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Joyicity, May 2021

In this issue:

  • A word from the President, Kevin Wright
  • Origins of the St. Patrick’s Society
  • Montreal-based Celtic Trio Bùmarang launches debut CD in May, 2021
  • Ciné Gael Montreal: Twenty-eight years of the best in Irish cinema
  • Corned Beef and Cabbage:  Irish? Jewish?? or Both???
  • Miss Bonely, Mr. Deasy and their Mustnots, Donots and Cants, by Anne Lewis


A Word from the President 

Bloomsday 2021 will soon be here.  We begin the celebration of our tenth anniversary on June 12 and continue until Bloomsday itself, June 16.

This will be a bitter-sweet celebration because it will be our first Bloomsday since the death of one of the founders of Festival Bloomsday Montreal, Judith Schurman.  As we celebrate, we will probably have the thought, at the back of our minds, “Judith would have enjoyed that.”

This edition continues with the theme of “Origins,” through a number of articles which explain how some of the groups and associations began.  Please be prepared to be solicited for an article about your “origins,” for our next edition.

We are extremely proud to have some new events and some familiar ones as well.  We are excited to announce that our opening event on June 12 is a collaboration with Margie Gillis who will be presenting Work in Progress based on Molly Bloom’s thoughts as she contemplates the events in her life on June 16, 1904 while she tries to doze off again.  There will be a thirty-minute question and answer session with Margie at the end of the presentation.  “Molly” will be opening the festival and “Molly” will be closing it, a circle which James Joyce would have appreciated.

Margie-Gillis_©Desdemona-Burgin_PORTRAIT2-w 2x4.jpg“At the forefront of modern dance for more than 45 years, internationally acclaimed dance Artist Margie Gillis is one of the most influential Canadian choreographers/dancers of the 20th and 21st centuries. She founded the Margie Gillis Dance Foundation in 1981. Her repertoire now includes over one hundred and fifty creations: solos, duets, and group works, which are performed internationally. She has received numerous awards for her unwavering effort to develop her craft through experimenting, teaching, creation, innovation, and performance.”

We will be introducing a new event in the form of a cooking class with Chef Jonathan Chang, the owner of Appetite for Books and frequent contributor to CBC Radio One’s late afternoon programme Let’s Go!

The ever-popular walking tour led by Donovan King will return and we are also planning a concert with excerpts from the music which influenced the writing of Ulysses, from street ballads, Edwardian parlour favourites, to operatic arias.

Craig Morriss whose caricatures were exhibited online through a link to the Festival Bloomsday Montreal website will be back with new work.  A book of his drawings is on the horizon.

The very popular day of panel discussions about the work and influence of James Joyce is also returning.  John McCourt,  Marcelo Zabaloy, and an interesting discussion between Dr. Michael Kennealy and Irish-born former journalist and reporter Anne Lewis are on the menu, along with several other local presenters.

Bloomsday, like Christmas, is not a moveable feast.  Therefore, the day will be celebrated with readings from the sacred text Ulysses starring several local personalities as lectors, culminating with the always-interesting tour de force which is Molly Bloom’s last word on everything and anything.  Yes, she closes the circle.

Please visit the Festival Bloomsday Montreal website: in the next week or so to see the exact details for all of these events and more. A more up-to-date schedule will be posted there.   Because of the current pandemic, we will be continuing to offer our events via Zoom.  Please prepare by downloading the free version of the programme, if you haven’t already.  And be sure to check for updates.

Most of these events will be free but we depend on the generosity of the audience in order for these presentations to go on.  Please support us in whatever way you can.

Even more important: stay safe and stay well.

Kevin Wright
Festival Bloomsday Montreal

*The photo of Margie Gillis, above, is courtesy of the Margie Gillis Foundation, Desdemona Burgin, photographer.*

Origins of the St. Patrick’s Society

— Martina Branagan Patrick’s Society of Montreal celebrates its birthday on March 17 every year since its founding in 1834 by prominent Irish businessmen at McCabe’s Hotel in Old Montreal. 187 years old, it is still true to its roots: to unite the members of the Irish-Canadian community and to promote the charitable, educational, and cultural interests of the community. The founding of the Society was closely followed by the founding of many other societies including St. Jean Baptiste Society in June 1834, St. Andrew’s Society in February 1835, the German Society of Montreal on April 21, 1835, and St. George’s Society on April 27, 1835.

Albion Hotel on McGill Street housed the original headquarters of the Society. The first President was John Donnellan, a successful Montreal merchant.

From 1834 to 1916, the Society held responsibility for maintaining the Parade. Due to the conditions of war, it stopped in 1917. It resumed and remained under the charge of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) from 1918 until 1928. Since then, the parade has been under the direction of the United Irish Societies of Montreal.

The Society took a prominent part in endeavouring to alleviate the suffering of the Irish immigrants who escaped the ravages of the Great Hunger in Ireland from 1846 to 1848. Along with the AOH and other prominent Irish Montrealers, the “Black Stone” commemorating those lost to the “fever”, both Irish and those who cared for them, will remain in its original site close to Victoria Bridge.

Non-sectarianism is an important founding value of the Society despite a division that occurred in 1856 which resulted in the formation of the “Irish Protestant Benevolent Society”. Since the latter part of the twentieth century, the Society returned to its non-denominational origins. However, the Society was not immune to the vagaries of politics or war. Among the most renowned members of the Society was the Honourable Thomas D’Arcy McGee, one of the Fathers of Confederation. In 1868, at a time when the Society membership had a majority of Fenian sympathizers, McGee was expelled from the Society for strongly condemning the Fenian movement and was assassinated in Ottawa on April 7, 1868. Buried in Notre Dame des Neiges Cemetery, St. Patrick’s Society takes care of his tomb and posthumously reinstated him as a member of the Society on June 19, 2012.

During the First World War, Society members felt called to defend Canada. In autumn 1914, the 55th Regiment, Irish Canadian Rangers, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Harry Trihey, K.C. and Major William O’Brien, a prominent Montreal stock-broker, was formed. In January 1916, an Overseas Battalion was also formed, the 199th Canadian Infantry Battalion, Irish Canadian Rangers (later to be known as the Duchess of Connaught’s Own Irish Canadian Rangers). St. Patrick’s Society was instrumental in ensuring that the Battalion’s colours were formally presented on the Champ de Mars in June 1916.

The impact and influence of St. Patrick’s Society is far-reaching. Six Irish mayors of Montreal in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were members of the Society and three of them served as Presidents. Sir Francis Hincks, another past President of the Society was a pre-Confederation co-premier of the Province of Canada and later federal minister of finance. Charles J. Doherty served as federal minister of Justice. And the list goes on to the present day with involvement at local, regional and federal level. The Society has also been involved in the building of St. Patrick’s Church (now Basilica), the opening of Notre Dame des Neiges Cemetery, St. Patrick’s Orphanage, Father Dowd’s Home, St. Mary’s Hospital, the pre-retirement community residence, St. Patrick Square and the founding of the School of Canadian-Irish Studies at Concordia University to name but some areas of interest.

The Society has evolved greatly since 1834. The first woman admitted to full membership of the Society in 1983 was Beverly Rozek and in 1998, the Society elected its first woman President, Lynn Lonergan Doyle. In 2011, the Society organized and sponsored welcoming receptions and job networking events for young Irish immigrants to Montreal, seeking their fortune overseas due to economic conditions back in Ireland.

A registered federal charity, the Society continues to organize and sponsor a large number of cultural and educational activities in collaboration with sister societies and other organizations and to make significant donations to other Montreal charities and not-for-profit organizations that serve the less fortunate, homeless, children, families and elderly of the city, both Irish and non-Irish.

You are invited to visit St. Patrick’s website for a fuller history of the Society written by Society Historian J. Peter Shea.


Montreal-based Celtic Trio Bùmarang launches debut CD in May, 2021
— Kate Bevan-BakerAs Cape Breton fiddler Ashley MacIsaac once said, “If tradition is to remain, the new has to become tradition.” This perspective is influential for Bùmarang in the sense that they harken back to older tunes and songs that are centuries old, while incorporating them with contemporary performance practices. Bùmarang presents virtuosic Celtic music infused with many musical flavours from three of Montreal’s finest musicians: David Gossage (flute, whistles, guitar), Kate Bevan-Baker (violins, vocals), and Sarah Pagé  (harp, vocals). Bùmarang’s live performances have received accolades including, “A Celtic power trio with jaw dropping flute and whistle playing, creatively and beautifully delivered songs, and dazzling sets of jigs and reels propelled by the tightly-synched unified force of the three instruments”. (The Guardian, PEI)

Bùmarang, the Scottish Gaelic spelling of Boomerang, specializes in a fusion of original compositions and arrangements with Celtic and other traditional music styles. Using common instruments of Scottish and Irish Celtic music, Bùmarang takes the flute, fiddle and harp and uses them in a contemporary approach to these traditional styles of music. This crossover approach sets Bùmarang apart from other folk and Celtic trios of today, bringing a truly fresh and unique sound to the traditional scene. All three members are long-time professional musicians and educators at universities and privately, and have toured and recorded extensively across Canada and internationally. The trio has individually toured with their own ensembles including Orealis, The Barr Brothers, Tree Talk and Land of Kush, and have performed with the likes of Patrick Watson, Hey Rosetta!, Kid Koala, Michael Bublé, Lhasa de Sela and Cirque du Soleil. When the three virtuosic players first combined on stage in 2015, bringing their diverse influences of classical, jazz, African, and Indian music together with a love and appreciation for Irish and Scottish Celtic music and English and Appalachian folk songs, the results were unique and innovative takes on what was once old.

Their debut album, Echo Land, is an entirely modern celebration of the Celtic tradition and its title alludes to a reflection, a return, and a resolution to find answers in the past. “Echo Land feels a little like time travel to us,” says Kate Bevan-Baker, the trio’s fiddler and singer. “We’re spanning huge distances, over generations, holding onto melodies that become half heard echoes as they ripple across the seas. Traditional melodies evolve in such an organic way. They’re imbued with new meaning every time someone picks one up and plays it in their own voice, adding their life to the music. And yet some of them remain relatively unchanged and manage to whisper something and trigger vague memories. Just like language, they carry a wealth of knowledge and culture between and behind the notes. There is something almost magical to the vibrancy of traditional melodies and songs.”

“There’s something dreamlike about traditional music. The fact that people were playing something similar here in the past,” says David Gossage, described by music critic Mark Lepage as “Montreal’s secret weapon,” who plays flute, guitar and whistles. “Echo Land is a reference to reverberations from the past that evoke a feeling of timelessness.” Those reverberations stand prominently as the album opens on the instrumental piece “Song of Books.” Though there are lyrics for the piece, lamentably written by the poet and musician Tomás “Rua” Ó Suilleabháin (1785-1848), who lost his life’s work and library in a shipwreck, Bùmarang chose to focus on the melody of the traditional Irish air “Cuan Bhéil Inse” or “Valencia Harbour.”

The mood is revived by the original composition “Weasel,” another instrumental, this time written in an unusual meter with African-influenced grooves, before introducing the “Single Girl” lamenting her lost freedom. The song was collected by Cecil Sharp in a book of 274 English folk songs from the Southern Appalachians, and here it is accompanied by Moogs and guitars played by Leif Vollebekk.

“It appeals to me because the lyrics and situation are so timeless,” says Sarah Pagé, who sings and plays harp (with a bass pick-up of her own design and an array of carefully considered amps, fans, bows and pedals). “I can look back to my mother, grandmothers, great-grandmothers and feel this song will resonate with any of them and almost anywhere in the world.” At the end of the song, the essence of the band and the album is perhaps revealed – the lyrics are flipped around – “you’ll never wish you were a single girl, like me.” We are no longer sure if the message is despairing, solace seeking or imparting advice. The meaning is up to us.

Bùmarang flies listeners over the realms of Celtic music, travelling the ages and back again. The music on Echo Land shares loves: born, lost, regretted and celebrated, and brings us out of mists of uncertainty to a clarity of our place within this time. The trio makes new of what is old, and nourishes our souls with their entirely modern celebration of tradition. Echo Land will be released on May 21, 2021.






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Ciné Gael Montreal: Twenty-eight years of the best in Irish cinema
— Dana Hearne
How it All Began“As we celebrate our 28th (2020) Season, of bringing the best in Irish Cinema to our enthusiastic members and supporters in Montreal, it is a good time to look back and recall some of the great moments we have shared and remind you of how it all began.

In the Spring of 1992, Anthony Kirby, well-known film buff and member of Montreal’s vibrant Irish community, suggested to the St. Patrick’s Society’s cultural committee that it consider bringing Irish films to Montréal for the benefit of the community. Nothing happened right away, but Lynn Lonergan Doyle, a member of the cultural committee at the time, mulled it over, got a few interested people together and formed an executive committee.  The members of that first committee were Lynn, Patrick Vallely and Peggy Mullally.

With the financial support of the St. Patrick’s Society, the first Ciné Gael Montréal film season was set to roll one year later in January 1993. Lynn had no clue then how complicated it would be to get a film season launched each year.

The first season’s program was a harbinger of what was to become one of the annual highlights of the Irish community’s rich calendar of events. That year we screened such classics as The Commitments, The Luck of Ginger Coffey, December Bride, The Quiet Man (preceded by a lecture presented by Professor James MacKillop entitled “Irish Cinema and the Quiet Man,)” and Hush-A-Bye-Baby. This first season set the tone for future seasons in a number of ways. Irish cinema was wide open to us then as anything we decided to show would be new to us. We could choose the best of the classics and we could keep our eye on the new releases. With the input of the more knowledgeable members of the committee, we all developed a considerable expertise in researching and tracking films.

We developed a pattern then, which we expanded in subsequent seasons. With a season that extended from late January to early May, we had a film evening approximately every two weeks. We developed a tradition of having a guest speaker for every film. These speakers are drawn from the Irish community, from the Universities and colleges (film studies and others disciplines), the media (especially John Griffin, Gazette film critic), the film directors themselves and high profile actors and sometimes members of our own committee. We became interested in mixing genres to include, not only full-length features, but also documentaries, short films, and animation.

From 1993 until 1998 we were lucky to have the support of Le Conservatoire d’art cinématographique de Montréal, which up to that time was housed at Concordia University. Its affiliation with Concordia ended that year and although we continued to show our films at Concordia’s Cinema de Sève, the loss of the Conservatoire’s support made our task of researching and tracking films very much harder. The last year of this alliance was a success for Ciné Gael Montréal. That year a major festival of Irish film was mounted called Le Cinéma Irlandais: La Voix d’une Nation/Celebration of Irish Film: Voices of the Nation. It ran from March 26th to April 19th. In total we had 19 days of screenings and 55 films. The films were mostly highlights in Irish film-making North and South from the 1980s and the 1990s – features, documentaries, short films, and animation, including films directed by Neil Jordan (a major focus), Jim Sheridan, John T. Davis, Paddy Breathnach, Margo Harkin, Trish McAdam, Tom Collins, John Huston, Joe Comerford, Brendan Byrne, Damien O’Donnell, Aine O’Connor, Padraig O’Neill and Edith Pierperoff (who turned up in person all the way from Galway).

In the years following this bonanza of Irish film we added two new features to our programme: The much loved evening of shorts programmed by Heather MacDougal and Kester Dyer; and one weekend in the course of the season devoted to highlighting a celebrated actor (Stephen Rea, Milo O’Shea, Gabriel Byrne et al), director (John Ford, Neil Jordan, Bob Quinn, Cathal Black, Robert Quinn and, most recently Paddy Breathnach), a significant figure in the Irish film world (Rod Stoneman) or emphasizing a different focus on Irish women directors (Pat Murphy, Orla Walsh, Mary McGuckian, Margo Harkin). Our future plans include a weekend devoted to Gay Irish Cinema.

In the last couple of years, as we have celebrated younger film-makers, there has been a notable change in the kind of subject matter they are choosing to engage with and often these films seem to be less “Irish” than the films of their parents’ generation. As Robert Quinn said of his debut feature, Dead Bodies “One of the things I like best about this film is that there is nothing particularly Irish about it. It could be anywhere.”

Paddy Breathnach expressed a similar point of view when he was asked how he saw his films fitting into an Irish tradition. He said he doesn’t see himself as fitting into any kind of Irish tradition but rather thinks of his films as reflecting the particular space he inhabits at the time he embarks on them. Changes in Irish culture – or particular issues in the Irish social/political landscape can always be expected to be reflected in some way in his films, but they are not his guiding inspiration. As Ireland has gone global so too, it seems, have many of Ireland’s younger generation of filmmakers.

We also try to make sure that Northern Ireland is represented each season. Most of the Northern Ireland films we have shown until recently have focused on the tragic political situation — Omagh (directed by Peter Travis) was the most recent in this genre and one of the most moving and powerful. Over the following years we screened a number of outstanding films focusing on Northern Ireland. The closing film for our 20th Season (2012) was Lelia Doolan’s award-winning feature documentary Bernadette: Notes on a Political Journey, which charts the story of Bernadette Devlin McAliskey’s political journey since her explosive entry into the public arena in the late sixties. Lelia (Chairperson of the Irish Film Board from 1993 to 1996, and founder of the Galway Film Fleadh) was our guest speaker for this screening.

In our 27th season (2019) we screened two remarkable films from Northern Ireland: No Stone Unturned, Written and Directed by Academy Award winning documentarian Alex Gibney, which explores the collusion between police and paramilitaries (specifically the UVF) in the cover-up of the 1994 Loughisland Massacre in which six Catholic men were shot in a bar as they watched Ireland play in the World Cup; and the documentary film In the Name of Peace: John Hume in America by Writer and Director Maurice Fitzpatrick, which tells the story of how, through the relationships he cultivated with The White House and US Congress, John Hume created the framework for peace in Northern Ireland.

The focus of Our Special Weekend of screenings in 2017 (our 25th anniversary) was Women in Irish Cinema. What was very special about this weekend – apart from the focus on gender – was our guest Dr. Annie Doona, Chair of the Irish Film Board. On the Friday, Doona gave an excellent presentation on the issue of gender equality and the Board’s work to date on redressing gender bias in the Irish film industry. And the Saturday session featured two episodes of the darkly comic drama Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope by Director Cathy Brady, as well as three short films by the same Director. Brady joined us on Skype following the screenings.

In our last two seasons (our 27th and 28th seasons) we screened films that focused on The Great Famine: our opening film in 2019 was Black ’47, Directed by Lance Daly. 1847, the worst year of the Great Famine – which beset Ireland from 1845 to 1852. And Lost Children of the Carricks our opening film in 2020 (directed by Concordia University professor Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin) traces a family’s story of survival on an Irish coffin ship that crashed off the Gaspé coast. This documentary tells the story of exodus and reunion. During the famine years of 1845-1852, Canada received approximately 300,000 Irish refugees. In the summer of 1847, over 20,000 would die at sea, in quarantine stations, fever sheds, orphanages and shantytowns across Canada. While Grosse Île on the St. Lawrence is the largest famine graveyard outside of Ireland and well known, there are sites associated with the tragic été irlandaise (Irish summer) of 1847 scattered throughout Quebec.

Because of COVID our 2020 season was cut off half way through – just before a planned screening of a film The 34th: The Story of Marriage Equality in Ireland – a documentary film by Linda Cullen and Vanessa Gildea. The film tells the story of the people who formed Marriage Equality in Ireland, and explores the events that led to the Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Marriage Equality) Act 2015 – a landmark event in Irish history – which amended the Constitution of Ireland to permit marriage to be contracted by two persons without distinction as to their sex.

For our 2021 film series – our 29th season – in collaboration with the Irish Film Festival of Ottawa (IFFO) we were able to provide a complete programme – streaming on the web (April 9th-13th) – a great gift for all of us. Let us hope we can get back to normal soon, and maybe even contemplate the possibility of planning a series for next year.

One of the innovations brought in by Tim Hine over the past few years has been the ability for the Cine Gael audience in Montreal to interact with the directors of several of the films in real time via Skype.  This is very much appreciated by the audience, considering the time difference almost always means that it is well after 2:00 AM in Ireland.

Our Committee: 

Patrick Brodie: Programming and film tracking;
Lynn Lonergan Doyle: Committee chair, responsible for Finance and Sponsorship, plus Publicity and Programming;
Tim Hine: Programme Director
Paul Doyle: Ticketing …and crowd control;
Caoimhe Dyer: Committee Intern;
David Hanley: Program Manager; Programming and film tracking;
Dana Hearne: Programming and film tracking;
Heather MacDougall and Kester Dyer: Programming our Short Films Evening;
Ann Shaw: TV, Radio, and Print media PR; Programming and film tracking;
Ken Wilson: Twitter; TV, Radio, and Print media PR;
Antoine Maloney: Membership; Communications (web, email, social media, and mail and phone).

[Note: For past members go to our website – click on the Ciné Gael button]
Corned Beef and Cabbage:  Irish? Jewish?? or Both???

— Astri Thorvik

Corned beef and cabbage may be considered the most iconic dish to enjoy on St. Patrick’s Day for its Irish roots. But actually, the dish really came from the Jews. More specifically, the Jewish New York deli.

In the early 20th century, Jewish, Italian, and Irish immigrants lived side by side in many of the poorer New York neighbourhoods. Just like Jewish newcomers, who adapted many of their beloved foods from the old country, the other immigrant groups were doing the same thing. Back in Ireland, there was a traditional dish of bacon and cabbage. But when Irish immigrants saw the salty, cured corned beef their Jewish neighbours were enjoying, it reminded them of their own comfort food. As Westchester Magazine explains:

…It was at Jewish delis and lunch carts that the Irish experienced corned beef and noticed its similarity to Irish bacon. Cooking the corned beef with cabbage was another choice based on cost efficiency. Even better, the entire meal could be cooked in one pot making the dish cheap, easy to make, and let’s not forget – tasty…  Try it!

3 lb. corned beef brisket with spice packet 
2 bay leaves
1/2 lb. baby potatoes, quartered
4 medium carrots, cut into quarters
1 small head green cabbage, cut into wedges

  1. Place brisket in a large Dutch oven and cover with water. Add spice packet, bay leaves, and thyme and place on medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until tender, checking every 30 minutes and adding water if needed, until beef is tender, about 3 hours.
  2. Add potatoes and carrots and bring back up to a boil. Cook for 15 minutes, then add cabbage and boil 5 minutes more.
  3. Remove meat and drain vegetables. Let meat rest 10 minutes before slicing.


Miss Bonely, Mr. Deasy and their Mustnots, Donots and Cants

— Anne Lewis

It’s always informative to hear from an Academy Old Girl. Anne wasn’t chosen for Upper Sixth where we prepared children for Oxford and Cambridge. She got the grunt of my chalk projectiles and sarcasm. I suppose strong medicine takes decades to have effect. If at all.

I hope you can make out what she’s on about.

Dictated by

Miss Ernestine Bonely

(Ex Principal, The Academy)

Typed by B. Bird, volunteer carer


The idea for Miss Bonely came to me in 2019 for my book “After the Academy”, a collection of stories about my Irish upbringing. Two years after publishing, Joyicity’s Kevin Wright has asked me to write about Mr. Deasy, the fictional money-obsessed principal from James Joyce’s Ulysses. Kevin wanted truth to what he observed were the character’s antisemitic “spewings”:  ” I just wanted to say, he said, Ireland has the honour of being the only country which never persecuted the jews. Do you know that? No. And do you know why?  … -Because she never let them in, Mr Deasy said solemnly.”  I realised Miss Bonely might be my Mr. Deasy. Every morning before school started at the Belfast Academy sixty of us fidgeted through Jewish assembly. Throughout the day Miss Bonely patrolled how we looked and behaved. I always felt uneasy. I fitted in, wore the school uniform, and after school I studied and avoided play, as per school instructions. But that woman had X-ray vision. She could tell I was acting, I didn’t belong, I was a stranger.

“Anne Lewis, your hair looks ridiculous” Her forehead – a scrunch of fury, my school tie – a garrote, and the row of wooden benches – flypaper holding me down.

“Get to the toilets and comb that thing out.” She said. Shame closed in on my memory. I cannot say Bonely was anti-semitic, more of a petty despot delivering alienation and trauma.

First, some background. Sephardi Jews from the Iberian peninsula had started scouting Dublin in 1241. A group from Portugal settled in 1496. By the beginning of the twentieth century the Jewish population on the island had reached about five thousand. These arrivals were a branch in a two-thousand year migration that began in Judea when the Roman administration did many vile things including the crucifixion of Jesus.* Forty years later a Jewish rebellion was extinguished with the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The Jews dispersed. I know this now, but at the Academy we didn’t learn Jewish history. When I was a toddler such information splattered the ground while I was playing under the dining room table. Stories from my grandparents about running from pogroms. Tales about the Nazis hauling people away. Forebears who had something pulling them onwards – the hope for a better life. I still feel that desire, I’m a link in that two millenia old chain.

In Dublin, Lithuanian (Ashkenazi) Jews arrived in waves from the 1880s. My grandfather was a teenage immigrant who paved the way for the rest of his family. He was a barrow boy, then scraped a living in a dust-filled shop on Aungier Street surrounded by his stockpile of second-hand treasures – furniture, china and jewelry. My mother and her sisters grew up in a house that was back-to-back with the one where the fictional Leopold Bloom had “lived” on Clanbrassil Street.

In Belfast, Jews (also mainly from Lithuania) were shocked to witness the division and suspicion (if not downright hatred) between Protestants and Catholics. My grandfather sewed suits and shirts; he eventually owned four small shops. My Dad studied medicine and my mother moved from Dublin to marry. They set up his practice in our living room. Sending me to a good school was part of his plan. The horrid episode of antisemitism that I recall from my childhood, (perhaps better called racism) occurred during history class in that excellent school he chose for us. It was a lesson about skin colour.

“Now take Anne Lewis, an example of sallow skin.” I was somewhere on the ceiling, looking down at the blond pine desks, each child by a seat. The teacher wore his black robe like a raven holding a chalk stick.

“How dare you make a spectacle of me” I said, swooping down, lifting him by the lapels. Not bad for a twelve-year-old girl. But I didn’t have the guts. I wish I’d really had such awareness and presence of mind. The episode buried itself until I excavated it decades later.

My family migrated to Ireland with struggle in our DNA to an Ireland partitioned between the south and the north – Eire and Northern Ireland.  Growing up I was steeped in alienation and division. What we came from, what we arrived to, and the sectarian Troubles we witnessed. What I saw was the organized division of two groups of people, segregated into separate school systems. Friends lamented that in church they learnt to distrust and hate one another. Miss Bonely didn’t have X-ray vision. She was blind to a little girl anxious to belong. She could have ignored my hair, patted my head and told me I was wonderful. She could have told every kid.

Forewarned indeed. My grandparents – were they forewarned before they came to Ireland? Conflict and inbred suspicion are as tattered, cheap, and timeworn as history itself. They might be seductive and fascinating, but unworthy of this human adventure. I can’t speak for Mr. Deasy. But I did ask Mr. Joyce.


To Miss Bonely’s meanspirited Forewarned I add caution. The Academy is a dangerous place, full of mustnots, donots and cants. Anne leaves this behind. Her voice is of Ireland, even though she left fifty years ago. Even though her roots are elsewhere. Even though I have kept an eye on her since Con Leventhal introduced me to her grandfather. Me leaving, him arriving, we had a plate of herring at the Dublin docks.  Her grandmother grew aubretia over the fence shared with Leopold. She and I swim in a shared mare nostrum. J.J.

*Encyclopædia Britannica


Perhaps the best known modern Irish Jew, beyond the fictional one of course, is Chaim Herzog, who was born in Belfast in 1918 and became Israel’s sixth president in 1983. 

Much earlier, William Annyas was elected mayor of Youghal, County Cork in 1555. In 1899 Sir Otto Yaffe became Lord Mayor of Belfast. 

In 1977 Gerald Goldberg became the Lord Mayor of Cork. 

Other politicians include the mayor of Dublin Bobbie Briscoe who served two terms starting in 1956. His son Ben Briscoe became Dublin’s Lord Mayor in 1988 after serving in the Irish parliament for more than 35 years.


Anne-Lewis-February-2--2019mw.jpgAnne Lewis is an author, journalist, visual artist, narrative coach and bona fide over-achiever. Her memoir on Leonard Cohen will be included in the third volume of an oral history Untold Tales, to be published by Simon and Schuster in 2023. Miss Bonely made her first appearance in Anne’s 2019 chapbook, After the Academy. Anne’s anthology contributions include: Chronicling the Days (Guernica Editions 2021) and Another Story: How Six Authors Became Better Writers (IW Press, 2021). She is the founder of MeCoaching.Me a resource for the over-conscientious in our culture of excessive work demands. Anne is funded to give workshops in schools by ArtistsInspire:

Photo: K. Wright

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