Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Towns become twins

Radio personality links Lanesboroughs

By Benning W. De La Mater, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Berkshire Eagle

LANESBOROUGH — At the northern tip of Lough Ree, a body of water in the center of Ireland, sits a town of just under 1,000 folks.

The town is named after George Lane, a man who helped Irish warriors win the battle of Kinsale in 1601.

It is this town, Lanesborough, Ireland — and the countess who lived there — that served as the inspiration for the naming of our very own Lanesborough.

And in a few short weeks, the two towns will broker an accord to become twin cities. It all started with the help of local radio personality Stephanie Abrams.

Abrams, who produces and hosts the nationally syndicated show "Travel with Stephanie Abrams" in Studio 35 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, was on one of her numerous trips to Ireland last year when she discovered the town of the same name.

Many local Lanesborough residents knew of the Irish town's existence. Even a 1940s photograph of the town sits in Town Hall. But it was at Abrams' urging that the towns came together.

She met with Town Councilor John Casey of Lanesborough, Ireland, who happens to be the local butcher. He passed the idea by the Irish councilors, and they drafted a proclamation.

At Monday night's Selectmen's meeting, Abrams presented the idea to the local politicians. They agreed to put the plan in motion.

"What's funny is that there are people in Lanesborough, Ireland, who leave off the 'ugh,' like some people here do," she said. "But they do so for dissimilar reasons. The 'ugh' tends to be British."

With a bit of research and help from the Lanesborough (Mass.) Historical Society, Abrams discovered that, in 1741, Massachusetts Gov. William Shirley named the local town after a friend of his, Countess "Lovely" Lanesborough, the wife of one of his best friends. Our Lanesborough was also home to many Irish immigrants and still retains a population that identifies with the Emerald Isle. U.S. Census numbers from 2004 show that Irish Americans make up the largest percentage of Lanesborough's 2,990 population, with 20.7 percent of the people having Irish blood.

Abrams said she hopes the twin city deal can, at the very least, broker a relationship between Lanesborough Elementary School and Irish schools.

"I think it could do a lot," she said. "The children here can pen-pal with children there and share experiences and learn about each other in ways you will never get from any book. And I think it could open up a tourist path as well."

Selectwoman Gae Elfenbein said the Board of Selectmen is all for the twin-city moniker, although she's not sure how much money can be diverted to the program.

"We don't know where we're going with it from here," she said. "It's in its early stages, but I think it's a (great) idea."

The Lanesborough Historical Commission is meeting June 6 to discuss the plan, which will include producing signs similar to Pittsfield's Sister City signs. Abrams said that, although she doesn't have a drop of Irish blood in her family lineage, she has always been obsessed with the people and culture of Hibernia.

"I was a leprechaun in a former life," she said.

Benning W. De La Mater can be reached at bdelamater@berkshire eagle.com or at (413) 496-6243.


Stephanie B. Abrams