Honored posthumously, April 2, 2011
James (Jim) McGinty was the embodiment of all that was good about Comhaltas North America and his contributions felt from the very early years it arrived on the Shamrock Shore over forty years ago. When he passed away on June 7, 2010 at the age of 72, his legacy had been firmly established within the Province because of his tireless efforts promoting and encouraging Irish music in the New York metropolitan area. His reputation as a gregarious team player with a sharp eye for organizational details were invaluable for a Movement like CCE who relied on his proud Irish American roots and ability to translate ideas into action.
Born in Brooklyn in 1937 to Eleanor and James McGinty, his grandparents came from Counties Clare (Broadford), Tyrone (Donemana) and Monaghan (Tyndavnet) so his Irish heritage was very close to his heart. By profession he was an educator in the Special Education field in Rockland County with Masters Degrees from both Columbia and Fordham Universities (also a B.S. from Fordham). With an avid interest in sports, he was deeply committed and involved in scholastic athletics as a coach and referee with an emphasis on team play and sportsmanship as important as winning or losing. Like many Irish Americans his patriotism towards the U.S. and Ireland co-existed easily and he served in the U.S. Army retiring after 30 years as a Colonel in the National Guard and Army Reserves.
His deep abiding interest in Ireland led him to join many Irish associations that reflected his multi-faceted approach and skills. He played major officer roles ascending to the top ranks in the AOH, the American Irish Association of Westchester and Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann and was a member of the County Clare P.B. and S. Association of NY and the Knights of Columbus as well the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committees of New York and Yonkers. He was selected as the Grand Marshall of St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1995 in Yonkers. For more than two decades he hosted a weekly Irish music radio program for the American Irish Association ensuring that traditional music from Ireland and America got a good airing.
Jim’s role in Comhaltas benefitted from the professional and personal qualities he brought to the table from the very early days. As a parent along with his devoted wife, Barbara, their daughter Cathy was a successful fiddler player along with contemporaries like Joanie Madden and Eileen Ivers and others who were tutored by the legendary Martin Mulvihill. Jim’s enthusiasm and help in the early Fleadh movement in New York in the 1970s dovetailed nicely with many trips to Ireland for the annual Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann as it moved around Ireland. His proud Irish American roots and affability allowed him to befriend so many people on both sides of the Atlantic that he became one of the most recognized people in the American Comhaltas community. His efforts on behalf of younger musicians helped to raise the standards for Irish America and opened the door for numerous successes in the All-Ireland competitions from the 1970s right up to the current days and this will mark the first time a local Fleadh will be held without him present.
Jim’s administrative skills and insight played an important role in developing the CCE branch system as he was Chairman of the Michael Coleman Branch based in the Bronx and Westchester multiple times. His stewardship of the Branch reflected on his people skills as the Branch enrolled members at a steady clip. He was the first regional coordinator for New York linking the other branches in New York and New Jersey and established the first Mid-Atlantic Region as Chairman when CCE North America achieved Provincial Status in 1991 (along with Ireland’s Four Provinces and Britain) and Co-Chairman of the very successful Tarrytown Convention in 1995. His work with many of the Annual Tour Groups from Ireland also fostered CCE’s development in America and the greater New York area.
As Jim’s health declined in recent years, he moved to the background but kept a watchful eye and consultative role enabling a practical succession of leadership in the Michael Coleman Club and also the Mid-Atlantic Region. He continued to delight in its success of CCE and its growth confident that he had played a major part in its robust evolution. While Jim would like to think that his bodhran playing would merit consideration for the Hall of Fame entry, it was his leadership and sincerity that warranted his admission into the august body of music makers who define the Mid-Atlantic Region.