In a 1950s movie “The Quiet Man,” John Wayne played the title character. The movie is familiar enough with Irish-Americans to convey “Irish-ness” when the name is applied to a pub or restaurant.
So it was no accident when Cathal selected the name for the new establishment. Much of the movie was filmed in the village of Cong, just a few miles from Owenwee, where the McGreal family has lived for generations. Their home is literally in the shadow of Crogh Patrick, the legendary mountain where St. Patrick fasted and prayed for 40 days and 40 nights and, according to legend, drove the snakes out of Ireland.
In real life, however, the inspiration for Peekskill’s Quiet Man Public House is Michael J. McGreal, a strong, taciturn farmer who spent much of his life wresting a living from the rocky farm land in Owenwee, outside Westport in County Mayo.
In 2006 the Peekskill St. Patrick’s Committee selected me, Jack Murphy, as Grand Marshal that year and a friend insisted I visit Ireland before I could lead the parade. On a visit to the McGreal homestead I met Michael only months before his death. Even though ill, he was an imposing man.
Michael was husband to Margaret and father to five children: Michael, Thomas, Cathal, Joseph and Claire. Michael and Margaret instilled in their children strong faith in God, great love for family, a fervent work ethic, respect for the land and great regard for the animals that shared their land.
While I was in his home I asked Michael about the significance of brightly colored paint marks on the backs of sheep. “Ah,” he said, “that’s to show who owns the sheep, but a REAL sheepman can tell his own sheep just by looking at the animal’s face.”
On a number of occasions, Cathal has been heard to say, “He was the real quiet man. He didn’t have to raise his voice to get your attention and never did. Often a look was all it took.”
The logo for The Quiet Man Public House shows the face of this strong, quiet Irish farmer; as well it should since it is based on one of Chuck’s favorite pictures of his dad.
When Michael died on Nov. 4, 2006, “The Quiet Man Public House” was already a well-developed dream for Cathal. Many of the unique wood designs and special touches that make the pub “a little bit of Ireland in downtown Peekskill” were showing up in notebooks that he carried at all times.