Published July 13, 2016
By Ed Ward, Featured Blogger, Founder's Corner
In the spring of 1977 Nina Nah Monagan and I submitted a request to the Shamrock Club to organize a concert featuring local Irish talent. The Shamrock Club responded enthusiastically. With the help of Brian McCormack we secured the Dominican High School auditorium in Whitefish Bay for the event - to be held on Saturday, September 24, 1977. The lineup included the Shamrock Club dancers, Billy Mitchell Pipe Band, harpist Mary Ann Miller, fiddler Martin Dowling, ten year old banjo player Marty Grinwald, vocalists Gretta Comiskey and Nina Nash (who also danced with her brother Kieran Nash), Blarney and an unnamed Irish quartet.
The quartet was to be a special attraction as it was to include four popular Irish bar owners: Danny O'Donoghue, Kit Nash, Derry Hegarty and Joe Hegarty.
They all agreed to participate but we did not know what to call them so we had a "name the quartet contest." We had quite a few contest entries that came in by the September 14 deadline, but the winner was rev. John Crowley S.J. from Marquette University High School. His entry is worth reproducing in full:
"My name for the new quartet is DERRY-AIRS.
Richly connotative, the name spreads into two Irish directions simultaneously: County DERRY and Publican DERRY Hegarty.
For the linguistically mischievous, DERRY-AIRS conjures a French term that gets to the bottom of everything.
Hence, DERRY-AIRS is trebly significant. But the three meanings converge in fun and excitement,
the style that will distinguish the unusual foursome blending their voices and puckish charm for the innumerable groups
they will entertain seasn after season following their scintillating debut the evening of September 24.
Really, this quartet so fits the title DERRY-AIRS; it seems divinely inspired."
John Crowley S.J.
Puckish charm indeed! Fr. Crowley's winning choice triggered all the positive associations and imagery we had of our four popular Irish men. The concert was the first ever of its kind using sole local talent and it was a big success. Fortunately, Blarney friend John Shiely and the Shamrock Club's Bill O'Boyle produced an audiotape of the show, preserving this bit of local Irish history for posterity.
Ed Ward founded Milwaukee Irish Fest.
He also founded the Irish Fest Foundation and the Ward Irish Music Archives.
Ed served as a permanent member of the Irish Fest Board and served as the Chair of the Entertainment Committee.
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