March is the season of parades and other celebrations in honor of St. Patrick, Ireland's patron saint. And although the merriment is an important part of recognizing things Irish, some of the equally important traditions of Irish culture can get lost amidst all the noise.
One tradition that has been in danger of dying out in modern life is storytelling, which kept Irish myths and history alive for centuries. The Shanachai (Gaelic for storyteller) was
a fixture in Irish villages and even the royal courts, and occupied a place of honor among the Celts.
Jim Hawkins, a school teacher from Baldwin, has made a life's work of keeping alive the tradition of the Shanachai, presenting a riveting blend of Irish stories, myths, and songs to groups throughout Long Island. The Irish and the non-Irish alike never fail to enjoy his gigs at libraries, clubs, alumni groups and cultural organizations. Jim takes his themes from Irish history, culture and traditions, some humorous and some quite dramatic.
An accomplished musician, Jim also entertains on the bodhraun (goatskin drum) and even spoons and bones, and he might be coaxed into a jig or two as well.(He is a former all-Ireland step dancer.)
During March, he will perform at the following venues:
Sunday, March 4 at 2 PM in the Williston Park Public Library, 494 Willis Avenue; Saturday March 10 at 2 PM in the North Shore Public Library in Shoreham; Sunday March 11 at 3:30 pm at Conklin House, Deer Park Avenue in Babylon; Friday March 16 at 7 PM at the Copiague Public Library; and Sunday March 18 at 2 PM in the Port Jefferson Public Library. The performances are free and open to the public.
You can find out more about Jim's work by accessing his own website,
Another enjoyable Irish event this month will be Tony Kenny's Ireland, a musical presentation of Irish song and dance at 7:30 PM Wednesday March 7 at the Landmark on Main Street in Port Washington. For tickets, call (516) 767-6444.
And parades? In addition to the big one on Fifth Avenue March 17, Long Island's largest Irish marching fest is the 11th Annual Rockville Centre St. Patrick's Parade, which will step off at noon on Saturday March 24 at Maple Avenue and Long Beach Road, ending at St. Agnes Cathedral. This year's Grand Marshall is Jack Irwin, former State chairman of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. ENJOY!