Eoin McKiernan Library

EML Director Update, December 2021

This fall, the Library laid the groundwork for our spring local history exhibition on the Twin Cities Irish American Club. Along the way we met some wonderful long-time members of the Twin Cities Irish-American community!  We also collected photos, stories and even some 78rpm records of Irish music. In September, we had the privilege of interviewing poet Ethna McKiernan for our oral history collection. We also took in some sizeable book donations to feed our still-growing library! A highlight was coming together in person with Celtic Junction Arts Center supporters for our annual fundraiser in November. Thanks, as always, to the donors and volunteers who enrich our community and continue to help us grow!

Denis Dee sings at a Twin Cities Irish American Club gathering circa 1950 at their hall at 345½ University Ave, St. Paul. Courtesy Pat and Denis Dee.

Twin Cities Irish American Club Project

This fall, the McKiernan Library embarked on a new local history project that will be a focus for the next several months: the history of The Twin Cities Irish American Club. The Club was formed in the years following World War II. It was inspired, in part, by a new influx of Irish immigrants to St. Paul at that time. Irish-born newcomers worked together with Minnesota-born men and women proud of their Irish heritage to organize events that continued regularly through the mid 1960s. These included weekly dances, St. Patrick’s Day festivities, picnics and fundraisers for community members in need. 

This fall, Library Director Brian Miller visited the Morin-McDonough family and the Dee family to collect photos and stories relating to the club. Miller combined these materials with the Library’s existing materials relating to Club members Martin McHugh, Patrick Hill, Tony Doherty and the Brian Boru Irish Pipe Band to make a “preview exhibition” on the Club for CJAC’s fall fundraiser event in November. A larger exhibition and other programming relating to the Club’s history are planned for Irish Arts week in April 2022.

Ethna McKiernan. Photo by Tom Dunn

Oral History Interview: Ethna & Grania McKiernan

Director Brian Miller was deeply honored to sit down with Ethna McKiernan and her sister Grania McKiernan  for a recorded conversation about Ethna’s life and their father Eoin. The McKiernan sisters talked about their family’s year in Ireland when Ethna was seven years old, their father’s work and legacy, Ethna’s lifelong love of poetry, Ethna’s work with homeless populations and much more. This conversation proved to be especially poignant as Ethna McKiernan passed away December 12, 2021 after her long battle with cancer. We are currently transcribing this interview and preparing it for inclusion in our archives.

78 rpm record donated by Pat Dee featuring Johnny Powell and his Irish Band of the Year

New Library Donations: Maureen Makens,  Mary Murray Delaney, 78 RPM Records

We had several exciting donations of library and archival materials over the past few months. A large book donation came in from community member Maureen Makens including many books in the Irish language and lots of Irish fiction. We also accepted a collection of books from the personal library of Mary Murray Delaney, author of the well-loved book Of Irish Ways and former vice president of the Delaney, Joyce and O’Dell travel agency that helped bring many Minnesotans to Ireland. Thank you to the McKiernan Library volunteers who have been working on cataloging these new acquisitions! We also received two enticing sets of 78 RPM records featuring pre-1960 commercial Irish traditional music recordings. One set came from Twin Cities Irish American Club member Pat Dee and included a disc of Johnny Powell–an accordion player and bandleader from Boston who often visited his McDonough relatives in St. Paul and played for dances here.  We’re looking forward to sharing these over the coming months.

Adrienne O’Shea plays a tune learned from an archival recording of Twin Cities Irish American Club member Patrick Hill

EML at the CJAC Annual Fundraiser

Thank you to everyone who attended, both in person and online, the annual Celtic Junction Arts Center fundraiser on November 6th! Thanks especially to those that contributed financially to help sustain the work of CJAC and the Eoin McKiernan Library.

For the fundraiser event, the Eoin McKiernan Library put together a preview of our upcoming Twin Cities Irish American Club exhibition and other archival items on display including digitized video from Eoin McKiernan’s Irish Diary television series. Director Brian Miller spoke about the ability of archives to feed and inspire local artists and also about the commonalities shared by the Celtic Junction Arts Center and the Irish American Club. With the help of flute player Adrienne O’Shea, he performed a jig from the library’s Patrick Hill collection and sang a song composed by Hill describing a St. Patrick’s Day in St. Paul circa 1954.