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Eddie Campbell
Helping to Unite Cleveland's Irish

It was in Ballycroy, County Mayo, Ireland that Eddie Campbell was born on August 13, 1925. And it was in 1949 that he came to this country " all by myself - I was 24 years old!"

Young Eddie Campbell
Young Eddie Campbell

For some it would be a scary undertaking to leave your home and family to move to another country, but for Eddie it was an adventure. "One time I left Mayo and traveled to London and then France so I was used to the idea of being away." There was normally a three-month wait to get to New York by boat. He went to the US Embassy one day to get clearance to come over. He got the okay and stopped by a travel agency on O'Connell Street for ticket information on passage to this country.

Eddie Campbell

A man had just cancelled his trip and Eddie got booked on a flight for 5:00 that evening. He was not only coming to America but he was going to fly. The trip took 30 hours by plane with stops in Iceland, Newfoundland and Boston before he came to Cleveland. He had no time to prepare or even say goodbye to his family.

As telephones were still a luxury item he had to send them a telegram to let them know he was gone. Once they got over the initial shock "they were very happy for me. They knew it was the best thing." Once here he stayed with his Uncles and Aunts.

Eddie Campbell and part of his clan
Eddie Campbell and part of his clan

Like so many immigrants at the time, Eddie came for work. He started off on the East Side of Cleveland on East 94th off Ansel Road. He worked construction at the time. Then he decided to go back to school.

He went to John Hay at night and got an engineering license. He went to work in refrigeration and spent most of his career working for three breweries: Schaffer's in New York, Schmidt's in Philadelphia and Erin Brew in Cleveland.

Eddie also worked at the Perry Nuclear Plant for 10 years before retiring at age 56.

Eddie Campbell wedding to Maeve
Eddie and Maeve Campbell

In 1951 Eddie married Maeve McNeely. Maeve was born in the U.S. and was in school when he met her, studying to be a teacher. She taught at St. Augustine Academy and was so well loved at the time of her death in 1990, that they named a scholarship after her.

Eddie and Maeve had two children. Their son Tom lives in San Diego with his wife and children.

Eddie Campbell with son Tom and grandsons
Eddie Campbell with son Tom and grandsons

Daughter, Mary, lives outside Columbus. She was a professor at Stanford, Berkeley and Ohio State. Eddie's daughter is an accomplished artist. She has had numerous art shows, including some in New York.

Eddie Campbell with his daughter's painting
Eddie Campbell with his daughter's painting

There is a painting on the wall over Eddie's sofa that she painted at age 12. It is a picture of his home back in Ireland.

Eddie Campbell's mother
Eddie Campbell's mother

Eddie Campbell's daughter's painting of his mother
Painting of Eddie Campbell's mother
(by his daughter Mary)

Eddie and Maeve used to travel a lot, especially once he retired. He's been to Mexico, most of Canada and all 50 states. Eddie still has four sisters in Ireland and used to go back every year to visit. Now he goes every couple of years. Last year he took his daughter, her husband and two children with him.

Eddie Campbell with his 4 sisters
Eddie Campbell with his 4 sisters

He remembers one trip home to Ireland with Maeve. She had read about the Seven Walls of Derry, which had been built in the 1600's to enclose the city. At the time they were there, the city was loaded with British soldiers. With each roadblock they went through they were asked to open the boot (trunk) of their car so that it could be searched. Finally Eddie had had enough. At the next stop he handed the keys to the soldier and told him to "do it himself."

The soldier asked Eddie what he was doing in this part of the country. Before he could answer Maeve leaned over and yelled out "What are you doing here?" Instead of being angry the British soldier replied "Good on you ma'am. You held your own." And Eddie and Maeve drove on.

Eddie and Maeve ran their own charter flights to Ireland. They would take tour groups as often as twice a year - a great chance to get back home and also to show off the country he holds so dear to his heart.

More of Eddie's clan
More of Eddie's clan

"There are many changes back home in Ireland. Changes like you wouldn't believe. But there are changes everywhere. Look at the changes here in the U.S. So many things nobody would have believed even a few years back are taken for granted today in both countries."

Eddie Campbell's daughter Mary and wife Maeve
Eddie Campbell's daughter Mary
and wife Maeve

Eddie loves to gamble. A trip to Vegas to play poker is "close to heaven" for him. "I play cards as often as I can."

Eddie used to play Gaelic Football - a sport very different than our own. Some would say it is more like a combination of soccer and rugby. The ball is either kicked or "punched" (similar to a volleyball slap). There were four teams in Cleveland and he was the Captain of the Shamrock Football Team.

"We were really quite good. We won the championship 2 years."

Jimmy Goggin and Eddie Campbell with trophy
Jimmy Goggin and Eddie Campbell with trophy

The team was part of the North American Gaelic Athletic Association, which was formed in 1951 to promote the sport in the States. The Association was far reaching with teams as far west as Seattle and Vancouver. Most of the teams were further east and competition was very stiff.

Cleveland Gaelic Football
Cleveland Gaelic Football
(Eddie holding ball)

The team traveled to Chicago, Pittsburgh, New York and other places to defend their title. It was a wonderful way for Irish immigrants to maintain a connection with Ireland. Today there are still Irish Football teams in the area, most notably St. Pat's Gaelic Football Club.

Cleveland Gaelic Football team
Cleveland Gaelic Football Team
Midwest and City Champs 1949,50,51
Back Row: Coach Henry Cavanagh, John Chambers, Eddie Murphy, Gene O'Donnell, Joe Molloy, Eddie Campbell, Pat Duffy Jr., Gery Luskin, Mickey McCafferty, Pat Duffy, manager. Front Row: Marty Cooney, Bernie Murphy, Jack Mulally, Paddy Gafney,...

Maeve was responsible for starting the Irish Feis here in Cleveland. A Feis is a competition of Irish dance, music, bodhran (drum), fiddle, flute and singing. Eddie, his wife, her sister Kathleen and Jack Mullaly (a professor from MSU) headed up the first Feis Cleveland ever had.

Maeve Campbell and friends in the Gaelic League
Maeve Campbell and friends
from the Gaelic League

Eddie was instrumental in starting the Sons and Daughters of Erin on the East Side as a new Irish Club. Although the group was not destined to stay together it was a first attempt at uniting the Irish Americans on the East Side in the same fashion as the West Side, who had started their Club in 1931 and to this day can boast a large membership.

Daughter Mary with Maeve and Eddie Campbell
Daughter Mary with
Maeve and Eddie Campbell

Eddie moved to the West Side when he got married and instantly became active in the West Side Club, which, at the time, was located at 98th and Madison. In the 1970's Eddie was President of the Club. "At that time the Club was one of the best Irish clubs in the country - in fact it still is!"

Eddie Campbell leading West Side Irish American Club in 1976 at the Bicentennial bash
Eddie Campbell leading the
West Side Irish American Club
in 1976 at the Bicentennial bash

When the club outgrew it's home on Madison, Eddie got involved in the building of the new facility on Jennings Road in Olmsted Township. "I had been in Sacramento with my wife. When I came back, Danny Chambers and a group of people came to see me and said they had had a meeting and assigned me the job of supervising and coordinating the construction. I had a lot of connections with the Unions and it worked out good."

"I worked hard on that Club. I was a con artist, that's what I was. I wheeled and dealed and got the best work and best products possible. And a lot of volunteers really helped make the project."

Blueprints of the new home of the West Side Irish American Club
Blueprints of the new home of
the West Side Irish American Club

Eddie was also one of the original founders of the United Irish Societies along with the late Rip Reilly and Pat Lynch. "We decided that the parade needed to be classy and special."

Parade float model in the backyard
Working on a parade float model

The United Irish Societies is a non-profit organization made up of delegates from all of the Irish organizations in Cleveland - now well over twenty.

It is the United Irish Societies that puts on the St. Patrick's Day Parade each year. The 2007 parade will be Cleveland's 140th parade. The United Irish Societies named Eddie Grand Marshal of the Parade in 1995.

Grand Marshall of the St Patricks Day Parade Eddie Campbell with daughter Mary
Grand Marshall of the St Patrick's Day Parade Eddie Campbell with daughter Mary

"Heritage is important. It doesn't really matter what your nationality is, everyone has pride in their heritage. At least they should. The Irish have a lot to be proud of. It was a small backwoods country for a long time and now they are second to none in their education."

Eddie plans on continuing his travels - especially to see his grandchildren.

Grandpa Eddie Campbell
Grandpa Eddie Campbell

He has never regretted his decision to come to this country. "The United States is the most beautiful country in the world - there is no doubt about it. With a two-hour drive you can be swimming in the ocean or knee deep in snow."

People think of the Irish as hospitable, friendly, good storytellers. They think of the Irish as people who work hard and play just as hard.

Eddie Campbell - November 2006
Eddie Campbell - November 2006

They think of the Irish as people who hold a soft spot in their heart for their homeland and an even bigger spot in their heart for the U.S. They think of the Irish as God-fearing people completely devoted to their faith and their family.

When people think of the Irish, they think of Eddie Campbell, even if they have never met him. Because Eddie Campbell is everything good that people think about the Irish.

Profiled by Debbie Hanson (11/06)

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