Almost one-quarter of all residents of Monmouth County identified themselves as coming from an Irish background according to the 2000 U.S. Census. Many of us would llke to bring this background into the foreground and have something everyone can live and experience. This is possible now through a new Irish-American group based in Monmouth County.
Dermot Farley of Middletown is the Founder of Claddagh Na nGael, Gaelic for "Irish Shore." It's an Irish organization on the Jersey Shore promoting Irish culture which includes music, language, dance, food, sport and all that is in between.
I interviewed Farley about his passion for Irish culture, when it began and where it is going...
Where do you grow up? What was your parents' Irish connection? What Irish cultural influence did you feel most closely attached to?
I grew up in an Irish Catholic family in Staten Island, NY. My mother was from Newport, County Mayo and was a singer. Although no one played any instruments in my home music and singing was an integral part of our lives.
When did you settle in Monmouth County? Did you influence your family's opinion about Irish culture? Did you or your family seek out or learn Irish music or dance?
I moved to Middletown in 1995 with my wife Geraldine and three kids. Geri was from Belfast, Ireland and again music was an integral part of our lives. I was not actively involved in Trad Irish until my children got a little older.
When and why did you feel the passion you had for Irish culture
needed to be promoted beyond the traditional enclaves and brought to a very large Irish American community on the Jersey Shore?
My cousin Fr. Francis Gunn OFM (deceased) called me one day excited about an Irish Musicians Convention in Tarrytown NY. He knew I loved that genre so he invited me to the North American Provincial Convention of Comhaltas. Without knowing what I was in for when we walked in the lobby of the hotel and I saw hundreds of people playing music with such enthusiasm I was immediately hooked. That was about 17 years ago and its been great stuff since!
Have you been to Ireland? What can Ireland teach us about being Irish and more importantly what can we, 33 + million Irish Americans teach Ireland about being Irish? if we can....
I have been to Ireland many times. It is a source of strength for my spirit. There is something you can feel about being absorbed in your culture. It's our history, who we are, why we are, there is a sense of comfort. Of course the Irish have made a hugely disproportionate contribution to humanity but putting that aside... We are just really cool, fun, lighthearted people. Music, laughter, storytelling, dance it all just comes so naturally to the Irish. That is something we can all learn more of.
How do people get involved? So many of us love our Irish background and families but we do not know how to get more connected on a deeper level to the culture our families and ancestors created?
Well I would challenge people to think about what it is that makes them Irish-American? Is it their name? Is it a bloodline? I will tell everyone that what makes us Irish is being Irish. Celebrate our culture on a daily basis, pass it onto you children's children as a gift from you, your father OR your father's, father's, father. The Irish fought persecution and genocide just to be Irish. I think we owe them just a little bit don't you? GET ACTIVE AND JOIN CLADDAGH NA NGAEL.
Claddagh Na NGael has Irish nights twice a month at various locations (see website)
We are promoting Irish dance for children and Irish music instruction, there is Gaelic or Irish language instruction and alot of great people who care, love and appreciate the culture. In addition, it's always fun!
Remember this weekend Saturday September 15 in Sea Girt, NJ the Great Irish Festival on the shore!