WASHINGTON COUNTY'S DAILY NEWSPAPER
AT THE TRADITIONS THAT DEFINE US
green with tradition
heritage lives on in town of Erin
For the Daily News
Traditions run deep in the town of Erin, highlighted at this time of year
by the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
“When we were growing up, St. Patrick’s Day was almost like New Year’s
Eve. Everybody wore green and our mom and dad would take us up to the
taverns for corned beef and cabbage, which was usually free,” said Jean
Ann Frederickson, whose maiden name was Dunn and whose grandmother was a
Stapleton. “At the taverns, they would play Irish music. People,
including the kids, would be singing Irish songs. It was a party
atmosphere.” Fredrickson still celebrates the day by putting on a kettle
of corned beef and cabbage and making soda bread the old fashioned
way. “You have to use buttermilk and don’t use a mixer. It’s mixed by
hand and baked in a cast iron Dutch oven or it doesn’t taste right. You
can put currants – not raisins – in it and you have to cut cross on top.
(It signifies Christ’s cross) but it also lets steam out,” Frederickson
Area taverns are preparing for an influx bus tours and revelers, but Irish
traditions include more than parades and green beer, another face of the
culture is its people’s reverence and tenacity. Tom Cull is a man of few
words and a sharp Irish wit. He claims to be a newcomer to the
area. “I’ve only lived here 50 years,” says Cull, 83, who resides
outside Monches. As a child growing up in a household of Irish heritage,
St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated at church, observing the saint’s feast
That tradition continues as St. Patrick’s Catholic Chapel opens its doors
for a feast day Mass at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday. St. Kilian Pastor David La
Plante, who celebrates the annual Mass, has added his own custom, said
Maureen Fitzsimmons-Vanden Heuvel. “He brings cookies, and they must be
eaten or he won’t have Mass the next year,” said Fitzsimmons-Vanden Heuvel.
“I’m hoping for good turnout. I don’t want to be eating three dozen
church merged with St. Kilian’s in 1999, and closed its doors except for
the occasional use of the chapel. The St. Patrick’s Altar Society is
celebrating its 151st year. Originally the duties of altar society
members included washing the altar cloths and cleaning the church,
Fitzsimmons Vanden Heuvel said. From there, it became a fundraising group
that focused on human concern issues, she said. The group still meets on
the second Wednesday of the month at the Erin Town Hall and members raise
funds for the Pregnancy Help Center in Hartford.
streets carry old country names such as Connolly Circle and Kilkee Road
and mailboxes bear the names of the first settler’s descendants –Stapletons
and Kenealys, Coffeys and Whelans.
“Erin has kept its Irish character, and they are very proud of their
Irish heritage,” said Frederickson. Her family, which spans six
generations in the area, has cultural lines that continue into the
neighboring communities of Stone Bank and North Lake. “At Erin and North
Lake schools, there are parents who take their kids out of school for St.
Patrick’s Day, that’s the way it is. People here adapt to the Irish
culture. They have to if they want to stay,” Frederickson said.
Fitzsimmons-Vanden Heuvel cites another example if Irish tenacity in the
longnamed Tally Ho Restaurant. “Three years ago, new owners came into
the Town Hall and wanted approval on changing the name of the restaurant
to Dunnigans – a bad idea. It’s always been the Tally Ho,” said
Fitzsimmons Vanden Heuvel. “They got permission to call it Dunnigans, but
when it was sold, the name Tally Ho came back.”