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Thursday, December 12, 2019

John F. Fitzgerald Wins Special Election to become Boston's Mayor

Advertisement in The Boston Globe, December 12, 1905

On December 12, 1905, John F. Fitzgerald won a special election to become mayor of Boston.  He replaced the late Patrick A Collins, who died suddenly in September 1905 while on vacation, leaving the seat vacant.  

He became the first Irish-American to win the seat, following in the heels of two Irish-born mayors, Hugh O'Brien (1885-88) and Collins (1902-05). 

Fitzgerald ran against Republican candidate Louis Frothingham and beat him by a margin of 47% to %38. Three other independent candidates were also in the race.

Leading up to the general elections, there were rumors in the local newspapers, including The Boston Globe, that opponents of Fitzgerald, dissatisfied with the Democratic primary results, planned to knife him at the polls.  There were also rumors that several Democratic operatives were working with Frothingham to keep Fitzgerald out of the mayor's seat.

At that time, the mayor's seat was contested every two years, and Fitzgerald lost the 1908 election to George Hibbard by a margin of 42% to 40%.  He ran again in 1910 and won a four year term, beating Hibbard and two other candidates. 

Born in Boston's North End in 1863, Fitzgerald was the son of Irish immigrant Thomas Fitzgerald of Limerick and Mary Josephine Hannon of Acton, MA.  He worked his way up from the Boston Common Council to state senate before becoming U.S. Congressman from 1895-1901. He was also the publisher of a weekly Boston newspaper, the Republic, described on the masthead as "an Irish-American Family journal."

Known as Honey Fitz for his melodious singing voice, Fitzgerald was the grandfather of U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. 

There is a plaque to Fitzgerald in Boston's North End.

Find more about Boston Irish history at

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Irish Tenors McCormack & Murphy Perform in Boston in December 1919

John McCormack and Lambert Murphy, operatic tenors and recording artists for Victor Records, performed in Boston in December 1919.

Murphy, a Harvard graduate born in Springfield MA, performed at Jordan Hall on Friday, December 5. He sang a group of American, French and Russian songs, and concluded with Irish folk songs.  His finale was "There is no Death" by O’Hara, which delighted the audience.

John McCormack, famed Irish tenor, broke the attendance record at Boston Symphony Hall on December 7, where he performed “several numbers new to Boston audiences,” including an aria by Handel. He also performed a group of Irish folk songs, including "The Harp that once through Tara’s Halls" by Thomas Moore.

“Faces wore happy smiles and there were audible chuckles at numerous bits and visible tears at the pathos,” The Boston Globe wrote about McCormack  “ He has the best qualities of a popular favorite: willingness to please a friendly audience and marked ability at doing it.  Even the professional critics finds it hard to object to his giving his audience great and genuine pleasure by singing music that is not in any sense of the word classical.”

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Boston's Travel & Culture magazine, winter issue, now available

(BOSTON) -- The Boston Irish Tourism Association (BITA) has released its winter 2019/20 issue of Travel & Culture, a compendium of Irish concerts, culinary, cultural and literary activities taking place in Massachusetts and throughout New England.

The magazine is distributed free at visitor kiosks and cultural venues throughout Massachusetts and is available in digital format online on BITA’s home page.

This issue has feature stories about Christmas music in New England, including Boston Holiday Pops, A Christmas Celtic Sojourn, and holiday shows at the Irish Cultural Centre, Blackstone River Theatre and other cultural venues. Among the artists profiled are fiddler Liz Carroll and vocalists Chloƫ Agnew and Niamh Farrell.

Additionally, winter and St. Patrick’s Day activities leading up to March 2020 are included, from parades and concerts to cultural events and commemorations.

The “Ireland” section has stories about Dublin, one of the world’s great literary capitals, and Galway, which is officially named Europe’s cultural capital in 2020. In addition, a schedule of popular group tours from Boston to Ireland is listed.

A map of the Boston’s Irish Heritage Trail, which is celebrating its 25th season in 2019, is included, along with descriptions of the 20 downtown and Back Bay sites along the trail.

BITA is celebrating its 19th year as a year-round, cultural tourism organization that promotes the state’s largest ethnic community. The US Census reports that nearly 24% of all Massachusetts residents claim Irish ancestry.

BITA publishes three issues of Travel & Culture, in March, June and November.

For further details on festivals and concerts, as well as year-round Irish and cultural activities, hotel packages, gift shops and Irish pubs, visit

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Boston Chinese and Irish-American Soccer Teams Battle in 1918

A newly formed and undefeated Boston Chinese soccer team, comprised of collegiate players from Massachusetts colleges, met its first defeat on November 30, 1918 by the local Irish-American Soccer team.  The final score was 2-0.

At the time, soccer was a popular workingman’s sport and was popular in immigrant cities like New Bedford, Fall River, Lawrence, Quincy, Pawtucket, RI and Bridgeport, CT.

The Chinese Soccer team was formed in fall 1917, consisting of players from MIT, Boston University, Harvard and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, according to the Chinese Students Monthly in 1918.

Leading up to the match, local sports writers were predicting a tough battle that would favor the Chinese.

“Irish-Americans have their work cut out for them tomorrow when they tackle the Chinese soccer team.  The Irish-Americans will get the surprise of their lives if they expect to win easily,” warned Boston Globe sports reporter George M. Collins in his column Soccer Snaps.

“Captain Kwang of the Chinese soccer team of greater Boston is much pleased at the opportunity his team will have to play the Irish Americans at Sullivan Square Saturday," wrote Collins.  "This chap can play the game as it should be played and his teammates too, are ready to show their wares.”

The day of the game, the Globe reported.  “Irish-Americans took the measure of the crack Chinese soccer team, beating them two to nil.  The Chinese were without two star players.

“Starting against the wind, the Chinamen were first to threaten but the Irish Americans were not long in getting into their stride.  Shaw tested goalie Wei, but Wei was right on the spot.  Both teams had early chances to score, but the Irish-Americans carried the ball into Chinese territory and near the end of the half Shaw sent the ball past Wei after the goalkeeper slipped in saving a fast shot.

"On restarting, the Chinese team took the aggressive and rained shots in on top of Bowe, but he saved them all.

"The Chinese were all over the Irishmen at this time and only hard luck deprived them of scores.  Shaw got away and sent across a pretty pass which Len Roberts of Charlestown got with his head.  The ball struck the bar and Lennie got the rebound and beat Wei with a great goal. 

"After this, the Chinese again forced the play but were unable to score.  This was the first defeat of the year for the Chinese."

At the end of the 19th century, it was not unusual for Irish and Chinese in Boston to interact across social, cultural and religious lines.  According to scholar Sarah Deutsch in her book, Women and the City, there were many Chinese-Irish marriages because of the preponderance of single Chinese men who worked on the railroads and single Irish women working as domestics.  In the early  20th century, Chinese were reportedly crossing the bridge from Chinatown to South Boston to be converted to Catholicism, writes Michael Quinlin in his book, Irish Boston.

Read more about Boston's Irish history by visiting

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Boston Puritans Hang Irish Immigrant during Witch Craze in 1688

On November 16, 1988 Boston City Council proclaimed Goody Glover Day, in tribute to Goodwife Ann Glover, an Irish women accused of being a witch by Cotton Mather and other Boston Puritan leaders.  Raymond L. Flynn was mayor.

An editorial in The Boston Globe, dated November 17, 1988, noted that a group of academics and a businessman "have formed a committee to erect a memorial on Boston Common or at the State House, where statues commemorate Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer, who were also victims of religious intolerance.   A memorial to Glover would be a reaffirmation by today's citizens that bigotry in any form is intolerable. The efforts deserve support."

Glover was an Irish captive sent to Barbados by Oliver Cromwell in the 1650s.  Her husband died there, and by 1680 she and her daughter were living in Boston, employed as housekeepers by John Goodwin.  In summer 1688 four of the five Goodwin children fell ill.  The doctor concluded "nothing but a hellish Witchcraft could be the Origin of these maladies."  Martha, the 13 year old daughter, confirmed the doctor's diagnosis by claiming she became ill right after she caught Glover stealing laundry.

Glover was arrested and tried as a witch. In the courtroom there was confusion over Glover's testimony, since she refused to speak English, despite knowing the language.  According to Mather, "the court could have no answers from her, but in the Irish, which was her native language." The court convicted Glover of witchcraft and sentenced her to be hanged on November 16, 1688.

James B. Cullen, author of The Story of the Irish in Boston (1889) wrote, "she was drawn in a cart, a hated and dreaded figure, chief in importance, stared at and mocked at, through the principal streets from her prison to the gallows….The people crowded to see the end, as always; and when it was over they quietly dispersed, leaving the worn-out body hanging as a terror to evil-doers."

It is commonly assumed that Glover was hanged at the public gallows on the Boston Common on the great elm that was destroyed in a storm in 1876.  But Cullen reported that Glover was hanged in the South End, on the site of the South End Burying Ground on Washington Street.

and that same year a plaque (photo above) was placed at Our Lady of Victories Church in Boston's South End/Bay Village neighborhood by the InternationalOrder of Alhambra, a Catholic Men's organization that marks Catholic landmarks around the world.

The plaque to Ann Glover at Our Lady of Victories Church is a stop along Boston’s Irish Heritage Trail.

For more about Irish heritage in Boston, visit

For details on Irish cultural activities year round, visit

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Boston's Statue to Scotsman Robert Burns Returns Home to The Fens after 44 Years

The wandering bard has finally returned home.  

The bronze statue of Scotland's poet 
Robert Burns (January 25, 1759 – July 21,1796) was returned to The Back Bay Fens in Boston in a ceremony on October 30, with local Scottish leaders, open space advocates and consular officials.  Scottish vocalist Maureen McMullan and friends provided the music for the event. 

The Burns statue was originally unveiled in the Fens on January 1, 1920, near the Westland Avenue entrance, in a full-fledged ceremony that included Governor Calvin Coolidge, Boston Mayor Peters, and a regiment of Highland bagpipers.  
Then, inexplicably, the statue was moved in 1975 to the newly opened Winthrop Square in Boston's Financial District.  Apparently the developer requested a statue of John Winthrop, and because one wasn't available, the city's Fine Arts Commission offered up the Burns statue instead. 

Local Scots were furious and protested to city officials, who were also sheepish about the decision made behind closed doors.  A letter to The Boston Globe by Julie Ransom stated, 

"The beautiful statue was abruptly removed from this appropriate site and rudely set down in the new Winthrop Square.  This maneuver, to enhance a developer’s investment at the expense of a politically powerless neighborhood, was authorized by a man who does not live in Boston.  Surely a more suitable statue could be found to preside over Winthrop Square, and the poet-farmer can return to his home.  He is indeed sorely missed by all who live near the Fens."

Created by sculptor Henry Hudson Kitsonthe bronze statue has a 30 ton granite base and depicts Burns with his dog Luath, walking the highlands of Scotland.  Kitson was a well-regarded artist who created a number of important statues in Boston, including the memorial to Patrick Collins, which is part of Boston's Irish Heritage Trail.

Best known for composing  the unofficial anthem to New Year's Eve, Auld Lang Syne, Burns was a prolific poet who wrote over 300 poems, as well as various epistles and ballads. He was prolific in other ways too, fathering fourteen children.

For details on Irish and Scottish cultural activities in greater Boston visit

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy's Garden and Greenway along Boston Irish Heritage Trail

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy (1890-1995), who held the Kennedy family together through tragedy and triumph for much of the 20th century, is permanently enshrined along Boston’s waterfront, with the Rose Kennedy Garden and the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway.

The Rose Kennedy Garden  is the first stop on Boston's Irish Heritage Trail, a walking tour of twenty landmarks that tell three centuries of Boston Irish history.  The Trail winds its way through downtown Boston and into the Back Bay, then ends at Fenway Park.

Located on Atlantic Avenue, not far from Rose’s birthplace at 4 Garden Court in the North End, the Rose Kennedy Garden is a small enclosed rose garden, encircled by an iron wrought fence, with a granite fountain as the centerpiece. It is part of Christopher Columbus Park, which runs along the waterfront and looks out onto Boston Harbor.  The Garden was officially dedicated on July 22, 1987 by Rose’s family, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who called his mother “the greatest teacher and most wonderful mother that any child could ever have.”

Today, the Rose Kennedy Garden has 104 rose bushes, one for every year of Rose’s life.

The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway is Boston's evolving gateway of parks, hotels, restaurants, cultural institutions, beer gardens and tourist amenities that has helped make Boston’s waterfront area a bustling new destination for both residents and visitors.  

The 27 acre swath of Greenway once lay beneath the unsightly and noisy Central Artery, a four lane, mile and a half highway built in the 1950s.  When the highway finally came down, the greenway began to take shape, connecting the city’s waterfront to the rest of downtown.

Since opening in 2008, the Greenway has become one of the city’s most popular public spaces, drawing office workers, tourists, students, conventioneers and local residents to enjoy its sweeping vistas and friendly amenities.  With a magnificent Carousel, public art, water fountains, concerts, food courts, Wi-Fi access and well-tended gardens, the Greenway serves its mission of being an urban oasis that is free and open to all. 

Neighbors along the Greenway, including Boston Harbor Hotel and InterContinental Boston Hotel, have been partners in ensuring access to the wharfs and harbor walkway that encircles the harbor.

Rose Kennedy is officially enshrined in law too.  Some years ago, the Massachusetts legislature passed a bill proclaiming her birthday, July 22 as “Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Day” in the Commonwealth.

To find more about her Rose’s life, visit the John F.Kennedy National Historic Site in Brookline, or the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library at Columbia Point in Dorchester.  The Library recently issued a book, Rose Kennedy’s Family Album, which traces her life from 1878-1946 and has wonderful photos of the Kennedy family.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Irish Traditional Music in Vermont this Fall Features Haley Richard & Quinn Bachand, Frankie Gavin and The Murphy Beds

Three Irish traditional music concerts are coming up at Mount Hollywood Studio in Belmont, Vermont this fall.  Suggested donation to each concert is $20 and patrons are encouraged to BYOB.

Performances include:

October 26 - Haley Richardson & Quinn Bachand

October 29 - Frankie Gavin

November 29 - The Murphy Beds

These concerts are organized by Mount Hollywood Studios owner and  Rod Ferrell and noted traditional musician Claudine Langille.

Mount Hollywood Studios is located at 45 Frost Hill Rd in Belmont, Vermont. 

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

Boston Irish Beer Fest in Canton on October 19

The premier Irish Beer Fest takes place at the Irish Cultural Centre (ICC) in Canton on Saturday,  October 19, 2019.  The fest runs from 1 - 10 p.m..  Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online or at the venue. ICC members are admitted free.
Beer tasting tents include: Authentic Irish Ales & Stouts, Irish Craft Brew, Local 'Celtic' Brews, Irish Cider, Pumpkin & Ginger Brews.  In addition, Irish whiskey tastings are also being offered. 
ICC Chef Joe Kilcommons has created a special menu for the Irish Beer Fest, to include Guinness Stew, Kerry Gold Cheese Burger, Irish Seafood Chowder, Fish & Chips. 
Artisan Food Trucks are also at the fest.
Two music stages feature a variety of traditional and local bands throughout the fest.  Here is the schedule of performances:
Traditional Irish Music tent
1-4pm: Jimmy Lever, Ciaran Dalton & Jen O'Shea.
4-6pm: Natasha Sheehy & Billy O'Neill will lead an open music session from 4-6pm. Irish trad musicians welcome & will get free entry with their instruments
6:30pm - 9:30pm: Ceili Mor in the Big Tent with Ceoltas Ceoltoiri Eireann

The Tent on the MAIN field will feature
1-4pm: The Rebels ( A Tom Petty Tribute Band),
4-7pm: DEVRI
7-10pm: Barry Hynes, Dave Barry & Amanda Biagi

Family and children's activities take place from 1-4 p.m. Other activities include face painting,pony rides, a petting zoo much more.  There's also a Vikings encampment and battle, Tug-O-War competitions, Archery exhibits Irish dancing and more.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Gaelic Sports Rivalries in Boston, 1929, Kerry-Cork, Roscommon-Galway

The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) of Massachusetts held a series of football games at Tech Field in Brookline on Columbus Day weekend on Saturday October 12, 1929.  Five matches in football and hurling were slated for the day.

The big matches were between Roscommon-Galway and Cork and Kerry.

Over Labor Day Weekend in August, Galway had defeated Roscommon 12-3 in its Labor Day match. And the Cork-Kerry match had ended in a 6-6 tie, according to The Boston Globe.

The GAA of Massachusetts formed in 1923, part of a series of local initiatives to preserve and promulgate Irish sports, culture, language and heritage in the Boston area.  By 1929 there were 9 hurling teams and 15 football teams in Massachusetts, according to author Alan Barnier in his book Sports and the Irish.

Read more about the Northeaster GAA Division, based at the Irish Cultural Centre in Canton, MA.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Boston and New York National Guard Units Share an Irish Roots Dating to the American Civil War

National Guard army regiments in New York and Massachusetts have maintained a comaraderie over the decades based on their beginnings as Irish immigrant regiments.

The 1st Battalion 69th Infantry Regiment of New York and the 1st Battalion 182nd Infantry Regiment of Massachusetts first fought together during the American Civil War, said Lt. Col. Thomas Steward, Battalion Commander of the Massachusetts regiment.

The regiments maintain their friendship through a friendly competition that takes place annually at Fort Devens in Massachusetts.  It's called the Logan-Duffy Rifle Match. The competition is named after General Lawrence J. Logan and General Edward Duffy, the Commander of their respective Regiments during the Spanish American War.

Read about the match in 2018.

General Logan's son was Edward L. Logan, for whom Logan International Airport is named.

For more about Boston Irish history, visit

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Frederick MacMonnies' Once-Controversial Sculpture at the Boston Public Library

One of Boston’s most interesting sculptures, Bacchante and Infant Faun, is displayed in the courtyard of the Boston Public Library in Copley Square, Back Bay.  The masterpiece was created in 1893 by American-born sculptor Frederick MacMonnies, a disciple of Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

MacMonnies gave the original casting to his friend, architect Charles Follen McKim, whose own masterpiece, the Boston Public Library, was being built.  McKim in turn offered it as a gift to the Library, which installed it.  But an outcry ensued from opponents who objected to the nudity of Bacchante, the Goddess of Wine, and McKim withdrew the gift, giving it instead to the Metropolitan Museum of Artin New York City.

The controversy over the censorship of the artwork gained MacMonnies a certain notoriety, and he made numerous replicas of the work which he sold to museums and bronze statuettes, which he sold wholesale to the general public.

Nearly a century after the banning of the sculpture, an enlightened generation of library officials decided to commission a bronze copy made from a copy of the sculpture at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The work of art was unveiled in the  BPL courtyard in May 1993, after the library completed a multi-million dollar restoration.

The Special Collections Department at the BPL has documents pertaining to the planning, design, and installation of the art work at the McKim Building. Among the subjects: Frederick MacMonnies's (1863-1937) sculpture Bacchante, and the influence Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907) had on the building's decorative features. 

Born in Brooklyn Heights on September 20, 1863, MacMonnies was the son of William and Julinana Eudora (West) MacMonnies, whose family came from Dumfries, Scotland.

MacMonnies died in 1937 in New York.