For those of you who do not know, this year (2017) marks the 20th anniversary of TheWildGeese.irish (originally TheWildGeese.com). My old friend Gerry Regan has made this a cornerstone of his life's work and attracted some great help along the way. The result is one of the very best sites on the web for anyone interested in the history and heritage of the Irish.
(Left: one of the earliest logo's used by "The Wild Geese" website.)
By the time I met Ger, the site was already established and moving into its fifth year. Gerry and his friend Joe Gannon had already populated the website with more information than most other sites focused on Irish history, even those run by the popular Irish publications. Always focused on his readership, Ger was fanatic about creating content that would engage, educate and entertain. As I watched his team and audience grow, that passion never waned.
When Belinda Evangelista, a hard-working member of The Wild Geese team, reminded me earlier this year that the 20th anniversary was upon us, it caught me by surprise. Could so much time have gone by? I agreed to write a post, both to congratulate my friends at TheWildGeese.irish for their hard work over the past 20 years, but also to let them know that we have been watching, learning and enjoying the entertainment they have built into every page on this site. Before I knew it, many months had passed and I had yet to write a single word about what I had witnessed over the past 15 years or so.
When I started working with Ger in New York, we both served another media company. I wrote articles for a small business website and Ger made them shine. I've never worked with a better copyeditor. We did our work and produced some content I'm still proud of today. But every chance we got, we stole away somewhere, and Ger told me about TheWildGeese.irish.
In those days, it wasn't really clear how the Internet would develop and whether online publications would ever hold their own against the paper publications that had dominated the scene for the previous 150 years or more. Ger was building something that could partner with traditional publications, but few publishers saw the value in the young Internet, though a lot of the content from TheWildGeese.irish found its way into traditional print publications.
By the time traditional publishers started to see the promise in going online, Ger and Joe were building out their team and making deals with advertisers around the world. It may surprise many to know that the website they built has never had any full-time employees, to my knowledge. It was all done part-time, after a long day's work at some other job. A passion for telling these stories pushed away the exhaustion, and new content would find its way onto the site each and every week.
(Right: Another one of the early logos used by "The Wild Geese" website.)
As the site's audience began to come together, other media companies were starting to understand the power of social networks. Flashy sites like Facebook pulled many readers away, commanding attention with click-bait and silly videos. But through all of this, the core audience remained loyal and kept reading. The site's editors never stopped delivering great content, and the site kept going through all of those years.
It has been an honor to know Ger over these many years and, on occasion, to work with his team. You should all be proud of what you've built here. I thank you for the many hours I've spent on this site and for all the wonderful things I have learned here.
Here's to another 20 years, my friends. You are a shining example of the will of the Irish to live on as they have always lived, filled with passion and a healthy respect for the traditions of the past, regardless of where the winds take them.