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Lunch atop a Skyscraper

By rareadmin, Wednesday, 22nd November 2017 | 0 comments

Lunch atop a Skyscraper - The Irish Connection.

On September 20, 1932 during the construction of the 69th floor of the RCA Building in New York, 11 ironworkers humored a photographer, who was drumming up excitement about the project’s near completion.

Some of the men tossed a football, a few pretended to nap. But, most famously, all 11 were photographed eating lunch seated on a girder with their feet dangling 256 meters (840 feet) above the New York city streets. The men have no safety harness, which was linked to the Great Depression when people were willing to take any job regardless of safety issues.

Many decades later, Irish film maker brothers Seán and Eamonn Ó Cualáin decided to investigate the mystery surrounding the photograph, particularly the identity of the men on the steel beam, after noticing the photograph in Whelans pub in Shanaglish, Galway. Locals there were convinced that two of the elusive men photographed on the beam in 1932 hailed from their village.

There was a note beside the photograph written by Pat Glynn from Boston, Massachusetts - the son of a Shanaglish emigrant. On the note he stated that the man on the far right holding the bottle was his father Sonny Glynn, and the man on the far left was Matty O’Shaughnessy his uncle-in-law.

This intriguing link to Galway inspired the Ó Cualáin brothers to produce a documentary, Men at Lunch, which debuted in 2012 at the Toronto International Film Festival, 80 years after the iconic photograph was taken.

The documentary Men at Lunch revealed that the third man from the left in the photograph is Joseph Eckner, while the third from the right is Joe Curtis. Other names mentioned over the years include those of Irish heritage such as Michael Breheny, Francis Rafferty and ‘Stretch’ Donahue, but have never been conclusively proven.

As for Sonny Glynn and Matty O’Shaughnessy, they left Shanaglish for America after the Irish civil war (1922-1923). The Great Depression had just taken effect when the two men landed jobs at the Rockefeller Center.

'Lunch atop a Skyscraper' has since become the photograph that many believe epitomizes America’s emigrant story.

Thanks to Cathal Coyle for this information.