Thursday 8 December 2016

Lilywhites invite 'The Boss' back to his ancestral home

Claire McCormack

Published 14/02/2016 | 02:30

BORN TO RETURN: The people of Rathangan in Co Kildare are hoping that Bruce Springsteen will visit his ancestral homeland when he heads to Dublin for The River Tour this summer
BORN TO RETURN: The people of Rathangan in Co Kildare are hoping that Bruce Springsteen will visit his ancestral homeland when he heads to Dublin for The River Tour this summer

He is set to play two sell-out concerts in Croke Park this summer, but the people of Rathangan hope 'The Boss' will also make time to visit his ancestral homeland in Co Kildare.

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Last year, the Sunday Independent, revealed that Bruce Springsteen is a Lilywhite at heart.

Fresh evidence from expert US genealogist Megan Smolenyak - who famously discovered US President Barack Obama's roots in Moneygall, Co Offaly - retraced the rocker's family tree to the small town near the Bog of Allen.

The research challenged previous assertions that the 66-year-old musician's great, great grandmother hailed from Rathowen - a village near Mullingar, Co Westmeath. Now locals are jumping on the bandwagon.

Paddy O'Loughlin, chairman of the Rathangan Community Association, said they are working on an official invitation to welcome him home with open arms.

"Whether he wants to come down quietly or have a bit of a razzmatazz about it, we will be more than happy to accommodate our most famous son," he said.

"We never expected to find out that his ancestors hailed from our town so, of course, we would like to capitalise on his visit this May. It would be massive for the area if he took an interest," he said.

"If he wanted to play, there are plenty of places in Rathangan where we could host him. We have the football field, the community centre, the school gym, pubs - there are plenty of options," he said.

Historical records show that Ann Garrity left the area during the Famine and arrived in Freehold, New Jersey, in 1853 - the same town her famous great, great grandson was born in almost 100 years later.

It is understood that Ann crossed the Atlantic in the winter of 1853 when she was all of 14 with just two younger sisters for company.

She adjusted to a new country, had 10 children and became a young widow.

Ms Smolenyak is confident the Born in the USA singer will retrace his roots.

"I had the pleasure of watching Springsteen with his mother and aunts at Ellis Island acknowledging their immigrant heritage, and based on his remarks that day, I know that his family history genuinely matters to him," she said.

"I really hope he'll make time for a visit to Rathangan to pay tribute to the Garritys and Kellys who came before him. Who knows? Maybe he'll meet a few cousins," she said.

Both of Bruce Springsteen's summer concerts in Croke Park sold out in under two hours on Thursday.

More than 160,000 fans will attend the gigs as part of The River Tour 2016.

Sunday Independent

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