Sunday, December 27, 2015

Pre-order Your Book Now!

The time has come! Lowell Irish is now available to order. Various websites have already started pre-orders for the book, but purchasing the book directly from Lowell Irish allows a significant amount of your purchase (up to 10 times a much) to go directly towards St. Patrick's School and the St. Patrick's Church Renovation Fund.

Lowell Irish will be published and ready to ship on February 22, 2016 and will be selling for $21.99. If you would like it mailed, shipping will be $4.50. You may also pick up the book on March 10, 2016 during the book signing at Long Meadow Golf Club in Lowell, MA.

If you are purchasing directly from Lowell Irish using the PayPal button below and would like it autographed, please write how you would like it to be inscribed while you are checking out.

Checks may be made payable to David McKean and mailed to the following address:
David McKean/Lowell Irish 
1 Benrus Street 
Nashua, New Hampshire 03060 

As always, please contact us at if you have any questions.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Mission Angel - 1890s

Church & School, 1890s
The Sisters of Notre Dame, who still staff St Patrick School, faithfully kept a journal of daily activities from 1852 until 1958.  The Annals, as the volumes were referred to, were daily accounts of Masses attended, rosaries recited, and happenings within the school.  By custom the writers remained unnamed, though there are hints of authorship periodically.  One thread that runs throughout the decades was the visits made by the “mission angel.”  This was the Sisters’ way of saying who was being transferred, very often with little or no notice.  This fictional entry is a combination of facts gathered from the Annals of the Sisters recorded in the late 19th century. 

The Portress has been busy today.  Many come to the door begging food for their children.  Our pantry is not heavily loaded, but we spare what we can.  As Mother Superior says one never knows when it is the Christ Child who is knocking at the door.  Many of the boarding students have gone home to celebrate Christmas with their families.  Those who remain behind are invited to dine with us in the Sisters’ refectory.  You can tell the students are not used to our custom of dining in silence.  I look at up them and see them looking rather uncomfortable while one of the Sisters reads the lives of the Saints as we eat our meal of soup and bread.  The fast before Christmas has begun meaning no meat until the holy day.  It was only a few years ago that I was a student like them, sitting in the same seats looking at the Sisters wondering if I had the call.
I sit here in the Sisters’ dormitory; our beds separated by a simple white sheet.  Already I hear the snores coming from Sister Fidelia’s bed.  On the other side are the rasping coughs coming from young Sister Lourdes.  Dr. Green says he cannot do much more for her.  I am fortunate to have a window that looks out into the convent gardens.  A number of years ago Mother Desiree, may she rest in peace, had a tall brick wall surround the entire school and convent property.  At the same time we were forbidden to join the parishioners in sitting with the congregation.  An opening was made between the convent and the church.  We were to sit behind this wall to attend Mass and all other liturgical functions.  Our Mother General feels this separation will help us focus on our devotions.  One of the priests comes to the opening to distribute Communion.  Looking at the bare trees and mounting snow can make one doubt her call.  Though we are not allowed to have personal conversations I have heard stories of Sisters who have returned to their families.  They have walked right out the door.  But my guardian placed me with the Sisters when I was a young girl, and the Sisters have become my family. 
After morning Mass on this Christmas Eve the church doors were closed, and we were allowed to decorate the church for the Christmas feast.  Garland was strung from the ceiling to the altar.  Wreaths were hung on every column.  There are 22.  I counted them.  Some of the older women from the parish were allowed to help us.  It was nice to speak with someone new.  The best part of today was that I was given the chore of setting up the manger in our chapel.  It is a most beautiful place.  It was recently completed, designed by the famous Patrick Keely.  The colors are pink and blue and very uplifting.  Not as grand as the parish church, but it is where we spend many hours of the day reciting the Divine Office, rosaries, and being in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord.
But my heart is heavy this Christmas Eve.  I sit here waiting to hear the bells of the steeple of St Patrick church ring in Christmas.  It is the custom of many, some as far away as across the river and into the city center, to wait until they hear the bells ring before they make their way to midnight Mass.  I sit here holding the little note that the Mission Angel has left on my pillow.  I leave to go to our academy in Roxbury right after Christmas.  I must say good bye to this place that has been my home as long as I can remember.  I recall the words of our foundress, Julie Billard.  “Ah qu’il est bon, le bon Dieu.” (How good the good God is.) 

The bells break the silence of this cold December darkness.  They ring out calling me.  Silent Night, Holy Night.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Lowell Irish, coming to a bookstore near you!

It's official!  It's been over a year in progress, actually decades, but we've got the final word that the book I've been working on these long months will be published this March.  Lowell Irish is a collection of stories and reminiscences of Lowell's Irish community, from its beginnings in the Paddy Camps, through the trials and tribulations of settlement, during the pains of the Civil War, and leading to the rise of Lowell's Irish in business, service, and politics.  The final chapter is a series of personal accounts of growing up Irish in Lowell by members of the present Irish-American community.

I've been collecting stories like these for years in hopes of preserving what our ancestors strove so hard to build.  The history of Lowell's Irish community could fill volumes.  It was near impossible to choose which accounts and photos could be entered in a single volume.  It will be to someone else to write volume two.

We've already planned the first book signing for Thursday, March 10th at Long Meadow Golf Club, 165 Havilah Street, Lowell, MA 01852 at 6:30 pm.  There will be live Irish fiddle and guitar music, stepdancing and appetizers.  Please don't feel the need to purchase a book, just come to share a bit of craic!  (That's Irish for fun!)

Part of the proceeds from the sales of the book will benefit St. Patrick School and Restoration Fund.  (Ordering the book directly from me will enable me to send more proceeds to our charities.  Price yet to be determined from History Press.)

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Lowell's Irish Magician

Larry Crane
Lowell’s Irish Magician
By Rosemary K. Nunnally

Professor Crane, the Irish Wizard, the Great Irish Magician, and Larry Crane were all stage names for Lawrence McCrann of Lowell.   Lawrence was a well - known magician in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. He was a vaudeville entertainer, amazing audiences in the days before the talking pictures.  When Lawrence died in December of 1950, the Lowell Sun said “His mastery of the mystic art of magic earned him the reputation of being second only to the fabulous Houdini”.

Lawrence McCrann was born in Boyle, County Roscommon, Ireland in August of 1877.  The family came to Lowell about 1885.  Patrick McCrann and Mary Gallagher had five sons and five daughters.  Lawrence started his career a magician in Lowell, performing for small audiences.  As he perfected his acts, he traveled to England and Ireland, supposedly performing for royalty.  Upon his return to the U.S., he was billed as “Professor Crane, of the Old World”.

Lawrence entertained at theaters and halls throughout the country.  His travels can be traced through newspaper reports and advertisements of his show. In 1897 he was at the Keith Theatre in Boston.  The Duluth News Tribune in Minnesota detailed his act called “Cremation” in October of 1906. The Trenton Evening News said of Larry in August of 1908: “the first Celt to make any pretentious bid for popularity in the role of a wizard is Lawrence Crane, the Irish magician.  His feats in magic and puzzling illusions are punctuated with Celtic wit and humor that enhance their entertaining qualities”.  The Daily Illinois State register reported on his performance at the Majestic Theatre in December of 1913: “Crane’s work is successful, not only because of the magician’s personal eloquence of manner and cleverness of words, but because of the apparent difficulty of the tricks which were carried out”.

When Lawrence was back in Lowell visiting family and friends in 1905, the Lowell Sun
 reported “Prof. Crane, from the old world, is a shining example of what a poor Lowell boy can do if he has the brains, ambition and perseverance”.
As radio shows and movies became increasingly popular, vaudeville shows declined.  During the 1920’s and 1930’s theaters across the country began shifting to cinema presentations.

Lawrence McCrann lived in Boston during the 1930’s and 40’s.  He was listed as an actor in the Boston City Directories.  He resided in a hotel at 567 Tremont Street, which is now home to luxury condominiums.

Lawrence died December 14, 1950 at the Boston City Hospital.  His funeral was at St. Patrick’s Church. He is buried in St. Patrick’s Cemetery with his father and brother James.  No headstone was found on his grave.