An Irish roast: St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast brings burns and laughs

  • Brian Joyce talks with left Paul Serio  and Mark Moggio at the St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast Friday morning in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Tess Collins, the past St. Patrick’s Day marshal, Douglas Herbert and Josie Herbert raise their glasses for a toast led by Rev. Francis Reilly during the St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast Friday morning in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Tess Collins, the past St. Patrick’s Day marshal, at the St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast Friday morning in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Scott Coen speaks at the St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast Friday morning in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Josie Herbert and others laugh during Brian Joyce’s speech during the St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast Friday morning in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Florence and Michael Cahillane laugh at a joke made about them at the St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast Friday morning in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Josie Herbert and others laugh during Brian Joyce’s speech during the St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast Friday morning in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Brigid O’Riordan and her son Billy Warren at the St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast Friday morning in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Matthew O’Connor leads the group out at the end of the St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast in Northampton Friday morning. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 3/15/2019 3:42:05 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Even though he has a Polish last name, Mayor David Narkewicz also has Irish ancestry. But, the mayor says, he has had some doubters. So at this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast, held Friday in its traditional location at the Hotel Northampton, the mayor attempted to silence them.

Narkewicz said that he has heard the mocking nicknames of “O’Narkewicz” and “The Fake Leprechaun.” And, perhaps taking a cue from another political figure, Narkewicz then produced his Ancestry.com DNA results, which say that 34 percent of the mayor’s DNA comes from Ireland — and that it is the largest piece.

The mayor also acknowledged that “there’s a lot of Polish on there, to be sure.”

The mayor’s self-deprecation — as well as a joke he made at the expense of President Donald Trump and another at the expense of Michael Cahillane, chair of the board of trustees at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School — captured the mood of the 39th breakfast, put on annually by the Northampton St. Patrick’s Association.

To celebrate, attendees wore green beads, ties, jackets and shamrock pins, and there was even a jeweled tiara.

Radio and television personality Scott Coen was the guest speaker for the second year in a row. He took to honoring Irish mothers, including his own mother, Patricia Dagg Coen, who worked at the advertising agency, McCann Erickson, much like the one on the hit television series “Mad Men.”

“I came to find out that my mom was a real-life version of Peggy Olson,” said Coen, referring to one of the show’s characters.

He said he would be flying down to Texas soon to visit his 89-year-old mother, who is battling cancer.

“If you’re lucky enough to have your mom around, know that it’s important to tell her how much you love her,” he said. “Moms are pretty important people, especially on St. Patrick’s Day.”

The 2019 James Brennan Award was presented to Lorraine Weimann, while Caitlyn Shea Butler, who will lead the Northampton St. Patrick’s Association’s contingent in the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade as its 2019 marshal, was also honored.

Butler, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said that normally when she is addressing a crowd so early in the morning on a Friday, it is because she’s teaching sophomores.

“I want to commend you, first for your attendance, and how awake you are,” she said.

Butler grew up in Northampton, and she said she is lucky as an academic to be able to get to raise her family in the community.

“It’s a little bit of a miracle that I get to come back here,” she said. “I hope to represent you well on Sunday.”

Gerry Devine, a former selectman in Hadley, was also honored, with the Patricia Ahearn Community Volunteer Award.

“I did nominate myself,” Devine joked. “But I’m truly honored.”

Master of ceremonies Brian Joyce finished the event off by roasting many of those present. 

Joyce blamed Narkewicz for the Daily Hampshire Gazette referring to him as Brian Wilson last year, alleging that Narkewicz gave the paper the wrong information.

“I did get several job offers to sing in a revival of the Beach Boys,” he said. “But no recording contract.”

And he made sure to ding Narkewicz for the city’s potholes.

“If Burts Pit Road and Pine Street were your children, DYS would be in your office on Monday,” said Joyce, referring to the Department of Youth Services. “In some countries, they drive on the left of the road. In Northampton, we drive on what’s left of the road.”

Joyce also shared a story about how, at one of Rev. Francis Reilly’s children’s masses, when the priest was explaining that the Eucharist was the body of Christ, one of the children said that it “tastes like cardboard.”

“Good cardboard,” the child amended, after seeing Reilly’s frown, he added.

A somber note

On Friday, The Irish community also marked a solemn occasion.

In the morning, a delegation went to the memorial honoring Dominic Daley and James Halligan, two Irish immigrants who were unjustly convicted and hanged in Northampton for a murder they were exonerated for in 1984 by Gov. Michael Dukakis.

“They died for the crime committed by others,” said retired Judge W. Michael Ryan.

Ryan said the story is indicative of the prejudice the Irish were subjected to when they first immigrated to this country.

“The only thing that’s changed since 1806 is that there are different targets of that type of thinking,” he said. “It’s the same suspicions focused on a different people.”

Ryan urged those present to end prejudice against immigrants.

“It’s time to put a stop to it,” he said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.




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