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Showing posts from 2016

Mayor Honey Fitz Fitzgerald Holds New Year's Day Reception at Boston City Hall in 1907

Boston Mayor John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald started a new tradition of ringing in the New Year by holding a reception at Boston City Hall on Tuesday, January 1, 1907. The Boston Globe wrote on January 2, “When the mayor announced the he would hold a reception among the lines of those held in the national capitol and other cities of the union, few regarded it seriously.  It had never been attempted before, and of course, to be attempted now in sedate old Boston was regarded as nothing short of a desperate plunge with no reward in sight to warrant it." Between the hours of noon and 2:00 p.m., over 4500 people attended, and it was deemed a success, noted the report. Among the Bostonians who turned out to greet Mayor Ftizgerald: President Toland of the Charitable Irish Society , Herbert Carruth, deputy commissioner of the Penal Institution, Colonel Roger F. Scannell, “late defeated candidate of the Board of Alderman,” Henri Flammond, the French consul, Jeremiah

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963)

President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX on November 22, 1963, putting an abrupt halt to one of the most promising presidencies in American history. His Administration, later referred to as the Camelot Era, bespoke the spirit of American pride, ambition and know-how in post World War II.  His Administration sent the first man to the moon, tackled the nation's thorny civil rights issue, and stood its ground against the Soviet Union and other threats to American sovereignty. In the half a century since President Kennedy's death, he continues to inspire and instruct people everywhere about the merits of democracy, the value of public service, and the positive spirit of the human condition. For more information on his legacy, visit the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum in Boston's Columbia Point throughout the year. Read stories about the Kennedy Family's Irish heritage here. For year round details on Boston's Irish comm

Boston Massacre Memorial Unveiled on Boston Common in November 1888

The  Boston Massacre Memorial , located  on the Tremont Street Mall on Boston Common, commemorates the famous episode in which five men were shot by British soldiers in Boston on March 5, 1770.  The shooting and its aftermath helped launch the Revolutionary War. Putting up a monument to commemorate these men seemed like a good idea in the 19th century, and an number of citizens gathered together to do just that.   The memorial was unveiled on Wednesday, November 14, 1888.   Governor Oliver Ames attended, along with  Mayor Hugh O'Brien , the city's first Irish-born mayor of Boston.  The poem for the event was written by Irish-born poet  John Boyle O'Reilly .  E ntitled Crispus Attucks, the poem honored the African American who was one of the five martyrs killed that evening, along with Patrick Carr, an Irish immigrant, Samuel Gray, James Caldwell and Sam Maverick.   But surprisingly, there was opposition to the Memorial from old-line Bostonians.   Jeffrey Roche not

Galway ship the Brig St. John sinks off the coast of Cohasset, killing most of the passengers, in October 1849

On the morning of Sunday, October 7, 1849, the Brig St. John sank off the coast of Cohasset, pushed to the brink by a severe nor-easter that rocked the boat for hours before it sank.    On board were 127 passengers from Ireland, along with sixteen sailors.  T he majority of passengers were poor Irish immigrants fleeing the famine, Writer Henry David Thoreau heard about the wreck and traveled from Concord to witness the aftermath. He wrote about it in his book, Cape Cod .  "We found many Irish in the cars  going to identify bodies and to sympathize with the survivors, and also to attend the funeral which was to take place in the afternoon," Thoreau wrote.  "When we arrived at Cohasset, it appeared that nearly all the passengers were bound for the beach, which was about a mile distant, and many other persons were flocking in from the neighboring country." Only 9 crew members and 11 passengers survived, according to reports . Most of the others drowned at

Patrick S. Gilmore, Irish-born Bandleader, Dies on Tour in St. Louis on September 24, 1892

Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore (1829-1892), whose song When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again is considered one of America's iconic hymns, died on September 24, 1892 in St. Louis while on a national tour with his orchestra. Born in Ballygar, County Galway, Gilmore emigrated to Boston in 1849 and quickly established himself as an excellent cornet player and a band organizer.  He led several prominent bands in the 1850s and finally established his own Gilmore's Band. Gilmore and his band joined the Massachusetts 24th Regiment when the American Civil War broke out in 1861, and accompanied the soldiers to the battle front.  After the war ended Gilmore put together a giant Peace Jubilee in 1869 to celebrate peace.  The five-day music festival featured 1,000 musicians and 10,000 choral singers, and was attended by President Ulysses S. Grant. Then in 1872, Gilmore staged an even larger World Peace Jubilee to celebrate the end of the Franco-Prussian War.  He invited national ba

John Barry, Revolutionary War Hero from Ireland

Commodore John Barry   (March 25, 1745 – September 13, 1803) was a naval hero of the American Revolutionary War.  B orn in  Tacumshane, County Wexford in 1745, Barry 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.    Barry settled in Philadelphia  and died there at age 59.  He is buried at St. Mary's Churchyard on S. Fourth Street. In 1949, Boston Mayor James Michael Curley spoke at the  Charitable Irish Society  annual dinner on March 17, and  vowed to build a memorial to Barry in 60 days, saying Barry had been ignored for too long.  T

Labor Day Profile of Maurice J. Tobin, US Secretary of Labor under President Truman

Photo courtesy of the Harry S. Truman Library This Labor Day, the  Boston Irish Tourism Association  pays tribute to Boston native  Maurice Tobin  (1901-53), who served as mayor of Boston and governor of Massachusetts before being named US Secretary of Labor by President Harry S. Truman . Born in Roxbury's Mission Hill,  he was the son of immigrants from Clogheen, Tipperary. 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 behal

10,000 Attend the Boston Calendonian Festival in West Roxbury on August 5, 1916

Over 10,000 people attended the 63rd Scottish picnic hosted by the Boston Caledonian Club at the West Roxbury Grove on Saturday, August 5, 1916. According to  The Boston Globe , there were 39 athletic and cultural events, ranging from track and field and football (soccer) to Scottish dancing and Bagpipe competitions. The Caledonian handicap road race of 13 ¼ miles started in front of the State House and finished at the Grove.  “The 16 starters were the crack local marathoners and Mayor Curley sent them off on their grind at 1:45,” wrote the Globe. Mayor James M. Curley  then traveled to the festival, where he addressed the crowd briefly and enjoyed the activities.  At one point, reported the Globe, Curley “was so pleased with the dance of one of the girls that he gave a personal prize.” In addition to the sports and cultural competitions, three prizes were also awarded for “Best Dressed Highlander,” which was won by George A. Mitchell.  According to writer Emi

Boston Parks Department Created Irish Floral Design in Public Garden to Welcome AOH Convention

Scene from the Boston Public Garden, ca. 1916   Photo Courtesy of Digital Massachusetts In July, 1916, the  Boston Parks & Recreation Department  created a floral design of an Irish harp in Boston's  Public Garden  to welcome the national convention of the  Ancient Order of Hibernians .  The convention took place on July 19-23 and attracted over 50,000 delegates, many from the mid-Atlantic and mid-Western states. According to a  Boston Globe  story on July 2, 1916, a number of local residents complained about the Irish arrangement to John H. Dillon, chairman of the Parks Department and  James M. Curley , mayor of Boston . Dillon "explained that it has always been his policy to plant in the Public Garden an emblem of any large organization holding its convention in Boston , but up to the present instance of the harp no objection has ever been made.  He recalled that last year the emblem of the Zionists was planted in the Public Garden and that at ot

Irish Art Adorns the Boston Arts Festival in the Public Garden on June 6, 1954

Madonna and Child by Rev. Jack Hanlon The third annual Boston Arts Festival , which opened in the Public Garden in downtown Boston on June  6, 1954, featured a tent devoted to "works by contemporary Irish artists" chosen by Ireland's Cultural Relations Department. The Irish tent contained "24 paintings and a tapestry by some of Ireland's top-notch contemporary artists.  Some work is in the abstract vein, some semi-abstract, and more romantic." The Boston Globe  story by Edgar J. Driscoll, Jr. called the festival "the largest and most comprehensive display of the arts in the city's history."   The festival was comprised of twelve tents, "housing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of art," Driscoll wrote. The Ireland tent included works by "a painting priest, Rev. Jack P. Hanlon, who is represented by a Madonna and Child and a landscape inspired in County Kerry.  Others whose work has been sent here through the co

Cardinal O'Connell, Mayor Curley at St. Ambrose Church Dedication in Dorchester, May 28, 1916

Photo Courtesy of the Dorchester Atheneum On Sunday, May 28, 1916, William Cardinal O'Connell "blessed the walls of the new Church of St. Ambrose in Dorchester," according to a report in the Republic Newspaper. It was the 11th Catholic Church in Dorchester, wrote the Republic . The parish had been formed on December 4, 1914,and founding Father John P. Harrigan broke ground for a lower church in March 1915.  According to  The Boston Globe , church services were initially held at the Dorchester Theatre and in the old Dorchester Post Office prior to the church being completed. On this day, Cardinal O'Connell, assisted by Father Harrigan, confirmed over 200 children from Dorchester at the service.  Nearly 100 members of the Knights of Columbus escorted the Cardinal and his  entourage to and from the ceremony.  The St. Vincent's Boys Cadets of South Boston were also present, the media reported. Among the guests were Mayor James M. Curley and his w

Rare Photos of Boston Legend James Michael Curley Now Online

James Michael Curley , the legendary Irish-American politician who dominated Boston and Massachusetts politics for half a century, was also one of the most photographed politicians of his time. Last year, the Jamaica Plain Historical Society purchased nearly 1,300 photographs of Mr. Curley from 1934-58, and has made that collection available online, thanks to a collaboration with the Boston Public Library and the   UMass/Amherst Libraries . Here is the James Michael Curley Negatives Collection . For more about Boston's Irish-American history, visit the IrishHeritageTrail.org .

Legendary Johnny Kelly finished 58 Boston Marathons over Illustrious Running Career

For the 120 th  running of the  Boston Marathon  taking place on Monday, April 18, 2016, we pay tribute to the amazing John Adelbert  Kelley, who holds the record for running more Boston Marathons than any other athlete.  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 50 th  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 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 hour

In History: Dan Sullivan & Shamrock Band Perform at Shepard's Department Store in Downtown Boston on March 23

The famous Boston Irish traditional ensemble, Dan Sullivan and the Shamrock Recording Band, performed at Shepard's Department Store in downtown Boston on March 23, 1929, according to this ad in the Boston Globe. The juxtaposition of band and the venue were significant, since Sullivan was one of the first Irish musicians to record extensively out of Boston, on Columbia, Victor and Decca labels, according to the Irish Traditional Music Archives in Dublin.  The Shepard Stores, located on Tremont Street right across from Park Street Station, actually built its own fully-equipped radio broadcasting station, WNAC, on the third floor of its building,with a 65 foot signal tower atop the roof, according to the blog site, Shopping Days in Retro Boston .  The band had a regular radio slot on WNAC , starting in 1928, usually on Monday's at 8:00 p.m.  An ad on April 9 of that year listed the band, along with special guests: Michael C. Hanafin, violinist; Thomas Quinn, te

Maud Gonne, Irish Rebel, Visits Lowell, Fall River and Boston to Protest British Role 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 British refugee camps filled with women and children, and of efforts by Irish and Irish-Americans to fight alongside the Boers.   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. 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 people in Fall River, during which eight Irish societies of 500 men and women preced

Irish Genius George W.Russell (AE) Pays Boston a Visit on February 10

Photograph of George W. Russell (AE) at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts Ireland's famous mystic, poet, painter, essayist, economist and agricultural reformist George W. Russell visited Massachusetts on February 10, 1928, part of a six week tour of America. Born in Lurgan, County Armagh, Russell moved to Dublin as a child and played an important role in Ireland's evolution in the early 20th century, as a writer, activist and thinker. He wrote under the pen name AE. Described by The Boston Globe as "the most brilliant and versatile genius (Ireland) has produced in this generation," Russell held court at Boston's Statler Hotel upon arriving, talking with reporters for half an hour and impressing them with "the flash of his wit and the power of his  intellect." He then traveled across the river to Cambridge, where he "lectured at Harvard in the afternoon and dined with President Abbot Lawrence Lowell in the evening." AE said that

On January 5, 1885, Corkman Hugh O'Brien Becomes Boston's First Irish-Born Mayor

On Monday, January 5, 1885,  Hugh O'Brien  was sworn-in as the city of Boston's first Irish-born Mayor, launching an era of Irish-American dominance of  Boston City Hall  that continued through the 20th century. O'Brien was born in County Cork, Ireland on July 13, 1827, and emigrated with his family to Boston in 1832 when he was five years old.  He was educated in a public school in the Fort Hill neighborhood, and when he was 12 he joined the Boston Courier newspaper as an apprentice.  By the age of 15 he had become foreman of a printing office, before starting his own publication, the Shipping and Commercial List .  He had a successful career as a businessman and gained the respect of city leaders as well as the Irish immigrant community that struggled to gain a foothold in Boston.  O'Brien launched his political career in 1875 on the Board of Alderman, and in 1884 ran against and defeated incumbent Boston Mayor Augustus Martin.  At that time, the term of office w