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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

William B. Yeats Promotes - and Defends - New Irish Theatre in Boston, September 28, 1911

by Michael P. Quinlin

Irish poet and playwright William Butler Yeats addressed an audience at the Plymouth Theatre in Boston on Thursday, September 28, 1911 on the subject, History of the Irish National Theatre and its Purposes.

As managing director of Dublin's Abbey Theatre, Yeats was in the United States to introduce a new literary movement taking place in Ireland that he hoped would be "the awakening of the mind of Ireland."

The Plymouth Theatre, located at Eliot Street (now Stuart) and Tremont Street, was a brand new playhouse, described as "a cozy, compact and home like-arrangement, with the seats in all parts of the house as near the stage as possible."  The Abbey players christened the new theatre with their productions.

The Irish plays on opening night included The Shadow of the Glenn by John M. Synge, Birthright by T.C. Murray, and Hyacinth Halvey by Lady Gregory

Yeats was introduced to the audience by George Pierce Baker, professor of dramatic literature at Harvard University, according to a Boston Globe story on September 29, 1911.

"In Ireland, we are putting upon the stage a real life where men talk picturesque and musical words and where men have often picturesque and strange characters, that is to say, the life of far away villages where an old leisurely habit of life still exists," Yeats told the audience in Boston.

"The country life has for us the further fascination that it is the only thoroughly Irish life that is left.  All our patriotic movements go back to the peasant.  We try to recreate Ireland in an Irish way by mastering what he knows and by using it to understanding what the old manuscripts contain," he said.

Yeats and Lady Gregory came to the United States to promote Ireland's new theatre movement but also to defend it against opponents who rioted in Dublin when the Playboy of the Western World by Synge was first performed.  Critics assailed the play as a slight upon the Irish character

Yeats told reporters that 'if Ireland is to have a literature, the Irish must not resent truthful portrayals,' according to a New YorrkTimes story on October 12, 1911.

Lady Gregory said that the controversy over Synge's play was due to misunderstandings about Synge's purpose, and "to something that might be called race sensitiveness," wrote the NY Times on November 20, 1911.

When the Playboy debuted in Boston on October 16, 1911, the Boston Globe reported the play elicited 'some hisses, some cheers,' but that overall it did not cause "the excitement that some people had feared."

Yeats told the Globe he was 'very much pleased,' at the response to the opening night performance.

"I would not have been surprised if there had been more of a disturbance.  It was very mild, indeed.  I am satisfied.  I am sure that the Irish people will appreciate the play in time here," he said.

When Yeats returned to Ireland in November, he reflected on his trip.  "At Boston, the Abbey Theatre company had a flattering reception.  The more intellectual the play, the greater the success we achieved in Boston.  I attribute this to the influence of the universities," Yeats told the New York Times, in a story published on November 26, 1911.

For theater in Boston today, visit Huntington Theater Company and ArtsEmerson.

For details on cultural activities in greater Boston, visit  For information on Boston's Irish heritage, visit

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Win Tickets to Opening Night Boston Bruins Game - and Help Support the Michael Joyce Playground in South Boston

The friends of the Michael Joyce Memorial Playground in South Boston are holding a special raffle to raise funds to improve and maintain the park. 

The group is raffling off a pair of tickets -- eight rows from center ice - to the season opening game at TD Garden between the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, October 6, 2011.

The winning raffle ticket will be drawn on Wednesday, September 28, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. at Gerard's Restaurant in Adams Village, located at 722 Adams Street in Dorchester.

Tickets are $20 or three for $50.  To order tickets, call (617) 265-7718 or (617) 439-0860.

Michael Joyce was born in Connemara, County Galway and lived in Boston from 1949 until his death in 1989.  He worked at the Massachusetts State House for twenty years, and was recognized as a great leader in the Irish community who helped many immigrants make the transition to American life by offering wisdom and wise council.

For more details on Boston's Irish heritage and culture, visit

Monday, September 26, 2011

Irish Tenor Ronan Tynan Performs at Rogers Center in North Andover on Saturday, October 1

Famed Irish tenor Ronan Tynan is performing at the Rogers Center at Merrimack College in North Andover on Saturday, October 1, 2011 at 7:30 p.m.   Tickets to the concert are $35 ($32 for seniors) and can be reserved online.

Also, the Boston Irish Tourism Association is raffling off three pairs of tickets to lucky contestants who enter the contest.   The winners will be announced on the site on Thursday, September 29.

Tynan is an inspirational figure and rare talent who has gained a loyal following of music lovers that crosses generations and musical genres. He has performed before presidents and prime ministers, and in opera houses and ballparks, including Fenway Park and  Yankee Stadium.

The Rogers Center for the Arts is a magnificent, 600 seat concert venue with wonderful acoustics and a welcoming ambiance.  For a complete schedule of upcoming events, click here.

For year round information on Irish cultural activities in Massachusetts and the New England region, visit

For information about visiting Massachusetts, go to

Mayor Fitzgerald Hails the Irish National Theatre in Boston in September 1911

Mayor John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, addressed the audience at the Plymouth Theatre on the opening night of the Abbey Theatre's first performance in Boston on Saturday, September 23, 1911.  The theatre company was embarking on a six-month North American tour to promote the new Irish National Theatre of William B. Yeats, Lady Gregory and others. 

The Irish plays on opening night included The Shadow of the Glenn by John M. Synge, Birthright by T.C. Murray, and Hyacinth Halvey by Lady Gregory

Mayor Fitzgerald, who was the grandfather of President John F. Kennedy, said to the audience:

"Ladies and Gentlemen — Like most of you I came here tonight as a learner and would prefer to listen rather than to speak. It has been my privilege to read some of the works of the remarkable group of Irish writers who have so recently won the enchanted ear of the English-speaking world. And I know from general report the claims and distinction of their writings.

"I am honored in presenting to a Boston audience the works of Mr. Yeats, who is here with us to-night. Lady Gregory, Mr. Synge, and others hardly less gifted, who have sought to portray the spirit and features of life in that mysterious western island, and I hope that this theater will be crowded at every performance so that there may be no doubt of Boston's appreciation of what this gifted group have done to release the imprisoned poetry of the people of Ireland."

There was controversy about the theater company's inclusion of John M. Synge's play, Playboy of the Western World, which was received with hostility when it was performed in Dublin.  Although that hostility was on display in other American cities - notably New York City and Philadelphia,  where conservative Irish immigrants objected to the negative slights about the Irish character - Boston was by and large receptive to the Irish theater company.

For more on Boston's Irish heritage, visit

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Fenway Park Groundbreaking Took Place on September 25, 1911

Photo Courtesy of Boston Public Library 

The official groundbreaking for the construction of Boston's new baseball stadium at Fenway Park took place on Monday, September 25, 1911.

The park was built by Charles E. Logue, (1858-1919) an Irish immigrant from Derry, Northern Ireland, who arrived in Boston in 1881 and headed up numerous construction projects, including a number of churches and campus buildings for the Boston Archdiocese.

The chief architect was James E. McLaughlin, who also designed the South Boston District Courthouse. Boston Latin School and the Endicott School near Franklin Park.

The notion of having the park finished by April 1912, in time for the start of the Boston Red Sox season, seems ambitious, looking back, since a lot of the construction work had to be completed during the New England winter.

A progress report in The Boston Globe, dated January 28, 1912, states, "Work has been rushed all winter, and not until the recent cold spell was there much delay....Everything is in the rough, but a journey about the plant shows what remarkable headway has been made."

For more details on Boston Irish landmarks, visit

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Read more on the Irish Boston experience, dating from the 18th century to the present.

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John F. Kennedy Library in Boston Examines the Missile Gap Controversy on September 26

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum is holding two panels on the famous missile gap controversy that President John F. Kennedy faced 50 years ago.  The events take place on Monday, September 26, 2011 at the JFK Library in Boston. 

The CIA Overview of the Missile Gap takes place at 1:00 - 4:45 p.m. , followed by the Missile Gap Controversy, taking place from 5:30 - 7:00 p.m.   Among the participants: historians Timothy Naftali, Fred Kaplan and John Prados.  Mary Elise Sarotte, Professor of International Relations at USC, is  moderator. For more details click here

Kennedy Library Forums are a series of public affairs programs offered by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum to foster public discussion on a diverse range of historical, political and cultural topics reflecting the legacy of President and Mrs. Kennedy's White House years. For a schedule of upcoming events, click here.

For other cultural activities taking place in greater Boston throughout the year, visit

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Brig St. John commemoration taking place in Cohasset on Sunday, October 9

On Sunday, October 9, 2011, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Plymouth Div. 9, is holding its annual commemoration of the Brig St. John, which sank off the coast of Cohasset, Massachusetts on October 6, 1849, drowning 99 people.

The event starts at 1:00 p.m. with a Mass at St. Anthony’s Church, 129 South Main Street in Cohasset, followed by a reception at the church hall.  Then participants will walk over to the Cohasset Central Cemetery for a brief wreath-laying ceremony at the foot of the large Celtic Cross, which was placed there by the AOH in 1914.

The Brig St. John was traveling with 104 passengers and 16 sailors from Galway to Boston Harbor on October 6, 1849, when it encountered a nor'easter that was wrecking havoc along the coast.  The storm pushed the boat south as the Brig tried unsuccessfully to anchor near Minot Light. 

Local residents made valiant attempts to save lives and spent days trying to recover bodies of the drowned victims.  Most of the passengers were lost at sea, but .he bodies of 45 victims were recovered from the surf and laid to rest in a mass grave in the cemetery. 

This October 9 event is free and open to the public.  For more information please contact Dr. Bill O’Connell at 781 585-8181. Find more information about the Massachusetts AOH.

For more details on Irish-American heritage, visit

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Celtic Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts Unveiled in September 1977

To mark the 150th anniversary of the Irish settlement in Worcester, Massachusetts, the local Irish-American community erected a Celtic Cross on Worcester Common 

The 15 foot high memorial, weighing over 13,000 pounds made of Barre Vermont granite, was designed by Joseph Calcagni.  It features patriotic, religious and family symbols pertinent to Worcester, America and Ireland. 

The Celtic Cross was formally unveiled on Sunday, September 18, 1977.   Thomas J. Early, Mayor of Worcester presided, along with Daniel F. Herlighy, chairman of the Irish Memorial Committee, and members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, especially from Division 36 in Worcester

On May 25, 2009, Ireland President Mary McAleese laid a wreath at the Celtic Cross commemorating the arrival of the Irish in Worcester.  

For more details on Irish heritage in Massachusetts, visit  

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Cornerstone of Boston's Soldiers & Sailors Memorial is laid on Monday, September 18, 1871

The City of Boston laid the cornerstone for the Sailors and Soldiers Monument at Flagstaff Hill on Boston Common on Monday, September 18,1871.

According to the official documents, "the event was celebrated by an imposing public display.  Business was generally suspended, the streets were thronged with people drawn together from all parts of the State to honor the occasion."

Among the attendees were Martin Milmore, the Irish-born sculptor who had won the commission to create the monument; Patrick A. Collins, state senator from South Boston; General P.R. Guiney of the Massachusetts 9th Irish Regiment, and Gilmore's Band, led by Patrick S. Gilmore.

The following year Milmore went to Rome, Italy, where he spent the next five years working on the monument.  It was shipped back to Boston and officially unveiled on September 17, 1877.

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

For more on Boston's Irish history, visit

For year round cultural activities in greater Boston, visit

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Irish Musician Joe Derrane Discussed at Boston College on Thursday, September 22

Boston accordion legend Joe Derrane is the subject of a lecture by Earl Hitchner of the Irish Echo newspaper this Thursday, September 22, 2011 at Boston College.  The event takes place at Gasson Hall on BC campus from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Along with the lecture by Mr. Hitchner is a performance by Derrane, mandonist John McGann, professor of strings at Berklee College of Music, and Seamus Connolly, All-Ireland fiddle player and head of the Gaelic Roots Irish Music program at Boston College.

Derrane was born in the Mission Hill section of Roxbury, a neighborhood of Boston, in 1930, to Irish immigrant parents.  He studied the accordion with noted accordion player Gerry O'Brien, and by the time he was a teenager was a recording artist and noted musician in Boston's vibrant Irish community.  This was also during the heyday of the Dudley Street Irish Dance Hall era in Roxbury, where hundreds of Irish immigrants, Irish-Americans and Canadians convened each night to dance to traditional music.

For more details on Boston College's Gaelic Roots fall schedule, click here.

For year round information on Irish music, dancing, theatre, literary events, as well as Irish gift shops, pubs, cultural centers and more, visit

Friday, September 16, 2011

Halfway to St. Patrick's Day at the Black Rose in Boston on Saturday, September 17

Boston's most famous Irish pub, the Black Rose Pub,  is celebrating halfway to St. Patrick's Day on Saturday, September 17, 2011.  Festivities feature Joshua Tree, the premier tribute band to U2, who perform starting at 9:30 p.m.

The event is one of the many Black Rose 35th anniversary celebrations taking place in 2011. The Rose opened at 160 State Street in Boston in 1976, when Richard Ford was US President and a few months before Faneuil Hall first opened.  Since then it has gained a world-wide following, and offers live Irish music seven nights a week, a great menu and drinks selection, and a special ambiance that keeps people coming back.

Today the Black Rose Pub is owned by Glynn Hospitality Group, a family-run business with roots in County Galway, which has eight dining and entertainment locations in Boston. 

You can follow Black Rose Pub on Facebook, or visit the BlackRose web site.

For a full schedule of Irish activities in greater Boston and throughout Massachusetts year round, visit  For more on Boston's Irish Heritage visit

Thursday, September 15, 2011

On Boston's Irish Heritage Trail with Patrick Collins, Irish-born Mayor of Boston

by Michael P. Quinlin 

The Boston Irish Heritage Trail includes the Memorial to Patrick Andrew Collins (1844-1905).  He was born in Ballinafauna, a townland outside of Fermoy, Cork, and came to Boston in March 1848, with his widowed mother, part of the mass exodus from Ireland due to the Irish Famine

They settled in Chelsea, where the anti-Irish Know Nothing movement was fully blown in the 1850s.  Patrick got a job as an office boy with Robert Morris, an African-American lawyer, and later become a lawyer himself.  He entered into an upholstery apprenticeship, where he eventually became foreman.  All the while he was attending classes at Harvard University while studying at the Boston Public Library evenings. 

Collins made his first foray into American politics when he became a state representative from South Boston in 1868-69,and a state senator in 1870-71.  He became the first Irish Catholic US Congressman (1883-85).  He campaigned for President Grover Cleveland and was appointed as Consul General in London from 1893-97. 

Collins was the second Irish-born person to become Mayor of Boston in 1902-05; Hugh O'Brien was the first. As Mayor, he was praised for mastering the business of the city, and noted for his protection of historical Boston spaces such as Boston Common, Faneuil Hall, Old South Meeting House, and Old Granary and Copps Hill burying grounds.

Collins died suddenly while vacationing in Virginia on September 14, 1905, and was taken back to Boston for a state funeral.  Funds for the memorial were collected by public donations within a week of Collins' death. 

Henry and Theo Kitson unveiled the bronze memorial of Patrick Collins in 1908.  In addition to the bust of Collins, twin statues on each side depict Erin and Columbia, representing Collins' native and adopted lands. It was originally sited at Charlesgate West, and was moved to its present location in1968 on Commonwealth Avenue Mall, between Clarendon and Dartmouth Streets. 

Patrick Collins is buried at Holyhood Cemetery in West Roxbury.

For more on Boston Irish history, visit   For year round activities on the Boston Irish, visit

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Some Boston Connections of Commodore John Barry, Father of the American Navy and Revolutionary War Hero

by Michael P. Quinlin

Visitors to Boston's Irish Heritage Trail will notice a small memorial to Commodore John Barry, located on Boston Common along Tremont Street, between Lafayette  Mall and the Visitor Information Center.

Barry was a naval hero of the Revolutionary War.  He was born in  Tacumshane, County Wexford in 1745, and 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.   

Bostonians have been commemorating Barry's anniversary each September on Boston Common dating back to 1919.  For a time in the 1940s the celebrants also journeyed into Boston Harbor. Dan Horgan of the Irish World wrote: 

"There is something sentimental, almost romantic about this gesture, it's a scene almost anyone can picture in his mind.  Distinguished citizens of the Commonwealth getting up early in the morning going out in a small boat, getting four or five miles out of Boston harbor, posing a wreath in mid-air for a few minutes before casting it into the broad Atlantic Ocean.” 

At the Charitable Irish Society annual dinner on March 17, 1949, Boston Mayor James Michael Curley vowed to build a memorial to Barry in 60 days, saying Barry had been ignored for too long.  The project got underway, 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. Contrition set in a few years later and the plaque was anonymously returned to the Massachusetts Ancient Order of Hibernians.  The original was put in storage at the L Street Bathhouse in South Boston.  Then 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.

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.

After the Revolutionary War, Barry settled in Philadelphia.  He died at age 59 and is buried at St. Mary's Churchyard on S. Fourth Street.

To find out more about Boston Irish history, visit

For year round Irish activities in greater Boston, visit

2011 Boston Holiday Pops tickets now on sale!

Tickets for the 2011 Holiday Pops concerts by the famed Boston Pops Orchestra have gone on sale this week.  This year's Holiday Pops season goes from Wednesday, December 7 through Saturday, December 24, 2001.

The concerts are being led by maestro Keith Lockhart, who invites a number of special guest conductors and performers throughout the season. 

A total of 37 concerts are planned, including a number of weekend matinees for children and families. For a full schedule, click here.

The Boston Pops was initiated in 1900 by Henry Lee Higginson and since then has become one of the world's most endearing orchestras.  For a history of Boston Pops, click here.

For year round cultural activities in Massachusetts, visit

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Monday, September 12, 2011

British Comedian Bill Bailey Performs at House of Blues on September 20

British comedian, actor and television personality Bill Bailey is bringing his Dandelion Mind  show to the House of Blues in Boston on Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets to the show are $30 (standing) and $35 (reserved seating) and can be purchased online.

The Boston Irish Tourism Association (BITA) is raffling off a free pair of tickets to the show.  To enter to win, go to the BITA Contest Page and follow instructions there.

For a full schedule of concerts and events at House of Blues, click here.

For year round details on cultural activities and Irish events in Massachusetts, visit

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 reflections at the JFK Library in Boston

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston is a good place to reflect upon the challenges, risks and rewards of sustaining a democratic system of government in a dangerous world.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Colm O'Brien and Sean Connor performing at Four Green Fields in Boston on Friday, September 9

Irish music duo Colm O'Brien and Sean Connor are performing at the Four Green Fields at One Boston Place in downtown Boston on Friday, September 9, 2011 at 8:00 p.m.

O'Brien, from Dublin, and Connor, from Kilmaine, Mayo, have been performing as a duo over the past three years, across the United States and in Ireland. 

Four Green Fields, Boston's newest Irish pub, opened in town last February and is offering live Irish music and traditional sessions several nights a week.  It has a full lunch and dinner menu, a giant movie screen for televised sporting events, and an authentic Irish cottage inside the premises.

Four Green Fields is located along the Freedom Trail and near the Irish Famine Memorial along the Boston Irish Heritage Trail.   It is a member of the Boston Irish Tourism Association and the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Louis Sullivan, Father of American Architecture, Born in Boston on September 3, 1856

Louis Sullivan 

Regarded as the Father of American Architecture, Louis H. Sullivan (1856-1924) was born on September 3, 1856 to an Irish father and a French-Swiss mother.  The family lived at 22 South Bennett Street in Boston's South End, and he attended local public schools, including English High School.

He spent his summers with his grandparents in South Reading in a bi-lingual household and he advanced quickly as a student, attending MIT at age16 and then moving to Paris to complete his studies before settling in Chicago right after the Chicago Fire of 1871, where his services were in great demand.

His father Patrick Sullivan arrived in Boston on the ship The Unicorn in July 1847 just weeks after Deer Island's quarantine station had opened for hundreds of passengers too sick to come ashore.  According to Louis, in his book, Autobiography of an Idea, his father "immediately set up a (dance) academy and was successful.  He was always successful."

Louis Sullivan was part of a 19th century movement to create an American style of architecture that acknowledged the masterpieces of European design but didn't copy them. He was Frank Lloyd Wright's mentor, and influenced a number of architects known as the Prairie School.  He coined the adage that 'form ever follows function,' and his buildings in the Midwest, just over ten stories high and considered gigantic by standards of the time, prompted the new word skyscrapers.  His most famous structures are the Wainwright Building in St. Louis and the Prudential Building in Buffalo.

Boston Globe writer Margo Miller referred to Sullivan as "one of the great fantasists, working where folktales meet science fiction….All of his ornaments reproduce a battle of nature fighting the control of art - or technology - and art fighting back."

On September 3, 1946 the Boston Society of Architects and the Massachusetts State Association of Architects placed a bronze plaque at Sullivan's birthplace at 22 Bennett Street in the South End.

For more on Boston's Irish heritage, visit or see Irish Boston: A Lively Look at Boston's Colorful Irish History.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

British Rocker Richard Thompson Performs at Lowell Summer :Music Series on Friday, September 2

Acclaimed British musician and songwriter Richard Thompson is performing at the Lowell Summer Music Series in Boarding House Park in downtown Lowell, Massachusetts on Friday, September 2, 2011 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets to the concert are $28 in advance and $35 the day of the concert, and can be ordered online.

From his early career as a member of Fairport Convention to his solo career, Thompson has created a unique brand of folk rock music that has influenced musicians over the past 40 years.

For more upcoming shows at the Lowell Summer Music Series, click here.

For year round cultural activities in Massachusetts, visit

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