The small town of Rathowen, County Westmeath, has invited one of their most famous sons, Bruce Springsteen, back home for The Gathering and to present him with his great-great grandmother’s birth certificate.
In a statement they said their event “will celebrate the people of Rathowen, Co. Westmeath past and present.
“It is in that spirit that the Rathowen Gathering has officially invited American rock legend Bruce Springsteen - whose great-great grandmother was born and raised in the town.
“Rathowen welcomes back all its descendants from over the generations, and hopes to present Mr. Springsteen with his great-great grandmother’s birth certificate at the Rathowen Community Hall - the very grounds where she would have attended school as a child.”
In the recent book “Land of Hope and Dreams: Celebrating 25 Years of Bruce Springsteen” the authors traced Springsteen’s great-great grandmother back to the town.
Ann Garrity was baptised, in Rathowen in 1830, according to parish records. She then lived in Mullingars before she left for America during Ireland’s Great Hunger. In New Jersey she made her home on Leopold Street, the same street where “The Boss” was born 70 years later.
One of the authors of the book, Moira Sharkey, spoke to the Westmeath Examiner about Springsteen’s roots.
She said “The name Springsteen is a new addition to the family line," she explained. "During his Irish concerts in recent years Bruce has always said that he is an Irish man and that he loves Ireland so we decided to check it out. For the five generations before Springsteen came into the frame the family had all Irish names which included Farrell, McNichol, Sullivan and McCann. If you looked into it you would probably discover that he has relatives in every corner of Ireland but the Mullingar and Rathowen links were the strongest ones that we found.
"Garrity was probably originally Geraghty but because so few people were able to read and write their names were often written down the way that they sounded.
"We focused a lot of the material in the book about Ann, on what happened when she got to America because that is where Springsteen was born but certainly he was right when he said that he is an Irish man."
As well as celebrating Springsteen’s connection to the town the Rathowen Gathering Museum will exhibit photos and footage from Rathowen’s past and present and celebrate the town’s links to Bruce Springsteen among other famous Irish descendants
The day’s celebrations will include an Irish trad music on the outdoor street stage, seanchais and ceili bands in the town’s bars, and even a stage for famous local Irish playwrights.
The Rathowen Gathering is a free event, taking place from 2pm until late, on Saturday August 31.
The event’s organizers say “Come and enjoy Rathowen as you wander from one festivity to the next, and you can always say you were there the day The Boss came to town!”
For more information visit www.therathowengathering.com or follow the festivities on Twitter @RathowenGather
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