OCEAN CITY — At least one St. Patrick’s Day celebration is starting a week earlier this year in Ocean City with the area’s first-ever true Finnegan’s Wake planned for Saturday, March 9, at 5 p.m. in Seacrets Morley Hall.
Finnegan’s Wake, a mock Irish funeral that notes the supposed passing of Tim Finnegan, is being sponsored by the Friends of WCDC as a benefit for the Worcester County Developmental Center (WCDC).
Irish wakes mourned the passing of a loved one and celebrated that person’s life. Wakes usually lasted several days and crying, drinking, card playing and jokes were a big part of every affair.
This Finnegan’s Wake is loosely based on a traditional Irish song of the same name relating an extraordinary day in the life of an Irish laborer.
Tim Finnegan was a hod carrier who was born with a love of whiskey and indulged in a drop or two each morning before work to get his juices flowing. One morning, he had a little too much to drink and fell off a ladder at work knocking himself unconscious.
His family and friends thought he was dead and quickly took him home, laid him in his bed and started the festivities. First came the tears over Tim’s passing, then a proper meal, and finally the whiskey. As more whiskey was consumed, more arguments broke out until “Shillelagh Law” took over and fighting began. In the heat of battle, one participant threw a bottle of Tim’s whiskey at the head of another combatant. The bottle missed the target, but it hit the wall and a few drops of whiskey landed on Tim’s lips reviving him and bringing him back from the dead.
This local celebration of the Finnegan saga will be held in Seacrets’ Morley Hall with doors opening at 5 p.m. and the funeral procession, with mourners, clergy, pall bearers and a leprechaun or two, will begin at 5:30. The Ocean City Pipe Band will lead the procession into the hall, where Finnegan’s casket will be prepared for viewing.
Throughout the evening, popular Irish musician Patrick McAllorum will be playing Irish favorites, and the Ocean City Pipe Band will thrill the audience with their musicianship.
From 6 to 6:15, 7:30 to 7:45 and from 8 to 8:15 p.m., mourners will be able to view Finnegan in his coffin. The part of Finnegan will be played by Jack Ferry, Sr. and Cecil Tull and Lee Gerachis. For one dollar, audience members will be able to tell Finnegan a joke or funny story. If Finnegan laughs, the teller receives a free drink.
Wealthy Irish would hire professional mourners, called Keeners, to cry for their departed. This wake will have a keening contest. Points will be awarded for volume, style and feeling, with the winner receiving a cash prize.
“We feel we are bringing something new and unique to the Ocean City area,” said Cathy Gallagher, president of Friends of WCDC. “This will be an entertaining and exciting evening that everyone will enjoy. There will be great music and great food and drink, and it is all for a great cause, the clients of WCDC. We are planning on building this event and making it an annual experience. Who knows, maybe we can make it like a real Irish wake and have it last three days.”
Admission is $20. Happy hour prices will be available at the bar, and the Seacrets kitchen will be offering an Irish menu. All money raised will go to the Friends of WCDC, the auxiliary that supports the mission of the Worcester County Developmental Center, which provides employment opportunities, day habilitation training, residential services and communty-based supports for adults who live with an intellectual disability in Worcester, Somerset and Wicomico counties.
For more information about the wake or about the services offered by WCDC, call 410-632-2382.