With March upon us, Mission Hill will celebrate the patron saint of Ireland, St.Patrick. Perhaps some of our fine local pouring establishments will entertain us with Irish music to help digest the corned beef and cabbage on March 17.
Irish music has been a festive part of my family, as my father, who died in 1976, was a gifted accordion player, as was my late brother, Kevin Martin. My dad was born in Dingle, the most beautiful town in Ireland, and he arrived in Mission Hill shortly after his long boat ride in 1927.
My father lived above a popular Mission Hill tavern, Mattie Creehan’s (currently Flann O’Brien’s), which opened shortly after Prohibition. My mother, Margaret Kelly, lived in the “Leaky Roof” section of Roxbury. She and my father met at Hibernian Hall, a dancing auditorium on Dudley Street in Roxbury. Built in 1915 Hibernian Hall was the center for Irish dances and cultural activities until the mid-1960s. Folks from Jamaica Plain, Brookline and South Boston would ride the Boston Elevated Railway, commonly known as the “El,” to Roxbury during that golden age of Irish music. Among the acclaimed Irish bands in the ’50s who played at Hibernian Hall was the Joe Joyce Band. It included my late cousin, Jimmy Kelly, a great local banjo player.
Several other folks migrated here from Dingle, including John Fitzgerald, who arrived in Mission Hill in 1907, as did Joahanna Fitzgerald. Although they were from the same town with the same last name, they had never met until arriving in Boston and settling in Mission Hill. The Fitzgeralds married and had seven children, all of whom graduated from Mission High School in the ’30s and ’40s. Joahanna Fitzgerald worked at the New England Baptist Hospital for many years. Among the Fitzgeralds’ grandchildren is the late Kevin Fitzgerald, who was a Mission Hill state legislator for many years. Kevin is the son of Bernard and Eileen Fitzgerald, who also had seven children and lived on Sunset Street in Mission Hill. Kevin was my dear friend and my baseball and basketball teammate on the ’67 Mission High teams.
In 1925, my father played Gaelic football for the local Dingle team, and one of his teammates and friends was Denis O’Neill, a smallish but terrific player. Thirty years later, Denis, his wife Mae and their sons Jim, Kevin and Jack O’Neill were my Mission Hill neighbors at Tobin Court. The O’Neill brothers inherited their dads athleticism, as the three were members of the celebrated 1979 Killilea Club City League football championship team. Today Jim, Kevin and Jack O’Neill remain my admired friends.
Condolences to the family of Margarida Stanton, who passed away last month. I would often chat with Margarida during the warm weather, as she would often sit on her beach chair in front of her apartment at 1575 Tremont St. She was a lovely woman.
Gerald Cosby passed away last month. I hadn’t seen Gerald in a few years, as he had been ill. He was a good man from a fine Mission Hill family.
Good luck to retiring Boston meter maid Barbara Sullivan after 37 years on the job. Barbara had been working in Mission Hill, and she and her close friend and fellow meter maid, Nancy Longo, often stop at Mike’s Donuts and chat with the locals. Barbara and Nancy are nice company.