Sligoman Jimmy Neary sailed to America in 1954, his passage famously funded by poker winnings and cash earned breeding pigs. Arriving with $94 and the name and address of a friend of his mother’s, he opened a namesake pub in Manhattan, which for more than a half century has been a canteen for New York’s power brokers, politicians, archbishops, artists & actors, and Superbowl winners.
As Neary's grew in reputation and regard, nicknamed The Irish 21, and standing today as one of the last of the old world NYC restaurants, Jimmy Neary became a world-renowned barkeep who poured generously yet didn’t touch a drop.
A restauranteur for half a century, he couldn’t tell you how to make a hamburger. He never threw a pass or caught a touchdown, but ended up as the only Irishman with two Super Bowl rings and a footnote in New York Giants’ history.
“It was all about people for him,” his daughter Una Neary said.
Following his passing in October, Una Neary talks to Dave Hannigan about her father’s remarkable life and unique Irish New York story.
Dave Hannigan is a professor of history at Suffolk County Community College in Long Island, New York and a columnist with The Irish Times in Dublin.
He is the author of several non-fiction books and two children's novels. His latest work, "Barbed Wire University - the story of what happened when Winston Churchill interned intellectual, artistic and musical refugees on the Isle of Man during World War 2", will be published next year.
Born and raised in Togher, Cork, he now lives with his three sons in East Setauket.