Boston is known as a Walking City, famous for its history and memorable cast of characters down through the centuries. The Freedom Trail, launched in 1951 to chart America’s colonial and revolutionary past, is perhaps the ultimate walking trail. It features Adams, Revere, Franklin and Hancock along with iconic events such as the Boston Massacre and Boston Tea Party.
Boston also has a Women’s Trail, a Black Heritage Trail and Civil War Trail, each with a distinct perspective on the city.
For a while there was an Immigrant Trail, a Kennedy Trail, and even a French Trail. Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2019 is Boston’s Irish Heritage Trail, a three-mile walk from Boston’s waterfront to Fenway Park that tells the illustrious story of the city’s Irish experience. The trail came together by chance. In 1994, while working at the Boston Parks Department, I noticed how many statues, monuments and memorials in public spaces spoke to the Irish experience. So I decided to create a trail for visitors, residents, and students to appreciate the Irish contribution to the city.
I was also inspired by the work of my friend Jim Ford, bibliographer at the Boston Public Library and member of the Eire Society of Boston, who had done initial research on Irish landmarks in Boston and was keen to see it continue. The trail was first published in 1994 in the book, “Guide to the New England Irish,” co-written by myself and my wife, Colette Minogue. The trail was an immediate hit, with student, tourists and Irish organizations picking up free copies of the map at the Boston Common Visitors Information Center. Since 1994, over 250,000 free maps have been distributed to visitors who want to take a self-guided walk. In the ensuing 25 years the trail has seen multiple iterations as it expanded and took shape. Today, the Trail contains twenty landmarks in downtown Boston and Back Bay, plus an additional twenty landmarks in Boston’s neighborhoods like Charlestown and South Boston, Dorchester and Jamaica Plain.
Some visitors who take the walk assume that the Irish settled here in the mid-19th century, fleeing the Irish Famine. In fact, the Irish have been settling in Boston as far back as the 17th century, though not always welcomed by the strident Puritans. In 1688, Irish immigrant Annie “Goody” Glover was accused of being a witch and hung from the gallows near Boston Common. And one of the martyrs of the Boston Massacre in March 1770 was Patrick Carr, an Irish sailor who happened upon the riot between townsmen and the British soldiers and was the last to die. He and the other four martyrs are buried at the Old Granary Burying Ground. The Kennedy family is a favorite topic for visitors. The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Garden, along the city’s new Rose Kennedy Greenway, starts the trail at the waterfront. A statue of a youthful President John F. Kennedy is on the front lawn of the State House. The most popular destination is the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum at Columbia Point in Dorchester. Alongside the JFK Library is the Edward M. Kennedy Institute of Politics.
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And finally, people want to know what is Fenway Park doing on the Irish Heritage Trail? It turns out the famous baseball park was built by an immigrant from County Derry, Charles E. Logue, who started construction in September, 1911 and had it finished in time for the April 1912 opening day against the New York Highlanders, who later became the Yankees. Visitors to Boston can pick up a free copy of the Irish Heritage Trail at the Boston Common Visitor Information Center, 175 Tremont Street. Or visit IrishHeritageTrail.com for more details.
Michael Quinlin works in the Massachusetts tourism industry and is the creator of the Boston Irish Heritage Trail. He is a longtime contributor to the Irish Echo.