Special guest speaker for the evening will be John Sweeney, President Emeritus of the AFL-CIO.
The son of Irish immigrants and union members, John Sweeney is renowned for his life long dedication to improving the lives of American working people. At the dinner, he will address the importance of the Irish in the American labor movement and 100th anniversary of the Dublin General Strike. Tickets for the dinner, priced at $175 are available by visitinghttp://www.charitableirishsociety.org/ or calling 617 330-1737.
Funds raised through the dinner will benefit the Society's Silver Key Fund which provides essential financial aid, housing assistance and employment opportunities to members of the local Irish community.
Ranking as the oldest Irish organization in North America, the Society is credited with having organized the first St. Patrick's Day celebration in Boston in 1737.
Since its inception, the Society has maintained a mission: to cultivate a spirit of unity and harmony among Irish residents and their descendants; to aid members of the local community by providing essential financial aid, housing assistance and employment opportunities; and to promote Irish culture in all its forms. As such, the Society regularly partners with a host of local organizations including the Irish Immigration Center, the Irish Pastoral Centre, The Ancient Order of Hibernians, Cathedral Cares and Nativity Preparatory School.
Commenting on the Society's commitment to community involvement, Society President Paul McNamara said, "By having the ability to respond quickly to a wide range of emergency needs, The Society fills a critical niche that many other charitable groups are not able to meet. We are proud to note that the Society is an entirely volunteer organization, with our Board working tirelessly to aid those who might otherwise have no means to receive vital assistance."
He added, "The motto attached to our original founding articles is 'With Good Will, Doing Service.' For the past 276 years, the Society has been dedicated to that responsibility -- providing service, whenever necessary, to Irish men and women, both here and in Ireland.
Projects through history have included providing relief during the Irish Potato Famine and supporting the Immigrant Aid Society of 1850. More recent projects have involved offering financial assistance for critical medical care, assisting with handicapped accessible home conversions, and providing airfare assistance for travel to a parent's funeral in Ireland.
Since 1996, the Society has played an integral role in "Catch the Spirit-Citizenship," a program that encourages Irish residents to become United States citizens. Workshops covering all aspects of the application process are offered by volunteers from the Society, the Irish Immigration Center, and the Irish Pastoral Centre at sites in Brighton, Quincy, Dorchester and South Boston. The program has seen more than 1,000 citizenship applications processed and submitted to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, resulting in countless new American citizens.
The history of the Society is deeply rooted in the history of Boston and the United States of America. Boston’s Irish community stretches back to the early 18th century when considerable numbers of Ulster Presbyterians came to New England in search of economic opportunity as well as the religious and political freedom which the Penal Laws denied to dissenters and Roman Catholics alike.
A variety of merchants, tradesmen, lawyers, teachers, and artisans from Ulster founded the Charitable Irish Society in 1737 with the express purpose of assisting fellow Irish immigrants in the traumatic process of settling in an unfamiliar city and country.
Noted among the Society's founders are:
• Teacher, painter and engraver Peter Pelham. Pelham was stepfather to renowned Boston painter John Singleton Copley. Copley, in turn, was the father of John Singleton Copley, 1st Baron Lyndhurst , three times the Lord Chancellor of Great Britain.
Peter Pelham was termed the "father of fine arts in New England." In 1737 he applied to the Boston selectmen for "Liberty to open a school in this town for the education of children in reading, writing and needlepoint, dancing and the art of painting upon glass."
• Captain Patrick Tracey, from Newburyport, who operated a fleet of privateers during the Revolutionary War and captured 2000 British prisoners. His son Nathaniel was one of the chief financiers of the American Revolution. His grandchildren included: James Jackson, one of the founders of Mass General Hospital as well as its first physician; Charles Jackson, a member of the Massachusetts Supreme Court; and Patrick Tracey Jackson, who built the first complete cotton mill in Waltham. (Patrick Jackson's father, Jonathan Jackson, a member of the Continental Congress in 1782, was one of the founders of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge.)
• More recent notable members include President John F. Kennedy, and Senators Leverett
Saltonstall and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.
The original articles of organization of the Society stated that officers would be elected annually and would include a "Keeper of the Silver Key" whose duty it was to acquaint natives of Ireland or those of Irish extraction with the organization and invite them to contribute.
The Silver Key was designed for the Society by renowned Boston silversmith Jacob Hurd in 1738. Born and raised in Charlestown, Hurd worked from 1723 - 1755 in a silver shop located in Boston on Pudding Lane.
The Silver Key, now on loan to Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, is made of sterling silver, measures 4.5 inches in length, and is engraved with the inscription "Georgius II Rex" with an engraving of King George II in profile. On its reverse side, the key is inscribed "Hibernia 1738" and is engraved with a crowned harp, the arms of Ireland. The MFA's permanent silver collection also includes a silver cup, salver, mug, covered bowl, teapots and a sword crafted by Jacob Hurd.
The archives of the Society are housed in two distinguished collections at the Massachusetts Historical Society (covering the years 1737-1920) and at the Burns Library at Boston College (1920 - present). Both collections are available to researchers.
For information on supporting or joining The Charitable Irish Society, visithttp://www.charitableirishsociety.org.