A Life Lived: Bob McGuire

Bob McGuire was grand marshal of Atlantic City's St. Patrick's Day parade in 1995. McGuire died in March at 77.

McGuire family photo

Bob McGuire was a New York boy who moved to Margate and spent 35 years running an Atlantic City business named for Pittsburgh.

But McGuire, who died last month at 77, never forgot his real roots were in Ireland.

His Atlantic City place was called the Greater Pittsburgh Bar and Hotel when he bought it in the 1960s. He later renamed the downstairs McGuire’s Erin Bar.

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Irish music was a McGuire’s fixture, in part because it was the only music the owner really liked, said his son, also Bob. Irishness was a key part of the bar’s flavor, and its cash flow.

“People have said that when they came from Ireland, they were told, ‘If you go to Atlantic City, the best place to go is McGuire’s,’” the son said.

Seany Friel, of Ventnor, is an Irish lad who spent almost 20 years tending bar at McGuire’s. He said some nights, 85 percent of his people came from Ireland.

The elder Bob was a first-generation American: His father, Frank, came over in 1920 or so. And Bob’s uncle, Mike McGuire, was a New York bar owner who bought the Greater Pittsburgh’s bar when he moved to Atlantic City for the healthy climate — doctor’s orders.

When Uncle Mike wanted to sell the bar, Bob — a basketball/baseball star at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala. — was buying. Bob had moved home to New York after college, met and married Barbara Rogers, and was working but not loving life as an accountant.

Bob and Barbara had one girl, also Barbara, when they moved to Margate. Elizabeth came along a year later, and their son two years after that.

Within a few years, Bob bought out the Greater Pittsburgh’s hotel. He still ran the bar but got his mother, Anna, and his little sister, Anne, to handle the 40-room hotel.

His sister, now Anne Walsh, of New Rochelle, N.Y., remembers loving Atlantic City back then. And that’s not the only love she found here: Her husband, now Dr. Nick Walsh, was an Irish medical student working during the summer of 1969 at McGuire’s bar when he met the boss’ sister.

That became a popular pattern. Big Bob’s daughter, Elizabeth, also married an Irish guy from the bar. Friel, the barman, met his (Irish) wife there — and knows of much more McGuire’s matchmaking over the years.

The elder Bob was proud to be in a group of bar owners who started a St. Patrick’s Day parade on Atlantic City’s Boardwalk in the mid 1980s. In 1995, he was the parade’s grand marshal.

He loved a parade — especially an Irish one — but that tradition was so good for an Irish bar, he didn’t have much time to enjoy it.

“On parade day and on St. Patrick’s Day,” said Friel, “it was all hands on board.”

A Life Lived appears Tuesdays and Saturdays.

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