Patrick Anthony McGinley was born on February 8, 1937, in Glencolumcille, County Donegal, Ireland, to Peter McGinley and Mary Anne Heekin McGinley. One of five children, McGinley was educated at Cashel National School in Glencolumcille and at St. Edna’s College in Galway. From 1954 to 1957, he studied literature at University College, Galway, and developed a particular interest in Middle English poetry.
After receiving the bachelor of arts in 1957, McGinley spent four years teaching in secondary school before emigrating to London in 1962. There he worked as an assistant publisher, except for a year in the mid-1960’s, during which he lived in Sydney, Australia. In 1981, McGinley began serving as managing editor of Europa Publications Limited, publishers of academic and reference books.