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Guide to the Ireland House Oral History Collection AIA.030

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-2596

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Rebecca Altermatt, Rachel Searcy

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on October 10, 2022
Description is in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Updated by Megan O'Shea to incorporate material from accession number 2018.100 Updated by Lyric Evans-Hunter to reflect the digitization of electronic records Updated by Aki Snyder to include unprocessed microcassettes, miniDVs, and an audio cassette  , September 2018 , March 2022 , October 2022

Container List


Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 59-60 Sax, Eithne Golden

Biographical Note

Eithne Golden Sax (b. 1919) is a retired multilingual translator for the United Nations, daughter of Irish nationalist organizer Peter Golden, and pupil of Irish republican author Ernie O'Malley.

Scope and Content Note

Eithne begins by talking about the family backgrounds of her parents, Peter Golden and Helen Merriam, who met while performing in A Comedy of Errors with Ben Greet's Elizabethan Society of England. She recounts incidents from the family's time in the Amsterdam Avenue apartment, such as visits by Irish nationalists like the poet Joseph Campbell (1879-1944) and Eamon De Valera as well as members of the Friends of Freedom for India. Purnendu Sinha apparently was admired for his ability to "carry the nappies in from the line so elegantly." Eithne has only one clear memory of her father, when he tried to cure her earache with castor oil.

Eithne discusses her mother, Helen Merriam, in great depth, describing her as a "bohemian, a maverick," and the "black sheep of the family." She repeats a favorite anecdote from Christmas 1918 that her mother obviously relished telling the Golden children. She describes the family's move to Pasadena, California, where Helen sold books at Brentano's until Ernie O'Malley convinced the family to relocate to Taos, New Mexico in 1931.

In Taos, Eithne met various artists and local Pueblo Indians, even dancing with Thornton Wilder (1897-1975) at the home of Mabel Dodge Luhan (1879-1962). Alexandra Belkovitch (d. 1983), wife of painter Nicolai Fechin (1881-1955), taught her Russian lullabies that would later inspire her lifelong passion for foreign languages. Every day O'Malley tutored the Golden children and a local Mexican girl named Aurora in subjects ranging from grammar to geography; Eithne claims he called the Goldens the "stupidest children in the world" despite her fond memories of these sessions.

As a result, Eithne moved to New Jersey to live with friends while pursuing an opera career in New York City in 1938. Her beloved Aunt Pat, her father's sister, greeted her at Pennsylvania Station, she recalls. But she quickly set her musical ambitions aside. By 1940, she moved to Lisbon, Portugal to work as a Foreign Service clerk, translating for the legation during World War II, she explains.

Eithne then discusses her time exploring the local music scene in Lisbon, which was cut short when she returned home to Taos to her ailing mother who was sick with cancer. After her mother's death in 1943, Eithne moved to New York City's East Village. She describes her experience working for a local group of Basque sympathizers, and she discusses a past love interest, Antonio Irela, the Secretary of the President of the Autonomous Basque Republic, Antón de Irala Basque government delegate to the United States

Eithne also touches upon her musical pursuits, as she co-founded the New York Society of Classical Guitar in 1946, as well as the Guitar Review magazine.

In the next part of the interview, Eithne describes her experience working for the United Nations as a translator beginning in 1949. She met her future husband, Ernie Sax, at a United Nations party in 1956, and admits that she thought Sax was a snob after their first meeting and that he "looked down on us girls." But a few weeks later, when Sax was hospitalized after a car accident, she visited him in the hospital, which Eithne claims was the start of a "great love affair." Eithne and Ernie Sax married that same year.

In the small remainder of the interview, Eithne explores the idea of Irish identity, and she discusses her trip to Ireland in 1959. Eithne describes her life after her husband's death in 1969, and details her current pursuits, explaining that she takes Irish language classes and attends events at the Glucksman Ireland House. Finally, Eithne explains that she is currently writing her memoirs.

Eithne Merriam Golden Sax was interviewed on 2 November 2006 at her home on in New York City's upper east side by Elizabeth Bedell and Marion R. Casey. This oral history with Eithne Merriam Golden Sax was digitally recorded on a Marantz CDR420. The interview is 140 minutes long, on two CDs and has been logged at ten-minute intervals.

Other Finding Aids

This interview has been logged at ten-minute intervals, and the Word file is available upon request at

Nov 2, 2006
Box: 3 Folder : 61-62 Scally, Robert J.

Biographical Note

Robert J. Scally (b. 1937), retired Professor of History, New York University and inaugural Director, Glucksman Ireland House, New York University.

Nov 20, 2006
Box: 3 Folder : 63 Scully, Bill

Historical/Biographical Note

Billy Scully (b. Glenamaddy, Co. Galway, 1937) has tended bar at McGovern's Tavern since arriving in Newark, New Jersey in 1958. He married the niece of the original owner, Frank McGovern, and took over ownership in the late 1960s.

Box: 3 Folder : 64 Sexton, John E.

Scope and Content Note

Sexton provides detailed information primarily on his youth and family life, from 1942 to 1975. Sexton's grandfather, James J. Sexton (1875-1947), was born in County Sligo (near the border with Donegal), Ireland, the son of the village blacksmith. He came to the United States at the age of 20 and settled in Brooklyn, New York, where he worked as a blacksmith and became an active member and eventual president of the International Union of Journeymen Horseshoers. James Sexton entered local politics in 1915 as Democratic District leader in the Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn and by 1929 was serving Mayor James J. Walker as President of the New York City Board of Taxes and Assessments. Sexton gives an example of his grandfather's character and influence during the Depression while head of Brooklyn's Jefferson Democratic Club.

Sexton's father, John E. Sexton, a graduate of Manhattan College and Fordham University Law School, died in 1960 when his son was eighteen, after years battling the effects of alcoholism. He discusses the good and bad experiences he had as a child, including hardships resulting from the chronic ill health of his father. Sexton describes how his father taught him the value of helping other people by bringing home what Sexton refers to as "handymen." Rather than renting out the extra room in their house, Sexton's father would take in homeless men who were frequently recovering alcoholics and allow them to stay until they got back on their feet. Sexton acknowledges the centrality of his relationship with his father to subsequent choices he made in life, and briefly talks about his strained relationship with his uncle Jim Sexton. He attributes his knowledge of his Irish heritage to his aunt Ruth Sexton (Sr. James Marie), a Dominican nun.

While remaining closest to his mother's German family, Sexton personally identifies himself as Irish. He talks about the pastor-like persona of all the Sexton men in his family and how readily it translates to his current position as President of New York University and Dean of its Law School before that. Sexton attributes this love of people to being Irish and says this was passed down to him by his father. Although he refers throughout the interview to the NYU Law School as his "parish" and the university as his "archdiocese," Sexton does not otherwise agree with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. He discusses his personal concept of Catholicism and his relationship with the Church, reflecting on the Jewish identity of his wife, children and grandchildren.

He describes his education and work experience, especially his time at Fordham University and St. Francis College. Following his father's death, Sexton began coaching a debate team at St. Brendan's Diocesan High School for girls where his sister was enrolled. He talks extensively about the fifteen years he spent with the debate team, the significance of the experience both for him and for the girls he coached, and describes the first reunion the team had recently. He credits one of his teachers at Brooklyn Prep, Charlie Winans, with being the inspiration behind his efforts with the St. Brendan's debaters. He recounts how his first application to Harvard Law School was rejected and how his friend, Lawrence Tribe, called in a few favors, convincing the admissions department to give his application reconsideration; nevertheless, Sexton's commitment to St. Brendan's was so great that he deferred going to law school until 1975.

Fifty-three minutes into this oral history, Edward C. Smith, general auditor and senior vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, arrives for a meeting and Sexton invites him to listen in on the remainder of the interview. He asks Smith if there is a demonstration outside, which is a reference to the rally organized by the United Auto Workers in support of striking NYU graduate assistants that was scheduled for noon that day outside Bobst Library. This is the second brief reference Sexton makes to the strike during this interview.

John E. Sexton was interviewed in his academic office in Vanderbilt Hall at New York University School of Law on 2 December 2005 by Shawna C. Meechan and Marion R. Casey. This oral history with John E. Sexton was digitally recorded on a Marantz CDR420. Interview is 71 minutes, 56 seconds long, on two CDs and had been logged at ten minute intervals.

Other Finding Aids

This interview has been logged at ten-minute intervals, and the Word file is available upon request at

Historical/Biographical Note

John E. Sexton (b. 1942) is the President of New York University and former Dean of its School of Law.

Dec 2, 2005
Box: 3 Folder : 65 Shanley, John Patrick

Scope and Content Note

Mr. Shanley discusses a range of topics, focusing particularly on his success in the writing world, both in theater and film, as well as his Irish background and identity.

Mr. Shanley begins by discussing his childhood in the Bronx, and the difficulties he had in school because of his "differences." He describes feeling misunderstood because of his creativity, particularly by his father, who, as a survivor of the Great Depression, wanted Shanley to pursue a career with security and a pension. Shanley's difficulties in school manifested themselves as behavioral issues which resulted in hours of detention over the course of his academic career. He was asked to leave several schools before a teacher at his New Hampshire boarding school took him under his wing and ensured that he graduated.

Shanley describes his career at New York University and the way in which a five year leave from academia after high school helped his education. He explains how his two year stint in the Marine Corps in the middle of the Vietnam War provided him with the insight to negotiate institutional structures for his personal benefit, rather than battle against them. Shanley credits the discipline of the Marines for his success at NYU, from which he graduated as valedictorian of his class in 1977.

Much of Shanley's best known work focuses on individuals struggling within institutional structures, particularly Doubt, which Shanley based on his experiences in religious-based institutions. He identifies the inspiration for  Doubt as emerging from his own philosophy on life -- which advocates sticking to his convictions, regardless of his certainty in their correctness -- and draws on some of his school experiences, particularly his primary school, St. Anthony's, which was run by the Sisters of Charity. His first grade teacher was the model for the character of Sister James in the play. Shanley later hired her as a consultant on the movie version of the play, which premiered in 2008.

Doubt has garnered multiple awards for Shanley, including a 2005 Tony for best play and the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Shanley was also the recipient of an Oscar for best original screenplay for the movie  Moonstruck, a 1987 film that focused on the convoluted love life of an Italian American played by Cher. During the interview he focuses largely on the evolution of his career. He discusses life experience as it relates to his success, as well as persistence -- at one point, he was living below the poverty line and working a series of odd jobs, but still producing about one play a year.

Shanley talks about his two adopted sons from his first marriage who come from very diverse ethnic backgrounds. Shanley does not consider ethnicity an integral part of their upbringing, and refers to his own Irishness as being a literal part of him, rather than something that derives from his own social or cultural upbringing. He does, however, credit his Irish background for his ability to tell a story, saying that a visit to his family's farm in Ireland made him realize how like his Irish relatives he was—finally finding a niche after years of feeling "different" and "weird."

John Patrick Shanley was interviewed on 5 November 2008 at Glucksman Ireland House at New York University by Mary Catherine Williamson and Linda Dowling Almeida. This oral history with John Patrick Shanley was digitally recorded on a Marantz CDR420. Interview is 1 hr, 22 minutes long, on 2 CDs and has been logged at 10 minute intervals.

Other Finding Aids

This interview has been logged at ten-minute intervals, and the Word file is available upon request at

Historical/Biographical Note

John Patrick Shanley (b. 1950), writer and director best known for the screenplay for Moonstruck (1988), winner of a Best Screenplay Oscar, and  Doubt: A Parable (2004), which won the Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award for Best Play. He directed his own adaptation of the play on film, which garnered five Oscar nominations, including one for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Nov 5, 2008
Box: 4 Folder : 1 Shannon, Catherine

Historical/Biographical Note

Catherine Shannon (b. Rockaway Beach, New York), the Director of Infection Prevention and Employee Health Services at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown, Long Island, is a registered nurse and family nurse practitioner. The mother of two sons, she also plays the fife and bagpipes.

Box: 4 Folder : 80 Shannon, Catherine B.
Feb 21, 2013
Box: 4 Folder : 2 Shea, Sr. Catherine

Biographical Note

Sister Catherine Shea was born in Laharn, Co. Kerry, Ireland, in 1917. Sister Catherine immigrated to Boston in 1929 and at the age of 15 entered the convent of the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth in Convent Station, New Jersey. She taught in New Jersey and in Puerto Rico, and retired in 1993.

Scope and Content Note

This oral history was digitally recorded on a Marantz PMD660. The interview is approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes long, on 2 CDs. The interview took place in Convent Station, New Jersey, on June 12, 2009, and the interviewer was Myriam Nyhan.

Jun 12, 2009
Box: 4 Folder : 81 Sheehan, Virginia

Historical/Biographical Note

Virginia Sheehan (b. Greenpoint, New York, 1930) is the daughter of Irish immigrants from Co. Cork and grew up in Greenpoint, Brooklyn when it was a predominantly Irish neighborhood.

Apr 10, 2012
Box: 4 Folder : 3 Shelley, Msgr. Thomas

Historical/Biographical Note

Msgr. Thomas Shelley of the Jesuit Order (b. South Bronx, New York, 1937) is a Monsignor and Professor of Theology at Fordham University and the author of several major books on Catholicism in America, including Greenwich Village Catholics and  The History of the Archdiocese of New York.

Box: 4 Folder : 4 Smith, Ellen
Box: 4 Folder : 82 Smolenyak, Megan

Historical/Biographical Note

Megan Smolenyak (b. La Chapelle-Saint-Mesmin, France, 1960) is a genealogical adventurer and history detective, as well as an author and TV personality. Her most recent books include Hey, America, Your Roots are Showing and  Who Do You Think You Are? Her research corrected the story of Annie Moore, the first immigrant processed at Ellis Island.

Apr 1, 2013
Box: 4 Folder : 83 Smyth, Mary

Historical/Biographical Note

Mary Smyth (b. Doonfeeny, Co. Mayo, Ireland, 1932) grew up on a farm in Co. Mayo and emigrated to New York City in 1953 where she worked in a series of domestic jobs and raised a family.

Jul 30, 2013
Box: 4 Folder : 5 Smyth, Tommy

Other Finding Aids

This interview has been logged at ten-minute intervals, and the Word file is available upon request at

Historical/Biographical Note

Tommy Smyth (b. 1945) is an internationally recognized soccer analyst and sports broadcaster for ESPN and was the 2008 Grand Marshall of the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Oct 24, 2008
Box: 4 Folder : 6 Smyth, Treasa Goodwin

Other Finding Aids

This interview has been logged at ten-minute intervals, and the Word file is available upon request at

Scope and Content Note

Smyth opens the interview talking about her childhood, starting with her mother's pregnancy with her and her twin sister. She discusses the experiences of growing up with ten siblings who all lived under one roof in an old farmhouse. She describes her mom cooking on a hearth fireplace and the sleeping arrangements in her house. She remembers her mother as a fantastic cook, making delicious dishes with simple resources and how her mother would make Treasa gather the wood in the morning to start the fire in the hearth. She recalls selling the vegetables they raised on the farm and milking cows and talks about wearing rubber boots, or wellies, when farming. She admits surprise when she sees people wearing them today as fashionable footwear. She remembers how her dog Scotty would help her with the daily chores and talks about watching TV shows like Eurovision, Flipper, and Skippy the Kangaroo.

She remembers her dad's passing and seeing a banshee that night, and knowing it was a sign that her dad had died. After her father's death all her siblings had to help maintain the farm. She recalls with sadness that some of her dad's customers did not pay their bills after his death and how that disturbed her because of his fairness to them while he was alive.

She talks about the importance of religion in her family. Her parents did not tolerate distractions or disruptions during their daily prayers and every Saturday her family went to confession. She recalls her first confession and how she could not think up a sin, so a nun told her to make one up.

She talks about going to school at Saint Mary's National School in Cobh and describes how the nuns were very mean to her and how in one incident a nun did not let her use the bathroom. She felt the nuns were biased against her and her siblings because they were poor and from the country and made them clean up after the rich city girls. She also recalls a funny story about having to choose between getting in trouble with her sister or a nun. She talks about being forced to learn Irish in school without much success, but that at 17 she decided to really take an interest in the language and got a scholarship to study it at summer school. She recalls her choice to continue her studies at the vocational school rather than continue with the nuns. At vocational school she started to fall in love with learning as she acquired very practical skills like accounting and wood work. She also talks about one teacher whom she admired who played camogie.

She recalls growing up playing sports and listening to games on the radio. She talks about her mom's disapproval of girls playing sports and that she had to sneak out of the house to try out for the camogie team, only to break her ankle at the tryout. On her second attempt she made the national team but managed to hide it from her mother. She remembers that her mother finally accepted her athletic pursuits later on in her life. She also talks about the importance of the sport to her even in America and how she would help other players of the game immigrate to the US.

She describes going to Gurteen Agriculture College to study farm management and how she was one of the only women at the school. She remembers not being treated well by her male peers. During her apprenticeship she performed a job that required three men to complete when she left. Smyth chats about working in pig management and her job on a pig farm supervising 10 men. She remembers how she had to work carefully with all the men to make them feel comfortable as members of a team and ultimately winning their respect and allegiance.

She talks about her first experience giving birth in Ireland, how she was kept in the dark about what was going to happen and where the baby would come from. She talks about the privacy in her household and the reluctance to share intimate information. She compares it to Ireland today and how more open the culture is and that people talk a little too much about their lives now.

Treasa describes coming to America for the first time and observing the degree of its diversity with some surprise. She discusses her early jobs as a domestic and how it was hard for her to make ends meet as a single mother. She talks about becoming a nurse and how at first she resisted the idea because she thought nurses were arrogant, but finally decided to go to night school. It took her four years to complete her degree. She talks about finding her social network by playing camogie at Gaelic Park and the importance of immigrants helping each other when they arrive through sports and other outlets. She also talks about being an undocumented alien. Treasa talks about her mom dying and how her mother waited to pass until Treasa was back in Ireland. She recalls having a vision of her father, who was dead, holding her mother's hand as her mom died. She talks about the funeral and explains how Tommy Smyth, her husband, supported her during that time. She talks about how she met Smyth, an ESPN soccer analyst, and their 12 year courtship. Treasa talks about her faith and how Mass for her is the beginning of a new week. She talks about raising her kids in the Catholic Church.

She says her children identify themselves as Americans even though every summer Treasa sent them to Ireland to stay with family and experience life on the farm with their Irish relatives. She ends the interview describing how she is an Irish person in her heart but she loves America.

This oral history with Treasa Goodwin Smyth was digitally recorded on Marantz CDR420. The interview is 2 hours and 23 minutes. The interview took place on November 6, 2009, and the interviewers were Alexia Townsend and Linda Dowling Almeida.

Historical/Biographical Note

Treasa Goodwin Smyth (b. 1960), a radio host of Ireland Calls on WVOX 1460 AM and wife of ESPN soccer analyst Tommy Smyth. An immigrant from County Cork who arrived in the United States in the 1980s, she raised her children as a single mom and put herself through nursing school by cleaning houses. Treasa was a member of Ireland's national camogie team and continued to play the sport at GaelicPark in the first years after she arrived New York.

Nov 6, 2009
Box: 4 Folder : 84 Stanley, Patricia

Historical/Biographical Note

Patricia E. Stanley (b. Jersey City, New Jersey, 1953) is a data analyst with a background in theater and music. She has done extensive genealogical research on her own family's history and has traced both sides of her family to Co. Mayo.

Mar 28, 2012
Box: Electronic records E-records : TW_AIA_30_ER_66 Staunton, Ciarán

Staunton, Ciaran: 2016-

Biographical Note

Ciarán Staunton was born in 1963 in County Galway, Ireland and was raised in Louisburgh, County Mayo.  He immigrated to the United States in 1982, settling in Boston, Massachusetts and moving to New York, New York in 1991.  He owned a number of bars in Boston and New York. He helped for the Irish Immigration Reform Movement in 1987 and co-founded the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform in 2005.  He married and had two children.

Scope and Contents

This interview was conducted by Íde B. O'Carroll at the Rory Staunton Foundation for Sepsis Prevention in New York, New York on November 10, 2016.  The interview covers Ciarán Staunton's early life in Ireland, his working life, and his participation in immigration reform organizations. Staunton discusses his childhood in Ireland and his extended family.  He recounts his management of the family's farm and his decision to leave Ireland in 1980. He recounts jobs he held in bars in England, his decision to immigrate to the United States, the benefits of the indefinite validity visa he received.  He describes in detail his experiences in Boston, Massachusetts and New York, including his work experiences in Irish bars in Boston and his involvement in Irish immigration and human rights organizations, including Irish Northern Aid Committee (NORAID), Irish Immigration Reform Movement, and Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform.  He discusses his involvement with the Friends of Sinn Féin and the peace process in Northern Ireland in the 1990s. Staunton also discusses his son's, Rory, death from sepsis, his establishment of the Rory Staunton Foundation for Sepsis Prevention, and the work of the foundation.

Box: 4 Folder : 85 Sullivan, John

Historical/Biographical Note

John Sullivan (b. Manchester, England, 1945) was born in Manchester, England and came to the United States with his family in 1949. He has family roots in Cos. Kerry and Mayo. Before his retirement, he was in charge of marketing and sales for ABB in North America.

Apr 20, 2012
Box: 4 Folder : 7 Sullivan, Maureen

Historical/Biographical Note

Maureen Sullivan (b. Brooklyn, New York, 1943), the daughter of immigrants from Counties Clare and Roscommon, was raised in Brooklyn. She spent her early career teaching and working in the advertising industry. She is the President of Maureen Sullivan Communications and the author of two children's books, Ankle Soup and  Custard and Mustard.

Box: 4 Folder : 86 Sweetman, Ruth

Historical/Biographical Note

Ruth Sweetman (b. Palmerstown, Co. Dublin, Ireland, 1942) grew up outside of Dublin and has strong family ties to the struggle for Irish independence in the early 20th century. She is the niece of the Irish patriot, Kevin Barry. One of her most treasured possessions is a bracelet which was presented to her mother and is inscribed, "To Eileen M Barry with esteem from St Ita's Committee New York Aug 1929." She was a guidance counselor at the elite bording school, Clongowes Wood.

May 15, 2013

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