We all know that Boston is an Irish city, with an illustrious heritage stretching back to the seventeenth century. Author Michael Quinlin has explored this rich history in his book, Irish Boston: A Lively Look at Boston’s Colorful Irish Past. Garnering material of famous people and places in his book, here is Michael’s list of top ten Irish sites in Boston to check out this month, or any time of year! All of these sites and more are listed on Boston’s Irish Heritage Trail, a walking map of 20 sites Quinlin created as a companion to his research for Irish Boston.
1. Boston’s Irish Famine Memorial at the corner of Washington and Milk Streets commemorates the 150th anniversary of Ireland’s Great Hunger of the 1840s, which killed 1 million people and sent nearly 2 million refugees into exile. Many of them landed in Boston, transforming the city. The memorial was unveiled in 1998.
2. Old Granary Burying Grounds on Tremont Street is where prominent early Bostonians were buried, including Patrick Carr, an Irish sailor who was one of the five victims of the famous Boston Massacre in March 1770. James Sullivan, second governor of Massachusetts, is buried there too; his parents came to the Bay Colony as Irish indentured servants.
3. Colonel Thomas Cass Statue is located in the Public Garden along Boylston Street. The Irish-born Cass volunteered for the Union at the outbreak of the Civil War, and led the brave 9th Irish Regiment into many battles. Cass was mortally wounded at the Malvern Hill in Virginia and is buried at Mt.Auburn Cemetery.
4. Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Garden in Boston’s North End, pays tribute to President John F. Kennedy’s mother and the matriarch of America’s most famous family. Rose was born a few blocks away from her Garden, which overlooks Boston Harbor. It also sits along the Rose Kennedy Greenway, a new green space also named in Rose’s honor.
5. John Boyle O’Reilly Memorial in the Fens, honors Boston’s most influential Irishman. O’Reilly arrived in 1870, after a daring escape from a British penal colony in Australia, then spent his remaining years defending the downtrodden: Irish, Chinese and Jewish immigrants, American Indians, African-Americans and others. Poet, editor and orator, O’Reilly was a true believer in the promise of America.
6. Boston Public Library in Copley Square, Back Bay, has one of the nation’s largest collections of Irish materials, with more than 13,000 entries marked “Irish.” Highlights include rare materials on the 1798 Irish Uprising, the 1916 Easter Uprising, the Abbey Theatre, poet Seamus Heaney and Irish music. Irish-related statuary includes busts of High O’Brien, Boston’s first Irish Mayor.
7. Boston College in Boston’s Brighton/Chestnut Hill section has a wide-ranging Irish Studies curriculum, including the famous Gaelic Roots music series led by master fiddler Seamus Connolly. The John J. Burns Library has important collections of Irish writers Yeats, Heaney and Beckett. BC was founded in 1863 in Boston’s South End for Irish immigrants, and in 1909 moved to its current location.
8. Fenway Park, located outside of Kenmore Square, has strong Irish connections. Irish immigrant Charles E. Logue built the stadium in 1912, and the architect was James. E. McLaughlin, son of Irish immigrants. The first Red Sox pitcher to take the mound at Fenway was Bucky O’Brien. The Sox have had many Irish-American coaches, including present skipper John Farrell.
9. Boston City Hall in downtown Boston, is a symbol of the Irish-American domination of local politics since the early 20th century. Irish-Americans occupied the mayor’s office continuously from 1929-1993, including names like James M. Curley, Kevin White and Ray Flynn. Just recently, Boston elected a new Mayor, Martin J. Walsh, the son of Irish immigrants from County Galway.
10. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum, located in Boston’s Dorchester section, is the nation’s official library of President Kennedy. The year-round facility draws visitors from around the world for ongoing exhibits, lectures and special events. The Library houses all of the official papers of the Kennedy Administration, and is an important repository for historians and researchers.
You can find more about these and other fascinating topics in Michael Quinlin’s Irish Boston: A Lively Look at Boston’s Colorful Irish Past.
Other Irish/Boston titles from Lyons Press:
Strong Boy: The Life and Times of John L. Sullivan, America’s First Sports Hero, by Christopher Klein
JFK in Ireland: Four Days that Changed a President, by Ryan Tubridy
Irish Thunder: The Hard Life & Times of Micky Ward, by Bob Halloran
26.2 Miles to Boston: A Journey into the Heart of the Boston Marathon, by Michael Connelly