Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2024

Returning from the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, President Woodrow Wilson is confronted by Suffragette and Irish Protests in Boston

President Wilson on deck of Coast Guard cutter Ossipee, approaching Commonwealth Pier in South Boston, February 24, 1919.    Photo courtesy of UMass/Amherst, University Archives . U.S. President Woodrow Wilson arrived in Boston, Massachusetts aboard the USS George Washington on February 24, 1919, with a series of parades and protests awaiting him.  The president was returning from the Paris Peace Conference in France, where he and other world leaders, generals, diplomats and government officials were trying to broker a post-World War I agreement that would stand the test of time.   At the heart of the conference, especially from the perspective of Ireland and the Irish Diaspora in the United States, was whether the talks would result in freedom and independence for small nations in Europe, including Ireland.  The day Wilson arrived in Boston, a two-day Irish Race Convention was just ending in Philadelphia.  More than 5,000 people attended the convention, discussing how best persuade Wi

Irish Art, Statues and Rare Artifacts at the Massachusetts State House, along Boston's Irish Heritage Trail

  The Massachusetts State House has a number of beautiful and rare works of art and artifacts relating to the Irish-American experience, and is a featured stop along  Boston's Irish Heritage Trail .   The incredible collection of art and artifacts is maintained and curated by the State House Art Commission .  Here is just a selection of items worth seeing the next time you visit the Massachusetts State House.  Irish Flags, 9th Irish Regiment The flags of the famous Massachusetts Fighting 9th Regiment, which fought in all of America's wars, from the Civil War to the Korean War, is in the Hall of Flags at the State House. Mustered into service on June 11, 1861, the regiment was headed by Colonel Thomas Cass (1821-62), an Irish immigrant who organized the Irish immigrant regiment following the Battle of Fort Sumter in April, 1861, when President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteers to defend the Union. Today facsimiles of the flags are on display at

Boston Landmarks Depict Irish and Scots-Irish Heroics in the American Revolution

Irish and Scots-Irish immigrants played a pivotal role in the Revolutionary War, as evidenced by the number of public landmarks that relate to their heroics and sacrifice. From Commodore John Barry and General John Sullivan to Boston Massacre victim Patrick Carr and the Scots-Irish who fought at Bunker Hill and Dorchester Heights, the Irish were front and center during America's battle for independence.   The  Boston Irish Heritage Trail  gives a glimpse of the Revolutionary Irish through landmarks on Boston Common, the Massachusetts State House, Granary Burying Ground and Bunker Hill Monument. Many of these landmarks intersect with  Boston's Freedom Trail,  which provides an important overview of Boston's instrumental role in the American Revolution.   Visit the  Boston Common Visitor Information Center  at 137 Tremont Street for a free map of the Irish Heritage Trail, and take a self-guided tour. Here are some Revolutionary landmarks with Irish connections.  Granary Buryi

Frederick Douglass and John Boyle O'Reilly, Allies for Freedom and Liberty

John Boyle O’Reilly and Frederick Douglass were natural allies in 19th century New England, where they aligned on pressing issues of liberty and justice for all.  In the early part of their lives, both men were fugitives, on the run from their captors as they tried to make their way to freedom. Both became writers and used their considerable skills to advocate for their own people, but also for other groups being denied equal rights and freedoms. And both men were powerful and persuasive orators who spoke truth to power even when it went against the grain of public opinion. O’Reilly (1844-1890) was an Irish rebel whom the British exiled to a life imprisonment at a penal colony in Australia. He made a daring escape on a New Bedford whaling ship and eventually reached America, where he settled in Boston in January 1870. As editor and later publisher of The Boston Pilot , he used his considerable skills as a writer to advocate for Ireland’s independence, and for the rights of Blacks, Nat

Boston Mayor John F. Fitzgerald, grandfather of President Kennedy, was born in the North End on February 11, 1863

Photo Courtesy of the Boston Public Library John Fitzgerald, the grandfather of U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was born on February 11, 1863 in Boston's North End, one of 12 children born to Irish immigrant Thomas Fitzgerald of Limerick and Mary Josephine Hannon of Acton, MA. Fitzgerald was an audacious, colorful politician whose melodious singing voice earned him the nickname Honey Fitz. His political career took shape quickly. He worked his way up from the Boston Common Council in 1892 to state senate in 1893. In the congressional primary held in September 1894, Fitzgerald beat sitting Congressman Joseph H. O'Neill, a popular Democrat who had held the seat since 1889. In the final election, Fitzgerald beat Republican challenger, Boston Alderman Jesse Morse Gove, winning by a mere 1,916 votes. His daughter, Rose Fitzgerald , married Joseph P. Kennedy from East Boston, spawning the Kennedy political dynasty that dominated Boston for most of the 20th century. Fitzgeral

Irish Indentured Servants on the Run in 18th Century Boston

  New England Courant, February 8-15, 1725 Thousands of Irish boys and girls came to America in the 1700s as indentured servants. Some of them came voluntarily, while others were kidnapped by marauding British soldiers and sent over as cheap labor in the colonies.  As indentured servants, many Irish and Scots gained passage to America by agreeing to work in servitude for up to seven years. But once they got here, many of them quickly absconded from their masters, as evidenced by the number of classified ads in the first half of the 18th century, like this ad for Mary Farrel in the  New England Courant  on January 29, 1725 Little is known about Mary Farrel, apart from the ad, which describes her as a ‘runaway Irish servant maid’ with a reward for her return. When she absconded on a cold winter night, Farrel was wearing only ‘a black Griffet Gown, an old grey Petticoat, and a pair of Ticken Shoes with red heels.’  Sometimes the runaway servants were caught and punished, only to escape ag

Harvard Refuses to Let Irish Woman Speak about British Atrocities in Ireland after the 1916 Uprising

 Photo: National Museum of Ireland Irish activist Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington was denied a request to speak at Harvard University in January 1917, when she was in Boston to speak about "The Truth of the Irish Uprising." Mrs. Sheehy-Skeffington had already spoken at Faneuil Hall, where 2,000 people jammed into the famous hall to hear her talk about the execution of her husband, writer and pacifist Francis Skeffington, who was taken out and shot without trail in the wake of the Easter 1916 uprising in Dublin, and the ensuing British coverup. She was introduced at Faneuil Hall by Mayor James Michael Curley . Learning of the success of the Faneuil Hall speech, Harvard then denied her access to its campus. The Boston Globe reported, "Harvard has refused to let Mrs Sheehy-Skeffington speak in a building under corporation control. This is a great compliment to the power of the Irish widow. When she tells her story of the way in which the British Government treated the Irish at t

City of Quincy Unveils Robert Burns Statue in 1925 Honoring the Scottish Poet

Photo Courtesy of Michael Quinlin Scotland’s famous poet Robert Burns, whose birthday is celebrated around the world on January 25, has a beautiful granite statue and park in his honor in the city of Quincy, Massachusetts.  The 25-ton statue was designed by noted Quincy sculptor John Horrigan (1863-1939) and carved by his son Gerald Horrigan (1903-1995), and unveiled on November 28, 1925. The statue depicts Burns holding his hat in one hand and a book of poems in the other hand, with a sheaf of wheat by his side. Best known for composing the unofficial anthem to New Year's Eve, Auld Lang Syne , Burns was a prolific poet who wrote more than 300 poems, as well as various epistles and ballads. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Quincy had a vibrant Scottish community.  Photo Courtesy of Michael Quinlin The noble statue stands at a small park at the intersection of Granite Street and Burgin Parkway, where it was moved from its original location and rededicated on October 24, 1971.  The

American Irish Historical Society was formed in Boston on January 20, 1897, to Dispel Myths about the Irish in America

On January 20, 1897, a group of 40 distinguished Irish-Americans met at the Old Revere House in Boston to officially launch the American Irish Historical Society.  Among the elected officers were Rear Admiral Richard W. Meade, newspaper editor Thomas Hamilton Murray; Theodore Roosevelt, who claimed Irish ancestry on his mother’s side; famed sculptor Augustus St. Gauden s, who was born in Dublin to an Irish mother and French father; poet and writer James Jeffrey Roche, who wrote the biography of John Boyle O’Reilly;  Thomas Lawlor of the publishing company Ginn and Company and Thomas Addis Emmett, a prominent New York attorney and part of an illustrious patriotic family.  Thomas J. Gargan, a distinguished Boston orator and writer, presided at the first AIHS meeting. The group’s lofty mission was to “correct the erroneous, distorted and false views of history in relation to the Irish in America; to encourage and assist in the formation of local societies; and to promote and foster an ho

Northeastern University Opens New Exhibit, "Images of Irish and Black in Boston: The Development of Stereotypes," in January 1984

Dancers Dawn Smalls and Keelin Connolly, January 15, 1984. Boston Globe photo. Forty years ago this week, on January 15, 1984, a new exhibit entitled "Images of Irish and Black in Boston: The Development of Stereotypes," opened at the Northeastern University Gallery.  Partnered by Northeastern’s Irish Studies Program and the African American Master Artists-ln-Residency Program, the exhibit revealed how stereotypes depicting Irish and Blacks through history were strikingly similar, especially in the hands of artists such as Thomas Nast, a 19th century cartoonist know for his virulent portrayals of Irish immigrants and American Blacks.  The event was attended by several dozen guests and included remarks by Black artist Dana Chandler of Northeastern’s African American Master Artists-ln-Residency Program, and scholar Ruth-Ann Harris, director of the university's Irish Studies program.  Chandler said the exhibit would help ‘to point out that there is a rivalry that has been go

President-Elect John F. Kennedy Gives his Famous 'City on a Hill' Speech at the Massachusetts State House on January 9, 1961

Image Courtesy of JFK Librar y On January 9, 1961, President-Elect John F. Kennedy Delivered his now-famous "City on a Hill" speech at the Massachusetts State House before a joint session of the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Kennedy was welcomed to the Chamber by Governor John A. Volpe and Senate President John E. Powers of South Boston.   "Fully 1,000 people crammed the House Chamber," reported The Boston Globe, and "Capitol Police estimated that some 5,000 more surrounded the State House  in bitter cold to get a fleeting look at the next president." The event was carried live by all three Boston television stations, and a full pool of radio and print reporters.   During his nine-minute speech, Kennedy addressed the audience as a proud native son, mindful of his family's deep connection to the Commonwealth. "I have welcomed this opportunity to address this historic body, and, through you, the people of Massachusetts to whom

Patrick A. Collins from Cork Becomes 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 2,281 votes, according to the Post. Monsignor Denis O'Callaghan of St. Augustine's Church in South Boston, led the prayer during Collins' swearing-in 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 t

South Boston's Ray Flynn Became Mayor of Boston on January 2, 1984

On January 2, 1984, Raymond L. Flynn was sworn in as the 46th Mayor of the City of Boston.  He succeeded Kevin H. White , who decided not to run for another term, having already served four consecutive terms.  Flynn told reporters that when he sat down to write his inaugural speech, the first words that came to mind were, 'you count.'  "I immediately wrote them down right away and underlined them," Flynn said. "Those are the words I want people to remember from my speech." Flynn was officially sworn into the office at the Wang Center before 3,500 people, the largest inaugural gathering for a mayor in the city's history.  Among the guests at the inauguration was his mayoral opponent, Mel King , a former state representative who was the first Black to make it to the finals in the mayoral race.  Flynn greeted and thanked Mel from the podium.  In his speech, Flynn said, "This is a time to break down the walls of bigotry and build a new foundation of ra

On January 2, 1870, John Boyle O'Reilly First Arrived in Boston, Where He Spent the Rest of His Life Defending the Downtrodden

Irish immigrant and fugitive John Boyle O'Reilly first arrived in Boston on January 2, 1870. He never left. For the final two decades of his life, he became one of the city's leading defenders of the downtrodden, while advocating ceaselessly for liberty, freedom and justice that he equated with American ideals. His road to Boston as a final destination was perilous. Born in 1844 in County Meath, Ireland, he was an infant when the infamous Irish Famine devastated Ireland, killing about one million people and sending another two million refugees into exile. As a young man, O'Reilly joined the British Army, "with the object of overthrowing the British monarchy,' wrote his biographer Jeffrey Roche, but he was discovered and charged with treason against the British Crown. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in an Australian penal colony, along with 62 other political prisoners, aboard the Hougoumont and taken to the convict prison in Freemantle, Western Australia.