McNulty descendents to visit area

The McNulty Family (Annie, daughter Eileen and son Peter) were a post-vaudeville Irish music group of entertainers. Annie ‘Ma’ McNulty, a button accordion player, originally from Kilteevan, Co Roscommon, emigrated to the US in 1910. The family became prominent in music circles in the United States from 1926 onward, and performed throughout the country. Although the major part of their performing career was in the Vaudeville theatres of the era, on radio and through numerous recordings, their influence on traditional Irish music has been immense and their legacy is still found in playing styles throughout the US and Canada. In memory of Annie McNulty (nee Burke) in 2006, the South Roscommon Singers Circle organised the first Annie McNulty Seminar, which was presented by Ted McGraw of Rochester, NY, and supported by the Arts Council’s Deis programme and Roscommon Co. Library Services. The second Annual Annie McNulty Seminar, entitled ‘Irish-American Popular Song 1800 – 1925′, will be presented at the County Library, Roscommon on 25th Oct. ’07 by Mick Moloney, musician, musicologist, broadcaster and Professor at New York University. This will be followed by a talk, demonstrations and exhibition of McNulty Family music, song and memorabilia (1926 – 1962) presented by Jim, Patricia and Courtney Grogan from the US. Jim and Patricia are the children of Annie’s daughter Eileen and Courtney is Jim’s daughter. (This seminar is also supported by the Arts Council’s and Roscommon Co. Library Services). Both Jim and Patricia Grogan were almost literally "born in a trunk." Eileen performed up until about a month before Jim was born on February 5th, 1945. And the following year, Annie (known to her grandchildren as Naneen) wrote in the The Irish Showboat News, "Well, Eileen got her wish. She made the show! But she almost missed it, because now we are extending our heartiest congratulations on the birth of beautiful baby girl, Patricia Ann, on March 21st, just four days after the show." In the tradition of "The Show must go on!" Eileen performed from behind a half-door at that St. Patrick’s Day Show. Jim and Pat grew up in Hoboken, New Jersey, right across the Hudson River from Manhattan, as part of two remarkable Irish-American families, the McNultys and the Grogans. Eileen McNulty had moved to Hoboken when she married John Grogan in 1937. John’s mother, Katie, was from Kilkenny and his father was from Mayo. Sadly, like John McNulty, Mr. Grogan died before he reached his 40th birthday, leaving Katie alone to raise their five children. Katie later married John Dirks, who had immigrated from Belgium; they had three daughters and raised two other children who had lost their parents. John Dirks loved Katie’s children as if they were his own, as they loved him. Jim and Pat recall their grandmother’s tiny house in Hoboken — always overflowing with aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, neighbors, strays, laughter, love, storytelling, and Irish soda bread. The McNultys and the Grogan-Dirks family got on famously, especially the two brave women who headed the families. Their father, John Grogan was a natural leader and started organising workers in the Bethlehem Shipyards in Hoboken when he was a teenager. He became the first president of the local Shipbuilders’ union. (Eileen designed the mast-head for the first union newspaper.) He later became president of the International Shipbuilder’s Union and a national leader of the labor movement. He was also elected Mayor of Hoboken in 1953, when the children were still young, and held that position for 13 years. Naneen and Peter pitched in on his election campaigns, even composing and recording some campaign jingles that Pat and Jim still have. Peter often helped Eileen with her many duties as First Lady of Hoboken. John Grogan never asked Eileen to pull back from the McNulty Family, and it wasn’t unusual for her to do four or five shows a week, even when the children were young, thanks to all the support from the extended family. Jim and Pat feel that they were doubly lucky as children, listening to Eileen McNulty sing to them, and hearing the eloquent speeches of their father for the rights of working people. It was never boring! In high school, Jim Grogan studied dance and singing. After Peter’s death in 1960, he joined the McNulty Family act at age 15, and performed for two and a half years with Naneen and Eileen. College and the Navy ensued, and choosing a more private life, Jim worked as a contractor in the construction business. He is now happily retired with his wife Rosemary in Florida, and maintains his life-long love of music and dance. He feels blessed to have been a part of the McNulty Family of Irish entertainers. Jim’s daughter Courtney is a trained pianist and vocalist and has become an avid student of the McNulty Family legacy. Pat Grogan is a teacher of English as a Second Language and French in Oceanside, California, where she lives with her husband, Jesse Smith. In many ways she followed in her father’s footsteps as a political activist. As a student at Columbia University during the late 1960s, Pat became involved in the peace movement and the cause of women’s rights. For many years after that she was an organiser and speaker on behalf of human rights and trade union organisations, such as the Coalition of Labor Union Women. Jim and Pat have preserved the recordings, scrapbooks, and show business memorabilia of Naneen, Eileen, and Peter, and are thrilled to be able to share them in Ireland this year on the centennial of Annie Burke’s first public performance at the Kilteevan Concert of February 1907.