Development & Alumni Relations Office 

MEET GRADUATE CHRIS MCGALE – The Million Dollar Irishman – From John Street to Wall Street  Books in a stack, written by Queen's graduate Chris McGale

24 March 2021

The Million Dollar Irishman – From John Street to Wall Street is a memoir that has taken Chris McGale years to write – involving numerous re-drafts – covering everything from growing up as an orphan in Omagh, to the day Belfast surgeons put him back together again after a near fatal road accident, to a career involving multi-million-pound stock market deals and ultimately, burnout.  

Born in December 1962, the fifth of seven children, Chris lost his father (who ran the family pub, Kate’s Bar) when he was just three-years-old, and his mother (after whom the pub was named), when he was aged 12, both to cancer.   

Just four months after his mother’s death following a two-year fight for life, the local Christian Brothers Grammar School ‘terminated’ his then fourteen-year-old brother Paul’s scholarship, after what Chris says was a ‘bad beating’ Paul had received at the hands of a senior lay schoolmaster. Chris, then aged twelve left too, and returned to education five years later at Omagh Tech – since 2007 part of the South West College – before coming to Queen’s in 1983 to read Economics.

"Omagh was a good town to grow up in. Until the Omagh Bomb in 1998, it was largely spared the worst of the conflict. But I can’t say it was a happy life, growing up with The Troubles and largely abandoned by Church, School, State and extended family. I spent most of my teenage years living a feral life of gambling, betting on horses and hanging out in bookie shops."

During his time at University Chris was elected to the Students’ Representative Council, with a brief in entertainments. He graduated with a BSc in Economics & Accountancy in 1986, and so began his meteoric ride in the world of business and securities.   

"Nobody was more surprised than me when I was offered a place at Queen’s. Having started a BTEC course at Omagh Tech with the worst qualifications – after a one-year crash course in GCSEs, I attained one of three distinctions. A Queen's lecturer, Victor Hewitt, told me at the time that I had received a ‘tremendous reference’ from the Omagh Tech principal."

After graduation Chris joined Deloitte in Belfast and then the securities industry in Dublin beckoned in 1987, where he moved as an investment analyst at Ulster Investment Bank (UIB). There he soon became Head of Research and then UK Equity Portfolio Manager, managing a £100m fund. Shortly after joining UIB, police brought news to his sister Noelle of their brother Martin's death and one year later, in 1988, they were back at her door again, with more heartbreaking news.

Chris's world - and that of his family - almost ended in tragedy when he was involved in a near-fatal head-on collision with a 20-tonne truck on the A1 between Newry and Dundalk. Initially hospitalised in Newry, Chris spent eight days in an induced coma in the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald and a total of six months in recovery and rehab. The accident left the then 25-year-old with horrendous physical and emotional injuries but oddly it signalled a turning point in his life.

"I was very, very, lucky," said Chris, recalling the accident over thirty years later. "In a split second the offside wheel of the lorry descended on my steering wheel and turned me away from the underside of the lorry.

"I subsequently lost a civil court case when my forensic scientist declined to cross the border to attend Dundalk Circuit Court. That led me to London where I arrived at the right time, the beginning of a ten-year boom in stock markets that ended with the bursting of the Dotcom Bubble in 2000."

Chris joined Smith New Court Securities (SNC) in London in 1991. SNC was acquired by Merrill Lynch Inc in 1995 and in 2001 he became Managing Director, Global Markets & Investment Banking and Merrill’s Country Manager for Ireland having achieved Irish revenues of $100m. During this time he was regularly earning a million dollars a year and enjoying the kind of lifestyle that can only be imagined goes with such salary figures.

Between the years 1999 and 2001, whilst working full time at Merrill, Chris was also a corporate fundraiser for the victims of the Omagh Bomb, which on August 15, 1998 claimed the lives of 29 victims in the town of his birth. He was the only person to sit on the Boards of ‘The Friends of Omagh’ groups in London and Dublin; groups that directly raised £1.5m for the bomb victims.

"It was a real pleasure to do what I did for the Omagh Fund. There was no plan, no strategy, just a desire to succeed for the Fund," he said.

Then in 2002, aged 39 and at the height of his career, Chris hit burn out. The never-ending cycle of long days and late nights, booze and gambling finally took its toll. As he says himself he ‘went on sabbatical and never went back’.

The death of his brother Paul in 2007 was another pivotal moment in Chris’s life and features prominently in The Million Dollar Irishman – From John Street to Wall Street. Speaking in December to David Roy in The Irish News, Chris said:

"Writing about Paul was the hardest thing of all," admits Chris. "I had to deal with many demons – I had a fair degree of guilt about how I treated him, but also a lot of anger. He'd never been the brother I wanted him to be, but that wasn't his responsibility.

"It wasn't until I actually wrote the words that I got the final catharsis from it. Once I'd finally written that, that's when it felt like 'OK, there's no more evolution – it's done'."

His single-mindedness and desire to succeed has never abated and Chris is now MD of Tyrone Capital Partners Ltd, a property company he set up in 2008 which seeks to introduce UK and overseas 'institutional-type' investors, to UK, Ireland and Portugal ‘build to rent’ (BtR) residential development opportunities.

He now lives in Chiswick, London with his wife Niamh (whom he married in 1998) and four children, but has never forgotten his roots in County Tyrone, The Troubles that were a constant backdrop to his life and the lives of so many people in Northern Ireland, and the importance of family.

Chris is also managing an online start-up;, a one-stop-shop of professional services for people seeking to move themselves and their wealth to another country. The initial focus is on Portugal, which has one of the most attractive tax regimes for those receiving dividend and pension income.

The Million Dollar Irishman is available in-store at Easons and, online at, on Kindle, in paperback and via It was recorded at London’s Bush Theatre and was read by Omagh-born RSC actor Colm Gormley. Chris is currently in talks with TV and movie production companies about bringing his book to the small/large screen. For further details visit:

For general enquiries about this story, or to submit graduate news items, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen's University Belfast.

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