Growing old from home

May 31st 2012

Posted by Norma Manly

Growing old from home explores the issue of emigration through photography, an issue so relevant in contemporary Ireland. It follows the lives of the aging Irish Community in New York City, bringing alive their intense love and pride for their place of birth.

My objective is to encourage new/renewed connections to be made and re-established from home and abroad. Re-connecting with family and friends, bringing them one step closer to our doorstep.

Growing old from home
Growing old from home
New York Irish center Paul Finnegan is executive director of the center. “This is a place where these older Irish can feel of value. A place where they feel they have some ownership. They helped build it, and now, for the most part, they can sit back and enjoy it. They have company and it’s a way for many of them not to drift into islolation. They have families, but in many cases their families live elsewhere in the city or elsewhere in the country. “I moved here 25 years ago, and i know from the other side what they’re going through; I know that it’s hard to keep up with your parents when you’re far way. So we’re able to do that, to keep tabs on those outsiders who are likely to become isolated. “We’re looking into things like providing transportation, because New York City is a very challenging place to get around in when you reach that stage. We have also had a listening service, but that’s under review at the moment, because we found that the people we were hoping to reach weren’t calling. There’s a tremendous pride. The Irish of that generation, their whole sense of worth is built on the fact that they got on well here. Now, it’s the first time in their lives where they feel they need to look after themselves, and it’s hard for them to reach out and ask for help.”
Growing old from home
Growing old from home
Irish Center, Queens.
Growing old from home
Growing old from home
A game of 31.
Growing old from home
Growing old from home
Irish Center, Queens.
Growing old from home
Growing old from home
St Patrick's day, Rockaway, Queens.
Growing old from home
Growing old from home
Kathleen Rygor, Astoria, Queens “I came out here from Co Offaly in 1950, and a couple of years later i sponcered my mother to come here too, and my stepfather. My dad had died when i was young. I guess it was unusual to sponcer your parents, but my mother came on a visit when i was first married and she loved it. And it was great having her nearby. My sister came out too. “I worked as a bookkeeper for an insurance agency in wall street. My Husband, Stanley, is a New Yorker and he worked with an advertising agency on wall street. He worked in the job for over 60 years, ended up as a senior vice president, and he had the Morgan Stanley account. They used to kid him because his name was Stanley. “He took up the accordian and he goes into Dempsey’s to play in sessions. We hav not even born yet. I kn e five children and nine grandchildren. I knit a lot of baby stuff for grandchildren, and for great granchildren who are it alot of Aran sweaters. I’m just kind of sorry i didn’t get into it when i was younger, when my sister and my mum were here. We could have started a little business.”
Growing old from home
Growing old from home
Stanley Rygor,(Kathleen’s husband) Astoria, Queens.
Growing old from home
Growing old from home
Ceile dance at the Irish Center, Queens.
Growing old from home
Growing old from home
St Patrick's day, Rockaway, Queens The first St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York was held on lower Broadway in 1762 by a band of homesick Irish ex-patriots and Irish military who served with the British Army stationed in the American colonies. This was a time when the wearing of green was a sign of Irish pride. The parade participants reveled in the freedom to speak Irish, wear the green, sing Irish songs and play the pipes to Irish tunes that were very meaningful to the Irish immigrants who had fled their homeland. For the first few years of its existence, the parade was organized by military units. After the War of 1812, the Irish fraternal and beneficial societies took over the duties of hosting and sponsoring the event.
Growing old from home
Growing old from home
Jim Gill (On right) Staten island “1957, i came out here. A cousin of mine who was also from kerry told me to volunteer for the draft, to get it out of the way, and because it’ll be easier to get jobs. So i was two years in Germany with the US army. I was a porter afterwards and then a bus driver, and then i worked in the police department for over 30 years. I ended up a lieutenant. “I play the fiddle in Dempsey’s Tavern every tuesday night and every thursday we have a session here in my house in staten island. My wife Pat, she’s from Brooklyn, she took up the flute. We have three children . The grandchildren are American. It moves a bit every generation. “Years ago you’d know an Irish person the minute you saw them, but not anymore. The new Irish people, they fit in. You can’t tell with clothes or anything anymore. But i think wherever you go you have to fit in with the people. Otherwise you won’t be here or there. When we came out here first, we always said it would just be for a short time. But that’s not what happens. And i know several people who tried to retire back in ireland and were back here again after a couple of years.”
Growing old from home
Growing old from home
Irish Center, Queens.
Growing old from home
Growing old from home
St Patrick's Cathedral The cathedral was completed in 1878, and holds a very special place for Irish Immigrants.
Growing old from home
Growing old from home
Kitty Galvin, Long Island city.
Growing old from home
Growing old from home
Mayo County Dance During the month of March, County dances are held throughout New York City in celebration of St Patrick's day.
Growing old from home
Growing old from home
Fr Colm Campbell “Fr Campbell cameout here from Belfast” says Paul Finnegan. “He was based in Andersontown during probably the darkest times of the troubles. Here in New York, he was kind of a priest at large for the 1980s Irish. And an Irish priest in a very modern context, in that he’s a highly qualified social worker. He was dealing with the stuff that we didn’t boast about when it came to the Irish at the time.. Alcoholism, Drug abuse, Depression, Spousal abuse, Broken marriages. He was dealing with this, and he didn’t judge, so people began to really connect with him and he became a friend to people. “Towards the end of the 1990s, he began talking about building a real community center here. Not a performing arts center, not an immigration service provider, but a place for people to come. And he’d built up such a network that he was able to turn to business people who could give him a building to get started with, and to others who wanted to give back in some way. And those 1980s immigrants who became successful , they understood that a lot of that success has to do with fact that the Irish before them had created an infrastructure that they could tap into. They were the one’s who had opened the doors.”
Growing old from home
Growing old from home
Mayo County dance.
Growing old from home
Growing old from home
Kathleen Kelly (On left with her neighbour Josephine) Woodside, Queens “I’ll never forget passing the Statue of Liberty – all i did was cry. I was in America now and there was nobody around only myself. I didn’t even know my aunt that i’d come out to. “I lived with her for five years and i worked as a waitress, and then a girlfriend and I got an apartment in Woodside. We found our husbands in the dancehalls. “I’m married to Sean Kelly from Carlow, and we have two kids and two grandkids. “I’ve been back to Ireland almost every year, sometimes twice a year. Ireland today, I don’t know what has happened. I still don’t understand how nobody was watching the banks. America, it’s a good place to grow old in, but only of you have your few dollars and your pension. “We used to go to all the county dances but we play cards now. We’re here to stay, Sean kelly and myself. We have our house in woodside, and one dog now, and that’s it.”
Growing old from home
Growing old from home
Matt Talty, Bronx “I was brought up in Co Clare with 16 brothers and sisters, it’s beautiful to be in a big family. Someone asked me once, when i was running the bars, did i not mind having to be around people so much, and i said, i was around people since i was born. “I came here with ¢20 in my pocket in 1957, and i started out as a union plasterer. I sent for my wife and three children soon after. By the time we were five years here, i had my own company , building houses, bars and restaurants. I stayed in that business for 25 years and then i opened up my own bar’s, upstate and in the bronx. “My wife, Mollie Willis, came from a respectable family in Sligo. After we were together a while she told me she was seven years older than me. Some people would walk out because of that. But we were married 60 years. And i was able to play my concertina at her graveside. “I’m only 88 years of age. I keep busy. I restored a 1970 checker cab, and i’m making sugan chairs these days. And i go into Dempsey’s to play on traditional sessions. Every sunday i buy the two Irish papers and i listen to the Irish programme and to the games. Kerry are still crying over their loss. Where are you from in Ireland? Ah your not much for the hurling, so.”
Growing old from home
Growing old from home
The Handprint of Matt Talty, it was the last bar he built, ran and sold.
Growing old from home
Growing old from home
Margaret Clifford, Woodside, Queens “My husband passed away suddenly on December 14th. He left the house to go to mass at five to nine and died two blocks away. He was John Clifford from Kilorgin, Co Kerry. He thought there was only one county and that was it. I had to keep reminding him that there was 31 others. “I’m from Clonkeen, Co Westmeath, and i came to New York on St Patricks day 1957. It didn’t bother me- it was a way of life to come here. Nobody paid any attention. My aunt claimed me and then i rented a room by myself. I thought nothing of it, to tell you the truth. I was an operator in the Bell telephone company. “And then we meet at Gaelic park and we married and had a daughter and four sons. “I go to the Irish center for a lucheon on a wednesday and then for cards every sunday and the last friday of the month. It’s great for the older people. They come from all over. Some would take two trains and a bus and everything
Growing old from home
Growing old from home
A lady singing the Irish national anthem at a county dance.
Growing old from home
Growing old from home
A coupe dancing at the Mayo county dance.
Growing old from home
Growing old from home
Marlyn, a neighbor of Kitty galvin’s, both live in a apartment block designed for the elderly, Long Island city, Queens.