Search This Blog

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.