Post World War II, 1940s–1960s

A gathering in James Lad O'Beirne's apartment, 3 of 3 [Back row: James Lad O'Beirne, fiddle ; Louis Quinn, fiddle ; Paddy Sweeney, fiddle ; unidentified, flute ; Jack Brennan ; unidentified ; Jim McGowan, fiddle. Front row: Joe Concannon ; Jack O'Beirne] / Unidentified photographer. New York, 1941. Image courtesy Sean Quinn

As America emerged from World War II, New York City seemed as Irish as ever. Even as upwardly mobile Irish-Americans began their long exodus to the middle-class suburbs, new immigrants from Ireland’s depressed economy helped maintain the five boroughs’ Hibernian character. On 1st January, 1946 Mayo native Bill O’Dwyer was inaugurated as New York City mayor. O’Dwyer’s rags-to-riches rise was emblematic of a period, to use the title of Terry Winch’s song, “When New York Was Irish.” 

Irish traditional music was in retreat from the prominent position it occupied in the pre-war years. But it was, nevertheless, central to an enthusiastic minority within the New York Irish community with dancehalls at Jaeger House, the Tuxedo Ballroom or the Caravan in Manhattan or the Star o' Munster in the Bronx, where modern American dances were enjoyed alongside the ''Stack of Barley'' or a Clare set. 

Traditional music lovers in New York supported music and dance teachers, multiple musicians’ clubs and well-attended feis competitions. Fiddlers James Morrison, Hugh Gillespie and John McGrath were among the “professors” conducting classes for hundreds of youngsters whose parents wanted the next generation to play the fiddle or button accordion.

Recordings from the Post World War II Era

Images from the Post World War II era

Catherine Brennan-Grant, 1915–1979

Jack Coen, 1925–2012

Louis Quinn, 1904–1991

Felix Dolan, 1937–2013

Vincent Harrison, 1927–2009

Joe Madden, 1938–2008

Andy McGann, 1928–2004

Seán McGuire, 1927–2005

Martin Mulhaire, 1936–2020

Larry Redican, 1908–1975

Timmy Cronin

Paddy Reynolds, 1920–2005

Jackie Roche

Paddy Sweeney, 1894–1974

Martin Wynne, 1916–1998

Denis Murphy, 1910–1974

Mike Preston, 1926–2008

Joe Mills

Charlie Mulvihill, 1917–1975

Sean Quinn

James Lad O'Beirne, 1911–1980

The New York Céilí Band

Clubs, Céilidhe and Feiseanna

Paddy Killoran in the Post-War Years