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Showing posts from 2021

125 Years Ago, South Boston's James B. Connolly won the first medal in the Modern Olympic Games

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On Monday, April 6, 1896 ,  James Brendan Connolly  of South Boston became the first medalist in the modern Olympic Games when he won the triple jump on the opening day of the Games in Athens, Greece. Connolly won the event - back then it was called the Hop, Skip and Jump - by jumping 44 ' 9 3/4", beating the second place finisher by nearly six feet. After his final jump, the audience began chanting his name and yelling Nike, the Greek word for victory, according to Connolly's teammate, Ellery H. Clark. Connolly and his American teammates nearly missed their events - they arrived in Athens thinking they had twelve days to prepare, only to realize that the Greeks used the Julian Calendar, not the Gregorian Calendar, and his event was that afternoon. Connolly also competed in the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris, and took second place in the Triple Jump. Beverly Cronin of the Boston Herald wrote, "In typical Connolly fashion, he walked the seven miles to Paris Stadium becaus

USS Jamestown Sails from Charlestown Navy Yard on Humanitarian Mission to Help Ireland, March 28, 1847

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  Painting of USS Jamestown, courtesy of the artist Edward D. Walker  On March 28, 1847, the USS Jamestown set sail from Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston Harbor on a humanitarian mission to Ireland, carrying 800 tons of supplies for the victims of the Irish Famine. The mission was led by Captain  Robert Bennet Forbes , a wealthy sea merchant living in Milton, MA. With Forbes on the journey were 38 crew members who had signed on to help. In February, Forbes had petitioned the US Congress for the loan of a naval ship to bring supplies, and permission to use the USS Jamestown had been granted. As the boat left the harbor on the morning of March 28, crowds lined the wharf and the shores, cheering as the ship headed out to open seas. The fifteen day voyage faced foul weather and rain, sleet, wind and fog. The ship landed in Queenstown (now Cobh), County Cork on April 12, 1847. Back in Boston, the newspapers enthusiastically reported on the trip, failing to note the cruel irony that became ap

Marty Walsh is Confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Labor on March 22, 2021

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  Congratulations to Martin J. Walsh, who was confirmed today as the next U.S. Secretary of Labor.  The U.S. Senate approved his nomination 68-29. Walsh has been mayor of Boston since January 2014, and prior to that was Massachusetts state representative and a leader in Boston's trade unions. In his farewell speech today, Walsh cited affordable housing, education, economic development, recovery services and racial equality as some of his most important efforts during his term in office. He offered that there was still work to be done, but that he was proud of how far the city of Boston has progressed in recent years.  Upon recommending Walsh for the Labor post in January 2021, President-Elect Joe Biden said, “Marty understands like I do: the middle class built this country, and unions built the middle class. He sees how union workers have been holding this country together during this crisis … [including] public service workers, fighting against budget shortfalls, to keep communit

America's First Great Artist, John S. Copley, born in Boston to Irish Immigrant Parents

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  America's first great portrait artist, John Singleton Copley (1737-1815) was born in Boston on July 3, 1738. He was the son of Irish immigrants who emigrated to Boston in the 1730s. John's parents, Richard Copley and Mary Singleton from County Clare, were married in County Limerick before emigrating to Boston. Right after their son John was born, Richard Copley traveled to the West Indies and died shortly thereafter, leaving John’s mother to raise him as a widow. She worked at a shop in Boston that sold tobacco close to Boston Harbor. In 1747 Mary S. Copley married Peter Pelham, a colonial artist and an original member of the Charitable Irish Society formed in 1737. It was Pelham who helped to nurture his stepson John's talent, and by age twenty Copley had gained a reputation as a promising artist. His first painting, "A Boy and the Flying Squirrel," was sent to the Royal Academy in London and his reputation began to take shape. Copley seized the opportunity to

Spring Issue of Travel & Culture Magazine Focuses on Massachusetts Culture and Travel to Ireland

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  This week the Boston Irish Tourism Association (BITA) issued its 2021 spring issue of Travel & Culture magazine, a compendium of Irish concerts, culinary, cultural and literary activities taking place in Massachusetts and throughout New England this spring, as well as travel tips for visiting the island of Ireland this year.    The pandemic has caused many of the traditional activities such as the state’s eight St. Patrick’s Day parades to be cancelled this year, and most of the cultural activities such as concerts, film festivals, dancing and lectures have gone virtual and are being enjoyed by viewers online.  On the culinary front, Irish organizations such as the Irish Cultural Centre in Canton, offer reserved dining that complies with the health and safety regulations issued by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. And Dine Out Boston, organized by the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, is offering restaurant deals at 100+ eateries around Boston.  This issue has

The Boston Celtics - Green Uniforms, Shamrocks and Lucky the Leprechaun

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Many people wonder why the Boston Celtics wear shamrocks on their green uniforms and have a giant leprechaun smoking a pipe as their team logo. And why the team mascot is a guy named Lucky who looks like he stepped out of a box of Lucky Charms? According to the Boston Celtics’ official website, the name came about in 1946 when owner Walter Brown started the team. He and his public relations guy, Howie McHugh, were throwing out potential nicknames, including the Whirlwinds, Unicorns and Olympics. It was Brown who had the epiphany, saying, “Wait, I’ve got it – the Celtics. The name has a great basketball tradition from the old Original Celtics in New York (1920s). And Boston is full of Irishman. We’ll put them in green uniforms and call them the Boston Celtics.” Red Auerbach , the now legendary coach of the early Celtics, then commissioned his brother Zang, a graphic designer in the newspaper business, to come up with the famous Celtics logo in the early 1950s. The logo manages to inclu

Irish Famine Memorials in Massachusetts

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(Clockwise: Boston Irish Famine Memorial, Deer Island Famine Memorial, Children of the Famine Memorial in Charlestown, An Gorta Mor Memorial in Lawrence, and Cambridge Irish Famine Memorial in Cambridge)  Massachusetts has a number of Irish Famine Memorials throughout the state, to commemorate the Irish Famine of the 1840s, which killed one million people and sent an additional two million people into exile. Many of the Irish who fled Ireland them arrived at Boston Harbor, starving and sick, and were quarantined at Deer Island before being allowed to come ashore. Many of them died on the island and over 800 are buried there.  In 1847 alone, 25,000 Irish arrived in Boston, according to historian Thomas O'Connor.   Other Irish refugees arrived at other ports along the Eastern Seaboard, from New York to Montreal and St. John, NB, and made their way to Massachusetts and New England, often on foot.  The Irish Famine is also known as An Gorta Mor, or the Great Hunger. Here are five me

Twelve Boston Irish-American Mayors, from Hugh O'Brien to Marty Walsh

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Since Irish-born businessman and publisher Hugh O'Brien became mayor of Boston in 1885, 12 mayors of Irish-American heritage have won the seat. Between 1930 and 1994, Irish-Americans were continuously voted in as mayor by the voters of Boston. Here are the Mayors of Boston claiming Irish Heritage: Hugh O’Brien 1885–88 Patrick Collins 1902–05 John F. Fitzgerald 1906–07, 1910–13 James M. Curley 1914–17, 1922–25, 1930–33, 1946–49 Frederick W. Mansfield 1934–37 Maurice Tobin 1938–41, 1941-44 John Kerrigan 1945 John B. Hynes 1950–59 John Collins 1960–68 Kevin H. White 1968–83 Raymond L. Flynn 1984–93 Martin J. Walsh 2014- 2021 Learn more about Boston's Irish history by visiting IrishHeritageTrail.com .

Boston Logan Airport Named for South Boston's Edward L Logan, Son of Galway Immigrants

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Boston’s Logan International Airport was named for General Edward L. Logan (1875-1939), a first generation Irish-American, military leader, civic leader and municipal judge with family roots in County Galway.  Born in South Boston, Edward was the oldest of nine children of Lawrence and Catherine (O’Connor), according to the late Michael Cummings of Milton, an expert on the Logan Family.  Edward’s father Lawrence immigrated to Boston from Ballygar, County Galway, in 1858, and became a successful businessman at a young age when he became president of the Boston Brewing Company in South Boston. The family resided at 560 East Broadway in South Boston.  In 1898 during his senior year at Harvard University Logan enlisted in the 9th Irish Regiment of Massachusetts when the Spanish American War broke out in Cuba, joining his father Lawrence, who was a Lieutenant Colonel in the regiment. Edward stayed stateside at Camp Dewey in Framingham taking charge of reenlistment, while the regiment s

James Michael Curley, Boston's Irish Chieftain for Half a Century

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James Michael Curley  was a larger-than-life political figure who dominated Boston and Massachusetts politics for half a century. Born on November 20, 1874 on Northampton Street in Roxbury to immigrant parents from County Galway, Curley's political career was unparalleled. First elected to the Boston Common Council in 1899 and then to the state House of Representatives in 1901, Curley quickly rose up the ranks.  He served four four-year terms as mayor of Boston in 1914, 1922, 1930 and 1946. He and also served as  US Congressman  from 1911-14 and from 1943-47, and was  Governor of Massachusetts  from 1935-37. Curley came of age in Boston just as the Irish, by numbers and ingenuity,  had learned how to get out the vote and take over local government, after generations of being held back by the Yankee establishment. Fearless and ambitious, witty and brash, Curley was the right politician to represent Boston's changing demographics.  He was a devout Catholic and was active in the A

The Irish Role in the Famous Boston Massacre of March 5, 1770

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March 5, 2021, Boston marks the 251th anniversary of the Boston Massacre, a transformative event in history that launched the road to revolution in the American colonies. The Massacre took place on a wintry Monday night on March 5, 1770, when British troops fired into a crowd of angry Bostonians, killing five men. The Boston Gazette summed up the mood of the colonies when it wrote on March 12, “The town of Boston affords a recent and melancholy demonstration of the destructive consequences of quartering troops among citizens in a time of peace, under pretense of supporting the law, and aiding civil authority.” There are a number of Irish connections to the Boston Massacre, outlined here. The Soldiers   The Twenty-ninth Regiment on guard that night was actually a battalion of Irishmen who had been conscripted by the British to fight in the colonies. The regiment was described this way: “the average man was over 30, medium tall, and Irish.” Describing the atmosphere that led to th

U.S. Census Bureau Shares Irish-American Demographics in the United States

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  The U.S. Census Bureau, which serves as the nation's leading provider of data about the American people, has issued its annual report on Irish-American demographics in the United States . According to a 2019 report, 30.4 million, or 9.2% of the U.S. population, claim Irish ancestry. And 111,886 foreign-born U.S. residents claim Ireland as their birthplace. Massachusetts is the most Irish state in America based on residents claiming Irish ancestry per capita, according to the 2019 American Community Survey.  Approximately 1.350,000 residents claim Irish ancestry, accounting for about 21.6% of the state's total population.   Generally, the six New England states, along with Pennsylvania, account for the largest percentage per capita of Irish-Americans.  See details of the map here.   According to the U.S. Census, Congress designated March as Irish-American Heritage Month in 1991, and the U.S. President issues a proclamation commemorating the occasion each year.  Here is the 20

The White House Issues A Proclamation on Irish-American Heritage Month, 2021

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MARCH 01, 2021   •   PRESIDENTIAL ACTIONS Since before the founding of our Nation, Irish immigrants have arrived on our shores with an unyielding spirit of determination that has helped define America’s soul and shape our success across generations.  Driven by the same dreams that still beckon people the world over to America today, so many crossed the Atlantic with nothing but the hope in their hearts and their faith in the possibility of a better life. That’s what brought the Blewitts from County Mayo and the Finnegans of County Louth to the United States.  For years, they brought Ireland into their homes in America.  Working hard.  Raising families.  Remembering always where they came from.  By 1909, my grandparents Ambrose Finnegan and Geraldine Blewitt met and married in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and passed on to my mother, Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden, a pride and a passion that runs through the bloodstream of all Irish-Americans. The story of the Irish the world over is one of

Ten Ways to Celebrate Irish Heritage Month in Massachusetts

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  You may not find a St. Patrick’s Day parade this March, but you can still celebrate Irish Heritage Month all across Massachusetts. The Boston Irish Tourism Association (BITA) offers 10 suggestions on how to safely enjoy Irish music, culture, history, film, food and beverage, both virtually and actually, this St. Patrick’s Day season.  1. Boston's Irish Heritage Trail   The Irish have been making history in Boston since the 17th century, and the city’s Irish Heritage Trail tells the illustrious story. The three-mile walk of 20 sites starts at the Rose Kennedy Garden on the waterfront and ends at Fenway Park, letting visitors, residents, and students learn about local history, enjoy the outdoors and explore the city. The website also marks 20 additional Irish landmarks in Boston’s neighborhoods like South Boston and Charlestown, plus dozens more landmarks around Massachusetts to visit. Free maps are available at the Visitor Information Center on Boston Common.   2. Irish Film F

Ireland Presents President John F. Kennedy with Ceremonial Bowl of Shamrocks on March 17, 1961

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THE IRISH came bearing gifts on March 17, 1961, John F. Kennedy's first St. Patrick's Day in the White House. It's a practice that has spanned 50+ years to this day. Online digital archives at John F. Kennedy Presidential Library which have been recently made available to the public, contain a wealth of information on President Kennedy's term at the White House, including his interactions with Ireland and the Irish. The archives reveal that at 10 a.m. on Friday, March 17, 1961, Ireland's ambassador, Thomas J. Kiernan made his nation's annual pilgrimage to the Oval Office to present the ceremonial bowl of shamrock to the President. That tradition had started a few years earlier in 1958 when the inauguration of Aer Lingus transatlantic jet flights guaranteed fresh shamrock sprigs from Ireland on the big day. Joining President Kennedy in the Oval Office was Congressman John E. Fogarty of Rhode Island, Kennedy's long-time friend and colleague. In 1951, Congress

Martin Milmore's Masterpiece, the Soldiers & Sailors Monument on Boston Common

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The Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Boston Common, unveiled on September 17, 1876, was the masterpiece of sculptor Martin Milmore, who emigrated from County Sligo in 1851 with his widowed mother and four brothers, all of whom became noted artists and sculptors.  Milmore was recognized as a gifted artist as a schoolboy when he attended the Brimmer School and Boston Latin School. He apprenticed to noted Boston sculptor Thomas Ball, famous for the George Washington Statue in the Boston Public Garden and the Daniel Webster statue in Central Park, New York.  Shortly after Milmore received the commission and the cornerstone was laid by city officials in September 1871, Milmore moved to Rome, Italy, where he spent the next five years modeling his designs, inspired by classical Italian sculpture. The contract stipulated that the statues and the body of the monument should be granite, and the bas-reliefs marble white. Milmore wrote to the commission from Rome, asking and receiving their perm

Massachusetts Educator Annie Sullivan, The Miracle Worker

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 Top:  Helen Keller + Annie Sullivan  Statue in Tewksbury; Plaque at Radcliffe College in Cambridge; Bottom: Memorial Sign and Stone Marker in Agawam, Massachusetts Annie Sullivan was known in her lifetime as the Miracle Worker for her work with the blind, including her prized student Helen Keller.  The daughter of impoverished Irish immigrants. Annie was born on April 14, 1866 in Feeding Hills, Agawam, Massachusetts and died on October 20, 1936.   When she was five, Annie contracted trachoma, an eye disease caused by bacteria, which caused her to become partially blind.  After her mother died in 1874, eight year old Annie and her brother Jimmie were sent to the Tewksbury Almshouse, known as the Poor House for indigent people.  Conditions were horrible, and her brother Jimmie died shortly after arriving.   When state officials arrived to conduct an investigation of the almshouse, Annie convinced the commissioners to send her to the  Perkins Institution  in South Boston, which taugh

Irish Women of Massachusetts

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Clockwise from top left: Sculpture by Margaret Foley; Poet Louise Guiney; Teacher Annie Sullivan, Labor Leader Margaret Foley, Matriarch Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, Labor Leader Mary Kenny O'Sullivan; Special Olympics Founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver; and Teacher/Astronaut Christa Corrigan McAuliffe March is Irish Heritage Month and also Women’s History Month in Massachusetts. In honor of both, here is a selection of 8 Irish women who have had an impact here in the Bay State. Margaret Foley (1820-1877) Born in Dorset, VT, Margaret worked in the textile mills in Lowell, while pursuing her interest in poetry and art, specializing in carving cameos. In Boston she created cameos of opera star Jenny Lind, poet Henry Longfellow and Senator Charles Sumner and abolitionist Julia Ward Howe. In 1861 Foley moved to Rome, Italy and mastered the intricate art of medallions. Her work, including an acclaimed portrait of Cleopatra, were featured at the Philadelphia Centennial Expo in 1876. Her work

Irish Cultural Centre of New England Marks Black History Month with Lectures Series by Dr. Christine Kinealy

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In celebration of Black History Month, the Irish Cultural Centre of New England is hosting a series of three zoom lectures by historian and author Dr. Christine Kinealy entitled Black Abolitionists: From Boston to Ireland.  Dr. Kinealy is the author of Black Abolitionists in Ireland . All lectures begin at 6 p.m. Topics include: February 23: Daniel O'Connell and William L. Garrison March 2: Sarah Parker Redmond, a Black Abolitionist in Ireland March 9: Home Rule and African American Support.  These lectures are free but RSVP is required.  Please send rsvp to mdooher@irishculture.org  This program is supported by the Government of Ireland: Emigrant Support Program , and Quinnipiac University Ireland's Great Hunger Institute . 

Baseball star Mike 'King' Kelly signs with the Boston Beaneaters on February 14, 1887

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  Mike King Kelly , one of the premier baseball players of the late 19th century, signed a deal to play for the  Boston Beaneaters  on February 14, 1887 for a record $10,000, the highest price paid for a professional athlete up to that time.  The Boston Globe reported that Kelly left the Chicago White Stockings in a deal negotiated on Valentine's Day in Poughkeepsie, NY between Kelly and Beaneater treasurer J.B. Billings. "Diamonds cannot be bought with shoestrings," Kelly said as "he toyed with a diminutive cane and puffed at a Sweet Caporal cigarette," according to the Globe.  Kelly had three great years with the Beaneaters, then went on to coach and play for the Boston Reds in the short-lived Players League.  Described as a larger-than-life character, Kelly was as notorious off the field as on.  A great base runner, he had his own song,  Slide Kelly Slide , a popular ditty written by J.W. Kelly and sung by Maggie Kline.  Along with Boston Globe reporter Willi

Irish-American Sculptor Thomas Crawford, Master of Classical, Civil War and Patriotic Sculptures

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Born in New York City to Irish parents, Thomas Crawford (1813-1857) is regarded as one of America's first significant sculptors. His biographer Henry T. Tuckerman described him as having "the ardor of Irish temperament and the vigor of an American character," while Loredo Taft notes that he attracted "the very choicest spirits of the world of art and literature" during his short life. A tumor behind his left eye killed Crawford at the early age of 44. Crawford moved to Europe when he was 21 and settled in Rome, where he lived much of his life. In 1844 he brought an exhibition of his work to Boston, where local institutions enthusiastically began purchasing his work. His bust of Beethoven, which he created from Rome in 1855 for the Boston Music Hall, is said to be "the first statue raised in America to an artist of any kind." The bronze bust is currently at the New England Conservatory.  Orpheus and Cerberus, at  MFA Boston The Museum of Fine Arts has f