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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

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