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Monday, September 21, 2015

Soldiers & Sailors Monument on Boston Common, Cornerstone Placed on September 18th

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

"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 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

JFK Statue at Massachusetts State House Now Open to the Public

Tourists, school children and local residents are once again able to stand next to the beloved statue of President John F. Kennedy which stands alongside other famous Bostonians on the front lawn of the MassachusettsState House.

The 8 foot 2 inch tall bronze depiction of President John F. Kennedy, purposeful and confident in full stride, was created by sculptor Isabel McIlvain of Sherborn,  and unveiled on May 30, 1990.   Nearby are statues of Daniel Webster, Horace Mann and Anne Hutchinson.   

This area of the statehouse was closed off on September 11, 2001, and stayed closed due to security reasons.  But recently, government officials agreed to open access to the front law from April through October, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m..

The Massachusetts State House has self-guided tour information about State House the building and grounds, which includes numerous statues and plaques that tell the story of the state’s illustrious political history.

Read more about President Kennedy by visiting the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum.

For more about Boston’s Irish history, visit

Friday, April 24, 2015

Irish Rebels Seize Dublin Post Office in Easter Uprising, 1916

Flag of the Irish Citizens Army

On Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, an insurrection against British rule in Ireland took place in the capitol city of Dublin.  Led by a collection of volunteer organizations including the Irish Republican Brotherhood, Sinn Fein, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizens Army, the armed uprising was planned for months in advance.  But the capture of the German ship, the Aud, bringing guns for the rebels meant that “any chance of a successful uprising disappeared,” wrote Irish historian Michael Kenny in The Road to Freedom, published by the National Museum of Ireland.

An official British communication, published in The Boston Globe, read:

“At noon yesterday serious disturbances broke out in Dublin.  A large party of men identified with the SF party, mostly armed, occupied Stephen’s Green and took possession forcibly of the Postoffice, where they cut the telegraph and telephonic wires.  Houses were also occupied in Stephen’s Green, Sackville Street, Abbey Street and along the quays. In the course of the day soldiers arrived from the Curragh and the situation is now well in hand.”

But on April 28, the Globe reported that the revolt was spreading outside of Dublin and that martial law had been declared across the island. Subsequent reports referred to the rebels as “traitors to Ireland,” but that sentiment quickly changed when British General Maxwell executed the captured Irish leaders on May 3, 1916.

In Boston, the Irish community had already rallied against the British and saw the rebels as heroes.  In a speech in Pittsfield, MA on May 1, 1916, Joseph O’Connell, ex-US Congressman from Boston, told a rally organized by the Friends of Irish Freedom,  "I glory in the brave spirits who defied the tyrant England, and I am very proud that there are yet Irish in Ireland with the spirit of Wolfe Tone, Emmett, Meagher, John Boyle O’Reilly and O’Connell...who dare to oppose the despotic rule of England in Ireland.”

Later that summer, Nora Connolly, the daughter of Irish rebel James Connolly, one of the executed leaders, came to Boston to “tell the true story of the Irish uprising.”  The 23 year old woman made a great impression on the Boston media and on the area’s large Irish community. 

While in Boston Nora Connolly was the guest of Mayor James M. Curley, who gave orders that “every courtesy possible is extended to her while in Boston,” wrote The Boston Globe.  As she was leaving City Hall, “the mayor handed her a substantial purse of money, the gift of a few Friends of Irish Freedom, as the mayor put it.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Boston College Arts Festival Features Gaelic Roots Performers on April 23

Seamus Connolly

The 17th annual Boston College Arts Festival, which runs April 23-25, 2015,  kicks off this year with a performance by BC's Gaelic Roots program, run by master fiddler Seamus Connolly.  The performance of Irish music with dancing takes place at O'Neill Plaza on campus, from noon to 12:45 on Thursday, April 23.

The three-day festival includes dozens of performances, ranging from music and dance to theater and art exhibits to literary readings and film showings.  Here is a complete 2015 schedule.

The Gaelic Roots program was first introduced to Boston College by Seamus Connolly in 1990, and since then it has become one of the most important academic programs for the study of Gaelic music and dance.

You can follow Gaelic Roots on Facebook.

Find year round information on Irish cultural activities in greater Boston at

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Johnny Kelley - One of the Boston Marathon Greats

Photo Courtesy of Boston Public Library

The 119th annual Boston Marathon takes place on Monday, April 20, 2015, a good time to reflect on John Adelbert  Kelley, considered by many to be the quintessential amateur runner who exemplifies the spirit of the Boston Marathon.  

Kelley ran his first marathons in 1928 and 1932 but did not finish either race.  He ran again in 1933 and then competed in every single race through 1992!  He finished in the top 10 eighteen times, taking first place in 1935 and again in 1945.  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. 

Kelley was born in 1907 in Medford, MA, 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 fiftieth race.  "The boat stopped in Boston and they never left."
In 1993 the Boston Athletic Association erected a statue honoring Johnny Kelley on Heartbreak Hill in Newton.  The twin statues depict Kelley in 1935 and again in 1995, holding hands as they cross the proverbial finish line.

For more on Boston Irish history and heritage, visit or

Saturday, April 18, 2015

April 18, 1949: 26 Counties of Ireland Officially became the Republic of Ireland, Despite deValera Objection

Eamon deValera in Boston in March 1948
√Čamon de Valera, who served as Ireland’s prime minister from 1933 through 1948, had remained forceful in calling for the unification of Ireland and for breaking away from the British Commonwealth. De Valera toured the US in March 1948, rallying Americans to help Ireland get rid of partition.  In Boston he said, "If people around the world would make it clear that partition cannot be, it would disappear." 

In December 1948  the Irish Parliament passed the Republic of Ireland Act, in tandem with the British Nationality Act, declaring that “People born in Eire in the future will be Eire subjects and not British subjects.”  

On Monday, April 18, 1949, Ireland officially became the Republic of Ireland and severed its ties to the British Commonwealth.  But the six counties known as Northern Ireland opted to remain part of Great Britain. 

In Dublin, 200,000 people jammed onto O'Connell Street to celebrate the new Republic, noted The Boston Globe, writing, "The choice of Easter Monday for Independence Day and the O'Connell Bridge to glorify it were tied up in the little state's colorful past." 

The Globe added that "The celebration was marred only by the opposition of Eamon deValera's Fianna Fail Party, which holds that there can be no republic as long as the partition of north and south Ireland continues." 

In Boston, over 500 Irish people and their families celebrated at Intercolonial Hall in Roxbury, waving the Irish tricolor and dancing.  At the celebration, Thomas Dorgan, clerk of the Suffolk Superior Civil Court, read a statement from US Congressman John W. McCormack of South Boston, which stated: "I shall do everything in my power to see that partition is abolished. I strongly hope that by next year we will be celebrating a real republic of Ireland consisting of all the counties of Ireland into one government." 

Some excerpts from Irish Boston: A Lively Look at Boston's Colorful Irish History, published by Globe Pequot Press. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Boston Massacre Occurred on March 5, 1770, Helping to Inspire the Revolutionary War

Two hundred and forty five years ago today, a violent skirmish broke out in Boston between occupying British troops and local residents that left five men dead.  Known as the Boston Massacre, the incident occurred after a week of smaller skirmishes and fist fights between the soldiers and Bostonians.  After some provocation, the soldiers panicked and fired into the crowd, killing Samuel Gray, Samuel Maverick, James Caldwell, Crispus Attucks and Patrick Carr. 

Carr, an Irish immigrant who was walking toward the incident with fellow Irishman Charles Connor, was that last man to be shot. He lingered for several days, but his deathbed testimony helped exonerate the soldiers.

John Adams, the future American president, was called upon to defend the soldiers, proving that the American colony could put on a fair and impartial trial. 

The Bostonian Society is staging an event to commemorate the Boston Massacre on Saturday, March 7, 2015 that take place at various times throughout the day. 

Carr and the other victims are buried at the Old Granary Burying Grounds on Tremont Street, which is part of the Boston Irish Heritage Trail.  You can take a guided tour of the Irish Heritage Trail this St. Patrick's Day weekend, starting at the Boston Common Visitor Information Center. 

For year round information on the Irish community in Boston, including pubs, gift shops, festivals, parades, concerts and cultural activities,  visit 

For visitor information, go to MassVacation or BostonUSA.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Maud Gonne, Ireland's Joan of Arc, Toured Massachusetts in February 1900 to Protest British in Boer War

Maud Gonne, rebel, activist and poetic muse, came to the United States in February 1900, to tell Americans about the atrocities of the British in South Africa's Boer War.  She spoke forcefully about the conditions of the refugee camps where women and children suffered, and spoke of the Irish who were fighting alongside the Boers against the British, including her husband, Major John McBride, who formed the Irish Transvaal Brigade.

Already renowned for her beauty and fiery disposition, she was described by The Boston Globe as "pictuesque in a black velvet gown with a silver girdle at the waist...her splendid voice extremely musical."

Gonne spoke in Lowell on Sunday, February 11, 1900 in Associate Hall, and later met with a group of German-Americans from Lawrence.

Then on Monday, February 12, she addressed 2,500 in Fall River, during which eight Irish societies of 500 men and women preceded her speech with a parade that included two brass bands and a drum corps.

Gonne arrived in Boston on Sunday, February 17, and was greeted at South Station by a delegation of 50 men and women from Irish societies, who escorted her to the Vendome Hotel on Commonwealth Avenue.  The following day Gonne spoke at Tremont Temple on Boston Common, before 2,000 cheering supporters.  There she uttered a phrase that bespoke the mindset of many Irish people.

"From an Irish point of view," she said, "it matters not whether it be right or wrong, the nation that is the enemy of England is a friend and ally of Ireland."   That proposition was later rephrased by Irish rebel James Connolly as "England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity."

Gonne left from New York on March 7 to return to Ireland, just in time to protest Queen Victoria's first and only visit to Ireland in April 1900.

Gonne's husband, Major John MacBride, led the Irish Transvaal Brigade on the side of the Boers during the war.  They were married in 1903 and divorced in 1905.

Maud was the longtime muse of Irish poet William Butler Yeats, who also came to Boston on several occasions to promote Irish theater.  In his famous poem, Easter 1916, Yeats referred to MacBride, who was executed by English soldiers in the wake of the 1916 Easter Rising.

(Excerpts from Irish Boston: A Lively Look at Boston's Colorful Irish Past, published by Globe Pequot Press)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Erskine Childers Weds Mary Alden Osgood at Trinity Church in Boston on January 5, 1904

English-born Irish rebel Robert Erskine Childers married Mary (Molly) Alden Osgood at Trinity Church in Boston on January 5, 1904.  They met at a state dinner hosted by the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company at Faneuil Hall and were married after a three-week courtship. 

Both were idealists from upper class families whose passions turned toward Ireland

Childers was a gifted writer whose book, Riddle of the Sands, published in 1903, is considered the first spy-novel thriller.  In 1911 Childers published his book, TheFramework of Home Rule, in which he decried British abuse of freedoms in Ireland and other colonies around the world.

In July 1914 Childers and Osgood carried out a daring gun running operation, shipping arms and ammunition from Germany to Howth aboard the yacht Asgard, which Mary’s family had given the couple on their wedding day.  

A close ally of Eamon deValera, Childrens was secretary-general of the Irish delegation involved in negotiating the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921.   He rejected the final treaty and was involved in the subsequent Irish Civil War.  He was captured and executed on November 24, 1922, despite strong protests and appeals from around the world.

Irish leaders in Boston held a memorial for Childers at Faneuil Hall following his death.

Their son, Erskine Childers, became the fifth President of Ireland in 1973.

Find out more about Boston's Irish history at