Previous Events

Saturday March 23, 2024

ILHS Board Member Rebecca Tracy gave a lecture on her experiences with the Irish Travellers in the early 1970s.

The ILHS presented a talk by ILHS Board Member Rebecca Tracy on her experiences living and working with a community of Irish Travellers in the west of Ireland in the early 1970s.

Sunday January 28, 2024

John Borgonovo on the Friends of Irish Freedom in San Francisco, 1917-1922

The ILHS presented a talk by Professor John Borgonovo on The Friends of Irish Freedom in San Francisco, 1917-1922, on Sunday January 28, 2024. 

The Irish Revolution of 1916 to 1923 featured a dynamic international dimension, particularly in the United States. To secure financial and diplomatic support, the Irish Republican campaign mobilized the Irish-American Diaspora. The San Francisco Bay Area emerged as a key location for this effort, as it generated lucrative fundraising, spectacular receptions of Irish emissaries, and a robust organization of 35,000 Californians (16,000 in San Francisco), organized into 174 branches statewide . This lecture outlined the Irish independence movement in the Bay Area, explained and contextualized its efforts, and mapped areas of strength in San Francisco and across the state. It will hope to raise awareness of a remarkable campaign of international solidarity which was embraced in San Francisco and elsewhere over a century ago.

Dr John Borgonovo is Senior Lecturer in the School of History at University College Cork. He has published extensively on Revolutionary Ireland (1914-1923), including numerous monographs and the co-edited, award-winning Atlas of the Irish Revolution (Cork University Press, 2017). He appears frequently on radio and television, and in 2023 was named University Historian by University College Cork. John is a native San Franciscan who relocated to Cork in 2006.

November 19, 2023

Myles Dungan on the Informer in Irish History

The ILHS presented a talk by Dr. Myles Dungan, Irish historian and broadcaster, on the Informer in Irish History, on Sunday November 19.  
Dr. Dungan examined that most loathed figure in Irish history, the informer. He will offer a detailed exposition of how the activities of spies and infiltrators stymied the efforts of Irish revolutionary organisations in the 18th and 19th centuries, before the successes of Michael Collins during the War of Independence turned the tables on the spymasters in Dublin Castle in the 20th century. Prepare to boo and hiss (in the comfort of your own homes) at the likes of Leonard McNally, Francis Higgins and Pierce Nagle.

Dr. Myles Dungan is an Irish broadcaster and author. He has presented many arts programmes on RTÉ Radio, and has also been a sports broadcaster on RTÉ Television. Since October 2010 he has been the presenter of “The History Show” on RTÉ Radio One.

Dungan was educated at St Patrick’s College, Cavan. He began broadcasting in RTÉ in 1977 and worked as a reporter for RTÉ Television and RTÉ Radio.  Dungan also became known to Irish television audiences during the 1980s and 1990s as the regular presenter of RTÉ’s televised golf coverage, and as host of an NFL American football highlights show.

In May 2006, Dungan received a Fulbright Scholar Award for academic study in the United States. He undertook a research project at the University of California in Berkeley, California on Irish-Native American history. In 2008, he was key-figure in RTÉ’s coverage of the 1918 Ireland and The Great War, remembering 90 years since the end of World War I.

Dungan has also written many books, mainly biographies and history.He attends and participates at a number of Summer Schools relating to Irish History, and delivers a course in history at City Colleges in Dublin. In May 2011, he fronted RTÉ radio coverage of Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to the Republic of Ireland.

He resides in his hometown of Kells Co. Meath, where he serves as co-founder and director of the acclaimed Hinterland Festival of Arts and Literature.  

October 29, 2023

Professor Sharon Gmelch on “Irish Travellers: The Unsettled Life

Professor Gmelch examined the many changes that haven taken place in Traveller life and culture since the 1970s. Her talk was illustrated with fieldwork photographs. Those from the 1970s and early 1980s formed an important part of her return research in 2011 when she and George used them as prompts, to encourage Travellers to reflect upon and talk about their dramatically changed lives. This research resulted in their book, Irish Travellers: The Unsettled Life, and also become the subject of the widely-viewed Irish television documentary Unsettled: From Tinker to Traveller.

Sharon Gmelch is a cultural anthropologist and professor emerita at Union College and the University of San Francisco. Her interests include inter-ethnic relations, gender, visual anthropology, and tourism. She has conducted research in Ireland, England, Alaska, Barbados, and with tour guides in many countries. Her first research with Irish Travellers – an indigenous nomadic group – took place in 1971-72 when she and her anthropologist husband, George Gmelch, lived for a year in a barrel-top wagon in a Dublin camp. This was followed by further research throughout the 1970s and 1980s and again in 2001 and 2011. Sharon is the author of ten books, three on Irish Travellers: Tinkers and Travellers: Ireland’s Nomads (1976, winner of Ireland’s Book of the Year award), Nan: The Life of an Irish Travelling Women (1986, finalist for anthropology’s Margaret Mead award) and Irish Travellers: The Unsettled Life (2014, with George Gmelch).

September 24th, 2023

Professor Patrick Bixby on The Travels of Kathleen M. Murphy, “Ireland’s Super-Tramp”

At the time of her death in 1962, Kathleen M. Murphy was recognized as “the most widely and most knowledgeably travelled Irish woman of her time . . . insofar as she let herself be known to the public at all.” An abiding interest in sacred sites and ancient civilizations took Murphy down the Amazon and over the Andes, into the jungles of Southeast Asia and onto the deserts of the Middle East, above the Arctic Circle and behind the Iron Curtain. After the Second World War, Murphy began publishing a series of vivid, humorous, and often harrowing accounts of her travels in The Capuchin Annual, a journal reaching a largely Catholic and nationalist audience in Ireland and the United States. At home in the Irish midlands, Murphy may have been a modest and retiring figure, but her travelogues shuttle between religious devotion and searching curiosity, primitivist assumptions and probing insights, gender decorum and bold adventuring.

Patrick Bixby is Professor of English at Arizona State University, where his research ranges across mobility studies, modernist studies, and Irish studies. His recent books include Unaccompanied Traveler: The Writings of Kathleen M. Murphy, License to Travel: A Cultural History of the Passport, Nietzsche and Irish Modernism, and, with Gregory Castle, A History of Irish Modernism. Professor Bixby also serves as President of the Samuel Beckett Society, Director of the USAC summer program at NUI Galway, and Chair of the Advisory Board for the Letters of Samuel Beckett Database Project at Emory University.

May 21, 2023

Dr Deaglán Ó Donghaile, Reader in Late Victorian Literature and Culture at Liverpool John Moores University presented a talk entitled “Wilde in The Wasp: Oscar Wilde and Gilded Age Racism in San Francisco”.

During his 1882 lecture tour of the United States Oscar Wilde was criticised and lampooned in The Wasp, a racist satirical magazine edited by Ambrose Bierce and published in San Francisco. Wilde was repeatedly portrayed in the magazine’s cover and centrefold cartoons as a beast-like and degenerate figure who threatened to destabilise the city’s moral and political values and threaten the national integrity of the United States.

These prejudiced depictions of Wilde appeared in the magazine alongside hostile representations of African Americans, Chinese immigrants, Irish workers, and LGBTQ people. Drawing on a selection of these images, this talk will explore his inclusion within this broad range of perceived threats to the political, cultural, and sexual stability of Gilded Age San Francisco. It will also discuss Wilde’s admiration for the Bay Area’s Chinese community and his fascination with their cultural creativity to explain how, within this context, he expressed his own anti-imperial views to city’s Irish community.

Originally from Derry, Ireland, Deaglán Ó Donghaile is Reader in Late Victorian Literature and Culture at Liverpool John Moores University. His research interest is in the intersection between literature, politics, and culture. He is the author of the books Oscar Wilde and the Radical Politics of the Fin de Siècle (2020) and Blasted Literature: Victorian Political Fiction and the Shock of Modernism (2011), both published by Edinburgh University Press. From 2021-22 he was a British Academy Research Fellow. He is currently writing a book on Oscar Wilde’s visit to San Francisco Bay Area, entitled Wilde in The Wasp, and a political biography entitled Revolutionary Wilde.

March 27, 2023

Susie Deedigan presented a talk entitled ‘Surely, the Minister and the Government are not afraid of those women?’ republican women in Ireland, 1939-45.

At the outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939, the I.R.A. posed a renewed threat in both parts of Ireland. The old adage that England’s difficulty was Ireland’s opportunity was seized upon by an I.R.A. that viewed governments in Dublin’s Merrion Street and Belfast’s Stormont as agents of British imperialism alike. In response, both governments renewed their efforts to tackle the organisation. As part of this clampdown, seventy-one women were detained. Twenty-four were held in Armagh Gaol in the north of Ireland and forty-seven in Mountjoy in Dublin. Some of these women were sentenced by military or Special Criminal Courts, but the vast majority were interned without trial for an indefinite period. The activities they were engaged in ranged from minor actions such as distributing banned newspapers, to more serious charges including the possession of arms and facilitating communications between I.R.A. operatives across the Irish border. Some were teenagers, others were married mothers. Two were even interned alongside their daughters. A small number had been interned previously, during the Irish Civil War. Some came from families with exhalated republican lineage with surnames to match, such as Plunkett and Brugha. Others went on to remain active within militant republicanism for decades to come and to play a role in the conflict in the north.

The generation of republican women interned in the 1940s remains largely absent from academic historical narratives, mainstream public commemoration and even, in many cases, community memory. This paper addresses this absence by examining their experiences. By considering the collective and individual experiences of these women we can begin to add their stories to the history of political imprisonment in Ireland and to better understand the influence of gender on both governments’ approaches to domestic subversion during this period.  

Susie Deedigan is a final year Department for the Economy funded PhD candidate at Queen’s University Belfast. She is currently on a visiting student research fellowship in the Institute of European Studies at UC Berkeley. Her PhD project ‘Let the girl go home’: Irish republicanism, gender and political imprisonment, 1939-1945 is the first comprehensive study of female experiences of political imprisonment and state responses to female subversion in Ireland in the period. Her broader research interests include Irish women’s and gender history, labour history and histories of incarceration. She previously studied at Balliol College, Oxford, and Trinity College, Dublin. She is currently a Teaching Assistant in History and an assistant in Special Collections and Archives at QUB. She is also a current member of the Executive Committee of the Women’s History Association of Ireland. 

February 5, 2023

Professor Ryan Keating presented a talk entitled Bold Fenian Men: Fenianism and the Salvation of the Irish Nation.

Conceptualized by James Stephens in the late 1850s, the Fenian Movement emerged as the first modern nationalist movement in Ireland and soon grew to encompass a transnational space as its leaders sought to organize the diaspora in the United States to support the planned rebellion at home. The Fenian rebellion failed. Splendidly. And has been relegated by most historians to a minor footnote in the larger story of the Irish nation. In reality, though, Fenianism was vital to the growth of Irish nationalism, fundamental to the formation of the Irish state in 1921, and continues to impact the ways in which the national question is framed in Ireland to this fay. This talk will focus, broadly, on those issues, particularly the ways in which the Fenians imagined the Irish nation and their long impact on Irish nationalism at home and abroad.

Ryan Keating is Professor and Chair of the Department of History at California State University, San Bernardino. A graduate of the College of the Holy Cross (BA), Trinity College Dublin (Mphil), and Fordham University (PhD), he is the author of three books, most notably Shades of Green: Irish Regiments, American Soldiers, and Local Communities in the Civil War Era. His current project is tentatively titled: Bold Fenian Men: A Concise History of Modern Irish Nationalism. His great-grandparents immigrated to the United States at the turn of the 20th century from Ireland and raised their families in the Mission District.

Sunday October 30, 2022

Cormac O’Malley spoke on his work on the life of his father ‘Ernie O’Malley: Irish Rebel and Traveler in the Southwest, 1929-1932, and the Rest of His Life’. This talk gave an explanation of his father’s role in the revolutionary period for 1916-1924 but focused on his father’s travels and friendships in California, New Mexico, Mexico and New York.

Ernie O”Malley (26 May 1897 – 25 March 1957) was an IRA officer during the Irish War of Independence. Subsequently, he became assistant chief of staff of the Anti-Treaty IRA during the Irish Civil War. O’Malley was an active revolutionary who displayed courage in battle and was wounded a number of times. He wrote two memoirs, On Another Man’s Wound and The Singing Flame, and two histories, Raids and Rallies and Rising Out: Seán Connolly of Longford, 1890–1921. The memoirs cover his early life, the War of Independence and the Civil War period. Although he was elected to Dáil Éireann in 1923 while in prison, O’Malley largely eschewed politics, seeing himself primarily as a soldier who had “fought and killed the enemies of our nation”.

Sunday September 25, 2022

David Wilson, Professor of Celtic Studies and History at the University of Toronto presented a talk on his new book entitled Canadian Spy Story: Irish Revolutionaries and the Secret Police. His book reveals the story of the Irish revolutionaries who set out to invade Canada and the secret police who tried to stop them.

In the mid-nineteenth century a group of Irish revolutionaries, known as the Fenians, set out to destroy Britain’s North American empire. Between 1866 and 1871 they launched a series of armed raids into Canadian territory.

In Canadian Spy Story David Wilson takes readers into a dark and dangerous world of betrayal and deception, spies and informers, invasion and assassination, spanning Canada, the United States, Ireland, and Britain. In Canada there were Fenian secret societies in urban areas, including Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto, and in some rural townships, all part of a wider North American network. Wilson tells the tale of Irishmen who attempted to liberate their country from British rule, and the Canadian secret police who infiltrated their revolutionary cells and worked their way to the top of the organization. With surprises at every turn, the story includes a sex scandal that nearly brought Canadian spy operations crashing down, as well as reports from Toronto about a plot to assassinate Queen Victoria.

Featuring a cast of idealists, patriots, cynics, manipulators, and liars, Canadian Spy Story raises fundamental questions about state security and civil liberty, with important lessons for our own time.

David Wilson is Professor, Celtic Studies and History, at the University of Toronto. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and the Royal Historical Society. His varied works include his first books which focused on the Atlantic Revolution; from there, he moved to the study of the Irish in Canada, culminating in a two-volume biography of Thomas D’Arcy McGee. His most recent book discusses the origins of the Canadian secret service and its operations against Irish revolutionaries, and he is currently examining the relationship between Irish migration, race and colonialism. Along the way, Wilson has also written books on traditional Irish music and on the history of the future.

Sunday May 22, 2022

Bay Area novelist and historian Kevin Akers gave a talk about his new novel “Dunnes of Brittas,” an historical novel based on the true story of his immigrant family and their illustrious past.

The illustrious and ancient Dunne family ruled over land in the heart of Ireland since time immemorial. In the manor house known as Brittas, resided the family of clan chieftain, General Edward Dunne. His estate agent and cousin Peter Dunne raises his brood in the servant’s wing. These two related yet very separate branches struggle to secure their futures during the country’s darkest, most formidable years.

As Ireland is crumbling, the West is rising in Golden sunshine. In 1848, San Francisco lures James Dunne and eventually his brother Peter and sister Bridget to literally create a new city out of sand dunes and gold dust. “The Dunnes of Brittas” follows three generations of family who share in each other’s triumphs and tragedies finally discovering that their strength doesn’t derive from their separate branches but their common roots.

Kevin Lee Akers is an award-winning designer, illustrator and author of All Wrapped Up! Groovy Gift Wrap of the 1960s. His interest in Ireland, San Francisco and the nature of family culminates in the authorship of his first novel, “The Dunnes of Brittas.”

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Cian McMahon, Irish historian, presented a talk on his new book titled The Coffin Ship: Life and Death at Sea during the Great Irish Famine, a vivid, new portrait of Irish migration through the letters and diaries of those who fled their homeland during the Great Famine

The standard story of the exodus during Ireland’s Great Famine is one of tired clichés, half-truths, and dry statistics. In The Coffin Ship, a groundbreaking work of transnational history, Cian T. McMahon offers a vibrant, fresh perspective on an oft-ignored but vital component of the migration experience: the journey itself.

Between 1845 and 1855, over two million people fled Ireland to escape the Great Famine and begin new lives abroad. The so-called “coffin ships” they embarked on have since become infamous icons of nineteenth-century migration. The crews were brutal, the captains were heartless, and the weather was ferocious. Yet the personal experiences of the emigrants aboard these vessels offer us a much more complex understanding of this pivotal moment in modern history. Based on archival research on three continents and written in clear, crisp prose, The Coffin Ship analyzes the emigrants’ own letters and diaries to unpack the dynamic social networks that the Irish built while voyaging overseas. At every stage of the journey—including the treacherous weeks at sea—these migrants created new threads in the worldwide web of the Irish diaspora.

Colored by the long-lost voices of the emigrants themselves, this is an original portrait of a process that left a lasting mark on Irish life at home and abroad. An indispensable read, The Coffin Ship makes an ambitious argument for placing the sailing ship alongside the tenement and the factory floor as a central, dynamic element of migration history.

Cian T. McMahon is Associate Professor in the Department of History and Honors College at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the author of The Global Dimensions of Irish Identity: Race, Nation, and the Popular Press, 1840-1880 (2015). His new book, The Coffin Ship: Life and Death at Sea during the Great Irish Famine (2021), available from New York University Press, is the second monograph in the Glucksman Irish Diaspora Series, edited by Kevin Kenny.

Sunday, February 27, 2022.

We presented Rob Byrne, President of San Francisco Silent Film Festival, who talked about the unique cache of old films shot in the Dingle Peninsula in the 1920s that he and his organization are restoring to new life.

In the mid-1920s an American visited Dingle to study birds and collect specimens. Sometimes locals would bring the man – his name was Benjamin Gault, although locals called him “Kaerty” – in his fishing boat to the nearby Blasket Islands. Kaerty always had a hand-cranked camera with him. Many years later, through good fortune and the determination of one person to find these treasures from a vanished Ireland, Gault’s films were recovered from storage in Chicago and brought to professional film restorers to give them new life.

Rob Byrne, president of San Francisco Silent Film Festival, caught wind of the story. Byrne, who lives in Ireland, had been looking for an Irish project, and Gault’s reels presented a rare opportunity. The Silent Film Festival had a lot of experience with restoring silent films.

Footage of Ireland from that time – a period when memories of the first World War were still fresh, and Ireland was recovering from its own civil war – is incredibly rare.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

The ILHS Presents acclaimed filmmaker Valerie Lapin, on her groundbreaking documentary “Shalom Ireland”. Valerie is joined by Kieran Cronin, Deputy Librarian at Waterford Institute of Technology.
The event will take place by Zoom on Sunday, September 26, 2021 at 12 noon PST.
Lapin will be joined in conversation by ILHS Vice President Catherine Barry.

Recommended Reading

Shalom Ireland (available here for sale/streaming) is a documentary about Ireland’s remarkable, yet little known, Jewish community. This fascinating film chronicles the history of Irish Jewry while celebrating the unique culture created by blending Irish and Jewish traditions. From gun running for the Irish Republican Army during Ireland’s War of Independence to smuggling fellow Jews escaping from the Holocaust into Palestine, Shalom Ireland tells the untold story of how Irish Jews participated in the creation of both Ireland and Israel.

For director Valerie Lapin Ganley, an American Jew, the making of Shalom Ireland was an unexpected journey back to the Irish Jewish roots that she didn’t even know she had. When she met her Irish-American husband-to-be, Michael, she sensed that their two cultures were very compatible, but only after the couple made a trip to Ireland in 1993, did she discover that Ireland had been an important stop on her family’s journey from Eastern Europe to the United States, and that in 1894, her great grandparents were the first Jewish couple married in Waterford, Ireland. From this ironic discovery her search began, and the result is above all a sincere and touching film that weaves together heartwarming interviews with rare and often breathtaking archival material.

Valerie Lapin Ganley is an award-winning filmmaker and activist. Valerie’s most recent film is The Long Ride a documentary about the historic Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride and the birth of the new Civil Rights Movement for immigrant workers in the U.S.

Kieran Cronin and Valerie collaborated to develop “Hidden Diamonds: A Waterford Jewish Family’s Journey” – a museum exhibit about Jewish life in 19th Century Waterford.

Kieran is a native of Charleville, North Cork. He holds a Master of Arts Degree in Sociology and Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Sociology, from NUI Maynooth. Kieran also obtained a Higher Diploma in Library and Information Studies from UCD and a Higher Diploma in Applied Computing from WIT. He has over 10 years experience of working in libraries and has been working at Waterford Institute of Technology Libraries since April 2007. Kieran currently fulfils the role of Deputy Librarian at Waterford Institute of Technology Libraries. He is responsible for the development of existing and new library services and resources for WIT’s students, staff and the local community. Kieran supervises the curation and digitisation of special collections housed in WIT, including the Christ Church Cathedral collection, Graves & Sons shipping archive, Red Kettle Archive, Centre for Newfoundland and Labrador studies and the Justice for Magdalene’s archive amongst others. Through partnerships, he has been able to devise and manage numerous library outreach programmes, including a ‘Homework access club’ for secondary school students and educational exhibitions on the Holocaust and American Civil Rights Movement.

Sunday May 2, 12pm noon PST/3pm EST via Zoom

A talk with renowned New York author and historian Peter Quinn, in conversation with James Fisher, by Zoom, on Sunday, May 2 at 12PM Noon PST.

Peter Quinn is a novelist, political historian, and foremost chronicler of New York City. He is the author of Looking for Jimmy: In Search of Irish America and the trilogy of historical detective novels—Hour of the Cat, The Man Who Never Returned, and Dry Bones. In his earlier career Quinn served as speechwriter for New York Governor Hugh Carey.  He is a native of the Bronx and received his entire education in that borough.  

His great historical novel, Banished Children of Eve: A Novel of Civil War New York, originally published in 1995, traces that event as it gripped New York City. The cast is drawn from every strata: a likeable and laconic Irish American hustler, an ambitious and larcenous Yankee stockbroker, an immigrant serving girl, a beautiful and mysterious biracial actress and her white minstrel lover as well as a cluster of real-life characters, including scheming, ever-pompous General George McClellan, fiery, fierce Archbishop Hughes and fast-declining musical genius Stephen Foster. The fates of these characters coalesce in the cataclysm of the Draft Riots, as a pivotal period in the history of New York and the nation is painfully, vividly, magically brought to life.

For a limited time, Fordham University Press is offering the book at a 30% discount.  To purchase the book access this page: and enter discount code BANISHED30 at checkout.

James Fisher is a prolific historian of Irish America, notably author of On the Irish Waterfront: The Crusader, the Movie, and the Soul of the Port of New York.  He is Professor of Theology and American Studies, Fordham University. 

Zoom Link

February 27, 2021

Northern Irish Oscar Wilde scholar Deaglan O’Donghaile gave a talk on the famed poet, author, and aesthete’s momentous 1882 visit to San Francisco.

The paper focused on the lecture that Wilde gave in the City, in which he supported the cause of Irish independence, expressed his enthusiasm for the local Chinese community, and his love for his favourite city in the United States.

Deaglan O Donghaile is Senior Lecturer in Nineteenth Century Literature and Culture at the Liverpool John Moores University, and is also currently a Research Fellow with the British Academy. He holds a PhD in English from Trinity College, Dublin. From 2007-2009 Deaglán was the Irish Research Council Fellow at Maynooth University, and in 2009 and 2013 he was a Visiting Research Fellow at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, UCLA, where he worked on the library’s extensive Oscar Wilde collection. He has taught Victorian literature at Trinity College, Dublin, Maynooth University, and Liverpool John Moores University.

January 31, 2021

Montana historian Ciara Ryan gave a talk entitled “Butte’s Cultural Comrades and Political Poets: Seán “Irish” O Sullivan and Séamus “an Spailpín Fánach” Moriarty”.

From Gaeltacht areas on the west coast of Ireland, Butte’s Irish community in the early 1900s was immersed in Gaelic culture, language and oral tradition, all of which they cultivated assiduously while in the United States. Like most exiles of their time, O Sullivan and Moriarty left Ireland with minimal education, yet they became two of the most respected and prominent leaders supporting the Irish language and its cause at a pivotal period in both Butte’s and their native country’s history. This talk sheds light on the two men’s friendship, their similar interests and writings and traces their involvement in cultural and political activities in Butte and San Francisco. 

Ciara Ryan was born in Limerick, Ireland and first came to the U.S. on a Fulbright scholarship to teach with the Irish Studies program at University of Montana. She received her PhD from University College Cork, Ireland. She recently contributed a paper on Butte’s Irish bard Seán “Irish” O Sullivan in the collection North American Gaels: Speech, Story, and Song in the Diaspora published by McGill-Queen’s University Press (2020).  Her talk draws primarily from her doctoral research.

November 22, 2020

Historian James Walsh spoke about the Irish mining community of Leadville, Colorado.

The presentation gave the important story of the Leadville Irish and the current memorial project. There is a strong connection between the Leadville Irish and California, as many of the miners spent time mining in California before and after Leadville’s silver boom.

Walsh spent a decade researching the Irish community in Leadville, Colorado. As part of his research, he found a pauper’s section of the main cemetery holding up to 1500 sunken, unmarked graves hidden in a pine forest. He estimates from surnames that 70% or more of those buried there are Irish. The average age at burial was 22. Half are children. Over the past 2 years, Colorado’s Irish and Irish American communities have been working with the Irish government to raise funds for a memorial that will list the names of those buried there.

Sunday, March 82020 Special Program & Irish Reception with Bay TV Journalist Doug McConnell.

The long time Bay Area TV journalist and host of “Bay Area Backroads” will share his Irish heritage and stories from on the road for our special March program at the United Irish Cultural Center 4:30pm to 8 pm. 

This ​long time Bay Area TV journalist will share his Irish heritage and stories from on the road for our special March program. McConnell has created, produced and hosted many series, special programs, and news projects for local, national and international distribution. His broadcast awards include multiple Emmys, an Iris, and a Gabriel. McConnell’s most recent venture is the creation of an online travel community called “OpenRoad.TV with Doug McConnell – The Traveler’s Video Guide to the American West”.

He hosted the acclaimed Bay Area Backroads program for 23 years in the Bay Area. Don’t miss this special program with a seasonal reception and no-host bar from 4:30 to 8 pm also at the United Irish Cultural Center.   $10 for members; $15 for nonmembers.

This event will honor Bob and Becky Tracy. Bob Tracy passed away in January 2020. Bob Tracy – 1928-2020

Become a Member and See all the 2020 Programs 
Your $30 annual membership allows you and a guest to attend our regular monthly programs free.  Join or renew today:   Click here to renew online with PayPal/ credit card; or for membership form to renew by mail.  You can also pay your membership at the next meeting.

January 26, 2020 – Scholar Chris McCann on Music and Social Hierarchy in Irish Literature

Scholar Chris McCann presented a talk entitled “Music and Social Hierarchy in Irish Literature” on January 26, 2020.

Music is a potent symbol of community allegiance (and divergence) in Irish culture. As symbol, as performance, as narrative turn, authors of Irish prose fiction often use music to explore the complex nature of affiliation. Literary employment of musical devices inevitably leads to moments of cohesion and division that mirror existing social hierarchies.

The conditions of the twentieth century, in which the rapid onset of modernity counters efforts to preserve traditional Irish culture, exacerbated social imbalances in Ireland. This contributed greatly to the ceaseless flow of Irish emigration in the middle of the century. In this context, music, song, and dance can perform a related but different function: providing a unifying means of reasserting the self within Irish diaspora culture in the face of disrupted social organization and disoriented identity. 

This discussion addressed Irish musical-literary responses to the challenges posed by social and spatial hierarchies across the last century. It surveyed music as a device in the works of diverse authors, from Joyce and Seán Ó Faoláin to Breandán Ó hEithir and Éilis Ní Dhuibhne, and assessed how music functions between text and community in Ireland and the diaspora.

Chris McCann is a doctoral scholar in English at the National University of Ireland Galway. His project, entitled Revealing Social Hierarchy Through Music in Irish Literature, is supported by the Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postgraduate Award. A forthcoming publication stemming from this research looks at Breandán Ó hEithir’s use of music in Lead Us Into Temptation. Chris completed his MA, entitled Singing Exile: Music in Irish Emigration Literature, at The University of Notre Dame Fremantle in Western Australia in 2017.  

November 17, 2019 – UC Berkeley Anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes, author of Saints, Scholars and Schizophrenics: Mental Illness in Rural Ireland

Professor Nancy Scheper-Hughes spoke on her groundbreaking and controversial work “Saints, Scholars, and Schizophrenics: Mental Illness in Rural Ireland” in the early 1970s and subsequent years reflections on this work and the aftermath.  

When “Saints, Scholars, and Schizophrenics” was published twenty years ago, it became an instant classic—a beautifully written study tracing the social disintegration of “Ballybran,” a small village on the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland. In this richly detailed and sympathetic book, Nancy Scheper-Hughes explores the symptoms of the community’s decline: emigration, malaise, unwanted celibacy, damaging patterns of childrearing, fear of intimacy, suicide, and schizophrenia. Following a recent return to “Ballybran,” Scheper-Hughes reflects in a new preface and epilogue on the well-being of the community and on her attempts to reconcile her responsibility to honest ethnography with respect for the people who shared their homes and their secrets with her.

September 29, 2019  – Historian and Media Personality Myles Dungan on Three Killings in the Irish War of Independence

Irish historian and media personality Myles Dungan, who delivered a lecture titled ‘Three Killings in the Irish War of Independence’.

The War of Independence and its aftermath brought tragedy to many Irish families. The McKennas and the Clintons, related by marriage, were just two. They experienced their fair share of tragedy and grief—and inflicted more besides. This was despite living in North Meath/East Cavan, hardly a cockpit of the Anglo-Irish War. Sarah Clinton and T.P McKenna were Myles Dungan’s great-grandparents, he traces the extraordinary stories of the involvement of four McKenna and four Clinton siblings in the ‘Tan War’ in saga involving an assassination, and two IRA executions.

Myles Dungan is a multifaceted Irish broadcaster, scholar, author, and impresario.   He is a 40-year veteran of RTÉ broadcasting in both radio and television and has presented numerous stories in sports, politics, current events, and history topics over the years.  He holds a PhD in history and has researched and taught under Fulbright scholarship at UC Berkeley.  He is a leading scholar of the Irish in the American West, with multiple publications, including the acclaimed How the Irish Won the West.  

May 19, 2019  – Professor Renée Tosser on Political Imagery and Bonfires in Northern Ireland

Professor Renée Tosser, Université de la Réunion (France) spoke on Political Imagery and Bonfires in Northern Ireland on Sunday, May 19.  

Visual displays play an important political role in Northern Ireland. They are often the most visible sign of sectarian division and attitudes in a society still marked by division thirty years after the end of the so-called ‘Troubles’. Violence still prevails in that country and sometimes it coalesces around Orange marches, especially during the month of July. July 12, known as “the Twelfth,” celebrates the victory of William of Orange at the Battle at the Boyne against the English Catholic King James II in 1690. The celebrations traditionally involve visual displays, in particular large outdoor wall murals and bonfires. The issue of bonfires has been a tricky and contentious subject in recent years, frequently creating weeks of tension each summer. The aim of this talk is to examine recent developments in the older bonfire tradition and to analyze how these celebrations act as social paradigms which entertain and indeed seek to encourage separation between the Catholic and Protestant communities of Northern Ireland.

Renée Tosser is Assistant Professor of Irish civilization at Université de la Réunion (France). Her talk will be accompanied by photographs from her exhibition on bonfires entitled “King Billy’s Towers” which was shown in Ireland and North America in 2016. She will deal with the “Twelfth,” and more specifically, her research on bonfires and the photographs she has taken every year in Northern Ireland since 2007.


April 28, 2019 – Eminent Historian of the Irish in the American West David Emmons on Peter Yorke’s 1918 faction fight with Garrett McEnerney

The eminent historian Professor David Emmons gave a talk entitled “A Hippopotamus got up as a Swallow: Peter Yorke’s 1918 faction fight with Garrett McEnerney and other Shoneen Irish” on Sunday, April 28 .

The deep rift between conservative, home rule Irish nationalism and radical Irish republicanism was on full display when Irish-born Father Peter Yorke engaged second-generation Irish American Garret McEnerney on the question of the proper role of Irish Americans and the American government in the “Irish national question.”  The classic Irish faction fight between the republican Yorke and the conservative UIL McEnerney took place in 1918, after the Easter Rising and Pearse’s proclamation of an Irish Republic; after the U.S. entry into the war on the side of Great Britain; after the Bolshevik Revolution; and while the war was still being contested.  The issues could hardly have been more important. Who better to contest them than two Irishmen?

David Emmons is Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Montana.  He is the author of numerous articles and two prize-winning books on the Irish in America: The Butte Irish: Class and Ethnicity in an American Mining Town (1989) and Beyond the American Pale: The Irish in the West (2019).  He is presently finishing up another book length manuscript, tentatively titled “Fosterland: Irish Catholics in Protestant America, 1830-1930”.  His lecture on the feud between Peter Yorke and Garret McEnerney on the proper role of Irish Americans and the American government during the Great War is drawn from research on that latest project.

March 2019 – Celebrating the Irish Diaspora of Australia

Mairéid Sullivan, author, singer/song writer and historian – West Cork born, San Francisco raised, and Australian citizen

Mairéid Sullivan presented the storied Irish diaspora of Australia at the 2019 St. Patrick’s luncheon event at the Hotel Marker in San Francisco.

Mairéid was born on a farm in the Bantry township, West Cork, Ireland, the first of seven children. Her father was a master horseman and a fine Irish tenor. Her mother, a health practitioner, taught her traditional Irish songs. She came to San Francisco with her family at age 12 and in 1967 was crowned San Francisco’s Miss Ireland by Supervisor Leo McCarthy. At 20, she moved to Australia. She has been singing traditional Irish songs since early childhood, and many of her original songs celebrate humanity’s heritage of joy –particularly as reflected in Irish Celtic culture.

“The late 1800s and turn-of-the century connections across Ireland, San Francisco, New York and Melbourne to Canberra changed history!” says Mairéid “Australian-Irish are passionate about every aspect of their history.”

Mairéid’s 1995 CD, Dancer catapulted her onto the USA and Canada stage as the World Music/Celtic genre took off. This led to her acclaimed book Celtic Women in Music. Mairéid told her story in word and song.

On Pioneering Aviator Daniel Maloney.

Evelyn Rose, Project Director and Founder of the Glen Park Neighborhoods History Project, shared the amazing life story of Irish American San Francisco aviation pioneer Daniel John Maloney, ancestor of a well-known family in Noe Valley, who began his career as an aeronaut performing at the pleasuring grounds known as Glen Park and the Mission Zoo.

We learned about Maloney’s transition from Victorian extreme sport athlete to test pilot in the early days of flight discovery. We’ll also be introduced to Professor John J. Montgomery of Santa Clara College (today’s Santa Clara University), a graduate of San Francisco’s St. Ignatius College. Montgomery’s flight innovations and achievements have largely been erased from mainstream history, primarily through the gaslighting efforts by no less than the Wright Brothers and their supporters.

Evelyn Rose, PharmD, moved to San Francisco in 1978 and has been a resident of Glen Park and Diamond Heights in the heart of the City for nearly 30 years. Her interest in historic research began 20 years ago while investigating the life story of two sisters buried in the 1880s on a barren, wind-swept hill in Yellowstone National Park.

Evelyn founded the Glen Park Neighborhoods History Project (GPNHP, in 2014, covering Glen Park, Glen Canyon Park, Sunnyside, Fairmount Heights, and Diamond Heights.  Evelyn serves as Project Director of the GPNHP and continues to research the forgotten histories of the district.

Emer Martin’s The Cruelty Men

On January 27th, we presented writer Emer Martin, who spoke about her widely acclaimed new novel The Cruelty Men.

The Cruelty Men is a sweeping multi-generational view of an Irish-speaking family who moved from Kerry to the Meath Gaeltacht and the disasters that befall their children in Irish institutions. Abandoned by her parents when they resettle in Meath, Mary O Conaill is faced with the task of raising her younger siblings alone. Padraig is disappeared, Bridget escapes and her brother Seamus inherits the farm. Maeve is sent to work as a servant to a family of shopkeepers in the local town—later, pregnant and unwed, she is placed in a Magdalene Laundry where her twins are forcibly taken from her.

Martin’s mother and baby homes and Magdalene Laundries are the Irish cousins of Dostoyevsky and Solzhenitsyn’s Gulags; her dispassionate depiction of the ordinary psychotic violence at the heart of families and society in rural Ireland is akin to that of Ferrante’s Naples. In this novel, two Ireland’s run in stark parallel. A gentle country of fairy rings, blackberry picking, and poker evenings with the local priest masks a system in which the Church and State incarcerate the vulnerable for profit. The intimacy of the first person accounts draws the reader into the world of each character. Their stoicism makes their suffering all the more moving and dignified.

The book has received rave reviews in Ireland and the US.  Here is a recent review from the Dublin Review of Books:

Emer Martin is a Dubliner who has lived in Paris, London, and the Middle East and in many places in the United States. She fled Ireland at age 17, finding it to be insular and oppressive, and began to wander through Europe.

Her first novel Breakfast in Babylon won Book of the Year 1996 in her native Ireland at the prestigious Listowel Writers’ Week.  More Bread Or I’ll Appear, her second novel was published internationally in 1999.

Her third novel Baby Zero, was published in the UK and Ireland March 07, and released in the U.S. 2014. She released her first children’s book Why is the Moon Following Me? in 2013. Pooka is a Halloween book for children released in 2016. Her latest children book The Pig who Danced was released in 2017.

She completed her third short film “Unaccompanied”. She produced Irvine Welsh’s directorial debut “NUTS” in 2007. Emer was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship in 2000. She now lives between the depths of Silicon Valley, CA and the jungles of Co. Meath, Ireland.

November 18, 2018 – Claudia O’Callaghan on “Klondike Mike, an Alaskan Odyssey”

Longtime ILHS member Claudia O’Callaghan presented a talk titled  “Klondike Mike, an Alaskan Odyssey”.

This year marks the 120th Anniversary of the Klondike Gold Rush, which consisted of three movements: The Klondike Rush (Yukon Territory) 1896 -1899, the Nome Rush (1899 – 1909) and the Fairbanks Rush (1903-1911).  Claudia O’Callaghan, a long-time ILHS member, recounted the history of a family member who participated in all three.

Michael Ambrose Mahoney, (aka Klondike Mike) the son of Irish immigrants, was a Paul Bunyan-type figure: a boxer and “high kicker”, an itinerant lumberjack, a master dogsled musher, and a gold prospector who eventually struck it rich in the gold fields and in later life became a well-known public speaker.

O’Callaghan described two of his most famous exploits: carrying a piano on his back up the 33 mile Chilcoot Pass, and bringing the body of the deceased mayor of Seattle through 400 miles of unexplored Alaskan territory by dog sled during the dead of winter while trailed by wolves.

October 28, 2018 – Dan McGovern on “Eugene O’Neill and Ireland”

Eugene O’Neill, the only American to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, told his son Eugene, Jr., that “The one thing that explains more than anything about me is that I’m Irish. And, strangely enough,’ he complained, “it is something that all the writers who have attempted to explain me and my work have overlooked.”

Dan McGovern, the president of the Eugene O’Neill Foundation, Tao House gave a talk that attempted to remedy that oversight. He explored O’Neill’s Irish heritage, the influence of the Irish Players of the Abbey Theatre on the young playwright, and the reception in Ireland of O’Neill’s work during his lifetime and today.

McGovern drew upon the research he conducted for his article “Eugene O’Neill’s Place in Irish Theater Today: Interviews with Irish Theater Scholars,” which appears in the latest issue of The Eugene O’Neill Review published by the Pennsylvania State University Press. His insights will also be informed by his co-chairmanship of the inaugural Eugene O’Neill International Festival of Theatre to be held in New Ross, Ireland, October 11–14, 2018.

Dan McGovern served in three presidential administrations as a senior government official, with the State Department, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the western United States. Dan also served in state government for 25 years. Among other positions, he was general counsel of Caltrans, the California Department of Transportation.

In retirement, Dan’s avocation is theater. He is the president of the board of the Eugene O’Neill Foundation, Tao House, in Danville and co-chair of the Eugene O’Neill International Festival of Theatre in New Ross, Ireland. Dan is also a Visiting Research Scholar in the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. His scholarly articles have appeared in the Eugene O’Neill Review published by the Pennsylvania State University Press, and an article of his will soon appear in the Arthur Miller Journal, also published by the Pennsylvania State University Press

September 30, 2018 – Carl Nolte on his life and career in San Francisco – “From Portrero Hill to Fifth & Mission

Carl Nolte began his long journalistic career in San Francisco in 1961. Since then he has observed and reported on some of the biggest news stories in the City of his birth. He now serves as the senior journalist at the San Francisco Chronicle, where he contributes a dweekly Native Son column. Nolte, who was raised on Portrero Hill and attended elementary and high school at St. Peter’s in the Mission, will speak on his San Francisco life, from the Hill to 5th an Mission, with focus on the Irish American and other ethnic communities of the City, the major stories of the many eras that he covered City life, and the changes in the City that he sees in the present day.

May 20, 2018 – Tony Bucher on “Archie Bunker’s Chair – Media Images and Social Realities of Irish America from the 1960s and 1970s”

Tony Bucher, President

Powerful and largely unflattering images of the Irish American community were fixed in the news and popular culture in a particularly turbulent passage in American history from the late 1960s through the 1970s.  Certain Irish Americans came to represent the forces of reaction in American society at the very apex of a period of intense social activism and racial, inter-generational, and class conflict.

The critical view of Irish Americana finds expression in such venues as Salon, where cultural critic Andrew O’Hehir published an unfortunate St. Patrick’s Day 2014 op-ed entitled “How did my fellow Irish-Americans get so disgusting?”  Broader themes critical of the Irish American experience were expressed in Noel Ignatiev’s unsympathetic 1995 volume How the Irish Became White.

A survey of American political and cultural history of the 20th Century reveals a somewhat more complicated picture, with Irish Americans among the most instrumental figures on the ‘progressive’ side as well as amply represented in the cultural ferment of the era.  

This talk reconciled these various views and images of Irish Americana with the broader experience of the Irish community in America in the 20th Century, with a view towards establishing a more balanced and sustainable perspective on Irish America as a whole.  

April 15, 2018 – Chinese Consul General Luo Linquan and Irish Consul General Robert O’Driscoll

Experiences of Chinese Diplomat Luo Linquan in Dublin and San Francisco, co-sponsored with Crossroads Irish American Festival and the Chinese Historical Society of America. Consul Luo Linquan spoke about his experiences as Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Ireland and as Chinese Consul General in San Francisco, as well about major contributions of Chinese workers to the construction of the first Transcontinental Railroad in the US.  Irish Consul General Robert O’Driscoll offered his remarks on the bilateral relationship from the Irish perspective.  

For more information, see the following extract from the 2005 Irish Literary & Historical Society book, The Irish in the San Francisco Bay Area  (part two, Ethnicity and Troubled Ethnic Relations)

“California Clash, Irish and Chinese Labor: in San Francisco, 1850-1870″, by Daniel Meissner, Professor of History, Marquette University.

March 11, 2018 – Annual St. Patrick’s Banquet honoring Ed Callanan & featuring Mike Casey, President of the San Francisco Labor Council

Celebrating Ed Callanan’s 50 years as ILHS Board Chairman, 1967-2017, and the contributions of long-time board members Eileen Kivlehan and Brian Whitty. Special Presentation “The Irish Legacy in San Francisco Labor” By Mike Casey, President of the San Francisco Labor Council. Entertainment by ” The Irish Troubadours” Kyle Alden & Rory McNamara. See photos

February 25, 2018  – Hernando Torres-Fernandez, Consul General of Peru and Robert O’Driscoll, Consul General of Ireland“The Soul of the Potato”. 

The potato originated around Lake Titicaca in the High Andes of Peru and has been consumed by Andeans for 8000 years. Europeans first encounter with the potato was probably by Spanish Explorer Francisco Pizarro in 1502. The potato then traveled by a circuitous route first to Spain, then England around 1560 and on to Ireland and other countries before coming back across the Atlantic to the Virginia Colony in North America in 1621. Being so easy to plant and so nutritious, the potato spread around the world and is now a major security food in Russia, India, China and Africa. Hernando will describe the important research at the International Potato Center in Lima, where the cause and remedy of the potato blight of the Great Famine was discovered. An 8 minute film, “Potato Biodiversity”, was screened.

Peruvian Consul General Hernando Torres-Fernandez has been blessed with a stimulating career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with embassy and consular postings in Finland, Sweden, Colombia, France, Italy and his home city of Arequipa, Peru. Hernando was appointed General Coordinator for the United Nations Year of the Potato in 2008.

Irish Consul General Robert O’Driscoll has also had fascinating postings, including as Irish Consul at the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Deputy Head of Mission at the United Arab Republic, Deputy Director, Trade Division II at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ireland and served at Ireland’s Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels. Robert O’Driscoll spoke about the significant role of the potato in Irish history and its current status as a beloved successful staple and cultural icon.

Tom Clancy “Go, move, shift: Exploring Irish cultural changes through ten songs“.

January 28, 2018 – Independent scholar Tom Clancy explored the recent history of Ireland in his lecture titled “Go, move, shift: Exploring Irish cultural changes through ten songs“.

Artists and their work can inspire, foreshadow or support cultural movements. Beginning in the 1960s, Ireland’s folk and traditional music revival incorporated songs and music that were instrumental in changing attitudes and public perceptions. The changes involved significant Irish social and political concerns including recognition of Traveller’s rights, confronting child abuse, continuing emigration, women’s issues and their role in music, the Northern Ireland “Troubles” and our understanding of the achievements of Irish independence. The first four themes address groups that were historically mistreated or excluded from full opportunities of Irish life and the latter two explore larger political issues. Clancy discussed a number of key songs, their singers, writers and contexts in this multi-media presentation and explore how the songs contributed to a renewed sense of community and Irish identity.

Tom Clancy draws on over twenty-five years of experience writing about Irish music for publications in Ireland and the United States. His work has been published primarily in Irish Music Magazine in Dublin, the Irish Herald in San Francisco and on various websites including Irish Culture Bay Area. He has interviewed dozens of musicians and reviewed many live performances and recordings.

Micheline Sheehy Skeffington on Hanna and Francis Sheehy Skeffington, nationalists, pacifists, feminists, socialists: their role in early 20th century Ireland

November 12, 2017 – NUI Galway Professor Emerita Micheline Sheehy Skeffington spoke on the US organizing activities and political legacy of her grandmother, Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, whose husband Francis was executed in the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising. Sheehy Skeffington  was a co-founder of the Irish Women’s Franchise League in 1908 and determined advocate of the cause of Irish nationalism.  This year, 100 years since her grandmother toured the US,, Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington is retracing that tour and filming for a documentary to honor her grandmother’s remarkable and little-remembered achievement.

The title of the talk is “Hanna and Francis Sheehy Skeffington, nationalists, pacifists, feminists, socialists: their role in early 20th century Ireland”.    Hanna and Francis Sheehy Skeffington were ardent nationalists, pacifists, socialists, feminists in early 20th century Ireland, fighting for justice and women’s suffrage. They encapsulate some of the main ideals of the time. After Francis was shot without trial by a British officer during the Irish 1916 rebellion, Hanna embarked on an epic 18-month tour of the US to tell the truth about British brutality in Ireland. The illustrated talk will tell their story.

Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington recently took early retirement from the National University of Ireland, Galway, where she lectured in plant ecology. Her grandparents were Hanna and Francis Sheehy Skeffington, prominent Irish activists in the early 1900s. A strong feminist herself, Micheline won a gender equality case against her university and is still campaigning for justice for her female colleagues.




THE DUBLINERS DILEMMA – Sunday, October 29  – The Dubliners Dilemma is a one-man show adapted and performed by Declan Gorman, based on “Dubliners” by James Joyce.

About the play

In 1914 the world stood on the brink of extinction. Yet the cause was not the outbreak of the war to end all wars. No, it was the possibility of James Joyce’s classic collection of short stories Dubliners finally going to print after nine years searching for a publisher. A book so terrifying eighteen publishers ran from it. Printers refused to print it for fear of what it might unleash upon the world. But one man dared to look squarely at the dilemma Dubliners presented to him.

In The Dubliners Dilemma publisher Grant Richards is offered a chance at redemption having originally rejected the offending manuscript years before. Facing into a soul-searching struggle Richards must decide between publish and be damned and publish or be damned in this delightful treat.

Alternating between an array of real and fictional characters, including the maestro Joyce himself, Gorman’s re-imagining of the moral and personal struggle Richards faced is wonderfully conveyed. If stakes are minimal, as we already know the outcome, the potential cost to Richards compensates somewhat and is something well worth being reminded of. Indeed, in a climate where certain college students are clamoring to have books banned for fear of their causing offence, the choices facing those who chose to resist moral outrage and censorship is beautifully positioned in this feather light work with a backbone of steel.

The San Francisco GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) – Sunday, September 24  – Lecture and panel discussion on the storied history and thriving Irish sport leagues of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), featuring incoming Irish Consul General Robert O’Driscoll and  San Francisco GAA Chairman Bertie Penny, and scholar and league official Liam Reidy.  The presentation was titled Gaelic Games and the Irish-American Experience in San Francisco.  

The lecture highlighted the history and growth of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) in Ireland and the local Irish-American experience by the emigrants who have played Gaelic games in the San Francisco area since the Gold Rush.  The sporting life and history of Irish emigrants who played Gaelic games locally down through the years is an aspect of local Irish history that has rarely garnered any serious study.   The program included an exhibition of both new and old memorabilia, showcasing the large photographic collection in the local GAA archives.


Elizabeth Drew – May 21, 2017 on the presence of Ireland in the writings of Samuel Beckett

Trinity Ph.D. scholar Elizabeth Drew spoke on Samuel Beckett, one of the most acclaimed writers of the 20th century. He completed his undergraduate degree at Trinity College, Dublin, spent a decade traveling and working in Europe, and then settled in France for more than five decades. Most of his literary works were composed in French and self-translated into English. Although Beckett left Ireland, Ireland never left him. His relationship with the country of his birth was complicated, but its landscape, climate, and people were a continual presence in his work until his death. His ruminations on and dramatizations of memory, self, and consciousness are frequently set in the foothills of the Dublin mountains, along the sweep of Killiney Bay, and in the social vernacular of Irish life. This lecture will follow the trajectory of Beckett’s work from his early adulthood in Dublin through his last writings, tracing the presence of his homeland throughout. It will offer some guidance for the casual reader to explore, and hopefully enjoy, Beckett’s works, which are frequently labeled as bleak, enigmatic, and difficult.

Irish Consul General Philip Grant – April 23, 2017 on The Republic of Ireland and Brexit

Irish Consul General Philip Grant spoke on Ireland and Brexit and the looming challenges facing Ireland’s economic and political integration with Europe amidst her deep ties with the UK.  Consul Grant addressed many aspects of the situation and official responses as the circumstances continue to evolve.

The Saint Patrick’s Banquet – March 19, 2017 featuring Harpist & Storyteller Patrick Ball and song and dramatic reading by Esther Mulligan with fiddler Anne Bingham Goess

We were very pleased to present our annual St. Patrick’s Banquet on Sunday, March 19 at the Saint Patrick’s Ballroom in the United Irish Cultural Center.  The banquet this year featured a wonderful evening of fine dining and Irish music & drama, featuring Harpist and Storyteller Patrick Ball, along with song and dramatic reading by Esther Mulligan and Fiddler Anne Goess.

Matthew Spangler – February 26, 2017  – “Walking in the City: A Kurdish Asylum-Seeker’s Arrival in Dublin”

Professor of Performance Studies at San Jose State University, ILHS Vice President, and successful playwright Matthew Spangler spoke about interviews he has conducted with a Kurdish asylum-seeker and now refugee living in Dublin, Ireland.  A former member of the PKK – the Kurdish separatist organization, labeled a terrorist group by the U.S. and many Western European countries – he left Iran because, as he put it, he was too “old to be fighting and living in the mountains anymore.”  Eventually he ended up alone and wandering the streets of Dublin, which he initially took to be Toronto.  In Ireland he requested asylum and, after five years of hearings, rejections, threatened deportations, and appeals, was awarded refugee status.  This presentation will focused on his first morning in Dublin, and subsequent application for refugee status.

Elizabeth C. Creely – January 29, 2017 on Republican Daniel Harnedy and the Sinn Fein Shoe Store

Community historian Elizabeth C. Creely spoke about her research on the history of the Irish community of San Francisco’s Mission District, focused on Republican Daniel Harnedy and the “Sinn Fein Shoe Store.   In March, 2016 Elizabeth produced a walking tour for the festival, entitled  “Walking the Rebellion: Irish-Americans and the 1916 Easter Rising in the Mission District”, which explored and examined Irish and Irish American culture at home, and in meeting halls, churches and places of business within the Mission District.

 Charlotte Headrick – November 20, 2016 on Irish Women Dramatists

Charlotte Headrick, Professor Emerita of Theatre Arts at Oregon State University presented from her new book, Irish Women Dramatists 1913-2001   (co-edited with Eileen Kearney), the first anthology of Irish women playwrights that is firmly grounded in the history of twentieth-century Irish theater and the social history of modern Ireland.

Fran O’Rourke – October 30, 2016 on Irish Songs of James Joyce




Fran O’Rourke, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, University College Dublin presented Irish Songs of James Joyce, during which he performed songs which were central to Joyce’s creative work.  The audience joined in singing some of Joyce’s favourite Irish songs, with texts and references inside of Joyce’s works provided.


Liam Cunningham – September 25, 2016 on the State of the Irish Language 1916 – 2016
Liam Cunningham


Liam Cunningham, a founding director of the the Oideas Gael school, is internationally known for his innovative approaches to language learning.He is a well-known language activist and recently completed his second of two terms, totaling ten years, as Cathaoirleach (Chairman) of Údarás na Gaeltachta, the agency responsible for the cultural and economic wellbeing of the Gaeltacht regions nationally.  Cunningham spoke about the evolution of the Irish language over the many years of colonization and suppression, and the many challenges facing the language since the establishment of the Republic, and the prospects for the future.


David Brundage – Sunday May 22, 2016 on Irish Nationalists in America

David Brundage BookUC Santa Cruz Professor David Brundage spoke from highlights of his new book titled Irish Nationalists in America, The Politics of Exile, 1798-1998 just released by Oxford University Press.
In this important work of deep learning and insight, Brundage gives us the first full-scale history of Irish nationalists in the United States. Beginning with the brief exile of Theobald Wolfe Tone, founder of Irish republican nationalism, in Philadelphia on the eve of the bloody 1798 Irish rebellion, and concluding with the role of Bill Clinton’s White House in the historic 1998 Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, Brundage tells a story of more than two hundred years of Irish American (and American) activism in the cause of Ireland.





Matthew Horton – April 24, 2016 on “The Gravesite of Thomas Desmond, legendary Fenian and veteran of the Fremantle Mission”

freemantleUC Berkeley scholar Matthew Horton spoke about “The Gravesite of Thomas Desmond, legendary Fenian and veteran of the Fremantle Mission”.  His talk addressed the social and political history of the Irish Republican movement in California through the gravesite of Thomas Desmond, legendary Fenian and veteran of the Fremantle Mission. He considered the historical context of nineteenth century Irish California and the development of the Fenian movement here, Desmond’s early life in California, his participation in the famous jailbreak, his thirty year political career in San Francisco that followed, his legacy, and the centrality of his grave as a site for commemorating the Easter Rising today.


Annual St. Patrick’s Banquet – March 13, 2016

procframedOne the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, UC Berkeley Professor Emeritus Robert Tracy spoke about the Easter 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic as both a work of literature written by poets and as a political document modeled on the U.S. Declaration of Independence, emphasizing civil rights, women’s suffrage, and independence from foreign rule.

“Poetry and Politics: The 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic” included performances by musicians Kyle Alden singer and Catherine John.


 Ethel Rohan – February 28, 2016

Rohan, EthelNovelist Ethel Rohan, a Dublin native and San Francisco resident, presented passages from her debut novel, The Kingdom Keeper, will publish from St. Martin’s Press, 2017. She is also the author of two story collections, Goodnight Nobody and Cut Through the Bone, the former longlisted for The Edge Hill Prize and the latter longlisted for The Story Prize. An award-winning story and memoir writer, her work has appeared in The New York TimesWorld Literature TodayPEN AmericaTin House OnlineGuernica MagazineBREVITY MagazineThe Rumpus, and more.


Tony Bucher – January 31, 2016  on “Old Saint Mary’s – San Francisco’s Irish Monument”

stmarysILHS President Tony Bucher spoke on San Francisco’s Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral, which served as a key seat of institutional power in the early development of the City and the greater West, and as an important focus of community for a significant portion of the population, for generations.

Beyond the story of the church itself and its features and biographical details, Old Saint Mary’s has broader significance as a metaphor for a history nearly unknown in the City the Irish helped build, with the remains of Kathleen Sullivan, the Irish benefactor, interred in the basement of her Irish church, hidden in plain sight.

Kathleen Walkup – November 22, 2015 on “Pulling the Devil by the Tail: Cuala Press, Elizabeth Corbet Yeats and the Ghost of Albert Bender”

lollyyeatsOne of the more iconic images in the history of printing is that of Elizabeth Corbet Yeats, dressed in a long smock, printing at an Albion handpress. Behind her a woman is preparing to ink the press; in front of her another woman sits at a table reading proofs. The image is often seen as an example of the genteel art of amateur printing by the ‘ladies’, part of the move toward finding ways for the privileged women of the Arts & Crafts era to keep themselves occupied. In fact that reading could not be further from the truth.

In 1902 Elizabeth became a printer and proprietor of what would become Cuala Press, an Irish private press whose editor was her brother, William Butler Yeats. In 1922, Elizabeth began a correspondence with the Irish-American collector Albert Bender. This correspondence lasted until her death in 1940. Some fifty-five letters from Elizabeth to Bender have survived and are housed at Mills College. This talk will examine the history and legacy of Elizabeth Corbet Yeats and Cuala Press, with a particular focus on her correspondence with Bender. The paper will also draw on research at the National Library of Ireland, Trinity College Dublin and Boston College.

Kathleen Walkup is Professor of Book Art and Director of the Book Art Program at Mills College, where she teaches typography and letterpress printing, artists’ bookmaking and seminar/studio courses that combine print culture and book history with studio projects. She is also Book Art Director for the MFA in Book Art & Creative Writing, the first such program in the country.

Clare Moriarty – October 25, 2015 on “Berkeley’s Marvelous Mathematics”

ilhsoctoClare Moriarty, doctoral candidate at King’s College, London, and a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley spoke on “Berkeley’s Marvelous Mathematics”.  George Berkeley is undoubtedly Ireland’s most celebrated philosopher, but his role in the history of mathematics is less renowned. In a heated debate between the British and Continental academies over who truly invented calculus (between Newton and Leibniz), Berkeley’s contribution was to publicly scorn the intelligibility of the theory. The speakers interest is in Berkeley’s unusual motivation in these attacks, which seem to be the result of learning that certain mathematicians had been ridiculing religion on the basis of its ‘unintelligible’ ideas. Despite majority agreement that Berkeley’s mathematical criticism was correct, and instrumental in guiding the project of fixing early calculus, the question remains as to whether Berkeley cared more about sticking his finger in people’s eyes than he did about the mathematics.

Philip Mullen – September 27, 2015 on “Mr Bloom’s Potato”

mullenbucherSome things you could not be expected to know and other things that are just plain ‘wrong’ in Joyce’s Ulysses”
It is well known that James Joyce was meticulous in researching the details for the recreation of his beloved Dublin in Ulysses, but even the great writers sometimes get it wrong. “Mr. Bloom’s Potato” is a light-hearted look at a some of Joyce’s mistakes and a few hidden details that his readers could not possibly have been expected to notice. Such as: Who is Parnell’s brother’s unnamed chess opponent? How could Joyce, of all people, get the two Dublin canals confused, and what is Mr. Bloom doing with that potato? Speaker Philip Mullen is Dublin-based independent scholar.

joycebw2015 Bloomsday Celebration – June 16, 2015

14th Annual Bloomsday Celebration: Re-Joyce in the Stacks Muses, Music and Dramatic Readings from James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Sojourn though the streets of Dublin with Leopold Bloom and other characters featured in James Joyce’s quintessential novel Ulysses and other works. The evening includes dramatic readings and song performed by Bruce Bierman, John Ilyin, Esther Mulligan, Melanie O’Reilly, Josiah Polhemus, and Laura Sheppard. Fiddler Anne Goess is joined by flutist Jason Pollack and guitarist Will Wheeler, who offer lively accompaniment with a selection of traditional and well known Irish music. Mechanics Institute, San Francisco

irishhillSteven Fidel Herraiz – May 17, 2015 on “San Francisco’s Lost Irish Hill”

The Irish Literary & Historical Society welcomes Local historian Steven Fidel Herraiz who will discuss Irish Hill a lost Irish neighborhood (c. 1860-1918) near SF’s shipyards.

This neighborhood was known for its infamous saloons, bare-knuckled boxing matches, and boarding houses. Steven brings it all to life with his research, archived news clippings and photographs.

celtictigersSarah Townsend – April 26, 2015 on “Miracles of Development: From Irish Pigs to Celtic Tigers”

Professor Townsend discussed “Miracles of Development: From Irish Pigs to Celtic Tigers” a lighthearted and erudite exploration of representations of the animals applied to the Irish from the 19th century through the recent economic crisis. This talk examined Patrick McCabe’s 1992 novel The Butcher Boy and Enda Walsh’s 1996 play Disco Pigs, arguing that the two works deploy and upturn pig stereotypes in order to critique late twentieth-century Irish gentrification.

4 Shillings
St. Patrick’s Banquet – March 8, 2015

The St. Patrick’s Banquet – presenting the music of Aodh Óg Ó Tuama & Christy Martin of Four Shillings Short and a dramatic reading of the works of early 20th Century humorist Finley Peter Dunne. Produced and performed by Myles Dungan and Professor Glen Gendzel.

BrehonLawsCatherine Duggan – February 22, 2015 on “The Lost Laws of Ireland”

Author Catherine Duggan on the Brehon Laws.Catherine Duggan, attorney and historian of Irish law will discuss her book The Lost Laws of Ireland, How the Brehon Laws Shaped Early Irish Society. Brehon Law was the legal system that governed Irish society for over 1000 years. Since there was no central authority, the Brehon Laws were enforced by the community. They reflect a culture that sought to ensure fairness and harmony in a hierarchical warrior society.

Rough WeatherDavid Hirzel – January 25, 2015 on the Rough Weather All Day, An Account of the Jeannette Search Expedition by Patrick Cahill

Author and historian David Hirzel will speak about his new book Rough Weather All Day, An Account of the Jeannette Search Expedition by Patrick Cahill. This book concerns the life of an Irish-born seaman, Patrick Cahill, who served on board the U.S.S. Rodgers which left San Francisco in June 1881 to go in search of the missing Arctic exploration ship Jeannette.