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East Durham Irish Festival 2022 Honorees

Tom McGoldrick

 For 38 years Tom was Director of The East Durham Irish Festival. Tom McGoldrick was born in 1936 in the South Bronx NY. As a child in the 1940’s, Tom’s Mom and Dad would frequently vacation in the Northern Catskill Mountains in the valley of East Durham NY. In 1954 Tom landed a job at The Shamrock House in East Durham and then was elevated to Bar Tender in 1955. Tom tended bar through his college years till 1959. During that time Tom married an East Durham girl, Joan Roe in 1958. A couple of years after that Tom served in the US Army for a short time. In 1960 he and Joan settled in East Durham and purchased the popular Weldon House. For 30 years Tom & Joan operated The Weldon House and accommodated thousands of vacationers until 1989 when Tom and Joan decided it was time to move on. When the Festival was first put on in 1977, Tom directed the festival’s operations that included hiring entertainment, coordinating staff and scheduling, and continued as Director until 2015. For 38 years Tom’s dedication to the festival was tireless and paved the way to where the festival is today celebrating it’s 45th year. We will always be forever grateful to Tom McGoldrick. Today, Tom and Joan live in Fort Lauderdale FL and seasonally make their way back to our beautiful valley in the Catskill Mountains.

Jack Gavin

Jack Gavin is the 3rd eldest of 8 children to James and Nelly Gavin. He was born in Yonkers in 1942. His Dad, Jim Gavin from County Mayo owned a restaurant called Gavin’s on New Main Street in the Getty Square section of Yonkers for over 30 years. During the summers back in the 1950’s Jim and his wife Nelly would frequently bring their 8 children to vacation at The Golden Hill House in East Durham. In 1961, Jim and Nelly Gavin decided to purchase that very place and since then the Gavin family have been a part of the fabric of East Durham to this very day. During those days in the 1960’s Jack worked for his Dad in East Durham and spent the later 1960’s in the Bronx where he graduated from Fordham University with a Business Degree. During that time in 1966 Jack met the woman he would spend the rest of his wife with, Margaret Crawley from Cabra West in Dublin Ireland at a place called “The Irish Circle” in Rockaway Beach. It wasn’t long, before they were married in 1968. They lived in the Bronx until 1970 and then packed their bags for East Durham and they live there to this very day. Working side by side with his Dad, Jim and his Mom, Nelly, Gavin’s Golden Hill House continued the great Irish tradition started in the late 1920’s by Mary Harnett Boyle from County Kerry who lived to 103. Jack and his wife Margaret purchased Gavin’s from his parents in 1992 before passing the baton to his daughter Bernadette and her husband Brian in 2012. It was in 1976 when Jack was inspired by “Irish Fest” in Syracuse NY. He approached Mary McKenna who at the time was also a resort owner in East Durham and was also in charge of East Durham Vacationland and she agreed that a festival would be a great event for East Durham and helped sponsor the first East Durham Irish Festival in 1977. Jack Gavin, the 1st Chairman of the Festival along with many of the resort owners and businesses of East Durham came together and launched this event, The East Durham Irish Festival, that to this day kicks off the Catskills summer vacation season and is a staple in our New York Irish community.

Donal Gallagher

Donal Gallagher was born in 1944 in Killybegs, County Donegal, Ireland. He was the 4th of eleven children to Nora “Cissy” and Mick “Peter” Gallagher. Donal grew up as a young lad working with his dad as a farmer and a weaver. After graduating secondary school at age 18, Donal moved to New York and initially settled in Brooklyn with his relatives. He landed a job at Citicorp on Park Avenue  starting in the mailroom and moved his way up to Manager of the Audit Department where he managed more than 30 people. Citicorp put him through Pace University where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. Donal worked for Citicorp for nearly 15 years before leaving to start his own financial consulting business. During this time Donal was living in the Bronx and was also coaching and managing the Donegal Football Club of New York. He also studied at The New School of Social Research in NYC where he completed a Master’s degree in Counseling and worked towards a doctorate in counseling.
 
In 1979, inspired by his first cousin Nancy Dorrain from Killybegs, Donegal who had started a hand knit Irish sweater company, Donal came to East Durham on summer weekends and set up a tent in the parking lot of O’Neill’s on Rt. 145 (space generously given by George O’Neill) in order to sell his cousin’s hand knit items. This spot was in the center of town next door to what a year later would become the permanent location of “Guaranteed Irish”. Donal expanded to two additional stores, one in the Riverdale section of the Bronx and one in the ski resort town of Windham. For many years he also had a successful wholesale business selling to Irish Import stores throughout the Northeast. 
 
In the mid 1980’s Donal helped develop what became the “East Durham Irish Cultural & Sports Centre” which was officially Incorporated on March 17th, 1987! The Cultural Centre was later formally renamed and dedicated in honor of Kerryman, Michael J Quill, who was the founder of the Transport Workers Union of America, a union created for the Subway workers of NYC.
 
For nearly four decades, Donal has worked tirelessly to ensure the future of the Cultural Centre acting in many capacities as both president and executive director. He helped create the infrastructure that was vital to the longevity of the East Durham Irish Festival including the building of two pavilions and permanent bathrooms. He saw to fruition the creation of a football pitch (noteworthy as it is the only one in America that is the same regulation size as the one in Croke Park, Dublin), the development of the world’s largest walking map of Ireland, the acquisition of a Donegal thatched cottage that was shipped over from Donegal and the dedication of a 9-11 Memorial, all of which has enhanced the Irish Festival grounds. Donal also managed many projects including concerts and sporting events in order to raise funds for the Centre. 
 
Donal lives in East Durham with his wife Kitty Kelly. Their store Guaranteed Irish in East Durham is one of the finest Irish Import stores in the US today and is noted as the largest Irish import store in America if not the world. They are celebrating 42 years in business!