Toledo Irish: Echoes of Ireland: The End of an Era
By Molly McHugh
Every Sunday morning for the past thirty-three years, “Echo’s of Ireland” radio show brought together a lovely blend of Irish music, history, news and, of course, humor, to the Toledo airwaves and beyond. Unfortunately, at the end of 2021, due to a change in the radio industry, the show was brought to a close. I had the pleasure of co-hosting the radio show with John Connolly for the past three and a half years; and it brought to me memories I will never forget.
John emigrated to the U.S.A. from County Limerick in 1967. He landed in Toledo, where he brought an unwavering depth of enthusiasm for Irish music to the community.
In Ireland John learned to entertain at a very young age. His first love was in traditional Ceili music and ballad singing. He joined the Boys Club at the age of ten, where he learned to play his first musical instrument, a flageolet (Penny Whistle).
Quickly thereafter, he began playing with a local marching band and eventually learned how to play the Chromatic, or button, accordion. John would sit in with a local Ceili band when they played in his village of Castleconnell.
By age 15, John was singing and playing music professionally. He has shared stages throughout Ireland, England, Canada, and the U.S. with many well-known artists, and has appeared on national television.
Eventually, through John’s creativity and love of Ireland and Irish music, Echo’s of Ireland”radio show was born in 1988. At the time, John jokes, he didn’t know “everything” about running a radio show, but he surely had the gift of gab and the musical talent to get it going.
Shortly after, roughly six months in, my dad Ted McHugh joined John as his one and only co-host, until I came along. While both John and my dad are from Ireland, John from Limerick and my dad from Galway, the two did not know each other. They met “way back when” in Toledo and became instant friends. The friendship remained strong for many years, and the two of them together brought loyal listeners, Echo’s of Ireland, for twenty-nine years.
After my dad passed away in 2017, John continued the show by himself with a few guest hosts along the way. I started to gradually call in more and more; and in Spring of 2018, John asked me to join him fulltime as co-host.
Like John in his early days, I didn’t know much about life in radio; but co-hosting Echo’s of Ireland with John Connolly was an opportunity that I could not pass up. Although I knew I could never fill my dad’s seat, it was an honor to carry on his presence and to bring a new perspective to the show.
I could probably write a whole book about the good times we had over the past three years. Some of the highlights include interviewing WeBanjo3 and Mick Mulcahy. Many readers here are probably familiar with WeBanjo3; but for anyone who is not familiar with Mick Mulcahy, he had his own radio show in Cork, Ireland, called the “Big Breakfast Club.”
One of the best segments of his show is called the Windup, where someone would call him and ask him to “prank” or “windup” a friend or a family member on air. The voices and jokes that he pulled off were second to none, and we were honored to have him chat with us on air as well. Luckily, he didn’t wind us up!
We also had the pleasure of talking with Sandy Fall from Ohlman’s Market every Sunday; and most recently, John’s nephew, Mark Connolly, our “Irish Correspondent,” would call in to bring us the most up-to-date Irish news directly from Ireland. Prior to me joining the show, John interviewed a slew of Irish musicians on the show, most notably, Paddy Moloney from the Chieftains.
What was so unique about the show was that it was never scripted. The banter, laughs, jokes, and stories from the beginning were all spoken straight from experience, memory, and the heart. Sunday mornings will no longer be the same without Echo’s of Ireland; but as John would say at the end of every show, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here!”
Thank you to all our wonderful, loyal listeners from the greater Toledo area and from all around the world who joined us on this musical journey over the years. It was indeed our honor to bring you Echo’s of Ireland.