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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Boston Celtics were nearly called the Boston Yankees when team first formed

The Boston Celtics might have well been called the Boston Yankees, according to newspaper stories detailing the team's origins.

When the new Basket Ball Association of American was formed in June 1946, the Boston franchise was owned by Walter Brown, who managed the Boston Garden and was later owner of the Boston Bruins.

In an interview with Boston Globe sports reporter Harold Kaese on July 17, 1946, Brown predicted that basketball would soon be more popular than hockey in Beantown.

"There are more basket ball players and fans around here than hockey players and fans.  Hockey was the big game after the last war; basket ball game will be the big game after this one," Brown is quoted as saying.

Later in the article, Kaese reports:

"NICKNAME - Brown is looking for one.  He welcomes suggestions, may run a contest.  The first nickname offered was Boston Yankees, an extremely bright suggestion."

But Brown apparently had an epiphany to name the team the Celtics, according to Celtics yore, coming up with the name in a conversation with local publicity man Howie McHugh.  Just over a  month later, a Boston Globe article by Jack Barry on August 20, 1946,  referred to the team as the Boston Celtics.  

Another possible influence on naming the team -- Brown hired as his first coach John "Honey" Russell, who had previously coached  the Original Celtics, a legendary barnstorming basketball team out of New York City in the 1920s.

For the official history of the early Boston Celtics click here.

For more on Boston's Irish-American history, visit

Posted by Boston Irish Tourism Association

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Irish Officials Debate Where in Ireland the American President Will Visit: 1963

The Kennedys in New Ross (courtesy of JFK Library

A month before President John F. Kennedy's famous visit to Ireland in June 1963, a dispute broke out between the people of New Ross, County Wexford, and Dublin government officials over where President Kennedy would visit, according to a UPI story that ran in the Boston Globe on May 27, 1963.

"Townspeople in President Kennedy's ancestral birthplace Sunday charged civil servants with 'hijacking' their famous guest away from his Irish relatives," the UPI reported. 

"We feel the President is being hijacked all over the country," a town spokesman said...."President Kennedy would prefer to stay longer with his kith and kin in the New Ross area instead of attending banquets and garden parties in Dublin."

The story continued, "New Ross is the home of President Kennedy's forefathers and should be accorded precedence over any other part of Ireland, including Dublin, (said a town spokesman)...We will demand that he stay longer than a mere 45 minutes."

A full month later, on June 27, 1963, President Kennedy arrived in New Ross and had a reunion with his relatives before addressing a crowd of 10,000 people.

The John F. Kennedy Library & Museum has extensive materials on President Kennedy's trip to Ireland in June 1963 and on his Irish ancestry.  To read a copy of President Kennedy's speech at New Ross, click here.

For information on Boston Irish history, visit  For Irish cultural events, visit

Monday, April 25, 2011

April 1851: Irish Fiddler Arrested in Boston's North End for Fiddling, reports Boston Herald

As part of the Boston Police raids on Ann Street in Boston's North End in April 1851, the Boston Herald reported that "an old man named Michael Lacy was one of the persons arrested" in the sweep of dance cellars, gambling dens and brothels of that notorious section of town.

Ann Street, today called North Street in Boston's North End, was the city's original Combat Zone.

Lacy explained to the court "an interesting history of the art of ancient ministrelsy and of the early history of instruments called fiddles.  He also spoke of hand-organs and tamborines and of music at musters and other public assemblies."

The court ruled that "Those who fiddle at theatres and concerts are not amenable to the law, but those who fiddle for rogues to dance, violate the statute, and are to be punished."

Lacy was ordered to pay a fine of $3 and costs, the Herald concluded.

For more on the history and heritage of the Boston Irish, visit

For more about the Irish in Boston, read Irish Boston: A Lively Look at Boston's Colorful Irish History, published by Globe Pequot Press. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Happy 99th Birthday to Fenway Park in Boston: April 20, 1912

Photo of Mayor John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald (waving hat), courtesy of JFK Library

Boston Mayor John Fitzgerald threw out the first pitch at Fenway Park at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, April 20, 1912 before a hometown crowd of 24,000 people, thus christening the opening of one of America's most famous baseball parks.  

The Boston Red Sox beat the New York Highlanders (later called the New York Yankees)  in an 11-inning game, by the score of 7-6.  John J. "Buck" O'Brien from Brockton was the starting pitching for the Sox and he was relieved by Charley Hall in the fifth inning.

The park was built by Charles E. Logue, a renowned builder who immigrated from County Derry, Ireland to Boston in 1881 at the age of 23.  He founded a successful company that built many of the city's schools, hospitals and college campuses over the next four decades. His company, now called Logue Engineering,  is still in operation five generations later.

The architect was James E. McLaughlin, who designed the Boston Latin School and the Police Station on D Street in South Boston among others.

Boston Globe sports writer Timothy H. Murnane wrote, "The day was ideal.  The bright sun brought out the bright colors of the flags and bunting that decorated the big grandstand...Before the game started, the crowd broke into the outfield and remained behind the ropes, forcing the teams to make ground rules, all hits going for two bases."

For more information on Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, click here

For year round information on Irish culture, heritage and history in Massachusetts, visit the Boston Irish Tourism Association.

For tourist information, visit MassVacation or BostonUSA.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Civil War: Irish 9th Regiment of Massachusetts Begins Recruitment in April 1861

On April 15, 1861, two days after the attack on Ft. Sumter, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation seeking 75,000 volunteers to join the Union Army.

In Boston, Massachusetts, Irishman Thomas Cass began recruiting Irish immigrants to form the Massachusetts 9th regiment.  The volunteers came largely from Boston and the nearby towns of Salem, Milford, Marlboro and Stoughton. A total of 1,727 men enlisted.

The Irish volunteers encamped on Long Island in Boston Harbor through May, and on June 11 the Regiment was mustered into service.

The 9th enjoyed a big send-off on June 25, 1861, when the troops made their way from Long Island to Long Wharf in Boston, then marched to Boston Common, where Governor John Andrew welcomed them and thanked the two commanders, Colonel Thomas Cass and Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Guiney. 

Governor Andrew presented them with flags of the United States and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the regiment was also permitted to carry its own Irish flag, which was donated by Mrs. Harrison Gray Otis. The flag is now part of the Hall of Flags at the Massachusetts State House.

The regiment fought bravely at many battlefronts during the Civil War, including Malvern Hill and Gettysburg.  The regiment returned to Boston on June 13, 1864 and was mustered out on June 21, 1864.

Excerpts from Irish Boston: A Lively Look at Boston's Colorful Irish Past

For year round information on Boston Irish history and heritage, visit

For year round details on Irish cultural events, visit

Friday, April 15, 2011

Boston Marathon Runner Johnny Kelley - A Legendary Marathon Man

 Photo by Bill Brett, Boston Globe

John Adelbert  Kelley may well be the best athlete to ever run the Boston Marathon, the internationally acclaimed foot race that draws thousands of runners to vie for the coveted gold medal.

The Boston Marathon was initiated in 1897, inspired by the first modern Olympic Games held the previous year in Athens, Greece. It was sponsored by the Boston Athletic Association, and won by Irish-American John J. McDermott of New York, who ran the course in two hours, fifty-five minutes and ten seconds, beating a field of fifteen runners.

Thomas E. Burke, who won first place in the 100 and 440 yard races at the Athens Olympics in 1896, was the official starter of the race.

Kelley was born in 1907 in West Medford, outside of Boston, and traces his ancestry to County Wexford.  "My father's people left to go to Australia," he told The Boston Globe in 1981, when he was preparing for his 50th race.  "The boat stopped in Boston and they never left." 

Kelley ran his first marathons in 1928 and 1932 but did not finish either race.  He ran again in 1933 and has since competed in every single race through 1992!  He finished in the top 10 eighteen times, taking first place in 1935 and again in1945.  He owns the record for the most races started (61) and the most finished (58).  His best time was two hours and thirty minutes, posted in 1943.  He was 84 when he ran his last race in 1992, posting a time of Five hours and fifty-eight minutes.

He was christened Johnny "The Elder" Kelley, when John J. Kelley (no relation) emerged as a champion in the 1950s, winning the race in 1957. 

In 1993 the BAA erected a statue honoring Johnny Kelley on Heartbreak Hill in Newton.  The twin statues depict Kelley in 1935 and again in 1995, holding hands as they cross the proverbial finish line.

For details on the 2011 Boston Marathon, taking place on Monday, April 18, 2011, click here.

For more on Boston Irish history and heritage, visit or read Irish Boston: A Lively Look at Boston's Colorful Irish Past by Michael P. Quinlin.

For tourist information, visit MassVacation and

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Governor Deval Patrick Speaking at the John F. Kennedy Library on Thursday, April 14

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is appearing at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston on Thursday, April 14, 2011, to discuss his new memoir, A Reason to Believe: Lessons from an Improbable Life.

The event runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and the moderator is Bob Oakes, host of Morning Edition on WBUR.

For a full schedule of upcoming events at the JFK Library, click here.

For year round details on cultural and literary activities throughout Massachusetts, visit

For tourist information, visit or

Imelda May, Dublin Rockabilly Star, Coming to Boston in July

Imelda May, the rising rockabilly star from Dublin, is performing at the Brighton Music Hall in Boston this summer, on July 30, 2011.

She has been touring over the past year with guitar legend Jeff Beck, and has performed on the Grammy Awards, in a tribute to guitar innovator Les Paul, and most recently appeared on the Jay Leno Show on Friday, April 8.

May fell in love with American music as a young girl in the Liberties section of Dubliln, listing to Elvis Presley  and Gene Vincent, then switching up to blues legend Elmore James and jazz great Billie Holiday. While performing on the burlesque circuit for many years, she has perfected her own brand of country, R&B and pop, melding it into a unique brand of Irish rockabilly.

Located at 158 Brighton Street in Boston's Allston neighborhood, Brighton Music Hall is the site of the former blues club Harper's Ferry.

For year round details on Irish music in greater Boston, visit

Monday, April 11, 2011

Boston Runner Thomas E. Burke Wins the 440 and 100 at the First Modern Olympic Games in Athens

Thomas Edmund Burke (1875- 1929) became the first athlete in the Modern Olympic Games to win two races, the 100 yard dash and the 440 yard run.

Burke, just 20 years old at the time, was one of six Boston athletes who made the trip to Athens, Greece in April 1896 to participate in the revival of the Olympics. He handily won both races.

The New York Times reported, "At the pistol shot Burke of the BAA bounded ahead, followed closely by the German Hofmann, who was beaten by two meters by Burke at the finish, with the other runners bunched closely as far behind....Amid cheers, the American flag went up."

Burke was born in Boston's West End; his father was an undertaker at St. Joseph's Church, and later attended English High School in Boston.  He competed for the Suffolk Athletic Club in South Boston and the Boston Athletic Association (BAA).  When he won the Olympic medals Burke was a second year law student at Boston University.

Burke had an illustrious life.  In 1897 he was the official starter for the first Boston Marathon started by the Boston Athletic Association and later was track coach at Mercersberg Academy in Pennsylvania.  For a time, he held the world's record in the 600 yard run at one minute 11 seconds. 

After college, Burke became a journalist and wrote for several Boston newspapers, including the Boston Journal and the Boston Post.

In World War I he was commissioned a first lieutenant and at age 43 was the oldest man in the US military to earn his aviator's wings.  He died at age 53, collapsing on a ferry boat from Winthrop to Boston.

For information on Boston Irish history, culture and heritage, visit and

Friday, April 8, 2011

Fenway Park - built by Irishman Charles E. Logue - is on Boston's Irish Heritage Trail

Charles E. Logue at Fenway Park, April 20, 2012
(courtesy of the Logue Family)

Fenway Park, approaching its 100th birthday in April 2012, is one of the landmarks along Boston's Irish Heritage Trail.

The iconic park, described by writer John Updike as "a lyric little bandbox of a park," was built by an Irish immigrant from County Derry named Charles E. Logue.  You can read the full story on on Mr. Logue and Fenway here.

According to the book Fenway, by Boston Globe reporters Dan Shaughnessy and Stan Grossfeld, officials broke ground on the new ballpark on September 25, 1911 and the first game was played there on April 20, 1912.

Mr. Logue built many of the city's Catholic Churches and part of the Boston College campus.  His descendants have carried on the family business with their firm, Logue Engineering, located in Hingham, Massachusetts. . 

Fenway Park is the final stop on the 20-site Irish Heritage Trail, which starts at the Rose Kennedy Garden along the waterfront, passes Boston City Hall, the Irish Famine Memorial, the Massachusetts State House and Copley Square.  

Fenway Park was also the site of various Irish sporting matches hosted by the Gaelic Athletic Association, and Irish leader Eamon deValera spoke before a crowd of 60,000 people there in June, 1919.  For more details on Fenway's Irish connections, read Irish Boston: A Lively Account of Boston's Colorful Irish Past.

You can pick up a free copy of the Irish Heritage Trail map at the visitor centers on Boston Common (151 Tremont Street) and the Prudential Center.  For information on taking a guided tour of the Irish Heritage Trail, click here for details.

For year round information on Irish culture, heritage and history in greater Boston, visit the Boston Irish Tourism Association.

For tourist information, visit MassVacation or BostonUSA.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Boston College Irish Scholar Rob Savage Wins Irish Book Award for A Loss of Innocence

Congratulations to history professor and Irish scholar Rob Savage of Boston College, whose book, A Loss of Innocence?: Television and Irish Society, 1960-72, won the prestigious James S. Donnelly Sr. prize for 'Best History or Social Science Book' awarded by the American Conference for Irish Studies.

The book, published by Manchester University Press, examines the evolution of Ireland's national television service in the 1960s and examines how the new medium helped to change the conservative nature of Irish society.

For year round details on Irish culture, history and heritage in greater Boston, visit

Boston Athletes Score Big in the First Modern Olympics, April 6-15, 1896

The Modern Olympic Games kicked off in Athens, Greece, on April 6, 1896, rekindling the ancient sporting competition after an absence of 1,500 years.  Thirteen nations participated.

Boston, Massachusetts was well-represented at the Games that year, with six athletes making the journey to Greece. Also participating was a team from Princeton University in New Jersey.

The Boston athletes included Thomas E. Burke, Ellery H. Clarke, Thomas P. Curtis, Arthur Blake and W.W. Hoyt of the Boston Athletic Association (BAA), accompanied by their manager John Graham, as well as James Brendan Connolly of the Suffolk Athletic Association of South Boston, accompanied by manager Thomas J. Barry.

According to the book, Irish Boston, Connolly was one of twelve children (including eight boys in a row) born in South Boston to immigrant parents John and Ann (O'Donnell) from Inis More, Aran Islands, off the coast of County Galway, Ireland.

The American team left New York on March 20, 1896 on a German Steamer, arriving in Naples twelve days later.  They took a train across Italy, then caught a steamer to Patras, Greece, followed by a ten hour train ride to Athens, arriving on April 5, 1896.

The Americans nearly missed the Games because of a mis-communication about when the event actually started.  While most of the world relied on the Gregorian Calendar, the Greeks still used the Julian Calendar, a difference of twelve days.

Connolly recounts sitting in a cafe the morning of April 6, 1896, thinking they had twelve days to prepare for the competition.  He was shocked to discover that his event was starting in just a few hours!

The team raced to the stadium and before long Connolly was competing in the Hop, Skip and Jump (now called the Triple Jump.)  He won the event with a leap of at 44 feet, 9 3/4", thereby becoming the first winner of the Modern Olympic Games.

Beverly Cronin of the Boston Herald described the scene:  "Connolly walked up to the line, and with Prince George of England and Price George of Greece as judges, yelled in a burst of emotion, 'Here's one for the honor of County Galway,' before making his winning jump."

For more history on the Boston Irish, visit

For year-round details on Irish culture, history and heritage in greater Boston, visit

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Canadian Celtic Rock Band Performing at Blue Ocean Music Hall in Salisbury on April 8

Enter the Haggis - the Toronto-based Celtic-Rock band, is performing at the Blue Ocean Music Hall in Salisbury, Massachusetts, on Friday, April 8, 2011 at 8:00 p.m.

Tickets to the show are available for $15 and $20 and can be ordered online or at the door.  

For a full schedule of concerts at Blue Ocean Music Hall, click here.

For year round Irish music in Massachusetts and the New England region, visit

For tourist information, visit

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sports Writer George Kimball is Appearing at Four Green Fields in Boston on Monday, April 4

Legendary sports writer George Kimball - - is giving a reading from his new books, At the Fights, and Manly Art, at the Four Green Fields Pub & Restaurant in downtown Boston on Monday, April 4, 2011.

Kimball - who wrote a column for the Boston Herald for 25 years - is considered one of the foremost boxing writers in journalism. He currently writes a weekly column for the Irish Times newspaper in Dublin.

For a full schedule of upcoming events at Four Green Fields, click here.

For year round Irish cultural, literary, history and heritage and special events in greater Boston, visit