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Irish history and culture stay in focus through June

Most years, the focus on Irish history and heritage fades soon after March 17. This year is different.

Local re-enactments, a parade, panel discussions and educational, musical and cultural events will mark the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising in Dublin and the 150th anniversary of the Fenian Invasion of Canada, which was launched from Black Rock.

Along with the usual Irish cultural happenings, such as the 13th annual Hassett Reading at Canisius College and a return visit by Irish poet Eamon Grennan, the anniversary events will stretch into June.

The 1916 Easter Rising was a six-day armed insurrection in Dublin that started the country on the path to freedom from British rule. In Ireland, most of the Easter Rising commemorations were held on Easter and Easter Monday, while others will be held on April 24, the actual date the Easter Rising began in 1916.

June 2 is the 150th anniversary of the Fenian invasion of Canada from Black Rock, a move calculated to occupy the British and set the stage for revolt in Ireland.

“Near St. Patrick’s Day, people tend to think of things that really have nothing to do with Ireland, the silly leprechaun thing,” said Kevin Conroy, who studied the Irish language in Ireland on a Fulbright grant and teaches it at the Buffalo Irish Center. “We’re trying to get people to pay more attention to the real culture and learn about it.”

The Buffalo-Niagara Centenary Commemoration Committee has planned an 11-day program from late April to May 1 at the Buffalo Irish Center, 245 Abbott Road, and at the Heritage Discovery Center, 100 Lee St. The full program is still evolving, and will be announced and updated at the website of the Buffalo Irish Center,, or on the organizing group’s Facebook page, “The Rising 1916-2016, Buffalo NY Commemoration.”

The Black Rock Historical Society’s offerings are focused on the Fenian Invasion, which happened 50 years before the Rising.

Highlights of the events include:

• 6 p.m. April 6: A panel discussion will be held in the Buffalo History Museum by the Black Rock Historical Society on “The Free Ireland Perspective on the Fenian Invasion.”

Participants are author and historian Tim Bohen, James Hill of the Niagara Parks Commission, Dr. Timothy Madigan of St. John Fisher College, Dr. Bridgette Slavin of Medaille College and James O’Brien and William Patterson of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Moderators are Douglas Kohler, Erie County historian, and author Edward Patton.

Admission is $7 for adults, with reduced prices for seniors, students and children 7 to 12. Children under 7 and museum members will be admitted free.

• 7 p.m. April 7: The first Irish Fiction Laureate, Anne Enright, author of “The Green Road,” will speak at Montante Cultural Center in the 13th annual Hassett Reading. The event is free.

• 7 p.m. April 21: Dr. Patrick McDevitt will speak on the Gaelic Athletic Association in History in the Buffalo Irish Center. Free.

• April 22 through May 8: The Irish Classical Theatre will put on two plays by Irish poet W.B. Yeats, “The Land of Heart’s Desire” and “At the Hawk’s Well.” The plays will be staged in collaboration with LehrerDance and Torn Space Theater. Tickets are $35 each and may be reserved by calling 853-4282.

• 7 p.m. April 22: Irish poet Eamon Grennan, who has cultivated a large and enthusiastic following in Western New York by his regular visits through the years,will read his works and speak in the Newman Center, 495 Skinnersville Road, Amherst. Free.

• Noon April 25: On the day after the anniversary of the Easter Monday Rising 100 years ago, members of the Buffalo-Niagara Centenary Commemoration Committee will read the Proclamation of the Irish Republic on the steps of the old post office building on Ellicott Street that is now Erie Community College’s city campus.

That site was chosen to echo the reading 100 years ago outside the General Post Office in Dublin, the main building that was occupied by the rebels. That evening, the Peace Bridge will be lighted in green, white and orange, the colors of the Irish flag.

• 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 26: The North Park Theatre will show the movies “The Informer” and “Man of Aran” from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission is $9.50.

• 6:30 p.m. April 26: Kevin Conroy will speak on “The Irish Language and the 1916 Rising” at the Buffalo Irish Center, followed at 7:30 p.m. by videos on the history of the Rising.

• 6 p.m. April 27: The Black Rock Historical Society will sponsor a lecture by author Edward Patton and Craig Speers of the Ancient Order of Hibernians on “Fenianism and the Centennial of the Easter Rising.”

Admission is $7 for adults, with reduced prices for seniors, students and children 7 to 12. Children under 7 and museum members will be admitted free.

• Noon to 4 p.m. April 30: Irish genealogy will be discussed in the Buffalo Irish Center, and at 1 p.m., Kevin Conroy will give a talk on Irish names and surnames and their origins.

• May 1: Traditional Irish musical sessions and an Irish fair will be held from noon to 6 p.m. at the Buffalo Irish Center.

Events related to the Fenian Invasion resume near the date of the attack.

• 6 p.m. June 3: A bike ride will be held from the Irish Center to the Irish Famine Memorial on the waterfront, followed by a hooley at the Irish Center with music by Rush the Growler.

• 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 4: A parade will begin at the Buffalo Religious Arts Center at 157 East St. along Niagara Street to the Fenian Monument at the foot of Hertel Avenue. Re-enactors of the Buffalo 7th Regiment will be encamped at Market Square at Niagara and Amherst streets, and a reception will follow at the Black Rock Historical Museum, 1902 Niagara St.


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