Keep the night of March 14, 2017 open on your calendar for Irish Heritage Night at the Florida Panthers:
On a recent rare rainy day here in South Florida, I read the new historical novel “The Bishop’s Curse” by Orlando-based author Raff Ellis. This fascinating book, based upon real people and events, combines an Irish immigrant’s rags-to-riches saga with a unique history of the early Catholic Church in America’s battle for absolute control of its religious and secular assets. This battle is recollected through the sometimes vicious conflict between the Irish laity of an upstate New York parish and its unpopular, ambitious and avaricious priest and an archbishop determined to break the authority of state laws governing church property and finances.
In St. James Parish, this conflict between church and state became unhinged. The year was 1860, and while the nation teetered on the brink of the Civil War, another sort of rebellion had broken out in the little town of Carthage, NY.
For the mid-19th Century Irish Catholic church members of St. James Parish, this rebellion against their priest and bishop was a life-changing event that many believed endangered their immortal souls, and that some believed became mortal victims of the Bishop’s curse.
This unique and engaging book is a must-read for fans of Irish-American history and high drama. Raff Ellis, an accomplished historian and talented storyteller, brings back to life a remarkably colorful slice of Irish-American history. I couldn’t put this book down until I’d read it cover to cover.
Video of The Bishop’s Curse.
About the Author, Raff Ellis.
O’Kennedy’s Ireland is a 70 minute documentary video on HULU about John F. Kennedy’s 1963 visit to Ireland.
For four days in 1963, President John F. Kennedy visited Ireland, the home of his ancestors. This film documents Kennedy’s historic trip, following him through Ireland’s countryside and cities as he greeted its people and made some memorable speeches. The vintage film clips in this wonerdful video show Ireland as it was before the Celtic Tiger economy and Eurozone membership changed the landscape of Ireland forever. Learn about the colorful and romantic history of the Emerald Isle and the O’Kennedys.
Watch O’Kennedy’s Ireland on Hulu: http://www.hulu.com/watch/401298
For 62 years, the Kennedys owned a mansion on the ocean in Palm Beach, Florida, where President John F. Kennedy maintained a “Winter White House” during his presidency. Read the article about the Kennedys’ Palm Beach home HERE.
Many of the customs that we now associate with a traditional American Christmas are neither traditionally American nor very old. Christmas celebrations were frowned upon in colonial America. In fact, the Puritans of New England considered Christmas celebrations to be pagan and idolatrous, a common view in New England that did not change until the late 19th century. It was not until after the Civil War, when the Irish gained political clout in America, that Christmas became widely celebrated and was made a federal holiday in 1870.
Some of the traditional American Christmas customs that originated in Ireland:
Candle in the window – The custom of placing a candle in the window on Christmas Eve began in Ireland during the time when Catholics were being persecuted by the English in order to denote a safe house for priests to perform a Christmas mass. The candle in the window symbolized a welcome to Mary and Joseph as they looked for shelter on Christmas Eve. In Ireland, the candle was traditionally lit by the youngest member of the household and extinguished only by a female named “Mary”.
Christmas wreath on the door – The Christmas custom of placing a holly wreath on the door also originated in Ireland. Holly plants flourished in Ireland around Christmas time, and provided the poor with an ample and colorful source of Christmas decorations. In Ireland, it was considered bad luck to take down the decorations before January 6th, known there as “Little Christmas Day”.
Milk and cookies for Santa Claus – The American custom of leaving a plate of milk and cookies for Santa Claus began in Ireland as the “Laden Table”. After the evening meal on Christmas Eve, the kitchen table was cleared and then set again with a lighted candle, a pitcher of milk and a loaf of sweet bread filled with raisins and caraway seeds. The door to the house was left unlocked, so that Mary and Joseph (or any other travelers in need) could enter and have something to eat. The association with Santa Claus is an American adaptation.
Door to door Christmas caroling – The custom of walking from door to door singing Christmas carols began in Ireland as the celebration of “Wren’s Day” on December 26th, also celebrated as St. Stephen’s Day. There are several traditions in Ireland linking Jesus and the wren bird. Originally, the celebration involved people carrying either an effigy of a wren or an actual caged wren, travelling from house to house playing music, singing and dancing. These celebrants were called “wren boys” and “mummers”.
“Merry Christmas” – This traditional American Christmas greeting began in Gaelic Ireland as “Nollaig Shona Duit”, pronounced “null-ig hun-a dit”, which literally means “Happy Christmas”.
To help put you in the Irish spirit of Christmas, watch Moya Brennan’s “An Irish Christmas” video:
Irish television production company Animo TV is producing a new six-part documentary series called The Gathering – Homeward Bound for RTÉ, Ireland’s national television network. As part of this series, they are filming six well-known Irish people who currently live abroad.
One of those being profiled is Irish comedian Brendan Grace (of the famous Liberties in Dublin), who has been living with his family in Florida since 1994. The production company will be filming Brendan Grace at Paddy Mac’s Irish pub in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida on Sunday, September 23, 2012 at 4:00 PM. The producers would love to have a large crowd of Irish and Irish-Americans there for the filming. They are also interested in speaking with Irish or Irish-Americans living in Florida. Paddy Mac’s is located at 10971 North Military Trail in Palm Beach Gardens. Directions can be found on the pub’s website.
The Gathering Ireland 2013 initiative is a massive tourism campaign, inviting everyone with Irish connections to “come home” to Ireland next year. Over 70 million people worldwide claim Irish ancestry. The campaign is being supported by Fáilte Ireland, the Irish tourist board, and Tourism Ireland. It promises to be Ireland’s biggest tourism initiative ever and reaches out to those who have moved away, their relatives, friends and descendants, and invites them home. Throughout 2013, there will be a series of events in Ireland to celebrate Irish history, traditions, families, culture, business and sport.
Here is a link to the official video about The Gathering Ireland 2013: http://www.youtube.com/embed/x2WylVJB4AY?rel=0&wmode=transparent
Here is a link to The Gathering Ireland 2013 website: http://www.thegatheringireland.com/About.aspx
“The Island” is a beautiful 78-minute film produced by RTÉ, Ireland’s national broadcasting network. It combines low-level aerial photography of Ireland’s natural and man-made wonders, a haunting soundtrack and an educational narrative, weaving history, archaeology, geography, psychology and sociology to answer the question: How have the Irish been shaped by their island’s unique landscape?
Click on the photo above to watch the entire video on Youtube
This powerful, moving and insightful documentary tells this story of the Irish immigrant experience in America from the colonial period of 1650 through the turn of the 20th century, including the Irish involvement in the American Revolution, the age of Jackson, the Mexican and Civil Wars, the Calfornia Gold Rush and the taming of the American West. It is a tale of how resilient people turned poverty into prosperity and changed the American continent forever. Contrasted is the suffering of the Irish living at home under British Rule and their fight for freedom and justice.
Hurling is the traditional sport of the Irish, dating back over 3000 years. It is the world’s oldest continuously played sport. It is fast and physical, like the people who play it.
The Basic Rules of Hurling:
1. A game of hurling is played by two teams. Each team is comprised of up to 15 players.
2. The player breakdown is as follows:
6 Defensive Players
2 Mid-Field Players
6 Offensive Players
3. Players pair up with their opposite marks.
1. A game or match usually consists of two halves of 25-35 minutes.
2. The sliotar (ball) cannot be picked up from the ground directly with the hand. The hurley must be used to roll, jab, lift or flick the sliothar into the hand.
3. The sliotar can be caught while in the air or bouncing along the ground.
4. The sliotar can be transferred to the hand at most twice. If the sliotar touches the ground, the count is reset.
5. The sliotar can be hit with the hurley on the ground or in the air.
6. The sliotar can also be kicked or hand passed, using one hand for the entire movement. The sliotar cannot be thrown.
7. The sliotar can be kept in the hand for at most 4 consecutive steps or the length of time to take 4 steps.
8. The sliotar can be balanced on the stick for an unlimited time.
1. Touching the sliotar directly with a hand while it is on the ground.
2. Overplaying the sliotar by catching it more than twice with the hand or running for more than four steps while in the hand.
3. Physically challenging a player while the sliotar is not present (off the ball challenge) or by playing in an aggressive and illegal manner.
4. A player may not grab or hold another player’s hurley.
1. Hurling is a physical game and a certain amount of contact is permitted, provided it is in attempting to gain possession of the sliotar.
2. A fair shoulder charge is permitted.
1. A point is scored when the sliotar is hit over the crossbar, which is above the goal keeper, and between the goal posts.
2. A goal is scored when the sliothar is hit under the cross bar and into the goal between the goal posts. A goal is worth 3 points.
3. Goals and points can be scored from play or from ‘set pieces’ such as a free or a side line cut.
Florida now has an active hurling community. The Orlando Gaelic Athletic Association & Orlando Hurling Club are the principal organizers of hurling events in Florida. According to Scott Graves, an Irish-American and founder of the Orlando Hurling Club: “Lately, a few of us in our club are attempting to build bridges between different Irish groups in Central Florida.”
“Our primary mission is to spread hurling throughout Florida and we’re having some luck in Tallahassee, Tampa, and Port St. Lucie. Local organizers, who have played for Orlando in travel matches this year, have returned to their towns gathering 3 or more players each. They will gather next weekend at the Central Florida Highland Games to play our first exhibition match.”
Contact Orlando Hurling Club: http://orlando.florida.gaa.ie/club-executive
The US Census Bureau recently released detailed population, demographic and ancestry estimates for the year 2010. According to the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey for 2010, there were only 124,457 persons born in Ireland living in the United States, but there were 37,926,777 US residents of Irish or Scotch-Irish ancestry.
In 2010, the Irish were the fourth largest ethnic group in the United States, representing 12.26% of the total US population.
Persons of Irish ancestry reside in all 50 states, but the percentage of the population of Irish ancestry varies considerably from state to state. Massachusetts has the highest percentage, with nearly one-in-four residents having Irish ancestry, while Hawaii has the lowest percentage, with fewer than one-in-twenty residents having Irish ancestry. One-in-nine Florida residents have Irish or Scotch Irish ancestry.
Not surprisingly, California, by far the most populous state, also has the largest number of persons of Irish or Scotch-Irish ancestry (2,820,553). Ten states have over one million persons of Irish or Scotch-Irish ancestry. Florida has the fifth largest population of Irish or Scotch-Irish ancestry (2,068,006).
Florida Irish Pipers is an association of uilleann pipers from all around Florida. They are part of the Southeast Piper’s Club, which is a unique community of individuals living in the southeastern United States, happy to share information, tunes, and friendship. Many are also members of the Irish Piper’s Club, based in Seattle, WA, and Na Piobairi Uilleann, based in Dublin, Ireland. “We host a tionól in Florida every other year, sharing the responsibility of the Southeast Tionól with our Georgia piper friends. A ‘tionól’ is a music workshop, which usually focuses on Uilleann Piping, though other instruments are often represented. In the past, our tionóls have included instruction in pipes, Irish fiddle, and sometimes flute, whistle, concertina, bodhran and guitar. Our tionóls take place on a weekend with group classes on Saturday and 1/2 Sunday led by pipers who are masters on the instrument. Sessions are held Friday night and Saturday after the Saturday evening Instructor’s concert. This weekend is ideal for pipers, fiddle players, concertina players and Irish traditional musicians looking for a good music and great craic!”
The next Southeast Tionól will be held sometime in late March 2012 at Roswell, GA. In addition to the annual tionóls, Florida’s uilleann pipers regularly perform a various venues around the state.
Florida Irish Pipers website and contact information: http://www.floridairishpipers.org
Uilleann pipes give traditional Irish music its mournful, haunting quality and are distinguished from other forms of bagpipes by their tone and wide range of notes. They have a different harmonic structure, sounding sweeter and softer than other bagpipes. Not only do they have the ability to play two octaves, but they can play separate notes, lending variation and coloring to musical phrasing.
The bag of the uilleann pipes is inflated by means of a small bellows strapped around the waist and the right arm. Their name is part translation of the Irish language term “píobaí uilleann” which literally means “pipes of the elbow”, from their method of inflation. The bellows relieves the player from the need to blow into a bag to maintain pressure, and also allows relatively dry air to power the reeds, reducing the adverse effects of moisture on tuning and longevity. Uilleann pipers can converse or sing at the same time as playing. Unlike other bagpipes, uilleann pipes are most often played indoors, and are almost always played sitting down.
Mastering the uilleann pipes takes years of practice and dedication, and are one of the most difficult musical instruments to play well. Here is a short music video of Seamus Ennis, the world’s most famous piper, demonstrating his genius on the uilleann pipes:
If you want to purchase your own set of uilleann pipes, prices range from around $265 to over $10,000. According to Kathleen Cavanagh of the Florida Irish Pipers: a full set can cost up to $10,000 or more depending upon the maker. For instance, Rowsome sets or even Geoff Wooff sets can be $20,000. Since the instruments are hand-made for the most part, the price varies. Also, the waiting list of some makers can be quite long. It is best to talk to an experienced Uilleann Piper from the list of pipers on the FIP website for advice on buying a set BEFORE purchase. In addition, their site has one of the most comprehensive listings of Traditional Irish Music Sessions in Florida.