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The look of the Irish


The look of the Irish

Meet John McKeating and the face will be familiar. People notice the smile and sparkle in the eyes.
The look of the Irish
From left, Ellie Gallagher, Olivia McLeron, Will McLeron and Sarah Gallagher point to Ireland on a globe at Brown School in Schenectady.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson

Meet John McKeating and the face will be familiar.

People notice the smile and sparkle in the eyes. Both were imported from Ireland to the states during the early 1980s — McKeating is one of those fortunate ones who truly has the Irish look.

Tommy Quinn is in the club. So is Quinn Burch and Ellie Gallagher. Will McLeron, McKaden Patrick Martin, McKenzie Rivenburgh and Ben Squires — plus other brothers and sisters in complexion and composure — can also claim membership.

As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, staffers from The Daily Gazette were lucky enough to find people with red hair, freckles and full faces who say they are often asked, “Gosh, you look Irish!”

Their photos appear on this page — along with some stories about looking Irish and liking it.

McKeating, 54, who lives in Niskayuna, moved to the states from Belfast, Northern Ireland. His gentle Irish accent also made the trip, and McKeating says the voice attracts more people than do his Irish eyes. “I get this: ‘I could listen to you talk all day,’ that’s much more common,” he said, during a gathering at the Hibernian Hall in Schenectady. “And to which my wife will say, ‘No, you couldn’t.’ ”

The McKeating package comes with a sense of humor. He says there’s no use fretting over his Irish face.

“Nothing you can do about that,” he said. “I’ve tried skin paint, masks, nothing you can do. You have to do the best with what you have.”

Schenectady’s Tom Quinn, 79, is a quiet Irishman. He can hide behind a full salt-and-pepper beard that would be home in counties Cork, Claire, Donegal or Galway. Son Sean, 56, also wears a beard — but it’s a little shorter than the paternal model. Sean can always consider deep cover.

“I might, in years to come,” he said, during the small gathering at the hall. “My wife won’t be able to see so well. I’ll be able to get away with it.”

Rotterdam’s Margaret Mary Quinn Scott appreciates family, like father Tom and brother Sean. She named her daughters after Tom — Tomasina Burch and Quinn Burch are both real Irish.

Margaret — Peg to friends — knows her name sounds Irish. “I’m as Irish as they come,” she said.

So are her daughters. Tomasina, 21, has the Irish dermis and decorations. “I’ve got the pale skin and the freckles on my nose and my shoulders,” she said. “They get nice and dark in the summer.”

Tomasina stays out of the sun, right? Nope. “I soak it up,” she said.

Quinn, 24, whom her mother described as deaf and blind, has the short red hair and a Kim Darby look in play.

“It’s dyed,” Quinn said, with help from her translator mother. “It’s dyed because I want to look more Irish.”

Quinn also said she enjoys being part of the Hibernians’ St. Patrick’s Day scene, as long as she has a friend with her. The hall can get crowded on March 17.

Schenectady residents Jim Gavin, 57, and his daughter Shannon, 20, also have the look. “It’s part of your history,” Jim said. “You have to be proud of your history.”

Gavin wore a fine Irish sweater for his close-up. He would have also worn green — but would have avoided orange. While orange is part of the Irish national flag – the tricolor is also green and white — green is more associated with Catholics. Orange is connected to Protestants. And there has long been friction between the two groups.

Gavin, like others with ties to Ireland, appreciates when people recognize his Irish facial features.

Red at Brown

Another contingent of Irish lookers volunteered for photos at the Brown School in Schenectady. Scotia resident Ellie Gallagher, 8, who’s in the third grade, can thank her red hair and blue eyes when people offer compliments on her Irish appearance. “I say ‘Thank you,’ because I am Irish!” Gallagher said.

The Schenectady brother-sister team of Will and Olivia McLeron is also proud of its connection to Ireland. Olivia, 12, believes her 10-year-old brother received some bonus points from Emerald Isle make-up artists.

Irish at ND-BG

“He gets looks a lot,” said blonde, blue-eyed Olivia. “He gets out of trouble ... he’s like a leprechaun.”

Irish teenagers at Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons High School appreciate the attention that comes with Irish features.

“I say ‘Thank you,’ ” said Daniel Jameson, 15, a sophomore from Schenectady. “I like being Irish — it’s cool.”

Benjamin Squires, a 15-year-old freshman, can celebrate English, French and German heritage. “I’m only 17 percent Irish,” he said.

But he likes that 17 percent. “I think Ireland is a great country,” he said. “Being Irish, in my opinion, is something you should be proud of.”

For Annie Riley, 18, a blonde and blue-eyed senior from Amsterdam, any comments about her Irish appearance are welcome. “I take them as compliments,” she said. “I’m proud of my heritage, I associate it with the prettiest people I know; they’re all Irish.”

Anne Ryan, 18, a senior from Guilderland, will not celebrate St. Patrick’s with corned beef. She follows a vegetarian path, so there will be potatoes, maybe some carrots and broccoli. “A lot of onions, too,” she said.

For Schoharie senior McKenzie Rivenburgh, 17, from Schoharie, long auburn-red hair is her gift from Irish ancestors. “I love my long hair,” she said. “I cut it short once and I didn’t like it.”

MacKenzie Conlen, 18, a senior from Schenectady, wondered what kind of job her Irish looks could land her in Ireland. Friends speculated for her — “A shepherd!” they said.

“Shepherds are pretty awesome, actually,” Conlen said. “I met one in Ireland. He was super nice.”

Schenectady’s Brian Ferrucci, 17, a junior at the Schenectady school, has both Irish and Italian people in his past. The red hair might come from the Irish side of the family. “I’m proud to have red hair,” he said. “Not a lot of people have it.”

Draper leprechaun?

Not a lot of people have a name like McKaden Patrick Martin, either. “My name is very Irish,” said Martin, a 12-year-old student at Draper Middle School in Rotterdam. “I’m just like, ‘Yeah!’ ”

The red hair and blue eyes help the Irish cause. And it’s OK if people see leprechaun reflections in Martin’s face. “I’m fine with it,” he said. “Leprechauns are cool.”

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at [email protected] or @jeffwilkin1 on Twitter.

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