Inner View: Peter Shovlin, Pittsburgh’s Grandest Marshall

Inner View: Will We Add Another?
by John O’Brien, Jr.

Amidst all of the great celebrations of our St. Patrick’s Day Honorees, news of one arrived after we went to print with the March issue.  The Grand Marshall of the 2022 Pittsburgh St. Patrick’s Day Parade is Peter J. Shovlin, Sr.

If you haven’t met him, hurry up; he is one of the great leaders in our Irish community, a legacy reinforced many times over by the efforts of his family and friends to follow the example lived every day by the dedicated, insightful and generous with his time and talents Pittsburgh fixture.

A Bit About My Dad
By Sheila Shovlin, TCRG and Liz (Shovlin) Grinko, TMRF

Our dad was born June 27, 1931, in Liskerraghan, outside Ardara, Co. Donegal.  He met our mother, Sheila Sweeney, at the Shamrock Irish Dance Hall in London, while they were both living and working there.  They married in September 1956 and together immigrated to the U.S., arriving on March 13, 1957. 

Mom passed away in 1997 but shared fully in Dad’s life described ahead. Dad is the father of eight:  Liz, Ralph, Peter Jr, Patsy (d. 2007), John, Michael, Kevin, and Sheila, all who married and made him a grandfather of seventeen and great-grandfather of three.

Dad was one of the charter members of the Irish Centre of Pittsburgh (ICP), a club formed for the purpose of bringing Irish families together. He was among those members who helped turn the property into a welcoming gathering place. 

Dad played the violin and provided music at many of the early dances, sometimes with other ICP members.  He served on the ICP Board of Directors as a board member and Treasurer, Vice-President and then President in 1980-81. The club no longer exists as we remember it, but the memories of time spent there, and the many friendships made endure.

One of the main objectives of the ICP was to pass on Irish culture to the members’ children. In 1970, Dad arranged with other members to have Irish step-dancing taught at the ICP by an instructor certified by the Irish Dancing Commission (An Coimisiun le Rince na Gaelacha).  That school still continues today and spawned the creation of others, including the Shovlin Academy of Irish Dance. Ripples.

First Feis
Dad was the founder and chairman of the first Irish Centre of Pittsburgh Feis in 1971.  He chaired through 1975 and then later from 1979-1981. He also played his fiddle at every Pittsburgh Feis up through the 2000s, one of the musicians who providing live music for the dance competitors.  He also used his carpentry skills to help build the outdoor stages used for the dance competitions. Many of Dad’s grandchildren are also now involved in Irish dance and Irish football as well as playing the fiddle.

Fiddle Maker
Dad finally got time to create and make his first fiddle in 1991.  Since then, he has made twenty-four more; some are still featured on his website:

Each of his children received a hand-crafted fiddle, and others were donated to causes close to his heart.  In 2003, he made a musical recording of some of his favorite tunes, “Beyond the Wee Strand”

Dad was a union carpenter for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, Local 432, Eastern Atlantic States, Regional Council of Carpenters.  Retired since the mid-90s, he is a lifetime member and just received his 55-year pin.  He is a member of St. John Fisher Catholic Church in Churchill.

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