(By Toni Toczylowski, Staff writer)
TROY ‹ Michael Sheahan had a no-nonsense reason for attending Sunday's parade in honor of former city resident James Connolly.
"I'm Irish," Sheahan said from his folding chair positioned along the parade route on Fourth Street. I read about the parade and thought it was something I'd like to see."
Cohoes resident Sheahan, his wife Caroline and their friend Mary Boutin were among the approximately 700 people who police estimate turned out for the parade and events at Riverfront Park to honor Connolly, one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rebellion in Ireland, and a resident of Troy between 1903 and 1905.
A bust of Connolly was dedicated near the Uncle Sam monument following the 30-minute parade which consisted of local politicians, labor groups, community organizations, a bagpipe troupe, a marching band, and of course, a red, white and blue Uncle Sam float.
Ed Carley of Troy caught a bit of good-natured ribbing as he stood in front of a shop on the corner of Fourth and Fulton streets.
"Come on in... get in line," shouted members of the W.F. Fennelly Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians to Carley as they passed the corner. "Get over here."
Carley, a state vice president of the organization said he was involved earlier in the day with the order's 10-kilometer and one-mile races through Troy. Because he had a busy morning, Carley said he decided to enjoy the parade as an onlooker.
"I'm very impressed," he said as a contingent passed by. "Normally I march in parades. This finally gives me the opportunity to watch."
Over at the park, the scene was decidedly Irish, with most people dressed in some shade of green. A few children held green balloons decorated with "Kiss Me I'm Irish" slogans, available at the Hibernians' nearby Irish Day Fair.
Joe Doyle, who works at the Irish Art Center in New York City, said he traveled to Troy for the Connolly celebration because of his admiration for the man. The center, founded in 1972 by Connolly's grandson, Brian Heron, helps promote the patriot's concern for the teaching of Irish culture, Doyle said.
"Unless you know the culture of Ireland, the music of Ireland, the songs of Ireland," Doyle said, "you can't keep the tradition going."
Once the parade finished, the celebration took on a more serious note as organizers and guest speakers talked about Connolly.
During the years he spent in Troy, Connolly was a representative of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., but lost his job because of the national recession and relocated his family to New Jersey.
In 1910, he returned to Ireland, where he assumed leadership of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. In subsequent years, he organized the Irish Citizen Army and was involved in planning how to free Ireland from British rule.
Connolly is best known for leading the army's Dublin Division in the 1916 Easter Rebellion, when the rebels battled the country's British rulers for several days. One of the first acts of the revolution was the reading of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, which had been signed by Connolly and others and became the declaration of independence of Ireland.
The uprising failed and Connolly was later executed, along with others who had joined in the rebellion.
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