There are Irishmen walking on the streets of Dublin who aren’t as Irish—DNA-wise, at least—as Judge Patrick Dugan.
“I’m 99 percent, with some British Isles in there,” laughs Judge Dugan, sitting in his memento-bedecked office on the 13th floor of the Justice Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice where his view encompasses the south side of City Hall and bustling Penn Square.
Dugan, chief judge of Philadelphia Veterans Court, descended from great-grandparents who emigrated to the US from Mayo and Cork, but his childhood wasn’t steeped in his Irish heritage. “We knew we were Irish but I wasn’t hearing folklore and stories,” he says. “I had my awakening as a young man. It came when I was watching news of ‘the Troubles’ and trying to understand how we got there.”
His newly awakened interest led him to the Ancient Order of Hibernians. He’s a member of Div. 25 in Fox Chase. Every year he gives a speech at their annual Day of the Rope, which remembers the four members of the Molly Maguires, dissident miners, who were hanged in the jailhouse in what is now Jim Thorpe, Pa., after what is now widely considered to be a judgment by a kangaroo court.
It’s a different speech each year but, he says, the theme is always the same. “It takes us back to what our people had to endure when they came here,” he says. “I get something new out of it every year and I reach more people who I hope understand what labor went through, what Irish immigrants went through, to get where we are as a people.”