Established in 1980, the Irish American Society of Tidewater is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with the goal of promoting and preserving Irish culture, including music, art, history, folklore, dance, literature, athletics, languages, dialects, and all other things distinctively IRISH among interested persons in the Tidewater, Virginia area and cooperating with like-minded persons, groups, and organizations both here and abroad.
History of Our Society
The first meeting was June 16, 1980 at Eileen Ryan’s (now Eileen Ryan Seeley) house, with three members attending…Eileen Ryan, Marigrace Thomas, and James Allen. The meetings for the first few years were at the Leprechaun Pub on Virginia Beach Boulevard. The owner of the pub, Bob Foley, was one of the original members.
For nostalgia sake, subsequent meetings were at a variety of places, including the Aragona Moose Lodge, Shoney’s in Norfolk, the Portsmouth Library, the Kirn Memorial Library in Norfolk, the A.R.E./Edgar Cayce Society on Atlantic Ave. in Virginia Beach, St. Gregory’s Catholic Church, Bishop Sullivan Catholic High School, and the Meyera E. Oberndorf Central Library in Virginia Beach. Currently, meetings are held (usually at 7 pm) on the first Thursday of every month (free and open to the general public) at the Church of the Ascension’s Community Center Hall, 4853 Princess Anne Rd., Virginia Beach, VA 23464.
Finding that the Irish were not represented on the Virginia Beach boardwalk on Heritage Day, our founder Eileen enlisted her friend Marigrace Thomas and the two of them started to sign up members at Old Dominion’s International Jubilee in 1980. The founding purpose of the Society was to promulgate the cultural heritage of Ireland and to promote friendship among those who are interested in Irish history, music, and art.
Members of the Society have been participants in many local festivals as part of the effort to promote the Irish culture. Our Irish Cottage and Paddy Wagon floats are a regular feature of the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Again, for nostalgia sake, these are some of the events in which we’ve participated: The International Village at Harborfest, ODU International Jubilee, The British and Irish Isles Festival, The Irish Tall Ship Asgard II, Heritage Day at the Neptune Festival, the Church Hill Irish Festival, the Coastal Virginia Cup Hurling & Camogie Tournament, and the Central Virginia Celtic Festival & Highland Games.
The Society has its own popular events. Each year, the Saturday one week before the St. Patrick’s Day parade, we celebrate Finnegan’s Wake and have a grand party, at which time honorary awards are announced such as our annual princesses. Also popular are our Irish Breakfasts, Annual Celtic Cousins Cook Out, Harvest Hooley, Silent Auctions, and Christmas Market & Ceili. We sponsor bus trips to interesting places and used to take annual visits to the Viet Nam Wall in Washington, DC to pay homage to the fallen Irish soldiers.
The Society’s major charitable effort used to be on behalf of Project Children, which brought young boys and girls from Northern Ireland to live with host families for six weeks. Currently, we support CHKD by donating supplies for arts and crafts, and we have a matching program for member donations to St. Baldricks for kids cancer research. We also participate annually in Save the Bay clean up of the Chesapeake Bay.