By Robyn Quinn
May 24 was no exception; the pub was packed with people from several Irish organizations that came to Hennessey’s to help raise funds for a cause that is very dear to Jim: The Anne H. Hennessey Scholarship Fund created in honor of his wife.
The fund helps children whose families would not be able to afford tuition for the Irish Way and Irish Life Experience.
The Irish Way and Irish Life Experience are two programs that provide an opportunity for American and Canadian high school and college students to experience Irish culture firsthand.
The Irish Way began 36 years ago. It is a summer study-aboard program that lets students spend either two or four weeks in Ireland. During that time, the students are submerged into classes, tours and workshops to learn about the customs and cultures of the Irish.
Participants will have the opportunity to see many historic sites. They will visit the Aran Islands, where the locals will help them practice their Gaelic language skills and they can see pre-historic Fort Dun Aengus. In Dublin, they’ll find Trinity College and the Old Library where the “Book of Kells” is displayed. They also will have the chance to see the Kilmainham Gaol (jail) where the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising were executed.
The students will have the opportunity to “kiss the blarney stone” at the Blarney Castle in Cork. They will see the O’Brien’s Tower at the top of the Cliffs of Mohr near Doolin. Along the way, they can stop to see the Eighth Wonder of the World, Giant’s Causeway. Giant’s Causeway is made up of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns that were created as a result of a volcanic eruption.
The Irish customs and culture are not the only things that these students bring back with them. The students begin their journey as a group of strangers, but return with lasting friendships. Just ask Brigid Lundy.
Brigid took the Irish Way trip in 1993 along with Taryn Harrison and several other students who have become fast friends. Brigid and Taryn later became counselors for the Irish Way and returned with students to Ireland in 1999. Taryn, who originally was from Montana, moved back there to create a similar program, the Irish Life Experience. The two programs have joined to increase the number of students that can participate in this experience.
Brigid started her journey as a high school junior, not knowing anyone else on the trip. She had traveled to Ireland before with her family but had never traveled independently before. Brigid said the trip turned out to be “a trip of a life time.
“It was a time I will never forget,” she said. “It has made me who I am today.”
Brigid attributes her career as a teacher of English as a second language to her experience with the Irish Way. Brigid developed a love of travel from her trips with the Irish Way. She majored in tourism in college and first became a marketing coordinator, then earned a master’s in education. Brigid said that the trip helped her appreciate the importance of studying aboard to help a student grow. She said the trips helped to “open my eyes to branch me into different cultures.”
Her career was not the only thing cultivated from her experience with this program. She also brought back with her friendships that have lasted more than 13 years and thousands of miles. The group of students that went on the 1999 trip has held five- and 10-year reunions in New York. Also, Brigid’s Irish Way companions took another trip with her: down the aisle as her bridesmaids on her wedding day.
The fundraising event at Hennessey’s Washington Bar was a great success. The evening’s festivities started out with the lively music of the Irish group Dicey Riley, which revved up the crowd with many traditional Irish pub tunes. Then everyone enjoyed the tunes of Lagan’s Love & Friends, which performed Irish and rock blends. Jim provided food and door prizes.
Anne Hennessey lost her brief battle with leukemia more than two years ago. Anne enjoyed being involved in the Irish community and worked many years as the librarian for the Irish American Cultural Institute. She also wrote the institute’s newsletter for a while. Anne was originally from Yorktown Heights, N.Y., but met Jim in Louisiana. He brought her to Morristown more than 46 years ago, and they raised their four children here.
Among the people that came out to support the fundraiser was executives from various Irish groups in Morris County. They included Rich Smith, the 2012 grand marshal of the St. Patrick’s Parade; Tim Brunnock, president of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick; Willie Quinn, president of the Morris County St. Patrick’s Parade board of trustees; Carol Buck, the director of operations of the Irish American Cultural Institute; and executive officers of the Irish American Association of Northwest Jersey.