Skip to main content


Showing posts from 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 Gal

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 a

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 th

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 Publishe

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

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 indentured servant 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

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 .

On 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 Bos

Boston Red Sox and Fenway Park through Green-Tinted Glasses

Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox , 2013 World Champions. In appreciation, here are some stories we've run on the Red Sox and the organization's illustrious history from an Irish-American perspective. Fenway Park: Irish American Managers from Collins to Farrell From Honey Fitz to Sweet Caroline: A Century of Fenway Park Fenway Park, Host to Irish Hurling, DeValera Rallies and Monster Masses Fenway Park: An Irish-American Landmark Fenway Park now on National Register of Historic Places Fenway Park Ground Breaking, September 25, 1911 Sean Casey: The Friendliest Guy in Baseball  For year round details on Boston's Irish community, visit . 

Irish Pride for Boston Red Sox, 2013 World Champs in Baseball


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. BUILDERS AND GROUNDSKEEPERS • 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. OPENING DAY, 1912 • On April 20, 1912, the Boston Red Sox played the New York Highlanders, later named the

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 c

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of Public Art Boston 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 o

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 impo

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 lawye

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 Jes

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, ma

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 cele

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 t

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 Ba

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

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