In a few days, I will be traveling to Springfield and Chicopee, MA, to meet some very special people, listen to family and community stories, and see, firsthand, the place that Martin Kearney called home.
Martin’s oldest son, Marty, has been an incredibly hospitable and generous help in arranging opportunities for sharing family and community stories, artifacts and historical documents, and contemporary, significant community places, events and activities. Many, many thanks to him.
I am looking forward to touring the campus of Our Lady of the Elms College in Chicopee and the Irish Cultural Center located there, and meeting Sean Cahillane and Sister Judith Kappenman. The Center is a forum for Irish cultural events, including lectures, musical presentations, films, and exhibits. The Center facilitates opportunities for studying the Irish language, and sponsors genealogy group meetings, a monthly book club discussion, and a bimonthly newsletter. The Center’s mission focuses on “keeping the Irish arts alive” through preserving, sharing, and promoting “the great heritage of the Irish people, so that future generations of Irish and Irish Americans will have the opportunity to appreciate their rich legacy.” Click here to read about how the Center was founded and its rich connection to the Great Basket Centre in Dunquin.
I’ll meet and talk with Marty and many members of his family – including his mom (and Martin Kearney’s wife), his wife, Diane, his sisters, and some number of Kearney grandchildren and cousins. I am very eager to see Marty, Diane, and Eleanor again, and looking greatly forward to meeting more Kearneys and listening to the ways in which three different Springfield generations define themselves and think of home. I will visit Martin’s Springfield home and get a sense of the places and people he loved.
I’ll meet and talk with other Springfield folks, at the John Boyle O’Reilly Club, including the young President of the club and Mike Carney, Martin’s older brother. The club was, according to their website, founded in 1880 and is dedicated to preserving and promoting Irish Heritage (their motto – Culture, Family and Tradition – honors tradition and future). I am especially eager to meet Mike, and learn about how he thinks about issues of place, identity and home, and what this club has meant to Springfield and Blasket communities.
One evening will be spent in the company of Marty’s family, at the Chicopee Knights of Columbus Hall, to attend the 2011 Springfield Colleen and Scholarship Contest and dinner. This is a contest for young women of Irish Descent, aged 17 to 22. One of Marty’s nieces will be competing, and I am excited to learn more about this popular community activity and how it ties into area and regional St. Patrick’s Parade celebrations, cultural heritage events, and issues of identity.
And finally, a full Irish breakfast celebration with the Kearney family and a few hundred other Springfield folks, at the Monthly Irish Breakfast held in the John Boyle O’Reilly Club. Marty assures me the place will be packed, the food will be tasty and quite affordable (rashers, and black and white puddings, included, yum), and the company will, of course, be delightful!
I look forward to listening and learning, connecting with friends and meeting wonderful new people – people from multiple generations that were significant in Martin Kearney’s life in Springfield and on the Blaskets.