Speaker 2 00:00:21 How you doing? I'm Doug Davan, and you are listening to the Plastic Podcasts. Tales of the Irish diaspora now are coming to you in glorious audio vision. Well, this is a bit of a treat for me as a lover of all things American in the seventies, even Watergate seemed glamorous by comparison with power cuts, I developed an obsession with LA Grand Po itself. New York City. Yes. New York. New York. So good. They named it new. So it's a delight to welcome my contemporaries from across the big pond. John Lee and Martin Nutty co-hosts of the fabulous Irish Stew podcast launched like ourselves some two years ago. Irish Stew has sourced to extend the notion of a global Irish community with a guest list ranging from archeologists to actors, to accountants and beyond, into the rest of the alphabet. So what's the difference between the Irish diaspora in Britain and the States, and what are the challenges facing both? I'm looking to find out all this and more, but first, while the sun is still out and the sky is still blue, I want to know John and Martin, how are you doing?
Speaker 1 00:01:24 Doing, doing well, Doug. Glad to be on an even more famous podcast, The plastic podcast.
Speaker 3 00:01:30 <laugh>. Oh, John, you flatter me. Carry
Speaker 4 00:01:33 On a pleasure, Doug. And, uh, I will assert that I am actually ceramic and not plastic.
Speaker 3 00:01:39 Ah, well, right, you are. Thank you. Meal China
Speaker 4 00:01:42 <laugh> <laugh>.
Speaker 3 00:01:45 So, um, I say the sun, is that the skies blue? How are things in New York?
Speaker 1 00:01:49 We we're kinda getting into fall here. We're coming out of the pandemic. Um, you know, New York's taken some bumps and bruises and, uh, you know, where there's a little bit of, uh, kind of a little bit of heading back into the bad old days with the economy being in a lot of turmoil. Uh, as far as the, the Irish do, we're we're, we just recorded our 50th episode. We, you know, Martin and I take it seriously. We're very consistent in, uh, in doing it. Uh, we like you, it's a great excuse to talk to interesting people. I mean, I look at some of the folks you talk to. We just get to talk to people that normally we never would get a chance to talk to. And, you know, I think the theme of our thing, we, we, we speak in terms of the global Irish nation and an emerging global Irish identity. And, and Doug, we're a, you know, we're on similar paths. And actually, I know we've had at least one, uh, guest in mu uh, in common Jack Burn.
Speaker 3 00:02:48 Yes. Yes. The brilliant Jack. But you've also had the lovely Janet
Speaker 1 00:02:50 Beam. Terrific. A lot of fun.
Speaker 4 00:02:53 Yeah. Janet did, uh, relate some interesting stories about her childhood growing up, up in London, and attending various rallies at which her father would speak.
Speaker 1 00:03:05 How did Irish do
Speaker 4 00:03:06 Come about? Um, I would say, uh, two and a half, three years ago, John and I, uh, made each other's acquaintance in the Irish Consulate in New York City. Um, I was a periodic attendee at what they call First Fridays. So the Irish Consulate New York opens up in stores for breakfast, uh, with lots of fine Irish tea and even better Irish sausages. And at that point in time, I had already started a small podcast, which, uh, still exists called The Nutty Chronicles, um, which is actually a history of my, a history of Ireland, a scene through my Irish family. And, uh, I kind of felt that there was a gap, um, in the podcast world. Well, there's plenty of gaps in the podcast world, um, for something that brought interesting Irish people to attention, maybe Irish people that are not that well known, but are doing interesting work. Uh, and I wanted an opportunity to do that. And so I was shopping around for a candidate, uh, that would be interested in joining me on that venture. And, uh, unfortunately for John Lee, he got caught in my crosshairs. And so it began right on the eve of Covid.
Speaker 1 00:04:38 You know, that's how Martin sees it. But, uh, you know, I, I had been actually working on it. What, what, the way I view it is we saw that we were both working on podcasts along very similar lines. Uh, I had done production for a, uh, uh, I was a producer for someone with a business podcast. And I started looking at that and said, You know, this is something I could do. Um, a guy named Jeffrey Hazlet, who was one, turns out to be one of our first guests at kind of marketing media guy. And, uh, I started basically writing up a little proposal business plan. But I, I couldn't get it. I couldn't get it going. I just couldn't pull all the technology together to make it happen. So when Martin and I met for lunch, he's hard to describing his podcast. I was like, Man, we're we're on the same track. Let's, I don't know who first said, Let's collaborate. Maybe it was you, Martin.
Speaker 4 00:05:30 Yeah, I, I don't recall. Um, but, um, I had kind of, let's say, gotten a little further down the line by figuring out how to actually make the sausage. You know, it's not that. It's, it's, it's not that podcasting is, is is terribly hard to do, to put an episode out there. What is demanding, as you know, Doug, is to put a quality product out there. Well edited, well produced, and that's still, for us, continues to be a challenge. We're fortunate, uh, that we have a very good, uh, editor and co-producer, Bill Schultz, who actually happens to be my college roommate, Um, and works for a company called Cadence 13, which is one of the bigger podcast companies out there, uh, in the podcast ecosystem. So that's, you know, made us sound maybe a little bit more professional, uh, than we would have otherwise. Uh, so it's been fortuitous, but it's been a, a journey. Um, it's been really interesting. As John mentioned before, um, it puts us in a virtual room, but many people that wouldn't pick up, uh, the phone if Martin Nutty was calling them. So, bit by bit, as we build a brand out, uh, we're beginning to establish a reputation in the Irish media, Irish podcast ecosystem, I suppose we could say, What are your criteria where guests are concerned?
Speaker 1 00:06:59 You know, I think, you know, our ours, our sort of foundational idea is this exploration of a global Irish identity. So our, our ideal guest is someone who's had some experience experiences outside of Ireland, Uh, but the connection can be fairly weak. There are people who, you know, in, in the states, they're half Irish, uh, heritage, They didn't really even know they were a Irish heritage until they did a 23 and Me test, and then took their first trip to Ireland. And then we have people who, you know, very much based in Ireland. Um, so, and the other, the other thing is we like just to kind of keep the mix going. We, we have a pretty good male female mix. It's not something we strive for, but we sort of remind ourselves, Oh God, we've had four guys in a row, let's mix it up. So, uh, we look for a geographical mix. Most of our episodes are uk, Ireland, and, uh, really New York centric so far. So our goal is to stretch out a bit more. We've had, uh, you know, Chicago, we've had, uh, an episode in Italy. Um, but, uh, that's our, kind of, our goal going forward is, uh, uh, a bigger geographical reach.
Speaker 4 00:08:13 Yeah, that's the problem when you have, uh, global ambitions. Um, the reality is, of course, um, the, the were global diaspora, and you hear numbers trotted out here, you know, 70 million to a hundred million people claiming Irish ancestry of one kind or another, whether, you know, some more tenuous than others. We are big believers in, um, I see our, uh, guest base is really kind of being categorized in a number of different ways. There are the Irish of Ireland, There are the Irish that are like me, expats. So I grew up in Ireland and moved to the States when I was 19 years old. So I'm very heavily imprinted by that experience, even though next year, that will be 40 years since I've been there. So I'm more New Yorker. And in some respects than Irish, there are, uh, people that actually immigrated to Ireland.
Speaker 4 00:09:12 Uh, so we had a, uh, lady from, uh, Chenai in India, who's lived in Ireland for the past 30 odd years. Uh, co Muah, who's written a brilliant book, um, um, called The Tainted about, uh, the, uh, the Irish Mutiny in India during, uh, I think it was 1919, thereabouts during the Irish Revolutionary period. Um, and then other people, you might even refer to them as the Affinity Irish, those that really, uh, loved the country, loved the culture, loved the place, love that crack. Um, so we paint a pretty broad picture of how we see Irishness. Uh, I understand many people may not agree with that. There is a tension between the Irish of Ireland and a broader diaspora. So if you're an American showing up in Dublin and say, Hi, I'm Irish, uh, that will be needed, will be met in many cases with cynicism.
Speaker 4 00:10:23 Um, so tip to all travelers to Ireland, uh, from the diaspora. When you say, when you arrive in Dublin, it's more than acceptable to say, Hi, I'm Irish American. Um, and just kind of lay that out. Uh, the Irish of Ireland are somewhat protective of their status and believing that they are the only true Irish. Now I'll push back on that, on the other side and say, there is this tension that I'm referring to. It behooves, uh, the Irish of Ireland to do a better job in embracing this global diaspora, which we said is, you know, somewhere around 70 to a hundred million people, because it's an extraordinary resource for a country of only 6 million people total. And tapping into that in a more effective way is important. Department of Foreign Affairs in Ireland understand the importance of this, and bit by bit, you know, the rest of the population, especially as it's become increasingly successful and educated, are coming to terms with that. But there's lots of work to be done there. And we, to some degree, see ourself as part of the, the lubricant in that machinery in our own small way.
Speaker 1 00:11:36 Doug, we had a recent episode with, uh, um, you know, a, a very interesting woman named Margaret Malloy from County Offley. Grew up on a dairy farm, ended up in Harvard Business School, uh, terrific, uh, mind for marketing, networking, connecting. And we were kind of having this, this very discussion with her in a recent episode and about sort of the people who kind of claim have some sort of claim on being Irish. And her, her phrase was, open the aperture. You know, if people want, if people wanna have that connection, if they, if they feel that, let's open the aperture and bring them in. And that, that was like the phrase that stuck with both Martin and I coming out of that episode. And of course, I, I'm, I'm an Irish American. I make no claims of being, I say Irish, Irish, you know, my, my grandparents came from Ireland. Uh, but I've developed a very strong affinity and interest. And, you know, I'm some version of Irishness. Uh, you know, Covey Matton who came from India, lives in Ireland. She seems more Irish than I am. My thing is more of a, you know, I guess genetic or heritage thing, but it's all different versions of this sort of global Irish vibe.
Speaker 2 00:12:55 You're listening to the plastic podcasts. We all come from somewhere else. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. John Lee and Martin Nutty come from two different kinds of diaspora experience. John, having been born in America while Martin crossed the water on an athletic scholarship. I want to know more about these backgrounds and how the pair met.
Speaker 4 00:13:18 I, like many people of my era that were involved in athletics, uh, used America as an escape hatch from an Ireland that was economically depressed, maybe a step above developing what we would now call developing nation status. So when I left Ireland in 1983, the city of Dublin was falling down around me, and I couldn't wait to get out. I also, as a young man, was looking forward to the adventure of going to live, you know, in America. Um, I also had aspirations to being an Olympic athlete, let's say. That didn't happen. Um, I was, I like to tell people as I was a mediocre athlete, good enough to get an athletic scholarship, a free education in the university system in the United States. And when I arrived in New York City, uh, beyond being bewildered by, uh, a hundred far and high temperature, which I think is, uh, close to 40 centigrade the first weekend in New York City, and not having appropriate clothing, um, I realized, and this will tell you how slow and foolish I was at the time, uh, that people didn't actually understand me.
Speaker 4 00:14:37 I had a distinctive, what they call North County Dublin accent. I still retain vestiges of that, as you can probably hear, but actually, if I show up in Ireland, people just assume I'm American now if I'm speaking to you like I am now. Um, and, uh, so my initial experience was realizing that people were nodding and smiling at me, but not understanding a word that I said. And so I had to, um, modify my accent. I think part of it is, is that, um, people in Dublin, uh, like myself, speak quickly. We speak softly. And when you added to this, you know, overpowering baritone that I have, uh, was not a good, uh, combination. Um, so, uh, within, uh, pretty about six months, or by the end of the year, I shall back up in Dublin speaking like I am now. And people were like, Where the, what has happened to you?
Speaker 3 00:15:35 I love your barone, by the way. Let me just say that. Uh, uh, frankly, I, I feel as though you're giving allusion lessons to Wiki pop. It's, um, it's quite incredible. <laugh> has this developed over the years as time gone on? Are, are you on several cigars a day?
Speaker 4 00:15:48 Uh, no, fortunately not. Uh, this is exactly as it is. And, you know, honestly, I think anybody that goes into the podcasting business and hears themselves for the first time in extended extracts are quite shocked by the sound of their own voice. Um, I'm still figuring out how best to speak effectively when I'm talking to guests and trying to avoid the, you knows, the likes, the kind ofs. Uh, I still cringe every time I play back, uh, an episode, or I'm fumbling around for a question and understand that I can do better. Now, people do actually say they like the depth of my voice. The danger when I'm speaking is I have to be careful not to rush and, you know, swallow my words. Uh, so that's another work in action. So I'm constantly trying to refine things and be a little bit more deliberate without being sounding too pedantic. But we all learn, and we're two years in. And, uh, I think I'll look back maybe at this, this chat that we're having and say, Ugh, you know, would you listen to how bad he is?
Speaker 1 00:17:09 Well, Doug's a good editor though, Martin. So he's gonna, he's gonna, he's gonna shape this. Uh,
Speaker 3 00:17:16 There, there genuinely is no answer to that <laugh>. So then the flip side of that, John, of course, is that you have grandparents from, where is it? Awfully and Claire and Cork and so forth. So, Oh, how strong was your Irish connection before endeavoring with rsg?
Speaker 1 00:17:33 Uh, you know, my, all my grandparents came over. The only one I knew was the grandmother from Ley. Uh, she lived down the street from us. So I had that exposure to, you know, the Irish grandmother. We were in that sort of more typical Irish, American, American, uh, zone. I think some of your guests have mentioned certainly, uh, like Jack Burn, when we were talking, it was more this sort of Catholic identity. Uh, you know, that was always, that was the only kind of version of Irishness we would've known was Irish Catholic. Uh, and we grew up in a community of about 50,000 people in central Connecticut, uh, married in Connecticut. And, um, it was the kind of community where there was, you know, the Catholic church, the German church, the Polish church, the Italian church, the French church, and then every, every version of a Protestantism and, and the synagogues and that kind of thing.
Speaker 1 00:18:29 And we always, like my, my mother said, If Jack Kennedy doesn't win the election, we're moving back, We're moving to Ireland. Uh, you know, there was always that there was a little bit of, you know, St. Patrick's Day corn, beef and cabbage as how we do it over here. Uh, but we were not part of any or Irish organizations. We didn't know from Irish music. Um, the, the Irish musicians who kind of cut through the chatter for us were the Clancy brothers. And they, they, when they arrived in the us they became su very popular very quickly. They were kinda like the on-ramp for a lot of people to find out about Irish traditional music. And, uh, it was, they were accessible and they were entertaining, and, and people, you know, gravitated towards them. I think they were sort of a significant cultural moment in the US almost like the way river dance sort of brought, you know, brought Irish dancing into the awareness of, of people all around the world.
Speaker 1 00:19:26 Uh, but it was always a important to me. I had had a lot of great St. Patrick state parties, you know, absolutely no green beer, you know, just kind of keep it real. Um, but it wasn't a heavy cultural involvement for me. I wasn't, you know, immersed in Irish things. So about 12 years ago, I was looking for a job at a pretty challenging time to be looking for a job. And I had, I found myself needing to network a lot, and I found my way towards these Irish networks, the Irish, uh, business organization of New York, and the Irish American writers and artists in particular. And both of those groups have had, uh, a lot of influence on me. And, you know, now I'm sort of professional Irishmen in New York. I'm always going to various Irish events. Uh, got to, you know, kind of on this thread of the Irish diaspora, like you'd dug and met Martin, and that's, that's only deepened it.
Speaker 1 00:20:21 Uh, I just mentioned the Irish American writers and artists, because they were formed around this idea that they weren't Irish, you know, that they were Irish American. It was something different. It was connected to being Irish, but it wasn't the same thing as being Irish. And it wasn't, uh, a copy of Irishness, a secondhand copy. It was something of its own distinctive. So that's that kind of, of that kind of sense stuck with me, um, as I, you know, began to point towards this podcast. And then when I met Martin, we were really able to explore
Speaker 4 00:20:57 It. Yeah, just add on top of John there. You know, it's interesting that he referenced, uh, uh, JFK John Fitzgerald Kennedy's election in 1960. That is a watershed moment in America. Uh, prior to that, the Irish, in many respects, were treated with suspicion. Um, and when we speak about the Irish in America, a lot of times we refer to the Irish Catholics. But of course, there's another collection of Irish, they call the me, Scotch Irish over here. And they're folks of descended from the Protestant, uh, Irish that immigrated, uh, poorly in, into 17 hundreds. A lot of these guys were, uh, political refugees after the fail, 1798, rising in Ireland. So you have many, uh, presidents before JFK that were of Irish extraction, but they just actually happened to be of Protestant ex extraction as well. Now, kind of flash forward to modern Ireland. Uh, we know the state was established a hundred years ago, and the state originally when it was conceived, was essentially conceived as a Catholic state.
Speaker 4 00:22:05 Um, where, you know, the Ireland I grew up in was like 95% Catholic, and everybody was going to church. It's a very dramatically different place 40 years after I, after I had left. It's a much more secular place, um, for a variety of reasons that are all too well known, you know, between the church, sex scandals, et cetera. Um, but I don't, I think there's a lot of work to be done to kind of cobble together these two groups, the Scotch Irish and the Irish Catholic community. Now, moving back to Kennedy's election again, by 1960, all of a sudden, Catholic Irish became much more acceptable. Okay? That is, that is in many respects, from an Irish perspective in America, the gift that Kennedy left, You know, we can talk about the virtues of the Kennedy presidency. Uh, you know, if you're into, uh, uh, you know, the whole, uh, space exploration thing, uh, a lot of people would point to, you know, the Kennedy presidency as being, you know, hugely impactful in that respect.
Speaker 4 00:23:14 And we were fortunate enough actually, to have an astronaut, uh, on our podcast, Katie Coleman. Uh, so we were able to explore that a little bit. We didn't actually talk about Kennedy, but, um, it, it, it's a huge achievement of his presidency. We could also talk about the fact that we didn't end up in nuclear Armageddon because Kennedy made a great decision, or a series of decisions during the Cuban Missile crisis when we were teetering on the edge of nuclear annihilation. Um, so there are many gifts from the, from the Kennedy presidency, but one of the biggest gifts was to bring, uh, finally, uh, overthrow over a hundred years after the famine, the taint associated supposedly with Catholicism. And, um, you know, Arish now or mainstream. I'm reminded of a book, uh, you know, with the title, how the Irish Became Co, How the Irish Became White, Because before that, if you look back in the 1850s, 1860s, 1870s, 1880s, especially with a guy like Thomas Nast, who was famous cartoonist in New York, the Irish were drawn with like simian type features. You also see the same thing over in England at the time, you know, there was a very strong racial component, especially directed at the impoverished, primarily Catholic Irish. And so in America, the Irish had become much more mainstream. Um, so in interesting combination of shifts taking place in America. And it's a challenge for Ireland to maintain that strong relationship with Irish America now, because the necessity of identifying or planning together over in this country has diminished as the Irish have become much more mainstream.
Speaker 2 00:25:11 We'll be back with John Lee and Martin, nutty of the Irish Stew podcast in a moment. But first, it's time for the Plastic Pedestal, that part of the podcast where I ask an interviewee to talk about a member of the diaspora of personal, cultural, or political significance to them. This week, eth Aetna Brown star of stage screen and soap pays tribute to a very personal icon.
Speaker 5 00:25:35 I feel really, my, my father had a huge effect on my life, not just as a father, but as an educator, and as a friend. We would like to go off together on our own. I took him to Glasgow once he sailed in and outta Glasgow, of course. Um, so I learned a lot about the world around me and how Liverpool works for the rest of the world by this man I was fortunate enough to have as a father. And he would speak to me like a companion, not a daughter. So he, he had an amazing effect on my life. Um, a lot of people that I worked with, because he was a, he was verbal and a wonderful storyteller, um, amazingly intelligent, self-educated man. He had a big effect on me, and he taught me more, I think about Ireland, um, than anybody else.
Speaker 5 00:26:36 I I was recently asked about maybe two years ago with me, myself and two friends who had done Blood Brothers Together. We, we put on, um, a concert for the Irish Festival. It was recorded in the very, very beautiful arts and crafts church, the Unitarian Olet Road. Um, John, one of the people who asked us to do it from the festival was also a guitarist. So we had a wonderful time creating music, um, you know, for the Irish Festival. So there's a lot of people have come through my life connected because of Ireland. But the big main influence would very much have to be my father, who, you know, I was very lucky because my father came with maps, He came with books, he came with food, he came with stories. He came with love and friendship. Um, long after I'd left home, my father and I would speak very often. Um, and it wouldn't be to do with, you know, familial matters. It would be to do with the world around us politics. He was very passionate about people. Um, he was a big foundation stone in my life. I'm very glad I had him
Speaker 2 00:27:52 Eth Aetna Brown there. And if you want to hear more of what ETH Aetna has to say, why not hear the rest of her interview on our website? Find her among our panoply of guests on the episodes page. It's www.plasticpodcasts.com, and revel in her wondrous stories. Plus, while you're there, why not subscribe? Just go to the homepage, www.plasticpodcasts.com. Scroll to the bottom, enter your details in the space provided, and one confirmatory email. Click later. The latest in Plastic Goodness will be winging its way to your inbox all in real time. Now, back to John Lee and Martin, Nutty of the Irish Stew Podcast. And from the personal to the professional, what is it that defines the Irish American experience to them and their interviewees on Irish stew, and how does it resonate with their own differing backgrounds?
Speaker 1 00:28:44 You know, I, I think there's really different layers and different times, uh, and the, I think the flow of immigration is really constricted now, which makes that sort of keeping the, uh, connections alive for one reason. There's less, um, urge to move to America for a better life, because life is pretty good in Ireland right now for a lot of people. Uh, but also our immigration policies are kind of choking off the flow, uh, of the kind of young people who would come in and, and keep the, uh, Irish, uh, societies, uh, alive. So we're, we're missing a little bit of that. Uh, there was a really good, one of our authors was a guy named Peter Quinn, and he wrote a book called Waiting for Jimmy, which was his sort of search for Irish America. And it's very, he's, he's a New York guy. He has a new book, uh, about his, uh, a memoir called Cross Bronx.
Speaker 1 00:29:42 He lived in the Bronx. He grew up in the Bronx. Anyway, he, he, he kind of symbolized the progression of the Irish identity, particularly in New York as from Patty to Pat to Jimmy. Patty was that first wave of, of, of, uh, you know, famine, Irish, uh, carrying a hod, uh, you know, day labor, building buildings, digging canals, those kinds of things. Definitely a third tier type of person who would eventually graduate to be Pat. Pat was more, you know, the, he, they're, they're doing okay. They're good family people. They're, they're contributing, They're working as cops and as firemen, you know, they, they were okay, the pat, Pat, uh, Pat Pat. We should, you know, we'll make a little room for Pat in our community. And then the third version was Jimmy, which was kind of an amalgam of Jimmy Cagney and the very charismatic mayor of New York, Jimmy Walker.
Speaker 1 00:30:46 So where, where some swagger, you know, kind of comes in to the Irish identity, Irish American identity. So, you know, like, like I, an Irish identity is in Ireland, you know, there's all different levels divided out by male economics and, um, family ties. So, you know, those folks who just kind of tangent Irish is a kind of tangent in their life. They connect up with it once in a while. And for other peoples, they're, you know, they're, the GAA scene is pretty active over here. There's a lot of Irish theater, a lot of Irish music. Uh, I've, I've said you could be Irish every night of the week in New York. There was always some Irish specific activities going on.
Speaker 4 00:31:31 Yeah. And answer to your question about comparing the rsd Asra in the United Kingdom versus that of America, Um, I think I would be treading on very thin ice to venture my own personal experience. But in, in, in talking to people of Irish extraction in England, I think there is a difference.
Speaker 4 00:31:58 And the difference manifests itself in two ways. In America, Uh, Irish Americans are proud to assert, I'm Irish. So in America, when people talk about what are you, meaning, you know, what is your cultural origin? People are very front flooded in saying, I'm Irish. I think if you asked, uh, folks to, um, let's say are multiple generations in England of Irish extraction, they are not going to say that they are Irish. They are more likely, in my opinion, to say, refer to maybe their Catholic identity. And I would say to some degree that the caution around identifying being of Irish extraction in England has been tainted by the conflict of the troubles and bombings in England. And so people, let say that it emigrated from Ireland to England over the last hundred years, had to deal with that legacy. Um, I grew up in an Ireland where Irish people were the butt of, in England's jokes, we were known to be backward or certainly presented as being backward.
Speaker 4 00:33:11 Um, uh, if you remember back in the 1970s, uh, you know, people would tell jokes, uh, about Irish people and their backwardness was, was certainly the butt of those jokes. Um, I remember as a child, uh, you might recall this, Doug, there was a show on BBC called Mastermind, um, presented by a gentleman called Magnus Magnuson. Um, and then they decided to do an international edition. And the first international edition was actually won by an Irishman. And I can tell you as a, a young, you know, a teenager in Dubliner in Dublin, we took a lot of pride in that. There was almost a moment of kind of sticking it, uh, to the English, uh, by, you know, showing that indeed, you know, we are people of quality intelligence, education or addition. Um, so I, I think the, it's been a more complicated picture in the United Kingdom. I think the legacy of the troubles and Ira bombings has made it far more difficult in recent generations than anything that Irish Americans were exposed to.
Speaker 3 00:34:32 I don't disagree with you, although, um, because Britain is, uh, is such a small country, and by the, I suppose I probably mean England more than anything here, because Scott in the worlds have their own series of identities here, but that, um, uh, people who are London Irish describe themselves as being London Irish rather than like a British Irish, or there's Birmingham Irish, or there's Liverpool Irish, or there's Manchester Irish and so forth. And I'm wondering if there's, as a particular, like a New York Irish rather than like connect Irish or California Irish or, or, or, or what have you. If there's, if there's that same kind of zy localized sense of Irishness.
Speaker 4 00:35:05 Yeah, it was interesting, um, when we had Margaret Mallo on our recent episode, who John referred to earlier, um, she asked her children, and she grew up un awfully in Ireland, and asked her children about their identities, said, Well, how do you see yourself? They, they've been born here, said, Do you see yourself as Irish, or do you see yourself as American? And they answered that they saw themselves as New Yorkers. If you think about it, Dublin, the Dublin that I grew up in, I said, certainly the Dublin of 1911, if you look at the Irish Irish census, you see, it's only a population of 300,000 people. There was no major Irish city. Dublin and Belfast were about the same size back then. Uh, so there was no real experience with urbanism. So I think when the Irish fetched up, they became urban, and they started to identify very strongly with the cities that they gathered in. So, Philadelphia, New York,
Speaker 1 00:36:01 And Doug, I think, you know, the Irish were only, you know, one of the visitors to these shores. I mean, they made a huge impact in the cities that Martin mentioned, but also, I mean, massive waves of Italians, uh, Germans, uh, more, more Americans tracer ancestry back to Germans and Germany than any other nationality. So there's even like an area like Chicago is massive German and Polish, and Lithuanian. You get up into, uh, mini, uh, Minnesota, you know, Swedes in Norwegians. But we did have a great episode in St. Paul, Minnesota with, uh, a woman called, uh, Natalie Lugen Oche, who, uh, uncovered some great Irish history in that community of early Irish settlers in, um, it, was it Kamara Town? Is that what they call Little Con?
Speaker 4 00:36:49 The Kamara Patch?
Speaker 1 00:36:50 The Kamara Patch, yeah. So there, there's like Butte, Montana, and other places, there's real pockets, but those worst cities that Martin mentions are, are really the hotbeds.
Speaker 3 00:37:02 Uh, that's, that's interesting to me. I mean, like, uh, particularly, uh, over here, you can't talk about Irish without talking about Britishness, uh, um, uh, and vice versa. But you'll, you'll have people talk about being like a German American or Italian American, or Polish American, or French American, or Scot's American even, and Irish American, very rarely British American.
Speaker 1 00:37:21 Correct. I, I remember as a kid wondering why I thought America was founded by England. Why aren't there English Americans, <laugh>? I remember asking that question as a kid. It's just like the, the identity sort of, I don't know, it just fades, fades into Americanness.
Speaker 4 00:37:38 The Irish, when they arrived, especially the f Irish in the 1840s, had to work together to try and eek out a living in this new urban environment that they arrived in, in New York and Boston and Chicago and Philly. Uh, they had to pull together. And so that identity became very, very strong. So one of the interesting questions I suppose, that we have to ask ourselves is, as the Irish Catholic American diaspora has now become more ACC acceptable, or, you know, accepted, what does that mean for the identity that is Irish American? You might ask the question, Why should people even bother with this? Why don't you just drop the freaking Irish thing and just say you're American, Okay, and get on with it. And a lot of Irish people in Ireland would say exactly that. And my response to it is this, I believe at a very fundamental level that we all have an extraordinary interest in understanding our deep roots, because it gives us a sense of connection and belonging, and that when you uproot people from their origin points, and I'm talking across multiple generations, it causes a trauma that echoes down through the generations.
Speaker 4 00:39:01 So I would probably point to a lot of interesting things that I see in Irish America that I actually might attribute to the famine trauma that change the nature of Irish American character. Um, and that has still been wo worked out five, six, or seven generations together to become a well-adjusted person. You not only have to deal with your own inner demons, but you have to deal with the demons of your past. And the more you understand about those things, the more connected, the more secure you become in yourself. And so that need for connection is extraordinary, extraordinarily important from a psychological point of view, but it also has the ancillary benefits of being exposed to an interesting culture and a beautiful place. You know, which if you have, you know, the financial wherewithal go visit, um, can be immensely enriching. And, uh, you know, and making life just that bit more exciting by being connected to this beautiful tapestry, uh, that is, you know, that, that we all share regardless of whether we're Irish or anything else. The more we understand about the complexity of migration and human diversity, the more enriched we are, the more connected we are, the more stable we are, the happier we are. So that's my pitch as to why I think this Irish American identity and all rsd ASRA 10 identities are incredibly important.
Speaker 2 00:40:55 You're listening to the Plastic Podcasts, Tales of the Irish Diaspora, also available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Audible. In this final segment of my conversation with John Lee and Martin Nutty, we get to compare podcaster notes and the potential pitfalls of talking about a whole diaspora. But first, here's John with their approach to the art of the interview.
Speaker 1 00:41:18 We're, we're not looking for controversy. We're not looking for the gotcha moment. We tell all, we tell all our guests, We're not journalists. We we're, we're aspiring towards being conversationalists. And, you know, we, we spill some of our own stuff during the episodes too. You know, we, we, we expose some of what makes us tick beyond what makes the guest tick. Uh, it is, it is really a great privilege. And, um, I, it humbled, uh, the people we talk to are so damn accomplished, <laugh>, you know, it just really, uh, they've really done some great things and, and they've gone about life in all these various ways. There's a, there's a lot of, uh, well, I just stuck one foot in front of the other, you know, uh, there's a lot of people who, several times people who have careers in the arts or in journalism started out in the counting for some reason. Uh, you know, we see these, these, uh, these early steps that led someone to a very unexpected place. And, and we get to talk to people who have done a very good job in that, um, one, one foot in front of the other.
Speaker 4 00:42:30 Yeah. I'm reminded, uh, one thing that I think is key to the success of most of the people that we talk about. Now, you can define success in many different ways. Sadly, I believe in America, people believe that that somehow is directly related to how much money you have in your bank account. And as I've gotten older, I've claimed, but come to define success in many different ways. I have no objection to having money in my bank account, I must to add. Um, but I think the true richness and experience is the network of connections and friends and family that we all established that enrich our lives and the opportunity to exchange ideas. But, um, one thing that I notice with our guests is they follow their curiosity, and their curiosity takes them in, in all sorts of unexpected directions. Um, and I think that's probably the most important attribute towards success in life. Find something that you are interested in. Most of us are walking around and stumbling around trying to figure out what we're going to do it ourselves. If you find something that is interesting, pursue it, uh, would be probably some of the best advice. Now, none of our guests have articulated that, that that's just my observation of what I see from these successful people, that they have carved out a niche for themselves by really becoming experts in something that they are curious about.
Speaker 3 00:44:14 It may seem like a ridiculous question, given the fact that your podcast is called Irish Stu, but how essential is Irishness to your conversations? Or is it simply a jumping off point?
Speaker 1 00:44:24 Yeah, sometimes I think it is a jumping off point, and we almost have to remember <laugh> at some point to kind of get that piece of what do you see your Irish identity? And sometimes it just comes out very, very naturally along the way. And sometimes we have to prompt, you know, the guests maybe perhaps towards the end of, what does the Irishness mean to you? How do you see it? How did you connect with it? Because, uh, it's, in a way, it's a very loose thread that's holding together all these different interviews we've done. It's a kind of a loose connection. And I remember when I was in the heavy networking phase of my life, there was something I, an idea, I came across the power of loose connections, uh, that, that sometimes these very loose connections would become more significant in your, you know, in your career search, in your business life. Then you're really, uh, you know, friend, strong friend connections. So we have the loose connection to, of, of, of an question about Irish identity that has enabled us to assemble a really great roster of very, very different people to talk to
Speaker 3 00:45:30 Of the possibility of stumbling into stereotypes.
Speaker 1 00:45:35 I, I guess in a way, we, it, it does come up, uh, you know, the way Martin was speaking about the idea of the, the Irish, the Irish American going over and saying, I'm Irish. And the term plastic patty has definitely surfaced in our conversations as well. I, I think we're kind of busting the stereotypes in a lot of ways. If you look back and you see, you know, the diversity, uh, of the people we've been talking to, and on your show as well, Doug, I mean, I, there's, you have a great range of voices. Uh, there's an awful lot in the United States of, uh, organizations, uh, that are actively updating the Irish image, you know, particularly in New York with, uh, things like the Irish Arts Center, which has a very cross-cultural approach to their programming. The, the Irish Repertory Theater considered the best off Broadway theater, uh, in, in all of New York. Uh, lots of organiza, you know, the, Im, we have, uh, um, immigration societies here that were started by Irish to, to help Irish immigrants. Now they're helping all, all immigrants. So, uh, there's a lot of good work being done that is, you know, bringing the image of Ireland up to date and, and integrating it into, um, an Irish American identity, you know, an Irish Polish American identity. Um,
Speaker 4 00:47:00 I think it's also important, if you want to talk about stereotypes, Let me give you a good stereotype, compassion. So we had a, a gentleman on our podcast by the name of, uh, Turlock McConnell, um, or Turo, depending on how you pronounce it. Um, and he said, You cannot understand the Irish of America without engaging with the famine. And I think even though the famine is now 175 years ago, right, since Black 47 took place, 1847 in Ireland, the echo of it is still felt in all sorts of different ways. I refer to earlier as the trauma of immigration was certainly part of that legacy, but also part of that legacy is compassion. The Irish still understand almost at a genetic level the notion of famine. And so, you see, I remember, uh, in the 1980s with the Live eight, uh, there was an interesting statistic, uh, which was organized by Bob Geldoff, who was, uh, an Irishman member of the band, BoomTown Rats.
Speaker 4 00:48:07 Uh, an extraordinary event to raise money for famine victims in Ethiopia. Um, the amount of money contributed on a per capita basis globally, okay, the country. But the largest per capita contribution, by far was Ireland own. And Ireland was only a country that was just emerging, you know, from the economic miasma of the first half of the 20th century because of economic misrule, uh, you know, falling independence. And so you see Irish people popping up all over the world, engaged in, you know, notfor profits, um, activity, dealing with kind of dev developmental type issues in, you know, uh, East Africa, in West Africa, et cetera. Um, doing extraordinary work. Um, the country has become a lot less religion religious, but it certainly hasn't lost its sense of compassion and its sense of outrage when people are treated, you know, in a miserable way, uh, you know, in one way or the other. You see a lot of this, let's say, when it comes to the Palestinian issue. Uh, you see Irish people advocating very fiercely on behalf of Palestinians. Now, some of that can take an ugly turn of, you know, antisemitism. I don't see a lot of that in Ireland, but, you know, this is a very charged, you know, area, you know, of conflict right now. And so I'm gonna tiptoe around that directly. Um, but this kind of engagement with people, uh, is certainly a very important facet of Irish identity.
Speaker 3 00:49:57 So much. One final question, and you kind of alluded to it yourself, John, because it's a question that I ask all of my interviewees, and you've probably asked many of yours, which is, what does being a member of the Irish d as in America, mean to you?
Speaker 1 00:50:13 Uh, being a member of the Irish diaspora has been a great community. It's, it's hard to find community in New York, and I really found it here. Uh, my Italian wife is now part of the community. And, uh, one thing that this sort of deep dive into Irishness has brought to me is, is, and I think Martin alluded to it as a, uh, a connection to other cultures. So now I, when I'm in an event that's, you know, it's Germans or it's Chinese, I'm kinda like, I wonder what makes them tick. I wonder what they, uh, what they're roots are, how, how are they different? So I think it can sound very, uh, you know, like just going very internal and just concentrating on your own tribe. Uh, I found for me, it's kind of opened me up to other tribes.
Speaker 4 00:51:02 I'd echo that. Um, obviously my perspective's a little different because I grew up in Ireland own for my first 19 years. Um, I would say being a member of the rd asra, I feel has enriched me. Uh, however, I've become more enriched as I've connected back to my origin point. I alluded to earlier the fact that I couldn't wait to get out of Ireland when I was 19. I had considered myself to have washed my hands of it and not willing to engage with it anymore. To some degree. I resented the Ireland that I left because it didn't afford me the opportunities to succeed. Um, I realized now that that was flawed, but literally for decades, I had nothing to do with anything Irish at all. Um, I realize now, and I kind of mentioned this earlier, is it's really important to connect with those roots and those origin points. Uh, if anything, I would encourage your listeners to engage with your genealogy, understand your family history, embrace that kind of rich origin tapestry. Um, it will build bridges to all sorts of other things, as John alluded to. Um, and what more can you ask from life than an enriched experience?
Speaker 2 00:52:31 You've been listening to me, Doug Davan, and my guests John Lee and Martin Nutty of the Irish Stew Podcast. The plastic pedestal was provided by ETH Aetna Brown and music by Jack dva. Find [email protected]
. Email us at the plastic podcasts gmail.com or follow followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The plastic podcasts are supported using public funding by Arts Council England.
Speaker 1 01:09:27 Uh, I could jump in. I, I mentioned earlier Peter Quinn, uh, a an Irish American writer, really a great interpreter of Irish America, and a Bri brilliant, brilliant writer. Uh, he, he was a very important on entry point for me, uh, in the Irish of which I call the Irish Trail of New York. Uh, I, you know, as I mentioned, I was looking for something new and I was networking, and I found my way to Peter Quinn and an effort to save a church on the lower East side of New York, St. Bridget's Church, which was built by the famine Irish and was going to be demolished. And Peter was part of a, an effort of Irish Americans with long since left the neighborhood, uh, Hispanic residents there now, and just, you know, East Village, Rebel Rousers, who all united around the cause. So I had, I played a modest role in that effort.
Speaker 1 01:10:24 The church was ultimately saved, even, even though a wrecking ball had gone through one side of the building, it, it, they managed to save it, and it's, it's still functioning as a church. But I got to know Peter there. Peter was just getting started with a group called the Irish American Writers and Artists. He was the president, like, like, as I did mention, uh, the goal was to kind of explore an Irish American identity through arts and culture as opposed to an Irish identity. And I ultimately joined the board there. Got to know Peter very well. He's one of these guys. He's, he operates to me. He's on another level, <laugh> somehow. He's my friend, uh, which I, I'm very grateful for. Uh, his, his signature book is Banish Children of Eve, One of the great American novels in the, My Opinion, I think Martin would agree, uh, set in the five Points neighborhood of Lower Manhattan, uh, where Irish blacks and other nationalities freely mixed in poverty, and, uh, came together and formed something new and unique that held together until the horrible draft riots, uh, during the Civil War.
Speaker 1 01:11:34 So his novel encompasses that period. He's written many other great books. He's just a great guy. And I don't know if the word mech is used in the England or Ireland. It's a Yiddish term, and it basically, I think the ultimate meaning is a human being. But, uh, Peter's a mech. And I've heard people in, you know, Yiddish is sort of part of the New York backstory. Everybody has a little, few Yiddish words running around in their head from living in New York. And, uh, Peter's just a mench. He's a great guy. And I'm, you know, I don't know why he likes to hang around with me, but, uh, he's, he's a great guy to know. He's been very, very influential.
Speaker 4 01:12:15 So I'm gonna bridge off that from John. Um, again, um, you probably have figured out I'm a bit of a history nerve in the, excuse me, a bit of a history nerd in the course of this particular conversation. Um, one of our guests is a gen with a gentleman, and we've had him on the podcast a couple of times, and he still is a gentleman, uh, by the name of Damien Shields. Um, Damien is an expert in the Irish in the American Civil War. Um, and what's fascinating about the stories that he has told is that more Irish people, uh, engaged and died in the American Civil War than any other conflict ever fought by the Irish. Um, so we're talking about Irish immigrants, uh, directly from Ireland leaving the famine and ending up dying on the battlefields of Gettysburg and Tetum, et cetera, and their children.
Speaker 4 01:13:15 Um, it's a fascinating story. Now, what's interesting about Damien is that he is now living in Finland, uh, recently immigrated to Finland. And to some degree, I think, as I understand it, and Damien correct me if he, if I'm wrong here, is he has an economic migrant. Why? Because the cost of housing in Ireland as a product of the success of the country has forced him to go live elsewhere because he cannot afford housing in Ireland for a extraordinarily accomplished man. Um, you know, doing original research in a particular corner of important history. He cannot make a sustainable living in Ireland, and he has gone to live in Finland. And this is one of the many extraordinary challenges that Irish economic success is causing for many younger people in trying to carve out a place in their world. And I think it is a conversation that we are going to continue to have for the next 10 or 20 years.
Speaker 4 01:14:24 Housing is not a peculiar, a peculiar Irish problem, okay? In many large and successful cities, including New York and London. If I think of a couple, uh, we have extraordinary housing problems that need to be addressed. Um, and we, we could spend a whole podcast discussing that, but I would just say Ireland cannot afford to be losing people of the quality of Damien Shields because of their failure to address the housing crisis that is core to Irish news at this moment. So, you know, for people that are listening to this that are not familiar with that, if you go on to irish times.com or any Irish news service, you will see a lot of discuss discussion of housing right now. Um, it's, as I said, not a particularly Irish problem. It's a global problem, uh, and it's a problem that I think many governments are doing a very poor job in addressing.