Pittsburghers Celebrate Irish Roots on St. Patrick’s Day
Feb 27, 2015 06:36PM
● By Larry Richert
This is the month of the Irish! Pittsburgh’s largest parade of the year
will be held on Saturday, March 15 and is the kick-off to three days of
celebrations that allow everyone to play along if they choose.
My link to the Emerald Isle is my grandmother on my father’s side, whose maiden name was Dooley; her family came to Pittsburgh from County Cork in Ireland at the turn of the last century. I remember that St. Patrick’s Day was a big deal growing up.
This region is rich in Irish tradition because so many immigrants came here to find work. Although there was a time when ‘Irish need not apply,’ those discriminatory days vanished many years ago, but should not be forgotten. That said, as a stereotype, the Irish have a great sense of humor and welcome everyone to share in the fun.
I had the privilege of visiting Ireland with my father and sister in 2008. We went to County Cork and ventured inside a 200-year-old thatched roof pub called Murphy’s, where we listened to Irish songs performed by a family who explained the meaning behind some favorite tunes, like Danny Boy. Now I know why this song brings people to tears! I also kissed the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle. After the locals told us what happens after the tourists leave each day, (ugh) I was sorry I did! Both of these stories are worth a Google!
Our KDKA Radio Morning Show producer, Andy Limberg, has a rich Irish heritage and introduced us several years ago to his uncle, Mike Gallagher. Gallagher is well known around town as a singer, songwriter and keeper of Irish traditions. Mike is the seventh of eight children who grew up in Sheridan; his grandparents were originally from Ireland. I had a conversation with him about his recollections of growing up Irish in Pittsburgh.
According to Mike, performing is in the Gallagher blood. His grandfather, John, was a regular entertainer on the radio in the 1930s. Mike was also quick to add, with a wink, that his grandfather never made much money doing it, and that he is just carrying on that family tradition now.
Mike has memories of his mother making corned beef and cabbage, but says that the food isn’t what he remembers most—that would be the family shows. His brothers and sisters would put on a show in the living room, and the neighbors and even the parish priest from Holy Innocents Church across the street would provide the audience.
This St. Patrick’s Day, Mike says that he’ll be taking part in the tradition of singing Mass at—where else— St. Patrick’s Church in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. Then it’s off to the Harp & Fiddle and then The Grove in Ross Township. You can usually find him playing his guitar and singing at Riley’s Pour House on Main Street in Carnegie, but if you miss him, check out his website (www.mike-gallagher.com) for some Irish melodies on CDs including The Green Album: The Love of My Life and Saints and Scholars.
I, by the way, am still hoping for the luck of the Irish to help me hit the Powerball!