Diverted to Charlotte, a visit to Cathedral of St. Patrick

My wife and I were diverted to Charlotte, North Carolina on our flight from Tampa, Florida to Washington, D.C., where snow and ice closed the airport. As we settled into a hotel room near the Charlotte airport Saturday night, I began looking for a place to attend Mass on the First Sunday of Lent. The Cathedral of St. Patrick, mother church of the dioceses of Charlotte, was less than five miles away.

Construction of the church began on St. Patrick’s Day, 1938, according to the church’s website, and it was consecrated in September 1939. Charlotte native John Henry Phelan, who made his fortune as a grocery wholesaler and oil producer in Beaumont, Texas, donated money to build the church in memory of his parents, Patrick and Margaret Adele Phelan. I didn’t find any family connections to Ireland in any of the online biographies, or why the church was named for Ireland’s patron saint.

Below are a few images from the church, including the stained glass image of St. Patrick behind the altar. It was a lovely High Mass, succor for not getting home as planned. In a few weeks the city will host its annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Charlotte Goes Green Festival.

Finally, here are previous post about St. Patrick’s churches in Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.

Celebrating the 150th anniversary of Yeats’ birth

“This year sees a worldwide series of creative and cultural events celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of William Butler Yeats,” Adrian Paterson begins an opinion piece in The Irish Times that serves as a good introduction to the sesquicentennial. He writes:

…Yeats was more than a poet. He was a cultural revolutionary who became a cultural entrepreneur. He began things, co-founding the Abbey Theatre, the Irish Literary Society and, with his talented family, the Cuala Press, producing designs and books from a single hand-press in Dublin. He was anything but a solitary dreamer: his collaborations with musicians, actors, dramatists, stage designers, folklorists, journalists, artists, dancers, printers, occultists, broadcasters and lovers are reflected in the vibrant range of celebratory events on offer.

There’s plenty to explore at Yeats 2015, official website for the celebration. And much more at the Yeats Society & Yeats International Summer School.

Here, from February 1915 (when he was 50) is Yeats’ “On being asked for a War Poem,” which was written less than a year into the conflict remembered today as World War I.

I think it better that in times like these 
A poet’s mouth be silent, for in truth 
We have no gift to set a statesman right; 
He has had enough of meddling who can please 
A young girl in the indolence of her youth, 
Or an old man upon a winter’s night.

Old Ireland glimpsed in 1934 James FitzPatrick travelogue

Here’s an 80-year-old travelogue of Ireland called “The Melody Isle.”

IrishCentral posted it the other day. It’s a 1934 James FitzPatrick travelogue.” The American producer, director, writer and narrator, was known from the early 1930s as “The Voice of the Globe.”

You might wince at some of the cliches, but there’s some good footage from the days of the Irish Free State, including the Lakes of Kilarney; Blarney Castle; digging, drying and loading turf on a donkey cart, the River Shannon hydroelectric plant; and Claddagh village near Galway.

Ireland is beautiful even in black and white. Enjoy!

Is deal to acquire Aer Lingus about to take off?

There’s been a lot of attention lately to the possible sale of Irish airlines Aer Lingues to International Consolidated Airlines Group, or IAG.

At issue is whether the Republic of Ireland sells its 25.1 percent share of the airline, best know for the iconic green shamrock on the tail wing. IAG has said it wants state approval for the deal.


“There is, however, another scenario: IAG could still pick up the remaining 74.9 percent of the airline,” The Irish Times reported 7 February. “The institutional shareholders are said to be happy with the price, while many of the retail shareholders stand to gain handsomely.”

The proposed deal is said to be worth 1.36 billion euro ($1.5 billion).

Doubts about whether IAG keeps current employment rates at the airline and maintains popular routes to England’s Heathrow are making Irish politicians nervous ahead of 2016 elections. “If IAG are going to do something they have to do it very quickly if the entrenched positions people have been forced to take are to be unwound,” a senior government source told Reuters.

Herald.ie notes that although Aer Lingus is technically no longer the national airline, “the average Irishman and woman has an extraordinary attachment to it.” The editorial continues:

Aer Lingus was one of the first success stories of the fledgling Irish state. It remains a source of national pride and identity. Despite the proliferation in recent times of budget airlines, many of us still prefer to fly with our one-time national carrier – as Aer Lingus passenger numbers indicate.

Aer Lingus was founded by the Irish government in 1936 to provide air services between Ireland and the UK, according to this company history. The first transatlantic service to New York began in 1958.

The name Aer Lingus translates as “Air Fleet” from the Irish word for “long,” as meaning a “ship.” Here’s a four-part history produced for the airline’s 75th anniversary in 2011. Each segment runs seven minutes: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; and Part 4.

And here’s more history from the Historical Aviation Society of Ireland, compiled five years before the 75th anniversary.


In other aviation news, Icelandic budget airline WOW announced new routes between Dublin and Boston and Washington, D.C., with stops in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital. Flights begin in October and will take 12 to 13 hours, including the stopover.

The D.C. flights will use Baltimore-Washington Airport, not Dulles or Reagan. Depending on traffic and mode of transportation, that’s about 45 minutes to 90 minutes from the heart of D.C.

Old stage coach route in Kerry transformed into hike trails

I came across this feature about the transformation of an early 19th century stage coach route through historic villages and sites in County Kerry into new 8-day and 11-day self-guided hikes.

This History Ireland piece gives extensive background about the Charles Bianconi coach system that revolutionized public transport throughout Ireland. And more about the system from The Irish Story.

Bianconi’s cars, Bians as they were popularly called, had by 1857 opened up Ireland –  opened it to trade, and a novelty, to tourists. …[T]he cars were all but totally safe. Bianconi and his cars were so popular that they could travel anywhere in Ireland, by day or night, in troubled times or peaceful ones, without molestation.

Finally, Irish Central recently posted this photo feature about “the Kingdom that is Kerry.”

Debate heats up over separation of church, state and schools

Debate in Ireland is heating up about the role of religion in managing school admissions. The Humanist Association of Ireland is calling for a ban on baptism certificates or other proof of a child’s religious affiliation.

Brian Whiteside, an official with the secularist group, told The Irish Times:

There is a new reality that has to be addressed. One third of couples are getting married in non-religious ceremonies. It’s reasonable to ask what sort of schools they want for their children.

The HAI says it “promotes the ideals and values of Humanism, working for people who choose to live an ethical life without religion.” The organization has made strong inroads in Ireland’s marriage ceremony business, as the Irish Independent reported last summer.

About 257,000 of 4.5 million living in the Republic in 2011, or just under 6 percent, said they had no religion. Catholics remained the majority at about 85 percent, according to the Central Statistics Office, and the church controls about 90 percent of Ireland’s primary schools.

The schools debate is more than just the usual separation of church and state struggle. It also brings full circle a vision for the Irish education system that began in the first half of the 19th century, long before independence.

Historian Diarmaid Ferriter writes this opinion column in the Times about Thomas Davis, a Young Irelander, poet and journalist, who argued for a state-endowed secular system of third-level education based on national colleges. Davis believed a “mixed education” was a vital component of an inclusive form of nationality in Ireland.

Deenihan addresses Washington’s Irish community

Irish Minister for Diaspora Affairs Jimmy Deenihan says he is within weeks of issuing “a new strategy to improve Ireland’s connection with the diaspora.”

The policy paper is part of the government’s review of its relationship with Ireland’s scattered sons and daughters. It has been in the works since Deenihan, a Fine Gael TD from north Kerry, was appointed to the new ministerial post in July and is based on interviews with individuals and submissions from Irish organizations from around the world.

Deenihan is a on a four-day visit to Washington, D.C. and Boston. He addressed the annual meeting and reception of Irish Network-DC at the Embassy of Ireland in Washington on 22 January. (Full disclosure: I am a member of Irish Network-DC.)

Kerry T.D. Jimmy Deenihan at the Embassy of Ireland in Washington on Jan. 22.

Kerry T.D. Jimmy Deenihan at the Embassy of Ireland in Washington on Jan. 22.

Deenihan noted how the Irish diaspora maintained a strong relationship with the homeland through the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. But new measures are needed to meet the challenges of the 21st century, especially engaging the younger generation of Irish emigrants, he said.

The global Irish diaspora is estimated at 70 million people, including about half in the U.S. Some 156,000 people born in the Republic of Ireland were living in America at the start of the 21st century, with an estimated 50,000 Irish currently living in the country illegally.

Deenihan told The Irish Times he doesn’t think the new Republican majority in Congress can stop President Obama from sparing four million illegal immigrants of various nationalities from deportation. He said undocumented Irish should start preparing the paperwork required for temporary relief from deportation under Obama’s executive order.

Deenihan was less specific about immigrant issues in his talk at the Embassy. He mentioned meeting with Congressman Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, and other members of the new majority “because they are the ones in power.” But he suggested Republicans “will work together” with Congressional Democrats on Ireland’s behalf.

As for the forthcoming policy paper and improving relations with the diaspora, Deenihan said groups such as Irish Network-DC and 18 other chapters under the umbrella Irish Network USA organization are critical.

He also said his office would begin reaching out to alumni of Irish universities, regardless of where they were born, who can help Ireland with economic development and other opportunities. Tech companies working in Ireland such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google are also being asked to help build connections.

“That should suit the Irish diaspora quite well because we are spread so wide,” Deenihan said.

Irish art exhibit to open in Chicago

Deenihan announced that he will open a major exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. “Ireland: Crossroads of Art and Design, 1690 – 1840″ will feature more than 300 objects from public and private collections.

An exhibition of 18th century decorative and fine arts from Ireland has never been undertaken on either side of the Atlantic, according to AIC. The exhibit opens on St. Patrick’s Day and continues through June 7.

The Irish in Pittsburgh, circa 1930

In 1930, U.S. Census enumerators recorded for the first time whether Irish immigrants hailed from the Irish Free State or Northern Ireland. A decade had passed since the island’s partition during the Irish War of Independence and Civil War. In America, the Great Depression was barely two years old, and the Irish here were still transitioning from a mostly downtrodden people to among the most successful immigrant groups to ever reach these shores.

Many tens of thousands of these Irish immigrants populated the American cities of Boston, Chicago and Pittsburgh. In 1930, my grandparents and their four children (two more came later), plus other relatives from Kerry, were among those being counted in the Pennsylvania city.

In his excellent Townland of Origin website/blog, Joe Buggy recently posted about a set of maps from the National Historic Geographical Information System showing the 1930 distribution of first and second generation Irish immigrants in these three cities. As Buggy notes:

There can sometimes be ambiguity as to whether a first generation immigrant is the foreign-born person who immigrated or their native-born children. Social science researchers and demographers mostly refer to the first generation as those who are foreign-born and immigrated to the U.S.

The three NHGIS maps are below, and under that is a map of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. My grandparents settled in Hazelwood, shown in dark blue inside the deep bend of the Monongahela River (at bottom) from the area extending to the 5 position of a clock face. There, up to 30 percent of the residents were Irish, and the percentage reached up to 60 percent in the adjoining Greenfield section.

Map 1930 NHGIS



Aspects of the Famine in north Kerry, 1845 – 1852

Continuing the Famine theme of the previous post, I’ve been reading and studying a new book: “Teampall Bán: Aspects of the Famine in north Kerry,” by John D. Pierse. As regular readers of this blog know, this part of Ireland is where my maternal grandmother and grandfather emigrated from (1912 and 1913, respectively) and is of great interest to me.

“The graveyard which has come to symbolize the Famine for the north Kerry an Listowel areas is undoubtedly Teampall Bán, located on the outskirts of the town off the Ballybunion Road, just beyond the old Lartigue railway overbridge,” Pierse writes in his Preface.

Back, left and front, right, of the book.

Back, left and front, right, of the book.

The Kerryman reports:

Seven years in the making, “Aspects of the Famine” focuses on the Listowel Union area comprised of the baronies of Iraghticonnor and Clanmaurice – encompassing pretty much all of rural Kerry north of Tralee. John along with his son Maurice, historian Kay Moloney Caball (My Kerry Ancestors), researcher Martina Flynn and former Institute of Advanced Studies Professor Pádraig de Brún painstakingly analysed as many records as they could find pertaining to the Listowel Workhouse, where so many perished, Listowel Presentation Convent and much else.

The book is to have its formal launch on 22 January in Listowel and will benefit the local Tidy Towns organization. For book orders contact Mary Hanlon at maryehanlon@hotmail.com.

Sultan’s aid to Famine Ireland: new telling of an old tale

In 1847 a Sultan of the Ottoman Empire provided relief to Ireland during the Great Hunger, An Gorta Mor. That the ruler sent money appears beyond dispute. Whether he also directed shiploads of food to the Irish port of Drogheda, County Louth, is more of a mystery.

Freelance writer Tom Verde has produced a well-researched telling of this old tale in the Jan./Feb. 2015 issue of AramcoWorld magazine, which is dedicated to Arabic and Islamic cultures.

Whatever the truth, this chapter in the history of “The Great Hunger” has nonetheless been immortalized in paint and in stone, and may yet be made into a feature film—should the ambitions of Turkish producer Omer Sarikaya be fulfilled. Yet, at its heart lies the undisputed fact of a generous gesture on the part of an Ottoman ruler toward a people to whom he owed nothing but the mercy required of him by faith and personal character.

Here’s a link to the full story.

Former Irish President Mary McAleese was criticized for believing too much of the story during her 2010 visit to Turkey. Verde reports the proposed movie, in the works since 2012, will be released later this year.

The nearly 170-year-old story appears to have gained new popularity in the age of the Internet, as well as increased attention to the relations between Islam and the West.

There were nearly 50,000 Muslims living in Ireland in April 2011, “a sharp rise on five years previously,” the Central Statistics Office reported in October 2012.  From 1991 to 2011, the number of Muslims increased from just 0.1 to 1.1 per cent of the total population.