Study up, Clevelanders. Chances are you'll bump into at least 314 Irishmen or Irishwomen on this glorious holiday (all of whom will combine to represent the full wacky spectrum of sobriety and drunkenness). If you play your cards right, you can claim some Irish lineage too, even if you're not technically, ethnically, legit. Wow your friends with all the locally infused Irish knowledge we've assembled below. Whether you go to the parade or are trapped at the office, a little bit of history might put that twinkle in your eye, that smile on your lips, and with any luck, the rain — if it comes at all — will fall softly on our Northeast Ohio fields.
IRISH CATHOLIC STUFF
Our Lady of the Lake Church — more commonly known as St. Mary's of the Flats — was the first permanently established Catholic church in Cleveland (1840). It primarily served the Irish immigrant population who lived in the "lowland Flats."
St. Patrick's Church on Bridge Avenue, built largely by Irish immigrants in 1853, is considered the mother church of Cleveland's Irish community. (Fr. James Conlan, a former missionary, was its first pastor.)
St. Malachi Church, on West 25th, was founded in 1865 for Irish immigrants in the Old Angle neighborhood. It caught fire in 1943 and a new St. Malachi's was built and dedicated in 1947. (The Olde Angle Tavern is now a pub on the corner of West 25th and Bridge which plays all your favorite Irish sporting events including soccer and rugby.)
The Angle was considered ground zero for the Irish immigrants. There was even an old song, set to the tune of "Galway Bay'"called "The Angle Song": Oh the city came and took away our homesteads / they pushed us out beyond Edgewater Park. / Sure they tried to take the Irish from the Angle / but they'll never take the Angle from our hearts... etc.
The first Cleveland St. Patrick's Day parade is guessed to have taken place in 1867. In the early years, the parade marched through the near westside (from the Flats to Detroit-Shoreway) where the region's Irish immigrants were concentrated. The songs and dancing were organized by the Order of the Hibernians.
The Order of the Hibernians is America's oldest Irish fraternal organization, founded in 1836.
In 1910, State Sen. Dan Mooney introduced a bill which recognized St. Patrick's Day in Ohio.
In 1912, more than 100,000 people traveled to Cleveland for the St. Patrick's Day parade to welcome home local boxer Johnny Kilbane, who had just won the world featherweight championship in Los Angeles. (He would retain the title until 1923.) To date, the 1912 parade is one of the biggest and most well-attended in Cleveland's history.
Every year, a Grand Marshal is chosen to preside over the Cleveland parade. This is an honorary title given to a man — usually a senior — who has contributed to the advancement of Irish activities in Cleveland. This recognition has been part of the ceremony since 1935. Since 1963, a "Mother of the Year" has been recognized as well. This honor is given to "a woman whose life has reflected credit on the Irish nationality." In 2014, the Grand Marshal was Andrew Dever. The Mother of the Year was Bridie Joyce. This year's: Dan Corcoran and Patricia Hollywood.
Ohio City's Great Lakes Brewing Company was founded by Dan and Pat Conway in 1988. The Irish brothers were graduates of St. Edward High School.
The motto for the Standard Brewing Company, founded in 1904 by Stephen S. Creadon and John T. Feighan was "Erin Brew, Erin Brah" (Ireland Brew, Ireland Forever).
The Flat Iron Cafe, opened in 1910, is considered Cleveland's oldest Irish pub. (Newer local notables: the Harp, P.J. McIntyre's, the Public House, Stone Mad)
WE KNEW THEM WHEN!
Cleveland Irishman and mid-century TV celeb Phil Donahue was a member of the first graduating class of St. Edward High School, in 1953, and then went on to attend that paragon of Irish collegiality, the University of Notre Dame.
Clevelander Anne O'Hare McCormick was the first woman to join the New York Times' editorial board and the first woman to win a major category Pulitzer Prize (1937). She cut her teeth as an associate editor of the local religious rag the Catholic Universe Bulletin.
Irish-American mobster Danny Greene started his own crew of underworld enforcers he called the Celtic Club back in the '70s. He did battle with the local Italian mafia and set off a violent mob war that resulted in 35 car bombs erupting in the streets of Cleveland during the conflict. (The "Irish Car Bomb," coined in 1979 in Connecticut, was inspired by both the sectarian violence in Ireland at the time and Cleveland's own street wars.)
The 2011 film Kill the Irishman was actually filmed on location in Detroit. Actor Ray Stevenson, who played Danny Greene, said at the time that Detroit of the '00s resembled the economic hardship of Cleveland in the '70s.