Ever Green: 10 ways to live like the Irish in Massachusetts

Hanneke Cassel at the 2012 Boston Celtic Music Festival.
Hanneke Cassel at the 2012 Boston Celtic Music Festival.

The Bay State holds the 32 counties of the old sod dear throughout the year. About a quarter of Massachusetts residents claim Irish heritage, according to the US Census, which makes us the most Irish state in the union. We sing Irish, we dance Irish, we even eat and drink Irish. This sampler of 10 ways to live like the Irish only scratches the surface of the Bay State’s Hibernian heart.


Founded in Ireland in 1951, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann is dedicated to preserving traditional Irish music. The Boston branch does its part with seisiúns (music jams) and ceilis (social dances) on the first and fourth Sundays, September through June, at Watertown’s Canadian-American Hall (202 Arlington St.). Too timid to dance? Ceili and set dance workshops are offered Tuesday evenings, October through May. For those who’d rather play the tune, courses in traditional Irish instruments (fiddle, flute, whistle, Uilleann pipes, Anglo concertina, accordion, harp, guitar, tenor banjo, bodhrán) and old-style singing in Irish and English are given Saturdays at St. Columbkille Partnership School in Brighton (25 Arlington St.). 617-481-5503, or 617-863-0548,


David Lyon for the Boston Globe
Classic Irish wool hats from Irish Imports in Cambridge.

Beautiful and well-made clothing never goes out of fashion. That includes richly patterned Aran sweaters, tweed sport coats, linen shirts, and lambswool and cashmere capes. Since 1973, Irish Imports in Cambridge has worked with Irish craftspeople and manufacturers to bring signature pieces of Irish style to the Bay State. You’ll also find housewares, including pottery and glass. In West Boylston, Wexford House Irish Imports also carries clothing, along with Galway Crystal, Kerry Glass, and a large selection of wedding bands.  Irish Imports, 1737 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-354-2511,; Wexford House Irish Imports, 9 Crescent St. West Boylston, 508-835-6677,



The Ancient Order of Hibernians in America claims to be the country’s oldest Irish fraternal organization. Both the men and women of Division 36 meet at the Worcester Hibernian Cultural Centre, which sponsors Irish festivals in March and concerts and lectures throughout the year. The center has its own pub, Fiddler’s Green, which usually has live Irish music on Friday and Saturday evenings and jazz on Sunday afternoons. Live music or not, it’s a convivial place to enjoy a pint. Stop in on Thursday evenings for a few hands of the card game pitch. 19 Temple St., 508-792-3700 or 508-795-0400,, or


Get The Weekender in your inbox:
The Globe's top picks for what to see and do each weekend, in Boston and beyond.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Séamus Connolly, one of the great Irish fiddlers of modern times, is artist-in-residence at the Center for Irish Programs at Boston College and the enthusiastic standard-bearer for the entire local Irish artistic community. Through May 23, “Musical Roots of Séamus Connolly” at the John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections looks at the influences and career of the winner of 10 all-Ireland solo fiddle championships. His papers, deposited at the Irish Music Center archives at the Burns Library, make up most of this exhibition that gets at the man behind the music.  Bapst Library Building, Boston College, 140 Commonwealth Ave., Chestnut Hill, 617-552-4861,


Traditional musicians Tommy McCarthy and Louise Costello hail from Ireland (his family from West Clare, hers from County Galway) and their two Massachusetts pubs, The Burren in Somerville and The Skellig in Waltham, have ambitious musical programs that often include touring musicians from the old country. Both also serve Saturday and Sunday Irish breakfasts. Skellig cook José Santana may be Colombian by birth, but he has an authentically Irish way with the plate of two rashers of Irish bacon, two skinny Irish sausages, black and white pudding, two eggs, grilled tomato, Irish baked beans, and home fries. Douse with malt vinegar and accompany with black coffee and a shot of Bushmills.  The Burren, 247 Elm St., Somerville, 617-776-6896, The Skellig, 240 Moody St., Waltham, 781-647-0679,


Kristeen Anderson/Boston Percussive Dance
Irish dancer Michael Tubridy (in red shirt) leads a guest master class in old style Irish dance at Boston Percussive Dance.

The floor at the Boston Percussive Dance studio in Cambridge has been designed to create the crisp, clear sound that practitioners of flamenco, tap, and Irish step dance all treasure. Co-founder Kieran Jordan grew up as a competitive step dancer and is also a master of sean-nós (“old style”) Irish dance, an expressive solo style. She offers workshops in sean-nós and she and other instructors teach Irish step dance for all ages and ability levels. For those not ready to commit to a multi-week course, many classes welcome drop-ins. Like many great teachers, Jordan keeps a busy performance schedule; she is one of the featured dancers at the upcoming Atlantic Steps performance (see today’s Arts section).  Green Street Studios, Studio No. 3, 185 Green St., Cambridge, no phone,


David Lyon
McLadden's Irish Publick House in Hampden is a cozy spot for a pint.

There are too many Irish pubs in Greater Boston to even begin to list, but if you’re looking for a bit of Eire out west, McLadden’s Irish Publick House prides itself on a finely tuned draught beer tap system (complete with proprietary gas blending) designed to give the perfect pour of Guinness or a variety of other stouts, lagers, and ales. The bar also stocks about 20 Irish whiskeys and HD television screens in every direction are tuned to whatever sport is being played somewhere in the world, including English soccer. But there’s still room for live music on Saturday nights and a pub trivia quiz on Thursdays.  546 Main St., Hampden, 413-566-0046,



Alas, you’ll have to wait until next January for Boston’s 11th annual Celtic Music Festival, which draws on the music traditions of Ireland, Scotland, and Cape Breton. The festival is sponsored in part by Club Passim and the venerable Cambridge club has been at the center of the acoustic music scene in New England for years. Many of the performers who grace the stage year-round come straight out of the Irish tradition. The subterranean spot is an intimate place to join in the ongoing BCMFest seisiúns on the second Monday of the month. 47 Palmer St., Cambridge, 617-492-7679,


Dermot Quinn pined for the flavors of his native County Offaly, and when his Granny Murphy finally shared her traditional bread recipes, he and his wife, Cindy, opened Greenhills Irish Bakery in 1991. It’s become the go-to place for many Boston Irish immigrants seeking a taste of home, whether it’s an Irish sausage roll for breakfast, a plate of boiled dinner for lunch (on Thursdays), or a still warm loaf of dense brown bread or soda bread to take home and enjoy with a spot of tea. In West Newton, Keltic Krust makes homey wheat and raisin soda breads, along with specialties such as barm brack bread with raisins and orange and lemon peels, and eccles cakes filled with raisins and cinnamon.  Greenhills Irish Bakery, 80 Adams St., Dorchester, 617-825-8187,; Keltic Krust, 1371 Washington St., West Newton, 617-332-9343,


Irish Cultural Centre.
Teams face off in Gaelic Athletic Association football at the Irish Cultural Centre's grounds.

The Irish Cultural Centre of New England once tried, but missed by a hair, to set a world record for the most redheads in one place. But you don’t have to be a redhead to take part in the Centre’s wide range of classes, including cooking and Irish language. The center also hosts a lecture series on Irish culture and an amateur drama program, and sponsors Friday and Saturday night seisiúns at the ICC Pub and Monday night social dancing (Irish set dance). All the Boston Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) games are played at the ICC campus and Irish GAA championship matches in Gaelic football and hurling are broadcast live from Ireland. The ICC’s 2013 Boston Irish Festival is coming up on June 7-9.  200 New Boston Drive, Canton, 781-821-8291,

Patricia Harris and David
Lyon can be reached at