PCS 31st Anniversary - 1st in a Series

Marilyn, Emily, Fay and Peg










Episode One – The Tribe

“We were a tribe.” Marilyn stated matter-of-factly. “We did everything together.”

“Marilyn made it all happen.”Fay added “She has wonderful ideas.” “Follow through? Well.., she’s very good at getting other people to do things.”

I’m at Cassidy’s bar in Northwest Portland sitting across a table from Fay Malloy and Marilyn Zornado, two of the founding members of the Portland Ceili Society.

Over the course of several Irish coffees, and hours of wonderful stories two things have become apparent to me: 1) The friendship these two share is a beautiful thing – something Hollywood could easily turn into a “buddy flick,” and 2) the founders of the PCS had a deep love of Irish music and dance - and were in the right place at the right time – perhaps more accurately, their actions and passion helped create that right place. As a result, Portland had a unique opportunity to experience Irish music at levels that no other city (outside of Ireland) could match

Now that I think about, I guess there was a third theme that became obvious in our talk – the founders of PCS loved to party. “It was sex, drugs and Irish music.” Marilyn joked.

The “tribe” lived mostly in Northwest Portland in the mid to late 1970’s. “We were young. Rents there were cheap.” Fay said.

Initially though, the average age of an Irish dance enthusiast in Portland was not so young. Fay explained “At that time, Brother Eugene was teaching an Irish dance class at St. Rita’s Church on Prescott”

“To a group of Septuagenarians.”Marilyn frowned.

“Yeah, so Marilyn would keep these lists with her wherever she went and any time someone would show the slightest interest in Irish music or dance, she would take down their name and number.” Fay recalled. “She even placed ads in the paper looking for younger dancers! She would call you if you missed an event – ‘Where were you last night?’”

“Well, I wasn’t going to keep dancing with a bunch of octogenarians.” (Apparently Brother Eugene’s class was aging rapidly).

Next Installment: Picnics, Folk Life and Ballots at a Deadlocked “Convention”

Jack Kenny

The Portland Ceili Society, established in 1981, will be running a series of posts commemorating our 31st Anniversary (The Board wanted to commemorate our 30th Anniversary but I procrastinated).