Barbara Dugan discusses her upbringing as part of an Irish-American family in New York City. Her grandparents emigrated from County Mayo and County Kerry around 1900. Her grandmother, Catherine, took care of janitorial duties in her apartment building while her grandfather, Patrick, became employed in steel works and helped to build several New York City area bridges. As a child, she had difficulty getting her grandmother to speak in detail about Ireland, which she suspects is because of the hardships the family endured before their move to the United States. Barbara grew up going to all-girls Catholic schools and was raised Catholic. She speaks glowingly of her travels in Ireland and discusses the various ways in which she passes a sense of Irish-American identity onto her children and grandchildren. Barbara recently relocated to Charleston to be close to her married son and grandchildren, who live in Mt. Pleasant.
Bar owner Tommy Snee discusses his experiences as an Irish immigrant in Charleston. He is the youngest of ten children and describes his upbringing in a poor family as a happy one despite the hardships of poverty. He first came to the United States at the age of seventeen in 1980, to stay with an aunt and uncle in St. Augustine, Florida for a holiday. He returned home for a period of time before returning to the States in 1986 and gaining his green card. He gained U.S. citizenship in 2017. He attended a Christian Brothers School in Ireland, and left school at the age of fourteen to work in construction. Feeling that there was “nowhere to go in Ireland,” he came to the States, where he found the opportunity to work hard and make a life immensely appealing. The weather, the diversity, and the local culture drew him to Charleston from New York. He finds that the response to him as an immigrant has been nothing but positive. While he loves his life in the States, he states that, first and foremost, “I’ll always be an Irishman.” On Irish stereotypes, he disagrees with many of the simplistic stereotypes, but argues that the best way for Irish immigrants to dispel these kinds of false notions is through education. He also discusses the importance of honoring diverse backgrounds and experiences, and the importance of listening to and learning from those with different perspectives, which he feels is critical for America, or for any country, to becoming as great as it can be.
Jeremiah Courtney discusses his experience as an Irish immigrant in New York City, and then in Charleston. He came to the States full time in 1991, after having lived in London for five years and finding life there difficult for an Irishman. He speaks warmly of growing up in Kilarney, County Kerry, but left largely because he felt that Ireland couldn’t offer him the variety and adventure that he wanted in his life. He felt welcomed and supported upon first arriving in the States, particularly by others in the Irish or Irish-American community. He made his way down to Charleston after feeling he needed a break from New York. Though he was raised in the Catholic church and attended Catholic school, he finds himself turning away from Catholicism, and has not passed that on to his children.