Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2023

Massachusetts Civil War Centennial Commission 1961 Report Details Formation of the Irish Ninth Regiment

  On December 29, 1961, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts released its Report of the Civil War Centennial Commission. This was the third annual report since the commission was created in 1958. The 28-page document (Senate No 527) recapped a variety of activities undertaken by the Commission for the 1961 calendar year, including various national, regional and local meetings, educational materials and reenactments that took place. Subcommittees reporting on their work included education, publicity and planning.  Among the activities planned for 1962 was a marking of the Trent Affair, which nearly brought Britain into the civil war; and the Emancipation Proclamation in September 1962.    A full century earlier, on September 22, 1862, President Lincoln issued a Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation , stating that enslaved people in those states or parts of states still in rebellion as of January 1, 1863, would be declared free. In 1963, plans were discussed to honor the 9th Irish Regim

Thomas Valentine Sullivan, Founder of the Boston YMCA in 1851

  Thomas Valentine Sullivan, a Boston-born sea caption and lay minister, opened the first YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) in the United States in Boston, Massachusetts in December 1851. He and his Boston co-founders were inspired by the YMCA movement that started in London in 1844 launched by George Williams. The mission of Boston's YMCA, Sullivan explained to an audience at Old South Church shortly after it opened, was to “meet the young stranger as he enters our city, take him by the hand, direct him to a boarding house where he may find a quiet home. . . and in every way throw around him good influences, so that he may feel that he is not a stranger.” The Boston branch, which would become the prototype for thousands of YMCAs across the United States, was designed to offer the following amenities to young men new to the city: . a reading room and library . popular lectures series and evening classes . social gatherings and excursions . a gym . employment department . a

Revolutionary War Hero John Glover is Memorialized on Commonwealth Avenue, Boston

Colonel John Glover, a local hero of the American Revolution, is memorialized on Boston's Commonwealth Avenue Mall with an heroic bronze portrayal by Irish-born sculptor Martin Milmore. Described as an overlooked hero by the National Park Service , Glover was born in Salem, Massachusetts and became a successful sailor and maritime leader on Boston's North Shore.  His Marblehead Regiment, comprised of sailors and fishermen from Essex County,  were engaged in various battles during the war, from Bunker Hill and Battle of Long Island to the Battle of Rhode Island and the Battle of Saratoga.  But their most famous role was on Christmas night on December 25, 1776.  According to the National Park Service account of that episode, Glover and his men "ferried 2,400 troops -- again with horses, artillery and wagons -- across the Delaware River under extreme weather conditions. After marching several miles, they fought in the Battle of Trenton, and then transported the army and about

John Sullivan Commits the First Act of Armed Rebellion against the British Crown at Ft. William & Mary in New Hampshire in December 1774

New Hampshire native John Sullivan committed the first act of armed rebellion against the British Crown on December 14, 1774, when he and his men raided Fort William and Mary in Portsmouth, NH and seized an arsenal of gun powder and guns. The quickly planned raid came after Paul Revere rode up from Boston to alert Sullivan that two regiments of British soldiers were on their way up to occupy the fort. "In an instant Sullivan made up his mind as to what it was his duty to do, and within less than two hours he had gathered his force and was ready for business," wrote Rev. Thomas Gregory in the New York American in 1907. "The party, sixteen in number, boarded an unwieldy, sloop-rigged old craft and darted off down the river to Portsmouth. It was a clear, cold moonlight night, and presently the crude masonry of old Fort William and Mary loomed up in the distance, reminding them of the fact that they were close on to their quarry. When within a rod or so of the shore their v

Maud Gonne, Ireland's Joan of Arc, Speaks in Multiple American Cities on Behalf of Irish Prisoners through December 1897

Maud Gonne, referred to in the media as Ireland's Joan of Arc, was criss-crossing the United States in November and December 1897 to raise funds and awareness of the plight of Irish prisoners in English prisons. Proceeds of funds raised on the speaking tour were given to Irish Political Prisoners. In December alone, Gonne spoke in Colorado, Elizabeth, NJ, Brooklyn, Buffalo, Boston, Lynn and Fall River, Massachusetts. On December 23, Gonne spoke at Anawan Hall in Fall River, where a large audience received her and cheered her on. She is accompanied by James F. Eagan, an ex-prisoner, and delegate from the Amnesty Association of Ireland and Great Britain. She said in her speech, "America will hold its place as a refuge for all of the oppressed, the great ideal republic, the lamp of liberty, lighting the fires of freedom throughout the world." Illustration in the Fall River Globe The Fall River Herald described her as "a striking-looking young woman, being of unusual

Irish Protesting British Abuses Stage Boston Tea Party Reenactment on September 26, 1981

During the 1981 Irish hunger strike Bostonians dumped British Tea into Boston Harbor On Saturday, September 26, 1981, more than 1,000 protestors in Boston marched from Charlestown to the downtown waterfront, where they threw chests of British tea into Boston Harbor, a reenactment of the famous act of civil disobedience that occurred 208 years earlier on December 16, 1773.  The marchers were protesting British human rights abuses in Northern Ireland while supporting Irish political prisoners who were involved in the Irish hunger strike.  It was also part of a nationwide effort in New York, Baltimore, San Francisco and other cities to boycott British goods until the hunger strike issue was resolved.  The 1981 hunger strike began on March 1, when prisoner Bobby Sands stopped eating in protest of prison conditions in Northern Ireland, and it ended on October 3 when the six remaining hunger strikers decided to end the protest.  In all, ten men died during the hunger strike. The protest star

Remembering Scottish Fiddler Johnny Cunningham, the Wizard of Air

(This story was posted on December 15, 2013, and is updated here on the 20th anniversary of Johnny's death) Who could ever forget Johnny Cunningham's rattlesnake-skin cowboy boots stomping the tempo of a jig into the floor? Or the lit cigarette perched between two fingers of his bow hand as he waylaid a Scottish strathspey and raced it to a furious conclusion amid gasps of awe and joy from onlookers? When Cunningham died of a heart attack at age 46 on December 15, 2003, Bostonians mourned one of the most talented musicians to ever grace the local scene, a man renowned as much for his wit and personality as for his music. Whether performing on stage at Harvard's Saunders Theater or telling stories around a table at Tiernan's Pub on Broad Street, Johnny Cunningham was Scotland's greatest export to Boston over the last 25 years. That is why a contingent of local musicians traveled down to New York City for the funeral service, including fiddlers Seamus Connolly and Lar

British Golf Writer Spawns Boston Tee Party Protest in June 1988

The infamous Boston Tea Party took place on December 16, 1773, part of a widespread dissatisfaction in the American colonies about Britain's abuse of power, and also, the condescending attitude toward Bostonians and Americans in general by certain British subjects.   Flash forward to June, 1988, when a similar protest against British arrogance occurred in Boston, this time directed at one Peter Dobereiner, an English golf writer who was covering the U.S. Open Golf Tournament at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts on June 16-19,1988.  In an apparent attempt at humor, Dobereiner penned a tone-deaf and scurrilous anti-Irish essay, all in good fun as he believed, which appeared in the 96 page Golf Digest.    The publication was being distributed through The Boston Globe newspaper. The offensive story itself Entitled 'The Role of the Irish at The Country Club,' Dobereiner delved into a vile and base satire of the Irish, the kind of depiction reminiscent of  Punch Maga

On December 10, 1923, Irish Poet William Butler Yeats was Honored at a Banquet by the Nobel Committee in Stockholm, Sweden

On December 10, 1923, Irish poet William Butler Yeats  was honored for  winning the  Nobel Prize for Literature at a banquet held in his honor at the Grand Hôtel in Stockholm, Sweden. The Nobel committee had announced the award on November 14, 1923, in recognition of Yeats' accomplished and influential poetry, as well as his efforts with others to amplify Ireland’s literary theater while cultivating a cultural nationalism that supported political goals of independence. Yeats said at the banquet, "I have been all my working life indebted to the Scandinavian nations. When I was a very young man, I spent several years writing in collaboration with a friend the first interpretation of the philosophy of the English poet Blake. Blake was first a disciple of your great Swedenborg and then in violent revolt and then half in revolt, half in discipleship. My friend and I were constantly driven to Swedenborg for an interpretation of some obscure passage, for Blake is always in his mystic

John Boyle O'Reilly is Keynote Speaker at Massachusetts Colored League Meeting in Faneuil Hall on December 7, 1886

Leaders from Boston's Irish and Black communities came together to support each other at Faneuil Hall on December 7, 1886, where the Massachusetts Colored League held its first public meeting.   Irish immigrant and activist John Boyle O'Reilly and Black attorney Edwin G. Walker were keynote speakers at the meeting, The Boston Globe reported. The purpose of the meeting, according to League President John L. Ruffin, was "to hear the opinions of all lovers of political freedom and independence made public, and to take such action as should benefit the Negro race, irrespective of its condition, and to endorse the president of the United States. The Negro has too long remained to silence, and therefore the Massachusetts League, through its chairman and executive committee, has issued this call." Prior to O'Reilly's speech, the League passed a resolution:  Resolved, That the 8.000,000 of colored Americans of the United States, who know what it is to be oppressed, s

Two British Solders Charged with Manslaughter in the Boston Massacre Killings, December 5, 1770

Henry Pelham's original illustration, 'The Fruits of Arbitrary Power, or the Bloody Massacre On December 5, 1770, nine months to the day after the  Boston Massacre , two of the nine soldiers in the British regiment,  Matthew Kilroy and Hugh Montgomery, were found guilty of manslaughter for the killing of five local Boston men; the other seven soldiers were exonerated. The incident in March, known as the Boston Massacre, helped to trigger the start of the American Revolution.  The Twenty-ninth Regiment  on guard that night and representing the British Crown, was actually a battalion of Irishmen who had been conscripted by the English to fight in the colonies. The 29th regiment was described this way: “the average man was over 30, medium tall, and Irish.” The 29th was led by Captain Thomas Preston, and the soldiers accused at the trial had names such as Hartigan, McCauley, Kilroy, White, Warren, Carroll and Montgomery. It was Preston who ordered his men to present arms to keep th

Reflections on the 60th Anniversary of John F. Kennedy's Life and Legacy

As we mark the 60th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, we reflect upon President Kennedy’s vision, his desire for a united Ireland, his love of poetry, and what his presidency meant to the Irish. President Kennedy’s thousand days in office marked an epoch in the Boston Irish story. One man stepping forth from a marginalized community that had struggled mightily for so many generations, a community that had faced hostility while living on the edge of society, driven to success by fear of hunger and by anger at prejudice, determined to right the wrongs for the sake of the children and future generations. JFK was the future generation that his great-grandparents, grandparents and parents had daydreamed about as they were toiling in America, saving their pennies, getting stronger, wiser, and warier. He may have represented the hopes and dreams of the world, and of a nation, but in essence JFK represented the pinnacle of immigrant dreams for millions of Irish around the world.

Massachusetts Removed 'God Save the King' from its annual Thanksgiving Proclamation Starting in 1774

Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1773 A story in the November 24, 1897 edition of The Boston Globe traces the evolution of the Thanksgiving Day proclamation between the years 1773 and 1785.  It reveals that the Thanksgiving proclamation issued by Governor Thomas Hutchinson in 1773 was the last year the phrase "God Save the King" was used in Massachusetts.   Hutchinson was replaced in 1774 by Royal Governor Thomas Gage, who continued to issue the phrase "God Save the King" in other proclamations, but that year the newly formed Massachusetts Provincial Congress issued its own Thanksgiving proclamation, signed by John Hancock, deliberately omitting the phrase. The language also called for "harmony and union to be restored between Great Britain and these colonies." Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1774 Courtesy of Unitarian Universalist Harvard Square Library In 1775 there was a notable incident where Reverend Daniel Rogers from Littleton MA insisted on using the words &#

Irish Graves at the Old Granary Burying Ground in Boston

  The  Granary Burying Ground on Tremont Street in downtown Boston, nestled between Boston Common and Boston City Hall, has a number of important colonial era and Irish Revolutionary War figures buried here.  Among them is James Sullivan (1744-1808), lawyer, orator and statesman. The son of indentured Irish immigrants who settled in Maine, Sullivan was a delegate to the Continental Congress and governor of Massachusetts in 1807.  Robert Treat Paine (1731-1814), whose ancestry goes back to County Tyrone, Ireland, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. William Hall (d. 1771) was a founder in 1737 of the Charitable Irish Society , the nation’s oldest Irish organization, and the first known president of the Society.  Perhaps the most popular Irish immigrant buried at Old Granary is Patrick Carr, who was one of the five men shot by British troops on March 5, 1770 in an episode that helped trigger the American Revolution. Carr, described variously as a sailor and as a leather ma

Irish activist Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington Speaks in Pittsfield, Masachusetts on November 11, 1922

  On Sunday, November 11, 1922, Irish activist Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington spoke at the MacSwiney Club in Pittsfield, MA, to report to American audiences on the condition of Ireland, and the Irish Civil War underway between Free State and anti-Treaty forces. According to the North Adams Transcript, Sheehy-Skeffington was "in this country at the special request of the late Dr. John F. Kelly of Pittsfield, noted Inventor and authority on Ireland."  Kelly was also the founder of the MacSwiney Club in Pittsfield, and had invited her to speak before he died. Hanna told her audience that "plans are underway to deport 10,000 Irish political prisoners to Schelles Island off the coast of Africa and that British General Nevil Macready is still in Dublin Castle directing the military operations of the Free Staters as he did those of the Black and Tans," according to The Boston Globe. She illustrated the hardships that Irish women had to endurer by the following experience: her

Irish Pipers' Club Meet in Boston to initiate new members and to plan visit to New York Pipers Club

  On November 7, 1915, the Boston Pipers Club met in Seaver Hall in the Paine Memorial Building on Appleton Street in the South End to initiate seven new members into the Club, according to a story in the Boston Globe the following day. The Club also discussed a trip to New York to participate in the 10th anniversary of that city's Pipers Club. According to the story, the Pipers Club would leave Boston on the midnight train on November 25, with piper William Hanafin leading the delegation. The Boston Pipers Club was initiated in 1910 and held its first concert at Wells Memorial Hall on January 11, featuring William Hanafin and his brother Michael on fiddle. In the audience were uilleann pipers Patsy Touhey and Sergeant James Early from Chicago. Courtesy of Burns Library, Boston College William F. Hanafin (1875-1924) and his brother Michael C. Hanafin (1880-1970) were born in Callinfercy, County Kerry, Ireland according to the Burns Library at Boston College, which holds the Hanafin