Cleveland Irish: The Grand Army
By Francis McGarry
The Grand Army of the Republic Highway, Route 6, is named in honor of American Civil War veterans. It stretches from Bishop, CA, to Provincetown, MA. The Boston Irish call it P-town. It is Lake Road in Bay Village, Clifton Boulevard in Lakewood, Superior Avenue after the river and, once in East Cleveland, it is Euclid Avenue, just plain old Euclid Avenue.
Bartley J. Kilkenny settled in East Cleveland upon his arrival in Cleveland in 1920. He and his wife, Winnifred Padden, were born in County Mayo and married at St. Aloysius in 1926. They lived on 117th Street in 1930, about a half-mile walk to St. Aloysius.
Depending on how the Irish American Club founded in 1890 on East 6th and Superior, Route 6, is tallied, Bartley started the first or second Irish Club on the Eastside in the 1930s. He was a good friend of Patrick Lynch of the West Side IA. Those Irish on the Eastside assembled at assorted addresses: Metropolitan Hall, Virginia Hall (East 105th and Superior) and the Slovenian Hall on Waterloo. In the 1940s, they held club meetings at the Slovenian Hall at East 64th and St. Clair.
In 1959, that club was known as the Euclid Irish Association, and it was a member of the United Irish Societies. Mayor Ely of Euclid had allowed the Club the use Euclid Park Clubhouse at East 222nd and Lakeshore years before. The Irish American Club-East Side, Inc. was started in 1978. It first met at O’Brien’s by the Tracks in Euclid and now is at 228thand Lakeshore, for those who don’t traverse the Cuyahoga.
Eastside Irish Clubs
Bartley Kilkenny was the first president of that Irish Club. The IACES has had fifteen. Four of those, #2, #7, #10 and #16, are dearly departed and dearly missed. Eight of those Past Presidents were in East Cleveland the first Friday of December. St. Philomena’s is where we assembled, just past where the RTA ends.
The school has long since closed and some of the bricks are missing at St. Phil’s. The Bluestone Hibernians and Knights of Columbus assist with the grounds, but more work is required.
We were there for #12. Her mom passed away; they are a St. Phil’s family. #12 and her people were not alone. #4, who is also #6, #8, #13 and #17, managed the funeral and did a magnificent job.
#14 played the bagpipes, truly a master of his trade. #1 was there, who is also #5, as was #9, who is also #11 and #18. #23 was there and I sat by #19 and her chatty friend, mind yourself. #3, #20 and #22, who is also #24, could not attend. #3’s wife was there and she served at the after-funeral dinner. #20’s husband was the volunteer bartender. It was not just the #’s there; “Mama Hanson” had many friends.
The funeral procession left St. Phil’s and headed east on Euclid Avenue. We passed McCall’s Motor Inn and Shaw High School. Then the first casino in Cleveland, Tucker’s, and Angela Mia’s Pizza. At Noble Road we passed Christ the King; #20 was a teacher there.
Mrs. Duffy was a parishioner at Christ the King. She was born Mary Kay McGarry in Roscommon and immigrated to Cleveland in 1899. Martin Duffy married her in 1901 at St. Aloysius. They lived on East 55th before moving to East 117th and St. Clair, about a half mile walk to St. Aloysius.
Mary joined the LAOH, started an Eastside division and was named Hibernian of the Year. A new Eastside LAOH is now in the works. Her brother Michael was also a Hibernian and started McGarry Painting. He painted St. Al’s. Michael was a regular guest on Mary’s radio show, Echoes of Erin, and Member of the Year at the IACES.
They were Hibernians when Cleveland had two National Presidents. Martin Sweeney was National President from 1927 to 1931 and Michael McGrath was National President from 1946 to 1950.
Mary Duffy was the founder of the Irish Cultural Garden Association and started Nelaview Realty, which had an office on Noble Road in East Cleveland. My grandfather, John Francis, started McGarry Realty and had an office on Mayfield next to Dee Jay Paints, his paint store.
The Duffy’s lived just up Noble in Cleveland Heights when she passed away, a few blocks behind the Colombo Room. It has good food.
#3 used to have his lunch there when he worked at the bank across the street at Nela Park. #3 also worked at the furniture store before it became the Irish American Club-East Side. He almost had a statue at the next Irish Club.
Eamon de Valera visited the United States to raise funds for the Irish Republic. He met with Mary Duffy and Bartley Kilkenny. She was a member of the American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic. It was a matter of respect.
The funeral procession passed Noble Road and the buildings made all of brick. Past the garages built with flat roofs; where your neighbor was only a driveway’s width away. We passed Dead Dog Way, then Euclid Creek and what once was Bluestone Village.
County Tyrone native Duncan McFarland and his sons quarried bluestone in Euclid Creek in 1867. Bluestone is the native substrate in Eastern Cuyahoga County, sometime referred to as Euclid Bluestone. The parents of Bob Mullin, Bluestone AOH President, and Kevin Mullin, Bluestone AOH Secretary, were parishioners at St. Aloysius, about a half mile walk away. Mullin Brothers Painting is in Euclid.
We turned on Chardon Road and went to All Soul’s. My Ma doesn’t let me cross SOM Center Road after the street lights are on. Regardless of the time or the route, it is a path we are all going to take.
Some Irish on the Eastside went up the hill, #12 and #21, who is also me, are about a half-mile walk apart in the Heights. Some Irish continued east to Euclid, which is good because they aren’t as good in the altitude.
Bartley Kilkenny moved to Fuller Avenue in Euclid, just up the street from Skinny’s, long before it was Skinny’s. The descendants of Michael and Mary McGarry are in Euclid and still make it back to the Slovenian Hall on East 64th and St. Clair every March 17th for the family gathering. The same hall that held the first or second Irish Club, depending.
We all made it back to East Cleveland that day, together if only for a while, and followed the path of those who made their way before us. We venerate them and strive to amplify the commitment they held dear. Regardless of the # or the name, we are one in the same. It was a sad but great day to be Cleveland Irish from the Eastside.
*Francis McGarry holds undergraduate degrees from Indiana University in Anthropology, Education and History and a Masters in Social Science from the University of Chicago. He is the founder of Bluestone Hibernian Charities. Francis is a past president of the Irish American Club East Side. He is the founder and past president of the Bluestone Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.