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Sunday, July 29, 2018

Greater Boston Feis, July 30, 1950, draws 15,000 spectators to Malden Stadium

Over 15,000 spectators attend the Greater Boston Feis at Malden Municipal Stadium in Malden, Massachusetts on Sunday, July 30, 1950.  It was part of a cultural rekindling of Irish traditions taking place in Ireland and Diaspora communities after World War II, and continued annually in greater Boston throughout the 1950s.

The bilingual program book, printed in English and Irish, was organized by the Central Council of Irish County Clubs, Inc, with Richard J. Cardinal Cushing, Archbishop of Boston, listed as the event’s patron.

Over 1,500 contestants participated in 72 different events, ranging from competitions in accordion, violin, harp, piano and Irish war pipes.  Among the winners were Joe Derrane of Roxbury, who won first for senior accordion solo, with Joseph Joyce of Jamaica Plain and Tom Senier of Dorchester tied for second place.  Paul Derrane, Joe’s younger brother, took first place for junior accordion solo and John F. Conroy of Dorchester won second in the intermediate accordion category.

Frank Neylon of Cambridge took first in the senior flute solo, and Veronica Fay took first in senior piano solo.  Joyce Berry of Hingham took first in solo harp playing, and Jane Nash of Springfield took first for Irish war (uilleann) pipe solo.

The team of Mary Murphy, Lorraine Murphy, Jean Costello and Mary Conroy took first in the senior four-hand reel competition.

In addition, there were matches in Gaelic football and Irish hurling, set dancing and step dancing competitions, Gaelic recitations and storytelling and essay contests on the topic of “Commodore John Barry, Fatherof the American Navy.”

The content of the program book was patriotic and nationalistic. The Feis was dedicated to Dr. Douglas Hyde, co-founder of the Gaelic League and President of Ireland, “who awakened a slumbering, almost defeated people to a consciousness of the power and beauty of their language and their ancient culture.  He opened up new vistas of freedom of thought and developed fresh concepts of political freedom.”   A suggested reading list in the program included works by Irish rebels General Tom Barry and Ernie O’Malley.

The competition winners received their trophies and medals at a special ceremony at the Boston Latin School on September 13, 1950.

In 1951, the Greater Boston Feis moved to a larger venue at Suffolk Downs Racetrack in East Boston. 

Friday, July 27, 2018

Mayor Walsh & Community Leaders Announce Restoration of Boston's Shaw Memorial

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh was joined today by the National Park ServiceBoston Parks & Recreation DepartmentFriends of the Public Garden and Museum of African American History officials to formalize a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to collaboratively restore the Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Regiment Memorial, known as the Shaw Memorial.

Located at the corner of Beacon and Park Streets, across from the Massachusetts State House, the memorial pays tribute to the 54th Black Regiment of soldiers who fought valiantly in the American Civil War.  This work captures the humanity, nobility and unfettered idealism of war in the depiction of the foot soldiers who fought for freedom from slavery.  

Mayor Walsh called the memorial, “one of the most important pieces of art in the United States of America and we are deeply proud to have that piece here in the city of Boston.  It reminds us of what is possible in our city when we live by our highest ideals.”

The sculptor was Augustus Saint Gaudens, who was born in DublinIreland in 1848 to a French father and Irish mother.  At age six months, Augustus fled with his family to escape the Irish Famine and landed at Boston Harbor in October 1848.  The family eventually moved to New York City, and Augustus later moved to Paris where he studied the works of master sculptors.

Considered the premier American sculptor of his generation, Saint Gaudens created the Admiral David Farragut statue in South Boston, hailed as “the beginning of the American renaissance” in sculpture; statues of Abraham Lincoln (standing and sitting) in Chicago; and General William Sherman's stunning memorial at the entrance to New York City’s Central Park. He also created the Charles Stuart Parnell Statue in his native city of Dublin

The Shaw Memorial is on the Black Heritage Trail and on the Irish Heritage Trail

Read more about Irish immigrant sculptors who came to America in the 19th century, and other profiles about Boston's Irish history