Mayor Walsh Affirms An Old Statement by my Grandfather: The St. Patrick’s Day Parade Will Go On

DSC_0580Reading what happened in federal court yesterday brought back some old memories. When I was a young lad my father’s father, James “Pa” Connolly, was a remote taciturn figure in the family. He was there but he always kept his peace, at least with respect to me. (I have to ask my siblings someday about their relations with him.)

Pa’s wife, my father’s mother, Annie O’Malley, died as a young woman when her six children, Pat, Matt, Mike, John, Jim and Theresa were in their early teens and younger. The job fell on Pa an unskilled laborer who had come to America from Ireland to raise those children. He did so with the help of his extended family. All survived the ordeal of growing up without a mother in a rough and tumble cold water flat neighborhood of the Lower End in South Boston. As they reached their working years they suffered through the turmoil of the Great Depression and the World War II years.

All except Jimmy were well into their thirties and had married by war time so they avoided serving in the Armed Forces. Jimmy ended up in the Army. I recall going over to the South End where he lived and marveling at the souvenirs he unpacked from his duffel bags which he brought back with him. He gave me a Nazi flag and a Nazi helmet. I really wanted the sword that he brought out of one the bags.

I recalled one conversation with Pa. It was at his house in Dorchester where he was living with his daughter Theresa, a former Boston policewoman, and his son-in-law, a great guy named Joe Madden. I remember I had been learning a little about the history of Boston and the treatment suffered by the Irish immigrants who came to the country who when looking for jobs faced signs saying: “Irish and dogs need not apply.”

I decided to ask him about his experience in dealing with the Boston WASPS. I don’t remember my exact question but the conversation did not last long. He said to me” “the worst people to the Irish were the Irish.”

This all came flooding back to me when I saw that Federal Judge Richard Stearns who was unfairly booted out of the Whitey case by the Appeals Court decided that Major Martin Walsh had no right to cut the South Boston St. Patrick’s day parade in half.

I had read that the mayor had done that but being concerned with other things gave it little thought. I knew, because my brother Bill was involved in the case with Chester Darling, the lawyer who appeared before Judge Stearns, that the parade organizers had to fight all the way to the Supreme Court to have their First Amendment rights upheld. The Court agreed they alone had the right  to decide who could march into their parade. At that time they opposed the message of the gays.

The issue was so simple that to think all the judges, except one, in Massachusetts got it wrong.  We see it at play today at the Trump rallies when others come to express their opinions. They have no right to do it so they are summarily tossed out. Trump controlled the forum so he has the right to decide who would speak. (Like the old days in Massachusetts those who don’t like his message would deny him that right.)

To gasp the simplicity of the proposition picture this. You are your wedding. The best man is making a speech. One of the bride’s old boyfriend’ who crashed the affair demands to be heard next. Does he have a First Amendment right to speak?  Fortunately you can still tell him to get lost.

Reading about Stearns’s decision I recognized its correctness: if the mayor could cut the route in half this year then he could do the same next year so that at some point in the future it would start at Andrew Square and end at where we used to skim our baseball cards against the side of the old John A. Andrew School.

Puppet police commissioner Evans tried to fall on the sword to protect the major saying he recommended the shorter route.  That doesn’t pass muster. The mayor made the final decision and it was based on a lie.

Evans said he had “growing concern that the “dynamic” of the parade has changed in recent years” and  blamed “unruly out-of-towners” for causing an increasing amount of problems. That lie too didn’t past muster. The troubles have gone down. In 2015, 10 people were arrested and 278 citations for public drinking were issued. One police officer said the crowd was generally well-behaved. In 2014, 10 people were arrested and 293 citations for public drinking were issued; in 2013, 33 people were arrested and 336 citations issued; in 2012, 8 people were arrested and 244 citations issued.

Evans continued by saying: “All I wanted to get across is we would be able to make it safer had it been shortened.” Of course, and think of how safe it would be running the Andrew Square to Andrew School route. And speaking of Andrew, I never believed he ate eight thousand cookies.

The mayor’s action was his clever way to slowly deprive the parade organizers of their First Amendment rights. This played into the media’s abhorrence of those people because their past opposition to gays marching in their parade. The major wanted  to deprive the people of South Boston and those from other places the enjoyment of the Irish parade.

I would have wondered why would an Irish mayor would want to destroy an old Irish celebration except my memories brought back my  grandfather’s words about who are the worst people to the Irish.


  1. ALL*

  2. “A real Irishmen must have a chip on each shoulder” – Uknown

  3. John King McDonald

    ” We Irish never threw Parnell to the wolves. We chose to eat him ourselves. ” … W.B. Yeats 🙂

  4. R.I.P. “Wacko.”

    (A charter member of the Greatest Generation).

  5. The Irish are not in a conspiracy to cheat the world by false representations of the merits of their countrymen. No, Sir, the Irish are a fair people; — they never speak well of one another.

    Samuel Johnson (English Poet, Critic and Writer. 1709-1784)

  6. Great points, Matt. I’m glad the Mayor’s decision was overruled. Also, I don’t believe the argument made by some that the parade is more rowdy now. I grew up in South Boston during the 1980s and there was plenty of alcohol-soaked revelry then, too. Also, the point of the parade passing by the Heights is to commemorate the evacuation of the British from Boston on March 17, 1776. The parade is also a celebration of Evacuation Day, and a living link to our revolutionary past. This is a point that seems lost on our current crop of civic leaders.

    Phillip Gulla

  7. John King McDonald

    Matt, Amen to that !!!

  8. To insure public safety the Mayor is going to have the Boston Marathon end in Cleveland Circle. Whereas Globe trucks impact public safety that failing newspaper, according to Clarke Booth, will only be permitted to deliver in Boston twice a week. Red Sox games will only be four innings. The mayor is clueless about the American Constitution. If he had bothered to read the outstanding book on the St. Pats parade case by two Savin Hill authors Connolly and Walkowski he would comprehend what was at stake. One would expect a know nothing approach from a Mennino but Walsh should know better. Where was he in the 90s when the litigation was occurring? He chose to be politically correct to the applause of the media by boycotting the parade. He didn’t understand the principle involved? He trafficked in the slander that the Vets were bigots. He embraced a false narrative to his own advantage. His conduct mirrored DA Nifong’s in the Duke Lacrosse case. Ignore people’s rights if it benefits you. If the media wants a pound of flesh then provide it irrespective of the injury. But he betrayed the Constitution and the veterans by doing so. He is acting as a petty dictator. He should be chastened by his lawlessness.

  9. John King McDonald

    … And if your name is Finnerty or Pat
    …. so long as you come from Ireland there’s a Welcome on the mat !!!

    There is truth in what your Uncle Jimmy said. It is not entirely true though.

    The Irish can be self-hating. I think it is a tribal defense mechanism as in …. ” We will style ourselves sons of bitches with our own fierce, but strangely loyal ways to each other, as loyal in hate as in love, before you just call us sons of bitches, and treat us like shit, as we know you will, and shall. “. …. And DID !!!

    Hate is a warm emotion among the Irish, and humans generally. It is the shadow side of love. Both are anodynes to the pain of living and the uncertainties of death certain, and the Hereafter uncertain.

    Your Uncle was a courageous Irishman. He lived. He died. He felt I am sure the embrace of a community, South Boston, when life was simply lived without the caricatures of history rendering the script . Thete was a blissful unconsciousness in this . You walked down the street without being surveilled by camera. You lived in a community acutely conscious of itself yet Edenic in a way in its peninsular insularity. South Boston was its own world. It is now a commodity. I can remember many times tapping my feet to … I was born down on A street … raised up on B street … Southie is my hometownnnn … as it roared through the streets during the St. Pat’ s Day Parade. And … without viewing the community through the sudsy lenses of its media and Society detractors … Simply … Enjoyed the HELL out of it . 🙂 …. Great account btw

    • John:

      Back at you – great comment. Yes, there was pride in being from Southie with its own songs and the knowledge that it was “the Yankee Division, that made the decision, and won us a great victory. They didn’t care what it cost ’em, and those kids from South Boston, mopped up Germany” . We won WWI, lost many in WWII and subsequent wars – remembered those who sacrificed – had the first Vietnam memorial – the St. Patrick’s Day parade will go by a square and a street named after my uncle an Army Air Force bombadier/navigator who died in WWII – another James – James Rogers (Crowley-Rogers Way) . We thought we had everything — by the outside standards we had very little – which is what drove the strangers into a frenzy.