Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade Grand Marshal Sean McMenamin is on a tight schedule these days. Who knew being grand marshal came with the responsibility for so many appearances and speeches?
It will all come to a head Sunday when he is driven down Market Street to the reviewing stand at the Constitution Center, accepting well-deserved accolades along the way.
But as grateful as Sean McMenamin is to be honored, he is quick to point out that he alone is not the one being singled out for praise, but it the generation of Irish emigrants from the late 1950s and early 1960s that he represents.
In speeches yesterday before Philadelphia City Council, a salute to Irish patriots outside City Hall and, last night, as he proudly accepted the sash of grand marshal at a dinner at Sugar House Casino held in his honor, he remembered his roots—and those of so many of his friends.
McMenamin hails from a small town outside Westport, County Mayo. He remembered getting on the train and initially beginning a journey to England for work. Although he didn’t know it at the time, it was a journey that ultimately would take him to Philadelphia, where he married, raised a family, and pursued a career.
“I remember leaving the train station in Westport,” he told his audience at the dinner. “We just said, we’ll see you again somehow. We should have been nervous, but we didn’t know any difference. We were survivors. We weren’t victims.”
He also noted that given current immigration laws, it would be impossible for immigrants like himself to enter the United States and start new lives here.
True that is, so for now we’ll just be glad that Sean McMenamin—and others of his generation—are here now and continuing to make a difference.
We attended several events in his honor yesterday, and we have photos from throughout the day. Check them out. There’s also a video by Lori Lander Murphy.