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Tommy McGann - Blue & White Legend

A Kilmaley Legend -By Patsy O'Grady

Born in Kilmaley, February 1st 1955. Attended Kilmaley National School, 1960-1968. His teachers were Mrs. Joan Pyne, Mrs. Margaret Cahill (R.I.P.) and Mr. Gerry Cronin.
Attended Ennis Vocational School and later worked for two years in Ennis.
Having taken up hurling at an early age he was a vital part of Kilmaley under-age teams who won County titles from the late sixties to the mid-seventies. These included:
· 1968 U-16B against Killaloe;
· 1969 U-16A against O’Callaghan’s Mills;
· 1971 U16A against Meelick;
· 1973 Junior B League against Meelick;
· 1973 Minor A Championship against Broadford;
· 1972-73 played as a Clare Minor;
· 1973 emigrated to the U.S.A. Played some hurling while there.
· 1976 on a visit home to Ireland played for Kilmaley in the U-21 Championship.

September 1973 went to Springfield Massachusetts and from there to Boston. Worked in the Purple Shamrock Bar in Boston. Later became part owner of the Irish Embassy Bar in Falmouth.
Also ran the Irish Embassy Bar and Restaurant at Easton, about 20 minutes from Boston. Some time later he sold his premises at Easton and bought the Irish Embassy Bar and Hostel with Joe Dunne. He changed the name of his bar in Falmouth to “McGann’s.
In 1996 he opened another pub called McGann’s at Boston and another Hostel.
He played a major role in helping Irish emigrants find accommodation and employment in the U.S. He came in contact with some of Ireland’s greatest musicians and singers.
Died on September 23rd 1998.

Had a street “Tommy McGann Way” named in his honour, March 1999 in Boston.Tommy's son Danny at the street naming ceremony

Tommy McGann in America, By Eddie Dillon
It’s not every Irishman who has a corner in Boston named after him, or has thousands of people attend his wake in Ennis or his memorial Mass in Boston. And it’s not every Irishman who comes to America who owns three pubs, has various investments and properties. And it’s even fewer Irishmen who count their success not in dollars or in pounds but in the companionship of his friends and family and, especially, in the eyes of his son.
That was Tommy McGann in America.

He had come to the States in the late seventies, travelled to Vermont and San Francisco and settled back in Boston working as a manager at a local bar. With two partners he purchased a pub on Cape Cod - “The Irish Embassy” (now called• ‘McGann’s’). Borrowing on his experience in Lisdoonvarna and Doolin, Tommy began booking bands, promoting concerts with traditional and contemporary bands from home.

He was a publican in the old sense of the word. He always had a story, a quick wit and a good ear. To many young Irish though, he was the gateway to America. Countless out of work Irish came to Boston in the mid-eighties looking for work. Tommy spent many hours every day finding precious jobs and housing. And if one of his friends didn’t have work he always had a paintbrush and would find something for them to do. Strangers often appeared at the door and were never turned away.

By the mid-nineties, Tommy with his partner, Joe Dunne, had acquired two pubs in Boston - “The Irish Embassy” and “McGann’s”. They opened a youth hostel above the Embassy and all his businesses were thriving. The Irish musicians who performed at his pubs were legendary: Christie Moore, Mary Black, The Saw Doctors, Maura O’Connell, Francis Black, The Clancys, Sharon Shannon, Luka Bloom, Stockton’s Wing, Cherish the Ladies with Aoife Clancy, Tommy Makem, The Makem Brothers, Finbarr Furey, Andy 1rvine, Patrick Street and Matt Molloy. Most of these musicians considered Tommy a personal friend.
Senator Kerry and Governor Weld had their post election reconciliation party at McGann’s and most of the Boston politicians knew Tommy. He was proud of the fact that Courtney Kennedy and Paul Hill had invited him to spend a weekend at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis.

In the last few years of his life he had become extremely successful but he never forgot what it was like to live in a small flat in Dorcester with seven friends, their seven friends, one frying pan and a small pick-up truck. He was equally at home with the famous and near famous as with the tradesmen who called his pubs their local. He looked after them all.

Tommy wasn’t a perfect man and he wasn’t an angel. Maybe that’s why so many people liked to associate with him. In his own quiet way he liked his successes and was proud of all that he accomplished. But, the only real concern that he deeply cared about was his son, Danny. Danny was the focus of his attention throughout every project, the untold hours and phone calls that was Tommy’s work day. It wasn’t untypical of Tommy to drive into Boston, do the ordering at eight o’clock in the morning, make sure the pubs were looking good, go to a meeting then drive out to pick up Danny to get him to a soccer game or bring him down to Cape Cod. Today, Danny is well looked after by his mother, Kelly, and the McGann family.

Tommy McGann in America. The first time he came to America was in the late 70’s. He had been bartending at McGann’s in Doolin and a tour group from America had been hanging around the pub for a few days. They came in for a few last minute drinks on their way to Shannon. He was having such a good time with them he closed the pub, got on the bus and went to the airport with them. Security wasn’t as tight back then so he walked onto the aeroplane with them for a few more drinks. Then the doors shut so he fastened his seat belt and came to America. No wallet, no clothes. They landed in Connecticut at Bradley Airport which - at the time - had one part time customs agent. He sneaked out through an unlocked door, found a phone and called his mother. “See if you can get Tony to look after the pub, I won’t be home for dinner”.
Tommy McGann in America. Few people here do as well financially as Tommy but that didn’t matter much to Tommy, he spent it all. Tommy was all about friends and his loved ones. Now, almost a year since the accident the stinging pangs of mourning dim but we still miss Tommy McGann in America.

“Is there anyone in this hall tonight whom Tommy McGann hasn’t done something for?”
Liam Clancy at Tommy’s Wedding celebration in the falls hotel.

Tommy McGann - Patsy O’Grady
With one year gone since the tragic death of Tommy McGann, the terrible shock of that accident may have worn off somewhat but the memory will stay forever. Also the memory of Tommy will remain with the people who know him, for the rest of their lives. Indeed one has to go back to the home in Kilmaley where he came from to understand him fully.

Fr. Michael McLoughlin Parish Priest said it all in his homily at the funeral Mass when he said “when you went to McGann’s house Baby went for the teapot and Bernie went for the bottle and if you escaped one you would not escape the other”. There are so many lovely memories of him, stories that show the great character he had. Like most children he liked to stay up late at night. His mother told him to go to bed, in fact she had to tell him a few times. Eventually he went up the stairs but he was back down again a few minutes later. “Go to bed” his mother said again. “I want a hot water bottle” he said, “we have no hot water” his mother said but Tommy said a cold water would do.

As he grew older he continued to keep that great sense of humour which made him one of the nicest people you could wish to meet. He had so many of the good qualities, like generosity. Tommy would give you anything he had if you needed it even though he might need it himself. As they say “he would give you the shirt off his back”. It is difficult to meet a person with so many qualities, kindness, coolness and yet a very strong determination. But one thing he had most of all was courage. We saw it in his school days, in his hurling days, in his business and only a few years ago in his health. If one knew just how many people he met in his short life I would say it would be unbelievable. Tommy did not know anymore than anybody else what life had in store for him, but one thing is certain had his life not been cut short, as it was he would have achieved a great deal more. But we must be grateful for what he contributed to all our lives. Tommy with musician Kieran McDermott.

In a world that has more sadness than joy Tommy McGann stood out as one person who inspired us all.

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