Torrington celebrates Lord Mayor Brian McDonnell for St. Patrick’s Day

Photo of Emily M. Olson

TORRINGTON - If you’ve ever been to Ireland, you might have experienced its early spring — rainy and windy, but mild and green. St. Patrick’s Day in Torrington was just like that, as the mayor and a crowd of well-wishers celebrated Brian McDonnell as Lord Mayor.

McDonnell was named Lord Mayor in 2020, and again in 2021, but both ceremonies were canceled because of the pandemic.

“It’s been a long three years,” he said. “First I was Lord Mayor in waiting; the second year, I was Lord Mayor in exile, and now I’m Lord Mayor in perpetuity. I’m ready. Let’s go.”

Mayor Elinor Carbone said it was an honor to recognize McDonnell.

“Brian is not a shy Irishman,” Carbone said. “He campaigned for this, and made sure I knew he was on the list.”

The celebration began in Carbone’s office, where McDonnell, carrying a shillelagh and sporting a green hat and vest was joined by his wife, Betty Jo, and many guests to sign an order to raise the Irish flag. The group then filed out to the front of City Hall complete the order.

Kenneth Storrs, “The Lone Piper” attended in full regalia and played his bagpipes for the crowd outdoors, and inspired the McDonnells to dance a few jigs together in front of the flagpole. After that, the couple and their guests went back inside for a reception in the council chambers. There, Joan Schroeder sang the national anthem and “God Bless America.”

McDonnell asked the audience to name the qualities a Lord Mayor should have — to be fair, generous, talkative, caring, a loving husband and father, and “good looking.”

He told his friends and family to be generous with their time.

“Don’t be afraid to have fun,” he said. “Be caring. Most of us need to care a bit more for ourselves and each other these days.”

McDonnell was raised in Torrington, attended local schools, graduated with honors from Fairfield University, and received his master’s degree from Central Connecticut State University. Together with his wife, they raised their children — Sean, Kelly and Kristopher — in Torrington.

He spent his working career teaching at Schaghticoke Middle School in New Milford. In Torrington, he umpired high school varsity baseball, kept the stats for girls’ softball and volunteered countless hours in local athletic programs. He is also a longtime member of the Elks.

McDonnell is very proud of his Irish heritage. His grandparents came from Cork, Galway, Sligo and Dublin to the U.S. to escape the potato famine. They all married and became productive members of their communities, he said.

“I was told once, ‘If you try, you might not win, but if you give up, you’ll never win,’ and I’ve tried to follow that,” he said.

At the end of the event, McDonnell burst out singing “When Irish Eyes are Smiling,” bringing tears to the eyes of most attendees.