• About

  • The potato famine in Ireland in 1845-50 drove millions of Irish to emigrate to other countries, primarily Great Britain and America. The Irish who came to America became the dreamers, the builders, the laborers, the policemen, the firemen and the politicians of this country. Like all immigrants, they fought discrimination, served in wars for America and competed for jobs. They and their lineage rose to positions of power and prestige as exemplified with the election of John F. Kennedy in 1961.

    Although the Irish population first centered in the major cities, by the 1950’s and 60’s they had begun to move into the surrounding suburbs in search of the America Dream of their own home in the country . In their new surrounds they looked for camaraderie with other Irish. So it was that in 1963 eight men in Old Bridge, NJ (led by John Cryan, Bart Dougherty and Harry Knox) assembled a group of Irishmen to march in the Newark St. Patrick’s Day Parade. An organization meeting was planned and in February, 1964, forty men came forward to become charter members of “The Friendly Sons of The Shillelagh” in Old Bridge. The name of the organization was adopted from the popular television show of the time, the Jackie Gleason Show. On the show, Jackie had a skit as “Joe the Bartender.” In that skit, the never seen customer, Mr. Donahey, was either going to or coming from a meeting of “The Friendly Sons of the Shillelagh.”

    Our Essex County Division was founded in October 1967. In 1971, the Essex Division of the Friendly Sons purchased the existing club building which has been known as the West Orange Women’s Club building. There have been extensive renovations to the club since that purchase and these are continuing, sometimes at great expensive.

    The Friendly Sons is an Irish-American social and charitable organization dedicated to the purpose of keeping alive the Irish traditions through the fraternity and good fellowship of its members. The organization is non-profit, non-sectarian and non-political. To become a member you must be one-eighth Irish, be of good cheer and eager to become an active member of a very elite fraternity.

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