Celtic Junction Arts Review

Issue 20, Samhain 2022

Archiving and Articulating Celtic Heritage
A quarterly publication of CJAC's Education Program

From the hills of county Kerry,/To the shores of Londonderry,/From Galway Bay to Dublin,/And their
numbers were not small,/Came each youthful Boy and Maiden,/With health and beauty laden,/To
uncles, aunts and cousins,/Who were settled in St. Paul,/We figured then quite clearly,/There’d be
others coming yearly, So an Irish club was formed,/ That our legends might survive,

Patrick J. “Paddy” Hill (1900-1979) in his performative memory poem The Irish American Club.
“A Night with the Irish” at Burnsville High School auditorium in 1969. Courtesy Burnsville Historical Society Archives

Hill, the Tipperary rhyming poet, musician, and veteran of Ireland’s War of Independence and Civil War arrived in St. Paul in 1923. His poems provide a very persuasive and illuminating insight into the social world of the Irish in St. Paul: their ties of friendship and humorous conviviality, and their rounds of church-going and dancing from the 1920s up until the 1960s.

Brian Miller, our colleague and librarian in the McKiernan Library, continues in his own fashion the legacy of Hill in preserving the historical memory of the stalwarts who made up the storied Irish American Club. His classic chronicle “The Twin City Irish American Club” will prove foundational as it galvanizes future articles, talks, and discussions on the inimitable contributions of the Irish to their capital city and the larger cultural story of Minnesota.

McHugh 2019. Photo by Tom Dunn

Sam Dillon shares the obituary of Martin McHugh, a treasured friend and traditional musician whose influence and legacy in the Irish music scene of the Twin Cities can’t be overstated. Marty’s central importance was recognized and recorded in his life – as evidenced in Brian Miller’s previous article about the Twin City Irish American Club – but the full magnitude of McHugh’s influence is likely to reveal itself over the coming years. Meanwhile, we share memories of the box player. Jim Tarbox, the author of the next article in this issue, recently recounted, “When I first joined Brian Boru, Marty was really the first person in the community who made me feel welcome.”

Jim Tarbox. Image courtesy of Jim Tarbox

Jim Tarbox, in a drily observational and understated style, commemorates “One Man’s History with Brian Boru Irish Pipe Band” in its 6oth year – an anniversary happily celebrated by the community on August 27, 2022, at the Celtic Junction Arts Center!

Jim remembers his teenage involvement in bands beginning in high school in 1967 all the way up to his current senior role with the Brian Boru as it continues to be a vital and formidable St. Paul Irish cultural institution. “Clear the way” is the popular motto linking this pipe band symbolically to the war cry of the celebrated Irish Brigade of the American Civil War. The origins of the phrase are usually traced to the eighteenth century and Irish soldiers adventuring across the battlefields of Europe.

The band’s name of course recalls the celebrated High King who inspired his soldiers to drive the Vikings into the foam at the Battle of Clontarf on Good Friday, April 23, 1014. It was the greatest battle fought on Irish ground up to that date. Infamously, the 70 year-old king was cruelly felled by the downward sweep of a battle-axe while defenseless at prayer. The Icelandic Njal’s Saga remembered the battle: “I have been where warriors wrestled,/High in Erin sang the sword,/Boss to boss met many bucklers;/Steel rang sharp on rattling helm/ I can tell of all their struggle/ Sigurd fell in flight of spears/ Brian fell, but kept his kingdom/Ere he lost one drop of blood.”

We continue our commitment to publishing creative writing with “Lament for Dublin’s Moore Street Vendors,” a poem from Canadian Gerry Bradley, born and raised on Prince Edward Island. He spent time in 1976 in Dublin “looking for the ghost of James Joyce, and found it later [he tells us] in the bottom of an empty pint of Guinness in McDaid’s pub, Harry Street.” Joyce’s ghost commanded him to return to Canada and get some work and he found himself over the next thirty-four years working in community mental health. Gerry is a regular student in our Irish language classes and contributed many insights to my St. Columba class in June of this year.

Des Murphy, editor Patrick O’Donnell, Laura Ostertag, and Fergal O’Brien at the Irish Hunger Strikers Memorial in Camlough, summer 2022. Image courtesy of Patrick O’Donnell

Jane Kennedy, a regular contributor to the Arts Review who teaches history classes with us gives a clear-eyed account of the horrors of force feeding endured by two Irish women hunger strikers, the sisters Marian and Dolours Price, over 200 plus days in 1973 in her brilliant article “Fire in their Bellies – and Little Else.” It was the international ruling preventing the use of force feeding in 1975 that paved the way for IRA prisoners such as Bobby Sands to take the tactic of hunger strikes to its grim and fatal conclusion beginning in 1981.

This fifth-anniversary edition celebrates the living and continuing legacies of Irish culture and history.

Patrick O’Donnell – Editor, contributing writer, and founder of the Celtic Junction Arts Review;  founder and co-director of the annual Irish Arts Week; and, Director of Education and founder of CJAC’s education program.

Carillon RoseMeadows – Digital Curator of the Celtic Junction Arts Review, occasional contributing writer, and architect of the Celtic Junction Arts Center’s web presence.