With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, Carol Beggy, a former Boston Globe staffer and author of many books including “Irish Boston,” has shared her insight with The Boston Sun on how to best celebrate the holiday.
But, Beggy warned – be careful this year because the holiday also happens to fall on a Saturday – meaning those celebrating might get a little wild.
“St. Patrick’s Day is a tricky holiday in our fair city,” wrote Beggy. “You see – there are the traditionalists who insist the day is religious holiday that also honors Irish history…then there those who not only wear green but love the idea of green beer, green bagels, green carnations (which you will see all over the place).”
In Ireland, the big parades and drinking are a recent phenomenon, which is more widely seen here in America.
“I figure what the heck, celebrate it however you want, but don’t judge the city’s Irish food, music and ‘beverages’ (and ‘culture’) by what you see and hear on St. Patrick’s Day,” said Beggy.
Despite the holiday falling on a Saturday this year, March 17 is an actual day-off-of-work holiday in Suffolk County because it is also Evacuation Day, the day the British troops “left” the city of Boston.
Beggy said, “All of that is true and should be celebrated but it wasn’t an actual holiday until the Irish took over enough of the various elected offices to make it a holiday in 1901.”
There was a failed attempt in the late 1880s to name March 17 Evacuation Day a holiday, but it didn’t pan out until over 20 years later.
The first Irish-American Mayor of Boston was Hugh O’Brien. He was born in Ireland and immigrated to the U.S. When he was elected in the 19th century, 40 percent of the city claimed Irish heritage.
If you are looking for some roots to Ireland, Curbed Boston has an online version of the Irish History Trail titled, “Boston Irish heritage sites, mapped for St. Patrick’s Day and beyond,” which was made on March 12, 2018.
The map outlines a number of monuments and sites throughout Boston that harkens back to its Irish heritage including the Patrick Collins statue on Commonwealth Avenue Mall (the former mayor who designated Evacuation Day as a holiday) and the John Boyle O’Reilly monument at the intersection of Fenway and Boylston Street, which commemorates the Irish resistant leader and later U.S. journalist who immigrated to Boston.
For those looking to leave the downtown area of Boston, Beggy suggest checking out the St. Patrick’s Day parade, which kicks off at noon on the Sunday closest to St. Patrick’s Day through South Boston.
“It is always a very political parade with lots of politicians and police, pipe bands etc.,” wrote Beggy.
She pointed to a great restaurant on the parade route, Amrhein’s at 80 West Broadway, but she warned (DON’T go this weekend). But any other time of the year it is great, especially because it has free parking.
Beggy also suggested stopping by the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum, which is always a good destination saying he was an Irish Catholic President. In addition, when the weather is nice, stop by the Famine Memorial in downtown on School Street and Washington Street on the Freedom Trail.
For those who are real history buffs, she said get out to Deer Island, where the folks who were refused entry to Boston are buried because they were sick in a mostly unmarked grave.
In addition, one of the first Irish professional baseball players Andy Leonard lived in the Back Bay when he played in Boston (for the Red Stockings) and is buried in at the New Calvary Cemetery, 800 Harvard St. in Mattapan. When Leonard played in Boston, the home feild was on Huntington Avenue on what is now Northeastern’s campus.
One Irish tidbit of Fenway Park (opened in 1912): In 1919, future Irish President Eamon De Valera delivered a speech to a capacity crowd at Fenway Park in June.
Another fun-fact: is that the playwright Eugene O’Neill died in Boston in 1953 in the old Sheraton Hotel, which was then on Bay State Road. The building is now Boston University’s Shelton Hall. He was buried in Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain.
Food and Drinks:
For a quick pint and food check out The Kinsale Irish Pub and Restaurant at 2 Center Plaza in downtown Boston, or just a block away visit Emmet’s Irish Pub and Restaurant at 6 Beacon St. Further down on Tremont Street, The Tam is a no-nonsense, cash-only watering hole in the Theater District.
M.J. O’Connor’s in the Park Plaza Hotel offers a spacious yet cozy pub experience in the heart of downtown. Also, J.J. Foley’s in the South End is a great stop any time of the year.
In addition Beggy suggests visiting a great Irish pub right on Boylston Street called Lir, which is owned by Joe Dunne, who owns great spots in Ireland. For a great Boston-Irish bar go to McGreevy’s, also on Boylston Street, which counts Ken Casey of the Dropkick Murphy’s as an owner. Again – she warns DON’T go on Saturday.
For an authentic Irish feel of a pub make the trip out to the Burren in Davis Square or plan a trip out to Jamaica Plain for Doyle’s, which serves as the start and end of the Sam Adam’s tour. From there you can continue onto Brendan Behan, Costello’s, and the Gate Bar or make your way to Mission Hill with the Squealing Pig and Flann O’Brien’s.
Dorchester is a great road trip (but again, NOT ON SATURDAY). If you get to Adams Village, head to the Eire Men’s Pub (the place was visited by Presidents Reagan and Clinton) and then head across the street to Greenhills Bakery, which serves wonderful Irish food including soda bread.
“Here’s my advice, listen to the Celtic Sojourn on WGBH-FM radio, then head to the Four Seasons and have a burger with a nice Midleton (one d) Rare Whiskey (with an e),” wrote Beggy. “You’ll have the best of the Irish day of all. Then go see Boston’s Irish history.”