Wednesday, June 25, 2008


I've previously mentioned reading the story of Barney
McGinniskin in Peter F. Stevens' Hidden History of the
Boston Irish
. I skimmed through the book on my first reading
but today I took my copy and a glass of lemonade outside to
the patio and spent the afternoon there rereading the book
more closely. It was a pleasant and informative few hours.

If you are of Irish descent and live in Boston or your ancestors
did this book will give you a better picture of the obstacles
Irish-Americans faced in 19th century America and will make
you better appreciate how they overcame them with talent
and determination. Mr. Stevens writes about people and
incidents that I've either only heard briefly mentioned or that
I had never heard of at all and makes learning about them

Reading the book I was struck by how some of this "hidden"
history has touched my life. I lived in Dorchester as a child, for
example, not far from Gallivan Boulevard, and never knew
about the man in whose honor it's named. I attended Cathedral
High School as a freshman and saw the Cathedral of the Holy
Cross every day and didn't know about the architect, Patrick
Keely, who designed and built it. I know that John L. Sullivan
retired to and died at a farm right here in Abington, but didn't
know that one of his greatest opponents, Jake Kilrain, quietly
lived out his last years in nearby Quincy.

As I read about the Broad St. Riot of 1837 where Boston
"Yankee" firemen fought with Irish workmen I was struck with
the irony of how a little over a century later my three McCue
cousins and other Irish Americans would be proud members of
the Fire Dept. I read about Patrick Collins, the first Irish
American mayor of Boston in the 20th century and wondered
if that opened the way for my mother's grandfathers to find
jobs working for the city.

Hidden History of the Boston Irish is a $19.99 paperback and
is available from your local bookstore and online. My store
sold out of the original ten copies that were shipped to us fairly
quickly so you may need to have it ordered in but it's worth
the effort. (I reordered more for our store, of course!)

And, in the interests of full disclosure, I had the pleasure of
meeting Mr. Stevens a week or so ago and we're planning to
host a signing at the store in August.(details to follow.)

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