Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas Music Video's

This song/video has a couple of PG13 type lyrics so don't let the children listen to it....

Merry Christmas - Nollaig Shona To the O"Donnell's and............

My family started out last New Year with my brother and his family in New Jersey and Florida and my family in California and New York. My family is a small family. Then everything changed in a New York minute. We were discovered through the internet by my cousin who lived in England at the time. We went to Ireland on St Patrick's Day 2008 and met my ninety four year old Aunt Maggie and my very large O'Donnel family and a smaller Duffy family. So this Christmas we celebrate our family.

A giant Merry Christmas wish goes out to my newly discovered family on my mother's side the O'Donnell's and my father's side the Duffy's. So here's to the O'Donnell's from Glanduff, Couny Mayo and the Duffy's from County Tyrone and Donnelly's from Dungannon. And best wishes to all of them now spread all over the world in: Ireland, England, Australia, Germany, Canada, Hungary and here is the United States.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

It started here on the mountain in Glanduff....
Up Aunt Maggie.... Up the O'Donnell's..........

and now it's expanded and spread out.....

Up the Quinns's,Up the Duffy's, Up the Burton's,Up the Gavin's, Up the Prescott's, Up the Timlin's, Up the Donnelly's, Up the Costello's, Up the Foran's, Up the Roberts, Up the Murray's, Up the Cassini's, Up the Fomin's Up the McGuire's and all our relatives all over the world.....

Truly a blessed and Merry Christmas / Nollaig Shona for all of us .....

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand........

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

From Cork to New York - The Annie Moore Story

A video trailer made by 11 year old students in Ireland about the first immigrant to Ellis Island - Annie Moore a fifteen year old Irish girl from Cork.
I grew up in New York the second son of two irish Immigrants who came thorough Ellis Island in 1928. They came from County Mayo and County Tyrone. This Christmas on a holiday trip to New York I plan on taking my eleven year old daughter to Ellis Island.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Irish- American - In the Eye of the Storm

An Irish- American to Watch:

The recent political explosion caused by the arrest of Governor Blagojevich in Illinois was initiated by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. Mr Fitzgerald has built an impressive track record of prosecutions and cases ranging from:

Plamegate Case
First World Trade Center Bombing Case
Gambino and Gotti Crime Cases

He was born in December of 1960, Fitzgerald grew up in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. His parents were Irish immigrants, and his father worked as a doorman for a Manhattan residential building. One of four siblings in the Roman Catholic family, Fitzgerald attended Regis High School in Manhattan, known for its rigorous academic program. At Regis he emerged as a talented member of the debate team before heading on to Amherst College, where he majored in economics and mathematics. He earned tuition money during the summer months by working as a doorman at a building down the street from his father's post, and also by serving as a deckhand on the commuter ferries that plied New York harbor.

Fitzgerald went on to Harvard Law School, and practiced at a firm for three years after earning his degree in 1985.

He is an Irish-American to watch as he prosecutes this case and continues his career progress.......

Friday, December 12, 2008

Looking Back - Looking Forward - Movie Reviews

Film Ireland
Irish & Irish American Movies I watched in 2008 and reviewed on blog:

1. "In the Name of the Father"
2. "Rory O'Shea was Here"
3. "Omagh"
4. "Waking Ned Devine"
5. "The Boys & Girl from County .
6. "Dancing at Lughnasa"
7. :"The Undertones"
8. "My Left Foot"
9. "Michael Collins"
10. "The Secret of Roan Inish"
11. "Into The West"

Irish & Irish American Movies I watched in 2008 plan to review on blog:

1. The Wind that Shakes the Barley
2. 48 Angels
3. Gangs of New York
4. Angela's Ashes
5. The Quiet Man
6. Once
7. Far and Away

Irish & Irish American Movies I plan on watching in 2009 and reviewing on blog:

1. Black Irish
2.The Mapmaker
3. Bloody Sunday
4. Monument Ave.
5. Borstal Boy
6. The Front Line
7. In America
8. The Brothers McMullen
9. Widow's Peak
10. The Commitments
11. Laws of Attraction
12. Flick
13. A Love Divided
14. About Adam
15. American Woman
16. Bitter Harvest
17. Bloom
18. Breakfast on Pluto
19. Broken Harvest
20. Cowboys and Angels
21. Dead Bodies
22. Disco Pigs
23. Dead Meat
24. Evelyn
25. Driftwood
26. Goldfish Memory
27. Intermission
28. Middletown
29. Ordinary Decent Criminal
30. Southpaw
31. Tara Road
32. The Butcher Boy
33.The General
34. The Last September
35. Visions of Ireland
36. State of Grace
37.Finian's Rainbow
38. Garage
39, Prayer for the Dying
40. Ash Wednesday
41. Veronica Guerin

Well my goal for 2009 is to watch every movie made in Ireland, about Ireland and about Irish Americans I can get my hands on in DVD. If I missed any or if you have any suggestions please comment and let me know.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Song - Stick to the Cratur (Poteen)

Here is a sung about Poteen. Irish moonshine whiskey. On my first visit to Ireland this March on St Patrick's Day I heard tales of my grandfather who made and sold "Poteen". I heard many tales about the history of Poteen and his experiences with it from my cousin Tony. It was and is a illegal moonshine whiskey. I was also give a few glasses (small or wee) of Poteen to drink by by my dear cousin Marie. It was like a warm explosion going off inside when you swallowed the shot. It tasted surprisingly very good. So here is a song to it.... Slainte......

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving goes out to all the Irish-Americans celebrating this great day in America. And a Happy Thanksgiving to all our families back in Ireland for making this possible.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Irish Movie Review - "In the Name of the Father" 1993

Just watched the 1993 film directed by Jim Sheridan, "In the Name of the Father". The film is based on a true story about a petty thief Gerry Conlon, from Northern Ireland who is framed for a horrendous bombing in England by the IRA that killed five people.

The directing and acting are excellent and the movie tells a powerful story of an injustice in a very bad time in Ireland and English history. It does a great job of not only dealing with an emotionally charged political issue but also tells a moving story about a father and son relationship and their love. It's a movie to watch again even if you seen it before or watch it for the first time if you haven't.

Of course it's a movie and it takes license with reality and combines events, leaves out details that while the truth would make for a more complex movie. Life isn't black and white like in a movie. So I would recommend you read a little about the facts of the real case and you will understand that the truth is more complex.

I guess a simple analysis would have to say that it was a major injustice done to the Conlon's and that a horrible crime was perpetuated on the innocent victims by the IRA bombing. Watch the movie, read more about it and draw your own conclusions...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Book Review - The Drinking Life - Pete Hamil

Reprint from Glass is 3/4's Full Blog

I just finished reading Pete Hamil's "The Drinking Life", a memoir of his life growing up as an Irish- American kid in Brooklyn.
I remember reading Pete Hamil's columns in the New York newspapers when i was in my 20's. I used to enjoy his writing at the time and appreciated how he worked his way up from his working class roots to be a journalist. I remember that Pete Hamil and another journalist Jimmy Breslin stood out for their working class style of writing and and their Irish roots.
Reading the book triggered a lot of my own personal memories growing up in the South Bronx. Pete's book brings to life his Irish-American experiences in Brooklyn and his struggle of being torn between two worlds, the working class world of Brooklyn and the middle class world of Manhattan. He also struggled with two identities, one the neighborhood guy vs the educated artist guy.
Of course his biggest struggle is summed up in the title "The Drinking Life". Well for most of his life he just gave in to alcohol and was "Living in the Bottle" as Gil Scott Heron used to say. Yet he reached a turning point and made a decision at that moment to change his life and he did. How he changed from a drinker to a non- drinker is different and I know a few people in my life who did the same.
The book is a very good read and also give the reader a historical context to his life. His story is a fascinating story in how he built a life and how he life spiraled from dropping out of high school to working in the Navy Yards, going to art school, joining the Navy and finally becoming a journalist and a writer.
One story that stands out for me is when he took his father back to Belfast Ireland in 1963 for the first time since his father left in 1932. The description of hearing the news that John F Kennedy was shot on the TV in Belfast was a powerful moment. It also crystalized his life long struggle and relationship with his father.
A lot of this book has a very personal connection to my life. Growing up the son of Irish immigrants in the Bronx, I went through a lot of similar struggles and a few different ones. I was from the next generation after Pete Hamil which brought some unique challenges for my life. I had to construct a successful life with no role models and no idea of how you achieve it.
I will be sharing a lot of these stories as I embark on my writing project this year.
If you are interested in memoirs I suggest you read Pete Hamil's book....

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Irish Movie Review - "Rory O'Shea was Here" 2004

"Rory O'Shea" is a gem of a movie. It's an uplifting drama that in the wrong hands would have turned into a sappy Movie of the Week but with a little Irish touch has turned into a powerful little movie. The movie takes us on a roller coaster ride of emotions from funny to distressing, to touching and finally hopeful.

Michael (played by Steven Robertson) has cerebal palsy, and lives in Carrigmore Residential Home. When a newcomer to the home, Rory (McAvoy), befriends him, he proceeds to show Michael how to live past the disability. Rory is fiercely independent, and extremely rebellious. His affect upon the quiet and reserve Michael is spectacular, and the two soon leave the care home to set up lives in the outside world, where they recruit the help of a care assistant. They take on the Irish health care bureaucracy and win. The movie is also a story of love, friendship and unreturned love.

The acting is truly impressive.Damien O'Donnell's directing keeps the story moving and he tells an extraordinary story of hope and possibility. Truly an Irish gem....

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Irish Movie Review - "Omagh" 2004

On August 15, 1998, a car bomb exploded in Omagh, Northern Ireland killing 29 people and injuring some 220 others. It was the single worst incident in Northern Ireland in over 30 years. "Omagh" is a tough movie to watch and a tough movie to write about. It is a relentless true story of horrible incident in a country that has had it share of violence. The film is shot documentary style and keeps you involved emotionally as you watch the story unfold.
The movie focuses on Michael Gallagher, a mechanic thrust into the spotlight following his decision to pursue the members of the Real IRA who murdered his 21 year old son Aiden (along with so many others).
I remember reading about the terrorist attack but watching this movie brought home the reality and pain of the victims of this muderous action. The film raises the issue of who knew about the bombing in advance and points a finger at the governments of England, Ireland and the police forces in the North and in the South. I'm not sure what I believe in that regard but it is clear from the film that neither government did a sufficient job of protecting innocent people or in prosecuting the guilty/
This is a movie that represents the best in filmmaking. I am very glad a film like this was made.
This year I visited Northern Ireland for the 1st time and visited a relative just 30 miles away from where this bombing happened. While I was there in Norther Ireland I read stories of continuing murders that were still happening by the same groups that were responsible for Omagh. Even though there has been a lot of positive change since the peace agreement was signed 10 years ago there are still dead-enders who continue their violent actions.
10 years later no one has been convicted although they know who did it and some of the murderer were convicted of other crimes.
I recommend this movie highly. Be prepared to be moved emotionally.

U2 Tribute for Omagh Bombing

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Dublin Slang

I found this on Youtube and thought it was interesting. My first trip to Ireland took me to Dublin, County Mayo on the West Coast and to Dungannon in Northern Ireland. It was challenging to understand the language in the different areas. When I came back I discovered this little video and found it fun. I'm sure that my relatives had a hard time with my accent as well. A lot of people today tell me they think I'm from Boston even though I grew up in the Bronx. At one time people have described my accent as Southern, and as from Louisiana. Now my parents both had a brogue when I was young. My accent was influenced by the mix that was the Bronx. Today I say my accent is migrating to the West Coast but got lost and went up the East Coast. So check out the Dublin accent.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Irish Movie Review - "Waking Ned Devine" 1998

Waking Ned Devine is a fun off beat comedy about a charming town in Ireland dealing with a winning lottery ticket. A very touching film of friendship, greed, love, community and a spirit that is unstoppable. The movie is filled with wonderful characters and a sense of a place you would enjoy. The movie ends on a great upbeat note with a great song that will fill you with joy.

I loved the relationship between the two old men who conspire to share the winning lottery ticket.

I find myself enjoying a broad range of films from Ireland and hope to make a film there some day.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Irish Movie Review - "The Boys & Girl from County Clare" 2003

Just watched a charming little film "The Boys and Girl from County Clare". It's a story about musical brothers from Ireland who are competing in an All Ireland Ceili Competition.

A year ago I didn't know what a Ceili was even though I was raised by an Irish mother from Glanduff, County Mayo. My mother might have mentioned it but I don't remember. But last year I went back to Ireland for my familiy reunion and watched Ceili bands perform at the Father Peyton Center .It was a place my mother went to in the 20's and it was special to be there. It was a great night and I was introduced to the Ceili bands and learned about how there were Ceili bands that performed in most towns and villages all over Ireland on Friday and Saturday nights.

So it was a pleasure to watch the movie and listen to the Ceili music. It's a story of the competition between brothers over music and how they become alienated from each other. It's an Irish story but it can b e appreciated by all. It's also a romantic story about family. Fun movie if you are a fan of Ireland, irish culture, Irish music and a good tale. Enjoy.....

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Irish Movie Review - "Dancing at Lughnasa" 1998

I just watched "Dancing at Lughnasa" for the first time. It is an adaption of a play that I have not seen so I can only judge or review the movie. I enjoyed the portrayal of five sisters in rural Ireland in the 1930's. The relationship between the sisters and others who interact in their lives is very realistic. The acting is strong, the music enjoyable and the story kept me interested in these characters. I must admit I'm not usually a fan of female movies but this one was different. Maybe it's my interest in Ireland but I really like this movie. The best scene is when to sisters let go and give in to the music and dance. It's a powerful moment.

I related to the story personally because my mother returned to Ireland in 1932 for visit and I imagined what it must of been like then with the introduction of the radio. My mother's family in Glanduff got the first radio in that part of western Ireland in the 1930's and I can see them in my mind sitting around this magical box called the radio. On my trip to Ireland and to my mothers house I saw an original battery that was used in the radio they had in 1930's and it was just like the battery Aunt Kate buys at the local store in "Dancing at Lughnasa" .
'In my mother's area of the country the Foxford Woolen Mills was a major part of the area and a major employer during the 1930's and I'm sure also transformed how labor was done.

The movie ends on less of an upbeat moment than the movie but it feels real. It's a movie worth spending 90 minutes of your time with.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Irish Book Review - Tis

"Tis" by Frank McCourt is the second installment of his memoirs that continues the story started in "Angela's Ashes". The story start with Frank on a boat to America. It's a story of his personal version of the immigrant's American Dream story. It's a not an easy journey as Frank struggles to survive and make a life as a teacher in New York City.

The story resonates for me as a first generation Irish-American. McCourt writes is his prologue about how he would fight with his brothers to keep his American dream his. he learned how to share it with his brothers. I am the beneficiary of my parents American Dream that brought them to these shores in 1928. There were many years that it didn't feel like a dream growing up or I didn't appreciate the American Dream that was given to me but I've come to appreciate it and be thankful for the great sacrifices my parents made.

McCourt and my life were different but I went through my own version of trying to make my way from being a high school drop out in the South Bronx through multiple factory jobs, a return to school with a GED and eventually studying in a MA program in Creative Writing at City College to a brief stint as a teacher in the Bronx to where I am today.

I identify with his struggle as a teacher and I found his story of his family life fascinating. I know the landscape McCourt writes about.

His description of his father and his relationship with him is tragic and yet very real. Having just recently connected with my family on both my mother's and father's side in Ireland I have made the reverse journey back to discover Ireland and family. It's been a great adventure and has served to connect all the dots in my life in a way I never expected.

His writing is candid and moving. "Tis" is a book worth reading. A reviewer wrote that he survived his life to tell his tale. I feel the same about my life and hopefully I will be able to tell an entertaining and interesting tale in my writing.

Reading "Tis" has refocused me and re inspired me to spend more time writing the autobiography I never completed for my MA program many years ago. So I'm going to start writing my story and I'm going to move on to read his next book "Teacher Man." I'm also going to listen to his reading of the book on CD so I can hear the language of someone who is a great storyteller.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Irish Movie Review - The Field "1990"

The Field is a powerful film worth watching for it's story, directing, acting and especially for it's portrayal of Ireland. I'm sure I would have enjoyed it whenever I watched it but I don't think it would have connected as emotionally as it did after my second trip to my mother's home in the West of Ireland in the mountains of Glanduff in County Mayo.

My cousin Tony suggested I watch the film after we took a long walk in the mountains behind my mother's home. My cousin John who lives in Ireland took us back to a home that was built of stones back in the late 1800's or early 1900's. It was amazing to see what they built and the land they cleared of huge boulders to survive in those hard times. It's so hard to imagine the daily struggle my ancestor's went through just to survive. We talked about how important the land was to everyone.

So when I watched The Field i felt how emotionally connected Bull Mcabe was to the land. The Field has a similiar story of sorts to the classic "The Quiet Man" with John Wayne. In both movies an American of Irish descent comes back to buy the land and a struggle occurs. The Field unlike The Quiet Man is not a feel good movie but a dark movie showing the harshness of rural life in Ireland. It makes you understand why so many Irish left for a better and maybe easier life.

The Field is the story of a tenant farmer Bull Mccabe who's son terrorizes the owner who rents the land to them. She decides to sell the farm at an auction to the highest bidder and of course Bull knows no one will bid against him until a newly arrived American does. The outcome is tragic but powerful.

The Field was Jim Sheridan's second directorial effort and he did a fantastic job. He is one of my favorite directors.

Watch this movie to appreciate the history of Ireland and the attachment to the land the Irish had in rural Ireland. It's a story of a proud, strong people. This movie helped me understand my history especially fo my mother's family who grw up in the mountains of Glanduff in a place very similiar to this movie.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Irish Movie Reviews - The Undertones


I watched this Documentary at a event of the Los Angels Irish Film Festival a few weeks ago. It was an interesting and enjoyable film about a band that was formed in Derry, Northern ireland in 1975. I had never heard of them and found myself enjoying the music. It is also an interesting look at a group of young people who had to navigate their way through the politics and hatred that engulfed Derry at the time. Their music appealed to both Catholics and Protestants. If you get a chance check it out....

Friday, September 12, 2008

Irish Movie Review - "My Left Foot" 1989

Just finished watching "My Left Foot" after many years. Wow, what an amazing film. Jim Sheridan does a fantastic job as the director of this moving true tale of Christy Moore. It's an inspirational movie and Daniel Day-Lewis gives one of the best performances of his career.

It's a great family story of Ireland and the love and hardship experienced by this family raising a son suffering from Cerebral Palsy. The story of Christy's overcoming his handicap and painting and writing with his left foot is truly a story that puts our normal life struggles in perspective.

A friend of mine Paul Heller was the Executive Producer of " My Left Foot" and brought us one of the best films to come out of Ireland. I recommend you check it out.....

Monday, September 8, 2008

Irish Movie Review - "The Secret of Roan Inish" 1994

I watched "The Secret of Roan Inish" years ago when it came out and remember enjoying it at the time. Years alter watching it again I still enjoyed the storytelling that captures the myths and faery tales of Ireland and mixes them with a story of a tough childhood in Ireland. It's a magical story of a little girl who goes to live with her grandparents who live by the sea across from Roan Inish. She discovers her long lost brother and reunites the family in a story that could only be told in ireland.
It's a great family movie to watch with your children.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Irish Movie Review - "Into The West"

"Into The West" was released in 1993 starring Gabriel Byrne and Ellen Barkin. The movie was set in a gritty section of Dublin prior to the economic boom that has improved the conditions in Ireland dramatically. A story of a Traveller's family who discover a magical white horse. It's a gritty story of a dad that has turned into an alcoholic after the loss of his wife and his two sons mother. The two son's are just great together.

It's a movie I would have loved to worked on or made. It's a delightful adventure.

If you haven't saw it I highly recommend it. It's a great family film with an uplifting ending and a tale of redemption with a little touch of the magic that is Ireland.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Irish Movie & Book Reviews

My 2nd trip to Ireland this year has got me focused on reading as many books on Ireland and watching all the movies made about Ireland and Irish -Americans. I've seen some of the movies before and I'm watching them again now based on having seen parts of Ireland twice and connecting to my family roots. I intend to write reviews of the books and movies as I finish them and carve out the time to write.

Some of the movies I will be writing about are:

The Field - (recommended by my cousin Tony O'Donnell )
The Wind That Shakes the Barley
The Undertones
48 Angels
Michael Collins
Into The West
My Left Foot
- produced by a friend Paul Heller ( Member of the Los Angeles Irish Film Festival Board)
The Secret of Roan Inish

and many more..... I have a queue of 50 Irish theme films on my Blockbuster's account.

Some of the books I will be writing about:

Foxford - Through the Gates of Time ( given to me as a gift by my cousin Sharon Burton) - This was the "big" town my mother went down the hill to as a young girl.It was also the location of our family reunion at the Mayfly Hotel.
Attymas - Bridie Patten ( given to me by my cousin John Quinn) - This was my mother's parish as a young girl in Ireland.
Tis - Frank McCourt
How the Irish Saved Civilization

I previously wrote about 2 excellent books about Ireland and Irish-Americans:

The Pope's Children
The Billionaire Who Wasn't

I look forward to this adventure and exploration of Ireland and Irish-American stories and history in books and film.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Irish Film Festival - Los Angles Oct 2-5th


October 2nd,3rd,4th & 5th




Check out their website..... come see the latest in irish Film

Volunteers Needed

Contact Lisa Mclaughlin-strassman and/or John Lyons

Mention: John Duffy

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ireland Homecoming - # 2 St Patrick's Day 2008 - Foxford

I left off my Ireland Homecoming story a while ago with the following paragraph.
We arrive on top of the hill after a fifteen minute drive. The door opens and I see my 94 year old Aunt Maggie. It's a very emotional reunion. She's crying, my niece is crying and I'm crying and we are hugging each other and all talking at the same time about the miracle that brought us back together........To be continued.........

Here is the 2nd chapter.....

It's two day later and I have made the acquaintance of just a few of my relatives and they have planned the main reunion at the Mayfly Hotel Restaurant in Foxford. It's St. Patrick's Day about 7 pm and I enter to see the large banner hanging welcoming us back to Ireland. My Cousin Tony made the banner to welcome us back home. The last time my mother was in Ireland was 1932 and here we were in Ireland for the first time making the trip my mother always wanted to make. We were carrying out her dream of going home and seeing her sister and family. It was an overwhelming moment.

To be continued.....

Slowly relatives began to trickle in and introductions were made and we tried to make connections, fill in the missing links and become acquainted with our family. Relatives were there from Ireland, England, Hungary and America and others were there in spirit from Canada and Australia. After everyone arrived I started off with a little introduction to who we were and how the evening came about. I gave thanks to Aunt Maggie for here requests to Cousin Sharon to find the lost relatives in America. I gave thanks to Sharon's tireless spirit of tracking us and our cousins the Gavin's down. Sharon's dad Tony spoke and gave us the history, Sharon read a moving poem she wrote and had us all crying. She thanked my niece for her persistence if finding our other cousins the Gavin's in the U.S. Cousin Seamus spoke and also gave us some historical context of the Irish emigration and our families experience of it and presented flowers to Sharon for making this happen. My daughter Sofia played "Danny Boy" and "Amazing Grace" on her flute with some assistance from her cousin Georgi.

So after the speeches we ate, drank, the kids played and we talked and had a great craic. Aunt Maggie and Cousin Marie played all night with the seven kids.

One of the highlights of the evening was my Aunt Maggie singing many Irish songs for us. Her rendition of a "Mother's Love" had me crying and thinking about my mother.I never in my wildest imagination expected to find my family and be reunited. It was the greatest night of my life or as my Aunt Maggie would say, "It was Mighty". A truly miraculous St. Patrick's Day. What a welcome home. I'll forever be grateful to Aunt Maggie and Cousin Sharon and my Cousin Tony for making this happen. This night and this reunion was also the greatest gift I could ever give my daughter.

A Song For Ireland

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Irish Fair - Irvine CA June 22

I went to the Irish Fair today in Irvine, CA and enjoyed some good music from The Fenians, The American Wake , Sligo Rags, Brother, The Los Angeles Police Dept. Bagpipe Players and a host of other performers. It was a scorcher in Irvine but I enjoyed the traditional dancers, the food , the Irish culture and the great energy. I finished up the day listening to a great rendition of Danny Boy by the Fenians.

The Fenian's Danny Boy

Monday, June 16, 2008

Father's Day - In Honor of My Dad

In 1928 he traveled from Cookstown, Northern Ireland to Ellis Island, New York City. It was a six week boat ride. He worked as a butcher in a meat plant "Plymouth Rock" in the South Bronx. He became a US citizen and in 1942 joined the US Army and left for the Philippines to serve in WW II. He married my mother weeks before leaving. He returned to the US in 1946 and went back to work in the meat plant. Ten years later he died of Pneumonia. I didn't get to know him well but I know this; he was brave enough to come to America to make a better life for himself, he was brave enough to choose to join the Army and serve, I know he was a hard working man and I know he gave me a better life.

So I honor him this Father's Day and remember him. Thanks Pops.......

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dublin - It's a Beautiful Day

I spent only 6 hours in Dublin in March but I fell in love with the city. I can't wait to spend more time there.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Road to Peace

McAleese honours the 'debt' owed to young bomb victims

the relationship between Ireland and Britain is now the best it has ever been, President Mary McAleese said yesterday during her visit to England.

The president was speaking at the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace, set up following the IRA bomb attack in Warrington in March 1993.

Tim Parry (12) and three-year-old Johnathan Ball were killed and 56 people were injured when two bombs were detonated in the Cheshire town's main shopping street.

At the centre, President McAleese held a private meeting with the foundation's founders, Tim's parents, Colin and Wendy Parry, who issued the invitation for her to see its work when they met former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern earlier this year.

She said: "The peace we now enjoy has been built at such an awful cost but built it has been, thanks to those who, despite terrible suffering, have always believed in the capacity of the human person to change, to open up to others they once despised, to make friends of strangers, to make good neighbours of old enemies.

"And, I think, that is the debt we owe to children like Johnathan and children like Tim.''

Mrs McAleese went on to Liverpool for an address to students at the Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King.

In her speech, 'The Road to Peace -- With a Little Help From Our Friends', the president said: "When the laurels are being rightly given to the major and well-known protagonists like Bertie Ahern as taoiseach and prime minister Blair for the success of the peace process, it is also important to acknowledge the wind at their backs.

"That came from the irrepressible hope of tens of thousands of everyday men, women and children who refused to accept sectarianism, who reached out across the chasms of fear and mistrust, who quite simply took risks for peace."

- Mike Hornby

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Gemma Hayes - Gaelic & English Songs

I came across this singer in Irish Abroad.... Worth listening to....

A Gem of a Singer

May 29, 2008
by Mike Farragher

She is an Irish sister-in-arms to Jewel and Dido, offering an enticing package of lilting poetry, catchy acoustic melodies and a come hither persona that comes at you loud and clear, despite her penchant for whispering throughout The Hollow of Morning.
With this much looks and talent on her side, Hayes is poised to make it big here. iTunes recently named Hollow of the Morning a “hot pick,” and she will be supporting her old pals Bell X1 as they make a run for New York audiences on June 4 at Irving Plaza. This will be a killer double bill, so get your tickets now!

For more information, visit

Gaelic - Night on My Side

English - Ran For Miles

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Gaelic Music - Kila

A Mother's Love

I first heard this song when my 94 year old Aunt Maggie sang this at our family reunion on St Patrick's Day in Foxford, Ireland 2008. It brought lots of tears to my eyes. I hope to post her version one day soon.....

Irish Music Video - Gaelic

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

3rd Year Irish Films Won Awards at Cannes

This is the third year in a row that Ireland has been honoured at Cannes, with the Ken Loach film 'The Wind that Shakes The Barley' and 'Garage' having received awards previously.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Irish-UK Co Production Film "Hunger" wins at Cannes

British artist Steve McQueen, who directed THE FILM Hunger , dealing with the death of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, received the Camera d'Or award at the closing ceremony of the Festival de Cannes last night.

The prize was accepted by director Steve McQueen, the British artist who won the Turner Prize in 1999. "I'm very proud for myself and the marvellous cast and crew I had on this film," McQueen told The Irish Times after the awards ceremony. "As we worked on it, I knew that we were making something special. Michael Fassbender [who plays Sands] is a star, as are Liam Cunningham and Stuart Graham, and our young actors, Liam McMahon and Brian Milligan. They are the weight, heart and soul of the film."

McQueen said last night that he identified with both sides of the political divide as he made the film.

"I'm a human being," he said. "I understand one side as much as the other. Sides don't matter to me. It is all about human beings, people in an extraordinary situation."

An Irish-UK co-production, Hunger was written by McQueen and Irish playwright Enda Walsh. It was funded by Channel 4, Northern Ireland Screen and the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland.

I have not seen the film yet but I echo the sentiment of the director in his comment "It's all about human beings". I will review the movie here after i view it......

Sunday, May 25, 2008

RadioIrish.Com - New York

Just ran across this. You can listen to the station online. Check it out.

Tribute - When New York Was Irish

I just discovered this song and I love it. I play it almost every day. It brings back great memories. I remember going to the St Patrick's parade every year with my mother. I aslo love the line in the song "we started out with nothing and ended up with it all".
The American Dream realized for the Irish who came here and helped build America.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Irish - Ellis Island Doc

I wonder what my parents felt on their arrival at Ellis Island in 1928

A Knight's Tale: Brave Boy to be King of O'Donnell Castle

A nice moving story about dreams and people making a difference...

BRAVE little Erin Logue, was yesterday made a knight in shining armour to realise the dream of a lifetime.

The nine-year-old from Loughanure, Co Donegal, rode up on his steed to be given a sword of honour at a medieval investiture ceremony in a real castle -- Solis Lough Eske Castle near Donegal town.

It was the start of a special weekend which will include a banquet in his honour before he gets to "battle" his way through enemy knights on Monday to rescue a golden Labrador in another castle, the 500-year-old O'Donnell Castle in Donegal town. He will also judge a jousting contest and other knight events.

Erin's adventure of a lifetime was all made possible by the Make a Wish Foundation when it was told of Erin's dream by a nurse at Letterkenny General Hospital.

Erin has been battling a rare cancerous brain tumour for 18 months. His illness was one of only three of its kind seen by his surgeon in the past 20 years.

His amazing courage is being recognised after he revealed his favourite dreams -- to be a knight and to own a dog.

His mum Mary said: "Erin has bounced back from his illness well and is in great form these days."

- Paddy Clancy

Irish-American Story Project

Article I wrote for Irish-American Story Project

Submit articles to them about your experiences as an Irish-American.......

Ireland at Peace - Bertie Ahern

The great day of hope has dawned

The following is an abridged version of the address by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to a Joint Meeting of the United States Congress, Washington DC, yesterday.

Your invitation to address this Joint Meeting this morning honours my country and honours me also. It reaffirms the enduring bonds of friendship and esteem between our two peoples and between our two republics. Those bonds have been built and nurtured and refreshed over the centuries. America and Ireland have something that goes beyond a friendship between countries. To be an Irishman among Americans is to be at home. So, Madam Speaker, I stand here before you as a proud son of Ireland. And I stand with you as a steadfast friend of the United States of America.

Parnell turned to the United States, as have many Irish leaders since, as we strove to emulate the achievements of America and to vindicate the principles that inspired your founding fathers: the principles of liberty, of equality and of justice.
In the early part of the last century, Eamon de Valera came here seeking help as Ireland struggled for her independence. In more recent times, many Irish leaders have come here in the quest for peace in Northern Ireland. Whenever we have asked for help, America has always been there for us -- a friend in good times and in bad.From the very outset, Ireland gave to America presidents, patriots and productive citizens of a new nation.....

The Irish helped to build America.

The New Ireland -- once a place so many left -- is now a place to which so many come....

The Irish are to be found in the police departments and the fire houses, in the hospitals, the schools and the universities, in the board rooms and on the construction sites, in the churches and on the sports fields of America.
Their contribution is seen in much of the great literature, film, art and music that America has given to the world. Each of them is a green strand woven into the American dream.
In all of America, there is Irish America.

On September 11, 2001, some of the most terrible, evil events in world history occurred. Close to Ellis Island, near this very building and in the skies and fields of Pennsylvania.
It is a day that is etched into the memory of all humanity.
On that day, Father Mychal Judge, the chaplain of the New York Fire Department and the son of Irish immigrants from Co Leitrim, rushed to the World Trade Centre to help those who were in danger and to minister to the injured and the dying. Along with so many other good, innocent people, Fr Mike died inside the Twin Towers that day. He was officially designated Victim Number 1. Of course, he was no more important than any other victim. He was just a simple man of faith and of courage trying to help others. In recognition of the bravery of all who died on that terrible day, I am deeply honoured to be joined here today by some of Fr Mike's comrades from the New York Fire Department and New York Police Department. I honour them and all of their fallen comrades -- those who fell on that day and all who have fallen doing their duty to serve the people.
There was a day of national mourning in Ireland after 9/11. Every city, town and village fell silent in remembrance of the dead.

Ar Dheis De go raibh a nanam dilis go leir.

In Ireland, we firmly believe our experience of hardship and of forced emigration is at an end. For that achievement, too, we owe so much to America.
Our two countries are reaping the rewards together. We are investing in each other's economies, bringing together our entrepreneurial energy and creating employment across Ireland and across America. That is the true measure of our economic achievements together. It points to a friendship every bit as strong in the future as it is today.

This year, in Ireland, we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. It was a defining moment in Ireland's history. In the years since then, some doubted that the Agreement would endure.
I never did.
I knew it would last because it is built on the highest ideals of democracy -- the ideals of liberty, of equality, of justice, of friendship and of respect for our fellow men and women. Above all, the settlement of 1998 will flourish because of one simple and unalterable fact.It represents the will, democratically expressed, North and South, of all of the people of Ireland to live together in peace. That is far more powerful than any words of hatred or any weapon of terror.

On St Patrick's Day 2008, a few short weeks ago, I came here to Washington. I came with a simple and extraordinary message: That great day of hope has dawned. Our prayer has been answered. Our faith has been rewarded. After so many decades of conflict, I am so proud, Madam Speaker, to be the first Irish leader to inform the United States Congress: Ireland is at peace.

Our dream, and the dream of all of the friends of Ireland in America and across the world, has come true. To you, to your predecessors and to all of the American leaders from both sides of the aisle who have travelled with us, we offer our heartfelt gratitude. We also recognise the steadfast support of President Bush, of President Clinton, their administrations, their envoys and of their predecessors.

Do not underestimate the good you have done. Do not forget the legacy you have forged. And if ever you doubt America's place in the world, or hesitate about your power to influence events for the better, look to Ireland.
Look to the good you have done. Look at the richness of so many individual futures that now stretch out before us for generations, no longer subject to conflict and violence. Look to the hope and confidence that we now feel on our island.
The healing of history. Look and be glad.

An American President once said: "The supreme purpose of history is a better world".
Making a better world is also the supreme purpose of representative politics in our two democratic republics.

I will shortly step down from the office of Taoiseach after almost 11 years.
I am honoured to have been elected by the Irish people to serve them in that great office.

On May 6, I will go to that famous field on the banks of the River Boyne in Ireland where, over three centuries ago, fierce and awful battle was waged between the Protestant King William and the Catholic King James....

Today, both sides, proud of their history and confident of their identity, can come together in peace and part in harmony. They can offer each other the open hand of friendship. They will reaffirm again what Ireland has achieved and what we know in our hearts to be true.
Centuries of war, of strife and of struggle are over, and over for good. The field of slaughter is now a meeting place of mutual understanding.
Our children will live in peace. And their children will enjoy the fruits of their inheritance. This is the triumph of people and of politics. This is the achievement of democracy. The great achievement of Ireland and the great blessing of peace.

There are no finer words with which to finish and upon which to say: In history, in politics and in life, there are no ends, only new beginnings.

Let us begin.

Go raibh mile maith agaibh.
A thousand thanks to you.

Read the full speech......

Ireland Homecoming - #1 Glanduff Co Mayo Cead Mile Failte

The journey home started Mar 14th on a Aer Lingus flight from LAX. Feeling excited and a little anxious. Twelve hours later we land in Dublin. We need to clear customs and catch our plane to Shannon. We have less than two hours to get to our plane. It's not looking good. Customs is moving at a snails pace and airport personnel are not interested in hearing about making your next flight. An hour and forty five minutes later we have cleared custom and we're told we need to RUN to catch our flight and it's a good ten minute Run and they can't hold the plane. OK we bolt thru the airport with my 10 year old daughter in the lead. I'm sweating but running like OJ in a old Avis commercial. Ten minutes later still running but we see the gate and we just barely make it.

We sweat the whole forty five minutes to Shannon but it's all good, we made our flight. We arrive and now it's the next challenge. I have to drive three hours to Foxford. Normally no big thing but I'm exhausted, very little sleep, still tired from our run and I have to quickly adapt to driving on the other side of the road and drive from the other side of the car. I won't say the wrong side but not my comfort zone. I think I'm up for it but first I get lost looking for my rental car in the parking lot. Not a good sign. I find it and hey I'm in Ireland. I'm cool. So I start out of the airport and it's taking all my attention to not drive on the wrong side of the road. I'm not doing bad and then I run into my first roundabout....... Okay I got to read four signs very quickly and they are in two languages and I'm on overwhelm. My wife is trying to help but I am stressed big time and let's say we are both a little testy at this point. Fun, fun fun except if you're the driver and I'm the driver. The look on my face would have made a good YouTube video. Well I survived my first roundabout but there were many more to come. Next up was a narrow and I mean narrow road with rock walls on both sides and a bus coming in my direction going at least seventy and I got no room to move over. If I could have I would have closed my eyes and prayed but somehow the bus doesn't hit us. I've lose all sense of space and physics. I'm in Ireland.

Finally four hours later we arrive in Foxford and I'm happy to get out of the car. We greet my second cousin Sharon who made this miracle reunion possible. We meet her family. They have traveled from the UK to the reunion, also a long trip for them.My niece and her family has arrived already from New Jersey and we greet them. We later meet Sharon's dad and my first cousin and his wife. They also travelled from the UK a few days earlier to organize the event. We are all very happy to finally meet in person for the first time. Finally we decide that my niece Jennifer, my cousin Tony and my second cousin Sharon and myself will go up the hill tonight to meet my Aunt Maggie and my cousin Marie. Our spouses will stay with the six kids. I'm exhausted having not slept in twenty so hours but I'm used to long hours on a film set so I'm not going to let a little exhaustion get in my way.

We arrive on top of the hill after a fifteen minute drive. The door opens and I see my 94 year old Aunt Maggie. It's a very emotional reunion. She's crying, my niece is crying and I'm crying and we are hugging each other and all talking at the same time about the miracle that brought us back together........

To be continued.........

Six Degrees of Separation - Optimism

I post this article because over 20 years ago when I was a anti-arson organizer for the People's Firehouse in Brooklyn I used to play basketball with NYC Comptroller Bill Thompson. It's truly amazing to see him with two lifelong enemies from Northern Ireland coming together to make a better life for both Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. I just returned from visiting Northern Ireland for the first time in my life and hearing about the improvement the peace process has made in Northern Ireland. A testimony to optimism and how people can work together.......

NYC Pledges Millions for North
April 16, 2008
By April Drew

FIRST Minister of Northern Ireland Dr. Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness were in New York on Friday welcoming the announcement of a $150 million investment from New York Pension Funds to Northern Ireland.

New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson announced the largest U.S. investment to date since the peace process in the north at his office.

Thompson, chief advisor to the New York City Pension Funds, committed to investing $150 million with the potential of eventually reaching $750 million.

“This announcement follows the Pension Funds’ longstanding, 20-year commitment to promoting peace and equality of opportunity for all in Northern Ireland,” he said......

“Now is an attractive time for investment… in this stable political environment,” said Thompson, a probable candidate for New York Mayor next year.

Paisley, who was stunned into silence by the multi million-dollar investment — “I never thought I’d say this but I am speechless,” he said — graciously thanked Thompson and his colleagues “from the depths” of his heart and said such an investment will provide “great stimulus” to Northern Ireland at this time.

“Their decision to choose Northern Ireland as a place to do business ma-kes this a truly great day for us and for New Yo-rk,” he added.

“This in-vestment confirms that North-ern Ireland has turned a corner. We are now a sound in-vestment location that can provide the right caliber of people and projects to successfully underpin further inward investment, particularly from the U.S.,” said Paisley.

McGuinness, who accompanied Paisley on a four-day visit to the U.S. in an effort to promote the Northern Ireland investment conference in Belfast next month, described the investment as “another piece of history.”

“New York led the way and Bill Thompson put its money where its mouth is,” said McGuinness.

Read full article....

Film Ireland - It's a Beautiful Country

Book Review - The Pope's Children

I picked this book up prior to my 1st trip to Ireland and just finished it on my return. If you are interested in business, economics, culture,history or just want to expand your world I recommend you read this book. This is a thought provoking, funny, entertaining and educational book all wrapped into one. The book shows how Ireland has arrived and become a global nation. Ireland is now one of the richest nations in the world with the largest middle class.

My trip allowed me to see everything from the old rural Ireland on the west to the industrial north to the cosmopolitan Ireland in Dublin. The Pope's Children complimented my trip and opened my eyes to the new Ireland and the new Irish Dream.

Be prepared to learn a bunch of Irish words like craic (fun), as Gailge (in Irish), and failte (welcome) and also a bunch of fascinating terms and descriptions created by the writer including Expectocracy, Stakhanvite, Commentariat, Kells Angels, Deckland and many more. Reading the book in a lot of craic.

What's the most important theme of the book is the amazing economic progress Ireland has made in 10-15 years. Ireland has went from a nation that exported it's young to a nation that the young are moving back and it's an immigration magnet to Eastern Europe. It's a fascinating story of the good, bad and ugly of economic progress but it take a positive and optimistic view of the progress Ireland has made.

The book is the #1 best seller in Ireland but it's a book that will be enjoyed by everyone. Check it out.

St Patrick's Day 2008- Foxford, Co Mayo, Ireland

The O'Donnell Family Reunion - St Patrick's Day -March 17, 2008

Another Door Opens - County Mayo, ireland

Tomorrow I get on a plane and journey back to my parents past and...... Only Time......

Erin Go Bragh - We are Family

Wishing you a rainbow
For sunlight after showers
Miles and miles of Irish smiles
For golden happy hours
Shamrocks at your doorway
For luck and laughter too,
And a host of friends that never ends
Each day your whole life through!

Book Review - The Billionaire Who Wasn't by Conor O'Cleary

I just read a fascinating book about Chuck Feeney. I never heard about him before and I'm sure you probably haven't either. I picked up the book because of a quote on the back that talks about his contribution to Ireland. Mr Feeney is an Irish-American born in New Jersey to a working class family during the Great Depression. He made his billions creating the Duty Free Shops you see at airports all over the world.

The story especially resonated with me as I am a first generation Irish-American about to make my first trip to Ireland for a family reunion. His story is one of financial success, great contribution and social significance.

The story of how he made his money makes for a great read. The book tells a great story about how he created tax shelters and protected his identity while becoming the the thirty third richest man in the world.

What he has accomplished in the area of philanthropy is even more interesting. He took to heart the spirit of Andrew Carnegie and has promoted the "Giving while Living" philosophy, He has given away through his Atlantic Foundation over $1 billion dollars and is on track to giving away over $4 billion dollars while he is alive. Mr Feeney not only gave away his money but leveraged it by getting countries to match his contributions. business

If that wasn't enough Mr Feeney got involved behind the scenes in trying to support a end to the violence in Norther Ireland and to create the conditions for peace and reconciliation.

The book is truly inspiring and Chuck Feeney is a role model on many levels.

Some of Chuck Feeney's Contributions:

Education in Ireland: He funded all seven universities in the Republic of Ireland and two in Norther Ireland to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Hotel System in Ireland: He built the first large modern hotel in Ireland since WWII, The The Castletroy Park Hotel

Peace in Northern Ireland: Mr Feeney wanted to assist in taking the guns out of Irish politics. He directed over $30 million through his Atlantic Foundation to worthy projects in Northern Ireland including $2.5 million to help Republican and Loyalist ex-prisoners to move into peaceful politics.

It doesn't stop here he continued to fund education in Eastern Europe to support the move towards freedom there and other social projects in South Africa and Vietnam. His focus on finding worthy projects and worthy people provides a lot to learn from. His uniqueness was doing all this while trying to maintain his anonymity and to give credit to others instead of himself.

Mr Feeney is a truly unique individual and his story is one worth reading.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Hollywood Ending _ Family Lost and Found

The story I'm about to share is a true one but it feels more like a movie script. The story starts with my parents leaving Ireland in their 20's and journeying to America circa 1928-29. It's a story of the American Dream but it's also a story of the family lost in the process. My 1st real memory as a child was watching my father die of pneumonia in our apartment. I was four years old and the year was 1956. Shortly after my mother had a falling out with her sister and we lost contact with the only family we had in America. My mother lost contact with her family in Ireland so we grew up with only my mother, my brother and myself being our only family.

My father became a US citizen and fought in the US Army in the Philippines during WW II. He died young ten years later and I never really got to know him. My mother always dreamed of returning to Ireland and maintained her Irish citizenship. I remember going regularly with her to the post office to renew her Irish passport. My mother never returned to Ireland after the death of my father. She died in the Bronx with the dream in her heart. My mother died in the 1980's and our family was now even smaller. It was now just my brother and his family and myself. If this was the way life usually works the story would end here. But it doesn't and here it spins in a direction I could never predicted. If I was writing a script this is the point where you put in the Hollywood ending.

Flash forward to the present six months ago and I receive a call from my niece in New Jersey that a relative of ours from the UK contacted her on the Internet. After a lot of back of forth communications to decide if we were indeed related we discovered that we were. Now it gets better.

This is the story as I've come to know it so far. My second cousin in the UK traveled with her parents (my cousin) to a famous shrine in Ireland called the Shrine of Knock to pray for some divine intervention with some health issues. On that trip her great-aunt who is 93 years old requested that my cousin find out what happened to her two sisters who went to America in the 20's. One of those sisters was my mother.

My cousin from the UK in the middle of dealing with her health problems took on the mission on to find us and she did. I guess you could say that partial it had to do with the power of the Internet. But it doesn't end here. She also with the help of my niece tracked down my cousins in the US who I hadn't seen since I was 6 years old and reunited us.

My niece and myself called my Aunt in Ireland and she told us we better come there for Easter to see her. So we are headed to a family reunion in the West of Ireland, County Mayo. Family is coming from America, the UK and Ireland.

Okay so let me try to wrap my mind around this. Six months ago I had no contact with any relatives and because of a trip my cousin made to Ireland and decision she made to find the family I no have family and have been reconnected with cousins in three countries.My daughter's world has grown and she now has extended family from both parents.

In one moment life has changed forever. I guess you can say it's a story of the power of the human spirit and maybe even some Irish magic thrown in. Now I tend to be a down to earth pragmatist but this whole experience is one of those moments that make you go Hmmmmmm! It just makes me realize there is so much I'll never understand. I would go as far as to say it feels almost like a little miraculous. So if I was making this story up I might call it the "Miracle of Knock", but I'm not making it up I'm just living it. I guess I had to go to Hollywood to get a real Hollywood ending for my real life story.

So as I journey to Ireland I know I am making my mother's journey home for her and completing the circle. I know she's got to be looking down on me and crying tears of happiness and maybe ...........Hmmmmmmmmm.

Streets of The Bronx - Ireland to the Bronx and ....

My parents made the journey from Ireland to Ellis Island just in time for the Great Depression. They lived and worked in the Bronx, I was born and raised on the streets of 141st and Willis Ave. As I begin to make my trip to their homeland I reflect on my childhood in the Bronx. My next post will share the journey to Ireland.

Danny Boy Ireland - A Journey Home

Over 80 years ago my parents made the journey to America. Now I am making the journey back for a family reunion. I will share this amazing story in my next post.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008