I grew up far from my Grandpop, so we would exchange cassettes and letters. Grandpop’s tapes were recorded in his cellar from his cherished record collection. He would methodically and regularly re-record all of his music onto new formats so he would never lose them. Grandpop was a natural entertainer-- he had a jovial voice and a thick Philadelphia accent. During our biannual visits, I remember him dancing with an invisible partner around the living room. He told many stories about the Gallaghers with an incomparable energy. Our Irish heritage was very important to Grandpop. He would talk about it all the time.
Later, I realized Grandpop had never been to Ireland. His immigrant father, John Gallagher, had asserted “American Pride” and wanted Ireland forgotten. Ireland was a part of him and a mystery to him. As I grew up, I became aware of a curiosity that Grandpop and I shared. I think we both felt slightly lost, living away from the legendary places of our ancestry– for him, Ireland, and for me, Philadelphia. Grandpop finally went to Ireland in 2002, and he died in 2009. When I listen to his tapes it's like he’s still next to me, smoking his pipe and singing. Funny enough, when you record vinyl to tape, something called “Generation loss” happens– the recording becomes less clear. My favorite tape has Grandpop actually speaking on it– but the tape is decaying, and the last time I heard it, his voice sounded very far away indeed.
– Emily Gallagher