26 October 2009
2 hours, 28 minutes, 36 seconds
Ireland House Oral History Collection, Archives of Irish America, New York University
Hilary Beirne (b. 1961) is an Irish-born American citizen, a science teacher in Westchester county, and one of the prominent figures in the orchestration of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade. He grew up on the border of Roscommon and Leitrim Counties, in the Republic of Ireland. After earning a degree in agricultural sciences, he worked for various agricultural businesses in Ireland and Northern Ireland. He immigrated to America to become a teacher, and soon started working for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade with his uncle Frank Beirne. This led to a life-time of dedication to the parade. He is married with one son.
Excerpt No. 1
Working in Northern IrelandDisc 1, 44:26–45:10 and 46:57–49:23
Transcription of Excerpt No. 1
HB: The sad part is, having worked in Northern Ireland, I used to work in Northern Ireland one day every two weeks, what I felt was the problem in Northern Ireland was Civil Rights, it wasn’t a religion, religion was an excuse.
LA: It was people trying to make a living.
HB: Yeah, it was lack of Civil Rights. Like, I remember asking directions to a farmer and I pulled down the window and I said, “Do you mind telling me I could get to so and so?” And the person said to me, “Are you from down below?” And I go “Yes… with my accent I wouldn’t be able to hide it.” And he says, “You can say that again son.” And he turned and walked off.
HB: I had some interesting experiences [going into the north], like I used to go in on Wednesdays, and one Wednesday I needed to get something fixed on my car, and as I going down the hill into Newry I see a bomb go off. I used to go on a Wednesday and one week I had to go on a Tuesday… because I was going to a wedding on the Wednesday and the gas station that I drove by, again, a bomb went off. Another time I was coming from Fork Hill into Newry and I see the helicopter coming down and the soldiers running and of course they put their hand up so I had to stop. And the guy says to me, he says, “Who are you?” So, I give him my driver’s license and my business card, whick I still have one of them still there… and he says, “Can I keep this?” and I said, “No.” because I had always been told you give nothing to the soldiers. Nothing. Reason being, if there ever is a bomb or something and your card is found at a murder scene, the next time you go across the border into the North, you will be arrested and put into internment. And that almost happened to me once. I was going through a checkpoint going into Monahan from Armagh and a soldier put a rifle in the back of my car, now he was kidding around, but the point was…
JH: Was he trying to get your fingerprints on it?
HB: Well, they could have, but it was one of their own rifles and it was nice and shiny. Basically what happened was, when they searched your car, you had to get out of the car, you had to open the trunk, you had to open the hood and you had to do it, not them, because if a car was booby trapped, then they would get hurt. So, you open the car and the guy searched all my stuff. I was actually on my way home for a weekend, so I had all my laundry in it for my mother, and they went through all my clothes and I walked around to the front and opend up the hood of the car for the soldier and in the meantime the back was open and another soldier went into the back and put his rifle in. And he goes “Hey Peter, you missed something here.” So we went back and there was a rifle in the boot of the car. So they started cracking jokes and of course I had no choice but to crack jokes and it was most likely a test to see how I would react.
- Linda Almeida (LA)
- A news clipping of a job promotion for Hilary at Volac Feeds, Ltd., where he worked before leaving Ireland.
- Hilary (r) and his twin brother Kenneth.
- Hilary (r) and his twin celebrating an adult birthday.
- A family photo of John and Ethel Beirne and their seven daughters and three sons. Hilary is in the back row on the left.
- Hilary marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, NYC.
- Hilary, his wife, Marguerite, and son.
- Early family portrait of the Beirnes with just seven children.
- Hilary and his twin Irish dancing.
- Demonstration of wrapping of bailed silage, an innovative technique Hilary helped bring to market.
- Hilary and his twin in dancing costumes with other dancers.
- Hilary in the field (far left).
- Clip from Hilary’s days at Volac Feed, Ltd.