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Marie crossed ocean, and now America

Marie Gallagher giving a TV interview


By Michael Quinlin

Traditional Irish singer Marie Gallagher is popular around Boston for her fine voice and sparkling personality, someone who makes friends easily and is often invited onstage for a solo.

Originally from Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon, she is a regular at the Comhaltas sessions in Watertown, the Green Briar Pub in Brighton, and the Burren Pub in Somerville.

Marie’s popularity is now bigger than ever, thanks to a Volkswagen commercial in which she stars as the widowed grandmother taking her family on a cross-country drive across America.

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In real life, Marie is a widowed grandmother with seven grandchildren.

Her starring role for Volkswagen happened serendipitously.

She heard about a casting call from a friend, who had seen a flyer posted at the Irish Cultural Centre in Canton.

“They were looking for a woman over 70, with an Irish accent, fit as a fiddle, to do a commercial,” Marie says.

She sent in her photo and soon she got a call from the producers, who came to visit her at her home.

Marie chatted amicably, served Irish soda bread to her visitors, and then sang one of her favorite songs, “She Moved through the Fair.”

Marie, who had never acted before, aced the Boston audition and was invited to New York City for a final round of auditions against a roomful of other Irish finalists.

A few weeks later, the producer called her and said, “Pack your bags like you’re going on a vacation for three weeks. We have chosen you.”

Marie spent twenty-four days driving across the country with her actor family and the production team, filming in seven different states, until they reached the west coast in their new VW model, the Atlas SUV.

The commercial is set to the Simon & Garfunkel song, “America.”

For a 78-year-old woman who had never acted before, the experience was transformative.

“I’ll never be the same after this commercial,” she says.

Now that her new career is taking off, don’t be surprised to see Marie in other spots.

But in the meantime, keep an ear out for Marie Gallagher around Boston’s traditional Irish music scene, where she has been a star for a long time.