Although Greig and Bulger were raised within a mile of each other, they were born into opposite ends of the local culture. Bulger started out in the scrappy Old Harbor housing project, one of the country’s first public housing developments. Greig grew up some blocks to the east in the more affluent Irish neighborhood known as City Point, just blocks from the curved arc of Pleasure Bay.
The daughter of a Scottish-born machinist and a Canadian housewife, according to her birth certificate, Greig was the firstborn of twins. With their demure smiles and sometimes matching outfits, the Greig girls were often hard to tell apart, and they did not hesitate to fool those trying to sort them out. As one longtime neighborhood resident describes them, “They were very neat, very pulled together. They were the good-looking Irish-scrubbed girls. You just couldn’t always tell which was which.’’
But to those who knew them, Cathy and Margaret could not have been less alike. Cathy was the more focused of the two, a gentle girl with her eye on a life beyond Southie’s tavern-studded streets. A passionate lover of animals, she possessed a sunny outlook that attracted many friends. Margaret was the mischievous twin, prone to antics and adventure with the boys. Cathy sought to expand her horizons through reading, her nose always deep in a book. By the time the twins were in South Boston High School, Cathy had earned a reputation for her facile mind and aptitude for numbers. In 1969, her senior year, Cathy was the co-business manager of the class yearbook, called Reflection, and she had already determined her professional path.
In her yearbook entry, Greig wrote that her personal ambition was “to have a medical career.’’ Her most prized possession was “my black teasing comb.’’ She described her legacy to the school as a determination “to live, laugh, love and learn.’’ Margaret yearned to be a secretary. She left for the school “all my forged absentee notes.’’
While many young men were attracted to Greig and her arresting blue eyes, more than a few kept an awed distance.
“A lot of us wanted to go out with her. But Cathy was from the Point and I was from the flat,’’ explained one classmate who asked not to be identified. “So there was no way.’’
The streets of South Boston have changed a great deal since the mid-1970s when the violent response to court-ordered busing cast the shattered neighborhood as a national symbol of racial intolerance. With the development of the sprawling Seaport district over the past few years, young urbanites are flooding in and the sound of hammers transforming the old three-decker homes into condominiums is a constant backdrop.
Yet there is one tradition that remains largely unaffected by the tide of change, and that is the code of silence that has long prevailed in Southie. At least it remains the rule for some when the subject has anything to do with the infamous Whitey. Bulger is securely locked in the Plymouth County Correctional Facility, his criminal empire is long gone, and many of his former associates talk and write freely about him without apparent consequence. But many in the neighborhood, and even some who no longer live there, still don’t want to say a word about him. Or about Greig.
High school classmates of Greig’s abruptly hang up the phone when asked about her. Class officers, who still live in the area, brusquely turn away. Boston City Councilor Bill Linehan, who was a member of the class of 1969, declined to be interviewed. Those that are willing to talk about her insist that their names not be used.
“Are you kidding? Nobody wants to talk about her,’’ said one Southie resident who attended school with Greig.
By the time Greig and her classmates received their high school diplomas, Bulger had emerged as a ruthless enforcer for a local gambling and loan shark operation. Hardened by nine years in federal prison, the compact hood was fast becoming a feared figure in his trademark sunglasses and baseball cap. When a young man named Donald McGonagle was shot dead in the front seat of his car in November 1969, police attributed the killing to general warfare between rival gangs—but at least some in Southie blamed Bulger.
One of McGonagle’s brothers, Paul, was the head of a street gang called the Mullins that evoked fear on Southie’s streets. The McGonagle brothers believed that Bulger, affiliated with a rival group, was the triggerman, according to McGonagle family members, and his name became a household curse. In his 2006 book, “Brutal,’’ Kevin Weeks, one of Bulger’s closest associates, confirmed their suspicion: He wrote that Bulger had intended to kill Paul McGonagle but took out Donald by accident. Bulger allegedly corrected his error in 1974 and now stands accused of murdering Paul McGonagle as well. Continued...