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Flag presentations cement relationship between Westport and Chicago


CULTURAL CONNECTION  Pictured at the presentation of the historic Chicago flag to Mayo County Council were, from left: Donal O’ Shea, Chairman Westport Tourism; Geno Cooney, President Irish American Heritage Centre; Dennis A Kearns, grandson of the late Chicago Alderman Jim Kearns, son of James and Catherine Quinn, Innishcuttle Kilmeena; Cllr Christy Hyland, Leas Cathaoirleach, West Mayo Municipal District; Ann Moore, Mayo County Council and Tom Gilligan, Director of Services.  Pic: Frank Dolan

Áine Ryan

CULTURAL connections between Westport and Chicago were celebrated at a special ceremony recently, when a flag representing the US city was presented to representatives of Mayo County Council, by the grandson of an emigrant whose forebears lived on the Clew Bay island of Inishcuttle.     
A group representing the popular ‘Skinny and Houli Irish Radio Hour’ travelled with Dennis A Kearns, the grandson of the late Chicago City Council Alderman, to present the flag.
Known as ‘Weeping Jim Kearns’, because of his fondness for Irish wakes, James Ambrose Kearns is widely recognised as ‘the father of the Chicago flag’.
Like so many of his fellow Mayo men he emigrated to the US in the late 19th century.  His public service ethos led to his appointment as an alderman during which time Kearns championed his 1915 resolution for a dedicated design for the city’s flag. This led to the establishment of the Chicago Municipal Flag Commission.
Just over a century later, his grandson, Dennis, an Irish citizen, lead the cultural delegation to Westport.  
A longtime consultant and lobbyist for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad in Chicago, he is a native of the south side of Chicago. A Hibernophile, Dennis Kearns travels to the home sod each year with the Skinny and Houli Irish Radio Show.
A group of 40 descendants of Irish emigrants, including  Irish fiddler Katie Grennan, spent two nights in Westport and they also visited Achill and the Aran Islands, Knock Shrine and Galway.  
James Ambrose Kearns was born to James and Catherine Quinn Kearns on January 13, 1871, on the tiny inner island of Inishcuttle Kilmeena, Co Mayo. He emigrated to America in 1883 and became a lawyer in Chicago where he served as an Alderman, Clerk of the Municipal Court and City Treasurer – the second highest ranking official in Chicago. He is considered the father of the Chicago flag.


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