Welcome to Philadelphia
eading down State Road” src=”http://irishphiladelphia.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/mcgrathinside-300×300.jpg” alt=”Tom McGrath heading down State Road” width=”300″ height=”300″ />
With the regularity of a metronome, long-distance runner Tom McGrath’s sneaker-clad feet slapped against the pavement as he made his way down State Road in Cornwells Heights. As he rounded a corner approaching the small bridge at Grant Avenue that marks the border between Bucks County and Philadelphia, a waiting delegation from the Philadelphia Irish Center-Commodore Barry Club erupted into cheers. A saffron-kilted piper broke into “The Minstrel Boy.”
This was the moment they’d been waiting for, the chance to greet and support the slightly built marathoner and New York City pub owner as he continued on his one-man mission to raise funds for a Naval Academy memorial honoring the father of the American Navy and the namesake of their club.
On this bright Sunday afternoon, with temperatures hovering in the low to mid-90s, McGrath took it all, you might say, in stride.
With a police motorcycle escort leading the way, McGrath and his admirers made their way up the road a couple of blocks to the Delaware River Yacht Club, where the 61 -year-old multi-sport athlete planned to take a breather.
Pausing for a few moments beside the club’s drydocked boats, McGrath marveled at his enthusiastic reception in the city that became Barry’s home.
“Of all the runs in my life, this is the best one I’ve done. I’ve been treated royally, believe me,” he said. “It gives me a lot more willpower, discipline, determination, and strength. And of course, God is on my side, too.”
The $200,000-plus memorial is the work of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and McGrath was happy and proud to lend his long legs to the cause, helping the AOH get a bit closer to their goal.
McGrath, from County Fermanagh, believes his countryman is well deserving of the honor.
“Commodore Barry was one of the greatest Irishmen who ever left the shores of Ireland. He came to the United States from poverty in County Wexford, and made it to the top by being entrusted with the construction and leadership of the United States Navy, the greatest navy in the entire world. That was a massive, massive undertaking.”
The break didn’t last long—20 minutes, perhaps—and McGrath was once again on his way, stopping for a while at AOH 39′s hall in Tacony. He was scheduled to arrive at the Naval Academy tomorrow.
We have photographs and video of McGrath’s arrival in the Northeast.