This site includes the postings from the Irish Aires email list. This includes a listing of Irish/Celtic events in the Houston area and other information that the Irish Aires radio program posts.

Monday, April 09, 2012

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The Wild Geese
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RIP Barney McKenna, last of original Dubliners

Tenor banjo player and raconteur extraordinaire Barney McKenna (leftWikipedia Commons), the last of the original Dubliners, has died.

McKenna passed away Thursday morning in his home in Howth, County Dublin, while chatting with his longtime friend and fellow musician Michael Howard.

"The comfort that I take from it is that he passed away peacefully sitting at his own breakfast table having a cup of tea and a chat," Howard told the Irish Independent. "It's probably the way he would've wanted to go, I think."

Fiddler John Sheahan, who joined The Dubliners just two years after it was formed in 1962, told the Independent that McKenna "was like a brother to me, as were the other former members of the Dubliners."

Fellow founding members Ronnie Drew, Ciaran Bourke and Luke Kelly previously died. The band was founded in O'Donoghue's pub in Dublin's Merrion Row. McKenna was born in 1939 in Donnycarney, in north Dublin.

In a statement, The Dubliners and McKenna's family and friends called McKenna "the greatest tenor banjo player of his generation. … Barney spent his life travelling the world playing Irish music, he loved it, the world loved him, may he rest in peace."

McKenna is survived by his sister Maria Fuller and his brother Sean Og McKenna.

"Barney McKenna, last of founding Dubliners, dies"

"Dubliners last founder and banjo player Barney McKenna dies"

100 years on, Titanic regains media stride

RMS Titanic may have hit bottom a century ago, but its media mentions are soaring in the run-up to the April 15th centenary of its sinking in the North Atlantic.

ITV's four-part Titanic miniseries garnered headlines in British news media after opening March 25 with more than 7 million viewers. But a week later, the drama's ratings slumped more than 40 percent. The production cost more than 11 million pounds ($17.5 million), with an ensemble of 80 actors, and offered in each episode a separate focus on the ship's three classes of passenger accommodations.

Meanwhile, James Cameron's 1997 Oscar-dominating epic "Titanic" launched its 3D-version in the United States last week. Said Variety's Justin Chang in the newspaper's Saturday edition, the 3-D version "has generated buzz and anticipation aplenty among audiences, even as the timing of the whole affair -- arranged to coincide with the centennial of the Titanic's sinking -- has struck some observers as being in questionable taste."

In Ireland, meanwhile, municipalities with high-profile ties to the disaster are hitting their marketing stride, riding the growing media focus on events commemorating the history of the ill-fated vessel.

Foremost among these locales are Cobh -- Queenstown when Britain ruled -- which launches 'Titanic 100' on Monday. The seaport was Titanic's last port of call before its sinking, taking on 113 Irish passengers.

Visitors to Cobh during can partake of a wide variety of events, including an exhibit at Cobh Museum titled "Titanic – Reflections and Reactions," while the city's Titanic Trail offers a walking tour of the town's links with Titanic.

The cruise ship MS Balmoral will drop by the port Monday en route to tracing the Titanic's voyage, while Wednesday the Irish navy will hold a fleet review and Air Corps a flyover to mark the anniversary of the date Titanic debarked from Cobh. 

Belfast, meanwhile, finally seems ready to fully embrace its legacy as the birthplace of the nearly 900-foot-long 'unsinkable' liner. The city, in earlier decades making headlines as a city torn by sectarian strife, now boasts Titanic as a major draw to compete for tourism dollars, from both at home and abroad.

The centerpiece for the city's push is Titanic Belfast, a newly constructed, six-floor building with nine interpretive and interactive galleries that presents the sights, sounds, and sagas of Titanic, of its construction and launch in the city and the people who built it. It is by far the most compelling look at the Titanic experience worldwide.

Meanwhile, Lahardane, billing itself as "Ireland's Titanic Village," in north Mayo, has become the centerpiece of the western county's efforts to ride the tide of interest in Titanic. The village lost 11 of its 14 residents who shipped out on the vessel.

These efforts are culminating in the Mayo Titanic Cultural Week, which runs through Sunday, the centenary of Titanic's sinking. WG

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Crooning the Irish Experience:
Q&A With 'Titanic' Songwriter Padraig Lalor 

'The atmosphere was tense Maggie gave the order to row,
They watched the last flares in the night sky glow,
Above the stricken liner on the journey to its grave,
Maggie shouted we must go back there are many more to save' – From Padraig Lalor's song "Molly Brown"
Singer and songwriter Padraig Lalor, 50, grew up in the Falls Road neighborhood of West Belfast, part of a large Catholic family whose roots lay in Dublin. He studied for a time at Ruskin College at Oxford University and pursued journalism, but says he found his true calling singing and writing music. He accounts among his inspirations Derry-born Irish tenor Josef Locke and Belfast balladeer Kathleen Largey.
Lalor draws greatly from his life experience, knowledge of history, and local and family lore to write his songs. As with the verse above, taken from his first solo album, "Ismay's Dream," Padraig seems to have a facility to draw listeners into the drama of the past and bring characters to life. The Wild Geese's Belinda Evangelista Skyped him a few questions about his muse.
The Wild Geese: Tell me about your fascinating great-grandfather 'Dublin Geordie,' who, like Molly Malone (below: Her statue in Dublin,Wikipedia Commons), was a street trader selling fruit and vegetables from his horse and cart on the streets of Dublin and on the Belfast docks at the time of Titanic's construction there.
Padraig Lalor: I only found out about 'Dublin Geordie' at my mother's recent wake. She passed away on March 11. Belfast is full of characters, and my family is no exception. Like many Catholics, Geordie was drawn to Belfast by the opportunities for work both at the shipyards and, of course, serving the needs of the tens of thousands who worked there and their families.
The Wild Geese: I love Dublin Georgie's character -- is "Ismay's Dream" in some way dedicated to him?
Padraig Lalor: Interestingly, I have come to know Bruce Ismay through my conversations with (Ismay's) relative Clifford (Ismay), who I often speak with. 'Dublin Geordie' and Ismay would have moved in different circles, but like many were brought together by Titanic and the Belfast docks ... just like Clifford and I 100 years on.
The Wild Geese: How did your grandfather Patrick's background -- a Catholic who joined the Royal Artillery and was a decorated veteran of the Second World War -- shape your opinions over the years?
Padraig Lalor: During World War II, conscription did not apply in Ireland. My grandfather Patrick opted to take up arms to fight for freedom. That is a principle that remains very dear to me.
The Wild Geese: I can see why you are known as "Seanachi." What is you favorite story to tell with your music about the Titanic?
Padraig Lalor: The song "Latitude 51" (the coordinates for Cork) tells the story of a young couple [who took passage on the Titanic] forced to flee the country they love because of prejudice. Ireland is not just a map reference, it's a spiritual home. The loss of its youth was a tragedy for the country, too. I was inspired by a beautiful Thomas Moore poem:
The harp that once through Tara's halls
 The soul of music shed,
Now hangs as mute on Tara's walls
 As if that soul were fled.
So sleeps the pride of former days,
 So glory's thrill is o'er
And hearts that once beat high for praise
 Now feel that pulse no more!
No more to chiefs and ladies bright
 The harp of Tara swells;
The chord alone that breaks at night
 Its tale of ruin tells.
Thus Freedom now so seldom wakes,
 The only throb she gives
Is when some heart indignant breaks,
 To show that still she lives.
I can almost picture the harp of Tara's Halls mute, hanging in the silent majesty of Titanic as she rests.
The Wild Geese: What Titanic events are you involved with? Will any of them be outside of Ireland?
Padraig Lalor: We'll be touring the UK, Ireland and the Channel Islands doing theatres and festivals. I will also be doing storytelling in music and songs.
The Wild Geese: This is an exciting time for Belfast -- are you proud to be part of this great celebration?
Padraig Lalor: Yes, I think it is important for Belfast to remember and mark this event. It's a very different story from what has been coming out of the city over the past 40 years.
The Wild Geese: What are your plans for coming to America?
Padraig Lalor: I would love to take my storytelling to American audiences. I can work as a solo artist, telling stories through great songs.
The Wild Geese: As a native, where do you recommend Titanic tourists go in Belfast to feel the heartbeat of the city's music scene?
Padraig Lalor: The Rotterdam Bar in Belfast docks and Kelly Cellars pub, the place where Henry Joy McCracken launched [plans for Antrim's part in the] 1798 rebellion.
The Wild Geese: Is there anything you would like to add?
Padraig Lalor: All great stories have complex characters, plots and subplots, romance and tragedy. … My Titanic-themed album is more James Joyce than James Cameron and puts the Irish dimension back into the story.
Lalor resides in Swansea, Wales, with his wife and two sons. To find out more, visit or
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EASTER FESTIVAL AT FAIRYHOUSE RACECOURSE, RATOATH, COUNTY MEATH, Through TuesdayEaster Monday features the famous Ladbrokes Irish Grand National and the Carton House Most Stylish Lady Competition. Tuesday is all about the racing. 

EASTER RISING DOCUMENTARY SERIES, METRO NEW YORK, Tuesday Through Saturday.  The Irish Consulate, with Údarás na Gaeltachta, is hosting a series of free screenings of documentaries produced by Abú Media, dramatizing the lives of the seven signatories of the Proclamation of Independence.

* Tuesday, 7 p.m. – Glucksman Ireland House of Studies, New York University – Patrick Pearse: NYU History professor, Joe Lee will host a Q&A after the screening.
* Wednesday – Irish American Society of Nassau, Suffolk & Queens, Mineola – Eamonn Ceannt – 7 p.m.
* Thursday – Consulate General of Ireland, Manhattan - James Connolly – 6:15 p.m.
* Friday – New York Irish Center, Long Island City, Queens – Sean Mac Diarmada – 7.30 p.m.
* Saturday – Irish American Heritage Museum, Albany – Thomas MacDonagh – 6 p.m.
Údarás is the regional authority responsible for the economic, social and cultural development of the Gaeltacht, the Irish-speaking region of Ireland. For details of the screenings, contact Mary Deady

RIVERDANCE FINAL ENCORE, BOSTON, Friday Through Sunday. Riverdance, the internationally acclaimed celebration of Irish music, song and dance now in its 17th and final year, will play the Boston Opera House for the final time, with five performances. For more info, visit The North American touring production of  Riverdance closes June 17 at Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts in Vienna, Virginia.

CLIFDEN TRADITIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL, CLIFDEN, COUNTY GALWAY, Friday through Sunday. This Connemara town will feature music in its public houses and hotels, as well as on its streets and on a specially constructed stage in the Town's Market Square. A free outdoor performance takes place Saturday, at 7:30 p.m., given by All Ireland Champions, the Dartry Ceili Band. A host of local and visiting musicians, singers and dancers will also take to the stage.

SEND YOUR FREE EVENTS LISTINGS for inclusion in's weekly newsletter, by Wednesday midnight, for the following week's edition.

THIS WEEK'S IRISH HISTORY PUZZLERIn Cobh Heritage Center is a message in a bottle said to be sent by a Titanic passenger. What was that passenger's name?

Send your answer to and enter a drawing for a Titanic Centenary Chart from Know Thy Place. Each person is restricted to only one guess per week and each winner is prohibited from playing for four weeks following their winning entry.

SEND YOUR FREE EVENTS LISTINGS for inclusion's weekly newsletter to, by Wednesday midnight, for the following week's edition.

LAST WEEK'S QUESTION: Before the American Civil War, Tom Smyth joined a reckless adventurer's bid to conquer a Central American country -- an expedition that continues to color that nation's troubled relationship with the United States. What was the name of leader of that expedition?

The correct answer was: The correct answer was "William Walker." Congratulations to Jim Goulding of Pereira, Colombia, who was the first one to send in the correct answer and won the $10 Cafe Press gift certificate.

Commemorate the centenary of Titanic's departure from Cobh with a Know Thy Place chart telling the story of the ship and its Irish passengers. Order your copy today! Know Thy Place ... where your heritage comes alive 

While the sinking of RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912, is not an Irish tragedy, per se, exploring the ocean liner's fate reveals much about the lot of the Irish in 1912. The liner was build in Belfast, by Harland & Wolff Shipyards, virtually entirely by Irish Protestants, as the shipyard hired few Catholics. One hundred and thirteen Irish passengers boarded in Cobh, with only 34 making it to New York. On the centennial of the Titanic's foundering, writer John Walsh explores the Irish experience on the ship. Co-sponsored by The Wild Geese Heritage Partners MERCIER PRESS, publisher of 'The Irish Aboard the Titanic' and other fine books on Irish history, and KNOW THY PLACE, offering a Limited Edition Titanic Commemorative Chart.
This Week in the History of the Irish
IN GERMANY: The German merchant ship Aud leaves the port of Lübeck, loaded with guns and ammunition for the Irish Republican Brotherhood and carrying rebel leader Roger Casement. IN IRELAND: General Liam Lynch, chief of staff of the Irish Republican Army, is mortally wounded by Free State troops in Tipperary. Born in Limerick, Journalist and revolutionary Charles Gavan Duffy is born in Co. Monaghan. Thomas Francis Meagher presents the green, white and orange tricolor national flag of Ireland to the public for the first time at a meeting of the Young Ireland Party.  More. Key dates
Through the mid- to late-19th century, it was support from Irish-America, the Fenians, that helped to sustain the nationalist movement in Ireland, a movement that would one day succeed against all odds. Buy an item made using a beautiful graphic from an early 20th century postcard and show the world that the "Fenian Tradition" lives on in Irish America. Celebrate their service with unique merchandise Shop.
GETTING THE GUNSthe second part of our series, 'Tracing the Rising: Easter Week in Dublin 1916,' Robert A. Mosher's explores how the Irish armed themselves with rifles purchased from Germany on the eve of World War i. 

Co-sponsored by The Wild Geese Heritage Partners MERCIER PRESS, publisher of 'A Walk Through Rebel Dublin 1916' and other fine books on Irish history, and KNOW THY PLACE ... where your heritage comes alive.
Start Looking
'Washingon's Irish'
Take Center Stage
In New Warfield album

After more than two centuries, Washington's Irishmen, collectively, are finally getting some media face-time due to the efforts of singer-songwriter Derek Warfield, former front-man for The Wolfe Tones. Warfield and his new group, The Young Wolfe Tones, have produced a new album, "Washington's Irish: Songs, Music & Story of the Irish Fight for American Liberty." Daniel Marrin reports on the recent NYC launch for this latest offering from Derek Warfield.

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