To many U.S. residents, Commodore John Barry was a brave Revolutionary War naval hero. To the people of Ireland, he’s a favored son near and dear to the hearts of his countrymen. An Annapolis delegation headed by Mayor Joshua Cohen found out just how revered the Wexford, Ireland native is when they visited his native land on a tourism development trade mission last month. There they got a firsthand taste of how proud the Irish are of the man President George Washington personally commissioned as the first commanding officer in the U.S. Navy.
While members of the Annapolis delegation were attending the 58th annual John Barry Maritime Festival in Wexford, members of the Annapolis & Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau’s (AAACCVB) sales team were working with representatives of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) to secure hotel rooms for Hibernians who are planning to attend a Commodore John Barry Memorial dedication at the U.S. Naval Academy on Saturday, May 10, 2014.
The National Co-Chairman and Coordinator of the Ancient Order of Hibernians’ John Barry Memorial Project, Jack O’Brien, estimates that more than 500 Hibernians and Irish Americans from across the country will converge on Annapolis for the dedication. The Irish Catholic organization has selected the Irish-owned O’Callaghan Annapolis as its host hotel. According to O’Brien, “We are putting together a weekend-long event in Annapolis. We envision an ice-breaker at the O’Callaghan on Friday night; a dedication luncheon at the Naval Academy on Saturday; and a visit to the Carroll House on Sunday.”
As a native of Ireland, Annapolis delegation member and AAACCVB Chairman of the Board Anthony Clarke knows well the icon status Barry holds with the Irish. “Their strong love for Barry may well prompt them to join Wexford Mayor Jim Allen in Annapolis for the dedication. The ceremony could further boost Irish pride as they see how grateful the United States is for Barry’s valiant efforts during the Revolutionary War.”
AAACCVB President and CEO Connie Del Signore, who accompanied Cohen and Clarke on the trade mission, says her organization isn’t waiting until May to explore additional cultural, arts, tourism, and heritage exchanges with Ireland. During their June 19-24 visit to the Emerald Isle, Clarke, Del Signore, and Cohen discussed the possibility of using Saint Patrick’s Day as the anchor for an annual month-long Irish Heritage Month in Annapolis. Mayor Allen plans to continue these discussions in person when he returns to Annapolis to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in 2014.
The Ancient Order of Hibernians feels so strongly about the need to appropriately honor the Irish Catholic Barry that it spearheaded fundraising efforts with Irish groups across the county to raise monies for construction of the eight-foot-tall granite and bronze memorial that will stand just inside the U.S. Naval Academy’s Barry Gate. Hibernian officials presented a check to the U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Foundation covering the final cost of the piece in January 2013. Plans are to erect the memorial this coming fall. The first phase of the John Barry Memorial Project, construction of the Barry Gate, was completed in January 2012.
The AAACCVB is a nonprofit, membership-based, destination marketing organization that generates revenues for the local economy by promoting Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay to leisure and business travelers across the country and around the world.