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Monday, May 2, 2011

Recollections of an Old Musician: Thomas Ryan's First Day in America

In 1845, classical musician Thomas Ryan  (1827-1903) emigrated from County Cork to Boston, Massachusetts.  He was 17 years old.

In his excellent book, Recollections of an Old Musician, published in 1899, Ryan recalled his first glimpse of Boston from aboard the ship:

"I think I shall never forget my first sight of the city which has been my home for so many years - it was rapture.  Early morning was just dawning when we made Boston Light.  The rising sun was shedding its rosy beams on the dome of the State House.  The splendid bay and harbor, the picturesque, pleasant homes on the shores, seemed so beautiful in the clear early  morning atmosphere....I was full of faith that everything and every face was to smile on me - and did smile on me."

Ryan went on to have a brilliant career as a professional musician.  He formed the Mendelssohn Quintette in 1849, which helped to spread the beauty of classical music in United States.  The Quintette traveled across North American and toured in Australia and New Zealand, where it played for wealthy patrons of the arts as well as for Aborigines.

Ryan was an original member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, formed in 1881 by Henry Lee Higginson.

For more information on Boston Irish history, visit

For Irish activities in the Boston area, visit

For a history of the Irish cultural experience in Boston, read Irish Boston: A Lively Look at Boston's Colorful Irish History, published by Globe Pequot Press.