Profile of a Special Irish Lass – – Eva Steele–

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A diminutive five feet tall, weighing less than 100 lbs, Eva Steele embodies all that is Irish with her sparkling blue eyes that will either embrace you or dismiss you in a flash of pure Irish honesty.  Born in Ennis, County Clare, Ireland in what she would coyly admit was some time during our last century, Eva was the only daughter, 2nd eldest in a sea of five sons born to James and Violet (ni Capon) Lynch.  Her father was a member of the Irish constabulary.
Eva dancing at the Hampton Coffee HouseA resident of Saint John since December 13th 1946 when she arrived in Canada as a young war bride on The Empire Brent, (which docked at Pier 1, Halifax) Eva still retains that soft Irish brogue from her home town. Soon after settling in Saint John with husband, John H Steele, Eva resumed her career in nursing, first in private duty, then at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Saint John and finally at the Saint John Regional Hospital until her retirement. Eva is the proud mother of two; her son Robert (Nicole) Steele (currently of Fredericton) and daughter Joyce (Dave) O’Hanlon (of Australia). 

Picture (R): Eva dancing at the Hampton Coffee House.

Eva in the thick of Irish celebrations!Throughout it all, Eva’s boundless energy was evident as she made her mark in her adopted homeland, amazing all with her enviable ability to work tirelessly for a good cause and to charm all those around her while she was at it. Not one to sit quietly in the background, Eva became a well-recognized fixture of the Saint John community, entertaining everyone with her Irish dancing, singing, acting, poetry recitations and endless capacity for good old Irish fun! Her recitation “Ode to Dr. Collins,” a poem about a young Saint John Doctor who gave his life helping the sick on Partridge Island in 1847, resounds with the lilt of the Irish land and you can still hear the ring of the hills of Clare in her voice. To this day, if there is an Irish activity underway, you’ll find Eva in the thick of it!!

Eva was a founding member of the Irish Canadian Cultural Association of New Brunswick and has worked tirelessly for the advancement of Irish culture and heritage in this province ever since. A remarkable and determined worker, she was responsible for single-handedly obtaining over 3,000 signatures to have Partridge Island protected as a historical site.

It would never be a surprise for the phone to ring at 8:30 a.m. “Hello, it’s Eva. I’ve just sold a full page advertisement for the Shamrock Leaf.” By this time this youthful senior would already be at work in her “office” having finishing her breakfast of four slices of bacon, a grilled tomato, some scrambled egg and a slice of whole wheat toast, a good hearty breakfast for a deceivingly hearty individual! 

Picture (R): Eva with Farrell McCarthy, Editor of the ICCANB newsletter magazine, The Shamrock Leaf.
Eva with Farrell McCarthy, Editor of the ICCANB newsletter magazine, The Shamrock Leaf.
As much as Eva is consumed with energy when it comes to promoting Irish history and culture, she is also consumed with the love of friends and family. She makes frequent trips to Ireland, visiting her one remaining brother, Bill Lynch in Malon, County Donegal, and the rest of her extended family, and has made the trip to Australia five times to visit her daughter and family.

Fiercely independent, Eva insists she could make these trips on her own but her son, Robert, accompanied her on her most recent trip to Ireland just “so she could keep an eye on him!”. It’s this Irish humour, combined with her small stature, boundless energy and mischievous glint in her eye that makes Robert think his mother may very well be of Leprechaun stock!

Eva with ICCANB members Mary May, Donna Blanchard and Helena Hook at the Saint John Arts CentrePicture (L): Eva with ICCANB members Mary May, Donna Blanchard and Helena Hook at the Saint John Arts Centre.

In addition to her extended family and her 4 grandchildren, Michelle & Jason Steele, Deirdre (O’Hanlon)(Joe) Quinn and James (Ceri Forbes) O’Hanlon, and three great-grandsons, Declan Quinn, Callum and Bailey O’Hanlon, Eva has no difficulty keeping track of years’ worth of friends and acquaintances from around the globe. She’ll regale you with stories of who is married to whom, who has recently welcomed a new addition to their family, who has fallen ill and who is on the mend, all the time weaving in history lessons and tidbits of general interest. Her amazing memory and capacity for capturing details, and then retelling them in the most entertaining way, may be attributed to the social skills she developed during her nursing career but are just as likely to stem from the very makeup of this extraordinary Irish lass.

Recognition for Eva’s Efforts

Throughout her active life, Eva has accumulated many volunteer hours and has been deservedly honoured for her efforts. She was at the inaugural meeting of the I.C.C.A.N.B. held at St. Malachy`s High School in 1984 and has been on the Board of Directors ever since. She has also served on the Provincial Board for over twenty years and is a well known face in the ticket booth at the Miramichi Irish Festival.

In March of 2003, Eva was presented with a framed certificate which read:

“In appreciation of faithful and dedicated service, and as a token of esteem and affection, A Lifetime Membership Award is presented to Eva Steele, by the Irish Canadian Cultural Association of New Brunswick, Saint John Chapter.”
In March of 2005, she was named Honorary Chairperson of St. Patrick’s Week in Saint John and presented with a plaque which read:
“In Recognition and Appreciation to Eva Steele, Honorary Chairperson, St. Patrick’s Week, March 12 2005”.
 “I’m delighted. She really is a treasure,” commented past President Dr. Danny Britt when told that Eva Steele was selected to be the Honorary Chair of the 2005 celebrations.


Eva as “Queen Aoife” 
Eva presiding as Queen Aoife

Dubbed “Queen of the Irish” by the group Men and Music, Eva has earned this title through her countless contributions to the Irish Canadian Cultural Association of Saint John. In recent years she has dressed up in her long green velvet gown and golden crown to preside as “Queen Aoife” of Tir Na N’Og (The Land of Youth) for the St. Patrick’s Week children’s ‘Wearing of the Green’ held in Brunswick Square.

Eva, the Performer 

Eva with film director Daniel McCarthyAlways willing to perform, Eva was delighted when, as soon as movie director Daniel McCarthy laid eyes on her, he knew that she was perfect for a role in his movie “Irish Eyes” (released as “Vendetta – no justice, no mercy”) which starred Daniel Baldwin. No stranger to the stage, Eva danced her Irish hornpipe and recited poetry at the Imperial Theatre on numerous occasions. You will usually find her at the Annual Benefit Breakfast at O’Leary’s Pub in Saint John, in aid of the Belfast Children’s Vacation, with her dancing shoes at the ready. She was on the Entertainment Committee for the arrival of the 3 masted sailing ship, “The Jeanie Johnston” when it arrived in Saint John from Tralee, Ireland. Picture (L): Eva with film director Daniel McCarthy 

Eva is also an active member of Comhaltas, a worldwide organization that promotes the music, song, dance and language of Ireland, and has fundraised and organized many of their Christmas parties and events in Saint John.

Eva and Famous People:

Never far from a camera lens, Eva has been photographed with Frank McKenna; Former Mayor, Shirley McAlary; Former MP Elsie Wayne; Monsignor Sheehan; President of Ireland, Mary McAleese; Irish Tenor, Frank Patterson; Film Director, Daniel McCarthy, Fiddle champion, Seamus Connolly of Boston and many more!! She is the darling of all!
Eva with Frank McKenna
Eva with Aide to President of ireland
Eva with Monsignor Sheehan
Eva with Monsignor Sheehan
Eva with Elsie Wayne
Pictures: Eva with:( L-R, Top to bottom) Frank McKenna; Aide to the President of Ireland; Monsignor Sheehan; Elsie Wayne, former Mayor of Saint John; fiddle champion Seamus Connolly. 
The ICCANB feels honoured to have had such a long association with this great and inspiring lady and wishes Eva many more years in which to regale us with her quick wit, enthusiastic performances, and just the wee bit of helpful “advice” when we start to go astray!

Best wishes now and always, Eva, from all your family, friends, and general admirers.