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Saturday, February 25, 2017

February 25, Death of Ireland's Famous Bard, Thomas Moore (1779-1852)


Irish poet, lyricist and musician Thomas Moore, who wrote compelling lyrics to many of Ireland's ancient melodies, died on this day on February 25, 1852. 

His ten-volume collection of Moore's Melodies, published between 1808 and 1834, helped revitalize interest in Irish music that was in danger of being marginalized and forgotten.  

For a fuller story on Moore's life and achievements, read Ireland's Minstrel Boy Gets His Encore in the Irish Echo.

In Boston, Moore's Melodies quickly found their way into the city's musical community; with several of his songs published as early as 1811.  His songs, especially Last Rose of Summer, were performed as part of Boston's musical repertoire by famous visiting performers like singer Jenny Lind and violinist Ole Bull

Upon learning of his death in 1852, Patrick Donahoe and other Boston leaders formed a Thomas Moore Club to perpetuate his music.  In 1869, Patrick S. Gilmore featured Moore's songs in the National Peace Jubilee, alongside composers like Handel and Mozart. 

In 1879, on the 100th anniversary of Moore's birth, poet John Boyle O'Reilly presided over a banquet at the Parker House honoring his fellow-countryman.  O'Reilly called Moore "an original poet of splendid imagination.....he found scattered over Ireland, mainly hidden in the cabins of the poor, pieces of antique gold, inestimable jewels that were purely Irish....These jewels were the old Irish airs - those exquisite fabrics which Moore raised into matchless beauty in his delicious melodies."

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

To find year round cultural activities as well as pubs and restaurants, gift shops, hotels, museums and concert venues, visit IrishBoston.org.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Boston's Mayor Marty Walsh Vows to Defend City's Immigrant Population


Shortly after the White House released an executive order on Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements, Boston Mayor MartyWalsh convened a press conference at City Hall to reinforce his support for the immigrant community.  He was surrounded by dozens of immigrant leaders from various communities in greater Boston.

“Today's Executive Orders regarding immigrants are a direct attack on Boston's people, Boston's strength & our values,” Walsh said. “We will not stand for it.

“We are a city and nation built on immigrants and we depend on newcomers to maintain the vitality of our country.  We will not be intimidated by a threat to federal funding.  we will not retreat one inch,” Walsh continued.”

In June, 2014, the Boston City Council passed the Trust Act, which guarantees undocumented immigrants that the Boston Police Department would not report them to federal authorities. 

Earlier in the day, Mayor Walsh issued this statement:

I am deeply disturbed by today’s news.  We will not back down from our values that make us who we are as a city.  We will fight for our residents, whether immigrant or not, and provide the best quality of life for all Bostonians.  I will use all of my power within lawful means to protect all Boston residents – even if that means using city hall itself as a last resort.”


Saturday, January 21, 2017

President John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961



Here is the inaugural speech of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, delivered on January 20, 1961.


For more details on President Kennedy and his legacy, visit the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum.

Learn more about the Kennedy Family's Irish heritage.

Follow year round Irish cultural activities in Massachusetts at IrishMassachusetts.com

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Mayor Honey Fitz Fitzgerald Holds New Year's Day Reception at Boston City Hall in 1907


Boston Mayor John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald started a new tradition of ringing in the New Year by holding a reception at Boston City Hall on Tuesday, January 1, 1907.

The Boston Globe wrote on January 2, “When the mayor announced the he would hold a reception among the lines of those held in the national capitol and other cities of the union, few regarded it seriously.  It had never been attempted before, and of course, to be attempted now in sedate old Boston was regarded as nothing short of a desperate plunge with no reward in sight to warrant it."

Between the hours of noon and 2:00 p.m., over 4500 people attended, and it was deemed a success, noted the report.

Among the Bostonians who turned out to greet Mayor Ftizgerald: President Toland of the Charitable Irish Society, Herbert Carruth, deputy commissioner of the Penal Institution, Colonel Roger F. Scannell, “late defeated candidate of the Board of Alderman,” Henri Flammond, the French consul, Jeremiah McCarthy, surveyor of the port, and Patrick F. McDonald, superintendent of bridges.

Also attending were "Tim Murnane and Hugh McBreen, representing the baseball interests.”

Not everyone made it on time, reported The Globe.  “For an hour or more after the mayor had retired from the chamber, as many as 500 persons, women in the main, hurried to the corridor on the seond floor, only to learn that they were too late.” 

Mayor Fitzgerald "said that he was highly pleased with the reception for a beginning."

Fitzgerald was the third Boston mayor of Irish heritage, following Hugh O'Brien and Patrick Collins. Here is a full list of Boston mayors with Irish ancestry

Find out more by visiting IrishHeritageTrail.com.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963)


President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX on November 22, 1963, putting an abrupt halt to one of the most promising presidencies in American history.

His Administration, later referred to as the Camelot Era, bespoke the spirit of American pride, ambition and know-how in post World War II.  His Administration sent the first man to the moon, tackled the nation's thorny civil rights issue, and stood its ground against the Soviet Union and other threats to American sovereignty.

In the half a century since President Kennedy's death, he continues to inspire and instruct people everywhere about the merits of democracy, the value of public service, and the positive spirit of the human condition.

For more information on his legacy, visit the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum in Boston's Columbia Point throughout the year.

Read stories about the Kennedy Family's Irish heritage here.

For year round details on Boston's Irish community, visit IrishBoston.org.



Sunday, November 20, 2016

Boston Massacre Memorial Unveiled on Boston Common in November 1888


The Boston Massacre Memorial, located on the Tremont Street Mall on Boston Common, commemorates the famous episode in which five men were shot by British soldiers in Boston on March 5, 1770.  The shooting and its aftermath helped launch the Revolutionary War.

Putting up a monument to commemorate these men seemed like a good idea in the 19th century, and an number of citizens gathered together to do just that.  

The memorial was unveiled on Wednesday, November 14, 1888.  Governor Oliver Ames attended, along with Mayor Hugh O'Brien, the city's first Irish-born mayor of Boston.  The orator for the event with Irish-born poet John Boyle O'Reilly, who had penned a poem for the occasion he entitled Crispus Attucks, in honor of the African American who was one of the five martyrs killed that evening, along with Patrick Carr, an Irish sailor, Samuel Gray, James Caldwell and Sam Maverick.   

But surprisingly, there was opposition to the Memorial from old-line Bostonians.  Jeffrey Roche noted in his biography of O'Reilly:

"A vigorous attempt was made by certain gentlemen of Tory proclivities to prevent the (memorial), by showing that Attucks and his comrades were "rioters" and "rebels."  The Massachusetts Historical Society petitioned Governor Ames to refuse his sanction to the bill, and made a bitter attack on the memory of the Revolutionary martyrs.  O'Reilly, true to his democratic instincts, ranged himself on the side of those who desired to honor the (patriots)."


Read more about John Boyle O'Reilly

For a thorough account of the Memorial by Boston author and history blogger Chris Klein.   

For more about Boston history and the Boston Irish contribution, visit IrishHeritageTrail.com

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Galway ship the Brig St. John sinks off the coast of Cohasset, killing most of the passengers, in October 1849


On the morning of Sunday, October 7, 1849, the Brig St. John sank off the coast of Cohasset, pushed to the brink by a severe nor-easter that rocked the boat for hours before it sank.   

On board were 127 passengers from Ireland, along with sixteen sailors.  The majority of passengers were poor Irish immigrants fleeing the famine,


Writer Henry David Thoreau heard about the wreck and traveled from Concord to witness the aftermath. He wrote about it in his book, Cape Cod


"We found many Irish in the cars going to identify bodies and to sympathize with the survivors, and also to attend the funeral which was to take place in the afternoon," Thoreau wrote.  "When we arrived at Cohasset, it appeared that nearly all the passengers were bound for the beach, which was about a mile distant, and many other persons were flocking in from the neighboring country."


Only 9 crew members and 11 passengers survived, according to reports. Most of the others drowned at sea,except for 45 bodies that were washed ashore.   They were never identified and were buried in a mass grave.


On May 30, 1914 the Ancient Order of Hibernians erected a 19 foot Celtic Cross in the town's Central Cemetery to pay homage to the deceased. Governor David I. Walsh gave the oratory before several thousand onlookers.


"Love of the dead is one of the kindest traits of the Irish character; the memories of the dead are kept green and fragrant, and custom has been sanctified by religion," Walsh said.  "This memorial erected here upon the round-bound coast to those exiles cast upon the shore is evidence that the hearts of the American Irish are still true to the kindly and reverent traditions of the race."

For more details on Irish-American heritage, visit IrishHeritageTrail.com.

For year round information on cultural activities, visit IrishMassachusetts.com.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Patrick S. Gilmore, Irish-born Bandleader, Dies on Tour in St. Louis on September 24, 1892


Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore (1829-1892), whose song When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again is considered one of America's iconic hymns, died on September 24, 1892 in St. Louis while on a national tour with his orchestra.

Born in Ballygar, County Galway, Gilmore emigrated to Boston in 1849 and quickly established himself as an excellent cornet player and a band organizer.  He led several prominent bands in the 1850s and finally established his own Gilmore's Band.

Gilmore and his band joined the Massachusetts 24th Regiment when the American Civil War broke out in 1861, and accompanied the soldiers to the battle front.  After the war ended Gilmore put together a giant Peace Jubilee in 1869 to celebrate peace.  The five-day music festival featured 1,000 musicians and 10,000 choral singers, and was attended by President Ulysses S. Grant.

Then in 1872, Gilmore staged an even larger World Peace Jubilee to celebrate the end of the Franco-Prussian War.  He invited national bands for over a dozen nations, and the feature artist was Austrian Waltz King Johann Strauss.

For the final two decades of his life, Gilmore and his band toured Europe and throughout North America.

The day after his death from a heart attack, the Chicago Tribute wrote that "America Lost one of its Most Picturesque Musical Leaders."

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



Saturday, September 17, 2016

John Barry, Revolutionary War Hero from Ireland


Commodore John Barry (March 25, 1745 – September 13, 1803) was a naval hero of the American Revolutionary War.  Born in  Tacumshane, County Wexford in 1745, Barry emigrated to Philadelphia in 1760.  He joined the American forces at the outbreak of the war, and was the first Catholic appointed to command a vessel by the Continental Congress.  Barry's ship, Lexington, was the first to capture a British vessel under the American flag.

During much of the war, Barry commanded ships out of Boston Harbor, including the Delaware and the Alliance. After the war, President George Washington assigned Barry to help create the United States Navy.   Barry settled in Philadelphia and died there at age 59.  He is buried at St. Mary's Churchyard on S. Fourth Street.

In 1949, Boston Mayor James Michael Curley spoke at the Charitable Irish Society annual dinner on March 17, and  vowed to build a memorial to Barry in 60 days, saying Barry had been ignored for too long.  The project got underway immediately, and the bronze memorial was actually unveiled seven months later, on October 16, 1949.

Then on April 5, 1975, some local college students stole the bronze plaque as a prank, and a stone version of the plaque was put in its place. Contrition set in a few years later and the students anonymously returned the plaque to the Massachusetts Ancient Order of Hibernians, who returned it to the city.  The original was put in storage at the L Street Bathhouse in South Boston.  On Saturday, September 12, 1981, the Barry memorial was transferred from the Boston Arts Commission to the National Parks Service for permanent display at the Charlestown Navy Yard, where it remains today.

Visitors can see the Commodore John Barry Memorial on Boston Common, located along Tremont Street between Lafayette Mall and the Visitor Information Center.  The plaque is part of Boston's Irish Heritage Trail,  a sequence of public landmarks that tell the illustrious story of the Irish in Boston from the 1700s to the present time.

President John F. Kennedy was a great admirer of Commodore Barry.  He owned John Barry's sword and displayed it in office at the White House.  In addition to sharing a love of the sea and sailing, both men traced their lineage to County Wexford.   When he visited Ireland in June 1963, President Kennedy placed a wreath at the John Barry Memorial in Wexford.

To find out more about Boston Irish history, visit IrishHeritageTrail.com or read Irish Boston, available from Globe Pequot Press and from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other outlets.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Labor Day Profile of Maurice J. Tobin, US Secretary of Labor under President Truman



This Labor Day, the Boston Irish Tourism Association pays tribute to Boston native Maurice Tobin (1901-53), who served as mayor of Boston and governor of Massachusetts before being named US Secretary of Labor by President Harry S. Truman.

Born in Roxbury's Mission Hill,  he was the son of immigrants from Clogheen, Tipperary.

Tobin became Massachusetts' youngest state representative at age 25, and in 1937 made a surprise run for mayor against his mentor, James Michael Curley. Tobin defeated Curley in 1937 and again in 1941, serving through 1944.  He then won the race for Governor of Massachusetts, and served as Governor from 1944-46.  Governor Tobin advocated for the Fair Employment Practices Bill, and helped increase unemployment insurance and benefits for workers.

He helped campaign for President Truman, who appointed Tobin as US Secretary of Labor from 1948 to 1953, where he continued to advocate on behalf of America's working people.

Tobin died of a heart attack in July 1953 and is buried at Holyhood Cemetery in Brookline.

Sculptor Emilius R. Ciampa created the Tobin Memorial Sculptor in 1958, which is at the Boston Esplanade, next to the Hatchshell.  In 1967, Massachusetts named the Mystic River Bridge the Maurice J. Tobin Memorial bridge in his honor.

Visit the Maurice Tobin statue on the Boston Irish Heritage Trail.

For more about Boston's colorful Irish history, read  Irish Boston, available from Globe Pequot Press and from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other book stores.