January 2014 Column from The Irish American News

Local 130 Business Manager Jim Coyne

Local 130 Business Manager Jim Coyne



Mike Houlihan

It could be the most significant move in political history, echoing the vision of Winston Churchill in the darkest days of World War II.

Historians judge leaders by their intrepid actions in crisis, so let me be the first to recognize true leadership in our Irish American community of Chicago.

In a moment of inspired clarity, Local 130 Plumbers Union Business Manager Jim Coyne has moved up the date of the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade Queen Contest to Sunday, January 19th. a full month, at least, ahead of its date in previous years.

Like the moon in eclipse this change will create positive reverberations around the globe.

The most obvious, immediate benefit of this epic decision is the strategic capture of another month of each year’s calendar to celebrate our patron saint of Ireland.

From January 19th to March 17th is 76 days that could legitimately be devoted to the approaching holy day.  That’s more than 20% of the entire year! On top of that, every fourth year, our total days leap to 77!

And now as our star becomes affixed in the firmament, the rest of the planets divinely fall in line. The annual corned beef and cabbage fundraiser at Plumber’s Hall will be Thursday January 30th, a week later than in years past. The new Queen and her court and the Grand Marshall of the parade will all be there as our community kicks off the holy season together.

See what Coyne is doing folks? He is, like a prophet, proclaiming an extension of the celebratory festival of St. Patrick in the great city of Chicago.

I don’t know if Pope Francis was consulted about this but I have a feeling when he hears about this he will pick up the phone and call Coyne and tell him, “Holy Moly Jimmy! What a great honor for St. Patrick in Chicago!”

No doubt Coyne’s political director Mike Tierney played a role in brokering this deal. The Queen contest will take place on the Sunday before Dr. Martin Luther King Day, a federal holiday. That way the college gals who want to compete can drop by Plumber’s Hall over the three-day weekend.

And what a stroke of genius to combine the start of the Irish holidays with tributes to the martyred civil rights leader Dr. King. The Irish and African American people have both known oppression at the hands of slave masters.

The reason you meet so many African Americans with Irish names is another connection between our races. After slavery was abolished many black children were orphaned and Irish nuns took them into the convent to care for them. Those orphan kids took the last names of the nuns who cared for them when they were children.  Generations later we’ve been blessed with characters like Eddie Murphy, Ella Fitzgerald, and Leroy Hooligan.

A great responsibility comes for all of us with this extension of the Paddy’s Day season. Let’s do our best to be proud to be Irish, but do it in such a way ‘sose our fellow man will be proud of us as well.

That means volunteering, helping out, donating, and getting involved with our community to show the world our brightest side. And it all starts with our Queen.

Deadline for entries is Friday January 10th!

“Any girl of Irish ancestry, never married 17-27 years old is eligible.”

It might say “any” girl but the Queen is never just any girl. She is “Chicago’s fairest colleen”; an ambassador of the Irish American community of our city for the next year and it takes guts for these gals to enter the fray.

Yes they’re gorgeous, but they’re also poised, proud, tough confident cookies who join the contest undaunted by the competition and embrace the spirit of the season of St. Patrick.

So throw your hats in the ring ladies and let’s the find the “fairest colleen” on Sunday Jan. 19th. Tell your daughter, granddaughter, sister, or niece to give it a try. It’s one of the great Irish traditions of Chicago and a memorable day for every lassie in the field that day.

The Queen and her court of four will be expected to attend civic, neighborhood, parish, and Irish events on behalf of the parade committee, including a traditional appearance on The Skinny & Houli Irish Radio Hour at Lizzie McNeill’s Irish Pub. This is historically the night that the Queen and her court taste their first alcoholic beverage. Not!

Go to Chicagostpatsparade.com to download your application and let’s show Jim Coyne he was inspired to kick off the start of the emerald season at Plumber’s Hall on Sunday, January 19th.

Drop by Plumbers Hall that afternoon at 1340 West Washington, grab a beer and a corned beef sandwich and cheer on your candidate as you watch the drama unfold for Her Majesty ‘da Queen’s coronation.

Many Irish and Irish American bachelors annually make the trek to Plumbers Hall for The Queen contest to look over the fillies making their debut. It’s also fun to watch even if you don’t have a horse in the race!

So let’s salute Local 130 Business Manager Jim Coyne for this great leap forward for all mankind. See you at Plumber’s Hall!