KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Ides of March are upon us and with only two weeks until St. Patrick’s day, Irish culture in Kansas City is taking center stage.
FOX 4’s Carey Wickersham met with a group that calls themselves “keepers of the culture.”
“I tell people we are the living room of the Irish community,” said Nancy Wormington, director of the Irish Center. “This is where people come to gather for concerts programs meetings and activities.”
The Irish Center is about to celebrate six years of preserving Kansas City’s Irish roots.
Many Irish fled to America to escape starvation during the potato famine.
“A lot came with the railroads to the Midwest. They landed on the east coast, grabbed jobs on the railroads and came this far, so they helped build the railroads in KC and then they settled here and they were founding members of the police department, the fire department,” Wormington explained.
Wormington showed us some books– some of them dating back to the 1500’s. They represent the single largest donation to the center. An Irish collector from Arkansas gave thousands of books on philosophy, religion, music and culture….many rare and even inscribed first editions.
“I’m very proud to have for the center this book by William Buckner Yates …The Tower. This is a first edition. The Tower was an extraordinary poem,” said Tom Shawver with Bloomsday Books.
Many of these books survived during a political suppression of the Irish culture. Teaching on religion and the Irish language were banned and forced underground for more than a hundred years.
In the 1700, the language was completely suppressed by the aristocracy and struggled. The English language took over Ireland,” said Renata Rua, an Irish specialist.
Irish music was illegal. It’s surprising the traditions even survived.
“There was a time when it was questionable whether it would continue. People passed it on to their children and generations kept the music going. Then it came over here,” said Eddie Edwards, a musician.
Today the Irish in Kansas City consider it an honor bestowed on them by their courageous ancestors to keep the traditions of Irish culture alive, even if it means re-teaching the almost lost… the old Irish language.
For more information on the Irish Center of Kansas City, visit their facebook page here.