Growing Up Irish And Being An Artist By Kate Hackett

Kate Hackett is an artist and writer, who has tapped into her amazing talents to create and and star in her very own show called “Classic Alice”, which airs on YouTube.

Kate Hackett

Kate is a proud Irish American woman working in the film industry with a show that has a great message: read more, interpret more, and understand classic art!

Her show even features novels by prominent Irish and Irish American writers! Today I am delighted to publish a guest post, written by Kate, where she explains how growing up Irish influenced her as an artist.

And so, I hand you over to Kate ……


Growing Up Irish And Being An Artist: 


With a name like “Hackett” and hair this red, the first joke anyone makes is always:


Oh, are you Irish?


And of course the answer is a resounding yes.


Kate Hackett - artist and writer

And I think that’s awesome; I’ve always been proud to be Irish-American and that culture effortlessly seeps into my work.


“When something is so deeply part of you, it’s almost inevitable

that it pops up in your work and your art!”


Even when I was very young, I gravitated toward Irish music and folklore for leisure.

I sing, and using a CD we called “The Irish Album” (which was most likely not its name at all), I taught myself several Irish classics — Molly Malone, The Spanish Lady, Come Back to Erin…

When I wanted to learn another instrument, I picked the violin because it was frequently used  in Irish music; as I became more advanced, I learned to transition from violin into fiddle playing, again as an homage to my Irish roots.

Music is inspirational, and for me, everywhere; even now, I play music when I write.

As a writer, I have frequently looked to either old Irish folklore or Irish writers through the ages for inspiration.

Academically, my dissertations both focused on Irish culture. Creatively, I find myself drawn again and again to my cultural roots for inspiration.


Classic Alice

For my show Classic Alice, I frequently examine both lesser-known and well-known Irish writers to find nuances that Alice (the main character) may have encountered on her own journey, which doubtlessly mimics my own in that she too draws inspiration from her cultural roots.

As a student of literature, Alice would be intimately familiar with not only Joyce, Wilde, and Swift, but also Banshees, Faeries, and other folkloric pieces.

Even more obvious: my costar would tease me relentlessly when I couldn’t say a line in Classic Alice without an accent; I must have heard a family member say the phrase when I was young and it stuck!

Kate Hackett reading for Classic Alice

When you grow up in an environment that encourages you to celebrate your cultural heritage, it is absolutely a given that you will find cultural nuances in your artistic work; be it the addition of an Irish linguistic blip (a wee sandwich! sure look it!) that perhaps isn’t familiar to an American ear or the actual leaning toward Irish themes (noting that “The Troubles” were, in fact, far more than troubling, or even having a dark humor) in your work.

And I’m thrilled to be able to bring

an Irish-American background to everything I do!


Kate Hackett at work

A big thank you to Kate for these wonderful insights into her Irish roots and how her Irish American heritage influences her work.  

If you would like to follow Kate’s accomplishments and learn more about her work and the charming, intriguing character she has created in Classic Alice, here are the links you need:


Kate’s Website


Kate on Twitter


Kate on Facebook


Kate and Classic Alice On YouTube


Indiegogo Campaign to Save Alice


Wishing Kate every success as an actress, director, writer and artist. I hope her crowd funding campaign is successful so that she can Save Alice.


Slán agus beannacht,

Goodbye and blessings,

Irish American Mom

Grandpop Was An Immigrant – Guest Post By Phyllis Easterbrook

Phyllis Easterbrook is a writer who lives in Missouri. Her grandfather was born near Ballymena, County Antrim, and in today’s post, she shares some beautiful memories of her Grandpop, her family’s American journey, and lovely insights into life in the row homes of Philadelphia many years ago.

And so over to Phyllis for the next installment in our Immigrant Tales – Stories of Our Ancestors…….


Grandpop smoking his pipe, with Suzy, his beloved dog

 The Early Years:


Grandpop was born in Ireland, in a small town called Ahoghill, which sits in The Borough of Ballymena, in Northern Ireland. He accompanied his parents to the United States as an infant, thereby making me a second-generation American on my father’s side!

In 1889, John and Elizabeth (my great-grandparents) left Northern Ireland aboard the ship Furnessia, which docked in the port at New York City, after a two to three week voyage. This was three years before Ellis Island was transformed into the major immigration station. They, no doubt, were processed at Castle Garden Depot in lower Manhattan.

John and Elizabeth arrived with five children, ages ranging from ten years old down to 9 months old. Grandpop was the 9 month old.

Before my family’s arrival in America, Ireland was a country dealing with the aftermath of The Great Famine.  More than a million people died of starvation and just as many immigrated to other countries. The British government subsidized immigration to the US and Canada. The subsidy was a good thing for my ancestors, because at the United States immigration stations, some folks were sent away and back to their country of origin, if they could not prove they had adequate funds to support themselves and their families.


Grammy and Grandpop in Philadelphia – the missing digits on his left hand can be seen.

 A Coal Miner In Pennsylvania:


Grandpop’s family settled in the coal mining regions of Pennsylvania with many of their kinsmen.  It’s interesting and kind of sad that they settled in the coal mining region as back in their country, Grandpop’s grandparents were farmers, and his own father was a carpenter. Nevertheless, it was where they, and many of their countrymen, took up residence and made their home.  Eventually two more children were added to the mix.

The story is told of Grandpop having a bit of a skirmish in the 8th grade. Apparently he had an altercation with a teacher, therefore deciding (to himself) never to go back to school. He went to the coal mines and secured a job, something his father never wanted any of his kids to do. So while his parents thought he was attending school each day, he was working in the mines. Eventually the school contacted his family, and Grandpop was found out. Somehow, I imagine, heated arguments ensued, he kept his job at the mines, and never went back to school.

lincoln logs

Grandpop’s Homemade Lincoln Logs

 Philadelphia, Here I Come!


At some point, I believe in the late teen years, Grandpop and one of his brothers decided they would not live in the coal-mining region for the rest of their lives. They had the “world” to conquer. They left family behind and made their way to Philadelphia where they each met and married their wives, had children and settled down.

I remember Grammy and Grandpop living in a row home in Philadelphia. I loved to go there. It was inviting and friendly and fun. Grandpop was fun (in my eyes anyway). Apparently even as a young child he was a handful. It was told that he was playing with fireworks (forbidden) and they exploded. He lost two digits on his hands. One is his thumb digit. As an adult, he always, always, smoked a pipe and he used that thumb, or what was left of it, to press down the tobacco in the pipe. I always though it was very clever of him as that digit was just the right size!

When Grandpop settled in Philadelphia, he secured a job with Abbott’s Dairy. He worked there until he retired. He barely made enough to support the family (by now with three children) but it was a fun place to work so he kept at it. My dad (the oldest child and only son) tells of having to work at a very young age selling eggs, just to help make ends meet.

Grandpop's cowboy and indians

Grandpop’s Cowboys and Indians

Grandpop was very creative and handy. He made his very own made-to-look-like Lincoln Logs, and I believe, crafted little cowboys and Indians, possibly made out of lead as they are heavy. He would be amazed and proud that even today, his great-great grand kids are still playing with the logs! (The little figures are put away, as no doubt they are covered in lead paint!)

Grandpop’s job at Abbott’s Dairy was as a mechanic and he put his skills to good use. Lack of formal education never seemed to hold him back.

The following comes from The Philly History Blog:


“Abbott’s Dairy shut down in 1984, after 108 years.

It is too bad. It sounds like it was a fun company.

In 1937 they put out a book called Raggedy Ann and Maizie Moocow,

with an ice cream driven plot (meant to illustrate the healthful benefits of ice cream).

It’s dairy truck drivers are remembered to have been known

to throw kids free ice cream sandwiches. . .”


Yep, sounds like a good fit for Grandpop!


Their street of row homes was a delight. Each connected with the other and if you sat on the tiny front porch and looked in both directions, you could wave to your neighbors probably ten houses each way. There was an alley in back where all the cars drove in and garages were under each home. Overlooking the alley, in between each home, was a tiny porch off the kitchen attached to the neighbors kitchen door. (the expression “back-door neighbors” comes to mind!) The porch was big enough for Grammy to stand on and yell down to us kids as we played in the alley to “put away our skates and come in for supper.”

At one end of the street was a little shop of some kind where one could buy the necessities – milk, bread, eggs, etc. At the other end, we could always count on a street vendor selling hot pretzels! Philadelphia Hot Pretzels! YUM! I know the tradition was to eat them with yellow mustard, but I was a holdout on the mustard. Just give me that big, soft, salty pretzel and I was good! Actually better than good!

Sometimes, if we were lucky, a little truck would come down the street playing a merry tune to get our attention. It was decked out in all pretty colors and on the back was a little tiny carousel with maybe four seats. I loved that thing and always begged Grammy for a ride. Money was so precious but she never said no.

Grandpop had a dog named Suzy.  That dog loved Grandpop and the feeling was quite mutual. Suzy knew Grandpop’s schedule and was at the ready when it was come-home-from-work time. Sweet little dog!


Grandpop and Suzy

 The Florida Years


At one point in his career, Abbott’s Dairy sent Grandpop to Florida to give input on designing an ice cream shop for an extension of the company. Well, he had never been south of New Jersey before and fell in love with Florida!

When he retired, he decided he and Grammy would move there.  She was heartbroken because their whole family was in the Philadelphia area – her two daughters (my aunts) with their husbands and children, along with my dad (their son) and our family. But Grandpop had made up his mind and off they went. I was in second grade.

Obviously we ourselves headed south a lot, at all times of the year, to visit. But Grammy only lived three years in Florida before her death.  Grandpop’s health and mind suffered in later years but he was surrounded by his family as he eventually moved back “home”.


Sweet Memories


The memories are sweet and I will always remember his “fun” influence in my life.

A little fun fact: my dad and his cousin (both sons of the two brothers who left the coal-mining regions) each bought houses across the street from one another in Willow Grove. Dad’s cousin moved out of state when I was two years old so I did not remember them but years later, my second (or is it third) cousin (our mothers were pregnant at the same time) was doing family research and tracked us down.

I thank Janice for her research going all the way back to our roots in Ireland, which I’ve used here and for her new friendship. It’s really kind of amazing because she lives in South Carolina; our grandparents are buried in Pennsylvania; I live in Missouri!

I have fond vivid pictures of life in that row home in Philadelphia and my Grammy and Grandpop. I sure wish I had asked a lot of questions about them! But I was just a kid!!!

I’ll just have to hang on to my memories!



Phyllis Easterbrook

Thanks to Phyllis for sharing her grandfather’s immigrant tale with us today. On her blog PJ, Your Friend, Phyllis shares random thoughts and ideas and describes herself as a newish writer and storyteller. She is thankful for the words God gives her to share, and hopes readers enjoy, relate, and find meaning in her stories.  You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

If any other readers would like to share their family’s immigrant tales, please feel free to contact me with your submission. I love to hear stories of our ancestors and how their American dreams came to fruition.




Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)


Irish American Mom

The Irish American Influence – Guest Post By Brighid O’Sullivan

Brighid O’Sullivan grew up hearing Irish folk tales from her father in Western Massachusetts. She’s been writing short stories since she was a child and as an adult has written for History Magazine, History Channel magazine, and her local paper. She works full time as a nurse and has just published her debut novel, The Sun Palace, a story of history and magic set in 6th Century Ireland.

In today’s guest post, Brighid introduces us to the Irish American influences that have inspired her writing. 


The Sun Palace By Brighid O’Sullivan:


In 2007, I began writing my first novel, The Sun Palace. I knew nothing about Ireland or her history, had not known my great grandparents who emigrated to America, nor had I ever been to Ireland. What I did know about being Irish was given to me by my father, though that knowledge consisted of a few Irish folktales, playing records (yes, records!) made by Irish musicians, leprechauns my dad swore were like his guardian angels (an American view actually), rides on a St. Patrick’s day float in Holyoke Massachusetts, and lots of “blarney”. My dad was full of stories, most of which I did not believe.

Parade Happy

So why did I set my novel, The Sun Palace, in Ireland?

I started to read more than ever, which soon led me into European and Irish history, as well as novels written by Anne Rice, Morgan Llywelyn, Sebastian Barry, and Diana Gabaldon. I have a passion for anything historical and I love books. I collect and read all sorts of history, European as well as American, beginning and ending with Ireland, a place I grew to respect and love.


Writing fiction is a laborious activity but writing historical fiction is even more so. There are all those research books one must read, buy, borrow, steal, and find!

I knew that, and like I said, I love history, but imagine trying to remember all those stories by heart like the druids did, or worse, what if books were actually forbidden? Lots of things were forbidden in the beginning of Ireland’s conquest by the English. To name a few, having an Irish name, Irish dress, and Irish trade, and we all know how the divisions of religion came to be.


I read somewhere, there are more Irish in America than in all of Ireland! According to several statistics, 89,000 Irish emigrated from Ireland in 2013 but 55,000, many of them European, immigrated to Ireland! I believe that, because I’ve since been to Ireland twice and upon landing in Dublin for the first time, found myself saying, “so where are all the Irish?”

In one of my blog posts on my website Celtic Thoughts I talk about how if there was no Ireland there would be no America. For every accomplishment, from the beginning of America’s independence, to putting a man on the moon, Irish men and women have been part of the equation.

The fact that I am a writer goes back as far as the original bards in Celtic Ireland. ‘Tis in my blood and who I am. Blood that was shed for Ireland and America both … blood lost in wars, famines, mass emigration, prejudice and even death. I cannot help but feel grateful for such a sacrifice.

The Sun Palace

Oh and my idea for The Sun Palace? That grew from the kernel of a thought, after reading Tristan and Isolde, an Irish love story.

Check it out on Amazon and if you are generous enough to leave an honest review on the Amazon website, drop me an email about it I welcome all positive as well as constructive criticisms. As a much appreciated thank you, I will make sure you get my next published novel FREE.

My name is Brighid O’Sullivan and you can find me on Twitter, Pinterest, and on my website Celtic Thoughts writing about Irish and Irish American history.


Thanks so much, Brighid, for introducing us to your writing and your inspirations. Wishing you every success with The Sun Palace, and all of your future writing endeavors.


Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)


Irish American Mom



Introducing The Baltimore Irish Railroad Workers Museum Plus A DVD Giveaway

When the Irish arrived en masse to the United States in the late 1840’s, many settled in Southwest Baltimore City.  What made Baltimore, Maryland so appealing to immigrants was the hope of finding work on the Baltimore & Ohio railroad.

Front of the Baltimore Irish Railroad Workers' Museum

Their legacy is celebrated today at the Irish Railroad Workers Museum, an Irish American historic site in Baltimore. The museum officially opened on June 17th, 2002.


The Prize:


Today I’m delighted to sponsor a reader giveaway. The prize is a DVD, From Famine To Fortitude, produced by The Irish Railroad Workers Museum. It recounts the story of the Irish experience in Baltimore, and will appeal to history buffs, or Irish Americans with an interest in our ancestors’ journey.

Before I share the details of our giveaway, let me first tell you about my visit to this wonderful museum….


Celtic Cross at the Baltimore Irish Museum

An Irish Tourist’s Experience In Baltimore, Maryland:


Two years ago my family took an east coast summer trip to visit New York, Washington DC, and to see our favorite soccer team, Liverpool, play a friendly game in Baltimore.

While there, I sneaked in a quick visit to “The Irish Shrine”.  I should have remembered to leave my four kiddos with their Dad at the hotel. But being a good Irish American mom I thought I might introduce them to their heritage and possibly kindle within them a burning love of history.


An old washstand with pitcher and bowl

Bad move. I should have known my trio of then five year olds, and eight year old son, wouldn’t have the slightest scrap of interest in a museum, unless of course it was a Children’s Museum with flashing lights, knobs to twist, levers to pull, and a plethora of interactive activities.


What’s happening to the world?


Kids are addicted to playing gadgets. An overexposure to electronics is dulling their minds, so that unless they are bombarded with snippets of visual stimuli, they are unable to appreciate the depth of knowledge before them.  I’ll get off my soap box now, because let’s face it – that’s a topic for another day.

And to tell you the truth, I simply wasn’t thinking. My kids were just too young to really understand the wonderful experience offered at this quaint, little museum.

An old trunk as a bedside table

The reason it has taken me two years to share these photos is that they were just plain terrible. That is until now. I recently discovered the incredible power of photo editing, with lighting adjustments.

Little hands and fingers, heads and turned backs, which were ruining my shots have all been chopped and cropped. Bad lighting has been somewhat compensated for, and now I believe these photos are worthy of sharing, especially if they help spread the word about this urban, historical gem.

Dresses hanging on hooks at the Baltimore Irish Museum

This site consists of a group of 5 alley houses, originally the homes of Irish immigrants who worked for the adjoining railroad.  The museum is housed in two of these houses, at 918 and 920 Lemmon Street.   

A copper kettle on a stove - Copy

“The Irish Railroad Workers Museum

is part of a larger history-rich community,

unusual because it is still intact,

consisting of the places where the Irish lived,

worked, worshipped, and were buried.”


- Description from the Irish Railroad Workers Museum website

Wahsboards from days gone by

The homes in this historical district were slated for demolition back in 1997, but luckily a group of concerned citizens recognized these houses were not just bricks and mortar, but could be a surviving monument to the lives of the Irish who first called Baltimore home.


Victorian Shaving Time

Thanks to their efforts and dedication this historical district still stands today and includes the B&O Railroad Museum, St. Peter the Apostle Church, the Hollins Street Market, and St. Peter the Apostle Cemetery.

Baltimore Irish Railroad Workers Museum

This old chest of drawers is a treasure trove for anyone who enjoys a good immigrant tale. Within the drawers lie pictures of Irish men and women from days gone by. Each picture is linked to an audio recording, telling of that immigrant’s experience.

I could have spent hours listening to these stories, but alack and alas, it was not to be. I had listened to possibly two sentences of the first narration, when I had to interrupt with a gentle plea:

“Don’t touch that!”

 followed shortly afterwards by a louder motherly yell:

“Don’t break that.”


Statue of the Sacred Heart

My Irish accent bellowing from the top floor may have led visitors on the lower level to believe the place was haunted by an Irish motherly ghost from many moons ago.

Irish American Memorbilia at the Baltimore Irish American Museum

Speaking of the supernatural, look at the middle portrait of the three, poised on the old trunk. I can’t remember if this old black and white photo was so eerie looking in real life, or if this is some illusion from my camera.

Or perhaps, she is an Irish mother of old, whose spirit was stirred by my crew’s high jinx.  She was probably joining in my chorus, warning them not to lay a finger on anything.


An old outhouse - Copy

My kids didn’t pay the slightest bit of attention to any of the beautiful memorabilia housed within the museum, until low and behold we went out to the small back yard.


And there it stood!


The highlight of our tour!


The one!


The only!




The moment my kids laid eyes on this wooden cubicle, they were fascinated.  I was flabbergasted. It took an unexpected encounter, with a rest room from days gone by, to stir my little ones’ interest in the past.


“But what if it was raining?” they asked.


“They ran for it,” I explained.


“And what happened in the snow?”


“Rain, hail or shine, this was the loo.”


The outhouse was a conversation piece for the rest of our trip.


Reneactment of a game of cards in an old Irish pub in Baltimore, Maryland

I wish to extend my gratitude to the lovely gentleman who took us on our tour of this fabulous museum. I know I wrote your name on a little piece of paper, which got buried in the filing cabinet of my purse, never to be seen again.

Thank you for your patience, your kindness, and your wonderful lessons on the Irish American experience. I thoroughly enjoyed our chat.

And thanks for reassuring me, not to worry about my kiddos’ eagerness to keep moving on, and checking things out. You truly made our visit to The Irish Railroad Workers’ Museum a pleasure.

Above all, I appreciate the hours you volunteer to preserve the stories of our immigrant forefathers, who paved the way for us in this vast and amazing country.

Serving a drink at an old pub or shebeen

 The Giveaway:


While at the museum I purchased copies of the DVD From Famine To Fortitude: The Irish Experience in Baltimore.  This wonderfully researched documentary tells the story of Irish immigrants who left Ireland at the time of the Great Hunger to make a new life in America.

To enter our giveaway just leave a comment on this blog post by noon on Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 at noon.  You can leave any comment you wish. What you write does not affect your chances of winning.

If you need some inspiration, why not tell us if you have visited any Irish American historical site in the US that commemorates our ancestors.


A winning comment will be chosen randomly.  Remember to leave your e-mail so I can contact you should you win.  Your e-mail will not be published or shared, just used to for contact purposes.

The winner will be announced on Saturday August 23rd, at the end of this post.  I’ll send the winner an e-mail so I can mail the prize.

Best of luck to all our entrants.


Saturday, August 23rd, 2014: – The winner of this DVD is Debbie Chartoff.  Thanks to all who entered and supported this little giveaway.



Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)


Irish American Mom

Tribute To An Irish Mother

Mothers will be celebrated throughout the United States this Sunday. When working on a post to describe the attributes of Irish and Irish American mothers, I came across this speech, delivered a number of years ago to a gathering of the Irish America Fund, by the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden.

His heartfelt, poignant words, dedicated to his own mother, perfectly sum up the way I feel about my Irish mother.  My words seemed inadequate beside this beautiful tribute. I decided instead to share his eloquent speech with you today, as a tribute to mothers everywhere.


Tribute to an Irish Mother


“Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden is the soul, spirit and essence of what it means to be an Irish American.


She is spiritual.

She is romantic.

She honors tradition,

and understands the thickest of all substances is blood,

and the greatest of all virtues is love.


She has taught her children, all her children in my neighborhood who flocked to her hearth, that you are defined by your sense of honor and you are redeemed by your loyalty.  She is quintessentially Irish — a combination of pragmatism and optimism.

She also understands as my friend Pat Moynihan once said, there is no “point in being Irish if you don’t know that the world is going to break your heart eventually.”

But she is more. She measures success in how quickly you get up after you have been knocked down.


She believes bravery lives in every heart,

and her expectation is that it will be summoned.

Failure at some point in everyone’s life is inevitable,

but giving up is unforgivable.


As long as you are alive you have an obligation to strive. And you are not dead until you’ve seen God’s face. My mother is a living portrait of what it means to be Irish – – proud, on the edge of defiance. Generous to a fault. Loyal to the end.

She made not only me believe, but scores of my friends and acquaintances believe in themselves. As a child I stuttered. She said it was because I was so bright I couldn’t get the thoughts out quickly enough. When my face was dirty, and I was not as well dressed as others, she told me how handsome I was. When my wife and daughter were killed, she told me God sends no cross a man is not able to bear.


And when I triumphed, she reminded me it was because of others.


She was watching through the kitchen window as I got knocked down by two bigger guys behind my grandfather’s home. She sent me back out and demanded that I, to use their phrase, “bloody their nose,” so I could walk down that alley the next day.

When my father quit his job on the spot because his abusive boss threw a bucket full of silver dollars on the floor of a car dealership to humiliate his employees, she told him how proud she was.


No one is better than you,

You are every man’s equal,

and every man is equal to you.

You must be a man of your word,

for without your word you are not a man.


When I was in eighth grade, I was a lieutenant on the safety patrol. My job was to keep order on the bus. My sister and best friend Valerie acted up. At dinner that night I told my mother and father I had a dilemma. I had to turn my sister in – it was a matter of honor. My parents said that was not my only option. The next day I turned my badge in.

I believe the traits that make my mother a remarkable woman mirror the traits that make the Irish a remarkable people. Bent, but never bowed. Discriminated against, but always looking down at their discriminator. Economically deprived, but spiritually enriched. Denied an education, but a land of scholars and poets.

As I look out at those massive Corinthian columns, I see my 5 foot, 2 inch mother, who stands taller in my eyes than any pillar in this room.

And I think of the Irish poem “Any Woman” by Katherine Tynan:


“I am the pillars of the house;

The keystone of the arch am I.

Take me away, and roof and wall

Would fall to ruin utterly.


I am the fire upon the hearth,

I am the light of the good sun,

I am the heat that warms the earth,

Which else were colder than a stone.”


- From a speech by Joseph R. Biden


Joe Biden’s mother passed away in 2010.  Her legacy is truly appreciated by her son. 

As an Irish American Mom I strive to be a straight-talking but supportive, encouraging mother, just like she was.

Wishing you all a very happy Mother’s Day.




Lá Na Máithreacha Shona Daoibh!

(Happy Mother’s Day)

Irish American Mom