Marty’s parents both emigrated from Ireland in the 1950s and came to Boston. Having met at the Intercolonial, a dance hall on Dudley Street, John and Mary Walsh married and settled in a home on Taft Street in St. Margaret’s Parish, where Marty and his brother Johnny grew up, and where his mother still lives. At age seven, Marty survived a bout of Burkett’s lymphoma, a form of childhood cancer, thanks in part to experimental treatments and extraordinary care he received at Children’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
After attending St. Margaret’s School in Dorchester and Newman Prep High School, Marty followed in his father’s footsteps to become a union laborer, working his first job at the age of 18 at Commonwealth Pier (now known as the World Trade Center) on the South Boston waterfront. With both Marty’s father and uncle active in leadership of Laborers Local 223, the Walsh household was filled with discussions about politics, the labor movement, and the importance of being involved.