Edward P. McBride, an Irish immigrant and a retired photoengraver who was the longtime genial host of “Reflections of Ireland” on WTMD-FM and later WHFC-FM, died of complications from cancer and a broken hip Friday at his Nottingham home. The former Parkville resident was 84.
Edward Patrick McBride, son of Charlie McBride, a Derry Journal newspaperman, and Kitty McBride, a shirt factory worker and a homemaker, was born in Derry, Northern Ireland, and raised there as one of seven.
In 1946, when he was confirmed, he joined the Pioneer Association of Derry, whose members take a pledge that they will refrain from using alcohol until they’re 21.
“He lived by this pledge and never had a drink in his life and did not smoke,” said a daughter, Marie K. McBride of Kingsville.
After graduating from Long Tower Boys School in Derry, Mr. McBride took a job with Birmingham Sound Reproducers.
While attending a dance in Derry in 1954, at the Criterion, a dance hall, he met and fell in love with Ethna F. Cunningham. They were engaged in 1958.
That year, his future wife moved to San Francisco to be with her sister, Maureen, and he moved to Baltimore when jobs were hard to come by in Derry to live with his brother John.
“They began dating at 17 and married when he was 21 at St. Thomas Aquinas in Hampden,” Mr. McBride’s daughter said.
Mr. McBride began working in 1958 as a warehouseman for Acme Markets, a position he held until 1971, when he joined his brother at Printing Plates Service. When his brother established Boulevard Offset Printing Co. in the 1970s, he worked there until taking a job in 1976 for the old Alco Gravure in Glen Burnie as a photoengraver, and retired in 2002, from the company that later became Quebecor Printing Co.
Throughout his life, Mr. McBride was proud of and celebrated his Celtic heritage and it’s as if his heart were still in Derry.
“He’s the kind of man who calls the newspaper to point out that the four-leaf clover used in classified ads promotion is not the symbol of Ireland; that would be the shamrock, and it has three leaves,” The Sun reported in a 1997 profile.
In 1979, Mr. McBride and his friend Tom Dooley started to co-host and co-produce “Reflections of Ireland,” which aired on commercial radio stations. After Mr. Dooley left, the show aired on WTMD 89.7 in 1982 Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mr. McBride opened his show playing “Bungee Jumping,” an accordion piece by Sharon Shannon.
When the genial host returned to his show at noon after a break, it wasn’t uncommon for Mr. McBride to intone: “If you just joined us, you are an hour late, but you are welcome just the same. ... This is Ed. They don’t put ‘Mr.’ on your tombstone, just remember that,” The Sun said in a 1997 article.
“He repeats the invitation to 1:30 p.m. Mass and the fundraiser at O’Shea’s, and he tacks on get-well cards for Mick O’Shea, who is sick in the hospital. He gives news tips, concerts and Irish events: Tables of 10 still available for the St. Patrick’s dance in the Knights of Columbus hall; an Irish rock concert coming up at the Parkville Armory; Baltimore City Fire Department Emerald Society’s fifth annual bull roast, a dance at the VFW. ‘I can’t tell you on the station how much, but I’ll tell you if you look under your cushion, you’ll probably find enough to take the two of you,’ he said,” reported the newspaper.
A red light indicated a listener was calling in with a request. “Possibly can you play ”I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen?” between 12:45 p.m. and 1 p.m.,” the caller would ask.
In 2005, when Martin O’Malley decided to run for governor and “pulled the plug” on O’Malley’s March, the band he had led since 1988, reported The Sun, Mr. McBride was still getting requests to play “Baltimore Lullaby,” a March standard.
“I think we’re going to miss him on the music scene,” lamented Mr. McBride in an interview at the time with The Sun.
Not only did Mr. McBride play the traditional Irish songbook, he introduced listeners to contemporary music of Ireland while sprinkling his music with tributes to birthdays, anniversaries and weddings.
“Which anniversary is it?” he’d ask, reported The Sun. “44 years married? How many happily?’”
“Don’t expect avant-garde; this is Irish country-western, and occasionally ballads akin to Sinatra, but Gaelic. Today there is a steady dose of mac & OO and the Dublin City Ramblers, a pub group in town two weeks ago. Requests stream in for Tony Kenny, the headliner at Jury’s Hotel in Dublin, who appeared the previous week at Goucher College,” reported the newspaper.
“The show made the Irish less homesick,” his daughter said.
To keep his larder stocked with Irish music, Mr. McBride returned to Ireland each summer and would spend at least two days collecting new recordings. Also, Irish musicians would make trans-Atlantic calls to his home hoping he’d listen to their tapes and consider playing them.
“When Dublin recording studios see him at the door, they unfurl a red carpet to stockrooms of new releases,” The Sun observed.
A format change at WTMD in 2006 led Mr. McBride to take a two-year hiatus to move his show in 2008 to WHFC-FM at Harford Community College, where it airs Sundays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
In spite of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic for the past 2 1/2 years and chemotherapy treatments, Mr. McBride kept recording new shows, which family members would drive to the station up until his death, his daughter said.
Mr. McBride’s involvement with the Irish community extended beyond the radio station.
In 1998, he was grand marshal of the Baltimore St. Patrick’s Day Parade; his wife walked the entire parade route with him.
“Dad would promote authentic entertainment from Ireland, such as dances, concerts, sell tickets and organize the entire event from soup to nuts, and then he would emcee the event,” his daughter said. “Most of his time commitment was voluntary as this was his true passion. Then afterward, he and my mom would invite the entire entourage back to their home for a home-cooked meal and a ‘cup of tea.’”
Some of the entertainers who filled the McBride home with music and mirth included Cahal Dunne, Tony Kenny, Phil Coulter, Red Hurley, Finbar Furey, Andy Cooney and the Celtic Willoughby Brothers.
The Morning Sun
When President Bill Clinton hosted the St. Columbkille Catholic Parish Handbell Choir at the White House for the annual Christmas tree lighting in 2000, the McBrides were invited, and whenever the president of Ireland or the prime minister was invited or there was an event celebrating Irish culture, the couple were in attendance.
As was their custom, they’d invite the tour bus to their home for a traditional Irish feast that included brisket, poached salmon, baked chicken, mashed potatoes and homemade Irish soda bread with “plenty of libations,” Ms. McBride said.
And when it came time for bed, their children gave up their bedrooms for the entertainers and bivouacked on the floor.
Mr. McBride was a member and had served on the board of the Emerald Isle Club and the Irish Heritage Society.
“Our parents were ordinary blue-collar down-to-earth people and he was truly a rare gem and a gentleman,” she said.
He was a communicant of St. Isaac Jogues Roman Catholic Church where a Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 11 a.m. April 23.
In addition to his wife of 63 years and daughter, he is survived by three other daughters, Theresa L. McBride of Bel Air, Deborah S. Ellis of Carney and Maureen M. Glinowiecki of Kingsville; a brother, Michael McBride of Derry; three sisters, Mary Harkin and Mardie McBride of Derry, and Kathleen Collings of Ellesmere Port, United Kingdom; seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.