Irish Family Saints, Cinema, Books, and Music

February 29, 2024
3 mins read
//Michael Patrick Houston, Mariachi de la Calle

FAMILY SAINTS – The sainted grandfather I’m named after, Michael Patrick McGuire, followed his sister Brigit out of L’Isle-aux-Allumettes, Canada to the City to build houses on Cass St. and Lovers’ Point in Monterey. Roosevelt Democrat, he ran the Youth Conservation Corp in Yosemite until the Depression and TB did him in. 

As he deteriorated, “Ma” took their seven kids to live in the Haight. The priest at St. Agnes told Ma to get my mom out of the University of Chicago to help the family. She worked at the SF Family Service and referred Black, Irish, and Italian women to work as domestics in households that made it clear, “Irish need not apply.”

In the summer of 1967 I caught up with Uncle Bud McGuire in the “lace curtain” Haight-Ashbury which had gone Black, Chinese, and hippy. Bud was a streetwise city kid who was driving a truck in Ardennes forest when the Battle of the Bulge broke out. Somebody said, “Nuts,” Bud and the boys fought back, and Hitler was finished. I was impressed when he congratulated the large black hipster for holding up the lamppost at Haight and Ashbury prior to my first under aged beer in a long-gone pub. 

I last saw Uncle Jack Guilfoyle last at the 1972 SF St. Patrick’s Day parade. I was selling the United Irishman to raise money for Irish prisoners’ families. Uncle Jack was gracious to me as one of his dozens of nieces and nephews. A gentle loving soul, San Francisco Grand Juror. Herb Cain’s Chronicle noted in his love letters to the City column that Uncle Jack’s family business Guilfoyle Cornice Works had the City’s oldest telephone number. 1906?

Cain observed that Jerry Garcia’s body didn’t let him down. The opposite was true. 

Uncle Tommy Moran was a Santa Clara fullback, Ranger in WW2, Olympic Club rugby player, S.F. cop, private eye, and loving, husband, and father. A loyal guy. He would support anyone in the family, even me. 

We cousins are going to collect family stories from Ireland, Canada, San Francisco, and Monterey for our kids and grandkids.

Build Your Own Irish Film Festival

  • The Colleen Bawn (1911) Silent film of love overcoming sectarianism. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwR94ukHDdQ .
  • Man of Aran Man of Aran (1934) Aran island waves, rocks, currahs, cliffs, and grazing sharks on the Aran Islands make the Depression Dust Bowl, US look like a sugar bowl. 
  • Film (1965) Samuel Beckett’s only film script with Buster Keaton on the dangers of being perceived or ignored in our case. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSnv6haPadM 
  • Quackster Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx (1970) dung collector Gene Wilder romances Margot Kidder in1970s Dublin.

St. Paddy’s Funniest TV Series

Wrecking the Uprising Three Dublin reenactors go back into the Easter 1916 Easter Rising and fix Ireland and the world. (Prime)

Derry Girls – Five teenagers and their families’ great comedy out of the Troubles. Normal people may want to use subtitles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwZyoPIy1NU 

Books You May Have Missed

Ulysses (1922) June 16, 1902 in Dublin with Leopold and Molly Bloom.

An Béal Bocht (1941)/The Poor Mouth (1973) Flann O’Brien satirizes Gaelic reminisces. 

Molloy (1955) Samuel Beckett’s funniest and most accessible novel.

The Ginger Man (1955) J. P. Donleavy’s American in Dublin in 1947 comedy. 

Strumpet City i(1969) James Plunket captures Dublin life during the 1913 Dublin Lock-out.

From the Ward to the White House: The Irish in American Politics (1991) George Reedy, LBJ’s press secretary’s personal take on the Irish machines with me as a researcher.

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland (2018) Why not to cross paramilitaries or British liberal imperialism

Milkman (2018) Anna Burns’ – A girl coming of age in Belfast during the Troubles. 

Eureka Street (1996) Robert McLiam Wilson comic buddies around the IRA ceasefire in 1994.

Feis Ceoil 

Planxty – Irish trad’s answer to the Beatles. Chieftains – Saved Irish music. Dubliners – Ronnie Drew, Luke Kelly, et al. Mary Black et al.Woman’s Heart. Spud – Live at the Brazen Head, Dublin. John Weed – St. Mary’s by the Sea. Kevin Brennan – San Gregorio General Store. David Holodiloff – Wherever he’s playing. Michael Houston – Tuesdays at Alvarado St. market.

Éire go Brách! – Buy local. Tip 20% (excluding the tax). Help the buskers and everyone else you can.

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