Slurring the Irish:

The Book Black Mass had as a subtitle “The Irish Mob, the FBI, and the Devil Deal.”  The Devil Deal was the relationship between the FBI and its Top Echelon Informants (TEIs). The mob I assumed was the Winter Hill Gang (WHG). The FBI had TEIs in the Mafia but I don’t think that the authors were referring to that as the Irish mob.

Truth be told, there was no deal with WHG. The deal was between the FBI and James “Whitey” Bulger and Stevie Flemmi, one Irish and the other Italian. Two don’t make a mob so we have to look further.

I suppose if the authors of Black Mass were pressed to explain they would agree that the WHG is what they were referring to when they spoke of an Irish Mob. Some have suggested that if we could look into their dark hearts we would see that what they meant by Irish Mob was Whitey Bulger and his brother, Billy, against whom they had an irrational abhorrence. But I’ll assume that’s not who they meant.

You won’t find this out reading Black Mass but there were other gangster groups in the Boston area other than the WHG and Mafia. The meanest was the Roxbury gang. It hung around in Roxbury and the South End (not to be confused with South Boston). That Roxbury group consisting of among others Steve Flemmi, Jimmy Flemmi, Frank Salemme, John Martorano, and Jimmy Martorano, Italians all. They, the Salemme and Jimmy Flemmi excepted, would join up with the WHG at the end of the 1960s Boston gang wars.

When the Roxbury group decided to move over to work with the Somerville group there was no WHG. There was the Winter Group consisting of Howie Winter, German background, Joe McDonald and Jimmy Sims from Scottish backgrounds. Howie was the leader but Joe McDonald was the most feared because of his temper and drinking. When Whitey joined, the WHG consisted of two Scottish guys, a German, and three Italians. How then did it get tagged as an Irish mob? Do you think it may have had something to do with the Brahmin-owned newspaper the authors worked for? Some suggest they were as much afeared of the Irish as the were of Ebola. They thought like Ebola that once Irish entered a body it would take it over.

Then there’s the Boston Gang Wars often called the Irish Gang wars. This supposedly started in the early 1980s allegedly stemming from a fracas that happened on Labor Day in 1981 at Hampton Beach, New Hampshire between members of the Irish McLaughlins from Charlestown and Buddy McLean’s group from Somerville. That year, on October 31, 1981, Buddy McLean murdered Bernie McLaughlin and did two years in jail on a gun charge. After that it was almost three years before another murder occurred so dating that event back to the isolated incidents in 1981 never made much sense.

The real murder spree started in 1964. Most of the killings were not done by the McLaughlin/McLean group but by other groups mainly the Roxbury group, the East Boston group under Joe “the Animal” Barboza, and the Mafia. The biggest killers were Steven Flemmi, Frankie Salemme, Larry Baione and John Martorano. (Whitey was in prison at the time.)  Of the fifty or so people murdered in that war, less than one-third were Irish and even a less number belonged to the McLaughin or McLean groups.

The use of the terms “Irish Mob” and “Irish Gang War” all unfairly cast aspersions on the Irish. Just because some Irish may be involved in gangster activities doesn’t turn them into Irish events. Doing this wrongly identifies the source of much criminal activity which may let the real gangsters not of Irish heritage escape censure.

G.K.Chesterton, a Brit, wrote:The great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad, For all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad.” We may be mad but by God we are not gangsters.


12 thoughts on “Slurring the Irish:

  1. Matt. Any word yet on why Whitey was moved to Florida? Do you think the movie BLACK MASS starring Johnny Depp will be way off the mark in terms of accuracy? Also when is your book on Whitey due to be released? Thanks

  2. Matt :

    Just north of our border they paraphrase the old saying, ALL ROADS LEAD TO TO ROME. In the upper reaches of the Merrimack River they say, with a good strong New Hampshire handshake, ALL ROADS LEAD TO SALISBURY BEACH !!! 🙂

  3. Most of the current “Irish mob” stuff at the Boston Globe originates at the computers of Kevin Cullen and Emily Sweeney, two Irish members of the “Boston Globe mob.”

    Need I say there are seldom if ever any references to the “Jewish mob” in the Globe.

    1. Henry:

      True,as my grandfather told me, the Irish were always the hardest on the Irish. The Globe Irish sought to play teh company line. As for the Jewish mob, you’d never knew it existed. They were a powerful force in New York City with its arms reaching up into Boston. But nice folk don’t mention those things or that the real killers in the ’60s were all Italian.

  4. The sixties not the eighties. Know you know this about thr Irish Gang War, so called, in Boston. BoBo Petrichone was the Buddy McLean sidekick whose girlfriend’s honor was apparently so mortified by onr of thr McLaughlins in the Hampton Beach episode that kicked it all off. At its heighth he moved to Hollywood, changed his name to Alex Rocco, and did the bit part actor dues paying until he landed the plum role of gangster Moe Greene in Godfather 1 . You remember, ” DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM Moe Greene who looks up from the massage table and is shot dead through his bespectacled right eye in the Michael Corleone takeover. A very memorable scene. Who could foresee that when he was driving for Buddy back in the day in Winter Hill ?

    1. John:

      Thanks for the correction. I’m not sure Hampton kicked anything off. After that and Buddy killing one of the McLaughlins nothing happened for another three years.

      I knew about Petricone going to the West. Never knew it was his girlfriend that was the one involved in the Hampton Beach fracus; by the way to you think Howie Carr still thinks Salisbury Beach is in New Hampshire? You are right about the scene in the Godfather being one that is unforgettable.

      1. It was Salisbury Beach not Hampton and you have little correct. Don’t talk about Joe Mac. Thank you

  5. I recall, maybe 45 years ago +-, seeing in the Globe many mentions of Joseph Barbosa Baron. After seeing on your blog many references to a man by a similar name, I Googled and found that it is the same person (no surprise, of course – just wanted to make sure).

    Why did the Globe refer to him that way? Was it because at the time, he was called that? Was the Globe perhaps reluctant to call him “The Animal” in a family newspaper? Was the Globe “asked” to call him that? Or did the Globe simply want to allude to his boxing nickname (in that case, why not put ‘Baron’ between ‘Joseph’ and ‘Barbosa)?

    1. GOK:

      I’m about 80% sure that Barbosa got the name Baron when he went into the witness protection program. As why the Globe does some things like that you are asking the wrong guy.

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