A few more years of Finnegan’s Wake

For the eighth year, Tim Brennan, headed back to the Coal Region to serve as the bartender for a very good cause at the Friend’s of St. Kieran’s Annual Heritage Day in Heckscherville, PA. This builds on the pro bono work Mr. Brennan has done for the Friends of St. Kieran’s, a non profit religious organization seeking to preserve the history of the Irish Valley.

For the eighth year, Tim Brennan, headed back to the Coal Region to serve as the bartender for a very good cause at the Friend’s of St. Kieran’s Annual Heritage Day. Each year Mr. Brennan goes back to act in the famous Irish play, “Finnegan’s Wake,” where he is the bartender in the play that recounts the humorous deeds and misdeeds of Tim Finnegan, a working man who fell from a ladder only to wake up at his own funeral. Mr. Brennan has been a student of Irish history and studied in Ireland, at Trinity College, while attending law school.

The Irish Valley has great significance to Tim because his great, great, great grandfather, John D. Brennan, was laid to rest in the parish cemetery at St. Kieran’s Church in 1888, only a few hundred yards from the stage he now performs on. The elder Brennan was a well known mine engineer who worked with John Siney, the famous labor leader who formed the Workers Benevolent Association, in the 1870’s to intercede in and resolve a number of labor disputes between President Gowen, of Reading Anthercite, and the local miners.

After the St. Kieran’s Church was closed by the Diocese of Allentown, Mr. Brennan began helping several residents of the Valley and local Ancient order of Hibernian (AOH) members to preserve the church on a pro bono basis. Mr. Brennan helped the group form the Friends of St. Kieran’s, a non profit religious organization seeking to preserve the history of the Irish Valley and to tell the unique and compelling story of Irish immigration, heritage and culture.

The area is indeed historic and worthy of preservation, the church was built by the hands of local miners, many of whom spoke Irish as their first language, in 1858 and was christened by St. John Neumann. It is said that the Saint learned Gaelic just to minister to local coal miners.

The National Board of the AOH in America recognizes the site as an icon in the history of the Order. The AOH, which is a national Irish religious fraternal organization has its roots in the Irish Valley. Members from the area went to the NY parade in 1836, partly to discuss discrimation and violence against Catholics and the clergy by the Know Nothing Party. Within a few months the AOH was born to protect the faith, the church and the culture of the Irish. Conceivably, some of those with AOH grave markers or those without such markers buried in St. Kieran’s cemetery could have been the actual founders of the AOH who went to NY in 1836 for the NY parade

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