Toledo Irish: Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Toledo Irish: Take Me Out to the Ballgame
By Molly McHugh

July 15th was Irish night, hosted by the AOH, at the Toledo Mud Hens Baseball Stadium, and it did not disappoint. The rain held off, the food was delicious; and there was a whole section of green shirts, not to mention an actual baseball game! While the Mud Hens did not end up winning the game, they are experiencing a winning season and are currently in second place in their Triple-A-East Midwest division.

The Toledo Mud Hens, a minor league baseball team and a farm team for the Detroit Tigers, have, for the most part, been a part of Toledo since 1896. It’s said that the Mud Hens adopted their name, “Mud Hens,” because at that time they would play their games at Bay View Park, which was close to a swamp that was filled with mud hens – makes sense!

Today, they play at the lovely Fifth Third Stadium in downtown Toledo. While they may have initially struggled with standings and solid fan base, now the games are almost always filled!

This special Irish night, of course, took a pause last year due to COVID; but the AOH team brought the event back to life this year.

Happy Birthday Maury
The man, the legend, and the king of one-liners, Toledo’s own Maury Collins celebrated his birthday (dare I share the age?) that night by throwing out the first pitch! Jim Burns and the President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Ohio, Robert McMahon, kicked off the night by singing both the Irish National Anthem and the United States National Anthem loud and proud. That may have been the first time I’ve heard the Irish National Anthem sung at a US sporting event.

Amhrán na bhFiann
The anthem, Amhrán na bhFiann, which translates to “The Soldier’s Song,” was composed as an Irish rebel song somewhere between the years of 1907 and 1910. The lyrics were written by Peader Kearney, and the music was composed by Patrick Heeney, who was a childhood friend of Kearney. Peader Kearney’s version of the song, originally written in English, was translated to Irish by Liam O’ Rinn in 1926; and that’s when the song was officially adopted as Ireland’s National Anthem.

There has, however, been some controversy about the lyrics of the song. In fact, the song has been dubbed as the Sinn Fein anthem. In the 1980s, when an Irish Rugby player had to retire due to injuries caused by a roadside IRA bomb, a new song, “Ireland’s Call,” was written. Ireland’s Call is sometimes used as an alternative to Amhrán na bhFiann at sporting events, and Amhrán na bhFiann is left to an instrumental version.

Ironically, there seems to be an Irish connection to the creation of our American national anthem too. Turlough O’Carolan, a blind Celtic harpist from County Westmeath, is believed to have been connected to the origin of our anthem.

There isn’t much debate that the melody Francis Scott Key used when writing the lyrics to the American National Anthem came from John Stafford Smith. Smith apparently, though, never claimed authorship of the music. In fact, Turlough O’Carolan’s “Bumper Squire Jones” song, composed in the 17th century, used that melody as well.

Decades after the composition of O’Carolan’s tune, John Stafford Smith made that melody famous by adding his own words to the music, and transforming it into a drinking song called “Anacreon in Heaven.” Due it its wide popularity in the 18th and 19th centuries in London, the song made its way across the Atlantic, where it was modified and used by Francis Scott Key as the melody for the US National Anthem. As the saying goes, “Everything comes full circle.”

Thank you again to the AOH for putting on a such a nice summer event; we look forward to many more events to come.
*Molly McHugh is a Toledo native, Co-Host of “Echos of Ireland” radio show, and holds her MSc in Strategy, Innovation and People Management from National University of Ireland, Galway. She can be reached at [email protected]

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