Sligo­man had helped thou­sands of Ir­ish im­mi­grants in Bos­ton

The Sligo Champion - - NEWS -

A lead­ing mem­ber of the Ir­ish community in Bos­ton who was a na­tive of Sligo has passed away

Wil­liam ‘Bill’ McGowan died on Satur­day, Septem­ber 16 th sur­rounded by his lov­ing fam­ily. Wake and Funeral was held at St. El­iz­a­beth’s Par­ish at Mil­ton on Septem­ber 22nd and 23rd. Bill had been a leader in Bos­ton’s Ir­ish community for five decades, help­ing peo­ple with ev­ery­thing from im­mi­gra­tion is­sues, fundrais­ing, sport, hous­ing, in­sur­ance and taxes. Bill was the sev­enth of eleven chil­dren born in Cloona, County Sligo. He has survving broth­ers and sis­ters still liv­ing in the county.

Bill en­tered the sem­i­nary as a teenager, join­ing the mis­sion­ary So­ci­ety of St. James the Apos­tle, a group that sends priests to mis­sion­ary ser­vice in the poor­est coun­tries of South Amer­ica.

The so­ci­ety was founded by Bos­ton’s Richard Car­di­nal Cush­ing.

As­signed to Bo­livia in 1966, Bill trav­elled from vil­lage to vil­lage, set­ting up credit unions for the poor and find­ing ways to im­prove so­cial and ed­u­ca­tional con­di­tions.

In 1970, de­cid­ing that “God would call him to other things in life,” he left the priest­hood and moved to Bos­ton.

In 1972, he mar­ried Brid­get Reaney from Con­nemara, County Gal­way and both be­came ac­tive in Bos­ton’s Ir­ish community.

Bill helped form the Shan­non Blues Gaelic Foot­ball Club in 1974 and was ac­tive in the Gaelic Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion, serv­ing as chair­man of the New Eng­land Board and on the na­tional Board. In 1978, Bill started an ac­count­ing firm and be­gan help­ing Ir­ish im­mi­grants and lo­cal res­i­dents with their tax re­turns.

In 1985, Bill opened Park­man’s cor­ner store on Cen­tre Street in Dorch­ester. This was a gath­er­ing place for Ir­ish im­mi­grants. Many were un­doc­u­mented, leav­ing home for green pas­tures but un­able to se­cure a visa to stay in Amer­ica.

See­ing a need, Bill stepped in to help. On July 12, 1985, McGowan and oth­ers launched the newly-formed Mas­sachusetts Im­mi­gra­tion Com­mit­tee, serv­ing as chair­man.

Its daunt­ing mis­sion was to con­vince congress to amend the 1965 US Im­mi­gra­tion Act, which un­in­ten­tion­ally blocked peo­ple from Ire­land and other coun­tries like Italy, Ger­many and Greece from get­ting per­ma­nent US visas.

Dorch­ester’s own Brian Don­nelly had just filed a bill in the House, and the Com­mit­tee’s goal was to gain sup­port in the Se­nate too.

What be­gan as a meet­ing of 60 peo­ple at the Ir­ish So­cial Club quickly be­came a na­tional move­ment with eth­nic groups across the coun­try join­ing forces to ad­vo­cate, pub­li­cize and co­or­di­nate a broad based ef­fort for im­mi­gra­tion re­form.

In the fall of 1986, Congress passed the US Im­mi­gra­tion and Con­trol Act, in­clud­ing the Don­nelly Visa which al­lot­ted 40,000 per­ma­nent visas to Europe and of which 18,363 went to the Ir­ish. In 1997, Bill started a Bos­ton fundraiser for his youngest Sis­ter Jo Goretti, who was as­signed to a Catholic par­ish in La­gos, Nige­ria.

Over a few years, Bill and his Com­mit­tee raised nearly $900,000 to build a new school with li­braries, com­put­ers and a day care cen­tre.

Today, over 2,000 chil­dren at­tend the school, with 37 teach­ers all trained by the Ir­ish nuns. In 2007, Bill re­lo­cated his tax and ac­count­ing firm McTaxes In­cor­po­rated to Quincy, where they con­tinue to this day to help the lo­cal and Ir­ish community with fi­nan­cial, tax and ac­count­ing needs.

Bill was also hon­oured when awarded the Sligo As­so­ci­a­tion of Bos­ton’s Man of the Year award, pre­sented at its an­nual St. Pa­trick’s Day ban­quet.

Bill was a fa­ther fig­ure, men­tor and guid­ance coun­sel­lor to many. He will be sadly missed by his lov­ing wife Brid­get, fam­ily, col­leagues and friends.

The late Bill McGowan who has died in Bos­ton.

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