Irish ears smiling in Portsmouth

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PORTSMOUTH — Library patrons enjoyed an early St. Patrick's Day treat last night.

The Portsmouth Free Public Library hosted "Celebrating Ireland in Story & Song," an all-Irish program which embraces Irish history and culture. Hughie Purcell, Phil Edmonds and Mary King performed traditional Irish favorites and told the stories behind the songs.

At certain points, they even customized their program for the local crowd.

"We're going to play two jigs for the Ocean State: 'Lilting Fisherman' and 'Out on the Ocean,'" said Ms. King.

Dublin-bred Mr. Purcell has been playing music since he was 17. He traveled throughout Europe and Ireland and landed in Boston in 1995. He plays acoustic guitar, fiddle, banjo and sings Irish songs with emotion and merriment.

Mr. Edmonds, plays button accordion and tin whistle, is a native of Killaloe, County Clare, Ireland. When he was 14 his family emigrated to America and settled in South Providence, where he still lives.

Both of Ms. King's parents are from Ireland and she was raised in that culture, taking Irish step dance lessons by age 4 and listening to her mother sing the songs of Donegal, where she was born. She keeps the tradition of Irish music alive with the Celtic harp and her fiddle.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.