Irish Eclectic

An Artist Passes, and Upcoming Chances to Honor the Tradition

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Irish EclecticBy Brian McGowan

With sadness, the Irish Eclectic notes the untimely passing of one of Ireland’s most talented, and controversial, artists – Sinead O’Connor – who died of an undisclosed cause on July 26 at the much-too-early age of 56.

Whatever one’s feelings about her may have been, she was ahead of her time in calling to task both the Irish government and the Roman Catholic Church for the systematic abuse of innocents who deserved better protection than they received from the church and state. While Irish traditional music was not her normal milieu, her 2002 album, “Sean-Nós Nua,” paid homage to her roots in the tradition.

One of my favorite tracks on this album is O’Connor’s rendition of “Paddy’s Lament,” a great song dealing with the conscription of Irish immigrants into the Union army during the Civil War. The song makes mention of a “General Meagher,” pronounced Mar. This reference is to Thomas Francis Meagher, who first came to fame as a member of the ill-fated “Young Ireland” rebellion of 1848.  For this, he was banished by the British Empire to Australia. He ultimately escaped to America, where he rose to lead the Union Army’s Irish Brigade during the Civil War.

A recent present I received is a biography of Meagher, whose heart remained tied to the people, legends and music of his native land no matter where life took him. Titled “The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero,” it is a masterful work written by Timothy Egan.

While not the first time I have run across Meagher, it is so far the best encounter. Kudos to friend and Eclectic fan Tony Suozzi for suggesting the book to me some time ago. More on Meagher to come.

With the rapid passing of summer, some of you may have missed the festival of Lughnasadh, the first of August. But fear not! The penultimate Celtic god Lugh will forgive all if attendance at any of several upcoming Irish festivals is attempted.

My thanks to a couple of Eclectic fans (Gerry McLoughlin of the Eastchester Irish-American Social Club and Liam Murphy from the Westchester County Ancient Order of Hibernians) for sharing some current information on the following events:

For a more “intimate” musical experience, I recently learned, thanks to Murphy, of a monthly seisiún called “The Rising of the Moon.” It is an open seisiún, where all are welcomed to perform. Traditionally held on the Thursday of the full moon, the next one is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 31, at 7:30 p.m. at the Little Stony Point Volunteer Center, 3011 Route 9D in Cold Spring.

Future dates for the rest of the year are Oct. 5, Nov. 2, Nov, 30 and Dec. 28.

And on the topic, last, but not at all least, a favorite venue for Irish music, Dunne’s Pub (15 Shapham Place in White Plains) will feature singer Mary Courtney on back-to-back Wednesday evenings, Aug. 23 and 30. Dunne’s continues to be a mainstay of Irish traditional music, with a seisiún every Wednesday night. Visit for more information.

Meanwhile, enjoy the rest of Samhradh and get ready to welcome in the months of Fómhar, during which Samhain, the Celtic New Year, makes its annual appearance, cleverly disguised as Hallowe’en. Never too soon to start planning!

Longtime Pleasantville resident Brian McGowan was born and raised in the Bronx, and is a second-, third- and fifth-generation Irish-American/Canadian, as his immigrant ancestors followed several paths to the New World. Reach him at He is the author of two books, “Thunder at Noon,” about the Battle of Waterloo, and “Love, Son John,” about World War II. Both are available at His third book, “Island Prize,” about the Battle of Brooklyn, is due to be published soon.


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