Sligoman Jimmy Neary sailed to America in 1954, his passage famously funded by poker winnings and cash earned breeding lambs.
Arriving with $94 and the name and address of a friend of his mother’s, he opened a namesake pub in Manhattan, which for more than a half century has been a canteen for New York’s power brokers, politicians, archbishops, artists & actors, and Superbowl winners.
As Neary's grew in reputation and regard, nicknamed The Irish 21, and standing today as one of the last of the old world NYC restaurants, Jimmy Neary became a world-renowned barkeep who poured generously yet didn’t touch a drop.
A restauranteur for half a century, he couldn’t tell you how to make a hamburger. He never threw a pass or caught a touchdown, but ended up as the only Irishman with two Super Bowl rings and a footnote in New York Giants’ history.
“It was all about people for him,” his daughter Una Neary said.
Following his passing in October, Una Neary talks to Dave Hannigan about her father’s remarkable life and unique Irish New York story.
Commissioned by St. Patrick's Festival 2022
Dave Hannigan is a professor of history at Suffolk County Community College in Long Island, New York and a columnist with The Irish Times in Dublin.
He is the author of several non-fiction books and two children's novels. His latest work, "Barbed Wire University - the story of what happened when Winston Churchill interned intellectual, artistic and musical refugees on the Isle of Man during World War 2", will be published next year.
Born and raised in Togher, Cork, he now lives with his three sons in East Setauket.
I.NY is an international cultural project that celebrates and brings to life the shared story of Ireland and New York. With year-round audience engagement, artist collaborations and cross-Atlantic initiatives, all activity culminates in the annual I.NY Festival.
I.NY is the creative brainchild of David O’Donovan and Aoife Flynn, who developed the project with the help and support of numerous individuals and organisations in Ireland and New York
Held over ten October days in Limerick, Ireland, the festival is anchored by the I.NY Cultural and Diaspora Programmes, telling the story of the relationship through music, literature, film, theatre, dance, street-art, the I.NY Gathering, the Annie Moore talks series, and more.
In addition, the festival features Enterprise and Education programming, while I.NY Explore celebrates the Irish influence on New York fashion, food, sport, politics, architecture, design, religion and more, and explores how that influence eventually returned home.
“It’s from a fascination with and love for both the history and modernity of the Ireland -New York relationship that I.NY is built. The intention is to uncover the stories that are the fabric of that relationship, to tell them to a wide audience, encourage that audience to share their own, and once a year, through these stories, bring that relationship to life in an Irish city.
I.NY creates opportunities for an audience to explore what it means to be local and global, Irish and American, emigrant and native, and to share and experience these stories”.