We are over a week late in reporting the news of the passing of that towering international exponent of Irish culture Mick Moloney (1944-2022). Though sad news, I was glad to have learned of it from David Mulkin of the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors, for Moloney was a big Bowery lover, and, like me, had contributed to David’s Windows on the Bowery project. Though I never had the honor of meeting him in person, we did exchange correspondence. He was very helpful to me on a couple of occasions, which is something no doubt a HUGE number of people can say.
Moloney was one of New York’s chief “go to” guys on questions of Irish history and culture. Born and raised in Limerick, he was the son of head of air traffic control at Shannon Airport, and had a degree in economics at University College Dublin. After working briefly as a social worker in London, he joined the Irish folk band The Johnstons, playing with them for five years. He moved to the U.S. in 1973, co-forming the musical ensemble Green Fields of America four years later. In 1992 he got his Ph. D. in folklore, and from there went on to teach ethnomusicology, folklore, and Irish studies at Penn, Georgetown, Villanova, and NYU. In New York he was deeply involved in organizations like the Irish Arts Center and the Irish Rep, where he put on cultural programs, like this one about Stephen Foster we plugged a few years back. One of the things I loved about him was that he would do programs about the interaction of the Irish with other American minorities, such as “If It Wasn’t for the Irish and the Jews: Exploring Irish and Jewish Historical Musical Links and Influences on Musical Theatre, Vaudeville, Tin Pan Alley America” and his many programs with African American scholar/performer Leni Sloane, including this conversation for the Irish Rep. He was especially associated with the Ned Harrigan/David Braham tune “McNally’s Row of Flats”, which celebrated the diversity of Five Points.
Moloney authored books, recorded musical albums, and was a TV presenter. In 1999 he received a National Heritage Fellowship from the NEA.
There have been a LOT of public tributes to him. Here are a few I’ve found: