Catskills Irish Arts Week unity-- helping a friend in need

Yvonne & Tom Furlong
While in the busying pace of our daily lives we often overlook how important it is to have good health.

When something happens to our friends and family to disturb that it can lead to life-altering decisions that change us forever.

A year ago we got the news from upstate New York that one of our staunchest supporters and friends of the annual Catskills Irish Arts Week, Tom Furlong, had suffered a debilitating stroke that would shortly thereafter shutter the immensely popular and important Furlong’s Riverside Inn and Motel as he and his devoted wife Yvonne concentrated on a long-term recovery.

It has been a long and difficult year for them, with repeated trips to the hospital and stays in rehabilitation facilities as many of us can sympathize with.

A number of friends have formed a committee to help defray those medical expenses, and they are seeking the assistance of the broader Irish American community around New York and beyond from all their friends who have worked with the Furlongs over the years, or enjoyed the hospitality in the Irish Catskills hamlet of East Durham.

For 17 years of the Catskills Irish Arts Week, the historic pub on Route 145 at the blinking light, was an epicenter for the summer school as late-night sessions and revelers gathered there every night after the craic ended elsewhere to share stories, pints and endless chunes from musicians of all ages.

Inside the hostelry was adorned with all kinds of memorabilia from Tommy’s legendary athletic exploits and Transit Authority employment alongside antiques and other eye-catching items collected by the couple over the years that gave a cozy and intimate feel to all who felt at home there.

The custom of the owners knew no bounds, so theirs was a loyal clientele who enjoyed the company of others who passed the time and night away at the inn.

Ironically the Catskills Irish Arts Week of 2010 was perhaps the most significant week we ever had in Furlong’s because it seemed like the inside pub and outside roadway marquee, complete with its own Guinness truck, was jumping from the start of the week until the end.

In particular a Tuesday night CD launch with Matt Cranitch and Jackie Daly saw them introduce their Slieve Luachra gem The Living Stream to a packed house.

On the Friday night the next generation took their turn for the release of the CD NicGaviskey at
Furlong’s almost a year to the day when the four talented musicians hooked up spontaneously for a session in Furlong’s that served as a symbolic watermark for the achievement of the Catskills Irish Arts Week and its special place in Furlong’s Riverside Inn.

The Furlongs understood how important the Arts Week was to the economic life of the Irish Catskills, and worked hard to do their part in welcoming people back there every season in good times and bad.
Also, their pub was a key cog in many benefits for their Irish friends and causes over the years.

But many people in his native Offaly (Tullamore) and around New York and the Catskills will remember Tommy’s glorious football days around Gaelic Park in the Bronx.   He was one of the stars of the New York all-star team that bested the great Galway team, winners of three All-Ireland championships in a row, in the 1967 National League final in Gaelic Park in 1967.

The Tom Furlong benefit will take place at the Kerry Hall at 305 McLean Avenue, Yonkers, New York, 10705 on Sunday, January 22 starting at 2 p.m. until 10 p.m. or beyond. Musicians will be donating their services, including Tara Gold, Martin Melody and others. 

Raffle tickets are available to support the cause and can be obtained through chairman Peter Nolan (phone 516-742-4729).  Donations made payable to the Tom Furlong Benefit can be sent to the Kerry Hall, c/o Tom Furlong Benefit, at the address above or dropped off on the day of the benefit in Yonkers.

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