Sean McMenamin, who came to the United States from a small town just outside of Westport, County Mayo, in January 1966, describes Irish immigrants of the time as “survivors.” They came here when immigration laws were far more lax than they are now, and they did what they needed to do to make a life for themselves.
He recalled those days Wednesday night at a VIP Party at the Constitution Center—one in which he was honored as this year’s grand marshal of the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day parade.
And he remembered a steady flow of Irish immigrants in those days. “Every week, there’d be somebody new coming,” he said, addressing a large, enthusiastic crowd that included members of the parade’s Ring of Honor.
What McMenamin described, without veering into the political, was a nation in which it was easier for an immigrant to enter the United Stated and serve in its Armed Forces, as he did, and go on to live an exemplary and product life, as he has and continues to do.
His, he recalls, was the last generation to enjoy that privilege. “My parting words are, we need to do something to revitalize our young. Get some immigration,” he said. “I don’t want immigration from Ireland just for the sake of immigration. We just need to keep those ties going.”
McMenamin and the Ring of Honor were recognized, and each in turn had an opportunity to say a few words. McMenamin is a man of few words, but his were most eloquent.
We have pictures from that night. We invite you to take a look. The photo gallery is above. Click on the right and left arrows to advance or to go back through the photo essay.