned a lot about our hungry here in Cleveland. She introduced me to a few very cool Ohio bloggers, and I learned even more, about the things they love, and write about.

Poise is always positive, humble but strong. I find the same in my dad. Maybe he was always that way, but he doesn’t criticize – the running, the release of athletics in general, calms him, and gives him perspective. No matter all that he has accomplished, people always remark on his humble, quiet way. Never weak, never betraying his values; he carries a big stick, and rarely has to use it. Evidently that calming effect has been passed on to me too.

A fair few years ago, he had to have his hips replaced, all that running, handball, hockey and Gaelic Football had demanded retribution. Running is a thing of the past for pop. He still misses that runner’s high. He can’t run any more, so he walks – people tell me they see him walking all over town – like me at last.

I’m going to walk over to my sister’s, I am so grateful my dad is meeting me there.

Get to know John better: “Follow me where I go, what I do and who I know”


Ohio Irish American News: A Story from this Month’s Issue: The Dogs of Ireland

The Dogs of Ireland – Glen of Imaal Terrier

by Ray Cavanaugh

The Glen of Imaal Terrier is a spunky dog hailing from the Glen if Imaal, in the Wicklow Mountains. It came from the Elizabethan era, when German mercenaries brought Dachshund-type dogs with them on their quest to quell Irish uprisings. These Dachshund-type dogs soon mated with local terriers; the result was the Glen of Imaal Terrier.       

The breed soon proved itself a vermin-hunting prodigy. In addition to such prowess, legend had it that some were even bred to turn spits of meat over the fire. Their longer hind legs give power, while short front ones allow burrowing into holes and hiding places.

The Glen is a short, strong breed that can take as long as four years to reach its full growth. Though four years is half a life-expectancy for some breeds, these terriers have plenty of time to mature, as they routinely live for fifteen years or longer.

Bryan Richard’s Pocket Guide to Dogs says the Glen of Imaal Terrier is a “tenacious and silent hunter that continues to be employed as a ratter.” However, these days the breed is more likely to be found in the role of household pet. Most are plenty content with this vocation.

That being said, their inherently strong prey drive can result in calamity, as inadequately trained Glen of Imaals have been known to take down the household cat. The Glen of Imaal Terrier Club of America tells how invisible fences may not be adequate for this breed, whose desire to “chase the squirrel [may negate] the jolt of the fence.”

Indeed the Glen of Imaal becomes much larger upon provocation; many a fight they have finished. It is said that: “Many Glens are not suited for the dog park, but make excellent, loving pets.” Those that are park-suitable have been known to exhibit goofy behavior, such as “running in circles.”

Though they do not tend to bark much when on their own, they are known to “join the chorus” when in the company of other barking dogs. People can be taken aback by this breed’s bark, which can be deep and forceful, suggesting a much larger canine.