Casey has formed the Claddagh Fund which is a charity foundation based on the attributes of the Claddagh Ring of “Friendship, Love and Loyalty.” The mission of the Claddagh Fund is to raise money for the most underfunded non-profit organizations that support vulnerable populations in our communities.
By Kathy McGee Burns
The Dropkick Murphys are an Irish American punk rock band which was formed in Quincy, Massachusetts, 1996. Their front man, bassist/vocalist Ken Casey has been with them from the beginning. Have you ever heard their music? Well, let me describe it in words like: feisty, loud, yelling, screaming, rough, in your face and boisterous…are you getting the message? So, what about Ken Casey? He is boyish, kind, sentimental, sincere, hometownish, and generous to a fault with his time, talent and money. This is quite a dichotomy.
Ken was born in Milton, MA. —“the town with the most people of Irish descent in America.” His mom, Eileen Kelly and dad, Ken Casey Sr., only had the one child but Ken felt adopted by every family in town. His father died when Ken was very young but his “hero,” Granddad John Kelly took him under his wing and helped him to form the principles Ken lives by everyday.
John was a union teamster who taught his grandson about the plight of the Irish working class, the experiences of Irish immigration in Boston and what it is like to be the low man on the totem pole. He emphasized that you need to stand up for yourself and give back what treasures you get. John Kelly said, “Gratitude is an action.”
At first, Ken was doing a million things for many charities. Some friends told Ken, “Start your own. Your fans will get involved and feel a part of it.”
Now, Ken Casey is doing just that. He has formed the Claddagh Fund which is a charity foundation based on the attributes of “Friendship, Love and Loyalty.” It was started in Boston with the help of the great hockey star, Bobby Orr. The band was able to incorporate a lot of fundraising activities with their events and to date they have raised about a million dollars.
I’m adjusting to the music of the Dropkick Murphys. It is quite different from Vince Gallagher singing “Emigrant Eyes.” The Irish music that they do, “Finnegan’s Wake,” “Black Velvet Band,” “Wild Rover,” is based on the traditional but “reformulated and modernized for the younger ear.” Ken proudly told me that Pete St. John came to see them perform his “Fields of Athenry.” Many of their songs mirror the social conscience of the band. The song “Broken Hymns” reflects a young man’s perspective of the Civil War.
“Now the battle hymns are playing
Report of shots not far away
No prayer, no promise, no hand of God
Could save the souls of the blue and grey
Tell their wives that they fought bravely
As they lay them in their graves”
Then there is the song about Duffy’s Cut…a site in Malvern where in 1832, 57 Irish railroad workers succumbed to death at the hands of area vigilantes.
“Now ghosts dance a jig on an unmarked grave
A slug full of lead was the price they were paid
Vigilante justice, prejudice and pride
No one in this valley will be seen again alive.”
The Hardest Mile
The best, to me, is the song “Boys on the Docks,” which is a tribute to the memory of John Kelly.
“And the boys on the docks needed John for sure
When they came to this country he opened the door
He said ‘Man. I’ll tell ya, they don’t like our kind
Though it starts with a fist it might end with your mind.’”
Ken Casey tells a charming story about Bruce Springsteen. He first met “the Boss” when Springsteen showed up to a Dropkick Murphy’s gig, in New York City, with his son.
Ken was still on the bus when he got an urgent call, “Someone wants to see you.” He rushed to his dressing room and there HE was.
Well, here’s the tearjerker, on St. Patrick’s Day 2011, to a sold-out crowd, in Fenwick Park, they both sang “Peg of My Heart,” to Ken’s Grandmother, Peg Kelly. (Google it!)
The Claddagh Fund now has a Chapter here. Philadelphia reminds them of
Boston — tight-knit communities and a network of friends.
On Monday, September 17th, at Woodcrest Country Club, there will be the First Annual Celebrity Golf Tournament. Call Kate McCloud, 267-644-8095, to buy your tickets, watch the celebrities, donate some money, or maybe the Bruce and Ken team will sing
“I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen” to Kate McCloud and Kathy McGee Burns.
Kathy McGee Burns is the president of the St. Patrick’s Day Observance Association.