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Melissa Mulroy has been selected Irish Rose of the Year 2011 by the Shamrock Club of New Dublin.
charter member of the club, Mulroy is also club historian and parade co-announcer. She created the Lad and Lassie poetry contest, Irish Caroling at senior homes, and Night of Irish Entertainment, that she still helps coordinate each year.
She explains that Fluf (David) Barrington was searching for some way to involve the children in the community, and together they patterned a children’s poetry contest. Gerald Murphy was her inspiration for the Irish Show, and Mike Coyle for the parade. “These events are now tradition in our community, and all I did was kick-start them.”
“Yes, it’s a full week of Irish fun,” says Mulroy with a lilt in her voice. A hospital receptionist and Bed and Breakfast owner by necessity, but an entertainer at heart, Mulroy is well known around the New London community. She performs concerts with the Neenah Ambassadors, a 16 piece Swing Era orchestra, and also performs solo folk music. Teaching piano to students in her home, leading music at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, and singing at weddings has helped to fulfill her desire to do all things musical. To coin a line from MacNamara’s Band, she “plays at wakes and weddings, and at every fancy ball…but when she plays at funerals, she plays the marching song!”
“I love the Irish ballads and lyrics. And I’m happy to be one-quarter Irish,” explains Mulroy with a proud smile. She first heard Irish music as a child, when her father introduced the family to a Bing Crosby record. “It’s really American versions of the Irish music, but it got me liking my heritage,” she said. She recalls making a green dress for herself in high school, and scooting out the door for school with her brothers, on whom her mother pinned green bow ties for St. Pat’s Day. Then, while in college, her roommate encouraged her to perform Irish songs acappella in the basement of Hyer Hall at UW-Stevens Point. She has continued to sing Irish ballads whenever asked, in schools, private homes, restaurants, retirement and nursing homes, even creating an Irish song book for use in teaching the community Irish songs.
Mulroy was raised with three other leprechauns, as her father Bud Trauger would say. He was half Irish. When he passed away at a young age, her mother Jeane made a conscious decision to keep up the Irish traditions, even though she didn’t have a spot of Irish in her.
“My brothers Steven, Timothy and David all like the Irish fun too,” says Mulroy. Sadly they lost a sister Amy at age 5. Mulroy says her Grandmother Edna Mary Curley was 100 percent Irish. When her grandmother was asked where she was from, she said all in one breath, ‘County Mayo God help us.’ “That was quite a statement, and I suppose it meant they were the poorest of the poor,” explains Mulroy. “When we moved from Cincinnati to New London in the late 1970’s, Mother took us to hear her classmate Gerald Murphy sing his Irish ballads. He was fabulous,” Mulroy recalls. “He inspired me to learn more Irish songs.”
Mulroy married David Mulroy and they named their daughter Macushla, which means “my dear one” in Gaelic. They hosted Irish breakfasts for five years or so, serving potato soup and soda bread, along with Irish coffee and punch for the children. “Once the parade took off, Dave had me give up that tradition,” says Mulroy. That’s because Mulroy was single-handedly recruiting parade participants, searching the New London phone book for Irish names.
The first year she was only allowed to use half of Water Street for the parade, with 35 units meeting oncoming traffic in the other lane. Bob O’Brien from Manawa helped her announce from the back of his pickup truck. “A lot of people came out of the woodwork to get that parade going, and they still do,” chuckled Mulroy with her big, expressive eyes. Police Chief Jack Algiers wrote her a letter after the first parade, explaining that he would allow her the entire street if she continued the parade. She proudly kept his letter in her files.
Mulroy wanted to make an official parade for several reasons: for Mike Coyle, who had concocted his funny version of Finnegan’s Wake, but always wanted something more; for Gerald Murphy, who wanted to bring a night of Irish Entertainment to our community; and for the many fine folks New London of Irish descent. “I wanted to focus on the merriment and the musical traditions, as a distinction from the conception of the drunken Irish immigrant who could not find work. Every people on earth have their good and bad characteristics, and I like to focus on the good.”
Mulroy has been emcee for the parade all 26 years, and for just this year will be giving it up so she can enjoy being royalty. “It’s a great honor. I know how hard everyone works in the club and for them to select me means a lot,” says a serious Mulroy. Our Irish club has grown from the Irish Committee to S.T.P.A.T. (Society To Preserve Ancestral Tradition – per Fluf) to the Shamrock Club of New Dublin, a proud chapter of the Shamrock Club of Wisconsin.
When I asked her what has surprised her over the years, Mulroy replies, “My sole purpose was to celebrate the Irish roots of our own city. With the transfer of parade direction to Dick Murphy, Pup Loughrin, and now Jill Hart, we unintentionally put New London on a par with major cities who have Irish parades. As I look around at club meetings, I see the next generation coming into place to continue the tradition we started.”
“The music is what grabbed me as a young kid and keeps me invigorated to this day,” Mulroy explains. Look for her at the start of the Grand Parade Saturday, as Irish Rose 2011. She’ll be the one winking and grinning, seated next to Irish Man Pat Sullivan. She may just be the happiest leprechaun in the land.