Jim Hawkins Irish Story

irishhawkins@verizon.net

What is a Seanchai?

For over 1000 years, the storytelling tradition (“Seanchas”) has been a focal point in Irish life. We know that there were, at least, 12 levels of storytellers in the ancient Celtic tribes and on holidays and feast days, when the people gathered, the storyteller ("Seanchai") held an honored position and was listened to with great attention and respect. It has been documented that some of the Seanchais could recite the entire "Cuchulainn" and "Finn McCool" mythological cycles. These stories, literally, go on for hours upon hours.

I do not feel that I have acquired that special poetry as yet, but I am working on it! For now I will not call myself a seanchai. However, I do love telling stories and singing songs, especially Irish stories and songs. In this way, I hope I can help to carry on this wonderful tradition. I take themes from Irish history, culture and traditions and, where possible, combine a story with a song. Many of the stories and songs are humorous while others are quite serious. Some of the stories I have written myself based on my experiences and memories of growing up in Castletown Geoghegan, Co. Westmeath; others I have learned from a variety of sources.

In the course of the programs, I will take time to discuss different aspects of Irish history and culture, encourage my audience to speak about their own Irish roots and connections, give background to the variety of stories and songs and discuss any instruments that are used in the programs.

Storytelling Programs

IRISH STORIES AND SONGS

Combining story and song with a variety of themes in Irish history, culture, and tradition. Many are humorous pieces while others are of a serious nature.
Short program (1 to 1 1/2 hours)
Long program (2 to 2 1/2 hours with an intermission)

IRISH HUMOROUS SONGS

Origins and a performance of a variety of humorous songs in the Irish tradition.
(1 to 1 1/2 hours)

IRISH CHRISTMAS PROGRAM

Traditions, stories, songs and poetry for the season.
(1 to 1 1/2 hours)

IRISH STORIES AND SONGS FOR CHILDREN

A program of children’s stories that are fun to hear and participate in! Will teach the children about Irish history, culture, music, myths, legends, and traditions.
(1 to 1 1/2 hours)

A HISTORY OF THE IRISH STORYTELLING TRADITION

A discussion and performance of archetypal stories in the Irish tradition, their origins and development.
(1 to 1 1/2 hours)

ROBERT EMMET’S “SPEECH FROM THE DOCK”

A dramatization of this famous speech.
(45 minutes to 1 hours)

PIVOTAL MOMENTS IN IRISH HISTORY AND THEIR CONSEQUENCES: Stories, Songs, Poetry and Narration

How five periods in Irish history influenced the direction of a country and its peoples:

  • The Coming of St. Patrick
  • The English Invasion
  • The Famine
  • The Influence of Charles Stewart Parnell
  • The Rising of 1916
  • Bobby Sands and the Hunger Strikers

GROWING UP IN AMERICA

Personal stories, songs, poetry and narration taking the listener through the late-1950s to the turn of the 21st century.

AN IRISH CHILDHOOD

Stories of an Extraordinary Childhood, growing up in the Midlands of Irleand.

Responses to My Program

“A true storyteller! I could have listened to Jim all night. He brought back a lot of my memories of Ireland.”

MARTIN KELLY Program Director of the Irish Cultural Club of Garden City

“Jim charmed the audience with his stories, enlivened their spirits with his songs and widened their experiences with his own.”

PLEASANCE COGGERSHALL, Former Program Coordinator, Port Washington Library

“The energy and nourishment we all received from your stories will sustain us for a long time as we continue on our storytelling journeys.”

BARBARA ALIPRANTIS Founder/Artistic Director American Center for Theater and Storytelling (ACTS)

“Jim’s theater background shines through in his Irish storytelling and singing. He is articulate, expressive, entertaining, and definitely Irish! Jim immediately gains his audience’s attention with his personable one-on-one style. His stories range through traditional Irish tales to stories of his own experiences.

KEN CORSBIE Caribbean Storyteller, Actor and Comedian

“Jim Hawkins’ ‘Stories From The Stoop’ evoked the era of growing up in Astoria, New York, in the 1950s and 1960s. He brought to mind wonderful memories and images of street games, Mickey Mantle, comic books, The Lone Ranger, and a joyful and caring community. Jim tells with great passion and sincerity.”

ROBIN BADY New York Storytelling Center

Jim’s storytelling has been featured in articles in The New York Daily News, Long Island Newsday and Long Island Catholic.

Jim’s Biography

My storytelling journey began in the Midlands of Ireland (County Westweath). As a child I was fascinated by the storytelling skills of my Uncle Jack Fallon. Spontaneously, he could weave creatively stories about the local peoples and the everyday events of our community. Through him I saw the power of story to bring joy to people’s lives, to chronicle the important events of the day, and to teach and guide us through the challenges and obstacles of our daily lives. Even then, the importance of this art form was evident to me, and I knew I would want someday to follow in my Uncle Jack’s footsteps.

My journey continued through my teaching of the great works of literature for thirty-nine years in the classroom. Experiencing the wonder, the delight, and the enthusiasm of young people as they discussed the themes and lessons as they applied to their own lives, again, emphasized for me the power of story.

As a member of the Irish Art Center in New York City I was part of a production entitled “Siamsa” (“gathering”). It told the history, struggles and triumps of the Irish people through music, song, dance, poetry and storytelling. So many people were moved by the power of this narrative. Again, I was made aware of the importance of story in telling the history and traditions of cultures throughout the world.

Today, I wish to be a vehicle that carries the history, culture and traditions of the Irish people, and to share the stories, songs and poetry of this great culture with the world. It will be my contribution to keeping this wonderful artform alive and well.

Equally important are the stories I want to tell of my country: America. The stories, songs and poetry that guided my teenage years, my one year of seminary life, my high school and college years and my 39 years of teaching.

Traditional Irish Music and Ballads with Greg Ryan

In addition to his storytelling performances, Jim partners with Greg Ryan in playing traditional Irish music and singing Irish ballads. They have been together for over thirty years.

As part of their repertoire, Greg and Jim play lively gigs, reels, hornpipes and marches that have audiences tapping their feet and, literally, dancing around the room or out on the street, as has happened at some of their outside concerts. They sing the ballads of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, the Dubliners, and the Wolftones. In addition they sing many of the favorite Irish “come-all-ye’s” and American favorites such as the songs of George M. Cohen. Greg can also play “rock ‘n roll” with the best of them.

Performance Schedule

(with Greg Ryan) March 17 (Friday) / 4:00pm
Kitty O’Hara’s restaurant
Merrick Road / Baldwin
(Traditional Songs and Music with Greg Ryan)

Jim Hawkins Relatives