On this Sunday morning, as we pass yet another St. Patrick’s Day, I was happy to read about 73-year-old Vinny O’Malley and his beloved old St. Dominic’s church in Portland’s West End, or what used to be a church.

Let’s for a moment first talk about Vinny O’Malley.

Press Herald reporter Ray Routhier gave us a heartwarming story about Vinny and the history of his Irish immigrant family, who came to Portland from Ireland in the 1920s and settled on “the fringes” of the Old Port and West End.

The story, by the way, mentions the statue of Hollywood director John Ford, whose real name when he was growing up in Cape Elizabeth, was Sean Aloysius Feeney. Hardly a name to attach to “Mogambo.”

Routhier’s story is touching, and it’s wonderful to read.

That I’m as pure Irish as a glass of Jameson, comes as no surprise to my readers, and I often have written about growing up in my “Irish” neighborhood in St. Louis, where my father’s parents settled when they arrived from Ireland.


Before they passed to the “great green pastures,” my brothers and sisters often chided me for making our old “Irish” neighborhood sound like a door to door Irish “Brigadoon,” when it was, for them, really just very American.

I must confess, I wanted to make my very American turf as Irish as John Ford’s Innisfree, that’s what writers do.

I was a grown man before I finally learned that the saloon keeper “Skeeter” O’Neal’s last name, a true Irish name from Count Tyrone in Ireland, had no “O” attached.

It turned out that the firemen across Soper Street attached the “O” to make him VERY Irish.

Skeeter finally accepted it, and repainted his window.

I confess now that truth about my “Irish Hood” was much-less “Hibernian” when I was growing up, and I needed it to be greener.


Truth be told, we really were a “melting pot.”

Father Winkleman at our church was a son of the famous Winkleman Drug Store chain, and some gossiped that he was a “secret” Jew. Not likely.

There was Schneider’s Drug Store, and Vogt’s Ice Cream Parlor, Werner’s Bakery, and Webb’s Bowling Alley.

The neighborhood was content with the Eichlebergers, Rickenbachers, the Spanish Garcia’s, Menendez’s cigar store, Klein’s shoes, Haag’s grocery store. I was the lone Irishman.

The truth is, the Cornelius “Corny” Powers, the detective who lived next door, and the noisy Devines were the only real Irish on our four-block “hood.”

It grew worse for me. After my very “Irish” brothers came home from the war, they married very non-Irish girls, the German Ruth Mueller, the French Theresa Arsenault.


My sister Rita married a German, Arthur Rickenbacher. Eileen wed a German named Charlie Klein.

My baby sister grew up and went pure Italian with a marriage to restaurateur Leo Pisciotto.

Defiantly Irish, I fell into the soft French hands of a very French Katherine Louise Joly.

My oldest daughter, Dawn, is happily married to Rick Sieloff, a Hollywood set decorator, part Russian with a touch of Native American Huron.

Jillana, my youngest, tied the knot with the Pennsylvania “Dutchman” Wayne Knickel, a public radio PR marketer.

I suppose I could have married Mary O’Hara, but she married Jesus instead and entered the convent, so I took my heart to a French girl. It’s an American family tradition, is it not?

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 

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