Category Archives: Travel

Join “The Gathering”

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

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:

Here is a link to The Gathering Ireland 2013 website:


Leave a comment

Filed under Entertainment, Florida Irish Culture, Travel

Watch “The Island”

“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?

Watch the video:

Leave a comment

Filed under Entertainment, Travel

Brogues Down Under in Lake Worth, FL

Brogues on Lake Avenue in downtown Lake Worth has a new Kiwi-Aussie sparkle to its old Irish charms. On June 28, Rod Regan, wife Emily and daughter Tania took over the venerable Brogues-On-The-Avenue pub and restaurant at 621 Lake Avenue and, after a thorough cleaning and refurbishment from top to bottom, have reopened and renamed the downtown landmark Brogues Down Under.  Rod is a native of Australia and New Zealand with a big Irish smile and Down Under charm.  Emily previously operated the Bees Knees thrift shop on Lake Avenue. Daughter Tania is Brogues new “task-master”.  The Regan family has lived here in South Florida for 21 years.

Rod spoke with me yesterday about the many improvements that he and his wife and daughter have made. The most important change is that Rod, Emily and Tania are on-site owner managers, personally greeting and serving customers. The most noticeable changes, in addition to the new name, are a sparkling clean appearance, new table cloths, an improved menu and 19 flat screen HD TVs. They hired a well-known and talented chef, Joseph Angelucci, winner of a 2010 People’s Choice Award. In addition to traditional Irish pub fare, Chef Angelucci prepares different nightly specials to please diners in the mood for international cuisine.

Entertainment is still a big part of Brogues appeal. In addition to the 19 large screen HD TVs for watching sporting events, from Tuesday through Saturday there is dinner music from 5:00 to 9:00 PM and live bands performing from 9:30 PM to 1:30 AM. For meetings, parties and special occasions, there is the large “Aussie Boomerang Bar” room, which can accommodate groups of 95 to 100 for table service, along with its own large bar.  The outside dining area under the awning on Lake Avenue is a great place to sit, have a leisurely drink, lunch or dinner and enjoy the lively downtown street scene.

Rod says “This is a service business!” And that’s what the new Brogues delivers – good service, good food and drinks and good times! Their website provides directions, menus, a calendar of eventsand contact information. View Brogues at

1 Comment

Filed under Entertainment, Florida Irish Culture, Food and Drink, Travel

A wee bit of Ireland in the center of Washington, D.C.

During a recent trip by train from Maine to Florida, I spent a day sightseeing in Washington, D.C.  I was surprised to discover a wee bit of old Ireland and authentic Irish hospitality in the center of our nation’s Capitol:




Located only one block from Union Station and two blocks from the U.S. Capitol Building, the historic Phoenix Park Hotel provides Irish hospitality in the heart of Washington, D.C..  Previously known as the Commodore Hotel, this D.C. landmark has been a favorite of many famous politicians and diplomats since it was built in 1922.  The hotel was renamed the Phoenix Park Hotel in 1982 by Irish-American hotelier Daniel J. Coleman.




The hotel combines warm Celtic charm and the elegance of an 18th century country estate, with its European ambience, intimate lobby, gleaming woods, brilliant carpets, original oil paintings and graceful marble staircase.  The hotel has 149 luxurious rooms, including three unique penthouse suites and three contemporary loft-like bi-level suites, accented with authentic Irish linens, custom-tailored carpets, and crystal chandeliers.




The hotel’s world famous Dubliner Restaurant and Pub is a favorite for Washingtonians and visitors alike, and is known for its free-flowing spirits as well as its very own Old Dubliner Amber Ale.  The Dubliner also offers traditional pub food and live Irish entertainment seven nights a week.


Room rates at the Phoenix Park Hotel start at only $99 per night for a single room.

Visit their website:


Leave a comment

Filed under Travel

Planning a trip to Ireland ?

If you are planning a trip to Ireland, we recommend a wonderful place for you to stay for a few days or a week, to relax and recover from jet-lag and your long flight(s) from Florida to Dublin.  If you think that staying in a historic Irish castle is affordable only for the rich and famous, you are pleasantly mistaken. 

Smarmore Castle, located near Ardee, County Louth, is one of Ireland’s oldest surviving buildings, dating from 1320.  Smarmore Castle also has the distinction of being one of the longest continuously inhabited castles in Ireland.  For over 650 years, Smarmore Castle was the ancestral home of the aristocratic Taaffe family.  Records show that William Taaffe had his family seat at the Castle as early as 1320.  The Taaffe’s were one of the most famous families in Ireland.  They held a variety of different titles, and one of them, Eduard Franz Josef Taaffe, even served as the Prime Minister of Austria between 1881 and 1895.  Successive generations of Taaffe’s made Smarmore Castle their main residence in Ireland until the mid 1980s, when the property was sold.  The current owners and proprietors are the very hospitable Mullen Family, who operate the Castle as a boutique B&B-style hotel.

Smarmore Castle is a very striking building. It is divided into three distinct sections, comprised of an early 14th century castle keep, with extensions on either side, built around 1720 and 1760 respectively.  The Castle is built of local stone, and its walls are eight feet thick.  The 18th century courtyard behind the Castle served as the main stables for the estate in bygone days.   The Castle has just five guest rooms, so you won’t feel crowded.  The guest rooms are spacious and distinctive.  Each room is different, and presents a different aspect of the Castle’s history.  The names on the doors, such as the "Knight’s Room", the "Count’s Room" and the "Viscount’s Room," reflect the Castle’s illustrious former residents. 

The Viscount’s Room, (shown above) is located in the Castle’s tower and has a four poster bed, while some of the other rooms are ideally arranged for families with children.  All rooms have tea and coffee making facilities, an en-suite shower bathroom, and are centrally heated.  The Castle maintains its sense of history while offering the comfort and conveniences of the most contemporary boutique hotel. Smarmore Castle offers stylish accommodations at a value price. Their modest rates, starting at only 55€ per adult and 15€ per child (per night), include accommodation, full Irish breakfast, and free use of their well-equipped leisure club, with its 22-meter indoor pool with toddler’s pool, jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and fully-equiped fitness center.

The Smarmore Sports Injury Clinic, operated by Brian Keenan (BSc. & BASRaT.), is located in the courtyard behind the castle, and offers relaxing aromatherapy massage, sports massage, hydrotherapy and injury prevention treatments.  

There is no bar inside the castle itself, so you are welcome to bring your own beverages.  There is an excellent Italian restaurant, called La Cucina, located with a separate entrance in the castle courtyard, and it is licensed to serve wine, beer and other beverages with meals.  The restaurant offers a wide range of delicious meals based upon authentic Italian recipes.

Smarmore Castle is an easy one-hour drive north from Dublin Airport, and provides the perfect base from which to explore the world famous heritage sites at Newgrange (Brú na Bóinne), Knowth, Hill of Tara, Monasterboice, Mellifont Abbey, Battle of the Boyne, Trim Castle, Carlingford and the Cooley Peninsula.  If you are still feeling energetic after all that sightseeing, you can also enjoy nearby recreational activities, including golf, horseback riding, walking tours, clay pigeon shooting and even ice-skating.

Smarmore Castle Website:

Smarmore Castle Blog:

"This is not a paid advertisement.  It is an enthusiastic personal testimonial, based upon my own family’s wonderful stay at historic Smarmore Castle.  I can’t think of enough nice things to say about the Castle, it’s facilities, or our hosts, the Mullen Family."  Tim Lunney, Executive Director – Florida Irish Heritage Center

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel

Florida’s Oldest Surviving Plantation House


The oldest surviving plantation house in Florida was built on Fort George Island in 1797-8 by Irish-American expatriate Don Juan McQueen.  Fort George Island is a sea island, located at the mouth of the St. John’s River, northeast of Jacksonville.



John "Lightning" McQueen (1751–1807) was a daring hero of the American Revolution, was a  friend and confidante of George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette, and was one of the country’s largest land-owners.  After the Revolution, McQueen speculated heavily on timber land in Georgia and South Carolina, went bankrupt, and was facing arrest and debtors prison when, in 1793, he fled to Spanish East Florida, leaving his wife and children in Georgia. 


In St. Augustine, the charismatic Irish-American renounced his American citizenship, became a loyal Spanish subject, a devout Catholic and the trusted advisor and confidante of the Spanish Governor, and he was thereafter known as “Don Juan McQueen”.  In East Florida, McQueen’s fortunes improved quickly, and he became one of the largest landowners in East Florida, Captain of the East Florida Militia, Commander of the Banks of the St. John’s and St. Mary’s Rivers and a judge.  He enjoyed the social life of St. Augustine, and his Irish friends there, including Father Michael "Miguel" O’Reilly, the worldly parish priest, and Colonel Charles "Carlos" Howard, the commander of Spanish military forces in East Florida, but he rarely saw his family, who preferred to remain in America.



The main plantation house has a unique architectural style, with a large center room, surrounded by one-story pavilions, one at each of the four corners, and wide verandas, which allowed air to circulate throughout the house to keep it cooler in the summer.  Each corner pavilion was a  sleeping room, with complete cross-ventilation and access to a veranda.  The second story of the house has two large rooms. 



On the roof is an observation deck.  The house faces the Fort George Inlet.  A brick walkway joined the back porch to a wharf on the inlet.  A covered walkway connects to a separate building that later housed the kitchen and storerooms.  It was customary to separate the kitchen from the main house, in case of fire from the wood-burning stove, oven and fireplace.  The sequence of construction of the plantation’s buildings is not certain.  McQueen described his Fort George Island house as "small" and "comfortable", so it is likely that the "kitchen" building shown below was the house built by McQueen, and that the larger plantation house was built by the subsequent owners.



The house protected McQueen and neighbors during an attack by Creek Indians in 1802.  He wrote at the time that 26 people took refuge there.  By East Florida standards, McQueen was considered a very wealthy man, but he struggled to repay his debts in America, because it was difficult to generate cash income in sparsely populated East Florida; so in 1804, he was forced to sell the Fort George Island plantation to an American friend.  


During the same period, he built a grand mansion on his vast "Los Molinos de McQueen" estate on the south side of the St. John’s River, hoping to entice his family to join him in East Florida.  McQueen’s many business ventures eventually began to prosper, but he died before resolving his debts in America, or seeing his beloved wife Anne again.  Don Juan McQueen died of typhoid fever in 1807 and is buried in the Tolomato Cemetery at St. Augustine.  If you would like to read more about the fascinating life of Don Juan McQueen, there is a wonderful historical novel of the same title written by Eugenia Price.


Don Juan McQueen’s Fort George Island plantation became known as "Kingsley Plantation", the name which it still carries.  The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is operated as a historic site and museum by the National Parks Service.  Kingsley Plantation is open seven days a week, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., except on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Years Day.  Admission is free.  A visitor center and bookstore are located in a 1920’s building adjacent to the plantation buildings.  The plantation house is currently closed to the public while undergoing restoration.


National Parks Service – Kingsley Plantation Website



Filed under Travel

My Irish Family Folk-Tales


by Timothy Lunney – June 2010

Back in 2002, while performing some internet searches using the Irish spelling of my family name: “Luinigh”, I came across an obscure notice that a book was being sent to dead storage at a university library in Oklahoma.  The book is titled “SGÉALTA MHUINTIR LÚINIGH – Munterloney Folk-Tales”, was written by Professor Éamonn Ó Tuathail of Trinity College Dublin and was published in 1933.  I was intrigued… a book of folk-tales bearing my family’s ancient Irish clan name: “Mhuintir Lúinigh”


I arranged, through my local public library here in Florida, to obtain the book on inter-library loan.  [Your public library can obtain on loan for you almost any book held by a public or college library, even some private libraries.]  When it arrived, I was amazed to find that, not only does this book bear my family’s Irish name, it also contains many of our traditional folk-tales in the original, and now lost, Tyrone dialect of the Irish language.


The name “Mhuintir Lúinigh” literally means “land of the O’Lúinigh” and “the O’Lúinigh people”.  The O’Lúinigh were part, and sometimes chieftains, of the Cenél Moen tribe of the kingdom of Tír Eóghain.  The area referred to as the “Mhuintir Lúinigh” and “Munterloney” in Professor Ó Tuathail’s time corresponded generally to the parishes of Termonmaguirk and Upper and Lower Bodoney in County Tyrone. 


During the 15th and 16th centuries, the area then known as the “Mhuintir Lúinigh” included a much larger area of approximately 100 square miles, corresponding generally to the baronies of Strabane and Clogher.  The O’Lúinigh lived in this portion of western Tyrone from the early 1200’s until the mid 20th century.



No Lunney has lived there for many years, but you can stay on the site of the historic Lunney farm in the Munterloney.


During the 1920’s and 30’s, the government of Ireland became alarmed at the rapid decline in the number of people who could speak and write the Irish language. The government commissioned the Irish Folklore Institute to send Irish language scholars around Ireland to record, transcribe and preserve the Irish people’s rich heritage of language and oral literature. Between 1929 and 1933, Professor Éamonn Ó Tuathail of Trinity College Dublin travelled throughout the district of County Tyrone in Northern Ireland called the “Munterloney”, to record the oral literature of the few Irish-speaking people still living there. 


The Munterloney District of County Tyrone, Northern Ireland


By the time Professor Ó Tuathail arrived in the Munterloney district in 1929 to record the folk-tales of the area, Irish had ceased to be spoken except by only a small number of elderly people. The dialect being spoken in the Munterloney district was unique, and differed significantly from the dialects spoken in other parts of Ireland.


Even the 1802 “Statistical Survey of County Tyrone”, at a time when over one-half of the 250,000 inhabitants of County Tyrone still spoke Irish, noted that “the people of this county in themselves differ as much perhaps as those of separate kingdoms…the inhabitants of [the town of] Strabane and its vicinity seem quite a different race of people from those of Munterloney…”


This separation and uniqueness was probably attributable to the fact that the Munterloney district was, and remains, a rather isolated part of Ireland, surrounded by the Munterloney (now called “Sperrin”) Mountains. Its isolation is probably also the reason that this was the last part of Northern Ireland where Irish was still spoken as a first language. 



Professor Ó Tuathail spent four years interviewing Irish-speakers and recording and transcribing the folk-tales of the Mhuintir Lúinigh.  He transcribed these folk-tales only in the unique Irish dialect of the Munterloney district, along with extensive notes in English on grammar and spelling. His work was published by the Irish Folklore Institute in 1933 as “SGÉALTA MHUINTIR LÚINIGH – Munterloney Folk-Tales”.


Unfortunately for modern scholars and for the modern descendants of the Mhuintir Lúinigh, Professor Ó Tuathail’s book was never fully translated into English. Today, Irish language scholars confirm that it is a unique record of a now lost dialect of Irish. In fact, this book is now used a text for the advanced study of Irish dialects. 


Back in 2003, I wrote to the Strabane District Council, the local governing body for this part of County Tyrone, and brought the matter of the “SGÉALTA MHUINTIR LÚINIGH – Munterloney Folk-Tales” to the attention of the Council.  I requested that a project be undertaken to translate and republish this book.  The District Council kindly approved my request, and then formally petitioned the Northern Ireland Assembly to undertake and fund the project.  The project was subsequently funded by the Assembly and is nearing completion.


In August 2004, I organized a family trip to Ireland, to visit places where our Irish ancestors once lived.  Accompanying me on this trip were my then 78-year-old father, Boyd Lunney from Cape Elizabeth, Maine, my then 89-year-old aunt, Alice Lunney Gregory from Westfield, Maine, and my cousins, Dennis Lunney from Winthrop, Maine and his sister Judith Lunney Merriam from Russellville, Kentucky, and John Holmes and his wife Teresa from Chepachet, Rhode Island. 


One of the places that we stayed in Ireland was the Glenelly Valley of County Tyrone, at the very heart of the Munterloney District.  The Glenelly Valley is a spectacular treasure-trove of Irish scenic riches, and is protected by the government of Northern Ireland as an area of outstanding natural beauty.  The area abounds in ancient stone monuments, “fairy forts” and sacred wells. 


The beautiful Glenelly Valley of County Tyrone, Northern Ireland


We stayed there for one week in rented cottages, next door to the Sperrin Heritage Centre.  These well-appointed cottages are a traditional Irish “clachan”, or family compound of houses. The four cottages have a total of nine bedrooms, and are ideal for accommodating a large family group. 


Sperrin Clachan Cottages


During our stay in the Glenelly Valley, the Strabane District Council’s tourism office offered us their assistance, and the free use of the Heritage Centre facilities, to allow me to host a lecture about, and reading of, the “SGÉALTA MHUINTIR LÚINIGH – Munterloney Folk-Tales”.  Professor Donal O’Baoill of Queens University Belfast, a leading Irish language scholar, kindly agreed to prepare and deliver the lecture and reading.  Prior to the lecture, Professor O’Baoill shared a “home-cooked” dinner with me and my family at our rental cottage next to the Heritage Centre.  The dinner was prepared from locally-grown produce and chicken by my remarkable Aunt Alice.  Professor O’Baoill chuckled often during the dinner, remarking that my large (and very noisy) Irish-American family reminded him of his own family in rural County Donegal. 


Professor Donal O’Baoill


Professor O’Baoill’s lecture and reading at the Heritage Centre was a great success, and was well-attended, even by several Irish-speaking local residents and scholars, in spite of a terrible thunderstorm that evening.  One amazing part of the presentation was when Professor O’Baoill played some of the original tape recordings, made by Professor Éamonn Ó Tuathail in the 1930’s, of the folk-tales being recited by the elderly residents of the Munterloney.  To hear these folk-tales, being spoken in the musical language of my ancestors, was a very moving experience for me and my family.  After the lecture, we all gathered in the tea room of the Heritage Centre for refreshments, where my family and I were very pleased to meet and speak with several residents of the surrounding area.


Relatively few Irish-American families know exactly where in Ireland their ancestors once lived.  Fewer still are fortunate enough to visit the beautiful land of their ancestors.  Perhaps only a handful have ever heard any of their family folk-tales.  Thanks to the incomparable hospitality of the people of the Glenelly Valley of County Tyrone, of its District Council, and of Professor O’Baoill, my family and I shared an undoubtedly unique experience.


“SGÉALTA MHUINTIR LÚINIGH – Munterloney Folk-Tales” has been translated and republished with additional traditional folktales and sayings from the area in both the English and Irish languages. Copies may be ordered on-line from Four Courts Press.

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel