July 5, 2011
By Ed Forry
The story of the closing of the Irish Social Club (ISC) in West Roxbury apparently has several chapters still to be written.
The facility, located in a converted bowling alley on Park Street, just off busy Centre Street, had for years been a wildly successful venue for Irish social events, in particular the Sunday evening dances that at their peak attracted hundreds to the site.
But recently the popularity of the Sunday night attraction began to decline, with the turnout greatly diminished over time. This spring, many longtime members were startled to learn that the facility had been shut down amid reports that the board of directors had given up and would seek to sell the property.
At first word of the closing on April 20, some younger members of the club gathered together to try to reverse the decision. Petition drives and online social media were used to launch a “Save the Irish Social Club” effort. The board agreed to open the club on two nights to allow the organizers to conduct a new member drive. The first meeting took place on Sun., June 26, and its organizers were delighted to see the initial response.
In a June 27 online posting, Kathleen Adams, one of the leaders of a group seeking to reverse the decision to close, said she was pleased with the result of a June drive sign-up. “Grand total of 207 members signed up tonight! Excellent turnout,” she wrote.
“Thank you to everyone who stuck it out, and hung in there! For those of you who couldn’t make it, or had to leave, our next membership drive will be July 17. The turnout for enrollment was beyond expectations. This morning [Mon, June 27], Jim Calvey was at the Social Club bright and early to inspect the roof and air conditioning unity. Jim is Secretary of the Knights and Ladies of St. Finbarr (Cork Club) and is volunteering his time. … With so many people willing to help and a substantial increase in the membership, the Social Club will no doubt succeed and once again be the center where all the Irish can go.”
Meanwhile, across town in Dorchester, Pat “Doc” Walsh and some friends decided to fill the void by sponsoring a monthly dance at Florian Hall in Neponset. The first dance there in May proved successful, with net proceeds donated to the Irish Pastoral Centre. In June, some 150 turned out for a similar event, netting $1,000 that was donated to help support “Ireland on the Move,” the cable TV program produced pro bono by Tom Clifford.
Walsh says the next dance at Florian is set for Sunday night, July 24. The Dorchester organizers say they don’t wish to compete with the efforts to revive the ISC dance hall, adding that the Dorchester venue is drawing supporters from neighborhoods in and around Dorchester.
New director for Pastoral Centre;
move to St. Brendan’s said in works
(Correction- July 5, 2011: An earlier version of this item incorrectly stated the IPC had lost its lease; in fact, the current lease is expiring in August.)
The newly appointed executive director of the Irish Pastoral Centre was at the ICCNE Irish Festival last month greeting current and prospective members. Alicia Anne Connors assumed the position in April.
Connors had been the Development Director for WISE (Women’s Information Service), a domestic and sexual violence program serving Vermont and New Hampshire. A professional fundraiser, she has worked in the field for 30 years, including stints at Harvard Business School, Radcliffe College, and Lehigh University. A native of Vermont, she has degrees from Boston College and Dartmouth College, and has consulted for a number of organizations in Honduras, Philadelphia, Haverford, PA and a number of local non-profits. She has consulted for non profits in Honduras and Pennsylvania.
In other Pastoral Centre news, the IPC is said to be relocating its offices from Quincy to the parish rectory of St. Brendan Church Dorchester. It’s reported that the center lease lease in Quincy is expiring, and a rental agreement has eenbworked out at St. Brendan’s. The rectory is the longtime residence of Fr. John McCarthy, the Limerick priest who heads the program.