The Irish in Cincinnati

This website grew from a University of Cincinnati Honors Program seminar, “The Irish in America,” in coordination with the Archives & Rare Books Library. The focus is on the history and the living heritage of the Irish in Cincinnati and is designed to be a sustainable and informative site that is a collaborative effort between archivists, students, scholars, and the general public.

Loreena McKennitt

By: Mickayla Beckett

With all of the festivities and business in Cincinnati during autumn, it may seem a bit surprising that a non-themed concert could be completely packed.   For many of the Irish-descended or Irish-interested people in Cincinnati, however, it seems that a concert was the best place to be. The concert was a stop in Loreena McKennitt’s 2016 world tour, and it was indeed completely packed at the Taft Theater on the 2016 Halloween night.

Loreena McKennitt, a Canadian with an Irish background and a love for the Celtic heritage generally, had only one concert in Cincinnati on this tour.  Perhaps that was part of the attraction that drew people from their festivities to the event, or perhaps it was the night itself: sunset of All Hallow’s Eve would be the beginning of Samhain’s festival for the end of harvest.  It would have been a day of feasting, music, and games in ancient Ireland and was also considered a time when the borders between this world and the otherworld weakened.  With a history like that, perhaps an event centered on the rich history of Ireland made perfect sense.  Playing the song “Samain Night” may have set the mood even more.

The concert featured plenty of music and stories, some from McKennitt’s life and travels and others from ancient myth, poetry, and sources contemporary to Irish events such as the Easter Rising of 1916, the centennial commemoration of which was a major part of Irish life. As such, the concert not only entertained but taught as well. The myths and legends of the bonny swamps, Anachie Gordon, and Brian Boru were paired with stories of red-haired mummies believed to be pre-Celtic being found in an ancient Chinese burial ground.  McKennitt wove an atmosphere of learning with careful choices in music and literature.  In the true Irish spirit, she also made sure to stress the future and the importance of making choices to take care of people, the environment, and our world as a whole.  It was an experience that hints at the power a seanachie, or storyteller, may have had on the ancient Celts.

For some of the distant descendants of the Irish people, it may have been the closest they could get to connecting with their ancestral culture in the middle of a Cincinnati autumn and perhaps that is why the standard hours we set for Halloween celebrations were spent listening and feeling rather than eating candy or partying.  Instead of all that, All Hallows’ Eve was spent nurturing the soul-felt connection to ancestors and heroes long gone.

Irish-American Cultural Identity through Theater

By: Ben Knollman

One of the more positive impacts that the Irish Diaspora had on society was the global spread of Irish heritage and culture. With over 34 million Americans currently claiming Irish ancestry, the effects of Irish emigration remain clear to be seen. Looking at a dispersion of this magnitude, it is interesting to look at not only the spread of people with Irish heritage, but also the spread of Irish culture, ideals, and art throughout the world. One of the forms of Irish art that has gained some popularity in the United States over the past few decades is theater. The works of famous Irish playwrights such as Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Sean O’Casey, and Brian Friel are being performed more frequently in Irish-American theaters. Visual and performing arts have always been a method of identifying and conveying one’s culture. Irish-American theaters seek to continue this tradition by bringing the culture of Ireland onto American stages. An article posted by the American Planning Association suggests that “Arts and culture strategies help to reveal and enhance the underlying identity — the unique meaning, value, and character — of the physical and social form of a community.” The impact that art and culture have on a community of Irish-Americans become more apparent as they gain popularity.

Continue reading

Balancing of Traditions and the Calendar

By: Lauren Higginbotham

Leap Year is a 2010 film, starring Amy Adams as Anna Brady, and Matthew Goode as Declan O’Callaghan.  Frustrated with her long time boyfriend’s lack of a marriage proposal, Anna decides to travel to Dublin and propose to him on leap day, while he is there at a conference.  She hits a few bumps in the road on her way to Dublin, and ultimately finds a travel partner in a surly Irish innkeeper, named Declan.  By the end of the film, Anna comes to realize Declan is the person she wishes to spend the rest of her life with, as opposed to her long time boyfriend, and the two are married in Cork.

Aside from the cheesy love story and abundance of clichés used throughout the film, the underlying plot centers around an old Irish legend, which allows women to propose to men on leap day.  Supposedly, the tradition began when St. Brigid struck a deal with St. Patrick, in order to balance the traditional roles of men and women, similar to how leap day balances the calendar.  Despite the folklore’s romantic undertone, according to The Huffington Post’s Stephanie Hallet, “The roots of the Irish tradition are dubious…St. Brigid was just 9 or 10 years old when St. Patrick died in 461 A.D…making the pair’s friendship unlikely.”

Regardless of the story’s validity, Americans such as myself, view the film as simply a romantic comedy, capitalizing on the differences between Americans and the Irish.  Throughout the film, Anna continuously comments on Declan’s strong Irish brogue, the relaxed attitudes of those she meets, and the importance placed on a true Catholic marriage.  In turn, Declan is caught off guard by the value Anna places on material objects, her seemingly conceited personality, and low tolerance to alcohol.  On each side of the spectrum, the film focuses on stereotypes typical to each nationality, yet considering the majority of the film occurs in Ireland, it is plausible the Irish may reject the movie for its subpar portrayal of Irish life.  As a whole, the film did not receive rave reviews in the United States, yet Roger Ebert counters this negativity by saying, “When was the last time you saw a boring Irishman in a movie?”


Works Cited

Hallett, Stephanie. “Leap Year Proposal: What’s The Story Behind It?” The Huffington Post., 27 Feb. 2012. Web. 24 Feb. 2017.

The High Kings: Irish Music Around the World

By: Benjamin Knollman

I have been fascinated with Irish music for some time now, especially the Irish folk group The High Kings.  The High Kings were formed in Dublin in 2008, and consist of four members: Finbarr Clancy, Brian Dunphy, Martin Furey, and Darren Holden.  Each member had experience in music performance before the creation of the band.  Recorded in Dublin in 2008, a recently televised concert is ripe with Irish traditions and customs and relate  to why the High Kings have had such an impact on Americans with their traditional Irish music.

One striking aspect in the concert film is the amount of audience participation.  An invitation is offered by Finbarr Clancy, “We have some fantastic songs for you.  We know them, we know you know them, so sing up!”  For the rest of the concert, the camera pans around to people clapping, smiling, and singing whole-heartedly, giving off the friendly vibe of the atmosphere.  It shows the amount of pride the Irish people take in their heritage through music. Continue reading

On the Outside Looking In

By: Jessica Heskett

InAmericaMoviePosterThe Irish filmmaker, Jim Sheridan, directs the 2002 film, In America.  This film tells the story of a family of Irish emigrants who struggle to find their way in New York City after the loss of their young son.  With the help of his two daughters, Jim Sheridan wrote this film based upon their lives.  When Sheridan was 17, his younger brother, Frankie, died from a brain tumor.  As a way for Sheridan to grieve and honor his late brother, the character Frankie is included in the film.  The family’s struggles with poverty and immigration in America are taken from Sheridan’s experiences when he moved his family to New York City in the 1980s.  Sheridan has notable accomplishments in film, writing or directing such movies as My Left Foot, The Field, and In the Name of the Father. Collectively, these films received 13 Academy Award nominations. Continue reading

More than Music

By: Jason Cochran
Dropkick Murphys 3rd Album Art

Dropkick Murphys– 3rd Album Art

Groups like the Dropkick Murphys and Black 47 are at the core of Irish influence in the music today. Their new styles and songs are created, with the style of traditional Irish music certainly not forgotten. Though these groups were not all trying to brand themselves with Irish influences, they have. Groups like the Dropkick Murphys even go as far as to try to avoid the “Irish sound” in their music. However, in the end the Irish tones persist. This is in part because their Irish upbringing is not something they can simply forget.  Founded in Quincy Massachusetts, the Dropkick Murphys, whether they wanted it or not became a staple in the music industry as a popular Irish and Celtic rock band. The band was particularly impactful in their home grounds in south Boston. They were quite representative of the working class that lived there. With songs like “The State of Massachusetts” and “Workers Song” They created a strong relationship with the people of South Boston by displaying the hardships and social wrongs those blue-collar families had to endure. They even pay homage to their Boston fans with a mural of their logo painted in south Boston as the cover art for their third album. Their lyrics impacted people but not always in a positive way. In 2014 a 18 year-old was arrested and convicted on two counts of assault, one against a women who needed to be hospitalized. After being stopped by the police, the teen shouted out, “Dropkick Murphys!” Obviously, this fan’s actions horrified the band, they even sent the officers and victims merchandise and tickets to their show to show their support. Examples like this just go to show that the message the Dropkick Murphys sent out was both powerful and damaging at the same time. Continue reading

The Prevalence of Mental Illness in Irish Americans: The Three Theories

By: Michelle Casey

Depression. Alcoholism.  Schizophrenia.  Just a few of the mental illnesses that rage through the Irish American and Irish communities, yet the Irish will barely utter the terms themselves.  Why is it that such a stereotypically cheery and happy lot such as the Irish and Irish Americans suffer so disproportionately from mental illness compared to other ethnic groups?  After some research, I have compiled three potential theories as to why mental illness is so commonplace in the Irish Americans today: The Great Hunger, paternal age tendencies, and the Irish culture itself.

The first theory is certainly the most commonly heard: epigenetic changes that arose from The Great Hunger contribute to higher prevalence of mental illness in the Irish.  Oonagh Walsh, an Irish historian, strongly believes this to be the case, as it is known that both the Irish and the Irish diaspora have significantly higher rates of mental illness than any other ethnic group.  She believes that the nutritional deprivation endured by the Irish during the potato famine of 1845-1852 was so extreme that it caused changes in gene expression that led to a higher likelihood of obtaining mental illness at some point in life.  These genetic changes have now persisted for over a century and a half.  Walsh’s evidence comes from the Irish censuses of 1841 and 1900.  Per the 1841 census, of the eight-million population, 1,600 were committed to asylums and 1,500 were in jails.  Per the 1900 census, of the four-million population, 17,000 were committed to asylums and 8,000 were considered “lunatics at large.”  The numbers indicate a staggering increase in mental illness from before the famine to sometime after.  However, a counterargument to this theory is that a series of “Dangerous Lunatics Acts” enacted during this time period permitted the asylum of anyone considered mentally impaired enough to commit a criminal offense.  These laws were horribly abused during their time, landing many more people in asylums than who actually needed to be there.  Despite this counterargument, this theory is still in the running for a potential reason for the amount of mental illness in the Irish. Continue reading

Tapping into Hearts and History

By: Dominique DiFalco

Tap DanceGrowing up, one of my biggest dreams was to be a professional dancer. I attended classes until I was about six-years-old for tap and ballet and my best friend was an Irish dancer as well. It wasn’t until I was 16 when I was re-watching the amazing videos of me dancing my little heart out in front of a handprint-stained mirror that I came to a life altering revelation: I have no rhythm. None. The passion to dance that is present within my heart was never correctly transferred to my feet. Although crushed, I have decided to place this unseen potential into something more productive: discovering the relationship of modern tap dancing to traditional Irish step dancing. Continue reading

The Forgotten Female Voice

By: Rachel Forsythe

Throughout my life, I’ve always had a deep appreciation for poetry.  It amazes me how poets can express complex emotions, themes, and metaphors in just a few stanzas.  As Voltaire once said “Poetry is the music of the soul, and, above all, of great and feeling souls.”   Throughout these last few months, I have been discovering different elements of Irish culture.  I’ve been enchanted by Ireland’s vast grassy plains, beautiful architecture, and bustling cities.  Irish art, music, and dancing have all become interests of mine.  But, above all, I appreciate Irish poetry. Moreover, I appreciate Ireland’s influence on American poetry.

Eavan Boland was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1944. She moved to London with her family at the age of six but soon returned to Ireland to receive her B.A. at Trinity College in 1966. She immigrated to America and has been living in California since 1996. She is currently a poetry professor at and director of the creativity writing program at Stanford University. Continue reading

Irish Pubs with Irish Grub

By: Mickayla Beckett

Bangers and Mash Doherty'sAs human beings, we’re engineered to like food. Some of us even have favorites, though I never could decide on one myself. Food is something that unites people because we all need it, we all make it, and we all eat it. Naturally, with the high Irish immigrant population in the United States over the decades and the enduring attachment Americans have for Irish heritage, there are a number of Irish pubs and restaurants around. Of course, there is a distinct difference between authentic Irish pubs and Irish-themes pubs, which is important to consider when analyzing the impact and success of Irish pubs. According to “The Irish Pub Concept,” a website that specializes in supporting and increasing the number of authentic Irish pubs in the United States, authentic Irish pubs tend to be more successful than their inauthentic namesakes. The website contains an economic comparison showing higher profits with the authentic Irish pubs, even if they had less money initially put into them. It’s hard to find exact statistics for how many of each may be in the country, but this particular website gives a good idea on how to tell the difference between the two: the authentic Irish pub is much more likely to be open during the day for food and it is much more likely to have an environment that promotes gathering, socializing, and conversing when compared to the themed pubs. Continue reading

« Older posts