Cleveland Comhrá: Christmas Reflections

Cleveland Comhrá: Christmas Reflections
By Bob Carney

“May You Never Forget What is Worth Remembering
or Remember What is Best Forgotten”

A little over seven years ago, John O’Brien, Jr. and I were having dinner together. I was a new columnist for the Ohio Irish American News, which became iIrish, with my Speak Irish Column, and John mentioned he was losing a couple of writers.

He explained he wanted a column that would focus on the people in the Irish community in Cleveland. I said I thought it was a great idea, between bites of my cheeseburger, oblivious as to what was coming next. “Great! I need your first one by the 15th.”

Marys Lane
I had never considered myself a writer, but thought why not give it a try? I reached out to local musician Michael Crawley. His band, “Marys Lane,” was one of my favorites. Michael was my very first interview, he was kind and patient and made me think I might just be able to pull this off. 

As I sit here this evening with a glass of wine and Brahms Violin Concerto in D on the stereo, I’m reminded of how fortunate I have been in meeting, and in many cases becoming friends with many of the people I’ve been able to interview over the years for iIrish.

My young friends Andy McManus and Tiffany Schaefer were so quick to come to my aid when I was asked to do an Irish language presentation at a local high school. We came up with a plan in the school parking lot and it came across like we’d done it many times before.

Inspirational Interviews
There have been many other great musicians and performers willing to take the time to speak to me. I wish to thank Paulie and Peggy Baker of “Brigid’s Cross,” Brent Hopper, Riverdance star Brandon Asazawa, Limerick singer songwriter Siobhán O’Brien, Barry Conway, Andrew Fowler and the Bigley’s; Brian and Kristen’s KBB Production Co. brings us Tomáseen Foley’s Celtic Christmas, which has become something we look forward to attending with my parents as a start to the Christmas Season.

There have been people whose stories have moved me greatly. Their examples of charity and passion for helping others or dedication in what they believe in is inspiring: the folks at St. Hermans, who struggle daily to help men in need on Cleveland’s near west side; Patricia Krueger-Harding, a local artist whose non-profit “Faces of Angels” gives comfort to families that have lost a child; my friend Maureen Hennesey, a kinder,  more giving person, I’ve yet to meet; Rebecca Jones and Lydia Murillo, park rangers in Cuyahoga National Park, who share their passion for our parks with it’s visitors and always have time for my questions; Photographer Ian Adams, his love of the outdoors in his adopted home of Ohio shows in all of his work. He told me you have to get people to love something before you can get them to save it.

I keep in mind Laura Jordan, director of the Medina Raptor Center and all of the volunteers there, they do an incredible job saving these great birds; author Felicity Hayes-McCoy, who gave me good advice about what it means to be a writer; my friend Dacre Stoker, who is keeping the Irish Business Owners Who Give Back Irish tradition of storytelling very much “undead,” and has been an inspiration to me; Al O’Leary and Richard Lardie, who always have words of advice and encouragement for what I try to do. I have never forgotten your “big brotherly” advice Dick.

Business owners too: the Casey sisters; Conor Boylan at “Five Points”; John Sullivan of “Sully’s”; Sean Gormley of “Gormley’s”; Sean Lackey of “Gandalf’s” and Executive Producer of “Flanagan’s Wake,” which is returning this year at Kennedy’s Cabaret in Playhouse Square Jan.6 – April 29.

I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve gotten to know through the Speak Irish Cleveland Classes, but so many have become far more than acquaintances. I have to give a special thanks to Pat Campbell of P.J. McIntyre’s; I can never thank you enough for all the years with Speak Irish Cleveland, a chara! Doug and all the Tuesday night staff are fantastic.

My affiliation with iIrish has allowed me to meet thousands of others over the years at festivals and events. Our old van still has the Ohio Irish American News logos all over it and often has folks walking up and introducing themselves or sharing something of their own heritage.

The music has long since stopped and my glass is empty, so let me just say thank you to everyone; may you have a Blessed Christmas. I can’t wait to see what the New Year brings.

Nollaig Shona Daoibh

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