"We have now traced the history of women from Paradise to the nineteenth century and have heard nothing through the long roll of the ages but the clank of their fetters." – Lady Jane Wilde, "Esparanza of the Nation"
Welcome to Hell's Kitchen, the official blog of TheWildGeese.com website, or WGT, as we affectionately call it. Everyday (or nearly so) we chronicle "The Epic History and Heritage of the Irish." On Feb. 3, 1896, Lady Jane Wilde, "Speranza" of Dublin's Nation newspaper and the mother of writer Oscar Wilde, died in London, with her son Oscar in jail after a sodomy conviction. For more on Dublin native "Speranza," check out the Words of Women website for a compendium of her poems, including "The Famine Year." Visit Irish Writers Online for a brief narrative of Lady Jane Wilde's life. And of course turn to WGT for more key dates and for information on The Great Hunger, which inspired much of Speranza's most compelling work.
We understand that Lt. Col. Geoffrey J Slack, ARNG, who led the "Fighting 69th" and Task Force Wolfhound in combat in Iraq, has been promoted to brigade command. Major Charles Crosby, ARNG, is the new commander of the 69th, officially known as 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment (Mechanized). The regiment will be welcomed, and its 19 slain in Iraq remembered, at a special homecoming ceremony in the 69th Regiment Armory in Manhattan on March 17, after the city's massive parade. Mustering in the armory that day also, recalling the regiment's 155 years of service to the nation, will be several hundred re-enactors, portraying a regiment of Meagher's Irish Brigade, including the 69th New York. More on all this later.
On a much lighter note, Black 47 appears tonight at Connolly's, 121 W. 45th St., Manhattan. Call 212-597-5126 for info. Find more venues for Irish culture throughout the Irish world on WGT's Events page. … Speaking of lively events, Joe McGowan, WGT's Connacht correspondent, along with the Sligo 'Sidhe Gaoithe' Mummers, is back from the Surva International Festival of the Masquerade Games in Pernik, Bulgaria. Joe sent us the following post about his long weekend there, along with the two pictures below. (We recommend a visit to Joe's website, at http://www.sligoheritage.com, to learn more about folkways, and other cultural highlights, found in the northwestern corner of Ireland.) By the way, Irish-American journalist Januarius MacGahan is known to this day as "The Liberator of Bulgaria," and WGT's got the story. And the Bulgarians honored Irishman Pierce O' Mahoney by naming a street in their capital city of Sofia after the Kerry-born humanitarian, who died in 1930.
Pernik, Bulgaria Poverty, neglect and decay were everywhere in evidence in Pernik and Sofia, the towns I visited in Bulgaria. They had post-communist Russian satellite written all over: low wages, potholed highways, dilapidated buildings, soot-laden atmosphere, clapped-out Ladas, poor lighting.
On the other hand, the food in most restaurants is exquisite, offering good service, fresh vegetables -- and the most you can spend on a meal is about 6 or 7 euro. No, that's not a misprint! Hospitality was second to none and the people very friendly.
And the carnival! (See photos above and right.) It's the planet's best kept secret. Go there before the world finds out about it. Forget New Orleans' Mardi Gras and Venice's Carnivale. The Surva festival has to be seen to be believed. The costumes and pageantry were extraordinary -- genuinely ethnic, colourful and inventive, representing a tradition going back thousands of years. The word spectacle doesn't even begin to describe it. A memorable experience that I hope I am able to convey in these photos. – Joe McGowan
Patricia Jameson-Sammartano, WGT's Culture Correspondent, sent us this item:
New York Last Sunday, when A Touch of the Poet completed its final performance in the Roundabout Theatre's limited run, uilleann piper David Power again set the stage with the haunting Napoleonic air "The Bonny Bunch of Roses," one of 15 selections on his solo debut album, My Love Is in America. It's an impressive theatrical debut for the young Waterford-born piper; a mix of reels, jigs, hornpipes and airs, this is a showcase for his talent. We especially liked the selection "The Fox Chase," but there is a diverse mixture of Irish traditional music on the album.
We enjoyed not only the album, but also the accompanying booklet, which in true bardic tradition, gave the history of most of the songs and was an education itself for anyone who knows little about traditional music. As St. Patrick's Day approaches, this would make an excellent gift for the traditional music lover in your circle; it's available from CladdaghRecords.com for 15 euros. We hope to hear more from Mr. Power; he's a gifted young musician, and this is a notable debut. -- PJS
Speaking of theater arts, we ran into neighbor, actor and playwright Anto Nolan this week, a strapping lad from Dublin who also lives here in Astoria. Anto and his Irish wife have been stateside for quite some time. Anto was a member of Dublin Youth Theatre and Dublin Shakespeare Society from 1980 to 1984. He has appeared in several major motion pictures. As well, he has worked as an actor with Rough Magic Theatre Company, the Passion Machine and the Gate Theatre, among others, according to The Theatre Shop's Irish Playography.
WGT has drawn more than 700 visits per day this month. See if you can pick yourself out. Follow the preceding link, then select "By World Map" in the left-hand column. The illustrations captures, real time, the locale of the last 10 (up to 100) visitors to WGT. Slan, Ger