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Monday, February 17, 2020

Irish National Land League Holds Rally at Boston's Faneuil Hall in February 1881

Faneuil Hall was packed on February 11, 1881 with public officials, distinguished citizens and Irish-American leaders, there to show support for the Irish national land league and to criticize the British government for trying to thwart the Land League movement in Ireland by arresting its leaders.

Among those present were Irish-American leaders John Boyle O'Reilly and Patrick A. Collins, Boston Mayor Frederick O. Prince, General Benjamin Butler and abolitionist Wendell Phillips.

Mayor Prince expressed outrage at “the tyranny of the British government in arresting and imprisoning, without sufficient reason, that good man and true patriot, Michael Davitt.”  

Patrick Collins said, “This is not simply an Irish movement, but a movement in the interests of justice, truth, human rights and the civilization of the 19th century. What is happening in Ireland today is to happen in England and Scotland tomorrow, and this the British government knows and dreads.”

General Butler said, “In Ireland, the greater part of the men owning the larger share of the lands of Ireland had gone abroad, leaving the land in the charge of agents and middlemen, who had no interest in her people and no employment but to see how much money could be wrong out of the Irish people for their masters abroad.”

A resolution was passed…” that we hereby send to the people of Ireland a profound assurance of American sympathy with their suffering and so far as international comity allows of earnest cooperation with their constitutional agitation, which has already preserved them from the calamitous consequences of famine.”

For more about Boston Irish history, visit the IrishHeritageTrail.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Baseball star Mike 'King' Kelly signs with the Boston Beaneaters, February 1887

Mike King Kelly, one of the premier baseball players of the late 19th century, signed a deal to play for the Boston Beaneaters on February 14, 1887 for a record $10,000, the highest price paid for a professional athlete up to that time. 

The Boston Globe reported that Kelly left the Chicago White Stockings in a deal negotiated on Valentine's Day in Poughkeepsie, NY between Kelly and Beaneater treasurer J.B. Billings.

"Diamonds cannot be bought with shoestrings," Kelly said as "he toyed with a diminutive cane and puffed at a Sweet Caporal cigarette," according to the Globe. 

Kelly had three great years with the Beaneaters, then went on to coach and play for the Boston Reds in the short-lived Players League.  Described as a larger-than-life character, Kelly was as notorious off the field as on.  A great base runner, he had his own song, Slide Kelly Slide, a popular ditty written by J.W. Kelly and sung by Maggie Kline. 

Along with Boston Globe reporter William L. Drohan of South Boston, Kelly wrote a book  Play Ball: Stories of the Ball Field, published in 1888 and described as baseball's first autobiography.

After baseball Kelly went on the Vaudeville circuit with a minstrel group called O'Dowd's Neighbors, which was later described as consisting of "two Irish comedians, a German comedian, a female impersonator, some clever dancers, a Negro quartet, a donkey and a puppy." 

Kelly was in Boston, getting ready for performance, when he fell ill and was taken to a hospital where he died of pneumonia.  The page one Boston Globe obituary on November 9, 1894, described it this way,

"At 9:55 last night King Kelly heard the decision of the Great Umpire of which there is no appeal.  The famous ball player passed away at that hour at the emergency hospital, with a few of his old friends watching every phase of his last uphill fight in the game where defeat is sure."

Kelly is buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Mattapan, a neighborhood in Boston.  He was later inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY in 1945. 

Here are some other stories about Irish-American athletes in Boston.

For more details on Boston's Irish history, visit

For cultural activities, visit

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

DeValera Holds Rallies in Fall River & New Bedford

Eamon deValera barnstormed into Fall River and New Bedford MA on Tuesday, February 10, 1920, part of his American tour to build up support and recognition for the Irish Republic.

He arrived in Fall River around 3:30 and addressed a large gather of Irish-Americans who had waited patiently for his arrival. Music was furnished by the Finneran’s orchestra and Irish airs made up the program.

The Fall River Globe described the scene, “His utterances, especially when he made reference to the fact that Ireland would never surrender to British rule, evoked a wild manifestation of enthusiasm.  His every word was followed with the closest attention.”

His opening remarks were in Irish, then he said, “I expected to find people here as I have found them everywhere who talk the Celtic tongue. I was addressed in that language as I entered the hall here.  You see the fact that I was greeted here and in many other places in the Irish language shows that this language is known, and the few words I have spoken convey a message to those who understand it that I could next express with the same feeling in English."

In his speech, DeValera made the argument of Ireland being “separate and distinct as we are claiming her to be.  Ireland is not part of the British empire and never has been.”

He equated British rule with imperialism and Irish independence with nationalism.

“Are you for nationalism or imperialism,” DeValera asked the crowd.   “Fundamentally it is right against might.  Ireland is an ancient nation.  For 700 years we have been struggling to secure commend of our own destinies and not to have them guided by outside influence and dominance. We never surrendered our sovereign rights.  There never has been a voluntary pact to make us a part of that empire….We do not want to be a part of an imperial system.  Ireland naturally never ran in imperial channels.”

He compared talk of succession of Ulster to parts of Massachusetts.   

“I point out that if you were to attempt to solve the Irish question by cutting off that northeast corner, you would be guilty of succession of the Irish republic.  It would be like cutting off Bunker Hill and Lexington."

After Fall River, DeVelera was escorted to nearby New Bedford, where he met Mayor Ashley, dined at the Parker House and addressed two meetings, including a large assembly in the high school.   He finished up at 11:30 p.m. and retired to his hotel.

Summing up the visit to Massachusetts, the Fall River Daily Evening News reported, “He came to plead the cause of the republic of Ireland, of which he is the accredited president and the spokesman in this country, seeking to convince Americans that the republic exists and that it has a logical claim to recognition.”

Friday, January 24, 2020

New England Celebrates Scottish Poet Robert Burns in 2020

Burns Statue in Boston Fens 

Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns (January 25, 1759 – July 21, 1796), is revered and celebrated in his native country and around the world.  Burns Night began in 1801, five years after Burns’ death, and has continued enthusiastically ever since.

This devotion to Burns’ memory is especially evident in New England, where generations of Scots and Scots-Irish have settled over the past 400 years.

To honor his birthday each year, New Englanders celebrate with traditional Scottish music and song, poetry and toasts and cuisine and congeniality.  Here is a selection of Robert Burns celebrations that take place in 2020, compiled by the Boston Irish Tourism Association.

January 21
The Burren Pub
247 Elm Street, Davis Square, Somerville
First organized in 2010, this community event takes place in one of the Boston area’s most notable tradition music pubs, this annual celebration of Robert Burns features a traditional Scottish meal, Scotch whisky, recitations of works by, about, and in the spirit of the Bard of Scotland and a pub sing-along. The event takes place in the acoustically superior Burren Back Room and there is a vegetarian option for the meal. 

January 25
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel
99 Erdman Way, Leominister
Celebrating the life and works of Robert Burns, this event features music by popular Scottish singer Charlie Zahm with special guests the Scots Highland Pipes and Drums, plus Katriona and Calum Bell.  The meal features a roast beef dinner with all the trimmings ad haggis.  The event is hosted by Class Act Imports and proceeds benefit Friends Never Forget and Operation Camp.

January 25
Hamilton Hall
9 Chestnut Street, Salem
Seated Supper, Open Bar, Poetry, Scottish Dancing, Scotch Whisky Tasting with Brand Ambassadors and Experts. Also, enter to win a free trip to the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland, provided by the National Trust for Scotland.

January 25
Mechanics Hall
321 Main Street, Worcester
A night of piping, poetry and Scottish ceilidh music with Elias Alexander and the Bywater Band.  Dinner includes roast beef and chicken picatta. 

January 26
The Haven
2 Perkins Street, Jamaica Plain, Boston
The Haven’s Burns Night includes a three-course meal of haggis, cullen skink, and more (with vegetarian options available), a single malt scotch toast, songs and poetry. Piper Elias Alexander entertains with Scottish music, and there is an address to the Haggis and a toast to the ladies.

February 1
Derryfield Country Club
Manchester, NH
Hosted by the New England Scottish Arts Center and New Hampshire Pipes and Drums, the night features Burns poetry, haggis, Scottish music, ceilidh dancing.

February 7 & 8
Marblehead Little Theatre
12 School Street, Marblehead
A romantic and rousing concert celebrating Scotland’s Robert Burns, musicians include piper, singer and fiddler Elias Alexander, singer Julianne Gearhart and pianist Neil Pearlman, with narration by BBC’s Rhod Sharp. 

Read about the statue to Robert Burns in downtown Boston. 

Find out more about Irish and Scottish cultural activities in New England by visiting