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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mayor Curley and 20,000 People attend Roxbury's Christmas Carnival, December 1914





Mayor James M. Curley
Photo courtesy of Leslie Jones Collection, BPL

"The opening night of Roxbury's first Christmas Carnival brought 20,000 people to the business district of that section of the city," reported The Boston Globe on December 15, 1914.

Holly was stretched on tall flagpoles along Washington Street and Warren Street and on Dudley Street near the elevated stations.  Ferdinand's Store was covered with blue and white decorations and the Houghton & Dutton Store on Ruggles Street was transformed into a Yuletide picture illuminated with hundreds of lights, the story reported.

The parade was the highlight of the event, in which Santa Claus "substituted a motor truck for his reindeer sleigh and a honking horn for his jingling bells," followed by a line of 90 automobiles.   Among the dignitaries behind Santa were Mayor James Michael Curley, City Councilor Alexander McGregor and Frank Ferdinand, president of the Board of Trade.

A big part of Roxbury's business stagnation, according to officials, was due to poor transportation to and from the neighborhood.

Mayor Curley declared that "after witnessing this celebration I would have no hesitation in advocating for the establishment of a Union Station in the territory bounded by Dorchester Avenue, Albany Street, Dover Street and Southampton Street" as a way of connecting Roxbury to downtown Boston.

Councilor McGregor said, “Everything comes to him who waits is philosophy of other days, not any more in harmony with our times than are the customs of those days.  These restless times demand action, movement, aggressiveness.  A waiting policy is not as a rule a popular one and our generation rather believes that nothing comes to him who waits.  If you want something go after it; no other way is possible."

The carnival continued through Christmas eve, with nightly events planned.

For more about Boston's Irish history, visit IrishHeritageTrail.com.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Irish Connections to the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770


Irish sailor Patrick Carr was one of five people shot and killed by British troops on Monday, March 5, 1770, during a confrontation that became known as the Boston Massacre. The shooting came after a tense week of acrimony between Bostonians and the British, which included a fist fight in a local tavern, small skirmishes on the streets and taunting threats by both sides.

There are several interesting Irish connections to this episode:

. The 29th British regiment, led by Captain Thomas Preston, was mostly Irish soldiers who had been conscripted, often against their will.  The names of the British troops involved in the shooting were William Wemms, James Hartigan, William McCauley, Matthew Kilroy, William Warren, John Carroll and Hugh Montgomery.

. It was Captain Preston who ordered his men to present arms to keep the crowd at bay, but the taunting continued.  Only years later was it revealed that the person who yelled out the fatal call to fire on the citizens was Montgomery.

. Thirty-one year old Patrick Carr, an Irish sailor who had come out of a house on Court Street and was moving toward the ruckus with fellow sailor Charles Connor, was the last man to be shot. He lingered for a few days and was able to give dying testimony that ultimately exonerated the soldiers.  Carr and the other four victims are buried at the Old Granary Burying Ground

. As the trial of Preston and his men loomed, the anti-Catholic dimension emerged.  The Boston Gazette revealed that many of the soldiers the British sent to Boston were Irish Catholics...The Providence Gazette suggested that Pope's Day, a virulent anti-Catholic event, should take place on the anniversary of the Boston Massacre so as to include Preston and the others in the effigy burning.

. The famous drawing of the Boston Massacre by engraver Paul Revere was actually done by 21 year old Henry Pelham, half brother of artist John Singleton Copley.  Their mother, Mary Singleton Copley, had emigrated to Boston from County Clare in Ireland in 1736.  Pelham was furious when he learned that his friend Revere had used his illustration without Pelham's permission.

. Over a century after the Massacre, in 1888, when the Boston Massacre Memorial was unveiled on Boston Common, Irish-born poet John Boyle O'Reilly was selected to write and deliver a poem for the ceremony. 

Find out more about the Boston Massacre and colonial history by visiting the Bostonian Society at the Old State House.   

For more about Boston's Irish history, visit IrishHeritageTrail.com

This information is taken from Irish Boston: A Lively Look at Boston's Colorful Irish Past by Michael  Quinlin, published by Globe Pequot Press  in 2013.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

1200 People Attend Boston's First County Mayo Reunion in 1905

Nearly 1,200 Irish expatriates and Americans with ties to County Mayo gathered at Paine Hall in Boston on November 28, 1905.

Organized by the newly formed Mayo Men's Benevolent Association, the event was so crowded that "at no time during the festivities was there room enough to accommodate those desiring to take part in the dances," according to a story in The Boston Globe the following day.

A number of prominent guests attended, included Thomas O'Conannon, a leader of Ireland's Gaelic League, and James Michael Curley, then an Alderman for the City of Boston.  In addition, representatives from other county clubs in Boston attended, representing Galway, Cork, Waterford, Sligo, Limerick, Roscommon, Kilkenny,Clare and Kerry.

Paine Memorial Hall, named after philosopher Thomas Paine, was located on Chandler Street in Boston's South End, and was used frequently by Irish organizations at that time.

In 2008, Boston's Irish community celebrated the official chartering of the Mayo Men's benevolent Association with a series of festivities.  Here is a story from The Mayo News.

Find out more about Boston's Irish history by visiting IrishHeritageTrail.com.




Sunday, November 2, 2014

Irish Storyteller Seumas McManus Speaks on "The Problem of Ireland" in Bangor, Maine


Donegal poet and storyteller Seamus MacManus gave a lecture in Bangor, ME on November 2, 1914, regarding the Irish and World War I.  He told his audience that "a great majority of the Irish people were not in sympathy with England in the present war and that most of them hoped that England would be severely beaten," according to a report in The Boston Globe.

Author of numerous books, including the popular The Story of the Irish Race, MacManus was considered a master storyteller in the old Irish tradition.  In 1900, The Boston Globe ran a six-part series of the author's stories and observations.   MacManus also lectured regularly in greater Boston, at places like Notre Dame Academy and Hibernian Hall in Roxbury and Boston College.  He was a frequent guest lecturer at Notre Dame University in Indiana.

Find out more about Boston's Irish history at IrishHeritageTrail.com.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

New Moving Picture Called "Ireland a Nation" Opens to Enthusiastic Crowds in Boston on October 19, 1914

Barry O'Brien as Robert Emmet 

Ireland a Nation, described in The Boston Globe as  "The stirring story of Ireland's fight for freedom as a Nation since 1800" and told "in graphic motion pictures from the Old Land," made its debut at Boston's National Theatre on October 19, 1914.

The black & white, silent film came in five reels, and starred Irish actor Barry O'Brien as Robert Emmet, along with other Irish actors and actresses of the day.  The film was written, directed and produced by WalterMacNamara, and issued in the USA on September 22, 1914.  

Here is a full synopsis of Ireland a Nation on Trinity College's Irish Film and TV Research Online project. 

"Large audiences, in which were included many prominent Irish-Americans of the city, enthusiastically greeted the pictures," the  Globe wrote.  Prior to the filming, the Emerald Quartet provided live music, and "moving pictures of Cardinal O'Connell, Governor (David I.) Walsh and Mayor (James Michael) Curley were then presented."  

The British Government banned the film in Ireland because of it’s nationalistic sentiments.  It was finally released in Ireland on January 8, 1917.

The National Theatre of Boston was located at 533 Tremont Street in Boston's South End, just next to where Boston Center for the Arts is today. 

Find more about Boston's Irish history by visiting IrishHeritageTrail.com and IrishBoston.org.





Saturday, October 11, 2014

Chicago Uilleann Piper Charles Mack Performed "Come Back to Erin" at B.F. Keith's Theatre


The week of October 12, 1914 Chicago-born uilleann piper Charles Mack played at B.F. Keith’s Vaudeville Theatre in Boston with his musical revue, “Come Back to Erin.”  He was joined by his co-star and wife Etta Bastedo, who was from Worcester, Massachusetts.

Reviewing the show, The Boston Globe wrote that Etta “won favor in Celtic songs,” while Charles “contributed pleasing selections on a kind of bagpipe.”

In an earlier 1912 review, the Globe said that Mack and company “give a fresh and wholesome sketch that combines pathos and Celtic humor most appealingly.”

Mack was the son of Michael Charles McNurney, who emigrated from Ireland to Chicago in 1850.  McNurney and Sargeant James Early were pupils of uilleann piper James Quinn in Chicago.  Musicologist Francis O’Neill, in his book Irish Minstrels and Musicians, described McNurney as “a wealthy horseshoer and alderman, who was himself an enthusiastic dilettante on the pipes.”

McNurney's son Charles Mack, born around 1869, began performing as a teenager and was a star on the Albee and Keith vaudeville circuit, according to a 1957 story in the Miami Sunday News, which interviewed his son, Charles Jr, who had a successful career as a professional clown.  Mack was the stage name he and his father used throughout their careers. 

When Charlie Mack the piper visited Boston in 1914, he would have been familiar with the Boston Pipers Club, formed in 1910 by local musicians Michael and William Hanafin, along with PatsyTouhey, by then the leading piper of his generation.

In his book, The Companion to Irish Traditional Music, Fintan Vallely says that “vaudeville piper Charles McNurney advised Chicago piper Joe Shannon on Touhey’s technique."

For more about Boston’s Irish history and heritage, visit IrishHeritageTrail.com or Irishboston.org.


Friday, October 10, 2014

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


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 Celtic’s official web site, 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 include all of the iconic depictions of the Irish in America that were standard in the 1950s: a leprechaun covered in shamrock clothing and a bowler hat, smoking a pipe, holding a shillelagh and sporting a mischievous grin!

The logo is said to have brought the Celtics good luck, since they won their first championship in 1957, so it has remained.   So good luck for the 2014-15 season!

For more information on Irish-American history and heritage visit IrishHeritageTrail.com. For current Irish cultural activities visit IrishBoston.org

Find details on The Shamrock Foundation, a charitable organization run by the Boston Celtics.  

For more about the Boston Celtics, visit NBA.com/celtics/