About the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick
of the Jersey Shore
A brief history.
There are records as early as the mid-1600’s of associations in America of people of similar national background for the purpose of keeping alive their heritage without impairing their commitment to their adopted land. First references to societies of this type appear in the early 1700’s. Th e diary of a Dublin-born resident of Williamsburg who came to New York in 1716 mentions his visits to the “Irish Club” and in Boston on March 17, 1737, a group of Irishmen banded together in a “charitable society for the relief of indigent countrymen.”
The New York “Irish Club” evolved into “The Ancient and Most Benevolent Order of the Friendly Brothers of St. Patrick” meeting each March 17th until 1782. Many of the members of this group served with the Continental Army, and on re-entering New York when it was evacuated by the British, held a reunion on March 17, 1784 at Cape’s Tavern. At this meeting they formed “Th e Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick”, which has met continuously on that date in New York ever since.
The earliest use of the “Friendly Sons” name appears to be in Philadelphia where on March 17th, 1771 a “Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick” was established. This group admitted as honorary members men not of Irish birth or descent and numbered John Dickenson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Robert Morris, financier of the Revolution, among them. Th e honorary list was full when they wished to so recognize George Washington. With typical Irish adaptability, on December 18, 1781, Washington was unanimously “adopted” as an Irishman and made a regular member of the organization. They held a banquet in his honor on January 1, 1782 and he attended the March 17th annual dinner that year as a regular member.
“The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of the Jersey Shore” grew out of a conversation between Jerry Burke and Ed Moran on the 1973 N.J. Chamber of Commerce “train-ride to Washington.” Inspired by the success of the Friendly Sons in Essex County, they wondered if the Hudson County transplants to the shore area might not support a group of their own. After two preliminary meetings to explore interest in the idea, a key meeting was called in the fall of 1973 at Th e Molly Pitcher Inn in Red Bank. With attendance by Jack Kraft, Jim Desmond, Joe McMahon, Denis McCarthy, Pete Morley, Burke and Moran, the decision was made to have a dinner in March 1974. With the addition of James F. Feeney, the group became incorporated “to provide social and recreational opportunities for its members.” The first annual dinner was held at the Sea Girt Inn honoring Judge M. Raymond McGowan as “Irishman of the Year.”