What’s going on this weekend?

John O’Brien
What’s going on this weekend? Ohio Irish American News Thanksgiving every weekend, and all year long:

Cruisin@Stampers Bar, Mossy Moran@MollyMalonesKY., Marys Lane@The Hooley House – Brooklyn, Kristine Jackson@The Harp, Donal OShaughnessy@Flat Iron Cafe, StonePony@Pj McIntyre’s, MySisterSarah@West Park Station, Brent Kirby@Flannery’s Pub, DonegalDoggs@Irish American Club East Side, Inc, DuelingPianos@The Hooley House, PatShepherd@John Mullarkey’s

RaggedGlory@Stampers, Mossy Moran@Byrnes Pub, JukeboxHeroes@HooleyHouseBrooklyn, NateJonesBand@TheHarp, CarlosJones@PJ McIntyres Irish Pub, CocktailJohnny@West Park Station, KristineJackson@Flannerys, Pipe&DrumHooley@IACES w/MarysLane, AthenRy@Logan’s Irish Pub, DonalO’Shaughnessy@Sully’s Irish Pub, Brigid’s Cross@HooleyHouseMentor, West Side Steve W Simmons@Mullarkey’s Irish Pub,

Add yours!


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Real Ireland: Spiced Pumpkin Soup – A Story from this Month’s Issue of the Ohio Irish American News

Real Ireland: Spiced Pumpkin Soup


2 pumpkins, halved & baked
3 Tablespoons oil
2 medium yellow onions
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp granulated sugar (to caramelize the onions)
1 jalapeno, seeded & chopped
salt & pepper

Topping/Garnish: Freshly grated Kerrygold Skellig or Aged Cheddar Cheese.

Begin by preparing your pumpkin: preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place your pumpkins face down on a lined cookie sheet. Bake for 30-45 minutes. This will vary depending on your oven. You just want them to be cooked until soft when tested with a fork or sharp knife. Scoop out flesh and seeds. I put the seeds aside for later as I also roast those to keep for snacks and for adding to my granola recipes (yum)
If you aren’t using fresh pumpkins then you need to use one large can of pumpkin puree. I believe these come in 28oz. sizes so use 1 can.

Heat oil in a large cast iron pot and add chopped onions. Stir over a medium heat and then sprinkle sugar. This will bring out a lovely flavor in the onions.

Cook for about 10 mins, or until softened nicely.
Add stock , salt & pepper and jalapeno.
Cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
Pour in cream and stir.
Using an immersion blender, puree until you reach desired consistency.
TIP: If you like you can reserve your scooped out pumpkins and serve the soup in them. Just make sure you do not score the skin too deeply with your sharp knife!

Real Ireland

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

by Cathal Liam

“I only drink on two occasions…when I’m thirsty and when I’m not.” These were the infamous words once attributed to the legendary Irish dramatist and patriotic rebel Brendan Behan.

Later, as that same famed Irish raconteur began a visit to North America, he proudly stated, while having a drink of course, “I once saw a notice “Drink Canada Dry” so I’ve just started.”

Brendan Behan
Brendan Behan

Yes, drink has always been an issue with the Irish. Last month I quoted Health Minister James Reilly urging those who imbibe to do so in a pub instead of at home. Fearing people are more likely to over-drink there and less likely to do so in public, Reilly challenged publicans to lower their prices and take-away outlets to raise theirs in an attempt to curb alcoholic excesses.

Sure, for well over a century, our island neighbour sought to exploit our fondness for ‘having a pint.’ Mixing both socio-economic and political satire, the uptight, or is it the upright Anglo-Teutonic British frequently depicted the Irish as ape-like, simian-faced simpletons in their print media. During the 19th-century, Punch magazine often perpetuated this cartoonish characterisation of the Irish as drinkers, brawlers and lazy oafs while pitting ‘the regal lion’ against ‘the little monkey.’

In that same vein, don’t you wonder if Oscar Wilde, the brilliant Irish poet, wit and playwright, wasn’t simply poking fun at his own countrymen or was he sarcastically sidling up to his English counterparts when he declared, “Work is the curse of the drinking classes”?

Seeking another opinion, I rang up my friend Tom ‘the Publican’ Richardson, owner of Richardson’s Pub in Galway, for his reaction. Always one to voice a thoughtful response to a query, Tom quickly cut to the chase. “So you’re writing about drink, are you? Well, drink in Ireland is always the whipping boy. In bad times, everyone is quick to blame it for our problems. In good times, not a bad word is said.”

Pontificating further, he added, “Drink has always been the ‘great deflector.’ It’s often the focus of condemnation when in reality other social issues deserve the government and public’s attention. For example, we’re having a debate over here about Arthur’s Day, a marketing ploy instigated by Diageo, the present-day owner of the Guinness brewing company. The tribute’s purpose, begun back in 2009, is to sell ‘the black stuff’ under the guise of honouring Arthur Guinness, the brewery’s 1759 founder. By creating this advertising promotion, Diageo has fashioned an artificial ‘national holiday’ cloaked in cultural and historic garb, but with little understanding or appreciation of the role Guinness plays in Ireland.

“Sure, everyone loves a hooley, but to elevate Arthur to ‘sainthood’ for a one-day party is more about making money, selling beer and exploiting the demons of drink than it is about Irish cultural edification.

“Certainly,” the Galwegian continued, “the same can be said about the recent fad of honouring St. Patrick on 17 September. Halfway-to-St. Patrick’s-Day celebrations are more an excuse to party and drink, maybe to excess, than they are about paying tribute to our patron saint.

Tom, concluding his remarks, said, “Yes, Cathal, we blame drink for our problems while at the same time we give tacit approval to its over-consumption under the guise of something else.”

Speaking of shifting the blame, I couldn’t resist the newly surfaced comment made by former Northern Irish secretary Peter Mandelson after the recent death of Margaret Thatcher. Appointed by PM Tony Blair to the Irish post [1999-2001], he recalled his nodding acquaintanceship with the Iron Lady. The somewhat controversial Labour party member and former British-cabinet minister said he’d only met the Conservative party leader once, on the day of his cabinet appointment in October, 1999. Of that brief meeting, some fourteen years ago, Mandelson told the BBC, “She [Thatcher] came up to me and said, ‘I’ve got one thing to say to you, my boy…you can’t trust the Irish, they are all liars,’ she said, ‘liars, and that’s what you have to remember, so just don’t forget it’, and with that she waltzed off.”

Thatcher’s admonition to Mandelson prompted me to recall the British duplicity and backhanded manoeuvrings practiced by their own political elites for centuries. In hindsight, I’m actually amazed Ireland’s able to hold its own alongside those practiced Sassenach for lo these many years.

Since I recently wrote to you about the Saving Moore Street Campaign, Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan has blocked any plans for the destruction of the historic buildings along Moore Street occupied by the Easter Rebellion leaders on 29-30 April 1916. Also, he’s vetoed any scheme to build an underground parking complex beneath those structures. Final decisions aren’t public yet, but as soon as they are, I’ll let you know.

Finally, I’m sure you’re all aware that our great Irish poet and Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney died on 30 August. I thought it fitting to end this letter with his final words texted to his wife shortly before his death…”noli timere” [do not be afraid].
God bless and have a joyous Thanksgiving holiday,


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7th Year Closes; Just getting started (83 photos) Ohio Irish American News

Breathe; The 2013 Publication Year for the Ohio Irish American News has now closed, December has gone to print! We end our 7th year the very same way we began in January 2007, with a look back, and paying it forward; a Very Merry Christmas issue indeed.

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What’s going on tonight? Great events from the Ohio Irish American News

What’s going on 2Nite: CandleLightWalk Medina, Ohio then Marys LaneSully’s Irish Pub,
Colin Dussault @ Pj McIntyre’s,
BreakfastClub @ The Hooley House – Brooklyn,
GsHarper @ The Harp,
Swagg @ West Park Station,
The New Barleycorn @ Flannery’s Pub,
JukeboxHeroes @ The Hooley House,
Mossy Moran @ John Mullarkey’s,
Ladies of Longford @ Shamrock Rovers F.C.


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oh logo+web+phone-rev

83 Nov 13 Cover

Blowin’ In: A Story from this Month’s Issue of the Ohio Irish American News

Blowin’ In: The Bean Counter
By Susan Mangan

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree . . .
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee . . .
(From The Lake Isle of Innisfree, by William Butler Yeats)

My husband is a bean-counter: literally and metaphorically. As young parents, my husband and I moved from our small starter house into our current home. The house was much larger, but the surrounding yard was vast. In fact, we acquired three-fourths of an acre in which to raise children and grow vegetables.
The notion of owning an acreage quickly bolstered my husband’s confidence. Over the years, he tilled beds of hard shale-filled clay. Imposing mixtures of lime and organic compost onto the hard layers of earth, he attempted to soften its texture, but the soil did not yield. Tomatoes may have grown tall above the ground, but far beneath the earth, potatoes fused like Siamese twins and carrots huddled together like stunted gnomes.
Longing for fertile soil in which to cultivate elegantly elongated carrots and properly formed spuds, my husband built raised garden beds. In these, he could control the soil and organic matter, producing sugar snap peas that rise to meet the heavens in late spring and frilly leaves of chard that wave a hardy welcome to the cold winds of November.
Often, I chide my husband for putting too much pressure on the heirloom tomatoes to grow quickly. He compares the rambunctious raspberry canes, wild but barren, to the diminutive blueberry bushes, compact but fertile. I tell him to let the plants be. They will grow and produce in their own time and without warning. Nonetheless, my husband still coaxes the plants to his bidding and counts each pea pod borne and tomato picked from the vine. At last count, the tomato plants, even the high-maintenance heirloom variety, have amassed over two thousand in this season alone.
As one can imagine, my husband has been the butt of many jokes from relations here and abroad. Even his own mother has chuckled over his penchant for counting produce. I support my husband’s passions for cultivating the earth. There are worse things that he could count, such as the odds of winning horses.
In an attempt to provide a philosophical explanation for my husband’s obsession, I began to seek out like-minded gardeners. I thus stumbled upon Henry David Thoreau and his Walden. In 1845, Transcendentalist philosopher Thoreau moved a mile outside of Concord to live in a small cabin on the banks of Walden Pond. Though he was never really cut off from civilization, he sought out property, built his own shelter, grew gardens for his sustenance, and contemplated the essence of humankind.
Thoreau laments that, “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” We toil without knowing how money and worth feeds our souls. Man must toil to live, but in so doing, he loses part of himself. He loses contact with his own identity.
In one illuminating passage from a chapter fittingly entitled, “The Bean-Field,” Thoreau ponders the unrelenting strength of nature, yet his own human pull to control the earth and manage his destiny:
My beans . . . seven miles already planted . . . were not easily
To be put off. What was the meaning of this so steady and
self-respecting, this small Herculean labor, I knew not.
I came to love my row of beans, though so many more than
I wanted.
(Henry David Thoreau, Walden)
By the end of the growing season, Thoreau realizes that nature will ultimately have her way. Weeds will form, because they belong to the earth as much as the cultivated bean. “The squirrels manifest no concern whether the woods will bear chestnuts this year or not . . . [he] will continue his labor, relinquishing all claim to the produce of his fields.”
The gardener must continue to toil because that effort connects him to his land, but credit for every bean and tomato procured must be given to the ongoing cycle of the earth. It is this relationship between soil and labor, fruit and the land, which nourishes the gardener’s spirit. The beans counted are proof of this delicate balance between nature and her caretaker.
The value behind the garden extends far beyond the beauty of its vines and the satisfaction that the gardener achieves at the end of a bounteous harvest. Gardens connect people. In our society, the masses are so driven by material gain and technological growth that humanity is at risk of losing its essential identity.
There are currently two camps of people: those of us who long to get back to the earth, growing our own food and understanding the interconnectedness between human nature and the earth, and those who consume only for sustenance and gain. Farm stands, farmer’s markets, and urban community gardens demonstrate that there is a movement back to all that is simple and good. Buying local, supporting local farmers and artisans supports this intrinsic connection between humanity and our earth. The balance is indeed delicate and we must support it.
The best part of gardening is sharing the bounty with others. In the West of Ireland, my husband’s uncle cultivates a garden. It dwarfs our modest raised- beds. Gardeners do suffer a bit from crop envy. My husband lovingly refers to our garden as “the farm,” but his uncle really does have a farm. Like most farmers, Uncle Paddy was up early tending to his cows and cabbages one summer morning. Fishing cap perched jauntily upon his fair head, he walked to our holiday house and brought the family armloads of fresh rhubarb and green onions. Pale pink rhubarb compote and spring onion sandwiches on buttered home baked brown bread served as the menu of the day. Gardens nurture simple pleasures and beautiful food.
After school one day in early fall, I came upon our parish pastor gathering late season tomatoes and collard greens from his own garden. I laughingly confided in the priest that my husband counted all our produce and asked if this was a mark of gluttony. He laughed. A thoughtful look shadowed his face. We both agreed that the closing of the harvest season is bittersweet. I noticed that our priest grew a beautiful fig tree. For Italians, the fig is adored: precious and sweet. He offered me one of the last from his tree. I brought it home and sliced its tender skin in half. I thought to drizzle the fig with local honey, but it was perfect without.
This kind and simple offering reminded me of the goodness of the true gardener. Whether in the woods or by the lake, or standing on “the pavements grey,” it is best to have a friend or two with whom to share the garden, with whom to delight in its simple gifts. Those are the things count us among the abundant.
*Source Consulted: Thoreau, Henry David Thoreau. Walden. Fall River Press. New York: 2008.
Susan holds a Master’s degree in English from John Carroll University and a Master’s degree in Education from Baldwin-Wallace University. She may be contacted at suemangan@yahoo.com.

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The Evolution of Cleveland GAA ~ Owens Sports: A Story from this Month’s Issue of the Ohio Irish American News

The Evolution of Cleveland GAA: Owens Sports
By Mark Owens

GAA – North American County Board: I have written quite a bit about the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) here in America, Offically known as the North American County Board (NACB). Before I go any further, I must thank in advance John O’Brien Sr. for his assistance on digging into the past – questions I had for him on GAA in North American were answered like they happened yesterday, even the street address to a bar for a meeting held in 1959 rolled of the tip of his tongue. Most people would have to think for a few minutes just to tell you what city the Convention was held in five years ago, never mind the date and actual street address. Of one in 1959. Being the modest man he is, John will probably have my neck for saying this about him. He is an absolute wealth of knowledge when it comes to information on Gaelic games right here in North America.

The organization (NACB) as it known now was officially formed in 1959, with the first Convention being held in the Cavanaugh’s Bar at 3132 Market St., Philadelphia on February 8th and 9th that year. The bar was owned by the Philadelphia Divisional President, Mickey Cavanaugh, who was a very generous backer of Gaelic games in North America.

Apparently due to an already existing rotation of cities by alphabetical order, the 1959 Convention should have been held in Montreal, having been held in Detroit the year before. But a phone call from Cleveland based and North American GAA legend Henry Cavanaugh to the then Chairman of Montreal, John O’Brien, resulted in the location being changed to Philadelphia. One of the reasons was that with the Convention being held the weekend before the start of Lent, the weather in Montreal that time of year would have made it very difficult for the majority of delegates to make it.

Reaching out to Croke Park: So at the Convention in 1959, the 1st board of officers to serve consisted of Chairman John Courtney, Vice-Chairman Mike Culhane, Secretary Pater Donnelly, Treasurer Bill Garvey, Registrar Jimmy Harvey and Coordinator Henry Cavanaugh. The coordinator was not really an officer’s position but rather Cavanaugh was the go-to person for all things GAA. He knew how the games were administered in Ireland and how they could be best administered here in North America. His position was ultimately to be one of the most important in the development of the NACB in that he helped co-ordinate the expansion of the games here and worked on establishing a working relationship with the powers that be in Ireland at Croke Park.

In 1960, Cavanaugh, along with a Buffalo based priest by the name of Fr. Peter Quinn, travelled to Ireland to present their case to Croke Park for the NACB to receive County Board status. Fr. Quinn was a native of Ballina, Co. Mayo who won two All-Ireland Football medals with Mayo in 1950 and 1951. Without this support the games would not be as successful in this country.

Cleveland St. Pat's 1952
Cleveland St. Pat’s 1952

What followed was quite amazing. The County Down Senior Men’s Football All-Ireland winning side of 1960 were brought over by the GAA in Ireland to America to play a round of four games in the cities of Boston, Chicago, Cleveland and Philadelphia. Fr. Peter Quinn played in the game in Philadelphia. Incidentally, Quinn was elected as Honorary President of the NACB in 1961.

In 1960 the NACB Convention was held in Montreal. Elected to the board were Chairman Mickey Cavanaugh (Philadelphia), Vice-Chairman Mick Culhane (Pittsburgh), Secretary Peter Donnelly (Pittsburgh), Treasurer Bill Garvey (Rochester), Registrar John O’Brien (Montreal), Coordinator Henry Cavanaugh (Cleveland) and Assistant Coordinator John Hehir (Boston).

The NACB and Cleveland: The Cleveland connection with the GAA in North America went back further than Henry Cavanaugh. In the 1930s and 40s, Pat Lynch and Pat Duffy were major leaders in getting the games and teams up and running. Al O’Leary, who was born in Cleveland but raised in Lorrma, County Tipperary, returned to the city after serving a stint with the U.S. Army whilst in Ireland. He returned to Cleveland when his mother decided it was time to go back. An avid hurler, O’Leary helped start the Cleveland Hurling Club, which eventually became known as CJ. Kickmans, in 1959. Over the years Al was and still is very active in the Irish community in North East Ohio, and has been involved with one of the country’s newest hurling clubs – the Akron Celtic Guards.

John O’Brien was elected as registrar in 1960, at the time he was based in Montreal, but a few years later he would make the move to Cleveland. He has continued to be enormously active in the Irish community, where he serves as President of the West Side Irish American Club. The Kiloom, Co. Roscommon man migrated to Montreal in 1956. He was a member of the Cleveland St. Pat’s team that won three Senior Men’s Football titles from 1962-1964 and also played in the exhibition games against Co. Down.

Another advocate for the GAA out of Cleveland was the late Sean Gannon, a native of Newport, Co. Mayo. Sean first came to Cleveland in 1962 and was a member of the Cleveland St. Pat’s Senior Men Championship winning side, having only been on the country for two weeks at the time. Gannon would also become involved in the administration of the games in North America soon after. He was elected vice-chairman in 1979 and went on to serve as NACB Chairman in 1980-82. Sean also spearheaded the revitalization of Cleveland St. Pat’s in the 1980s and ‘90s and spearheaded the permanent move for the team to the playing field at the West Side Irish American Club in 1988, where they still play their home games. Sean died in May of 2002.

Cleveland St Pat’s GFC 65th Anniversary Banquet: St Pat’s will be hosting their 65th Anniversary Banquet & Awards Night at the West Side Irish American Club on Saturday November 23rd (6-11pm). Tickets for the evening are only $45 and include dinner, open bar and music. The club would like to invite all past, current and prospective members to the event. The guest speaker is Aidan Cronin, the Irish Consul General.

Trivia: This month’s question: Irish soccer team Shamrock Rovers have supplied more players to the Republic of Ireland national team than any other League of Ireland side, one of these players also went on to manage the national team, who is he?
*Mark Owens is originally from Derry City, Ireland and has resided in the Cleveland area since 2001. Mark is the Director of Marketing for Skylight Financial Group in Cleveland. Send questions, comments or suggestions for future articles to Mark at: markfromderry@gmail.com.

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Once: From The Big Screen to the Broadway Stage, A Story from this Month’s Issue of the Ohio Irish American News

Now, in Cleveland: From The Big Screen to the Broadway Stage

How the Academy Award-winning indie film sensation Once was transformed into the 8-time Tony Award-winning Broadway musical

Once Will Connolly, Steve Kazee, Lucas Papaelias (background), Cristin Milioti, Paul Whitty from the ONCE Original Broadway Company © 2012, Joan Marcus

In 2007, the charming, off-beat Irish film Once opened to glowing reviews and quickly developed a fervent following. The touching, lyrical musical tells the story of two down-on-their-luck musicians, an angst-ridden Dublin street singer/songwriter who works as a vacuum repairman, and a Czech immigrant who sells flowers in order to support herself and her family.

Girl (as she is known) initiates a friendship with Guy (as he is known), and in the course of a week they make music together, fall in love and part, but not before changing each other’s lives. The movie’s stars, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, also wrote much of the score, and received an Oscar for their beautiful ballad, “Falling Slowly.”

The Oscar winning film was made for $150,000. Shot in seventeen days, it went on to gross $20M worldwide. It stars Glen Hansard, from the popular Irish Rock band The Frames, and Markéta Irglová. Glen and Markéta won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Original song for “Falling Slowly,” the Los Angeles Film Critics Award for Best Music, and the soundtrack was nominated for two Grammy Awards.

Once is simultaneously graceful and gritty, and has a naturalism and intimacy that are generally best achieved in film. But noted Irish playwright Enda Walsh was convinced to write a Broadway musical based on the movie, with Director John Tiffany.

That was the beginning of a journey that led to Broadway and eight 2012 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Book (Walsh), and Best Direction of a Musical (Tiffany). The show became such a critical and commercial success that it spawned a London production and a U.S. national tour, which opened October 1 at the Providence Performing Arts Center.

“I never think about adapting films for the stage,” says Tiffany. “That’s not the way I work. And when I was approached about Once, I hadn’t even seen the film. But one of my best friends said, ‘You will love the music.’ So I downloaded the soundtrack, and absolutely loved it. I’d never heard music like that, and the music is the reason why I wanted to do the show. Not just the music itself, but the fact that it’s a story about creating music, a story about the healing power of music. Immediately I thought, ‘We’re going to be able to see actors create that music in front of us’ That’s really exciting. Actors have played instruments onstage for years, but not always in a show about making music.

“There’s a bittersweet pang that really hurts. Very quickly I thought I was a good match for the material. I tend to write characters that are inarticulate and lonesome, and something comes into their life that changes them. And from listening to the songs, I thought it might be good for me to do something about Ireland, which was so hurt in the recession. I thought it would be sweet to do a little love letter to Dublin. That was my way in.”

The twelve adult members of the cast play at least one instrument, and are onstage virtually throughout the show. “I didn’t want anyone onstage who we didn’t get to know intimately,” says Tiffany. By individualizing each character, adds Walsh, “we built a community, and that became the heart of the piece. They’re an ensemble of misshapen people who sing and tell the story. Watching them play the music and sing and find their voice is very beautiful and very strong. But in addition to making it about community, we also wanted the show to be hugely communal. So how do we do that? We allow the audience onstage.”

Prior to the start of the show, the audience is welcome to come onstage and mingle with the cast, who are having a jam session. This bonding ritual doesn’t merely break the fourth wall; it obliterates it. “We wanted the audience to own the experience,” says Walsh. As the show unfolds, the focus is, of course, on the relationship between Guy and Girl, but the audience also catches glimpses of the lives of the other characters. “We needed to be sure that there are all these other love stories in the air. Each person is riffing off a love that’s been lost, that got away. That was the key: for the audience to feel part of the experience, and also to look at the people on the stage and go, ‘They’re us.’”

The material has proved to be as powerful onstage as it is on film. “I think what’s very moving about the piece is how sometimes we meet people who we don’t necessarily stay with forever, but they give us the resources to move on to the next part of our life,” says Tiffany. “There’s something very truthful in that. People have said to me, ‘When I was sitting in the theatre watching Once, I felt like I was watching it with everyone I’ve ever loved, whether or not they’re still in my life.’


Based on the 2007 Academy Award-winning film

Music & Lyrics by Academy Award Winners



Direction by JOHN TIFFANY


Music Supervision and Orchestrations by MARTIN LOWE

Scenic and Costume Design by BOB CROWLEY

Lighting by NATASHA KATZ


NOVEMBER 12 – 24

Tickets are on sale now for ONCE at PlayhouseSquare’s Palace Theatre. Tickets start at just $10 at playhousesquare.org, 216-241-6000 or the PlayhouseSquare Ticket Office. Groups of 15 or more call group sales at 216-640-8600. Performance times are Tuesday through Friday at 7:30 pm, Saturday at 1:30 pm and 7:30 pm, and Sunday at 1:00 pm and 6:30 pm.

For more information, visit the official website: www.oncemusical.com

ONCE is part of the 2013-14 KeyBank Broadway Series. For more information on KeyBank, www.KeyBank.com.

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Illuminations: The Tommy Gun, A Story from this Month’s Issue of the Ohio Irish American News

Illuminations: Rattle of a Thompson Gun
By: J. Michael Finn

Most people are familiar with the Thompson submachine gun from watching old gangster movies. The weapon was a favorite of Chicago gangsters during the Prohibition era. Few are familiar with the iconic weapon’s Irish and Irish-American connections and how it arrived in Ireland before hitting the mean streets of Chicago.

The Thompson submachine gun was patented in 1920 by its American designer, General John T. Thompson. It was manufactured by the Colt Firearms Company and was distributed through a company founded by Thompson and financier Thomas Fortune Ryan, called the Auto-Ordnance Corporation. Thompson originally wanted to call the gun the Ryan submachine gun, but Ryan insisted on the name Thompson submachine gun. As a result, the “Tommy” gun was born.

John Fortune Ryan, the chief financial backer of Auto-Ordnance Corporation, was also a founding member of Clan na Gael, the organized arm of the Irish Republican Brotherhood in the United States. He made his wealth in tobacco and was the 10th richest man in America. Whether Ryan considered the investment in the company a money-making opportunity or an opportunity to involve the Irish cause in the arms business is unknown.

Irish Volunteer with a Thompson Gun
Irish Volunteer with a Thompson Gun

The Thompson submachine gun had its first public demonstration in August 1920 at the National Rifle Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio. Everyone who witnessed the gun in action was amazed at its compact size and massive firepower. Firing at a rate of about 900 rounds per minute, the gun could empty a 100 round drum in seven seconds. The ammunition magazine was either a circular drum that held up to 100 rounds or a box that held up to 30 rounds. The first model of the gun was the 1921A.

On January 27, 1921, Michael Collins sent a memo to the Quarter Master of the Irish Volunteers with a clipping from Popular Mechanics magazine he had received from Harry Boland in America. The article was about the newly invented Thompson gun. Collins’ memo read, “I wonder if you saw the attached having reference to the submachine gun. It looks like a splendid thing certainly. I’d like to know what it costs.”

In the U.S., Harry Boland had already made contact with Joe McGarrity, a Philadelphia businessman and Clan na Gael leader, for assistance in acquiring the guns for Ireland. This led to a meeting on March 21, 1921 between Boland and Thomas Fortune Ryan. The two had met previously in July 1920 to discuss arms shipments. The March meeting resulted in the purchase of 653 Thompsons from Auto-Ordnance and a quantity of .45 caliber ammunition. The value of the deal must have been over £100,000. It was paid for with certified checks from the Trustees Reserve of the Dáil Éireann external loan (monies originally collected from U.S. subscribers). Multiple bills of sale were made out to several New York Clan na Gael members under several aliases.

Joe McGarrity picked Lieutenant Patrick Cronin and Major James J. Dineen, two Irish-born former U.S. army officers, to go to Ireland to train the IRA in the use of the new weapons. They were both were small-arms experts who had served in Mexico in 1916 and in France in 1918. They brought two of the Thompsons with them to Ireland, reportedly the first two Thompson guns imported to Ireland.
On April 21, 1921, thirty additional Thompsons arrived via Queenstown (Cobh) in County Cork. Some of the guns from this shipment may have been manufactured as prototypes in Cleveland, Ohio by Auto-Ordnance under an early contract with Warner & Swasey Company, a manufacturer of machine tools, instruments, and special machinery.

Soon after the first shipment, Michael Collins witnessed a demonstration of the new weapon, which was test fired for him by IRA Field Commander Tom Barry in a brick lined tunnel under Marino, a suburb of Dublin. The test firing occurred on May 24, 1921. Cronin and Dineen were present and Collins was reportedly very pleased with the demonstration.

The Thompson submachine gun was first used in combat anywhere in the world on June 16, 1921, when the IRA used it in an ambush of a British troop train at Drumcondra railway station in Dublin. Three soldiers were wounded, one seriously. It was reported that approximately sixty rounds were fired. Thompson guns continued to trickle into Ireland from various smuggling routes, including Liverpool. Most of them ended up with the IRA units in Dublin and the southern counties of Ireland. A few were sent north to Belfast.

Back in the U.S., 500 of the Thompsons ordered by Boland had been loaded aboard the coal freighter East Side, docked in Hoboken, New Jersey, for shipment to Ireland. The guns were in bags listed on the manifest as “engine room supplies.” A crewmember became suspicious when he noticed a gun barrel sticking out from one of the bags and notified police. British Intelligence, who falsely claimed credit for discovering the shipment, insisted that a federal crime had been committed. On June 15, 1921, the guns were seized by the Justice Department under the authority of a young Federal investigator named J. Edgar Hoover.

Several employees of the Auto-Ordnance Company were prosecuted in the case, including Company Vice President and Thompson’s son, Marcellus Thompson. A long court case followed, but it eventually collapsed due to a lack of evidence. More importantly, the export of arms to Ireland from the U.S. wasn’t actually illegal, according to U.S. law. The legislation used to seize the guns turned out to have been enacted only for the duration of the First World War, and had been repealed prior to the seizure.

Amazingly, the seized weapons were turned over in September 1925 to Joe McGarrity of Clan na Gael after the case was dismissed. Most of the guns arrived in Ireland in 1925, after both the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War had ended. They would, however, continue to cause trouble for the British authorities for decades to come. Not all of the guns made their way to the IRA, however, as eight Thompsons from the East Side shipment were later found to be in the hands of Chicago gangsters with Irish connections.

The use of the Thompson submachine guns in Ireland in the 1920s is mentioned by songwriter Dominic Behan in his song The Merry Ploughboy, the chorus of which is as follows:

And we’re off to Dublin in the green, in the green
Where the helmets glisten in the sun
Where the bay’nets flash and the riffles crash
To the rattle of a Thompson gun.

*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.

November 2013 Cover
November 2013 Cover

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A funny …

This priest is giving a sermon one Sunday, but he can’t help noticing how one of his long time parishioners is sniffling quietly in the back. After mass he waits by the door until she comes out, last.
“What’s wrong Mary, why are you crying?”
“Oh Father, ‘Tis an awful thing. My Sean passed away last night.”
“My God, Mary, I had no idea. What happened? Was it the heart?”
“Well, no, no Father, not exactly.”
“Was it the drink? Did he get hit by something?”
“Well, no, no Father, not exactly.”
“Tell me Mary, what happened?”
“Well Father, you know how we are always arguing?”
“I do.”
“Well, Father, we were arguing about his late nights and the drink again.”
“It got rather heated, Father, rather heated indeed.”
“Ahh, Sean’s a fierce desperate man altogether, Mary, we all know that.”
“Yes Father, he is that indeed.”
“What happened then Mary?”
“Well Father, I got so angry, I told him I was not going to take it any more, no more drink.”
“Good, good, Mary, well done.”
“Well, thank you Father, very kind of you to support an auld widow woman in her time of great sorrow.”
“Of course Mary, so you told Sean how things would be?”
“Sure, right Father. I said no more, I’d had enough, this was the last straw, the last pig out of the pen. Then it was all over Father. He looked at me, shouted one last desperate plea, and he dropped to the ground.”
“What was it he said Mary, what were his last words?”
“His last words Father?”
Yes Mary, what did he say?
He said, “Mary, put down the gun!”