Pied Piper of Gulf Shores St. Paddy’s Walking Parade passes
Before there was the Detroit bagpiping contingency led by the nephew (Neil McGinnes) of St. Paddy’s Day Walking Parade grand marshall Bill McGinnes, Jocko McClean was responsible for signaling with his bagpipes when it was time for the parade to saunter to the next pub.
“As far as I know, Lindy (Harris) myself and Jocko (McClain) are the only people left from the really early days,’’ said Butch Nichols before the 2015 parade. Flagholders Harris and Nichols have also faced health issues that kept them from leading the parade the past two years, and Jocko recently passed away at his home in Canada, leaving a legacy that goes back to the 1970’s.
Jocko eyes had been failing him for years. He and his wife Vermeil were not able to make the trip from his second home in Mississippi to join friends during the past two parades.
“I would love to get back and see everybody again, especially Bill (McGinnes),’’ Jocko said by phone before the 2015 parade.
In addition to his acumen on the bagpipes, Jocko could also hold a tune, as evidenced by his yearly renditions of Danny Boy during the parade’s stop at the Pink Pony Pub. He would always sing the same tune as an encore later in the afternoon at Papa Rocco’s.
Vince Murphy, who at that time owned The Pink Pony, started the tradition and was first to carry the grand marshal baton, with Jocko by his side, in the mid 1970’s. Murphy passed the baton to local character John Kelliher, who led the swarm behind Jocko into Papa Rocco’s just after McGinnes opened his restaurant in 1984.
McGinnes forged his friendship with Jocko, a fellow Scotsman, the following year. And Kelliher, The Colonel to his friends, deemed McGinnes worthy of the grand marshal’s position in 1989.
“We met at the American Legion and we immediately sat down and killed off a bottle of Irish whiskey between us,’’ Jocko said back in 2015. “We went back to Papa Rocco and had a few more. We’ve been bosom pals ever since. He’s become very close to me.’’
“We started talking about Scotland and The Rangers and it was like we had known each other for years,’’ McGinnes said.
Jocko would also walk and play bagpipes with McGinnes during the Gulf Shores Mardi Gras Parade and often spent his New Year’s with his Gulf Shores friends as well.
“This is a big loss for me. We were close for many years,’’ McGinnes added. “Jock gave me my first kilt.’’
Gone but not forgotten, Jocko will remain as much a part of the parade’s fabric as cold beer, green hats and Jameson’s.
“He was the original,’’ McGinnes said. “He was doing it way before my boys came down and played. Jocko will always be the soul of the parade.