This year’s Chief Brehon of the Great Irish Fair is Queens-born Margaret M. (Peggy) Smyth, chief financial officer of National Grid. She is the second female Brehon in the history of the fair.
“This is all about celebrating family, God, culture and heritage. That’s why the Great Irish Fair is such a special event,” Smyth told attendees at the fair’s kickoff reception, held at St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights.
A proud second-generation Irish-American, Smyth was born and raised in the Rockaways. Her parents, Anthony and Margaret Hannon, belong to St. Francis de Sales parish in Belle Harbor, where she attended the parish school. She was baptized there, received First Holy Communion and Confirmation, and was later married there.
“My parents are still in the same house. They will be married 60 years in October,” she said.
She grew up in a two-family home with her grandparents living upstairs –close enough to instill their faith, culture and heritage in the next generation.
“My grandparents were all Irish immigrants,” Smyth said. “They came over … in the steerage of boats like the Titanic” from counties Sligo, Mayo and Leitrim.
“My mother’s parents lived with us in our home in the Rockaways. My grandmother, when she had come over to this country, was 16 years old – and she had all of her worldly possessions in a trunk,” Smyth said.
Full of family history and treasures, that trunk remained in the basement of her parents’ Rockaway home until Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012.
“Of course, it got destroyed. And that was the only thing – after losing two cars and most of their house – that my mom cried about. That just illustrates how important your heritage is, your family is, your belief in God is,” she said.
Smyth has brought those strong values from her family and upbringing into her work ethic at one of the largest utility companies in America. At National Grid, she is known for leading team transformations that result in increased productivity, engagement and performance. Customer value and energy affordability are cornerstones of her work.
Under Smyth’s leadership, National Grid is driving the transition to clean energy – developing financing models for new energy solutions like battery storage, solar energy and the expansion of electric vehicle charging stations.
Smyth has a personal interest in advancing sustainability accounting practices, and is a Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) FSA Credential Holder. She led a CFO roundtable at the United Nations in 2018, spearheading dialogue about the business case for sustainable decision-making.
Smyth formerly served as vice president of finance at Consolidated Edison, Inc. in New York and was previously the chief financial officer and vice president of finance at Hamilton Sundstrand, a United Technologies (UTC) company. She held financial leadership roles at 3M, Deloitte and Arthur Andersen.
Smyth and her husband, Berney, the son of Irish immigrants, have two sons of their own; they all have dual citizenship with Ireland. The family resides in Connecticut but also has a second home – a farm where Smyth’s mother-in-law was raised – in County Roscommon, Ireland.