Chambersburg man fosters relationship between Greencastles in Pennsylvania and Ireland

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot

Mike Hoover was on a mission to forge a relationship between Greencastle, Pennsylvania, and Greencastle, Ireland, when he traveled abroad in fall 2021. Now he wants make the bond stronger and get more people involved.

Hoover will host "The Two Greencastles" beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 26, in the family life center of Antrim Brethren in Christ Church.

It will include a meeting via Zoom with the Greencastle Community Centre in Ireland, people he met during his visit and the Irish pen pals of Greencastle-Antrim Elementary School students.

Mike Hoover of Chambersburg shows highlights on 'A Guide to ... Greencastle' that he brought back from Ireland.

Hoover will talk about his Sept. 9 to Oct. 1 trip to Ireland, as well as future plans.

Greencastle Mayor Ben Thomas Jr. and Debby Cunningham, executive director of the Greencastle-Antrim Chamber of Commerce, will discuss past, present and future connections between the two communities.

During his journey: Mike Hoover, Chambersburg, forges special bond with Greencastle, Ireland

Community history: Greencastle's 240th anniversary celebrated with Allison's Tavern on Old Home Week badge

From Greencastle, Pennsylvania, to Greencastle, Ireland

Hoover is a history buff and his interest was piqued by the historical marker on East Baltimore Street that says Greencastle, Pennsylvania, was named for Greencastle, Ireland. He lives in Chambersburg and passes the sign frequently en route to his job as a traffic monitor for the Greencastle-Antrim School District.

He did his research, made his plans and endured COVID-19 delays before finally jetting off last fall.

The centerpiece of his trip was on Sept. 22, when he met the leaders of the Greencastle Community Centre and visited a nearby school.

Hoover went bearing gifts, including a wooden key that was the idea of social studies students at G-A High School and designed and made by the STEAM department; a copy of "Conococheague A History of the Greencastle-Antrim Community, 1736-1971," by the late Greencastle historian and school superintendent William P. Conrad; and a note of greetings written by Thomas to the citizens of Greencastle, Ireland, from the citizens of Greencastle, Pennsylvania.

These and other mementos were presented to the community center leaders because the small fishing village does not have a town government.

Hoover returned bearing gifts, including a large framed photo of Greencastle, Ireland, inscribed on the back "from your friends in Greencastle Community Centre" and in Gaelic "Slan ogus beannacht leat," which roughly translates to "goodbye and God bless."

Mike Hoover holds the photo of Greencastle, Ireland, he received when he visited the town's community center in September 2021.

He received books written by David Simpson, community center secretary, with a note that says Simpson is "looking forward to embarking on a journey as partners in the spirit of community ethos."

Students, all wearing green and black uniforms, were full of questions when he took the pen-pal letters to their school. They wanted to know about recess, food and whether students in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, wear uniforms.

Hoover hopes to have the pen pals from both Greencastles participate in the Zoom meeting.

Hoover, a semi-retired lieutenant colonel in the Civil Air Patrol at Hagerstown Regional Airport, found a kindred spirit in Charlie Cavanagh, the officer in charge of the Coast Guard station in Greencastle. Hoover saw similarities in the volunteers, communications and emergency responses of the two agencies.

"We hit it off," Hoover said, and as a bonus, Cavanagh had visited Greencastle, Pennsylvania, about 20 years ago when he was in the U.S. for training.

An Irish newspaper ran a story about Mike Hoover's visit to Greencastle, Ireland.

Hoover visited the ruins of Northburgh Castle, also known as Green Castle. He brought back one newspaper with an article about the efforts to preserve the 14th century landmark. Another newspaper features an article about his journey, accompanied by a photo of him with the leaders of the community center.

Greencastle was the focus of his visit, but other highlights included Leo's Tavern, home of the the musical Brennan family, which includes Enya, Ireland's No. 1 solo artist; Farren's Bar where the cast of "Star Wars" would eat lunch during filming; and the critters and owners of the Errigal View Zoo.

He's also amazed with other connections he found between Ireland and the Keystone State. He had to go to a town named Letterkenny — about the size of Hagerstown — for a COVID-19 test before returning home,. He enjoyed the sights and sites in National Park Glenveagh, once owned by a man from Philadelphia. The Pennsylvania River flowed next to his hotel in the town of Redcastle, which was about a 15-minute taxi ride from Greencastle.

Mike Hoover purchased this sign when he visited the Greencastle Maritime Museum in Ireland in fall 2021.

Any hopes the avid runner had of going between the two towns on foot were dashed by the narrow, shoulderless roads bounded by stone walls.

He wants to stay closer on a return trip to Ireland this June, hopes other local residents will be interested in going with him and will talk about his plans at the meeting.

Hoover invited his Irish friends to come to Greencastle for Old Home Week this summer, but they have their own big event at the same time. Hoover said he'd love to have them here for something else, like Sidewalk Days.

"Who knows where this is going to lead," he said.

Friends in Greencastle

Prompted by Hoover's journey, Cunningham and Susan McAleer, manager of the Greencastle Community Centre, have been going back and forth about forming a relationship between the two communities. Cunningham is following the Irish community center on Facebook and McAleer is doing likewise with the G-A Chamber.

Susan McAleer manager of the Greencastle Community Centre designed this graphic to show the relationship between Greencastle, Ireland, and Greencastle, Pennsylvania.

They have decided to call the two Greencastles Friendship Towns.

"Mike has done a lot to foster friendly relationships between our two towns so that is where the idea came from," Cunningham said. "This is an exciting opportunity to have a relationship like this."

Cunningham and Thomas are especially want to see friendships develop among the children of the two towns through the pen-pal letters Hoover initiated.

"I’m very interested in creating a partnership with Greencastle, Ireland, that Debby Cunningham at the chamber of commerce, along with Mike, are working on that would involve our children," Thomas said. "Pen pals — for those that still write letters — would be fun."

During his part of the program, Thomas plans to "paint a visual picture of our community," talking about Greencastle's history, his own trips to Ireland and how the two communities compare in areas such as climate, growth and transportation.

'A Guide to ... Greencastle' provides information about the Irish fishing village for which Greencastle, Pennsylvania, was named.

 What's planned at March 26 meeting

The agenda for "The Two Greencastles" is:

  • A light breakfast with video of Ireland trip in 2021.
  • A talk and Q&A on trip to County Donegal, Ireland, in June 2022.
  • A Zoom meeting with pen pal students and people of Greencastle, Ireland.
  • Formal relations between the two Greencastles (mayor and chamber of commerce).
  • Future trips and meetings.

For more information, contact Mike Hoover at:

949-677-2039, hooverme@juno.com or on Facebook.

Shawn Hardy is a reporter with Gannett's Franklin County newspapers in south-central Pennsylvania — the Echo Pilot in Greencastle, The Record Herald in Waynesboro and the Public Opinion in Chambersburg. She has more than 35 years of journalism experience. Reach her at shardy@gannett.com