President Boyle Addreses AOH on the 175th

The 2011 President’s Dinner was held in Philadelphia on October 8, and all who attended raved about the grand event. Also at the dinner, the presentation of the Sean MacBride Award was made to the highly deserving Clara Reilly.

National AOH President Seamus Boyle addressed the dinner’s participants, and his speech is reprinted here.

 

“Rev. Clergy, distinguished guests, National, State, County and Division officers of the AOH and LAOH, family and friends, and especially our recipient of the prestigious Sean MacBride award, Clara Reilly, thank you for attending this evening’s festivities.

I know many of you have traveled quite a distance, both from here in the States and Ireland so I hope you enjoy your night and have a safe trip home. (It’s not over yet, that is usually said at the end of the speech).

As most of you know, this year is our 175 Anniversary of the formation of the AOH in America and we did have a great celebration in New York City in May, which many of you attended. This Anniversary celebration that has been ongoing throughout 2011, took over a year of hard work on the part of many people to accomplish. I would like to single out two people, Ed Wallace, chairman of the Anniversary Committee, and Mike McCormack, who was responsible for the beautiful Souvenir Journal that is on your table tonight. I think we owe a round of applause to both of these gentlemen.

It is almost 14 years since I was elected to the National Board of the AOH and I must say it has been one hell of a ride. Although I have had many great times, there were also some sad times that came with the positions I held. Some great friends in the organization have passed on, as have some of my own family, and it is at times like this that I miss them most.

Tom Gilligan, Past National President, who encouraged me to get involved and run for office, told me it was a piece of cake, but Tom always did exaggerate. And my brother, Mike, told me I was nuts, but he meant it. The people I have met on my travels throughout this great country of ours have treated me with the utmost respect, whether they agreed with my policies or not, and I have remained friends with many of them.

The Board that I have worked with over the past 4 years has supported me in all my decisions, and I have always included them in making these decisions because I have learned that one man cannot run a ship by himself. Your Board has made great strides and has made many decisions that may not have been popular but it is easy for one to make popular decisions, but a lot harder to make the right decisions, and as far as I am concerned we have made the right decisions over the past 4 years.

For 174 years, our organization has had no registered Trademark or Copyrights to our name or logo. But today, thanks to our Legal Counsel George Clough, we are now registered. We have contracted with Harris Connect, at no cost to us, to do a history of the AOH, by the AOH members themselves, telling their story about their state, county or division or their own personal story of how they came to be in the area where they now reside. Our online edition of the Hibernian Digest has been a great source of information to our members. We are now in the process of gathering emails and updating our membership list so as to save time and money on communications. There are so many other things that we have done as a board but most of you know what has been accomplished and I will leave it at that. The board we have today is one of the best boards I have ever worked with and they continue to serve you in a most effective way.

Tonight is a night to celebrate. Celebrate our heritage with the music from the Willie Lynch Band. Celebrate our Religion, which we just did at our beautiful Mass celebrated by our National Chaplain Fr. Tom O’Donnell and our two Deputy Chaplains Fr. Reid and Fr. Pearce, not to forget the beautiful voice of Louise Donnelly, our vocalist.

Celebrate a woman who has fought for many years for peace and justice in Ireland, Clara Reilly. Celebrate our history by reading the history in our Anniversary Journal and educating our friends, family and especially our children of the history of our ancestors. Celebrate our health by being able to be here tonight with our friends and family and celebrate our peace in Ireland, fragile as it might be but much better than it was even 15 years ago.

I would like to thank all of you for attending the festivities tonight, especially all of my family from here in the States and from Ireland. My relatives from Ireland who came here for the wedding last week, about 12 of them, are like grandchildren: I like to see them come but I love to see them go back — and that works both ways when I go back they feel the same, here he comes when is he leaving. My children, Mike and Tara, Bronagh who was married last Saturday and is on her honeymoon and opted to miss this affair, but most of all my wife, Berna, who puts up with me all of the time but especially when I ask her, can you pack a bag for me quick, I forgot to tell you I am going to Montana or Georgia or someplace else in the morning. Thank you all especially you, Berna, have a great night, enjoy the band and have a safe trip home.

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A Rose By Any Other Name

148 years ago, on January 17, 1861, Marie Gilbert passed away. You may think that you never heard of her, but you have. Born in Limerick in 1818, her father was in the military, and Marie and her mother accompanied him to India where he was posted. When he died in 1825, Mrs. Gilbert remarried an officer from Scotland, but young Marie was unhappy. A rebellious and independent child, she was sent to boarding school in Scotland to continue her education, and improve her manners. She later studied in Paris. At the age of 18, she eloped with a young officer named Capt. James, and they were married in Ireland. When her new husband was posted to India, Marie accompanied him there, but the marriage didn’t last. During her schooling, Marie had studied drama and ballet, and she decided to try a dancing career. She took a refresher course in ballet and after a brief visit to Spain, decided to make her dancing debut in London. And what a debut it was!

On June 3, 1843, at Her Majesty’s Theater, a new performer calling herself Lola Montez – the Spanish Sensation, made her debut. It was none other than Marie Gilbert. Her beauty and her skimpy, but dazzling, costumes caught the eyes of the men of London more than her dancing. She choreographed her own performance called the Spider Dance – a sort of tarantella which involved shaking rubber tarantulas out of her clothing in such a way as to provide generous views of her body. She was showered with flowers and applause and became the Toast of the Theater.

She went to Berlin and even greater success. On a trip to Russia, she was showered with gifts by Emperor Nicholas himself; in Warsaw she got involved with politics, and was asked to leave the country; and in France, two notable individuals fought a duel over her. She was now the Toast of Europe. In 1847, she danced before the King of Bavaria. The old King was captivated, and she consented to become his mistress. He had a great mansion built for her, granted her a pension, and conferred on her two Titles: Baroness of Rosenthal and Countess of Lansfield. She entertained heads of State and actually ruled over Bavaria. She was only 28 years old. However, she was still the selfish person she had always been, and her ambition made her many enemies. She was opposed by the Jesuits and ousted by revolution in 1848. Banished from Bavaria, she returned to London.

Perhaps due to her tarnished reputation, she did not enjoy the success she had known before. She married again and a month later was charged with bigamy; it seems she had forgotten all about Capt. James, but he hadn’t forgotten her. She fled to Spain, and by 1851 was in New York, starring in a ballet on Broadway. American audiences gave the so-called Spanish Sensation’s career a fresh start, and she packed houses in New York, Philadelphia, and California. She even married again, but as usual, it didn’t last long. She toured Australia, where she horsewhipped the editor of a newspaper that printed an article reflecting on her risque character. She returned to Broadway and after several successful plays, began a lecturing tour. She headed for a while to the gold fields of California where she earned more nuggets with her sensual Spider Dance, than many of the miners did with pick and shovel. An article in a California newspaper on May 28, 1853, read: Seldom is actress or artist greeted with such a house as was the renowned Countess of Landsfeldt last evening at the American. The performances commenced with the farce of Damon and Pythias, but the people had no patience to watch and listen to that. They came to see Lola Montez, and were impatient till she appeared. The dance was what all had come to see, and there was an anxious flutter and an intense interest at the moment approached which would bring her before the house. She was greeted with a storm of applause, and then she executed the dance, which is said to be her favorite, and has won for her much notoriety. The Spider Dance is a very remarkable affair. It cannot be denied that it is a most attractive performance.

She settled in California for a while, and built a beautiful and extravagant mansion. She lectured on a wide range of subjects from Heroines in History, to Religion, and even to Marriage. She wrote Anecdotes of Love, Arts of Beauty and the Lectures of Lola Montez, which included her autobiography, and were published in America and Europe. They brought her a considerable fortune, which she spent on her wild life style, leaving herself near broke.

In 1859, she ran into an old school friend from Scotland, who berated her for the sinful waste she had made of her life. Whatever her friend said should certainly have been written down, for this spoiled, selfish, and arrogant imposter made a dramatic about face in her life style. She began to assist her old friend at the Magdalen Asylum of New York, caring for the poor and destitute women of the streets. She performed charitable works among the prostitutes of the city, even lectured them on the word of God, and came back to the Church that she spurned so many years before. She was no longer Lola Montez, the toast of three continents, she was Marie Gilbert, the girl from Limerick, when she contracted a paralyzing sickness from the destitute among whom she worked. On Jan 17, 1861, she passed away in a sanitarium in Astoria, New York, at the age of 40. She had lived a more adventurous life than women twice her age, had earned and spent larger fortunes than most men see in a lifetime, and explored the dark and shameful side of life to its depths. But perhaps in her final day, she managed to balance the scales, for she had finally found the one thing that eluded her all her life – true compassion.

She is buried in Green Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn and those who think they never heard of her can refer to the film Lola Montes (1955) with Peter Ustinov, Oscar Werner and Martina Carol as Lola. She was also the inspiration for the saying Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets which, in turn, became the title of a song in the popular musical Damn Yankees. While this musical was not based on her life, the female lead in that play was named ‘Lola’ and, like Lola Montez, was portrayed as a lady who would stop at little to get what she wanted. Lola Montez also has a lake named after her in California’s Tahoe National Forest and there is even a Mount Lola named in her honor. At 9,148′, it is the highest point in Nevada County, California. Not a bad legacy for a Spanish Dancer who, by any other name, would still be a Limerick Lady.