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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.