Early Irish FestA Short History of Craobh Curtin

The Gaelic league ( Conradh na Gaeilge) of Milwaukee was founded October 26, 1993 on the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Conradh na Gaeilge in Ireland. Founder John Gleeson was elected the first Chairperson (Cathaoirleach), and Kathy Mallon as the first Treasurer (Cisteoir). The seven original members at the first meeting were Kathleen Finn, John Gleeson, Séamus Kearney, Kathy Mallon, Maggie O’Donnell, Gregory, and Pat Ryan.

The group has over the years sponsored a variety of activities to promote the Irish language including monthly meetings, socials, pizza parties, Halloween (Samhain) parties, Irish sing-alongs and trivia games, Irish plays, lectures, and walking in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. The Deireadh Seachtaine ( Irish language Weekend) has been held most years since 1993. It was first held at the Redemptorist Retreat Center in Oconomowoc with the assistance of Fr. Peter Connolly until 2002. The Deireadh Seachtaine has since been held in Racine, but in 2008, it was held in February with a join effort of the Sean Nos Weekend and the Deireadh Seachtaine. We now assist UW-Milwaukee Center for Celtic Studies with their Irish language weekend during the 1st weekend in March.  The group also assists with the Madison Celtic Center with their Deireadh Seachtaine since 2009, and the group has also volunteers, cooridinates a tent, and sells Irish Language books and media at Milwaukee’s Irish Fest since 1993.

The group has maintained a relationship with Oideas Gael (adult summer college) and the community of Glencolmcille (Gleann Cholm Cille) in Donegal County Ireland. Liam Ó Cuinneagáin director of Oideas Gael has taught Irish at our Deireadh Seachtaine, at Irish Fest’s Summer School, and has done programs with Ray McManus (another Oideas Gael instructor) at Irish Fest in the Gaeltacht tent. Others members of the community and the college have also participated in Irish Fest events, and members of Craobh Curtin have took classes on their own or with John Gleeson’s UWM (University of Wisconsin-Miwaukee) courses at Oideas Gael.

A highlight of our tenth year in existence (2003) was when Séamus Kearney received on behalf of Craobh Curtin a crystal award from Foras na Gaeilge ( agency of the Irish government that promotes the Irish language) for our efforts in promoting the lrish language.

Some of the members over the years that should be thanks for their service over the years are John Gleeson, Tom McCormick, Kathleen Finn, Kate Dineen-Natkin, Séamus Kearney, Kathy Mallon, Bruce Barr, Fr. Peter Connolly, Seosaimhím Nic Rabhartaigh, Jack Mason, Sandy Hofmann, Eileen Carpenter, and Sinéad Pitterle, and many more. Sponsors who should be thanked for their support are Fr. Peter Connolly, Irish Fest Foundation, the Irish Fest staff, Jack Mason, Tom McCormick, Miller Brewing Company, Kit and Josie Nash (owners of the former Nash’s Pub), Paddy and Woody (owners of Paddy’s Pub), Shamrock Club of Wisconsin, and Linda Tuescher (Irish Trader). Thanks to everyone who in almost 20 years have helped us promoted the Irish language especially all the Irish language teachers over the years.

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