Real Ireland: A Taste of Cavan A Story from this Month’s Issue of the Ohio Irish American News

Real Ireland: A Taste of Cavan

I walked into the food hall marquee at the Cavan Institute in Cavan town to the aroma of sausages. The food hall was full to the brim with people sampling locally produced ice cream, farmhouse cheeses, rhubarb jams, gooseberry spiced jams, black puddings, cider and chocolates. November 2012 had seen the inaugural ‘Taste of Cavan‘ and now less than a year later, over 20,000 people had spilled through the doors eager to sip and see.

I had arrived just in time for the next cookery demonstration by Ireland’s well loved chef, restaurant owner, cookbook author and television presenter, Clodagh McKenna. As a child I had lived next door to Clodagh, but had not seen her since she was perhaps five years old.

She is indeed the epitome of Irish hospitality. To say she conducted a cooking demonstration would really not do it justice, as Clodagh educated people throughout. She made lemon roasted chicken with olive, basil and tomato sauce and pan-fried gnocchi. If you think there may be a little Italian influence, you would be correct. Clodagh lived in Italy for some time and has combined her love of Irish ingredients with her experience in Italy. Among the many ingredients used for this recipe, Clodagh used locally sourced chickens, Donegal Rapeseed Oil, Irish Atlantic Sea Salt, fresh lemons, garlic, freshly grown herbs and local heirloom tomatoes.

She frequently offered tips, advising not to put your tomatoes in the fridge, the benefits of grass fed beef and why marbling occurs in your beef. Clodagh made parmesan gnocchi and exclaimed that she felt it was only natural that we make it well in Ireland as the main ingredient is the potato.

I meandered in to the food hall, eager to sample the foods on offer. The first booth I stopped at was ‘Moran’s Jams’. They have 16-20 different varieties of jam’s, chutney’s and marmalades. They began at a farmers market and last year expanded their business by moving in to a commercial facility in Cavan. They currently service 60 SuperValu stores across throughout Ireland. I enjoyed the 3 I sampled but had a particular attachment for the gooseberry spiced jam. All of their fruits are sourced from local farmers or farmers around Ireland, ensuring only the finest of products as a result.
By walking a mere five steps, I landed upon the ‘Corleggy Cheese’ booth from Belturbet, Co Cavan. The lovable and clever Silke Cropp was there to greet me, with knife in hand, ready to slice her various cheeses. If her packaging and presentation was not enough to entice you, then a bite of one of her cheeses would.

The tenacious Ann Rudden was working with her six year old daughter at her booth. Ann had just returned from a trip to China, where she hopes to export her product ‘Aines Chocolates’. Ann, from Stradone village, Cavan, is going from strength to strength with her handmade chocolates. Ann is a master chocolatier and only the freshest butter and cream makes it in to her wild raspberry, zesty lime, toffee butterscotch and Sicilian lemon chocolate bars.

The evening ended with a meal in the ‘Olde Post Inn’ in Clover Hill, Cavan. The car pulled up alongside a picturesque old stone church, with a welcoming Inn adjacent. I walked into this six bedroom Inn, where I was to stay for the night, and I was greeted by the smell of turf burning in the fireplace.

Gearoid Lynch, proprietor and chef, entertained us that night. Corleggy cheese with beetroot salad, followed by scallops, bacon and cabbage terrine then monkfish and baby carrots, new potatoes and for dessert a rhubarb baked alaska.

Later the next morning, Gearoid had freshly baked scones ready, along with home made raspberry jam and freshly brewed coffee. We chatted animatedly about sustainable farming, and fishing in the Lakeland County. Gearoid told me that there is a lake to fish in for every day of the year in Cavan; 365 lakes in the county. It’s funny how it takes moving away to another country to really learn about your homeland. Cavan was friendly and welcoming. It is a county to watch, for passion runs deep here. It is evident when you hear them speak. Passion is belief and they believe in their foods.

What’s the History of The Irish National Flag? A Story from this Month’s Issue of the Ohio Irish American News

An Bhratach Náisiúnta – The National Flag
By: J. Michael Finn

All countries have a national flag. In most cases, the flags are symbolic and meaningful of some life-changing event to the particular country. Our own Stars and Stripes represent both our present country (a star for each state in the Union) and our past (a stripe for the thirteen original colonies). The Republic of Ireland flag is no exception; the history of the Irish tricolor goes back to 1848.

Illuminations Irish Flag flies above the GPO

If Ireland had an unofficial national flag prior to 1848, it was the solid green flag with the gold harp in the center. This design appeared during the Confederate Rebellion of Owen Roe O’Neil in 1642. It was later picked up by the United Irishmen in 1798 and by the Fenian Rebellion in 1867. It remains a popular flag and symbol in Ireland today.

In 1848, Ireland was in a terrible condition. Three years into the so-called Famine, Ireland was full of the dead and dying. Many of those affected by the mass starvation of the Great Hunger had left the country and many more were preparing to leave. Daniel O’Connell’s Repeal Association, that was working to repeal the Act of Union between Ireland and England, was falling apart. Young members of the Repeal Association were resigning due to O’Connell’s refusal to even consider armed rebellion as a solution to Ireland’s woes. These “Young Irelanders” formed their own revolutionary association, known as the Young Ireland Movement and broke away from O’Connell.

The Young Irelanders were composed of mostly middle-class Protestant and Catholic writers and intellectuals. They were giant thinkers of the time: Thomas Davis, John Mitchel, William Smith O’Brien and Thomas Francis Meagher. Their ideas served to inspire future rebellions and revolutionaries, but they quickly found that you cannot organize a rebellion of the starving without guns, resources and, most importantly, food.

In early 1848, Young Irelanders Thomas Francis Meagher and William Smith O’Brien travelled to France. The French were in the midst of their revolution and the Young Irelanders hoped to see for themselves how the revolution was progressing. There they met with a group of French women who were sympathetic to the Irish cause.

It is said that many of the women were direct descendents of the Wild Geese, who were forced to flee Ireland for France after the signing Treaty of Limerick in 1641. As a gift, the French women gave Meagher and O’Brien a flag they had made.

The flag was made of the finest French silk. The design was based on the same design as the French tricolor and was composed of three vertical panels, one green, one white and one orange. Meagher and O’Brien brought the flag back to Ireland.

Thomas Francis Meagher publicly unveiled the Irish tricolor at a meeting in his home town of Waterford, Ireland on March 7, 1848. The flag was flown from the headquarters of Meagher’s “Wolfe Tone Confederate Club” at No. 33, The Mall, in Waterford. Meagher informed the Waterford meeting that the flag was being shown for the first time. John Mitchell, referring to the Irish banner which Meagher had presented said: “I hope to see that flag one day waving, as our national banner.”

At a later meeting in Dublin on April 15, 1848, where the flag was displayed, Meagher explained to the assembled crowd the meaning and symbolism behind the design: “…I trust that the old country will not refuse this symbol of a new life from one of her youngest children. I need not explain its meaning. The quick and passionate intellect of the generation now springing into arms will catch it at a glance. The white in the center signifies a lasting truce between the “orange” and the “green” and I trust that beneath its folds, the hands of the Irish Protestant and the Irish Catholic may be clasped in generous and heroic brotherhood…”

Soon after, Meagher was arrested and accused of high treason. On July 16, 1848, just before his trial, he visited Slievenamon in Co. Tipperary and gave a speech to 50,000 people. Meagher, decorated with a tricolor sash, baptized the country with his new flag saying these words: “…he (Daniel O’Connell) preached a cause that we are bound to see out. He used to say, ‘I may not see what I have labored for I am an old man my arm is withered, no epitaph of victory may mark my grave but I see a young generation with redder blood in their veins, and they will do the work.’ Therefore it is that I ambition to decorate these hills with the flag of my country.”

As it is with many things in Ireland, the flag and its colors were not without some controversy. Following the failure of the Young Ireland Movement, the tricolor flag was rarely displayed until it flew above the General Post Office during the 1916 Easter Rebellion. However, during this period, the original colors did go through some unofficial changes.

According to G. A. Hayes-McCoy in, A History of Irish Flags from the Earliest Times (Academy Press, Dublin, 1979), the third color of the flag was sometimes shown as orange, sometimes yellow and sometimes gold. Orange was not officially reestablished as the third color until it was adopted by the Defense Forces of the Irish Free State in 1923; “army usage influenced the Irish public and the orange stripe ousted the yellow in the popular use of colors throughout the country.”

It was not until 1937 that the original three colors of green, white and orange of the flag were officially recognized and confirmed by Article 7 of the Constitution of the Irish Republic, which states, “The national flag is the tricolor of green, white and orange.”
Also, you will often see, the Irish tricolor flown in the United States in an unofficial size. The official size of the Irish Republic’s flag is the length is twice the width. So, a flag that is three feet wide should be six feet long. Irish flags that are three feet wide by five feet long are officially incorrect, according to the government standard.

Thomas Francis Meagher was found guilty of treason-felony, and was sentenced to death. That was later commuted to life imprisonment on the British penal colony, Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania an island off the coast of Australia). He was able to escape Australia and arrived in America in 1852.

In New York he became a lawyer and published a newspaper called the Irish News. He joined the Civil War in 1861 and became a Brigadier General in command of the Irish Brigade. In deciding to join the Civil War, Meagher said, “It is not only our duty to America, but also to Ireland. We could not hope to succeed in our effort to make Ireland a Republic without the moral and material support of the liberty-loving citizens of these United States.”

After the war Meagher was appointed Governor of Montana. Sadly, he died a mysterious death on July 1, 1867 when he either fell or was pushed overboard and drowned in the Missouri river. His body was never recovered. The man who gave Ireland her flag was a truly remarkable person and served as a patriot in two countries.

*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

September Issue of the Ohio Irish American News
September Issue of the Ohio Irish American News
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What’s Going on today? Out & About Ohio from the Ohio Irish American News:

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Ingenuity Fest all day,
Cleveland Rovers Rugby @Impett 1 pm
UFC 165 The Hooley House – Brooklyn
Kristine Jackson The Harp
AbbeyNormal Pj McIntyre’s
MySisterSarah & 7th Anniversary Bash West Park Station
HighStrungIrishBandSully’s Irish Pub
UFC165 The Hooley House
OneMore Pint @JohnMullarkeys
VinegarHill @ShamrockClub
BastardBeardedIrishmen @Hooligans PiB
@The New Barleycorn Flannery’s Pub

Add Yours! Share & spread the wealth

Engaging the Diaspora; The Next Generation: A Story from this Month’s Issue of the Ohio Irish American News

Engaging the Diaspora: The Next Generation
by James J. Lamb, Honorary Consul of Ireland

Let me start by asking a few questions. As Irish Americans, what is our relationship, as individuals and as an ethnic community, with that place we love – Ireland? What should it be? What should we expect from each other? And of greatest concern to me, how do we ensure that the next generation, our children and grandchildren, recognize the important link between Ireland and her diaspora; follow our lead and our encouragement to become involved in that relationship; and be prepared, as we are, to pass it on to future generations?
I believe, in order to pass on our heritage, we have to recommit ourselves to knowing the history and embracing the culture of Ireland. We should try to understand our ancestors’ experience in that history.

For most of them, the life experience in Ireland was not a pleasant one. The Penal Laws introduced in the early 18th century suppressed practices and teachings of Catholicism, and relegated Catholics as second-class citizens, Subservient to “British” land owners.

By the mid 19th century, while Ireland’s agriculture bounty was feeding Britain and helping to finance its military and economic interests around the world, Irish peasant farmers and their families were allowed to starve. Between 1845 and 1850, approximately 1.5 million Irish men, women and children died of starvation or related diseases. By 1855, more than two million more fled Ireland to avoid a similar fate. This decimation of her population makes Ireland’s Great Starvation both the worst chapter in the country’s history, and arguably, the single worst catastrophe in 19th century Europe.

Where did they go? Most of them went to America. And initially the American experience was not much better.

According to the TEACHING AMERICAN HISTORY PROJECT of the Washoe County School District in Nevada, by the 1830s, the people coming from Ireland came from the southern and western half of the country. These people were primarily Catholic. During this time period, the U.S. was populated mainly with Protestant settlers. In fact, in the 1790s, there were only 30,000 Catholics in the entire United States. By the 1830s, the Irish Catholic population was nearly 600,000.

This was a huge increase of people who had completely different values, customs and traditions. Thus, an anti-Irish Catholic attitude created many obstacles that immigrants from Ireland had to face in their new home.

Stereotypes to oppress the Irish were created by the American elite. Often they were described as monkeys. It was also thought by many that Irish Catholics had to pay to support the priesthood and that the Pope was conspiring to overthrow the Union and establish papal rule. This led to widespread public discrimination against Irish Catholics.

In spite of these obstacles, the Irish rose quickly in America, getting involved in organized labor and politics. By the late 19th and 20th century, the Irish were matching and exceeding the achievements of the establishment.

And somehow, they managed to maintain a cultural connection with Ireland. It was as if their culture was part of the luggage they brought with them. In America, they were free to practice their religion and their culture. They did, building churches, playing Gaelic games, enjoying Irish music and dance, and communicating with home through letters for nearly two centuries. The good news from America compelled millions more to emigrate, creating one of the United States’ largest ethnic communities.

My own conscious entry into the Irish experience occurred in 1983. We grew up with some sense of Irishness, going to the parade, etc., and had relatives in Pittsburgh that spoke with a brogue…and we were lucky to visit Ireland once when we were kids, but as a child I probably took that all for granted or tucked it away in my memory.

It wasn’t until after college that my Dad started sharing music with me like the Clancy brothers, the Fureys, etc. My aunts would take me to the All-Ireland socials, where I learned some of the dances.

At these gatherings I was introduced to the GAA, the AOH, and other interesting groups. Meanwhile, I was learning to play the songs Dad had shared on my guitar, developing a fairly extensive list, and got my first paid music job at an Irish Christmas party in 1984. This “awakening of my Irishness” all happened in one year!

We should also encourage and expect our relatives in Ireland to maintain the communication with us, to share the stories, the photos, the historical documents that remind us where we come from. And it sure would be nice if THEY visited US sometimes.

Now, what about our kids? How do we engage the next generation? With today’s technology absorbing most of their time, energy, and attention, it can be difficult to get our messages through to them.

But technology can also be our ally. There are many easy-to-use applications, or “apps,” for everything from following the Gaelic Athletic Association to enjoying traditional music to learning Irish language to making soda bread. We may be technologically challenged, but our kids are technology “natives.” They were born into technology.

This presents a great opportunity for us to bring our heritage to our children’s technological world and share our knowledge about the family history, the history of Ireland, the music, art, poetry and literature, the language, the news of the day, and the events of our local Irish communities.

Technology can be a great bridge connecting our children to their heritage. But it can’t stop there. They have to go out and experience their Irishness, as we did, with extended family and friends in their local communities. And they have to be taken to Ireland, as we were, to meet their cousins, to walk where their ancestors walked, to breathe the air, and smell the peat.

I encourage you to make your children’s Irish connections REAL. Have them go and meet and read and research and watch and play and listen and support and read and eat and drink and learn and speak and know, as you did!! Help them know IRELAND the way they know Cleveland and Akron and Columbus and Cincinnati. For Ireland is home, too.

September Issue of the Ohio Irish American News
September Issue of the Ohio Irish American News

*James J. Lamb is Honorary Consul of Ireland for Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia; and President of the Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh. He can be contacted at

Great Lakes Pipe Band’s Big Place: A Story from this Month’s Issue of the Ohio Irish American News

Great Lakes Pipe Band finishes 2nd at North American Bagpipe Championships
by Barry Conway

Great Lakes Pipe Band finished second in Grade 2 at the North American Bagpipe Championships, held in Maxville, Ontario. The North American Championships is the largest Highland Games in North America, attracting fifty-five bands and almost 1500 competitors from all over the United States and Canada.

“Second is our highest placing at this competition. We hope to return next year and bring home the championship,” says Barry Conway, the groups Pipe Major (Music Director).
While the band placed second overall, their drum corps, headed up by Lead Drummer Alex Wright, placed first.

“It is quite an accomplishment for us”, says Wright. “That is the highest finish of any drum corps from this region, ever.”

Closing Ceremonies
Closing Ceremonies

The bands bass/tenor section was also awarded “Best Bass Section” for the March, Strathspey and Reel event. “Our group works very hard,” Anne Roby, Lead Tenor for the band, “It was great representing the USA at such a big event”

The Great Lakes Pipe Band was formed five years ago by Barry Conway, of North Royalton and Michael Crawley, of Parma, to represent this region in highland games throughout the world.

“The bagpipes were made an international instrument by colonization by the British army as well as immigration,” says Conway, whose grandparents came from Ballycroy, County Mayo, Ireland.

Michael Crawley, whose mother and father immigrated from Glasgow, Scotland, “Many of the players in our area were taught or their teachers were taught by Scottish and Irish immigrants. It’s part of the ethnic fabric of Cleveland.”

The band has twenty-seven members and practices at P.J. MacIntyre’s Pub in Cleveland’s West Park neighborhood. While based in Cleveland, the band draws members from Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit and Northern Michigan. The core of the band was developed within through instruction.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to teach many of the top young bagpipers in the area”, Conway continued. “And Michael Crawley has taught virtually every good young drummer. They are the future of this art for in this area.”

As is often the case, the talent and passionate for the art form is family based. “My father is from Glasgow and got me started playing pipes when I was nine years old”, says Pete Lowrie, a Great Lakes piper, whose son Petey is a drummer in the band. The Lowrie’s form one of two of the bands father son teams, along with Glen and Alex Wright.

“It’s great to share something like this from one generation to the next”, said Glen. Alex is Lead Drummer.

The Great Lakes Pipe Band is proud to represent this area in these prestigious, international events and hope to bring home the championship soon. For more information on the band, go to

The Band
The Band

Irish Music Bridges and Remnants

Irish Music Bridges and Remnants
by John O’Brien, Jr.

Remnants of an old dock are set deep in the water, symbols of the strength of the past, at times ravaged, but still unbowed in the foundation. Shaded by low hanging mist, uneven, almost jagged spikes of timber are all that remain, sharp edges rubbed smooth by the water it is mostly submerged in; a skyline etched time undetermined, black and far past, or far distant.


The bridge built for today, hovering just over the shoulder of the old dock, arches to the other side of the little inlet, and to the future, in both content and symbolism. The future of Irish festivals is at both ends of that bridge.

Every bridge connects
Every bridge connects

Irish Folk, Trad, ballad and boom have shifted their alignment; the order of customer preferred entertainment no longer harkens to the days of Tommy Makem, Foster & Allen, The Clancy Brothers or Brendan Shine, and the laments of the troubles and the Diaspora. There was great joy in that music, forged on perseverance, and reveling in a fierce pride of survival against odds and euthanasia.

The vibrancy today is no less than that that birthed it, but it is noticeably different. It crept up on us, like all time driven progress does. The chords and slides are filled with the dance of the present and future, not the glories and nostalgic connections of the past. Maybe the passing of time, the maturing of the first generation to not be a child of the Troubles, the struggle and The Stranger, blossomed into music alive and present in a different way. The connections are just as strong, forged in a now successful, confident community, rather than immigration and strife.


Damien Dempsey struck a powerful performance in his songs, especially of social justice; Slide and Scythian beat a pulse impossible to resist, impossible to not dance and revel in; WeBanjo3, newer here in the States, wowed again, and Sprag Sessiun showed the songwriting, charisma and skill of a well-matched group that draws the thirsty to water, offering their fill of great music and song.

Sprag Session
Sprag Session

The new watering hole still has the mists of the past in plain sight, sharp edges blurred but assimilated. Today’s masters and mad good musicians are ever mindful and grateful for the bridges built on the backs of those who first ventured across lands and oceans, and say, “Rest assured, rest easy, we got it this.”

The U shaped grounds wrapped around the water, and the music wrapped around the audience – equally misting, edges rubbed away, to allow dancing like no one is watching.


Highland Games

Highland Games were a new and successful addition and the food hit the spot. The hallmark camaraderie, handshakes and hugs at meeting again, from various miles and various lapses of time, perhaps more poignant by the ending of summer and the dipping of temperatures at the green season comes to an end, add to the experience.

I caught up with everyone, and got lost in the music once again.

At midnight, I was 17 hours away from the wrap up meeting for the 31st Annual Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival. Much was on my mind. I have given 31 of my 47 years to preserving, presenting and promoting our rich Irish heritage through the festival. The last seven years have also included the Ohio Irish American News as Publisher and Editor. I have invested in our success, in the planting season always under way.

A Tweener in age, I bridge a gap of ocean, age and experience. I announce the new and reintroduce the past with equal fervor, for each holds great space in my heart. Past, present and future walk the bridge. Every foundation connects; every bridge connects.

Jolee and I
Jolee and I

I arrived back in Cleveland at 4:30 am, more hopeful than ever for the future of the festivals I have given my life to, and would do again.