By GWEN OREL
In “Friends and Neighbors” we spotlight interesting Montclairites doing interesting things. Some of them you might have heard of, others you might not. Answers have been edited for space. Got someone you think we should write about? Drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Harrington, Booth and Logue families are Irish Americans in Montclair all year long.
Eilish Harrington lives in the family home, works at Seton Hall University, a founding president and advisor of P.I.P.E., and plays the bagpipe with The St. Columcille (pronounced Column-kill) United Gaelic Pipe Band of Kearny. Maura Harrington Logue, formerly a professor at Seton Hall University and active in the PIPE program (Pirates of Irish Persuasion and Extraction, a student and alumni club) runs a communication business. Maura is featured in the New York paper the Irish Echo’s “40 Under 40” this year; Eilish was on that list in 2016. Although Maura and husband Peter Logue, an accountant, now live in Clifton, Maura often runs her communications business out of her parents’ Montclair home, so her parents can watch her toddlers, Seamus, 2, and Ruairi, 1. Parents Jim and Eileen Harrington, and Eileen’s brother Douglas Booth, are all retired. Eileen’s family hail from Co. Clare, Jim’s from Cos. Cork Mayo. Peter Logue’s family are from Co. Donegal.
The family are primarily teetotal though Peter Logue, who did not grow up with the Harringtons, admits to the occasional Guinness.
Throughout the interview, all the adults, but especially the grandparents, chased the toddlers around as they picked up walking sticks and teacups. This reporter temporarily accepted several figurines.
The St. Patrick’s Day season seems to go on from February to April now. Any thoughts about that?
Eilish: I’m always aware of Irish music throughout the year. I’m always on the lookout for things to go to.
Maura: When Eilish and I coordinate Irish events [for P.I.P.E.] we try to do them not during St. Patrick’s month just so that the celebration can continue throughout the year.
Are you OK with the day being now a month?
Maura: I’d be happy if it were a year!
What does being Irish American mean to your family? I see that you have decorated a lot for St. Patrick’s Day.
Eileen: Whatever we do, we do naturally. We were brought up that way.
Eilish: These are the traditions we were brought up with, we just carry them on. We’re Irish every day of the year.
Jim: We remember St. Patrick and we are grateful to him for starting the ball rolling. We do things naturally, being Irish. We can’t help being Irish.
Three of you (Eileen, Jim and Douglas) have not been to Ireland. Is that something you want to do in the future?
Eileen: I don’t know. If it happens, it happens.
Those of you who have been to Ireland, how has it affected your understanding of being Irish American?
Eilish: I’ve been three times, all over.
Peter: Having family over there, and seeing them, they live differently over there. My family has a farm over there. They live less materially, closer to the land. My dad’s mom had a farm, but they all have regular jobs. They have a farm as a family, but one was a school bus driver, one had a busing company. They had their own individual jobs, but they all ran the farm together. Closer to the earth.
Maura, what are you doing to instill Irish culture in your two boys?
At this point we don’t really need to. We listen to Irish music at home. When they see Irish dancing on television they start to dance along. For our family, part of our Irish culture is our reliance on our Catholic faith, and they’re both very interested in that, as well.
I think there are some subtler things about being Irish that we don’t have to teach, and aren’t so forced. Think of the number of Irish American English teachers that we know. The Irish seem to really have a penchant for language and English literature. My boys, it’s kind of odd, but they like letters and they like words.
They make jokes about letters and words already at ages 2 and 1.
I think part of that is when a language is taken away from a group of people, such as the Irish language was, there are different responses to it. There can be rejection of the language, or else subversion, or translation, the facility of going back and forth between languages, to use it as a tool to express cultural identity and individual identity. What we do with them is read poetry to them, even Dr. Seuss, to help get them in the mode of thinking of language and how it helps to shape our identity.
Do you speak Irish?
Peter: My dad grew up with his parents speaking Irish, in the 1920s. My dad’s 94. He grew up in Philadelphia. In that era, first generation immigrants… I mean, he learned and knew it, but…
Maura: My dad took some classes in Montclair.
Jim: It was a minicourse, taught by Paul Murphy. It was interesting. I didn’t pursue it, other than a couple of extra sessions on Irish names. I know a few words here and there in Irish. I was struck by the way it really did sound like an elfin language. It’s a beautiful language, musical.
Maura: Pete’s mother has told us that sometimes his father starts speaking in his sleep in what sounds like an elvish language. He doesn’t consciously remember it now. But in his sleep, he speaks apparently in Irish.
Did you take Irish dance, or traditional music?
Maura: No. I tap danced.
Eilish: I’m a connoisseur of Irish food. I love Egan’s. My father’s father instilled a love of food in me. I love traditional food, Irish soda bread, colcannon, shepherd’s pie. The fish in Ireland was the best I’ve ever had.
MEET THE NEIGHBORS
Ages: Maura, 39. Eilish, 33. Peter, 42. Douglas, 74. Eileen, 68. Jim, 72. Seamus, 2 and a half and Ruari is 16 months.
Hometown: Maura and Eilish: Montclair.
Season (Maura): Maura: winter.
Pets (Eilish): A dog, Gilligan. A shepherd mix, who will be 8 on May 2. His middle name is Maurice.
First job (Peter): Paper boy.
Last job (Eileen): I was a part-time teacher at a nursery school.
Hobby (Douglas): Restoring old cars.
(Maura: He has a ‘37 Ford).
Beach, forest or mountains (Jim): Ocean and mountains.
Vacation spot (Maura): Williamsburg,
Virginia, because we went there for our
What I want for my birthday (Douglas): Good stuff for the garden.
Favorite drink (Maura and Eileen): Trader Joe’s Irish tea.
Favorite dessert (Ruari and Seamus, Mom answering): All of them. They like ice cream and they like chocolate. Seamus read the word “chocolate” the other day and it scared the daylights out of me.
Favorite condiment (Eileen): Cinnamon.
Hero(es) (Eilish): Jesus.
Last TV show watched (Jim): “Jeopardy.”
I want to meet (alive or dead)(Jim): Saint Patrick.
If I weren’t me (I’d love to be) (Seamus, Mom answering): Seamus would be Chase on “Paw Patrol.”
I said I’d never, but then I (Maura): tell someone not to hit someone else over the head with a cow. My exact words were, “do not bludgeon your brother with a cow.”