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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)