Welcome Summer!

June 21, 2023

“Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” was the first line in a popular song years ago and still embodies the universal wish as this glorious season begins. It is a perfect time to visit the South Shore Irish Heritage Trail enjoying the 36 sites celebrating Irish and Irish American accomplishments and contributions to life on the South Shore. We suggest multi day visits concentrating on one or two towns at a time. That way visitors can also enjoy the beaches, the walking and biking trails, the restaurants, and “the good life” that defines the South Shore. There are also many outstanding eat-in or take-out restaurants serving beach fare tor whatever your appetite requires.

As promised, we highlight two of our Trail sites: The Hull Lifesaving Museum and The Hull Public Library once the summer home of John Boyle O’Reilly noted journalist, poet, and patriot.

Many Irish immigrants to the Boston area came from the west coast of Ireland especially Counties Galway, Clare, and Cork “Where the ocean kisses Ireland” as the Saw Doctors sing. Many were fishermen used to rowing their curraghs in the stormy seas close to their homes so it was natural that their interests, experience and skills led them to lifesaving in Hull. Hull’s location at the dangerous entrance to Boston Harbor provided scores of lifesaving opportunities. The Hull Lifesaving Museum is an exquisite museum telling the stories of these rescuers. If you are lucky enough to visit on a stormy day, you will know the courage of these men, gain respect for the hardships they faced, and appreciate how lucky we are to have the U.S. Coast Guard performing some of those duties in our day.

Just up the road is the Hull Public Library which retains many architectural aspects of the O’Reilly summer home. You may not be aware of the fascinating life this Irish hero led. When just 9 years old, John was apprenticed to a newspaper printer. At 15 he went to England and worked at another newspaper before retuning to Ireland at age 19. After meeting John Devoy, a leader of the Fenians, John enlisted in the British Army (The Prince of Wales Regiment) to recruit Irish members of the regiment to the Fenians. He was quite effective in this with 80 of the 100 members joining the Fenians. Just one day shy of 22, O’Reilly was courtmartialed eventually convicted of treason and sentenced to death a sentence commuted because of his age. He escaped from his English prison resulting in being sent on a prison ship to Fremantle, Australia. Just about two years later, in a daring and nearly impossible escape, he was rescued by an American whaling ship arriving in Philadelphia in 1869 and then to Boston.

One of the most prominent journalists of his day, O’Reilly promoted the rights of Jews, Native Americans, and African Americans. He published names of companies job advertisements with the words No Irish Need Apply saying this must mean that Irish trade and commerce was also unwelcome. When invited to be the featured speaker, John Boyle O’Reilly authored and recited a poem in honor of the Forefathers Monument Dedication in Plymouth tying together the northern and southern portions of the South Shore Irish Heritage Trail. We like to think that this was the seed which eventually blossomed into our Trail. Enjoy!

Keep an eye open for a fascinating series of reports from a Scituate Trail walker who has walked trails in Italy, Scotland and, most recently, in Ireland.

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