The Easter Rising and Anaconda, Montana 1916-2016
The gathering of AOH Divisions from across Montana at the General Post Office in Anaconda, Montana April 23, 2016.
This is the first in a series on the commemorations of the Easter Rising taking place in Montana. The first of these great events was in Anaconda, Montana on Saturday April 23rd, 2016. Anaconda has played a major role in the history of the Irish in Montana over the last 140 years or so. Boasting the longest continually active Ancient Order of Hibernian Division (AOH) in the west, the Anaconda Irish have maintained a strong sense of culture and heritage. Home of the great Anaconda Smelter, the community grew as a destination for Irish immigrating to America in the late 19th and early 20th Century. The community of Anaconda has had a strong Irish presence since its very beginning, and so it is little wonder the strong Irish Heritage has carried through to this day.
The resolution passed by the Anaconda AOH division in May of 1916 supporting the principles “for which the Dublin rebels were executed.” Calling on the spirit of Wolfe Tone and Robert Emmet the Irish of Anaconda have always worked to support an Ireland free and whole.
As the centennial of the Easter Rising in Ireland drew near, it was little wonder the Irish of Anaconda would be at the forefront of commemorations. The Anaconda Division of the AOH headed the commemoration activates there with John “Bobo” Kelly taking the lead. Mr. Kelly’s hard work and dedication is not only a reflection of the wonderful Irish of Anaconda, but an honor to his forefathers who were so supportive and instrumental to the Easter Rising when it happened a hundred years before.
The procession of the AHO, LAOH, FOIS, and MGCS through the streets of Anaconda. The stack in the background is a constant reminder to the people of Anaconda and Irish all across Montana of why so many came and stayed in this community nestled in the mountains of Western Montana.
The events started with a gathering at the AOH hall where divisions from all across Montana, including Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians (LAOH), members of the Friends of Irish Studies(FOIS), the Montana Gaelic Cultural Society(MGCS), and many other Montana Irish faithful. They gathered in the hall for a reading of the Poblacht na hEirean, the Proclamation of Ireland. In addition, those gathered got a preview of another commemoration event when there was a reading of Governor Steve Bullock’s proclamation, “In Honor of the remembrance of the 1916 Easter Rising and commemorating its 100th Anniversary,” declaring April 24, 2016 as Irish Republic Day in Montana. The group then sang the Soldiers Song – the Irish National Anthem, in both the American language as well as in Irish Gaelic. Those gathered included AOH and LAOH members from Anaconda, Butte, Great Falls, Helena, and Kalispell. The Hibernians along with the MGCS and FOIS then proceeded in a procession through town to Holy Family Church. The Anaconda AOH Pipes and Drum Corp led the procession playing Irish Patriot songs and songs of the Easter Rising.
The Gathering for the memorial mass at Holy Family Catholic Church in Anaconda, Montana.
Once assembled at the Holy Family Parish, a memorial mass was held for the leaders who were martyred following the Rising. Father Dougald McCallum held the mass and led the congregation of faithful in remembering the great sacrifice made by Éamonn Ceannt, Thomas James Clarke, James Connolly, Seán MacDiarmada, Thomas MacDonagh, Padraig Pearse, Joseph Mary Plunkett, Roger Casement, Con Colbert, Edward Daly, Seán Heuston, Thomas Kent, John MacBride, Michael Mallin, Michael O’Hanrahan, William Pearse, and the other casualties the Irish people suffered to bring freedom to all Irelands people. Following mass the group proceeded through the streets, again singing the songs of freedom and liberty for Ireland. They went to the General Post Office in Anaconda. The assembled groups of Montana Irish then posed for the historic photograph commemoration this momentous occasion. A bald eagle circled over the AOH hall as the group came back for a ceili.
All gathered members of the party proceed up Main Street to the Post Office where they posed for a historic photograph.
Once back at the hall the gathering turned to a great celebration of history and heritage. Hundreds packed the hall for traditional dancing – from ages 3 to 83, music, food, cheers, toasts, and speeches followed and for hours the community of Montana Irish assembled in hour of Easter 1916. It was a reminder, this is not simply history; this is a living culture. As Montana’s first territorial governor, Thomas Francis Meagher, said, “The Irish people in America will not, and cannot, forget the land of their birth, their sufferings, their dearest memories, and proudest hopes.” There is little doubt the Bi-Centennial of the Easter Rising will be met with great celebration as well as the Irish of Montana and around the world continue to honor their great culture and pass down to the next generation the love and pride that comes from being Irish.
Members of the community dance and celebrate at the Anaconda AOH Hall. Tom Pahut and Shirley Budd enjoying the festivities.
The strong Irish women of the LAOH in Anaconda.