Search This Blog

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.