The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

John Boyle O’Reilly Memorial

Detail of memorial to John Boyle O'Reilly featuring his face only

John Boyle O’Reilly’s faults were few, his virtues many. He did his work fearlessly and brilliantly. He did it, too, with a conspicuous ability which was seen and appreciated by men of all classes and men of all creeds. He has gone from among us, but he has left a record which the land of his nativity, his adopted country, and the city in which he lived will always cherish with pride, with honor, and with respect. Col. Charles H. Taylor (Memorial of John Boyle O'Reilly from the City of Boston, Boston: By Order of Board of Aldermen, 1891)

Across the street from the MHS, and facing back at it, is a large bronze bust commemorating  John Boyle O’Reilly, an Irish-born poet, newspaperman, author, Statue of John Boyle OReilly taken from Boylston Streetand social activist who brought his passion and patriotism to Boston. He was a giant in the city and won the admiration and respect of all those he met. Upon his death in 1890, thousands of people descended on Tremont Temple to pay their respects.

The memorial that stands directly across from the MHS was designed by Daniel Chester French and erected in 1896. French was responsible for creating such iconic sculptures as The Minute Man statue standing in Concord, MA, a statue of a seated John Harvard that is in Harvard Yard, and the giant sculpture of Abraham Lincoln that occupies the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

French’s monument to John Boyle O’Reilly features a large bronze bust of O’Reilly on one side. On the reverse is a sculpture of Erin (representing Ireland), who is weaving a wreath and is flanked by her two sons, Poetry and Patriotism. Back of John Boyle OReilly Statue taken from Fenway The figures are placed in front of a backdrop composed of a Celtic cross and Celtic knots carved into the stone.

While there is no known large body of O'Reilly's personal papers, the MHS holds letters written by O'Reilly scattered through our collection, including material in the Frederic Jesup Stimson Papers, the DeGrasse-Howard Papers, and the William Eustis Russell Papers. The MHS also hold a number of published items authored by O'Reilly, including his novel Moondyne: A Story from the Under-world (1879), and transcriptions of several speeches he made in his lifetime. The Boston Public Library newspaper room provides access to the full run of the Boston archdiocesan newspaper Pilot, including the issues produced during O'Reilly's tenure as editor. To learn more about the life, death, and times of John Boyle O’Reilly, visit the MHS library to discover additional source materials.

permalink | Published: Wednesday, 27 June, 2012, 8:00 AM


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