To have Virtuosity: An interview with Pat Marshall

25 Nov

We’d like you to meet the lady who plays Mother McGinty here in Ottawa. During the Women’s Business Network (WBN) event at the Bytown Museum, the entire group of us were charmed by this exuberant lady from the canal building days. All we know of Mother McGinty derives from a poem by William Pittman Left. But what we can learn from Pat Marshall, actress, harpist, and renaissance woman, sheds light onto the spirit of courageous women with stories to tell.

This week’s post is built around the theme of virtuosity. You’d be hard-pressed to pick a better word for Pat Marshall (except perhaps also generous, charming and compassionate, since she is such a lovely lady). To have virtuosity is to have great ability, skill or mastery in the arts. Pat truly has mastered her role of Mother McGinty, and so we were curious. How is she able to develop such a deep connection?


This week’s SQ theme is Virtuosity: the great ability or skill shown by a person who has mastered their craft, e.g. a musician, performer, etc

One of her earliest connections of mastery was with a role embodying Charlotte Bronte. When Pat went in for the audition, she can remember a deep sense of determination. “I had to get it,” she remembers. When she did finally get the part, she began to read everything she could on Charlotte Bronte, and the identity started to sink into her.  She began taking on the attitude of Charlotte, and resonating with Charlotte’s known beliefs. It felt spiritual for Pat, almost mystic. At one point in the creation of that play, she spoke quietly to the spirit of Charlotte Bronte, saying, “if it’s your will to live through me, I’m willing to let you do it.”

Pat has had several roles as an actress across her career, and she began to find little connections of mastery to the people she portrayed (including a play she wrote around Beethoven’s life).  It was about twelve years ago that she came upon the role of Mother McGinty. It was mostly a role of improvisation.

Photo linked from Around Town

To learn more about Mother McGinty, Pat took to the Internet. At first all she could find was the poem, but then she began to search the ancestry sites. Through the ancestry search, she found a woman named Sarah McGinty who had eloped with a stable boy and the couple had come to work in the market as they moved along the canal with the building crews. To Pat, that Sarah was Mother McGinty – and so, she found another level of connection.

As time has passed, she’s come to know Mother McGinty even further through her own invention of performance; inviting people to her bar, and trying to recruit women with slender ankles as servers. Pat can now switch over into McGinty without batting an eyelash.

Another avenue of mastery for Pat is that of the harp. Again, she’s brought a deeper sense in her playing and interaction. “The vibration of the strings get into you,” she explains. And every person has a note that resonates best within them. During her time in cancer treatment, Pat would sit against her harp and play her special note over and over again. It was a healing note.

Speaking with Pat about her acting and research and music, I have to wonder if mastery has something to do with connection. She has allowed her passions to sink deep into her soul on a conscious and unconscious level, and in doing so, she has picked them up to the point of effortlessness.

Sister Leadership would very much like to thank Pat Marshall for sharing just a glimpse of her story with us in this post. We’d like to leave you with a gem on the Internet, a YouTube video Pat made in 2010 as she played the harp (and visits with her beautiful dog, Shandy).  Watch, rest, and try to find your note.

Till next week,


Camille Boivin is founder of Sister Leadership, certified in EQi 2.0 and EQ360, a master practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), has been coaching high-level women and men for over six years, and is now opening her expertise to those emerging in business. Camille pulls her blog topics from her unique coaching approach that combines her training as a EQi 2.0 and EQ360 certified facilitator with the dig-deeper tools of NLP.

Get in touch here if you’d like to talk with Cam about group or one-on-one coaching, and EQ assessments. With the miracle of Skype and telephones – distance is no issue!

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