Joseph Patrick McGonigal (1931 - 2003)

Joseph Patrick McGonigal was born in Mountainside Hospital, Glen Ridge, NJ on May 3,1931, the first-born to Theresa "Tessie" Healey of Drumone, Meath, Eire, and John "Sean" McGonigal of Glasgow, Scotland. He was the elder brother to sisters Breda and Kathleen. He was educated at both St. Cecilia's Grammar and High Schools, graduating in 1950. His family and school chums called him Joe, while his Dad called him "Paddy", and over time, he was known in the wider community as Pat McGonigal. His official 'business signature' was J. Patrick McGonigal. Started on the practice chanter by his father Sean and his Uncle Joe Egan of Glasgow, he played as a young boy-piper during WWII in the Brian Boru Irish Warpipe band (which his father started as a charter-member in 1933). In the Autumn of 1949 (while a senior in High School) his Dad formed the St. Columcille United Gaelic Pipe Band, with the teen- aged Pat becoming a founding member of this renowned pipe band.

Pat was dating the eldest daughter of Isabella Davidson and Patrick Malley (Glasgow emigres), Jemima Ann Malley. Affectionately known as "Mirna", she was an Irish stepdancer along with Pat's 2 sisters Breda and Kathleen, who learned under the tutelage of "the Comerfords" in Kearny, who ran a top dance school in the day. Mirna and Pat were wed on June 7, 1952 at St. Cecilia's church, with their reception at the old Antrim and Down Club in Harrison. First- born son Joseph Patrick arrived the following June, and during their early days of marriage Pat served in the US Army Signal Corps, serving in Korea while Joe Jr. was a baby. After his armed service Pat and Mirna went on expanding their family, with Michael Robert Emmett, Patricia, Kevin John, Sean Francis, Maura, and Deirdre, eventually becoming pipers, drummers, dancers, and soccer players in their own right.

Like his mom and dad, Pat was a voracious reader with a varied interest in multiple topics. His parents heavily influenced him; his father was self-taught in several languages and well-versed in history, and his mother Tessie, who was the daughter of the local schoolmaster, was "good with her sums" as they say, and was fluent in French and Irish. Tessie introduced husband Sean to the Gaelic language, which also propelled Pat into the study of Irish history and the Celtic race. His mom told him historical accounts of atrocities committed by the hated "Black and Tans", and his father and uncle recounted stories of horribly shabby treatment of Irish immigrants in the tenements of inner-city Glasgow by bigots who were against anyone not of their ilk. This fueled a burning quest for knowledge, thereby evolving into the study of various Irish political freedom movements and the long historical saga of Irish Free-State independence.

Pat became Pipe Major of St Columcille after the untimely death of his father Sean, who collapsed during the 1965 Kearny Memorial Day parade. Pat led the band for the next 38 years, even during some lean times for the band. Regionally, Pat was a well-known piper who, over the decades, piped at thousands of parades, competitions, and corporate and ethnic events. He expanded the role of the bagpipe band in America, proudly leading the St. Columcille United Gaelic, performing for Heads of State, Presidents, and CEO's of ForbesIFortune500 corporations. Locally, Pat has piped at events for the Cryan Association, Giblin Association, Frank McGovern Association, the Ruane Association, St. Brendan's Gaelic Football, AOH conventions, the Columbian Fathers' Dances, the Newark St. Patrick's Investitures, Women of Irish Heritage, Seton Hall Irish, the Newark Easter Irish walk and Mass, Project Children, and in concerts with the Clancy Brothers and the Wolfe-Tones. Starting in the late 1960's, Pat also piped at peaceful demonstrations in NYC and NJ supporting democratic peace and civil rights for the 6 counties in North-East Ireland.

Pat enjoyed piping just about everywhere, and he enjoyed his trade as a sign-painter, keeping his father's business "Sean McGonigal Signs, Inc" (est 1933) as a going concern. His hard work fed Mirna, 7 kids, and 11 grandchildren, expanding to 13 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren after his death. The extended McGonigal clan is now today's leader in the pipe band world, known internationally, and all because of the love and support of their very-engaged parents from humble beginnings.

As Pat's sons grew into leadership roles within the St Columcille band, he became Pipe-Major Emeritus during one of the band's birthday ceilidh's. A final honor was bestowed on Pat in March 2002, as Grand Marshal of the West Hudson St. Patrick's Parade, which was one of the proudest days of his life. Quite a character, raised by people of exceptional character, J.Patrick McGonigal was hard to ignore. He loved his wife, his parents, his family, close friends, his town of
Kearny, his work output, his band, his country America, and the Irish and American traditions that have colored his life.

Click HERE to view video tribute to Joseph Patrick McGonigal


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 Posted 05/22/2015