Search This Blog

Loading...

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Boston Massacre Occurred on March 5, 1770, Helping to Inspire the Revolutionary War

Two hundred and forty five years ago today, a violent skirmish broke out in Boston between occupying British troops and local residents that left five men dead.  Known as the Boston Massacre, the incident occurred after a week of smaller skirmishes and fist fights between the soldiers and Bostonians.  After some provocation, the soldiers panicked and fired into the crowd, killing Samuel Gray, Samuel Maverick, James Caldwell, Crispus Attucks and Patrick Carr. 

Carr, an Irish sailor who was walking toward the incident with fellow sailor Charles Connor, was that last man to be shot. He lingered for several days, but his deathbed testimony helped exonerate the soldiers.

John Adams, the future American president, was called upon to defend the soldiers, proving that the American colony could put on a fair and impartial trial. 

The Bostonian Society is staging an event to commemorate the Boston Massacre on Saturday, March 7, 2015 that take place at various times throughout the day. 


Carr and the other victims are buried at the Old Granary Burying Grounds on Tremont Street, which is part of the Boston Irish Heritage Trail.  You can take a guided tour of the Irish Heritage Trail this St. Patrick's Day weekend, starting at the Boston Common Visitor Information Center. 

For year round information on the Irish community in Boston, including pubs, gift shops, festivals, parades, concerts and cultural activities,  visit IrishBoston.org 

For visitor information, go to MassVacation or BostonUSA.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Maude Gonne, Ireland's Joan of Arc, Toured Massachusetts in February 1900 to Protest British in Boer War


Maude Gonne, rebel, activist and poetic muse, came to the United States in February 1900, to tell Americans about the atrocities of the British in South Africa's Boer War.  Already renowned for her beauty and fiery disposition, she was described by The Boston Globe as "pictuesque in a black velvet gown with a silver girdle at the waist...her splendid voice extremely musical."

Gonne spoke in Lowell on Sunday, February 11, 1900 in Associate Hall, and later met with a group of German-Americans from Lawrence.

Then on Monday, February 12, she addressed 2,500 in Fall River, during which eight Irish societies of 500 men and women preceded her speech with a parade that included two brass bands and a drum corps.

Gonne arrived in Boston on Sunday, February 17, and was greeted at South Station by a delegation of 50 men and women from Irish societies, who escorted her to the Vendome Hotel on Commonwealth Avenue.  The following day Gonne spoke at Tremont Temple on Boston Common, before 2,000 cheering supporters.  There she uttered a phrase that bespoke the mindset of many Irish people.

"From an Irish point of view," she said, "it matters not whether it be right or wrong, the nation that is the enemy of England is a friend and ally of Ireland."   That proposition was later rephrased by Irish rebel James Connolly as "England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity."

Gonne left from New York on March 7 to return to Ireland, just in time to protest Queen Victoria's first and only visit to Ireland in April 1900.

Gonne's husband, Major John MacBride, led the Irish Transvaal Brigade on the side of the Boers during the war.  They were married in 1903 and divorced in 1905.

Maude was the longtime muse of Irish poet William Butler Yeats, who also came to Boston on several occasions to promote Irish theater.  In his famous poem, Easter 1916, Yeats referred to MacBride, who was executed by English soldiers in the wake of the 1916 Easter Rising.


(Excerpts from Irish Boston: A Lively Look at Boston's Colorful Irish Past, published by Globe Pequot Press)


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Erskine Childers Weds Mary Alden Osgood at Trinity Church in Boston on January 5, 1904


English-born Irish rebel Robert Erskine Childers married Mary (Molly) Alden Osgood at Trinity Church in Boston on January 5, 1904.  They met at a state dinner hosted by the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company at Faneuil Hall and were married after a three-week courtship. 

Both were idealists from upper class families whose passions turned toward Ireland

Childers was a gifted writer whose book, Riddle of the Sands, published in 1903, is considered the first spy-novel thriller.  In 1911 Childers published his book, TheFramework of Home Rule, in which he decried British abuse of freedoms in Ireland and other colonies around the world.

In July 1914 Childers and Osgood carried out a daring gun running operation, shipping arms and ammunition from Germany to Howth aboard the yacht Asgard, which Mary’s family had given the couple on their wedding day.  

A close ally of Eamon deValera, Childrens was secretary-general of the Irish delegation involved in negotiating the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921.   He rejected the final treaty and was involved in the subsequent Irish Civil War.  He was captured and executed on November 24, 1922, despite strong protests and appeals from around the world.

Irish leaders in Boston held a memorial for Childers at Faneuil Hall following his death.

Their son, Erskine Childers, became the fifth President of Ireland in 1973.

Find out more about Boston's Irish history at IrishHeritageTrail.com.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve Countdown in New York City Started by Patrick S. Gilmore in 1888


Patrick S. Gilmore, the famous 19th century musician and bandleader, started the annual tradition of the New Year's Eve countdown in New York City on December 31, 1888.   

In those days, what is now Times Square was simply known as the Long Acre, and was changed to Times Square in 1904 when the New York Times opened its offices there.

During this era the Gilmore Band - part of New York's 22nd Regiment -- was one of the nation's  most popular bands, performing indoor and outdoor concerts throughout the year.  Gilmore conducted many of the concerts nearby at Gilmore's Garden, which later became Madison Square Garden

On this particular New Year's eve, the  Gilmore Band performed for the large audience that gathered up and down Broadway, and then Gilmore led the crowd in a countdown, firing two pistols at the stroke of midnight.  

According to Gilmore scholar Michael Cummings, Gilmore was born in Ballygar, County Galway in 1829, and emigrated to Boston in 1849, where he lived for over twenty years. During that time he established himself as a great cornet player and bandleader.  He was active during the Civil War and wrote the popular tune, When Johnny Comes Marching Home.  He also created two massive peace jubilees in Boston's Back Bay in 1869 and 1872, before moving to New York, where he lived until his death in 1892.

For more information on Boston's Irish-American history, visit IrishHeritageTrail.com

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mayor Curley and 20,000 People attend Roxbury's Christmas Carnival, December 1914





Mayor James M. Curley
Photo courtesy of Leslie Jones Collection, BPL

"The opening night of Roxbury's first Christmas Carnival brought 20,000 people to the business district of that section of the city," reported The Boston Globe on December 15, 1914.

Holly was stretched on tall flagpoles along Washington Street and Warren Street and on Dudley Street near the elevated stations.  Ferdinand's Store was covered with blue and white decorations and the Houghton & Dutton Store on Ruggles Street was transformed into a Yuletide picture illuminated with hundreds of lights, the story reported.

The parade was the highlight of the event, in which Santa Claus "substituted a motor truck for his reindeer sleigh and a honking horn for his jingling bells," followed by a line of 90 automobiles.   Among the dignitaries behind Santa were Mayor James Michael Curley, City Councilor Alexander McGregor and Frank Ferdinand, president of the Board of Trade.

A big part of Roxbury's business stagnation, according to officials, was due to poor transportation to and from the neighborhood.

Mayor Curley declared that "after witnessing this celebration I would have no hesitation in advocating for the establishment of a Union Station in the territory bounded by Dorchester Avenue, Albany Street, Dover Street and Southampton Street" as a way of connecting Roxbury to downtown Boston.

Councilor McGregor said, “Everything comes to him who waits is philosophy of other days, not any more in harmony with our times than are the customs of those days.  These restless times demand action, movement, aggressiveness.  A waiting policy is not as a rule a popular one and our generation rather believes that nothing comes to him who waits.  If you want something go after it; no other way is possible."

The carnival continued through Christmas eve, with nightly events planned.

For more about Boston's Irish history, visit IrishHeritageTrail.com.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Irish Connections to the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770


Irish sailor Patrick Carr was one of five people shot and killed by British troops on Monday, March 5, 1770, during a confrontation that became known as the Boston Massacre. The shooting came after a tense week of acrimony between Bostonians and the British, which included a fist fight in a local tavern, small skirmishes on the streets and taunting threats by both sides.

There are several interesting Irish connections to this episode:

. The 29th British regiment, led by Captain Thomas Preston, was mostly Irish soldiers who had been conscripted, often against their will.  The names of the British troops involved in the shooting were William Wemms, James Hartigan, William McCauley, Matthew Kilroy, William Warren, John Carroll and Hugh Montgomery.

. It was Captain Preston who ordered his men to present arms to keep the crowd at bay, but the taunting continued.  Only years later was it revealed that the person who yelled out the fatal call to fire on the citizens was Montgomery.

. Thirty-one year old Patrick Carr, an Irish sailor who had come out of a house on Court Street and was moving toward the ruckus with fellow sailor Charles Connor, was the last man to be shot. He lingered for a few days and was able to give dying testimony that ultimately exonerated the soldiers.  Carr and the other four victims are buried at the Old Granary Burying Ground

. As the trial of Preston and his men loomed, the anti-Catholic dimension emerged.  The Boston Gazette revealed that many of the soldiers the British sent to Boston were Irish Catholics...The Providence Gazette suggested that Pope's Day, a virulent anti-Catholic event, should take place on the anniversary of the Boston Massacre so as to include Preston and the others in the effigy burning.

. The famous drawing of the Boston Massacre by engraver Paul Revere was actually done by 21 year old Henry Pelham, half brother of artist John Singleton Copley.  Their mother, Mary Singleton Copley, had emigrated to Boston from County Clare in Ireland in 1736.  Pelham was furious when he learned that his friend Revere had used his illustration without Pelham's permission.

. Over a century after the Massacre, in 1888, when the Boston Massacre Memorial was unveiled on Boston Common, Irish-born poet John Boyle O'Reilly was selected to write and deliver a poem for the ceremony. 

Find out more about the Boston Massacre and colonial history by visiting the Bostonian Society at the Old State House.   

For more about Boston's Irish history, visit IrishHeritageTrail.com

This information is taken from Irish Boston: A Lively Look at Boston's Colorful Irish Past by Michael  Quinlin, published by Globe Pequot Press  in 2013.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

1200 People Attend Boston's First County Mayo Reunion in 1905

Nearly 1,200 Irish expatriates and Americans with ties to County Mayo gathered at Paine Hall in Boston on November 28, 1905.

Organized by the newly formed Mayo Men's Benevolent Association, the event was so crowded that "at no time during the festivities was there room enough to accommodate those desiring to take part in the dances," according to a story in The Boston Globe the following day.

A number of prominent guests attended, included Thomas O'Conannon, a leader of Ireland's Gaelic League, and James Michael Curley, then an Alderman for the City of Boston.  In addition, representatives from other county clubs in Boston attended, representing Galway, Cork, Waterford, Sligo, Limerick, Roscommon, Kilkenny,Clare and Kerry.

Paine Memorial Hall, named after philosopher Thomas Paine, was located on Chandler Street in Boston's South End, and was used frequently by Irish organizations at that time.

In 2008, Boston's Irish community celebrated the official chartering of the Mayo Men's benevolent Association with a series of festivities.  Here is a story from The Mayo News.

Find out more about Boston's Irish history by visiting IrishHeritageTrail.com.