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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

AOH Unveils Celtic Cross in Worcester on September 18, 1977

AOH Ceremony at Celtic Cross, Easter 2010

To mark the 150th anniversary of the first permanent Irish Catholic settlement in Worcester, Massachusetts, the city's Irish-American community erected a Celtic Cross on Worcester Common on September 18, 1977. 

The 15 foot high memorial, weighing over 13,000 pounds made of Barre Vermont granite, was designed by Joseph Calcagni.  It features patriotic, religious and family symbols pertinent to Worcester, America and Ireland.

At the Celtic Cross unveiling, Thomas J. Early, Mayor of Worcester presided, along with Daniel F. Herlighy, chairman of the Irish Memorial Committee, and members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, especially from Division 36 in Worcester

Prior to the Irish Catholic settlement, Irish Presbyterians from Ulster settled in Worcester in 1718. When they initially arrived that summer, Boston leaders were afraid they would be a burden on the town, so they sent them to Casco Bay, Maine, Worcester, Massachusetts and Londonderry, New Hampshire.

On May 25, 2009, Ireland President Mary McAleese laid a wreath at the Celtic Cross commemorating the arrival of the Irish in Worcester.

For more details on Irish heritage in Massachusetts, visit  Or  read Irish Boston, published by Globe Pequot Press.   

For year round cultural activities, visit

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Boston Mayor Patrick A. Collins Dies Suddenly on September 14, 1905

On this day in history, Patrick A. Collins (1844-1905), the city's second Irish-born Mayor, died suddenly while on vacation at Hot Springs, VA, at 10:15 on September 14, 1905. The cause of death was acute gastritis, an ailment he had endured for some time.  His son Paul was at the bedside with him when he died.

His sudden death shocked Boston's political establishment and its residents, as well as the Irish-American community, because Collins was considered one of the city's great statesmen.

Collins was born in 1844 in Ballinafauna, a townland outside of Fermoy, Cork, and came to Boston in March 1848, with his widowed mother, part of the mass exodus from Ireland due to the Irish Famine.  They settled in Chelsea, where the anti-Irish Know Nothing movement was fully blown in the 1850s.  Patrick got a job as an office boy with Robert Morris, an African-American lawyer, and later become a lawyer himself.  He entered into an upholstery apprenticeship, where he eventually became foreman.  All the while he was attending classes at Harvard University while studying at the Boston Public Library evenings. 

Collins made his first foray into American politics when he became a state representative from South Boston in 1868-69,and a state senator in 1870-71.  He became the first Irish Catholic elected as a US Congressman (1883-85).  He campaigned for President Grover Cleveland and was appointed as Consul General in London from 1893-97. 

As Mayor, Collins was praised for mastering the business of the city, and noted for his protection of historical Boston spaces such as Boston Common, Faneuil Hall, Old South Meeting House, and Old Granary and Copps Hill burying grounds.

Funds for a memorial were collected by public donations within a week of Collins' death, and the memorial was created by noted sculptors Henry and Theo Kitson.  The bronze memorial was unveiled in 1908, and contained a bust of Collins along with twin statues on each side depicting Erin and Columbia, representing Collins' native and adopted lands. 

The Boston Irish Heritage Trail includes the Memorial to Patrick Andrew Collins. It was originally sited at Charlesgate West, and in 1968 was moved to its present location  on Commonwealth Avenue Mall, between Clarendon and Dartmouth Streets. 

Patrick Collins is buried at Holyhood Cemetery in West Roxbury.

Here is a list of Boston mayors of Irish descent

For more on Boston Irish history, visit, or read Irish Boston, published by Globe Pequot Press.   

For year round activities on the Boston Irish, visit

Monday, July 28, 2014

Arthur Fiedler Conducts Boston Pops "Irish Night" on Esplanade in 1934

Arthur Fiedler, beloved conductor of the Boston Pops, held an Irish concert night at the Hatch Shell on the Charles River Esplanade on July 29, 1934.  Over 15,000 people attended, according to The Boston Globe.

The Pops performed several popular Irish American songs of that era: The Harp that once through Tara's Halls, written by Thomas Moore and arranged by Victor Herbert in his famous Irish Rhapsody Suite; the Londonderry Air, arranged by Sir Hamilton Harty; and Molly on the Shore by Percy Grainger.

Other parts of the program included pieces by Brahms, Strauss and Tchaikovsky.

Fiedler was Boston Pops conductor from 1930-1979, and helped widen the band's appeal by staging outdoor concerts on the Esplanade, including the famous Fourth of July concerts that continue today.  In that regard he was following in the illustrious footsteps of Patrick S. Gilmore, who began Boston's Independence Day concert tradition in 1854 with concerts on Boston Common.

Because of Boston's large Irish population, Fiedler continued the tradition of regularly performing Irish songs.  In 1966 he issued an album called Irish Nights at the Pops.  It was recorded live at Boston Symphony Hall.

For more on the history of Boston's Irish community, read Irish Boston: A Colorful Look at Boston's Lively Irish Past, published by Globe Pequot Press.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy - Beloved in Boston

She may be gone but she is certainly not forgotten.  Rose Kennedy Fitzgerald (1890-1995), who held the Kennedy family together through tragedy and triumph for much of the 20th century, is permanently enshrined along Boston’s waterfront.

The mother of President John F. Kennedy, Rose was the daughter of Mayor John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, the wife of businessman Joseph P. Kennedy, the mother of nine children - including an American president, two more senators, an ambassador and a war hero - and the grandmother of 30 children.  A highly educated woman of zest and curiosity, she led a rich and eventful life, becoming a public figure on the world stage for much of the 20th century, and relying upon her faith to get her through her later heartache.    

In Boston, two public parks bear her name, and bear witness to the love and affection Bostonians had for her in her life and after she died.

The Rose KennedyGarden, located on Atlantic Avenue, is not far from Rose’s birthplace at 4 Garden Court in the North End.  A small enclosed rose garden, encircled by an iron wrought fence, with a granite fountain as the centerpiece, it is part of Christopher Columbus Park, which runs along the waterfront and looks out onto Boston Harbor.  The Garden was officially dedicated on July 22, 1987 by Rose’s family, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who called his mother “the greatest teacher and most wonderful mother that any child could ever have.”

Today, the Rose Kennedy Garden has 104 rose bushes, one for every year of Rose’s life.

The Rose FitzgeraldKennedy Greenway is a new and evolving boulevard of parks, hotels, restaurants, cultural institutions and tourist amenities that has helped make Boston’s waterfront area a bustling new destination for both residents and visitors.  

The 27 acre swath of Greenway once lay beneath the unsightly and noisy Central Artery, a four lane, mile and a half highway built in the 1950s.  When the highway finally came down, the greenway began to take shape, connecting the city’s waterfront to the rest of downtown.

Since opening in 2008, the Greenway has become one of the city’s most popular public spaces, drawing office workers, tourists, students, conventioneers and local residents to enjoy its sweeping vistas and friendly amenities.  With a magnificent Carousel, public art, water fountains, concerts, food courts, Wi-Fi access and well-tended gardens, the Greenway serves its mission of being an urban oasis that is free and open to all. 

Neighbors along the Greenway, including Boston Harbor Hotel and InterContinental Boston Hotel, have been great partners in ensuring access to the wharfs and harbor walkway that encircles the harbor.

Rose Kennedy is officially enshrined in law too.  Some years ago, the Massachusetts legislature passed a bill proclaiming her birthday, July 22 as “Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Day” in the Commonwealth.

To find more about her Rose’s life, visit the John F.Kennedy National Historic Site in Brookline, or the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library at Columbia Point in Dorchester.  The Library recently issued a book, Rose Kennedy’s Family Album, which traces her life from 1878-1946 and has wonderful photos of the Kennedy family.

Boston has its own Kennedy Tour, a guided walk that takes visitors around nine downtown landmarks specific to the Kennedy family, including the Greenway.

The Rose Kennedy Garden is the first stop on Boston’s Irish Heritage Trail, a walking tour of twenty landmarks that tell three centuries of Boston Irish history.  The Trail winds its way through downtown Boston and into the Back Bay, then ends at Fenway Park.

(This story appeared in the Irish Echo newspaper)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Hostility to Immigrants in Boston, June 1847

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh declared June 2014 as Immigrant Heritage Month in the City of Boston, in recognition of the positive role immigrants play in Boston, in Massachusetts and across the United States.

The plight of new immigrants coming to Boston has always been contentious through history.  Here is an excerpt from a Boston Pilot editorial dated June 19, 1847, in response to the way Irish famine refugees were being treated by certain Bostonians at that time:

Hostility to Emigrants

"We feel a sentiment stronger than shame, when we see a portion of this community indulging in vituperation and abuse against emigrants, who this season (for various causes) are flocking in unusual numbers to our shores.  They come amongst us for a home, and if life and health are vouchsafed to them, they will earn the right to that home and whilst rescuing themselves from famine, will enrich by their labor and industry, the land that affords them a refuge."  

At the same time, many Bostonians recognized the plight of the Irish and vowed to help.  They raised funds, food and medical supplies to send back to Ireland, where a famine was in full force, and also took steps to help the Irish settle in Boston.  One story that endures is the voyage of the USS Jamestown from Boston to Cork.

The editorial was prescient in forecasting that, given the opportunity,immigrants would enrich the nation "by their labor and industry." 

For more about Boston's Irish history, visit

Happy Immigrant Heritage Month!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

In summer 1872, Boston Staged the Biggest Concert in History, with over 22,000 Musicians

In the summer of 1872, Boston staged the largest concert in history, featuring over 2,000 musicians and 20,000 singers, performing as soloists, in various ensembles and also en masse, to convey the joy, comfort and inspiration that music can bring.

The World Peace Jubilee and International Music Festival ran from June 17 through July 4, 1872, housed in a temporary coliseum that was built in what is now Copley Square in Boston’s Back Bay.  In addition to the 22,000 performers, the stadium held 60,000 spectators, and it was filled to capacity on many of the 18 days in which the Jubilee ran.

The Jubilee was created by Irish immigrant Patrick S. Gilmore, a talented cornet player, band leader and impresario who had become the best known musician in America.  Gilmore had been Band Master for the Union Army during the Civil War and is credited with penning the song, When Johnny Comes Marching Home, a war anthem still played today.  He had staged an earlier National Peace Jubilee in 1869 that featured 10,000 singers and 1,000 musicians. 

Among the highlights of the 1872 Jubilee: 

• Johann Strauss, the Austrian waltz king, made his American debut at the Jubilee, having met Gilmore in Vienna the previous summer. Strauss conducted his famous waltz, the Beautiful Blue Danube, to thunderous applause, and also composed a Jubilee Waltz especially for the occasion, dedicated to Gilmore. 

• The Fisk Jubilee Singers, a group of Black college students from Fisk University in Nashville, performed at the Jubilee, “sending the audience into a rapture of boisterous enthusiasm” for its rendition of Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of the Coming of the Lord. President Grant invited them to perform at the White House later that year, helping to launch a singing ensemble that still flourishes today. 

• The unlikely stars of the Jubilee were the 100 Boston firemen, dressed resplendent in red shirts and white suspenders, whose job it was to hammer onto 100 anvils as part of the chorus to Verdi’s Il Trovatore (The Troubadour). As the firemen hammered in unison, cannons outside the coliseum were firing and all of Boston’s church bells were ringing as the orchestra reached a crescendo.

The IrishMusic Center at Boston College's John J. Burns Library holds the Michael Cummings Collection of P.S. Gilmore Materials, donated by the late Gilmore scholar Michael Cummings

Learn more about Irish heritage in Boston by visiting  Or visit for year round details on Boston's Irish community. 

For more on the history of Boston's Irish community, read Irish Boston: A Colorful Look at Boston's Lively Irish Past, published by Globe Pequot Press.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

BITA Issues Summer 2014 Travel & Culture Guide, for New England & Ireland

(Boston) — The Boston Irish Tourism Association (BITA) has issued its annual Travel & Culture Guide, featuring a round-up of festivals, concerts and cultural activities taking place in Massachusetts and the region, as well as travel information to Ireland and Northern Ireland.

You can pick up a free copy of the Travel & Culture Guide at these locations, or read the summer 2014 issue online.

The 28-page color magazine, distributed free at visitor kiosks and cultural venues throughout Massachusetts, gives details on Celtic festivals and concerts taking place from June through September, plus traveler information on hotels and travel agencies, pubs and restaurants, gift shops and retail shops, museums and cultural associations. 

This issue profiles Stephen Johnston, General Manager of the Boston Harbor Hotel, and James Rooney, head of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority.  It details two of Tourism Ireland’s 2014 travel promotions, the Wild Atlantic West in Ireland, and the Causeway Coastal Road tour in Northern Ireland.

BITA was formed in 2000 to promote cultural tourism year round.  It publishes three issues of Travel & Culture Guide in March, June and October.  BITA is the creator of  Boston’s Irish Heritage Trail, which highlights Irish landmarks throughout Boston and around the state.

For further details on the festivals and concerts, as well as year-round Irish and cultural activities, hotel packages, gift shops and Irish pubs, visit