Matty Maher, owner of the historic McSorley’s Old Ale House in Manhattan’s East Village, New York City, has passed away aged 80 after a battle with lung cancer.
It is understood he passed away surrounded by his five daughters and his wife Tess, a native of Co. Meath.
The Threecastles, Co. Kilkenny, native had owned McSorley’s for nearly five decades. The pub is considered to be one of New York City’s longest continually operated Irish pubs and Maher was well known throughout the globe as an honest, kind, hardworking individual who made a lasting impact on many people, be they Irish immigrants or otherwise. He never forgot his ties to Ireland and indeed attended the 2019 GAA Finals at Croke Park.
The story of how Maher came to own McSorley’s is as unique as the pub itself. In 1964 Harry Kirwan, then owner of McSorley’s, was visiting Ireland when his car broke down. Maher came to his assistance, and was told that if he was ever in New York City that there would be a job waiting for him at McSorley’s.
Maher took Kirwan up on the offer and emigrated from Ireland, beginning as a waiter and then becoming manager of the busy dive bar. In 1977, Maher bought the business and the building outright from Kirwan’s son Danny.
A statement on McSorley’s Facebook page gives further insights into the life of Matty Maher: “From a young man who farmed and delivered meat to make ends meet, Matty left Ireland in the early ’60s and through hustle and grit became a world-renowned publican.
“When he started working at the bar, McSorley’s was still a men-only establishment with dozens of flophouses within blocks from 15 East 7th Street. When they had to let women in by court order on August 11th, 1970, the bar’s future was uncertain.
“And when Matty purchased the place in 1977, the city was near bankrupt and the neighborhood’s future uncertain. Landlords were just walking away from their buildings, heroin was rampant, cars had to wait in lines that extended for blocks just to get gas, crime, and grime everywhere.
“But Matty left poverty back in Ireland and he was determined to leave it behind for good. He saw an opportunity and believed in the American Dream. And he loved history and all things Irish and knew McSorley’s and the city could survive when so many others told him he was absolutely nuts.”
Ann Pullman, Maher’s daughter, told the NY Daily News that the family expects to keep McSorley’s going exactly as it has since first opening in 1854.