Recently I was called out by the great banjo player and long-time friend Pauline Connelly (Chicago Reel) to take part in the ALS Ice Bucket. I accepted and did so in honor of the late Maureen Harling, a dear friend who suffered from this devastating disease....
Much has been written today about the passing of the forever-young 92-year-old Maureen O'Looney, affectionately known as "Mother Ireland" amongst other titles of love and gratitude bestowed upon her during her 60 plus years of living in Chicago.
Maureen was born in Bohola and she and I had a running quip for the last 15 years or so whenever we'd meet, telling me with a broad smile that she loved my band bohola and me telling her it was named in honor of her…
I will miss that.
We'd known each other since the early 1970's when I started playing music around the city and we would meet at various dances, ceilidhs, benefits, wakes, funerals, weddings, the occasional pub, and during the times we'd visit her radio show to play a few tunes.
There were also the trips up north to her Shamrock Imports shop every few months to see what the latest albums from Ireland were along with picking up some sweets, a new song or tune book, and of course the most welcome cup of tea, chat, and her filling us in with the going-on's within the Irish community and beyond. Maureen was "social media" before the concept ever existed.
I last saw Maureen a few months back at the Irish American Heritage Center while I was playing -- I happened to open my eyes in the middle of a tune, looked up and our eyes met as she was heading out. We smiled, she gave me a wink with a gentle twist of her head in approval, waved goodbye and that was it.
Jimmy McGowan died a few moments ago. He was surrounded by his loving family. He would have turned 58 on Thursday. He would have teed off at nine this morning -- after mass -- at Fountain Hills with a couple of his kids or a roving cast of friends. He would have met me at Lanigan's for a few jars and to catch a Bears, Hawks, or Sox game. He would laugh. He would kid. He would chat. He would smile. He would listen. He would bring comfort. He would bring an open mind. He would console. He would encourage. He would advise. He would shed a tear. He would shake his head in disbelief or in the are-you-f'in-nuts sort of way. He would share. He would give what he could and what he couldn't. He would speak with a glowing heart about his kids, his brothers and sister, his nieces and nephews, his Dad, his Bridie. He was a friend to all and a friend to me. He loved and was loved. He will be in my heart forever. Rest in peace McGowan
(Thank you McGowan family for letting me be part of Jimmy's final days -- you are as your son, father, brother, and uncle was...)
A few weeks to go for the 32nd annual Irish/Celtic Week at Augusta Heritage in Elkins, West Virginia. I will be teaching an intensive tune workshop open to all melody instruments (which was a blast last year!) as was instructing several times over the last three plus decades in the lovely setting of Davis & Elkins College.
Here is a photo of myself, bodhranist/raconteur Myron Bretholtz, and harpist Carol Thompson 25 years ago outside the infamous Ice House on campus taking a break and listening to one of the many sessions which take place round the clock during the week. Still not too late to sign up for the many class offerings. Check it out at the link above...
“As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.” -- George Washington
Hi Folks -- I received a rake of kind messages, emails, phone calls, and home visits asking how I am progressing with my new addition during the last two weeks post-surgery --- unlike this very funny cartoon which several of you have sent me -- I am moving ahead splendidly and hope to be out and about this fair City of Chicargo and beyond within the next couple of weeks. Thank you all for your kind thoughts, support, prayers, jokes, and encouragement!