BOSTON — Thanks to the generosity and volunteer efforts of hundreds of residents, the Irish Social Club of Boston has been saved from extinction and is once again a top venue for Irish-American events.
One year ago, the club faced extinction because of financial woes and a declining membership. It could barely pay the band which performed at its annual St. Patrick’s Day dance, and its aging membership faced mounting maintenance bills and a directive from the city to install an expensive fire alarm and sprinkler system.
The club, which had been founded in 1945 by Mary Concannon, was initially situated in Roxbury’s Hibernian Hall, where funds were raised to send Irish step dancers to competitions in New York City.
It moved to its current location on Park Street in West Roxbury in 1978, where Sunday night dances have been held ever since. Back then, the membership was up around 15,000.
By last year, that number had dwindled to about 300 members, mostly senior citizens who could hardly afford to pay for the mounting costs needed to keep the organization running.
When the doors closed last spring, and news spread about the imminent demise of the club, a group called “Save the Irish Social Club of Boston” was formed. Scores of volunteers came forward with money and free labor, and a fundraising event last fall brought in the huge sum of $92,000.
During the ten hours of that September 24 event, approximately 2,500 people showed up at the hall to enjoy the entertainment and lend support to the cause. New members, young and old, signed up, nearly tripling the membership.
One of the members of the group who helped to save the club is Mary Mulvey-Jacobson, who told the Echo last week at the sparkling, remodeled hall, that the club now hosts a wide variety of community events and is making a major change in its weekend format.
“We thought we would try an experiment over the summer to hold the dances on Saturday instead of Sunday evenings,” she said.
“So beginning in June we hope to see a lot of people who have expressed a preference for that night. In the fall, we’ll probably return to the traditional Sunday night schedule.”
Mary Maloney, who was elected president of the club last fall, said that she is confident that the club is now on firm footing and that a new generation of Irish Americans will be able to enjoy for years to come one of Boston’s most enduring and treasured traditions.