Editor Emeritus - Ed Wilkinson

Fair-Weathered Irish Return to Give Back

OK, so I’m not a weather forecaster. During a TV interview, I predicted that the sun would shine on the Great Irish Fair last weekend.

Instead, on the first day of the two-day event, following the opening Mass and awards ceremony, the sky opened up, and the rains came, sending fairgoers scattering for cover or heading for their cars.

Sunday, however, was a beautiful day, and the crowds returned as they do every year to Coney Ireland for a real celebration of Irish culture, music, food and crafts.

It was about 30 years when no one else was going to Coney Island that Al O’Hagan, the now-retired Fair chairman, and the Fair committee decided to pitch their tents in that oceanside neighborhood. Their Irish responded, and it has been that way ever since as thousands have flocked each year to the Great Irish Fair.

In fact, many credit the resurgence of America’s favorite beach resort to the Great Irish Fair, which proved that if you put on a good show, the people will come.

Marty Cottingham, the current chairman, co-chairman Chris Hannan and the Irish-American Building Society took over the reins of the celebration when O’Hagan retired, and they have maintained the great Catholic tradition that it has been.

This year’s proceeds went to the Catholic schools of Brooklyn and Queens. It was clear from the remarks of the honorees that a Catholic education pays off. Speaker after speaker came to the microphone to recall the sacrifices their parents had made to send them to Catholic schools.

Reigning over the Fair was Colleen Queen Tara Muldoon, a recent graduate of Fontbonne Hall Academy, Bay Ridge, and an alumna of St. Mark’s School, Sheepshead Bay.

St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights was very visible around the fairgrounds, applauding their own alums: John F. Tully, ’67, chairman of the college’s board of trustees, who was presented the Irish Man of the Year Award, and Maureen McCormack, ’72, who was the Kathleen Slattery Woman of the Year recipient.

Msgr. Kieran Harrington, honored with the Father Mychal Judge Award, is a graduate of Cathedral Prep, Elmhurst; St. John’s University, Jamaica; and Immaculate Conception Seminary, Huntington, L.I.

Mary Nolan, who was presented the Paul O’Dwyer Award, was educated by the Sisters of Mercy in Ireland. Lawyer Thomas Tormey, who received the St. Thomas More Award, graduated from St. Christopher School and Msgr. Farrell H.S., both on Staten Island, and St. John’s Law School. NYPD Assistant Chief Michael Shea, P.O. Edward Byrne Award, attended St. Margaret of Cortona School, Cardinal Spellman H.S. and Fordham University, all in the Bronx. Firefighter Vincent O’Grady, Timothy Stackpole Award, attended St. Thomas Aquinas School, Flatlands; Xavier H.S., Manhattan; and St. John’s University.

The Round Tower Award was presented to Ed Clancy, a Xaverian H.S., Bay Ridge, graduate, who last week addressed the Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East meeting in Washington, D.C.

Sister Theresa Ryan, S.C., the winner of the Celtic Cross Award, attended Nativity B.V.M. School, Ozone Park, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help H.S., Sunset Park. As a Sister of Charity, she has taught in various Catholic schools and now ministers at St. Sebastian’s School, Woodside.

The Bard of the Fair, Michael Dolan, is another Xaverian grad who also went to Sacred Hearts-St. Stephen School, Carroll Gardens.

Daniel Woods, who received the Jerry Forest Memorial Award, went to Sacred Heart School, Bayside; Holy Cross H.S., Flushing; and Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

The Irish never forget from whence they have come. So, every year they return to Coney Island and look out across the sea that their ancestors crossed coming to the New World. And they never forget to give back, which is why they now help today’s immigrants attend Catholic schools in our diocese.

Scenes from The Great Irish Fair 2014

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