Irish community mourns Austin Delaney
“Ni bheidh a leitheid aris ann,” (There won’t be anyone like him again) said Liam Browne about the passing of his old friend Austin Delaney, who lost a long battle with cancer on Friday, May 15.
Delaney, 70, up until the day he passed away, poured his heart and soul into the Irish community in his adopted home of New York, yet constantly shied away from gratitude and recognition.
Those who knew Delaney, both professionally and personally, all echoed the same sentiment about the Co. Mayo export -- that he was probably the most modest Irish man to grace this earth.
Delaney, who came to the U.S. in 1963 as a young lad to make a better life for himself, wasn’t long leaving his mark on New York.
Delaney found his niche in bars and restaurants. His first bar was in Bedford Park in the Bronx.
In 1969, Delaney and his friend Mike Carty joined forces and together they created some of New York’s finest dining establishments, including the Rosie O’Grady’s saloons in Midtown Manhattan and Harbour Lights Restaurant at the South Street Seaport.
Delaney, who lived on the Upper East Side and had three children and many grandchildren, was waked in New York on Sunday night. His funeral Mass was on Monday.
The Mayo man was flown back to Ireland late Monday evening accompanied by dozens of family and friends to carry out his final wish -- to be buried on Irish soil, right in the heart of where he spent his childhood.
Pat Gavin, honorary vice-president of the Mayo Society football club, told IrishCentral that Delaney was a “fine gentleman” if ever there was one to come from Ireland.
“It was sad that he had to go at an early age because 70 is young this day and age,” said Gavin.
Although they traveled different roads -- Gavin was a bus driver, Delaney a publican -- when their paths did cross, Delaney always had a kind word to say to his fellow countryman.
“We’d always have great words,” Gavin said. “Anytime you called him up and asked him to support anything Austin would always respond very favorably.”
However, with the generous donations came the warning. “’Don’t mention where you got this now,’ would always be his last words,” adds Gavin, who hails from the outskirts of Westport, Co. Mayo.
“He was very, very modest. If you thanked him he would just shush you away. A pure gentleman.”
Joe Flannery, former president of the Mayo Association of New York, fondly recalled the “great man” he called a friend for more than 35 years.
“Austin supported the association very strongly. There was never a time when we went down there for a donation that we didn’t walk out of there with a sizable and appropriate donation,” remembers Flannery.
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