Glucksman Ireland House, NYU

The Fifth Province: County Societies in Irish America

A Day Out in June

Link to the full photograph: Joseph McLoughlin (Galway), Tommy Ayres (Clare), Consul General of Ireland Garth Healy, and Jim Comerford (Kilkenny) present NYC Mayor Bill O’Dwyer (Mayo) with a Feis subway poster, June 1949. AIA NYU/Brian Fitzpatrick.

Joseph McLoughlin (Galway), Tommy Ayres (Clare), Consul General of Ireland Garth Healy, and Jim Comerford (Kilkenny) present NYC Mayor Bill O’Dwyer (Mayo) with a Feis subway poster, June 1949. AIA NYU/Brian Fitzpatrick.

The United Irish Counties Association Feis has showcased a wide variety of Irish performing arts in a competitive forum since 1932, serving as the model for similar Irish cultural festivals in other major North American cities. It drew heavily upon county membership for its successful execution. Hours were invested in carefully creating the syllabus, managing entries, hiring judges and musicians, obtaining donations for prizes and program advertisements, as well as promoting the Feis throughout the City.

As thousands of people gathered for the day on the grounds of a local college, organizers likened the Feis to ancient assemblies at Tara and saw its competitions as the best way to encourage the transmission of Irish arts and culture to the next generation. Dozens of competitions, for a variety of skill levels, took place for singing, dancing, instrumental, choral and band music, oratory, the Irish language, design, writing, and athletics. Many parents who could not otherwise participate in Irish organizations were able to connect with their county societies and with friends from home through the annual Feis.

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