PAUL CURRY/JIM SEERY BRANCH
An Irish Culture Organization promoting the music, song, dance, and language of Ireland
What is Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann?
The material in this newsletter is copyright 1995. We welcome this information to be distributed in the spirit of Comhaltas -- to enhance the Irish heritage -- but please give credit to the source: Comhaltas Newsletter, Seery/Curry Branch, Third Qtr '95.
A Chairde Gael
I hope you all had a most enjoyable St. Patrick's season. It seems like the season gets longer and longer each year. A special thank you to all our members who entertained in any way over the holiday season.
Remember that although March was Irish History Month, a major Irish historical event from 150 years ago is being given special attention throughout this year. The great hunger in Ireland is being commemorated this year in many ways and I encourage all members to do their part to pay their respects to a tragic time in Irish history.
The Curry-Seery branch has flourished over the past few months and a great deal of thanks is due to our Runaí, Andrea Hogan (helpfully assisted by her husband, Mike). Almost sixty new members have joined our organization since January. Our goal is to reach former members and invite them to rejoin our ranks. Our branch will have the second largest contingent attending the upcoming convention. I am going to be proud to represent our branch at the regional and provincial meetings at the convention!
If you have any ideas on how to improve our branch, please feel free to call me. Your input is always welcome.
For now, Slán agus beannacht.
Comhaltas Calendar of Events
April 23 -- Sunday
April 28-30 -- Friday - Sunday
April 30 -- Sunday
May 5 -- Friday
May 7 -- Sunday -- 4 PM - 8 PM
May 7 -- Sunday
May 28 -- Sunday
June 3 -- Saturday
June 3 & 4 -- Sat & Sunday
June 4 -- Sunday
June 8 -- Thursday
June 10 -- Saturday
June 11 -- Sunday
June 12 -- Monday
June 15 (or 18) -- Thursday
June 16 - 18 -- Friday - Sunday
June 18 -- Sunday
June 24-26 -- Saturday-Sunday
June 25 -- Sunday
Mid-July -- TBA
July 16 -- Sunday
July 28-30 -- Friday-Sunday
August 20 -- Sunday
November -- TBA
Please contact the editor (see last page) with any upcoming events for publication in the newsletter.
Classes and LessonsMusic Lessons -- Monday -- 7:30 P.M.
Irish instrument lessons are held each Monday evening beginning at 7:30 PM at the Gaelic American Club in Fairfield, CT Contact MaryAnn Fahey at 261-8096 for further information.
Music Lessons -- Tuesday -- 7:00 P.M.
Irish Language Classes -- Wednesday -- 7:30 P.M.
Music Lessons -- Thursday -- 8:00 P.M.
Irish Language Lessons -- Thursday -- 7:00 P.M.
Irish Singing Group -- Thursday -- 7:15 P.M.
Ceili & Set Dance -- Friday -- 9:00 P.M.
For Sale -- Paolo Soprani, B/C, 9 treble cuplers, 2 on bass side. Red.
In perfect condition with excellent tone. $1400 w/case.
For Sale -- Paolo Soprani, B/C, Grey (Cira 1950), 2 treble cuplers,
completely refurbished and specially tuned. $1300 w/case.
Get Well Wishes
Our good wishes to Sean Canning for a speedy recovery from his recent surgery.
Welcome to Our New Members!
Cead Mile FailteJohn & Mary O'Keefe
Chris & Angela Rynne
Sean & Peggy Scollan
William & Mary Connolly
Philip & Joyce Morris
Tom & Noreen Slater
Anne M. McNulty
John & Louise Whelan
Max & Linda Brunswick
Con & Joan Foley
Tom & Margaret Higgins
Ellen L. Hankard
Sharon & Noel McGovern
Jim & Carol Ruddy
Philip & Maureen Bayne
Francis J. O'Brien
Patricia A. McCabe
For Newsletter Articles, Suggestions, or Comments
Membership Dues are "due"
Dues are past due (Nov. 1, 1994) for fiscal year 1994/1995. For new members (WELCOME!) and for renewals the individual membership cost is only $12.00 and only $8.00 for each additional family member (maximum $35.00 per family).
To find out if you are behind in your membership, please look at the address label on this newsletter. If the year printed beside your name is anything other than "95", you need to update your membership.
Make checks or money orders to Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, and send to:
Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann
Please include your telephone number and current mailing address with your dues payment so branch records can be updated.
Members in the News
Bill McEvoy, the North American Coordinator for Comhaltas, received an Irish hometown welcome when he was honoured as one of only three people to have ever received County Laois' Person of the Year Citation. The ceremony, held in County Hall, Portlaoise, was a gala reception starting with music from enthusiastic Comhaltas musicians followed by the award ceremony attended by County Councillors, Portlaoise Town Commissioners, Council officials, and Laois Tourism Representatives.
The citation paid tribute to Bill McEvoy's "ambassadorial role in the USA and Canada" and cited, "Your unselfish and inspiring contribution to Irish Culture directed you towards Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann where you have made enormous contributions over the past 25 years. During this period as the first coordinator in North America, the number of branches have increased dramatically from two to forty, including the United States and Canada".
The Comhaltas membership owes a debt of gratitude to Bill McEvoy for his role in this organization over the years; it is inspiring to see much deserved recognition offered from Ireland. Congratulations!
Joan and Pat Kennedy were honored by the West Haven Irish American Club on February 25, 1995 with the club's Culture Award. During the ceremony, Pat and Joan Kennedy were given the key to the City of West Haven by Mayor Richard Borer.
Any news items for this column should be sent to the newsletter editor, Jim Smith (address on back cover).
GROSSE ILE PILGRIMAGE
Copyright by Jim Smith
Imagine being in Ireland in the 1840's and being forced to give all of your family's farm crop to your British landlord for rent. You helplessly watch as the armed military take the livestock and grain that you and your neighbors toiled over. You see the fruits of your family's labor being loaded into the ships at the port to be sent to Britain. The only thing left is the meager potato crop that your family has managed to exist on; and the potatoes have had another bad year. This means that you have to hold back some of the potatoes that would normally feed your family for next year's plantings -- you pray that next year's potato crop will be enough to live on.
You see more and more families farming smaller and smaller plots of land; you see sickness and starvation in families around yours -- you pray for enough strength to keep going; you are determined not to give up. Many of your neighbors are being evicted from their land because they are too weak to produce enough food to pay the rent -- some starve, others try to flee from the almost certain death by loading their sick and starving families into the bulging ships bound for the North American shores.
This was the uncertainty facing over 75% of the population of Ireland in the early 1840's. The potato crop that the Irish families were struggling to exist on was very undependable; potato crop failures were occuring every couple of years for these farmers. This was not a "famine" with no food being grown; rather, the farmers were forced to give all of their yield to the landlords as rent. In 1845, during this impoverished period, the potato blight struck Ireland. By 1846, almost the entire potato crop was wiped out, including the seed potatoes being held for the next years' planting.
These crucial events forced the choice of either emigration or starvation for many Irish families. In less than five years, the population of Ireland dropped by 25%. As over one million people died from starvation and disease in Ireland, an estimated 1.5 million others fled the country, many in overloaded ships bound for a better life in North America.
By 1847 the procession of Irish "coffin ships", as they were aptly named, were being routed up the St. Lawrence River to a quarantine station at Grosse Ile. This was an isolated mid-river island located near Quebec City, Canada (British North America).
The first ship limped into Grosse Ile on May 17, 1847 carrying 241 passengers after almost two months at sea. Nine people died before reaching the shores of North America and within a week, over two-hundred more were ill. Ships continued to come with the grim cargo; within days, seven more ships had arrived with 175 dead passengers and of the close to three-thousand survivors, many were ill and dying. By the end of the month of May, thirty-six Irish coffin ships were lined up for two miles off Grosse Ile like pall bearers with cargo of Irish families, many of them sick, including some of the dead that had not been thrown overboard, all struggling to survive in the catastrophic situation that they were trapped in.
On May 23, the Medical Superintendent at Grosse Ile, Dr. George Douglas, estimated the daily death toll to be fifty to sixty. Two weeks later with the summertime temperatures making conditions perilous, the daily death toll had climbed to 150 people. By July, Dr. Douglas wrote, "six men are constantly employed digging large trenches from five to six feet deep, in which the dead are buried".
Although the catastrophe was so overwhelming that no accurate burial records were possible, Dr. Douglas erected a monument at the mass grave that his group worked at for "the mortal remains of 5,424 persons who fleeing from Pestilence and Famine in Ireland in the year 1847 found in America but a grave". This one mass grave did not account for the other burial sites located on the island. Even though the estimated deaths range from 12,000 up to as many as 30,000 from this tragdy, an accurate count of how many Irish men, women, and children's dreams for a new life were extinguished at Grosse Ile will never be known.
In 1909 the Ancient Order of Hibernians erected a forty-five foot granite Celtic cross at the highest point on Grosse Ile with the following inscription written in English, French, and Irish: Sacred to the memory of thousands of Irish emigrants who, to preserve the Faith, suffered hunger and exile in 1847-48, and sticken with fever, ended here their sorrowful pilgrimage.
Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann is trying to organize a historical pilgrimage this July to Grosse Ile in memory of the thousands of our Irish decendents who struggled to survive a catastrophic chapter in Irish history. A bus will be reserved and will make stops in Glastonbury, Waterbury, New Haven, and Springfield to pick up passengers. The trip will be open to all CCE members and their friends. More details will be forthcoming.
North American Convention
This year's North American Convention is scheduled for April 28 - 30
in Tarrytown, NY. For details or to register, contact Margie O'Driscoll,
307 Prospect Avenue, Hackensack, NJ. 07601, phone (201) 646-9557, fax
(201) 646-0467. The full weekend package for $150 per person (excluding
Regional Meeting ReportSix members of our branch traveled to Albany, NY on Feb. 11, for the North Eastern Regional meeting. They received a great reception with plenty of good food, including dinner. A concert and céilí rounded out a most enjoyable day for the attending members. The meeting dealt mostly with the upcoming convention. Paul Keating and Ira Goldberg of the Mid-Atlantic Region discussed currently available details; this included telling members that a minister of the Dail and R.T.E. are expected to attend the convention.
All-Ireland Champion's Tour the USA
Na Ridirí, All-Ireland champion musicians, singers, and dancers will tour the USA in June of this year. Area concerts include New Haven, Waterbury, and Springfield (See calendar section for dates).
The performing artists are all members of Comhaltas and include: Seamus Connolly, Eileen O'Brien, Willie Fogarty, Donie Nolan, Anne & Nicholas McAuliffe, Donncha O'Muineachain, Michael Cooney, Celine Hession, Margaret Hogan, Nora Butler, Vincent Crowley, and Diarmuid O'Cathain.
Members are encouraged to come and support these talented artists.
Get Well WishesOur get well wishes to Joan Toland for a speedy recovery from her recent surgery.
Our get well wishes to Kathleen Saunders on her hospital stay.
To the Hallinan family on the death of Thomas Hallinan.
To Maureen Staunton on the death of her mother Catherine Leahy.
IRISH CRANBERRY CAPERSThe Gourmet Rovers Visit Cape Cod
by Sean & Sally O'Sullivan
On Friday, April 7, 1995 we arrived at our little cottage at Grassy Acres just outside of Chatham on Cape Cod. Home away from home... well, it seems like it. After all, it is so much like home -- so comfortable that we forget something each trip. I don't dispair, the book I left will be there next time we go back, it will be better after it has been read a few times and will feel like a book I'd like to keep at home.
RECIPIE FOR SPANISH PAELLA
Friday afternoon is spent seeking out some of the Cape's special seafood to cook an easy version of a Spanish dish, Paella. At the seafood market, I find eight nice small clams, a dozen mussels, six nice large shrimp, a quarter pound of swordfish, and a one pound lively kicking lobster. You can substitute lobster meat if you wish -- I feel like I'm really cooking when I cook a real live lobster (besides, it grosses out my wife!). I pick up a package of spanish yellow rice with saffron, some seafood boullion, a small can of green peas, an onion, a red bell pepper, and some garlic from the store.
Back at Grassy Acres, I scrub the mussel & clam shells so they can be used for garnishing the dishes. I cook the lobster ("No, honey, even if you name the lobster, I still gotta cook'm") and steam the clams & mussels. I chop some onion, red pepper, and garlic, and throw it in a big pot. I then add the spanish rice with a boullion cube, and the measured amount of water, and then cook the rice mixture per the directions on the package.
While the rice is cooking, I dice the swordfish and peel & devein the shrimp. Then fifteen minutes before the rice is done, I add the peas, the shrimp, and the swordfish chunks. I then remove the lobstermeat from the shell and dice it (save the empty end of the lobster tail and a claw for garnish). Five minutes before the rice is done, I add the lobstermeat, clams, and mussels (leave the clams & mussels in their shells for garnish).
When the dinner is cooked, I lightly fluff everything and put it on a platter. I garnish the platter with the lobster tail and claw and make sure some of the clams & mussels are resting on top of the golden dinner. This dinner and a chilled bottle of white wine serves four good appetites (or six dainty ones).
FOOD SPOTS REVIEWED
Saturday morning we looked forward to enjoying a breakfast at a great spot, CrossWinds Landing, at Chatham's International Airport. Someone at the airport told us it was closed for the season until Mother's Day. We decided to try a place in Harwich Port called Bonatt's Restaurant & Bakery. We found it to be a bright, clean, and cheerful shop in the center of town with an enthusiastic staff (my wife wants to see how enthusiatic they are in September at the end of the season!). There was a wide variety of specials; we tried ommelettes and were very pleased with them. They also have a signature pastry that was served with breakfast -- something called a Melt-A-Way. It is a light and very sweet pastry that comes with a story of how it was invented and all of the different parts of the world that it has been shipped. We left the friendly shop feeling like we had been well treated.
After the big breakfast, we opted to snack a bit for lunch and hold out for a nice dinner. We decided to try Mitchell's Steak & Rib House in Hyannis for dinner. Although we got seated right away in the semi-full dining room, once we sat down the service was very slow. The brown-n-serve rolls had not been browned -- they were underbaked and disappointing. We were in the mood for prime rib dinners, so when we finally were waited on, I ordered the full size and my wife ordered the regular size prime rib. When we got our prime ribs, we compared the portions; the only difference in the size was that mine had the rib-bone still on it to make it look larger. The meat was prepared medium rare and flavorful; it was the best part of an otherwise uninteresting dinner. My twice-baked potato was twice-overbaked and dry as was my wife's regular baked potato.
When all else fails, desserts can perk up a dinner-party. On the recommendation of the waitress, I ordered something called Grapenut Custard and my wife ordered a hot fudge sundae to finish the dinner. The grapenut custard resembled cold, flavorless sweetened scrambled eggs with soggy grapenuts mixed in. Some vanilla extract or something to give the "custard" a personality would have been welcomed. My wife was equally unimpressed with her hot fudge sundae; when she started talking about the "brown sludge" topping and the old burned coffee to compliment it, I knew this dinner was not salvagable.
We looked forward to hearing Finten Stanley, a popular Irish accordion player, at the Irish Village Pub in West Yarmouth. We arrived early to get good seats for the 8:45 PM performance but he appeared a half hour late and took another half hour trying to get his equipment set up correctly. When he did begin to play, he apologetically continued to try to correct the malfunction between songs. By the end of the first set, we decided to retreat to our cottage for the night.
The next morning before leaving the Cape, we decided to treat ourselves to a nice Sunday brunch. We wanted to test the culinary talents of Boatt's Restaurant, so we loaded the car, said goodbye to Chadham, and drove to Bonatt's in Harwick Port.
My wife ordered a garden omelet and I put on my "snob" taste buds and ordered their special "eggs benedict over crab cakes". The omlette was made with lightly cooked fresh vegetables encased in tenderly prepared eggs and topped with a tasty cheese. My eggs benedict was impecable. The perfectly poached eggs were still creamy inside, enhancing the lemony hollandaise sauce. The crab cakes this was served over were deliciously prepared with the emphasis on crabmeat rather than bread crumbs. The brunch specials, combined with a couple of their Melt A Way pastries and coffee, transformed us back into the happy Gourmet Irish Rovers!
Celtic Language Corner
Celtic language is making a comeback with more than two million Celtic speakers worldwide. There are about a million Irish speakers in Ireland, 500,000 Welsh speakers in Wales, and 65,000 Gaelic speakers in Scotland.
The Celtic languages, including Welsh, Gaelic, Irish, Cornish, Manx, and Breton, are among the oldest in Europe. The Celts arrived in Britain sometime in the 1,000 years before the birth of Christ. They gave the island it's name, which is derived from a Celtic word.
The Celts also gave us the words "Tory" from the Irish "toraidhi" or "persuer". It meant outlaw, robber, or bog-trotter; this was a nickname acquired by the party three-hundred years ago. Other common words that we use that were derived from the Celtic language are: "slogan", "phony", and "whiskey".
Cornish died out in the 1700's; the last native speaker of Manx died
about twenty years ago, and other Celtic languages have been in long decline.
In this light, it is rewarding to see that, in recent years, interest
has revived and more and more people are learning these languages. Since
one of the aims and objectives of Comhaltas is to promote the Irish language,
we are offering a few phrases to help the non-Irish speakers among us.
Phrase ------------ Dia duit
Phrase ------------ Dia is Muire duit
Phrase ------------ Slán agat
Phrase ------------ Slán leat
PATRICK'S LOCKSMITH SERVICE OF WEST HAVEN
"Don't be locked out!"
"I have the key to West Haven"
(Contact Patrick Kennedy any time day or night to get doors opened in West Haven.)
Irish Radio Programs===========================
Echoes Of Ireland
Music Of Ireland
Music of Erin
Healy's Irish Program
Ceol Na Gael
Thistle & Shamrock
WEAR YOUR COLORS !!!!
Wear your CCE Curry-Seery Branch logo on these polo shirts in your choice of colors and in sizes to fit everyone. At only $23.00 these make a nice gift idea. Joan Kennedy is in charge of sales and has generously offered to sell larger quantities at two for $46.00 or three for $69.00! To order, complete the following information and mail it with your check made out to "CCE" to:
POLO SHIRT OFFER
Size: small, medium, large, x-large
Color: white, blue, green, maroon, yellow, black
Treorai na Gaeilge: Joan Kennedy
Delegates: Deborah Thompson, Con Murphy, Helen Meehan . . .
Send comments or story ideas to Jim Smith, the newsletter editor.