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Sunday, August 26, 2018

Quincy Marketplace in Boston Opened on August 26, 1826

On this day in 1826, Boston celebrated the grand opening of the Faneuil Hall, commonly known as QuincyMarketplace. Located on the site that had long served as Boston's public market, the three massive buildings dominated the harbor and were hailed as a sign of the city's prosperity and civic pride, according to Mass Moments, published by Mass Humanities. 

The project was propelled by Boston Mayor Josiah Quincy, who initially faced resistance from local merchants and citizens who thought the project too costly.  But Quincy prevailed, and the new market was quickly referred to as Quincy Market.

Writes Mass Moments, "At the grand opening, crowds gathered to hear the bell that would signify the opening of what one local merchant called "the market of all markets on the globe." According to one newspaper, the new market "was thronged from morning till night, and many visitors from other parts of the Union expressed much gratification in witnessing the extent and arrangement of this noble institution.""

The Boston Traveller wrote, "Of all the projects for improving our city conceived by the combined wisdom of the present generation, the New Market, for boldness of design, energy of execution and promise of public benefit ust rank first  This spacious and magnificent structure (is) at once the pride and boast of the metropolis." 

Today, Quincy Market is one of the region's most popular tourist sites and is also popular with local residents.

Friday, August 10, 2018

John Boyle O'Reilly - Boston's Champion of the Downtrodden

John Boyle O'Reilly, the famous Irish rebel who lived in Boston from 1870 until his death, died suddenly at his home in Hull, Massachusetts on August 10, 1890.

Born on June 28, 1844 in Dowth Castle along the River Boyne, O'Reilly was conscripted into the British Army as a young man.  He was later charged with sedition against the British Crown and sentenced to life imprisonment in an Australian penal colony.  O’Reilly made a daring escape aboard a New Bedford whaler, Catalpa, in 1868, a feat that helped shape his legend by the time he landed in America.  

Arriving in Boston in 1870, he spent the next 20 years reconciling the city's racial and ethnic factions who struggled against one another.  He became editor and then owner of The Pilot, the leading Irish Catholic paper in America, using the paper as a bully pulpit to advance various causes.  He befriended the Yankee establishment while admonishing them for the prejudices.  He defended American Blacks who were still looking for post Civil War equality.  He welcomed new immigrants such as Italians, Jews and Chinese, insisting that they get the same privileges as nativist Americans.  Throughout his life he pursued freedom of Ireland from Britain, advocating for home rule and land reform.

In 1885 he delivered a thunderous speech in defense of the rights of Black citizens at Faneuil Hall before the Massachusetts Colored League.  He said "So long as American citizens and their children are excluded from schools, theaters, hotels, or common conveyances, there ought not to be among those who love justice and liberty any question of race, creed, or color; every heart that beats for humanity beats with the oppressed."

O'Reilly was a popular poet and speaker, often called upon to deliver poems at noteworthy occasions such as the unveiling of the Boston Massacre Monument on Boston Common in 1888. There, he read a poem dedicated to Crispus Attucks,  killed by British soldiers at the Boston Massacre of 1770. Attucks' father was an African slave and his mother an American Indian. 

O'Reilly died on August 10, 1890 from an accidental overdose of medication. He was taken back to St. Mary's Church in Charlestown for the funeral, one of the largest in Boston's history. "The greatest of Irish-Americas" is dead, proclaimed The Pilot

A memorial to O'Reilly was commissioned to noted sculptor and friend Daniel Chester French.   Vice President Adlai Stevenson and hundreds of Boston's prominent and ordinary citizens attended the official unveiling on June 20, 1896. The bust of O'Reilly is set against a Celtic design stone, and the back of the memorial has bronze allegorical figures of Erin, flanked by Poetry and Patriotism. The O'ReillyMemorial is located in Boston's Fens at the intersection of Boylston and Fenway Streets, and is part of Boston’s Irish Heritage Trail.

O'Reilly lived at 34 Winthrop Street in Charlestown, where there is a plaque in his honor.  In 1988 the city dedicated a plaque to O'Reilly in Charlestown at Austin and Main Streets.  His summer home in Hull is today the town's public library.

In 1895 sculptor John Donoghue created a bust of his friend O'Reilly: a bronze version is in the Fine Arts Reading Room of the Boston Public Library and one at Boston College's Burns Library.

O'Reilly is buried at Holyhood Cemetery in Brookline, Massachusetts. 

Rockport Music Presents Della Mae in Concert on August 15

Rockport Music presents the Nashville-based string band Della Mae at the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport on Wednesday, August 15, 2018.  Tickets are available online

Since forming in Boston in 2009, Della Mae was named IBMA’s Emerging Artists of the Year in 2013, GRAMMY Nominees in 2014 for their debut album on Rounder Records, named among Rolling Stone’s “10 bands to watch for in 2015.” The band has traveled with the US State Department to over 18 countries spreading peace and understanding through music. 

For year round details on Irish, Celtic and folk music in New England, visit

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Naval Hero Jeremiah O'Brien Honored At Massachusetts State House

Plaque to Jeremiah O'Brian at Massachusetts State House

Jeremiah O'Brien (1744-1818) created the "first act of Colonial piracy" in the Revolutionary War, when he, his four brothers and townsmen led an attack on the British cutter Margaretta on June 12, 1775 at Machias, Maine, defeating the ship and taking its munitions as bounty.  Maine was part of the Massachusetts Colony until 1820. 

The town of Machias had apparently put up a Liberty Pole in town after hearing about the battle of Lexington in April 1775.  When the Margaretta sailed into the harbor, the captain warned the townspeople that the pole must come down, or the ship would fire upon the town. The townspeople voted to leave the  pole intact, and to instead capture the Margaretta. Two American ships, the Unity and the Falmouth Packet, were dispatched to fight the battle. 

According to author Charles Lucey, "Fighting was furious," with both sides "determined to conquer or die."  The colonists under O'Brien "used axes and pitchforks" when the battle was joined at close quarters.  

In August 1775 the Massachusetts Provincial Congress declared, "Jeremiah O'Brien is hereby commissioned as commander of the armed schooner Diligent and the sloop Machias Liberty, for the purpose of guarding the sea coast, for the sum of 160 pounds lawful money of this Colony of supplying the men with provision s and ammunition."  Subsequently, the O'Brien brothers engaged in numerous battles with English ships of along the coast from Newburyport to Maine.

The head of the family was Morris O'Brien, who came from Ireland in 1740 and settled in Kittery, Maine, according to the US Congressional Record. He and his wife Mary had six boys, of which Jeremiah was the eldest. The family ran a lumber mill in Machias.

In 1937 a plaque created by John Paramino was placed at the Massachusetts State House commemorating O'Brien's "distinguished services for winning the first navel engagement in the War of the Revolution and of his subsequent exploits in said war as the first regularly commissioned naval officer  and commander of the Revolutionary Navy of Massachusetts."  It is located on the staircase next to the Hall of Flags. 

Five ships in the United States Navy have been named USS O'Brien.  During World War II, the United States liberty ship SS Jeremiah O'Brien was named in his honor.

The Massachusetts State House is one of the 20 stops along Boston's Irish Heritage Trail.

For year round information on Irish activities in New England, visit