March 6, 2021
Written by 
Luke McCusker

John P. McGowan

John (right) was born in County Mayo, circa 1885 and immigrated in 1898. He began as a shop boy for the B & O Railroad a year later, beginning a 53-year career. John was a laborer, and later a boilermaker.

He and his first wife, Katie Cannon McGowan (also a County Mayo native) lived in modest homes on W. Pratt, S. Schroeder and S. Payson Sts., and had three daughters together prior to her death in 1915. He and daughter Isabel were listed as boarders in the 1920 Census, living at 30 S. Poppleton Street.

John remarried in 1924, and he and Margaret (also from Ireland) had five more children, while John advanced in his career. He became foreman of the Boiler Shop, and eventually a General Foreman for the B & O. His $4,000 salary enabled the family to purchase a large home at 8 S. Gilmor St., where older daughters from his first marriage also lived and attended High School from.

In addition to a highly successful career, John was an accomplished musician, playing both violin and the uilleann pipes. He often performed at public venues, including at Irish Halloween dances in 1924, and on a WCAO radio program in 1926...playing with Matthew J. White, a noted violinist, on both occasions. He was considered one of just a few musicians in America who were accomplished Irish pipers.

John was an active member of St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in West Baltimore, and a member of the Holy Name Society, Knights of Columbus and a charter member of the Emerald Isle Club. He passed away on November 17, 1960 and was buried at New Cathedral Cemetery.

(Photo courtesy of Terri Menefee, John’s Granddaughter)

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