November 14, 2007
1 hour, 18 minutes, 18 seconds
Ireland House Oral History Collection, Archives of Irish America, New York University
Pat Mahon (b. Bronx, NY, 1958), at the time of this interview an executive with Bear Stearns and Co., is the son of immigrants from Ballycastle, County Mayo, Ireland. Martin Joseph Mahon, a New York City bus driver, and Kathleen Mahon, a telephone operator, raised four children in the Crotona Park section of the Bronx where they all learned to play Irish traditional music. In 1973, when he was fifteen and studying with Martin Mulvihill, Mahon became the first American to win the All-Ireland Championship on the button accordion.
After St. Anthony’s School, the Bronx High School of Science, and a brief time at Fordham University, Mahon tried a career in music. He played in several bands, performing Top 40 hits as well as Irish traditional music in pubs, for weddings and dances, as well as on several cruise ships. He returned to college after a year and a half, earning a B.A. in accounting from Lehman College, City University of New York. Mahon began working as a Certified Public Accountant for Arthur Young and Co. Two years later he moved to Bear Stearns and at the time of this interview, Pat Mahon was their regional manager for middle office and operations in Europe, based in London.
Mahon moved to Tokyo in the early 1990s to expand Bear Stearns’ operations. While there, he found a diverse group of musicians to play with (including the Chieftains), and they appeared at events ranging from department store openings to concerts for the Irish Ambassador. After two and a half years, Bear Stearns relocated Mahon to England where he and his wife raised three children, all of whom play Irish music too.
Despite having lived abroad for many years, Pat Mahon views himself as strongly Irish and American.
Excerpt No. 1
The 1973 Fleadh CheoilDisc 1, 7:31–9:54
Transcription of Excerpt No. 1:
SS: So I hear you won a button accordion competition back in 1973.
PM: That’s right.
SS: Can you tell me about that?
PM: So the Fleadh is the annual competition for various disciplines of Irish music and song and percussion – increasingly these days with the bodhrán and things like that. So there are qualifying competitions around the world and in Ireland, so you need to win first or second place in one of the qualifying competitions. I won first place in the Eastern United States competition and then everybody descends and that year it was in Listowel, County Kerry and the first and second place winners each from the four provinces of Ireland, from – usually from the north and southern parts – from the UK, Scotland, United States (east and west), and various other countries manage to scrape together a qualifying competition and get people in. So it’s a whole weekend of competitions which are scheduled throughout the town, and you know, I was competing solo in the button accordion, playing a duet with my sister, playing a trio with another person, [and in] a ceili band with a larger group of people.
LA: Are you assigned the songs? Do you choose what music you play?
PM: Well, basically, they set out that you have to play one each. You have to play, you have reels, jigs, hornpipes, airs, etc. etc, and you need to pick three from that for the competition. Other than picking the reels, the jigs, and the hornpipes, you were free to choose any type of reel, jig, or hornpipe. They did tend to be, in those days, a little bit – what’s the right word – concerned about different – they didn’t like it if people played a Scottish reel. So, yeah, so you had judges with encyclopedic knowledge of Irish music and God forbid you didn’t realize the reel you picked was a Scottish reel!
Excerpt No. 2
Ethnic Wall StreetDisc 1, 35:03–36:16
Transcription of Excerpt No. 2:
SS: Okay, well, so it seems your brothers had more traditionally Irish jobs even though they wound up not being traditional cops. But so, in business, have you ever noticed that anyone has treated you differently for being Irish?
SS: It’s never come up, it’s never been any sort of thing?
PM: No. No. I mean, occasionally you get the stereotypical comment about, you know, drinking capacity. But, other than that, no.
LA: I mean Wall Street is, is there –
PM: It’s Irish and Jewish to some degree.
LA: Right, that’s what I was going to say, are there –?
PM: It’s an interesting mix.
LA: And I guess it goes from firm to firm, too.
PM: It varies, you know, quite widely from firm to firm. You know – and interestingly again – when I started the back office tended to be run in the main by Italians, you know, from Brooklyn, right, and brokers could be Irish or Jewish, or any manner, and the bankers were all WASP-y, you know, Connecticut types, and things like that. So, you know, I think there was a stereotype which probably holds, or held true for some time. But, so, the Irishmen snuck into the back office.
Excerpt No. 3
Musical Adventures in TokyoDisc 1, 48:48–49:47
Transcription of Excerpt No. 3:
PM: It was really amazing. You know, Eileen Ivers at the time was playing with Hall and Oates when they were doing their acoustic tour.
LA: Wow. That would have been fun.
PM: And so, we found out – Eileen, you know, knew that we lived in Japan and she kind of got in touch with us beforehand. You know, she got us backstage passes so I have a picture somewhere with John Hall or Daryll Oates – Daryl Hall and John Oates.
PM: And then Eileen came back to the apartment, you know, with myself and Mary Jean and a bunch of musicians and we had this magical session until like 5 o’clock in the morning, you know, and then ultimately I had to drop her back to her hotel. I have that on a digital tape somewhere.
LA: Oh, you recorded it? Oh, nice.
PM: So you know, it was really sort of two and a half years of a very fun time, sort of enlightened, and just a lot of fun. Learned a lot and so it’s been downhill since.
- Savanna St. Clair [SS]
- Linda Dowling Almeida [LA]
- Pat Mahon (right) with his sister, Bronx, NY, circa 1963. Photo courtesy of Pat Mahon.
- Just one of many second generation New York Irish kids, Rockaway, NY, circa 1965. Photo courtesy of Pat Mahon.
- Entertaining a family friend, Mary Casey, circa 1970. Photo courtesy of Pat Mahon.
The Garryowen Ceili Band, USA junior champions (10-17 ages group), circa 1973. Photo courtesy of Pat Mahon.
Front row, left to right: Gail Mulvihill, Mike O’Hanlon, Brian Mulvihill, Pat Mahon, Mary Mahon.
Back row, left to right: Brian Conway, Paulette Corbett, Lisa Dardzinski, Martin Mulvihill (teacher), James Early, Margie McGrath.
- Pat Mahon, All-Ireland Champion, circa 1973. Photo courtesy of Pat Mahon.
- Page from Pat Mahon’s scrapbook, circa 1972. Courtesy of Pat Mahon.
- Mary and Pat Mahon, circa 1975. Photo courtesy of Pat Mahon.
- Clipping from Pat Mahon’s scrapbook, early 1990s. Courtesy of Pat Mahon.
- Pat Mahon, 14 November 2007. Photo by Linda Dowling Almeida.