(By Ned Hoskin, Staff reporter)
TROY ‹ This weekend will bring "the largest Irish-American celebration in the area's recent history" to the city, according to event organizers.
The commemoration of former Trojan and Irish patriot James Connolly will be combined with Sunday's annual Irish Day celebration in Riverfront Park. A bust of Connolly will be dedicated in the park.
Irish Day is sponsored by the Ancient Order of Hibernians. The day's events will feature music, dancing, food and activities following the unveiling of the Connolly bust.
"It should be the largest, because there are busloads of people coming in to town for this," said John Halloran of the AOH. "It should be a a good time."
"The cast of characters that is coming in here for this thing is just unbelievable," said James J. Devine, chairman of the committee organized for the Connolly tribute.
With Connolly remembered as one of the founders of the Irish Republic and the Irish Labor Party, and a labor leader at the turn of the century, much of the event's support was provided by labor and Irish organizations here and abroad, Devine said.
"It would never have happened if it weren't for the labor people kicking in the money," he said.
Among the honored guests expected for the weekend are Thomas W. "Teddy" Gleason, the commemorative's honorary chairman and president of the International Longshoremen's Association.
Also expected are John Lawe, general president of the Irish Transport Workers Union; Edward J. Cleary, president of the New York State AFL-CIO; Morton Bahr, national president of the Communications Workers of America, and Chris Kirwan, general secretary of the Irish Transportation and General Workers Union ‹ a position held by Connolly when he died.
Gov. Mario Cuomo is interested in attending the event, organizers said, but he has not confirmed his plans.
Also expected is a group of visitors from the New York City area, led by Vincent McKeague of the County Monaghan Society. Connolly lived in the Irish county as a boy, and its residents claim him as their own.
The day will kick off with the AOH second annual road races, one at 9 a.m. and another at 10, run over the same course as the Troy Turkey Trot.
A Mass will be celebrated at 11:30 near the fountain in the park. A parade to kick off the Connolly tribute portion is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. in South Troy, and the unveiling will be at 1:45 p.m.
The Rutherfords Family Show Band, from Rochester, will be featured during the day. Championship Irish step dancing will be presented as well. Festivities will continue until dusk.
Sean Cronin, noted writer and author of a recently published book on Connolly, will be guest speaker at the banquet scheduled for Saturday evening.
"I'm impressed," Devine said, with the response the dinner has generated. Guests are coming in from all over the country.
Devine's research shows Connolly came to the United States in 1902 and moved to Troy in 1903. He worked for the Metropolitan Insurance Co. until a recession caused the firm to falter, and he left the area.
In 1910, he returned to Ireland and in 1914 became the head of the Transport and General Workers. In the next couple of years he was one of the founders and leaders of the Irish Citizens Army and initiated the Labor Party.
As commander of the Dublin Garrison, Connolly played a key role in the "Easter Rising" which began April 24, 1916. Though it was eventually defeated. the rising changed the course of Irish and world history.
Connolly was executed 2 1/2 weeks later.
[ Troy ]