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Showing posts from November, 2023

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

Boston's Annual Pope Night Tradition Mired in Anti-Catholic Prejudice in 18th Century

Boston Broadside printed in 1768.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress In the 18th century, the annual Pope's Day holiday in Boston every November 5 was a chilling demonstration of the deep-seeded anti-Catholic sentiments prevalent in New England in the decades leading up to the Revolutionary War. One of those bizarre and archaic pastimes that measure a lack of progress in the human condition, Pope's Day was an English celebration marking a failed Catholic plot by Guy Fawkes to blow up the British Parliament in 1605. It was enthusiastically marked in England and in other places where the English gathered, and by the 1740s had become an annual tradition in Boston. Gangs of working class men from the South End and the North End marched from their respective neighborhoods into the center of Boston, holding Effigies of the Pope and the Devil that had been studiously constructed by townspeople. Upon meeting, the two sides, fueled by rum and the excitement of old grudges, at

Memorial to Patrick A. Collins, Boston Mayor, US Congressman, US Ambassador and Ireland Advocate, Unveiled on November 2, 1908

A monument in memory of Mayor Patrick A. Collins (1844-1905) was unveiled in Boston's Back Bay on November 2, 1908 by public officials, church leaders, family and friends, and by thousands of citizens who admired Collins during his illustrious life in Boston.  The monument was revealed to the assembled crowd by Paul Collins, son of the Mayor, who had difficulty pulling off the protective cloth because of unusually high winds and severe weather.   Boston's Catholic Archbishop O'Connell said the opening prayer and Mayor George A. Hibbard officially accepted the monument from Jerome Jones, president of the Collins Memorial Committee. Because of the severe weather that day, the speaking portion of the event was then moved indoors to the nearby Hotel Somerset.  Inside the hotel, former Governor of Massachusetts John D. Long gave a powerful oration, saying in part, "It is not the discharge of a perfunctory duty, but a labor of love, to take my part in this tribute to Patrick