Though Boston is routinely thought of as a very Irish-centric city, it was not always that way. Boston’s Irish Heritage Trail tour is a fascinating trip through not only the Irish’s history in Boston, but also evolution of the Irish throughout American history.
If done from start to finish, the entire Irish Heritage Trail encompasses twenty landmarks starting at the Rose Kennedy Garden and concluding at Fenway Park. For the tour’s purposes however, participants traverse the downtown area stopping at eight (and glimpsing upwards of ten) of these conveniently located sites.
The tour presents Irish heritage in America in a very neatly wrapped package. It starts with the Irish’s role in the American Revolution. The tour guide began by regaling his audience with stories of Commodore John Barry, the father of the US Navy, who is depicted on a plaque in the Boston Common. Barry is renowned for capturing more British ships than any other commander in the Navy by an almost 2-to-1 margin.
The tour then backtracks a bit historically, referencing Patrick Carr, an Irish casualty of the Boston Massacre. Through these two attractions, the audience begins to realize how the Irish played direct roles in the founding of this country.
Moving along, the tour goes to the Massachusetts State House to see the John F. Kennedy statue on the front lawn. Here the audience learns more of Boston’s political history.
In its early years, Boston was not a welcoming city to new emigrants. At the time, there was a sort of class war happening between the Yankees or Brahmins (old American families, here from the start of the country) and the new Irish emigrants in Boston. At its most basic, the Brahmins essentially wanted things to stay the same within the political and social hierarchy of the city, while the new Irish emigrants wanted to move the city forward.
John F. Kennedy’s grandfather, John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald was the first Boston-born mayor of the city. Kennedy’s father, Joe Kennedy was educated at Harvard University, made a large fortune as a stock market investor and later served as Ambassador to Britain. As the Kennedy’s and Fitzgerald families rose into prominence, the Irish-Catholic community in Boston became less maligned. As a matter of fact, John F. Kennedy became known as the first Irish Brahmin.
The tour continues past the Old City Hall to the new City Hall where tourists learn of the various Irish-American mayors and what each meant for the Irish communities in Boston. Recent Irish-American mayors like John Hynes, John Collins and Kevin White, are responsible for many of the city’s urban renewal projects.
The tour concludes outside of Faneuil Hall where the tour guide offered suggestions for other Irish related sites to see throughout the city. As is the case with most tours, the experience varies with each group, but in this instance, the tour was great. The guide was informative and entertaining, the tour’s pace wasn’t too fast or too slow and even in the heat of summer there are always shady spots along the way.
The tour costs $15 for adults, $8 for children and lasts about 75 minutes. For more details, contact the Boston Irish Tourism Association at 617-696-9880, or visit IrishHeritageTrail.com.
96-9880, or visit IrishHeritageTrail.com.