A lawyer based in Connecticut, Michael J. McCabe is the treasurer of the Irish Heritage Society of Milford
Tell us about your Irish heritage.
“The McCabes have been in America for generations. My great-grandfather McCabe was born here. So we've lost the trail on where the McCabes came from, but we assume it's either Cavan or Monaghan. My mom's father was John P. O'Donnell of Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo, and Norwalk, Connecticut (many Hibernians will remember him). My mom's mom was Catherine McDermott of Kilmaine, Co. Mayo. My entire family were Hibernians, so I was raised steeped in the Irish immigrant culture of the sixties.”
How did you get involved with the Irish Heritage Society of Milford?
“I couldn't go to the first meeting, but I went to the second meeting in May of 2006, at the Stonebridge Restaurant. I paid my dues to Danelle Sullivan and told her that I would like to be involved in whatever way I could. A short time later Danelle contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in being treasurer of the new organization. I've been treasurer ever since. No one else wants the job!”
Do you find your work with the society rewarding?
“I've been on the ground floor of the growth of the IHS, from meeting number two through our annual Milford Irish festivals, to the point where we now have 500 members and are on the verge of leasing space for a permanent clubhouse/headquarters, thanks to the help of a grant from the Irish government. But the people that I've met in the club along the way have been the most rewarding and enjoyable part. I honestly didn't know any of them six years ago, and now they're some of my closest friends.
“We are hosting our Christmas party on December 15 and our ladies brunch on January 6. Details available at www.milfordirish.org.”
What is the biggest challenge facing the society today?
“Many Irish societies that have been established for decades did not have to deal with the expense and regulation of trying to establish a new clubhouse in the 21st century. The concern about insurance and litigation is very keen. Without a bar/clubhouse, the efforts to keep young single people and young families actively involved as members remains a challenge. But we're inching our way forward.”
Do you think the next generation of Irish immigrants has as much pride in their country as their predecessors?
“I would like to think so. Their Ireland was the Celtic Tiger, and the reasons for the rise of the tiger -- low corporate tax rate, membership in the European Union, and an educated, English-speaking work force -- still exist. And I think everybody gets chills when they hear ‘The Fields of Athenry’ at a football match, and love to cheer both Rory and Padraig on the links. But we love to have the native Irish in America, and in Connecticut, and I hope we can open our doors to more of them.”
Do you plan on visiting Ireland next year for the Gathering?
“If we hit the lotto! My daughter Jennifer is getting married in April, so we're preoccupied next year. Our plan is to return in 2016, for the 100th anniversary of the Rising.”
Interview by Molly Muldoon