The Fr. Bernard Donnelly Hibernians in Johnson County, Kansas were instrumental in advocating to Kansas Governor Laura Kelly that she sign an official declaration naming March Irish American Heritage Month in the State of Kansas. Governor Kelly signed the declaration on March 1st, honoring the more than 340,000 Kansans of Irish descent who “have played a vital role in shaping Kansas’s history and culture.”
The Donnelly Division President Zach Kittle led the effort in contacting the Governor’s office in Topeka, and received the physical proclamation from the Governor, which was announced at the March meeting of the Donnelly Hibernians in Overland Park, Kansas. This proclamation not only honors the memories of Irish immigrants and their descendants who settled in Kansas, but also will help promote the causes of the Irish American community in the state, including the growth of the AOH in cities across Kansas.
This proclamation comes at a time when the Donnelly Hibernians have been working with prospective brothers throughout Kansas at founding a number of new divisions in the state in cities like Lawrence, Leavenworth, and Wichita. Historically, Kansas was home to as many as 12 Hibernian divisions, though most of them closed down in the years after World War II. The Donnelly Division was founded in 2002 and has represented the Irish community in Kansas as well as in the bi-state Kansas City metropolitan area.
Hibernian Brother Seán Thomas Kane, of the Fr. Bernard Donnelly Division, gave an entertaining talk at the Kansas City Irish Fest over the Labor Day weekend. The presentation highlighted the 48 Irish immigrants who have played in Major League Baseball since the 1870s. Kane focused his lecture on some of the more colorful Irish-born players.
Ed Duffy, in 1871, became the first Irish immigrant to play professional baseball. Hugh Daily, one of the top professional pitchers of the 1880s, threw 483 strikeouts in one season, including 19 in one game. On the other side of baseball notoriety, Joe Cleary holds the record for the highest Earned Run Average for any pitcher. The Cork native in his one major league game recorded an ERA of 189.0. That was in 1945, and it was 67 years before the next Irish-born player was seen in another major league game.
Brother Kane discussed local Kansas City baseball history, including two of the city’s pre-Royals’ professional teams: the Kansas City Cowboys (1880s) and the Kansas City Athletics (1955-1967). Local Irish baseball players Barney and Frank McLaughlin played for the Cowboys during the 1884 season. Currently, there is only one Irish-born professional player, Belfast native P.J. Conlon, who pitches for the New York Mets’ AAA team the Las Vegas 51s.
An Irish Cultural Tent is always a part of the annual Kansas City Irish Fest, held at Crown Center in downtown Kansas City every Labor Day weekend. Seán has frequently contributed to these cultural workshops, making presentations on other aspects of Irish history and culture. Seán is earning his master’s degree in history at the University of Missouri–Kansas City where he is studying the Renaissance and Early Modern European history. Seán is also a published author. His latest book, Erasmus Plumwood is available on Amazon.
Thirteen Hibernian brothers from the Father Donnelly Division of Kansas organized a motorcycle ride from Kansas City to Louisville for the national AOH convention. The contingent included five riders from the Donnelly Division (Pat Quinn, Liam Riggs, Pat Cassidy, Chet Cordell, & Denny Dennihan), Donny O’Connor from Denver and Mike Wear with AOH State Board in Nebraska.
The riders were supported by a “sag” truck/trailer driven by Kansas AOH brothers Jake Grohmann and Tom Kane with tools, fuel, and a trailer should one of the bikes break down. The group selected roads that offered beautiful scenery, historical towns and famous eateries along the way. Starting out from KC on July 11, the highwaymen travelled east on Highway 50 cutting across central Missouri through rolling hills, climbing through the hardwood forests of the Ozark uplands and past several historic river towns along the banks of the Missouri River.
Reaching St Louis, the riders enjoyed famous McGurk’s Irish Pub, a city Irish landmark with live Irish music. Departing St. Louis the next morning, the cyclists travelled south along the National Scenic Byway along the Great River Road along the Mississippi River with incredible views and again plenty of hills and turns. After lunching at the famous Hawg & Sauce BBQ joint in Mt. Vernon, Indiana, the journeymen headed east and connected with the Ohio River Scenic Byway along Indiana Highway 60. Views improved even more as the group turned onto Indiana Highway 66 through the Hoosier National Forest.
An enjoyable hour and a half of steep hills, hairpin turns, rapid accelerations with equally rapid decelerations concluded with a timely arrival in Louisville for the national AOH convention. Choosing the more expedient interstate route back to KC, the tired riders arrived back in KC with our Colorado and Nebraska brothers continuing onward home. For all, it was a memorable trip and one the boys hope to repeat for the next convention. Should any other AOH brothers want to convene a motorcycle trip to the next convention, these western riders would love to meet up with you along the way and share the fun.