Cead Mille Failte!
The soul of Maine's Irish heritage resides in the former St. Dominic's Church in downtown Portland. St. Dom's, one of 58 Portland sites mapped on the Maine Irish Heritage Trail, has been the hub of Portland's Irish community since the first church was constructed in 1828. By 1888, the city's Irish immigrant community had outgrown the building, and construction of the current, Gothic-style, brick edifice began.
When the Diocese of Portland closed St. Dom's in 1998, Maine's Irish-American club rallied, purchased the building, and after restoration, reopened it as the non-profit Irish Heritage Center. The Center offers cultural programs such as ceilis, bodrum drum and tin whistle classes, pick-up Irish music sessions, and language classes, and it sponsors Portland's St. Patrick's Dinner and St. Patrick's Day Parade.
The Center also is home to the John Ford Center, honoring the film director and winner of six Academy Awards, the American Film Institute's first Life Achievement Award, and the Medal of Freedom Award. Born John Martin Feeney in Cape Elizabeth, Ford was baptized at St. Dom's and graduated from Portland High School. A monument depicting Ford, located at Gorham's Corner, in Portland, is listed on the Maine Irish Heritage Trail.
Another city with an Irish pedigree is Belfast, in Maine's Mid-coast. According to the Belfast Historical Society, Scots-Irish families from Londonderry, N.H., settled the city in 1770, and the name Belfast was chosen in a coin toss.