A report on our visit to Chicago from Dearbháile and Bláthnaid

A couple of years ago Estelle Shanley contacted our school and asked our teacher, Mr Short, would we make St. Brigid Crosses as centre pieces for the Brigid Award Ceremony in Chicago. This we willingly did. Then last year we were invited to go out to Chicago to demonstrate how crosses were made. We all made a cross and a lady called Una picked the best two, made by Dearbháile and Bláthnaid. We went to Chicago on the 30th of January. The plane left the airport at 3.00pm. We couldn't wait, we felt overwhelmed with happiness. In the picture on the left are Frances, Mr Short, Caitriona, Bláthnaid and Dearbháile at the airport in Dublin.

When we arived in Chicago we received an excellent welcome. We stayed in the Fitzpatrick Hotel on East Superior St. We all went to our rooms which were all on different floors of the hotel. We all had a good look around. We had a triple size bed, a kitchen, a bathroom and a sitting room. We all went to "Fitzers", that's the pub downstairs, where we met Richard, Maura, Fr. Finucane, Tom Arnold and others from Concern. We had something to eat and drink. After a while we all went to bed tired but happy. Here we are outside Fitpatrick's with Tim the Concierge.

On the first night eight inches of snow fell that is more then Ireland would get in a year. By morning all the roads were cleared and all the snow was piled on the sides of the street. We went out for a walk. On the walk we soon learned that you had to have wet weather gear for Chicago in Winter. On the walk we saw a lady about to cross the road. A taxi came and splashed her with dirty and grimy water. When you crossed the road you had to wade through puddles, of mucky water.We returned to the hotel and changed. We got a taxi, to the Shedd Aquarium. We saw white sided dolphins, beluga weales and penguins.The guided tour was amazing. Tom was our guide. We saw lots of species we never knew existed. A girl went into a tank and explained how she fed the tropical fish. Later that night we went to the pre-luncheon party. We met the Brigid Award committee members and the honourees. Dearbhaile and I presented one of my mother's pieces of artwork "Seaspire" to show our appreciation.

On Friday the 1st we went to the luncheon in the Drake Hotel. The Drake Hotel was not far from our hotel, about a ten minute walk. The Drake was a big hotel with an old style design. The halls in the hotel were massive. When we arrived we had to demonstrate how to make the crosses in a room which leads into the main dinning room. A lot of people came over and asked what we were using to make the crosses. We said we were using rushes. Some people asked us how much they were. At first we didn't know but then Estellle said $10 each and we raised $120 for Concern. That night we presented the money to Richard Dixon, Concern Chicago. The picture shows us making crosses and a man filming us for Channel 2 on American television.

That day at the lucheon we were sitting at table nine. They started off with a film about the work that Concern do around the world. Then Fr. Aengus Finucane, Honorary President of Concern spoke to a girl workingon the Afgan-Pakistan border. it was amazing. The ladies that were nominated were Maricarol Lacy, Jerri Mc Partlin and Anne Shannon. All these women did great work for society. Maricarol give her life up for homeless children. Jerre was a union woman. Anne had a child with a disability and that convinced her to help other people with disabilities. They all made a speach and Jerri sang a song about Ireland. The meal at the luncheon was delicious. We were sitting beside a lady who won a trip to Ireland. In the picture is Mary Mitchell, the Master of Ceremonies.

Here we are after the Gala Luncheon in Fitzpatrick's Hotel. We were all very tired but we had a great time. The people here include Concern workers, members of the Brigid Award Committee and one of the honorees. Dearbháile and I are in the centre and in the background are our mothers, Frances and Catriona. Frank Short, our principal, is the dark haired one at the back. Looking at the picture, to his left is Fr. Aengus Finucane, President of Concern Worldwide and kneeling to his right is Richard Dixon, Concern Chicago.




On Saturday last we visited the Sears Tower. We took the lift up to the top. It was so fast your ears popped. When we got to the top we were dizzy. We were so amazed with the view. It was spectacular. Chicago goes on for miles and miles. We were so high up we could see the curve of the earth. All the roads looked like railway tracks on a grid. When we looked down all the people were like ants walking on the streets. We looked over towards Lake Michigan. It looked more like a sea than a lake. In this picture we can see back into the city centre.The John Handcock is the tall, black building in the background.



After the Sears Tower we went to the Field Museum. At the Field Museum we saw "Sue", the biggest T Rex in the world, an African and Native American exhibition and, of course, Cleopatra's exhibition..I learned that she was only 18 when she took the throne of Egypt. Ater that we went shopping down Michigan Avenue. Later that night Estelle Shanley and her husband John Duff took us to dinner in "Maggiano's". Estelle gave us some gifts. The adults got sweets from Marshall Fields and Dearbháile and I got clothes. We thanked Estelle for all her help and generosity for without her we would not have been invited to Chicago in the first place.

On the last day of our trip we went to mass in Old St. Patrick's Church. We were met at the door by Mary Jule Durkin and the priest welcomed us from the altar. The church was magnificent. There were lots of celtic designs on the walls and ceilings and all the windows were dedicated to Irish saints. When mass was over we were deciding what we were going to do. Then Frances thought we could go ice skating at Navy Pier. When we got to Navy Pier we asked the taxi driver where it was and he said that there was no ice skating at Navy Pier. He took us up the road to a public skating rink. It was an outside arena and there was music. We got in line and got our ice skates and put them on. When we got them on we went on to the ice. Bláthnaid goes roller-blading so she was brilliant but what can I say about myself. This picture is of Frances and Dearbháile ice skating (or trying to). Later we went back to the Hotel, got our bags and headed for O Hare International, a trip of a lifetime over.

We really had a wonderful time and we were very impressed not only with the generosity of the people from Concern and the Brigid Award Committee but with every one we met in the friendly city of Chicago. Below is a montage of images from our trip. It will give you an idea of the places we saw. Can you name any? Some day we will go back.

Slán ó Dearbháile agus Bláthnaid


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