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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/

Saturday, October 4, 2014

First Aer Lingus Flight from Boston to Ireland Took Place on October 5, 1958


Ireland's airlines, Aer Lingus, launched its Boston to Shannon air service on Sunday, October 5, 1958, ushering in a new era of travel between New England and Ireland.

A 2003 story in the Boston Business Journal by Michael Quinlin reports the following:

"The inaugural flight that bright fall day was an Irish affair start to finish. 

"Business leaders, journalists and travel agents with Irish names tagged along, prompting journalist Brendan Malin to peg Boston as "the American Dublin." Even Logan International Airport was named for Irish-American Edward J. Logan, a judge and general from South Boston whose father, Lawrence, had come from County Galway.

"Aer Lingus' entry into the Boston market carried a symbolic significance. TWA and Pan Am were already flying the Boston-Ireland route, but the arrival of Ireland's national airlines captured the imagination of the city's large Irish-American population, which accounted for nearly a third of all residents. Most had never been to Ireland, and Aer Lingus, with its distinctive green shamrock logo on every plane, inspired them to make the journey, which took about 12 hours, twice as long as today's flights.

"Four days after leaving Boston, St. Brendan (the airplane, not the monk) returned in tow with Irish dignitaries such as Dublin mayor Robert Briscoe and Sean Lemass, Ireland's commerce minister. The Irish got a chance to observe local tourist campaigns, which touted autumn leaves, seaside towns and historical sites.

"Lemass saw the potential bonanza of tapping into a vast Irish-American diaspora and developing a tourism infrastructure like New England's. He promised the Irish government that if it could provide "well-equipped hotels, properly developed holiday resorts, well-built tourist roads and easily accessible shrines of historic and religious significance, (tourism) would continue to grow.""


Here is the Aer Lingus ad that ran in The Boston Sunday Globe on October 5, 1958:

Ireland's tourism industry did continue to grow, and set new records for American visitors in recent years.   Ireland's Minister for Tourism Paschal Donohoe was in Boston in September and told audiences that, "In 2013, alone, one million US visitors spent $1 billion in the Irish economy.  This demonstrates the importance of further developing Irish market share of the US tourism market, which is a central policy agenda of the government."

Aer Lingus flies out of the international Terminal E at Logan Airport.   Massport, which runs the airport, installed an exhibit of iconic Massachusetts in October, 2011, which included Boston's Irish Heritage Trail

For more information about traveling to Ireland, visit Ireland.com.

For information about visiting Massachusetts, go to MassVacation.com.

For more about the Irish community in Massachusetts, visit IrishMassachusetts.com




Thursday, October 2, 2014

Irish AOH Commemorate the Brig St. John Calamity in Cohasset on October 5


A tragedy off the coast of Massachusetts that occurred 165 years ago this month is being remembered on Sunday, October 5, 2014, by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Plymouth Div. 9,

The event commemorates the Brig St. John, which  sank off the coast of Cohasset on October 6, 1849, while transporting 104 passengers and sixteen sailors from Galway to Boston.  The brig encountered a nor'easter that pushed the boat south, forcing it to try to anchor near Minot Light. 

Sunday's event begins at 1:00 p.m. with a Mass at St. Anthony’s Church, 129 South Main Street in Cohasset.   Irish singer Máirín ÚiChéide is the soloist, and the Boston Police Gaelic Column are performing prior to the Mass and at the wreath laying ceremony 

After the mass and reception in the church hall, participants will walk over to the Cohasset Central Cemetery for a brief wreath-laying ceremony at the foot of the large Celtic Cross.  The 20 foot Cross was erected in the cemetery 100 years ago this month by the Ancient Order of Hibernians Men's and Women's Auxiliary.

For more details on Irish-American heritage, visit IrishHeritageTrail.com.

For year round information on cultural activities, visit IrishMassachusetts.com.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

William Butler Yeats Speaks in Boston about Ireland's National Theater on September 28, 1911

Portrait of W.B. Yeats by John S. Sargent, 1908
Courtesy of John J. Burns Library at Boston College 

On this day in history: Irish poet and playwright William Butler Yeats addressed an audience at the Plymouth Theatre in Boston on September 28, 1911 on the subject, "History of the Irish National Theatre and its Purposes."

As managing director of Dublin's 
Abbey Theatre, Yeats was in the United States to introduce a new literary movement taking place in Ireland that he hoped would be "the awakening of the mind of Ireland."

The 
Plymouth Theatre, located at Eliot Street (now Stuart) and Tremont Street, was a brand new playhouse, described as "a cozy, compact and home like-arrangement, with the seats in all parts of the house as near the stage as possible."  The Abbey players christened the new theatre with their productions. 

The Irish plays on opening night included The Shadow of the Glenn by John M. Synge, Birthright by T.C. Murray, and Hyacinth Halvey by Lady Gregory 

Yeats was introduced to the audience by 
George Pierce Baker, professor of dramatic literature at Harvard University, according to a Boston Globe story on September 29, 1911.

"In Ireland, we are putting upon the stage a real life where men talk picturesque and musical words and where men have often picturesque and strange characters, that is to say, the life of far away villages where an old leisurely habit of life still exists," Yeats told the audience in Boston. 

"The country life has for us the further fascination that it is the only thoroughly Irish life that is left.  All our patriotic movements go back to the peasant.  We try to recreate Ireland in an Irish way by mastering what he knows and by using it to understanding what the old manuscripts contain," he said.

Yeats and 
Lady Gregory came to the United States to promote Ireland's new theatre movement but also to defend it against opponents who rioted in Dublin when the Playboy of the Western World by Synge was first performed.  Critics assailed the play as a slight upon the Irish character

Yeats told reporters that 'if Ireland is to have a literature, the Irish must not resent truthful portrayals,' according to a 
New YorrkTimes story on October 12, 1911.

Lady Gregory said that the controversy over Synge's play was due to misunderstandings about Synge's purpose, and "to something that might be called race sensitiveness," wrote the NY Times on November 20, 1911. 

When the Playboy debuted in Boston on October 16, 1911, the 
Boston Globe reported the play elicited 'some hisses, some cheers,' but that overall it did not cause "the excitement that some people had feared."

Yeats told the Globe he was 'very much pleased,' at the response to the opening night performance. 

"I would not have been surprised if there had been more of a disturbance.  It was very mild, indeed.  I am satisfied.  I am sure that the Irish people will appreciate the play in time here," he said.

When Yeats returned to Ireland in November, he reflected on his trip.  "At Boston, the Abbey Theatre company had a flattering reception.  The more intellectual the play, the greater the success we achieved in Boston.  I attribute this to the influence of the universities," Yeats told the New York Times, in a story published on November 26, 1911.

For theater in Boston today, visit 
Huntington Theater Company and ArtsEmerson.

Here is information about the W.B. Yeats collection at John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

In 1988, the W.B. Yeats Foundation was formed by Professor James Flannery at Emory University in Atlanta.

For details on cultural activities in greater Boston, visit 
IrishBoston.org.  For information on Boston's Irish heritage, visit IrishHeritageTrail.com.

- Researched and written by Michael Quinlin

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Patrick Gilmore's "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" First Performed in Boston on September 26, 1863


The classic war anthem, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," was first performed at Tremont Temple in Boston on Saturday, September 26, 1863 by Patrick S. Gilmore and his Orchestra. 

Gilmore originally published the song - also known as the "Soldiers Return March" - under the pseudonym Louis Lambert for reasons unknown, but later acknowledged that he authored the piece.  The song appeared during the height of the American Civil War, and was meant as an optimistic tribute "dedicated to the Army and Navy of the Union."  

Henry Tolman & Company of Boston was the publisher. 

Gilmore expert Michael Cummings surmises that Gilmore took the song for an earlier Irish marching song called "Johnie I Hardly Knew Ye," which was apparently sung by Irish regiments fighting for the British in Ceylon in the early 19th century. 

Cummings, who founded the Patrick S. Gilmore Society  to preserve Gilmore's memory, notes that the song wasn't a hit during the Civil War, but emerged decades later during the Spanish American War of 1898.

It has remained popular ever since and has been recorded by hundreds of musicians, ranging from jazz organist Jimmy Smith to Boston's own Dropkick Murphys.


For more about Patrick S. Gilmore,  read Irish Boston, published by Globe Pequot Press.