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Showing posts from August, 2023

Milmore's Civil War Memorial, the Sphinx, Unveiled at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge in August 1872

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress In August 1872, one of America's most distinctive civil war monuments was being slowly and carefully put into place on a massive pedestal in front of the chapel at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA.  The Sphinx Monument was created by Irish immigrant sculptors Martin Milmore  and his brother Joseph, who arrived in Boston in 1851 with their widowed mother and three other brothers, Patrick, Charles and James. According to records, Martin did the artwork and modeling of the Sphinx and Joseph did the carving.  Martin Milmore Bust of Jacob Bigelow (1787-1879),  Courtesy of Harvard University Portrait Collection   The monument was the brainchild of Dr. Jacob Bigelow, a physician at Mass General Hospital, who helped to create Mt. Auburn Cemetery in 1830, and later became the longtime president of the Mount Auburn Cemetery Association. He was also an enthusiastic Egyptologist.  Newspaper reports vary on the size of the granite block used to

New Bedford Whaler Catalpa Rescues Six Irish Prisoners from British Penal Colony in Australia

  The Catalpa whaleboat out of New Bedford, Massachusetts, pulled off one of the most daring rescues of the 19th century when it retrieved six Irish prisoners from a British penal colony in Freemantle, Australia.  The escape plot was hatched for months by Irish leaders in American including Fenian John Devoy, John Breslin, who masterminded the escape plan and writer John Boyle O'Reilly, who had himself escaped from the penal colony in 1869 on another New Bedford whaler, the Gazelle. The ship, which rescued the prisoners in April, 1876, pulled into New York harbor on August 19, 1876, after the daring high seas adventure. The Catalpa was captained by George S. Anthony, an experienced sailor who faced down an Australian attempt to re-capture the freed prisoners on the high seas.  According to the Boston Evening Transcript, the Georgette, an Australian war steamer, pulled alongside the Catalpa as it was making its escape and demanded to come aboard to search for the prisoners, which Ca

Charlestown's Ursuline Convent for Girls Burned to the Ground on August 11, 1834

On August 11, 1834, the Ursuline Convent in Charlestown, Massachusetts, a Catholic-run boarding school for girls of all denominations, was set afire by workmen furious about the growing presence of Catholics in the town.  About a dozen frightened nuns and some 57 young female boarding students, still in their nightclothes, rushed from their beds onto the school grounds as the building went up in flames, with the bloodthirsty mob intent on burning it to the ground. The night of terror was led by John Buzzell, a New Hampshire native who worked as a bricklayer in Boston. The mob was prompted by an false rumor being spread around town that a girl was being held against her will in the basement of the convent. "We remember no parallel to this outrage in the whole course of history," wrote the Boston Atlas . "Turn to the bloodiest incidents of the French revolution - roll up the curtain that hangs before its most sanguinary scenes - and point us to its equal in un

John Boyle O'Reilly, Defender of the Downtrodden, Dies on August 10, 1890

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, 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-Americans" is dead, proclaimed The Boston Pilot. Born on June 28, 1844 at Dowth Castle in County Meath 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, Gazelle, in 1869, 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

Sounds from a Safe Harbor Festival Runs September 7-10 in Cork City, Ireland

Sounds from a Safe Harbor , a biennial festival of music, dance, art, theatre and conversation, takes place on September 7-10     in Cork City, Ireland.       The festival was co-founded by Irish movie actor Cillian Murphy, who recently portrayed the “father of the atomic bomb” in the hit film Oppenheimer.  In addition to his acting talents, Murphy is also a talented and passionate musician. Cillian Murphy, courtesy of SFSH FB   Sounds from a Safe Harbor focuses on new works, collaborations and shared experiences, and this year’s lineup includes Chicago band Wilco, the Bonny Light Horsemen performing with the RTÉ orchestra and Crash Ensemble, Ireland’s leading new music ensemble for ground-breaking, contemporary music.  See full schedule.   The festival is part of a full palette of things to do in County Cork , one of Ireland’s distinctive visitor destinations, filled with  stunning scenery, picturesque towns and fascinating heritage attractions.  Foodies should check out the English M

Born in Cork, Ireland, Hugh O'Brien was Boston's First Irish-Born Mayor, 1885-88

Hugh O'Brien of County Cork, the first Irish-born person to be elected as mayor of the city of Boston, died on August 1, 1895 in Somerville, after  His funeral was held at  Holy Cross Cathedral , and "thousands of people thronged the cathedral to pay their last tribute of love and respect" to O'Brien, a local newspaper wrote. The Charitable Irish Society sent a five-foot high Irish harp, made of roses, orchards and lilys. "The largest and most conspicuous delegation was that from the St. Vincent's Orphan Asylum, 200 little children dressed alike, who sat immediately behind the family," Republic Newspaper reported. Born in Ireland on July 13, 1827, O'Brien emigrated with his family to Boston in 1832 when he was five years old. He attended a public school in Boston’s Fort Hill neighborhood, and at age 12 joined the Boston Courier newspaper as an apprentice. By the age of 15, he had become foreman of a printing office, before starting his own publicatio

August 4, 1718, Five Boats Arrive in Boston Harbor Carrying 700 Ulster Irish Presbyterians

  Boston Harbor, 18th Century "On August 4, 1718, five boats, containing about seven hundred Ulster Irish Presbyterians, also known as Scots-Irish, arrived in Boston Harbor. They had been assured beforehand that they could purchase a parcel of land in the city, but when they arrived city leaders informed them they would need to join the Puritans’ Congregational Church to reside in Boston. A few of them did, but the rest refused to change religion. "At Governor Samuel Shute’s suggestion, the Presbyterians moved to twelve square miles of land in Casco Bay, Maine, and eventually settled Worcester, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire. "The arrival of these new settlers caused some concern. Alluding to grain shortages in the city, Thomas Lechmere complained in 1718, “These confounded Irish will eat us all up, provisions being most extravagantly dear and scarce.”  Map of Boston, 1722 "The Boston Town Records in 1723 noted that “great numbers of people have latel