“Let Yez All Be Irish Tonight!”

Photo: Mark Woermke

In addition to some household chores, a bit of homework and working with Barry Conway and the Opeongo Podcast Players, I am taking time during my March Break to sift through the family archives: photos, news clippings, family trees and the like. Many items pertain to the Irish heritage of the Madawaska Valley, so I thought I would share a few of them with Current readers.

The Dalys of Hopefield


The first is a picture of my great-great-grandparents Martin Daly (1825-1901) and Mary McManus (1822-1913) who operated the Daly stopping place at Hopefield along the Opeongo Line. He was a native of Newtown Daly in County Galway, and the son of Martin Daly (b. 1791) and Fanny Forde (1795-1875) ancestors of many families in the Ottawa Valley and beyond. Old Martin and Fanny left Ireland in the 1840s with their children and settled first in Gloucester Township, Carleton County. They and almost all of their children eventually migrated to the Opeongo Line around Hopefield where Fanny’s sister, Bridget (Mrs. James Doyle) had already taken up land. Old Martin and Fanny’s children were: Ann who married Hugh Belkwell; Joseph; Michael who married Margaret Murray; Patrick; Thomas married Margaret O’Grady; Ellen who married a Protestant named Andrew Gamble and was disowned (I recently connected with one of her descendants through Ancestry DNA); and Mary who married James Henderson in the Presbyterian Church in Arnprior in 1865 and shared the fate of her sister Ellen. Sad, but for most Irish folk, that sectarian intolerance is part of our heritage.

Greenan’s Lake and Greenan’s Creek

This is a photograph of Francis Greenan, a member of the family for whom Greenan’s Lake and Greenan’s Creek are named. I did a little write-up on him in The Kitts Family of the Ottawa Valley and North America which I published in 2007.


Francis Greenan first appeared in historical records as a fifteen-year-old boy with his father John in Goulbourn Township near Ottawa in the 1851 Census. They were living with their uncle/brother Francis Greenan, his wife Sarah Kitts and their family. The younger Francis left Goulbourn in the mid-1850s to find work in the United States. He married Emily Townsend in McHenry, Illinois in 1858. He brought his American bride and their daughter Margaret back to Goulbourn where they baptized James Oliver at Richmond in 1861 (sponsors John Greenan and Mary Ann Kitts). Shortly afterwards, Francis and Emily joined their friends and relatives who had migrated to lands along the Opeongo Colonization Road. When Francis arrived, the free grants along the road had been taken, so he moved further into the wilderness settling at the edge of Sherwood Township, west of Lake Kamaniskeg, near his brother Patrick and his aunt Mary Greenan Murray.

Four of their children’s baptisms can be found in the register at Brudenell between 1865 and 1874. Godparents were from the Kitts, Murray and Daly families. My great grandmother Rosann Murray and the Greenan’s neighbour, August Yantha, were godparents for Emily in 1872. Between 1874 and 1876, Francis, his family and his brother Patrick left for the United States. The United States 1880 Census placed his family in Loda, Iroquois County, Illinois. According to a descendant, Francis and Emily had eleven children and all but three of them died in an epidemic. Francis Greenan died at Pocahontas, Iowa in 1912. Emily Townsend Greenan died in 1918.

Irish Theatricals


On a lighter note, I found a script for Where’s Grandma, a three act comedy which was performed at the Irish Concert put on by the parishioners of St. Lawrence O’Toole in Barry’s Bay in 1947. The players were: Gwen Billings (Grandma Murphy), Teresita Murray (Gretchen Blake), Danny Murray (Bob Blake), Greg Sullivan (Jack Murphy), Bernice O’Grady (Lucy King), Rita Dwyer (Arline Truesdale), Edna Kitts (Carol Murphy), Jimmy Conway (Midnight), and Pearl Conway (Dahlia). Not politically correct though. According to my mom, Jimmy and Pearl played their roles in blackface. Yikes!

I also found a clipping from the Barry’s Bay Review in the mid-1960s. Describing the March 17th  festivities in Barry’s Bay.

St. Patrick’s Day was fittingly observed in Barry’s Bay with Holy Mass in
honour of the Saint at 9:00 a.m. in St. Lawrence O’Toole’s.

The wearin’ of the green was so much in evidence, it seemed everyone was Irish for St. Patrick’s Day. In the evening, a cast from St. Lawrence O’Toole’s Parish presented The Heart of Paddy Whack, a comedy, which kept the audience in gales of laughter. Mrs. Roy Woermke and Miss Ethelywn Kelly delighted all with their renderings of Irish melodies between acts, and little Misses Julie Kitts and Cathy Chapeskie tap danced which was greatly enjoyed, and when the veteran Joe O’Grady accompanied by his daughter Mrs. John Billings and two grandchildren Basil and Joanne Billings came on the stage to step dance the applause showed how much the dance was enjoyed. The entertainment was presented again on Sunday evening, and had two matinees one on Wednesday afternoon and the other Thursday to a well-filled hall each time. All taking part are to be congratulated as the performances were second-to-none, and Rev. Fr. O’Brien had welcomed heartily all who attended and gave credit to Fr. Wm. Dwyer and to Fr. A. Maika for the use of the hall.

A Bit of Local Blarney


This picture comes from an article in the Barry’s Bay Review sometime in the early 60s. It shows Teresa Conway kissing the Blarney Stone on a three-week trip she took touring the British Isles and Lourdes. Teresa was the daughter of Thomas P. Conway and Clare Kitts and sister of Tommy, Mattie and Doreen Yakabuski. At that time Teresa was nursing at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Toronto. In the 1970s she returned to Barry’s Bay to work as a public health nurse and to help care for her elderly mother.

St. Pat’s at the Balmoral


And finally, something a little more recent – March 17, 1989. A photo from the St. Patrick’s Day Dinner at the Balmoral Hotel. In the photo left to right, you can see Elaine Murray, yours truly, Lois Kelly, Teresa Murray, Roy Woermke, Ethel Smith is behind him, Gwen Woermke, and Ron Tracey.

Just a little trip through the family archives, and my way of wishing you all a very happy St. Patrick’s Day. One last thought – lyrics from Let Yez All Be Irish Tonight an American-Irish piece my mother heard first on the radio and for which she tracked down the sheet music. She performed it at a concert in the early 1940s modifying the words a little to account for the ethnic diversity of the Madawaska Valley:

You French, Scots and Germans, Polish and Jews,

Just act like O’Sheas and O’Deas and McHughs,

Do everything Irish …., but don’t start to fight!

Let yez all be Irish tonight! Let yez all be Irish tonight!


  1. Mark Woermke

    Hello Readers!
    Thanks to Val Manion, Joanne Olsen and Helen Gutoskie (who called me).
    I mis-identified my own cousin! The woman in the picture of the St. Pat’s dinner at the Balmoral I identified as Teresa Beanish was indeed Lois Doyle Kelly. She was my mom’s first cousin and a dear friend of Teresa Murray. I deserve to be admonished, but in my defense, I attribute the confusion to a few too many Guinness on St. Patrick’s Eve. Thankfully, the mix-up involved two wonderful ladies whose wit, kindness, appreciation of history and community spirit were legendary. Perhaps they were sharing a pint in heaven for St. Patrick’s Day.

  2. Joanne Olsen

    I think Val may be correct Mark. I wondered when you thought Theresa Beanish….more likely to be Lois. Re the pie Val….some being served at my house tonite….drop by☘️☘️

  3. Val Manion

    Mark, GREAT article. The pic of the St Pat’s evening at the Balmoral brought back memories of that famous Irish Cream Pie. Was sorry that I never did get the recipe. Isn’t that Lois Kelly sitting beside you? That annual event certainly marked many St Patrick’s Days for us. Thank you Billings family.

  4. William Enright

    As someone direct from the auld sod, I really enjoyed this insight into your Irish connections.
    Interesting that Mary was 3 years older than Martin! I wonder whether that was common at the time.
    And the anti-vaxxers should note the fate of the 8 kids in Illinois… any idea what the epidemic was linked to?

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