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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

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Patrick Collins Became Boston's Second Irish-born Mayor in January 1902

Patrick A. Collins, the second Irish-born Mayor of Boston,  was inaugurated on January 6, 1902, at Boston City Hall.  He beat incumbent Mayor Thomas N. Hart in what the Boston Post described as "the largest vote ever cast for mayor in Boston."

Collins, a resident of South Boston, received 52,046 votes to Hart's 33,076, winning by a plurality of 18,970 votes.  In an earlier contest in 1899 when the two men faced off, Hart beat Collins by a plurality of 2,281, according to the Post.

Monsignor Denis O'Callaghan of St. Augustine's Church in South Boston, led the prayer during Collins' inauguration ceremonies. 

In his inaugural address, Collins focused on was the city's financial condition and the public debt.  He talked about heavy traffic and  promised to build a new avenue "in the Fort Point Channel to the northern terminals and docks."  He promised improvements to Boston Harbor, with encouragement from Congress from Washington, "to float at all stages of the tide the largest vessels engaged in the commerce of the world."

After the address, Mayor Collins "was overwhelmed with congratulations and good wishes for an hour. Heads of the city departments and private citizens by the hundreds trooped into the mayor's office to shake his honor's hand," wrote The Boston Globe.

Afterwards, Collins and the City of Boston Aldermen went to dinner at the nearby Parker House at the top of School Street.

Born in 1844 in Ballinafauna, a townland outside of Fermoy, Cork, Collins came to Boston in March 1848, with his widowed mother, part of the mass exodus from Ireland due to the Irish Famine.  They settled in Chelsea, where the anti-Irish Know Nothing movement was fully blown in the 1850s.  Patrick got a job as an office boy with Robert Morris, an African-American lawyer, and later become a lawyer himself.  He entered into an upholstery apprenticeship, where he eventually became foreman.  All the while he was attending classes at Harvard University while studying at the Boston Public Library evenings. 

Collins made his first foray into American politics when he became a state representative from South Boston in 1868-69,and a state senator in 1870-71.  He became the first Irish Catholic elected as a US Congressman (1883-85).  He campaigned for President Grover Cleveland and was appointed as Consul General in London from 1893-97. 

A monument to Patrick A. Collins is located on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston's Back Bay and is part of the Boston Irish Heritage Trail