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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Boston Mayor Kevin White, 1929-2012

(Photo Courtesy of Tom Fitzgerald)

Mayor Kevin White, Mayor of Boston from 1968-1984, passed away on Friday, January 27, 2012, at age 82.  He had suffered from Alzheimer's Disease since 2003.

The Boston Irish Tourism Association published a profile on Mayor White on the occasion of his statue being unveiled at Faneuil Hall in Boston on November 1, 2006. 

Mayor White's statue is part of Boston's Irish Heritage Trail, a three mile walk of twenty landmarks that tell the story of 300 years of Boston Irish history.







Thursday, January 26, 2012

Robert Burns Statue in Boston's Winthrop Square Honors Famed Scottish Poet


Scotland's poet and bard Robert Burns (January 25, 1759 – July 21,1796) is honored in Boston with a statue at Winthrop Square in Boston's Financial District.

Best known for composing  the unofficial anthem to New Year's Eve, Auld Lang Syne, Burns was a prolific poet who wrote over 300 poems, as well as various epistles and ballads. He was prolific in other ways too, fathering fourteen children.

The Boston statue was created by sculptor Henry Hudson Kitson and was unveiled by Governor Calvin Coolidge on January 1, 1920.  It was originally unveiled in the Fens, near the Westland Avenue entrance, not far from the John Boyle O'Reilly Memorial to Ireland's famous 19th century poet. 

The statue was moved to Winthrop Square in 1975 where it remains today.  It depicts Burns walking with his collie and a book of poetry in his hand.

Kitson was a well-regarded artist who created a number of important statues in Boston, including the memorial to Patrick Collins, which is part of Boston's Irish Heritage Trail.

For details on Irish and Scottish cultural activities in greater Boston visit IrishBoston.org

For tourist information visit MassVacation.com and BostonUSA.com 







Wednesday, January 25, 2012

George M. Cohan, Irish-American Broadway Star, is Honored in Providence


George M. Cohan, Broadway song and dance man whose songs helped define the World War I generation, is honored in his home town of Providence RI with a statue, according to a story in Irish America Magazine.

The statue was created by noted sculptor Robert Shure, who also created the Irish Famine Memorial in Boston and Providence.

Cohan (1878-1942) was the son of Jeremiah Cohan from Boston and Nellie Costigan from Providence.  They met met on the vaudeville circuit and married in 1874.  George and his sister Josephine became part of a successful family troupe, named the Four Cohans, which traveled around the country on the minstrel circuit, performing a cabaret of songs, dances, jokes and comedy routines popular at the time.

In 1893 George settled in New York City and soon became the toast of Broadway, writing popular tunes like  Yankee Doodle Dandy, You're a Grand Old Flag, and Over There, a trio of songs that resonated with Americans during World War I.

For  more about the contributions of Irish contributions to American popular culture, see Irish Boston: A Lively  Look at Boston's Colorful Irish Past.

For information on year round Irish cultural events in Massachusetts and the New England states, visit IrishMassachusetts.com  For more on Boston's Irish-American heritage, visit IrishHeritageTrail.com.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Irish Pipers Club of Boston Holds its First Concert on January 11, 1910 in the South End

Patsy Touhey 

"The first concert of the Irish Pipers' Club of Boston was held in Wells Memorial Hall on Tuesday, January 11, 1910," according to The Republic Newspaper published on January 15, 1910.

The hall was located at 978 Washington Street in Boston's South End, then a heavily Irish neighborhood.  

The concert was significant for Irish music historians because it included notable uilleann pipers Michael and William Hanafin and John Nolan.  And guests in the audience were identified as Sergeant James Early of the Irish Music Club of Chicago and Patsy Touhey, who was born in Galway and grew up in South Boston. Touhey was considered by many to be the finest piper of his generation.

Other performers included singer Peter O'Neill, Irish step dancer James Cahill and the Irish Choral Society, led by director Charles F. Forrester.

The Republic Newspaper was owned by John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, the grandfather of President John F. Kennedy

For more about Irish music in Boston, see Irish Boston: A Lively Look at Boston's Colorful Irish Past.

For details on Irish cultural activities in greater Boston, visit IrishBoston.org.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Boston Elects First Irish-Born Mayor, Hugh O'Brien of County Cork


On Monday, January 5, 1885, Hugh O'Brien was sworn-in as the city of Boston's first Irish-born Mayor, launching an era of Irish-American dominance of Boston City Hall that continued through the 20th century.

O'Brien was born in County Cork, Ireland on July 13, 1827, and emigrated with his family to Boston in 1832 when he was five years old.  He learned the printing trade at the Boston Courier newspaper and at fifteen became foreman of a printing office, before starting his own publication, the Shipping and Commercial List.  He has a successful career as a businessman and gained the respect of city leaders as well as the Irish immigrant community that struggled to gain a foothold in Boston.

O'Brien launched his political career in 1875 on the Board of Alderman, and in 1884 ran against and defeated incumbent Boston Mayor Augustus Martin.  At that time, the term of office was one year, so O'Brien ran and won again in 1885, 1886, 1887 and 1888 before narrowly losing in December 1888 to Republican banker Thomas N. Hart.

While in office, O'Brien presided over the creation of the city's Emerald Necklace park system, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, and he laid the cornerstone for the new Boston Public Library at Copley Square.

One of his most cherished causes was helping the city's orphans throughout his life.  He died on August 1, 1895, and at his funeral at Holy Cross Cathedral, the Republic Newspaper reported, "The largest and most conspicuous delegation was that from the St. Vincent's Orphan Asylum, 200 little children dressed alike, who sat immediately behind the family."

O'Brien is buried at Holyhood Cemetery in Brookline MA. 

A bust of Hugh O'Brien, made by sculptor John Donoghue, is on display in the Abbey Room of the Boston Public Library.  

For more about Boston's Irish history, visit IrishHeritageTrail.com or read Irish Boston, 2nd edition, by Michael Quinlin, published in 2013 by Globe Pequot Press.