Mike and Ruth Barrington are the Irish Man and Irish Rose for the 29th annual New Dublin Grand Parade.
“This is a complete switch for us,” explains Mike. “A long time ago, mother talked us into greeting the local dignitaries as they stepped out of the parade cars. It was our job to lead the Irish Man and Irish Rose to their seats on the reviewing stand.”
Ruth chimes in, “It’ll be neat to see the parade from up there.” Ruth, the quietest of the couple, allows her Irish husband to speak, sprinkling in a few comments of her own here and there.
Michael Barrington is the second of nine children born to Ward and Margaret (Collier) Barrington. His maternal grandmother was a Hurley. The Hurley family is traced back to Kilcoe, County Cork Ireland. The Barrington family line goes back to Rosetown, now called Naas Ireland.
Although both parents were Irish, Mike received his love of everything Irish from his mother, Margaret Collier Barrington.
“In one of the Irish skits at St. Patrick’s Parish hall in Lebanon, I was the flute player in Mc Namara’s band. The flute was a piece of wood wrapped with tin foil,” Mike recalls.
“Early on I can remember mom cutting shamrock shapes out of green felt and sewing white clay pipes on them. As we grew up, she made Irish flags for all of us. Plus one that flew over old city hall. I still use mine.”
Mike performed his service to our country in the Navy. At age 17, he was sent to missile school and, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, worked around the clock building missiles. “The entire ammunition depot was cordoned off. This was the only location in the United States that could load these missiles onto a nuclear submarine.”
Discharge came in 1965 and Mike returned to New London, where he married his bride, Ruth. He gave 46 years to the Curwood Company. Ruth worked in Appleton prior to having two children, Todd and Sara. Some years later, she secured a job in food service for New London School District and worked mostly at Lincoln School. She was there for 31 years. She and Mike are now proud grandparents to Ty, Briana and Kyle.
Ruth is happy to have married an Irish man, even though her family roots are planted in Germany. She is the daughter of Harold and Mable Kettner of Black Creek. Her mother’s maiden name was lengthy – Schimmelpfennig. Ruth was born on the family farm, one of three children.
“Religions didn’t mix much in those days, but our families accepted it. We were married at Most Precious Blood Catholic Church in New London,” explains Ruth, who was raised a Lutheran, and still practices her faith.
Ruth enjoys the huge Barrington clan. She recalls for years after they were married that corned beef was served from a big kettle in the Barrington dining room. There was standing room only.
“We celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary in Ireland,” says Ruth, wearing a smile.
Mike describes coming through the clouds as the airplane slowed for landing. In the bright sunshine were the fields of Ireland. This was what could be described as the forty shades of green.
“We took a coach trip to Waterford Crystal Factory. On the way, we passed the outskirts of Naas. Our tour guide pointed this out to us, saying someone on the bus had relatives who had come from here. We were proud to be the ones.”
Mike couldn’t resist kissing the Blarney stone. “Now this was a surprise the way this worked,” said Mike. “At Blarney castle you climb a long, winding set of narrow stairs up into the castle. At the site, you have to lie on your back and get shoved into a hole in the wall to see the stone and give it a kiss.”
They visited the cliffs of Moor and Galway Bay. As they approached a local pub in Killarney, traditional Irish music spilled out of the door and down the street. “We stayed at a bed and breakfast for two nights,” says Ruth. The lady of the house told us about growing up in this area of Ireland.”
While going through customs on the return flight, an agent asked to see Mike’s emerald green Shamrock Club jacket. The agent looked at the club’s logo on the back of the jacket and waved him through.
“I am proud of the way the Shamrock Club conducts itself,” says Mike. “I think our club members have proven time and again that we are dedicated to our community.”
Mike and Ruth are especially proud the club supports youth programs. Sporting contributions – most recently scoreboards and batting cages – enhance the experience youth in our community enjoy. Donations to the Hatten Stadium Renovation project are investments for future generations.
Academic support is wide-spread, and includes three NEWLASS graduation scholarships. The club contributes to the arts, non-profits and civic organizations, helping them to maintain a healthy, connected community. For instance, New London’s Relay for Life, struggling to gain momentum in recent years, got a boost from the club, who voted to be a major sponsor.
“We have long discussions at our meetings,” says Ruth. “We pick and choose carefully and we try to be fair. If it wasn’t for the business and community involvement, we couldn’t do all this. Besides, the fun would be gone.”
Mike’s mother, Margaret Barrington, was the first Irish Rose of the Grand Parade. Back in 1983, she sat next to Irish Man Jim Murphy. Mike’s brothers “Fluff” and “Moochie” have been Irish Man. Their wives were Irish Roses. Sisters Judy and Suzi got in the act, too.
“It’s nice to have a turn at it now,” says Mike.