Cead Mille Failte! (“A hundred thousand welcomes!”)
The soul of Maine's Irish heritage resides in the former St. Dominic's Church in downtown Portland, which has been the hub of Portland's Irish community since the first church was constructed in 1828. St. Dom's is one of 58 Portland sites you can visit on the Maine Irish Heritage Trail, which includes the Portland Museum of Art as well as city government buildings, churches, schools and cemeteries.
St. Patrick's Day Events
When the Diocese of Portland closed St. Dom's in 1998, Maine's Irish-American club purchased and restored the building, reopening it as the non-profit Irish Heritage Center. Help Portland's Irish community celebrate its heritage at the St. Patrick's Dinner and St. Patrick's Day Parade, which the center sponsors. You can also experience this community's culture by taking ceili dancing lessons, bodrum drum and tin whistle classes, pick-up Irish music sessions, and language classes at the center.
John Ford Center
The Irish Heritage Center is also home to the John Ford Center, which honors the director whose films include The Searchers, The Grapes of Wrath, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Stagecoach. Born John Martin Feeney in Cape Elizabeth, Ford was baptized at St. Dom's and graduated from Portland High School. You can visit a monument depicting Fordat Gorham's Corner in Portland, one of the Maine Irish Heritage Trail sites.
Another city with an Irish pedigree is Belfast, in Maine's MidCoast. According to the Belfast Historical Society and Museum, Scots-Irish families from Londonderry, N.H., settled the city in 1770, and the name Belfast was chosen in a coin toss. You can learn more about Belfast and its shipbuilding history at the museum.