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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Irish Bandleader Patrick S. Gilmore Started the New Year's Eve Countdown in New York City, in 1888

Patrick S. Gilmore, the famous 19th century musician and bandleader, started the annual tradition of the New Year's Eve countdown in New York City on December 31, 1888.  

In those days, what is now Times Square was simply known as the Long Acre, and was changed to Times Square in 1904 when the New York Times opened its offices there.

In the late 19th century, the Gilmore Band - part of New York's 22nd Regiment -- was one of the nation's  most popular bands, performing indoor and outdoor concerts throughout the year.  Gilmore conducted many of the concerts nearby at Gilmore's Garden, which later became Madison Square Garden

On this particular New Year's eve in 1888, the  Gilmore Band performed for the large audience that gathered up and down Broadway, and then Gilmore led the crowd in a countdown, firing two pistols at the stroke of midnight. 

According to Gilmore scholar, the late Michael Cummings, Gilmore was born in Ballygar, County Galway in 1829, and emigrated to Boston in 1849, where he lived for over twenty years. During that time he established himself as a great cornet player and bandleader.  He was active during the Civil War and wrote the popular tune, When Johnny Comes Marching Home.  He also created two massive peace jubilees in Boston's Back Bay in 1869 and 1872, before moving to New York, where he lived until his death in 1892.

For more information on Irish-American history, visit

Saturday, December 28, 2013

On December 30, 1870, Irish sculptor Martin Milmore was commissioned to build Soldiers and Sailors Memorial on Boston Common

"On December 30, 1870, sculptor Martin Milmore was awarded the commission to build the Soldiers and Sailors War Memorial on Flagstaff Hill on Boston Common, winning over fifteen other proposals.  The cost was not to exceed $75,000.

"Milmore and his brothers Joseph, Charles and James emigrated from Killmorgan, County Sligo to Boston with their widowed mother in 1851.  They apprenticed with local sculptor Thomas Ball and before long their artistic talents were recognized. Martin’s first major piece was the Roxbury Soldiers Memorial (1868) in Forrest Hills Cemetery, followed by the Charlestown Soldiers Memorial (1872) in Winthrop Square.

"But Milmore’s masterpiece was the Soldiers and Sailors monument on the Common.  City officials laid the cornerstone in September 1871, and a few months later Milmore moved to Rome, Italy, where he spent the next five years modeling his designs. The shaft of the monument was made of white Maine granite, with pedestals at each of the four corners, upon which stand four bronze figures, representing Peace, History, the Army, and the Navy. At the apex of the monument stood the statue representing America, a woman 'majestically proportioned, clad in a flowing robe, with a crown of thirteen stars upon her head.'

"When it was unveiled in September 1877, 25,000 Civil War veterans marched on a six mile promenade through the city up to Flagstaff Hill on Boston Common. 

"The Milmore brothers were part of a robust generation of post-famine Irish immigrants who created some of America's most important Civil War memorials and statues." 

For more about Boston's Irish history, read Irish Boston: A Lively Look at Boston's Colorful Irish Past, by Michael Quinlin, published by Globe Pequot Press.  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

1913: Massachusetts Governor Elect David I Walsh Plans Big Inaugural Reception Due to Public Enthusiasm

David I. Walsh, the first Irish Catholic elected as Governor of Massachusetts, had to plan a larger inaugural reception than originally envisioned because of public enthusiasm for his election, according to The Boston Globe.

"So great is the demand for invitations to his inaugural that Gov-elect Walsh has evolved a new plan, which he believes will reduce disappointments," the Globe wrote in a story on December 10, 1913. "A reception will be held in the Hall of Flags immediately after the delivery in the House chamber of his inaugural address....Mr. Walsh intends to enter the Hall of Flags and shake hands with as many persons as care to meet him."

Walsh served as Governor of Massachusetts from 1914-16, according to, and later became the state's first Irish Catholic US Senator, serving in Congress for over 20 years, starting in 1918.

A statue to Walsh is featured as one of the stops along the Boston Irish Heritage Trail, created by the Boston Irish Tourism Association to present local history in public places.

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

Thursday, December 5, 2013

On December 5, 1770, Two British Soldiers Found Guilty of Manslaughter in the Boston Massacre Shootings

"On December 5, 1770, nine months to the day after the Boston Massacre, only Matthew Kilroy and Hugh Montgomery were found guilty of manslaughter for the killing of Crispus Attucks; the other seven soldiers were exonerated. At their sentencing on December 14, both men invoked a medieval English plea for mercy called “the benefit of clergy,” originally offered to clergy and later extended to felons facing a first conviction. The plea involved showing their God-fearing ways by reciting Psalm 51; both Kilroy and Montgomery did so and thus had their execution commuted. They were branded with an M for murder on their thumbs and were released back into their regiment. Years later, when Governor Thomas Hutchinson’s diaries became public, it turned out that Hugh Montgomery had admitted to his lawyers that it was he who yelled out the fatal call to "fire" that helped start the American Revolution."

Excerpt from Irish Boston, 2nd edition, by Michael Quinlin
Publisher: Globe Pequot Press / Publication Date: October, 2013 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Looking Back at John F. Kennedy

“We would like to live as we once lived.  But history will not permit it.”
President Kennedy, November 22, 1963

Half a century later, we allow ourselves
to be captured in time. To imagine earlier days
that must have been better days.

It was the time of our life, our nation’s life,
when idealism trumped cynicism, when
grace and beauty took their rightful place
in how we saw ourselves, how the world saw us.

Televisions were black and white,
just like the battle between good and evil.
New frontiers opened up, old prejudices broke down.
We felt that anything was possible.

The Boston accent, summers on the Cape,
boats swaying in the bay, clam bakes and ocean waves.
The beauty of youth. It all seemed endless.

Fifty years later, we hold our memories gently
and remain wistful of that time interrupted.
Even now, we carry the promise
of possibility in our hearts

- from Boston Irish Tourism Association

Saturday, November 16, 2013

City of Boston marks November 16 as Goody Glover Day, in honor of Irish servant hanged as a witch in 1688

The City of Boston marks November 16 as Goody Glover Day in Boston, in tribute to Goodwife Ann Glover, an Irish women accused of being a witch by Cotton Mather and other Boston Puritan leaders.
Glover was an Irish slave sent to Barbados by Oliver Cromwell in the 1650s.  Her husband died there, and by 1680 she and her daughter were living in Boston, employed as housekeepers by John Goodwin.  In summer 1688 four of the five Goodwin children fell ill.  The doctor concluded "nothing but a hellish Witchcraft could be the Origin of these maladies."  Martha, the 13 year old daughter, confirmed the doctor's diagnosis by claiming she became ill right after she caught Glover stealing laundry.

Glover was arrested and tried as a witch. In the courtroom there was confusion over Glover's testimony, since she refused to speak English, despite knowing the language.  According to Mather, "the court could have no answers from her, but in the Irish, which was her native language." The court convicted Glover of witchcraft and sentenced her to be hanged on November 16, 1688.

James B. Cullen, author of The Story of the Irish in Boston (1889) wrote, "she was drawn in a cart, a hated and dreaded figure, chief in importance, stared at and mocked at, through the principal streets from her prison to the gallows….The people crowded to see the end, as always; and when it was over they quietly dispersed, leaving the worn-out body hanging as a terror to evil-doers."

It is commonly assumed that Glover was hanged at the public gallows on the Boston Common on the great elm that was destroyed in a storm in 1876.  But Cullen reported that Glover was hanged in the South End, on the site of the South End Burying Ground on Washington Street.

On November 16, 1988 Boston City Council proclaimed Goody Glover Day, and that same year a plaque (photo above) was placed at Our Lady of Victories Church in Boston's South End/Bay Village neighborhood by the InternationalOrder of Alhambra, a Catholic Men's organization that marks Catholic landmarks around the world.
The plaque to Ann Glover at Our Lady of Victories Church is a stop along Boston’s Irish Heritage Trail.

An editorial in The Boston Globe, dated November 17, 1988, noted that a group of academics and a businessman "have formed a committee to erect a memorial on Boston Common or at the State House, where statues commemorate Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer, who were also victims of religious intolerance.   A memorial to Glover would be a reaffirmation by today's citizens that bigotry in any form is intolerable. The efforts deserve support."

For more about Irish heritage in Boston, visit

For details on Irish cultural activities year round, visit

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

James Michael Curley remembered in ceremony at Boston's Mt. Calvary Cemetery on Anniversary of His Death

Local Catholic and Irish-American leaders gathered today at the Old Calvary Cemetery in Boston on the anniversary of the death of James Michael Curley, the larger-than-life political figure who dominated Boston and Massachusetts politics for half a century. Curley died on November 12, 1958, fifty-five years ago today.

Attending the ceremony was Ray Flynn, former mayor of Boston and US Ambassador to the Vatican, who spoke about "the heart and vision" of Curley and his career "helping the poor and needy of Boston."

Curley served four four-year terms as mayor of Boston, in 1914, 1922, 1930 and 1946.  He was Governor of Massachusetts from 1935-37, and also served as  US Congressman from 1911-14.

Find out more about Boston's Irish history at

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Martin J. Walsh Wins Election as Next Mayor of Boston

(November 5, 2013) -- Martin J. Walsh, a Massachusetts state representative from Dorchester, has been elected as the next Mayor of Boston.  He defeated his opponent, Boston City Councilor John R. Connolly.

Walsh, the son of Irish immigrants from County Galway, Ireland, vowed to make Boston an inclusive city where jobs, housing and educational opportunities are equally distributed across the city's neighborhoods.

Connolly was gracious in defeat, vowing to work closely with Mayor-elect Walsh in the coming term. 

Elected as state representative in 1997, Walsh developed a powerful coalition of labor unions, neighborhood activists, elected officials and ordinary citizens who support his message of inclusion and opportunity for all.

At the campaign party at the Park Plaza Hotel in downtown Boston, the Dropkick Murphys performed during the night. 

In April, the Galway Independent ran a profile of Walsh and his connections to Galway.

Walsh joins an illustrious line of Boston mayors with Irish heritage, including John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, the grandfather of President John F. Kennedy; James Michael Curley; Maurice Tobin; Kevin White and Ray Flynn.

Here is a list of the Boston mayors of Irish descent, starting with Hugh O'Brien in 1885. 

For more about Boston's Irish history, visit  For year round details on cultural activities, visit

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Irish Connections of Fenway Park

Fenway Park - it’s as American as applepie and, well, baseball. The “lyrical little bandbox of a ballpark,” as local writer John Updike described it, is a national treasure, one of the few remaining ballparks to survive a century of wear and tear, heart ache and exultation.  

Fenway has a distinctive Irish tint over the past century too. Here are some Irish connections to this green masterpiece.


• Charles E. Logue, from Derry, Northern Ireland, was the contractor selected to build Fenway Park, breaking ground on September 25, 1911. James E. McLaughlin, born in Nova Scotia to Irish immigrant parents, was the architect.
• Groundskeeper Jerome Kelley took the infield sod from the old Huntington Ave ball park at the end of the 1911 season and placed the diamond in Fenway so it would be ready for opening day.


• On April 20, 1912, the Boston Red Sox played the New York Highlanders, later named the Yankees. 24,000 people attended. The game went to extra innings and the Sox won 7-6.
• Mayor John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, grandfather of John F. Kennedy, threw out the first ball to start the game, and a contingent of Royal Rooters fans, led by Michael “Nuf Ced” McGreevey, boisterously cheered the team on.
• Thomas “Bucky” O’Brien was the starting pitcher. Tommy Connolly was the umpire behind the plate. Legendary baseball writer Tim Murnane covered the story for the Globe.


• On June 29, 1919, Eamon deValera, President of the fledgling Irish Republic, addressed 60,000 people at Fenway, calling for an end to British rule in Ireland. Massachusetts Governor David I. Walsh introduced Dev.
• On May 28, 1922, Irish patriots Countess Constance Markievicz and Kathleen Barry spoke before 6,000 people.
• On June 11, 1934, 40,000 faithful turned out for an open-air mass in celebration of William Cardinal O’Connell’s Golden Jubilee. The Cavan All-Stars Football Team attended.


• On September 4, 1916, the Galway Men’s Association enjoyed a day of hurling matches and track and field events. 
• The Kerry Gaelic Football team played a Boston team at Fenway on May 30, 1927.
• On June 6, 1937, the Mayo All-Ireland Football Champions beat a Massachusetts team 17 to 8. Lt. Governor John Kelly threw in the ball to start the game.
On November 7, 1954 Cork’s All Ireland Hurling Team beat a Boston team 37 to 28, then a week later Mayo’s Gaelic Football team beat a local team 13 to 6. Globe reporter John Ahearn described hurling as a “combination of field hockey, lacrosse and mayhem.”


• On June 26, 1928, Irish Billy Murphy lost a close match against Portuguese champion Al Mello before 12,000 boxing fans.
• On June 12, 1932, Eddie “Kid” Sullivan, “the perpetual motion machine from Walpole,” fought Tony Acquaro of Lynn.
• On July 29, 1937, two heavyweights, Al McCoy and Jack McCarthy battled before 10,000 people.
• Danno O’Mahoney from Cork wrestled Jimmy the Greek Londos on June 2, 1935 before 30,000 people. O’Mahoney prevailed, then met his match on July 20, 1937, losing to fellow Irishman Steve Casey.


• Mayor James Michael Curley took Irish rebel Dan Breen to a Red Sox - Braves game on September 23, 1931.
• Television personality Ed Sullivan was master of ceremonies at Mayor John Hynes’ Charity Field Day on June 23, 1958.
• The Kennedy family attended a Memorial Game on April 17, 1964 in honor of their slain brother, President John F. Kennedy.
• Many Irish-Americans have sung the National Anthem at Fenway including police officers Dan Clark and Pauline Wells, and Irish-born tenor Ronan Tynan.
• The Dropkick Murphys have performed at Fenway numerous times, singing Tessie and Shippin Up to Boston.

Excerpt from Irish Boston, 2nd edition, by Michael Quinlin
Publisher: Globe Pequot Press / Publication Date: October, 2013 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

John F. Kennedy Elevated the Tone of National Life, Opened the White House to the Arts

"John F. Kennedy’s optimism and resolve was emblematic of the American mind of the twentieth century, but he also brought a new level of sophistication to public life. Louis M. Lyons wrote, “The elevation of the tone of the national life may be John Kennedy’s most enduring contribution to his country.” 

"Along with his beautiful, stylish wife, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, JFK brought a savoir faire to the White House and created a magical mood that later moved Jacqueline to use the word “Camelot” to refer to her husband’s presidency. Both the president and his wife were lovers of the arts, and they surrounded themselves with singers, poets, dramatists, artists, and dancers. In a well-deserved nod to the power of poetry, Kennedy invited New England poet Robert Frost to read at his inauguration. Frost later told Kennedy, “You’re something of Irish and something of Harvard. Let me advise you, be more Irish than Harvard.”

"On October 26, 1963, Kennedy gave a compelling address at Amherst College called “On Poetry and National Power,” in which he laid out a vision of American life to which the Irish, the politician, and the poet could relate.

"When power leads man towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses, for art establishes the basic human truths which must serve as a touchstone for our judgment. . . . I look forward to a great future for America—a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral strength, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose. I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty. . . . And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength but for its civilization as well."

Excerpt from Irish Boston, 2nd edition, by Michael Quinlin
Publisher: Globe Pequot Press / Publication Date: October,, 2013 

Monday, October 7, 2013

New Edition of IRISH BOSTON : A Lively Look at Boston's Colorful Irish Past, from Globe Pequot Press

Globe Pequot Press is proud to announce the release of IRISH BOSTON, 2nd edition: A Lively Look at Boston's Colorful Irish Past (978-0-7627-8834-7; October, 2013; $18.95 paperback).

This new edition updates the illustrious story of the Boston Irish, from the 1700s to 2013, with new details on how Boston's Irish community has been affected by Ireland's Celtic Tiger; the death of Senator Ted Kennedy; and changing demographics in the city's distinctly Irish neighborhoods like South Boston and Charlestown.

At its core, IRISH BOSTON describes a remarkable 300-year journey, during which the Irish went from famine to fame and from poverty to power, guided by a cast of memorable characters who shaped Boston's history. Runaway servants and war heroes, poets and priests, Olympic champions and a U.S. president all play a part in this engaging narrative of how one immigrant group overcame the odds in pursuit of the American Dream.

From the days of "No Irish Need Apply" in the 1850s to the inauguration in 1960 of America's first Irish Catholic president, the Boston Irish have molded the history of the city and the nation. Full of courage and heroism, hardship and triumph, IRISH BOSTON captures the spirit of this distinctive ethnic community. 

Irish Boston is available at Globe Pequot PressAmazon, Barnes & Noble, Boston Irish Tourism Assn, Indie Bound, and fine bookstores everywhere.
About the Author

Michael Quinlin has published several books about the New England Irish, including Irish Boston (Globe Pequot Press) and Classic Irish Stories (Lyons Press). A founder of the Boston Irish Tourism Association, he created Boston's Irish Heritage Trail, a walking tour of historical landmarks in Boston's downtown and Back Bay.  He is a frequent contributor to Irish America Magazine and the Irish Echo.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Gilmore's song, When Johnny Comes Marching Home, first performed in Boston on September 26, 1863

The classic war anthem, When Johnny Comes Marching Home, was first performed at Tremont Temple in Boston on Saturday, September 26, 1863 by Patrick S. Gilmore and his Orchestra.  The concert was announced in the Boston Daily Evening Transcript as described as a sacred concert.

Gilmore originally published the song - also known as the Soldiers Return March - under the pseudonym Louis Lambert for reasons unknown, but later acknowledged that he authored the piece.  The song appeared during the height of the American Civil War, and was meant as an optimistic tribute "dedicated to the Army and Navy of the Union." 

Henry Tolman & Company of Boston was the publisher.

The late Gilmore expert Michael Cummings surmised that Gilmore took the song for an earlier Irish marching song called Johnie I Hardly Knew Ye, which was apparently sung by Irish regiments fighting for the British in Ceylon in the early 19th century.

It has remained popular ever since and has been recorded by hundreds of musicians, ranging from jazz organist Jimmy Smith to Boston's own Dropkick Murphys.

Find more information about Boston's Irish history by visiting

From Irish Boston, 2nd edition, by Michael Quinlin / Publisher: Globe Pequot Press / Publication Date: October 1, 2013

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Boston Mayors of Irish Descent, 1885-2014

Hugh O'Bien

Here are the Mayors of Boston Claiming Irish Heritage: 

Martin J. Walsh is the twelfth  Mayor of Boston to claim Irish ancestry.  The tradition dates back to 1884, when Irish immigrant Hugh O'Brien of County Cork became the first Irish-born mayor elected in Boston, serving four one-year terms (1885-88).  He was followed by Irish-born Patrick Collins (1902-05), also of County Cork, who died in office. John F. Fitzgerald became the first American-born mayor of Irish descent; he served two terms. James Michael Curley served four terms in four different decades.

From 1930 to 1993, the Boston Mayor's office was held continuously by a Bostonian of Irish descent. Martin J. Walsh began his term of office in January 2014.

For more about Boston's Irish heritage, visit the Irish Heritage Trail.

Information taken from Irish Boston: A Lively Look at Boston's Colorful Irish Past, 2nd edition, by Michael Quinlin / Publisher: Globe Pequot Press / Publication Date: October 2013. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Commodore John Barry Memorial along Boston's Irish Heritage Trail

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

Barry (March 25, 1745 – September 13, 1803) 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.
For many years, Bostonians commemorated the anniversary Barry's death (September 13) 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.  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.

In September 1956 the USS Destroyer John Barry, built in Bath, ME, was commissioned to the Boston fleet at the Charlestown Navy Yard.

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 or read Irish Boston, available on October 1, 2013 from Globe Pequot Press and from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other outlets.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Boston Irish Labor Advocate Maurice J. Tobin, Served as Boston Mayor, Massachusetts Governor and US Secretary of Labor

This Labor Day, the Boston Irish Tourism Association pays tribute to Boston native Maurice Tobin (1901-53).  Born in Roxbury's Mission Hill,  he was the son of immigrants from Clogheen, Tipperary.  He had an illustrious political career, which culminated in his serving as US Secretary of Labor under President Harry S. Truman.

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.

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 outlets.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Remembering Senator Ted Kennedy

Senator Ted Kennedy (1932-2009) 

"Senator Ted Kennedy was a champion of Irish causes for all of his career, and a formidable ally to have had on your side in the nation’s capital. Kennedy’s death of brain cancer on August 25, 2009 closed one more chapter in the Boston Irish annals, marking a changing of the guard, the official end of the Camelot era, the last of the Last Hurrahs.

"...He devoted the final three decades of his career to being the best US senator he could possibly be. He vigorously pursued the social causes that were dear to him: health care reform; civil rights for minorities, women, gays, and the disabled; protecting jobs and economic opportunity for working people; human rights around the world; and immigration reform here in America....

"'I grew up in a large Irish Catholic family as the youngest of nine children,' he once wrote.  'By their words, their actions, and their love, our parents instilled in all of us the importance of the ties that bind us together—our faith, our family, and our love of this great country.'"

Excerpts from Irish Boston, 2nd edition, by Michael Quinlin
Publisher: Globe Pequot Press
Publication Date: October 1, 2013 

August 25, 1987: Boston City Hall Announces Plans for an Immigrant Rights Office to Help Irish, Haitian and South American Immigrants

On August 25, 1987, Boston Mayor Ray Flynn announced plans to open an Immigrant Rights Unit at Boston City Hall to help the city's immigrant community with health care and legal services, according to a story in the Boston Globe by reporter Andrew Blake.

"It is my belief that the right to health care is a human right," Flynn said in a statement issued that day. "For that reason, the extensive range of services available at Boston City Hospital and the City Health Department's 25 neighborhood health care centers are available to all people in need of health care....the city of Boston again must lead the way by setting an example of what a humane government must do in order to assist those who have come to our city in search of a better life."

The Immigrant Rights Unit officially opened on October 1, 1987, and served a mixture of Irish, Haitian and Central American immigrants.  It relied on one paid staffer and a network of volunteer lawyers and health service specialists.

The unit opened during a time when federal officials were starting to crack down on illegal immigrants living in the United States. 

Find more about Boston's Irish heritage by visiting

Friday, August 16, 2013

Charlestown Townies Burn Convent to the Ground, 1834

Image Courtesy of Archdiocese of Boston 

"In Charlestown, the townsmen grew increasing resentful as the Catholic presence increased in the town. Bishop Fenwick had built Saint Mary’s Catholic church, opened a Catholic cemetery, and developed the twenty-four-acre Ursuline Convent, all within the space of a decade. The convent, a boarding school for girls, especially rankled the laboring class, since the young women came mainly from wealthy Catholic and Protestant families in Boston. Historian Nancy Lusignan Schultz writes that “these families paid a yearly tuition to the nuns equivalent to a bricklayer’s wages for six months’ labor.”

"The workmen, frustrated by economic woes and the growing competition from immigrants for jobs, took on a nativist mentality that put the rights of Americans above the rights of immigrants. It didn’t help that Rev. Beecher and others were preaching about a Catholic conspiracy, rekindling seventeenth-century Puritan fears of popery and Jesuit priests that had sparked anti-Catholic hysteria more than a century earlier.

"All these factors came to bear on August 11, 1834, when the Ursuline Convent was set afire by angry workmen led by John Buzzell, a New Hampshire transplant who worked as a bricklayer. The frightened nuns and their young female boarding students rushed from the school as the building went up in flames, with the bloodthirsty mob intent on burning it to the ground. A newspaper later reported that the “pianos and harps, thrown from the windows when the Convent was set on fire, were subsequently burnt, and nothing but an old chair and one or two worthless articles were saved from destruction.”

Excerpt from Irish Boston, 2nd edition, by Michael Quinlin
Publisher: Globe Pequot Press
Publication Date: October 1, 2013 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ulster Scots Sail into Boston Harbor, 1718

Map of Boston, circa 1722

"On August 4, 1718, five boats, containing about seven hundred Ulster Irish Presbyterians, arrived in Boston Harbor. They had been assured beforehand that they could purchase a parcel of land in the city, but when they arrived city leaders informed them they would need to join the Puritans’ Congregational Church to reside in Boston. A few of them did, but the rest refused to change religion. At Governor Samuel Shute’s suggestion, the Presbyterians moved to twelve square miles of land in Casco Bay, Maine, and eventually settled Worcester, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire.

"The arrival of these new settlers caused some concern. Alluding to grain shortages in the city, Thomas Lechmere complained in 1718, “These confounded Irish will eat us all up, provisions being most extravagantly dear and scarce.” The Boston Town Records in 1723 noted that “great numbers of people have lately been transported from Ireland into this Province, many of which by reason of the present Indian war and other accidents befalling them are now residents in this town. . . . If due care [is] not taken, they may become a Town Charge or be otherwise prejudicial to the well fair and prosperity of the place.”

Excerpt from Irish Boston, 2nd edition, by Michael Quinlin
Publisher: Globe Pequot Press
Publication Date: October 1, 2013 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Guided Tour of Boston's Irish Heritage Trail on Sunday, June 16 at Boston Common

The Boston Irish Tourism Association is offering guided walking tours of the Boston Irish Heritage Trail in celebration of Bloomsday, on Sunday, June 16, 2013, starting at 2:00 p.m. at the Boston Common Visitor Center at 147 Tremont Street in Downtown Boston.

Cost of the tour is $15 per adult, $8 for children ages 6-12, and free for children under five.

The 75 minute walking tour by an experienced tour guide covers over three centuries of Boston Irish history.  You’ll discover the Irish role in the Revolutionary War, learn about the 19th century Famine generation and the Irish part in the Civil War.  And you’ll discover famous and infamous politicians - from Curley and White to Collin and the Kennedys - who put their indelible stamp on the history of the city and the nation.

You can purchase tickets the day of the tour at the front desk of the Boston Common Visitors Information Center.

The Irish Heritage Trail was created by BITA in 2000 as a way to celebrate and learn about Boston's unique Irish-American culture and heritage. For more information,  contact

For details on cultural activities in greater Boston and throughout the region, visit

For visitor information, go to or

Sunday, May 19, 2013

May 19, 1832: Request to Bury Irish Children in Charlestown, Massachusetts Refused by Town Selectman

 Photo courtesy of Stephen O'Neill

"On May 19, 1832, Boston's Catholic Bishop, Benedict Fenwick attempted to bury two Boston children, three-year-old Florence Driscoll, who died from teething, and three-month-old James Kinsley, who died from infantile disease, at the recently opened Bunker Hill Catholic Cemetery in the town of Charlestown, Massachusetts, right across the bridge from Boston.

"The obligation to make the request in writing was unusual, but the town selectman had passed a ruling the previous November, in an effort to keep Irish Catholics from being buried in Charlestown. The townsfolk feared that the Irish would bring religious superstitions and disease to their town. In the nineteenth century the entire world was worried about the spread of diseases.

"Fenwick’s request to bury the children was denied the same day it was written by Selectman Nathan Austin, who stated, “The object of the town in adopting the rule was to prevent the bringing of the dead from the surrounding towns and country. . . . We feel constrained from a sense of duty to decline giving the permission you request.”

"Bishop Fenwick decided he would test the validity of the state ruling and went ahead and buried the children without the town’s permission. The matter went to a higher court, and ultimately the church was recognized as having the right to bury its dead on its own property."

- Except from Irish Boston, 2nd edition, scheduled for publication October 2013.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Boston Irish Dancers Holding Fundraiser for the Richard Family in Aftermath of Boston Marathon

Boston's Irish dance community is coming together to raise funds for the Richard family of Dorchester, whose lives were severely affected by the Boston Marathon bombing.

The event, Dance for Jane,  is taking place on Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. at the John Hancock Hall in Boston's Back Bay.  Tickets to the event, which must be purchased in advance, are $26.20 and can be ordered online.

The Richard family is well-known and beloved in Dorchester for its community work and friendship, and suffered severely from the bombing.  Eight year old son Martin Richard was killed at the scene.  His seven year old sister, Jane, lost her leg. She is a stepdancer at the Clifton Academy of Irish Dance in Milton.Their mother Denise suffered head injuries at the finish line where they were standing.

To find out more information, visit the Dance for Jane Facebook page.   If you are unable to attend and would like to donate, please send a check to Salem Five Bank, Attn. Richard Family Fund, 210 Essex Street, Salem, MA 01970, USA. Make check payable to: The Richard Family Fund.

Here is a story on the recent World Irish Dancing Championships in Boston in March.

Find more information on Boston's Irish community at

Monday, April 15, 2013

Boston Marathon Gets Underway Today

(photo courtesy of Bill Brett, The Boston Globe) 

As thousands of runners take off for the annual Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2013, we salute the late John Adelbert Kelley, one of the greatest competitors in the history 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 1992, holding hands as they cross the proverbial finish line.

For race results of  the 2013 Boston Marathon click here.

For more on Boston Irish history and heritage, visit

Sunday, April 7, 2013

James B. Connolly of South Boston wins first medal in the modern Olympic Games in Athens, April 6, 1896

On April 6, 1896, James Brendan Connolly of South Boston became the first medalist in the modern Olympic Games when he won the triple jump on the opening day of the Games in Athens, Greece.

He won the event - back then it was called the Hop, Skip and Jump - by jumping 44 ' 9 3/4", beating the second place finisher by nearly six feet.  After his final jump, the audience began chanting his name and yelling Nike, the Greek word for victory, according to Connolly's teammate, Ellery H. Clark.

Connolly and his American teammates nearly missed their events - they arrived in Athens thinking they had twelve days to prepare, only to realize that the Greeks used the Julian Calendar, not the Gregorian Calendar, and his event was that afternoon.  Connolly later recounted the story in his autobiography: Sea Borne: Thirty Years Avoyaging.

Connolly also competed in the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris, and took second place in the Triple Jump.  Beverly Cronin of the Boston Herald wrote, "In typical Connolly fashion, he walked the seven miles to Paris Stadium because he couldn't afford the taxi fare."

Connolly later became an advocate for amateur sports, and also ran for US Congress in 1914, representing the Progressive Party.   Throughout his adult life he pursued a career of writing.  He authored 25 books, largely about the sea, and dozens of short stories.  He also worked as a journalist, covering the Spanish-American War in 1898, World War I,  and the Irish Civil War in 1920.  In the 1930s he ran a literary journal called Limelight.

Connolly's papers are held in two collections: at Colby College in Maine and Boston College in Massachusetts.

The James B. Connolly statue in South Boston is part of the Boston Irish Heritage Trail, a collection of memorials in downtown Boston and its neighborhoods that chart the Irish experience in Boston dating back to the 1700s.

Find year round details on Irish activities in greater Boston by visiting

(Excerpt from Irish Boston: A Lively Look at Boston's Colorful Irish Past by Michael Quinlin (Globe Pequot Press, 2013)