The following is an article written by Michael Quinlan for the Lough Gur Historical Journal over 30 years ago. The information outlines the Lough Gur connection to President JFK. ‘Honey Fitz visited Lough Gur to look over the old homestead remembering his roots in the area. Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith visited in 1994 to keep the connection alive.
John Francis Fitzgerald “Honey” Fitz 1863-1950
Article by Michael Quinlan
There is more than usual interest in the fortunes of the Fitzgerald/ Kennedy family in Lough Gur and Bruff because the Fitzgerald ‘root’ is in the area. The visits of “Honey” Fitz, Mayor of Boston in 1908 to 1936 consolidated the connection as did the Irish visit of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1963. The traceable family records go back over two hundred years.
Born around the middle of the 18th century James Fitzgerald married Hanna McCarthy and they had two sons Michael and Edward (1798-1883). Michael married Ellen Wilmot while Edward married Mary Linnehan. Thomas (1823-1885) was one of the offspring of Michael and Ellen while Mary Ann (1834-1904) was the daughter of Edward and Mary. The first cousins emigrated to Boston where Thomas married Rosanna Cox in 1857 while Mary Ann married Michael Hannon in 1854. The home of Thomas Fitzgerald was on the Pallatine road in Bruff very likely Mary Ann’s also. The home of Michael Hannon was at Lough Gur and the late Mike Dan Daly pointed out the location of Hannon’s house just behind his own house. Thomas and Rosanna produced eleven children while Michael and Mary Ann had nine. The fourth son of Thomas and Rosanna was John Francis Fitzgerald (1863-1950) “Honey” Fitz. Mary Josephine Hannon (1865-1964) was the sixth child of Micheal and Mary Ann. Even though they were second cousins John Francis and Mary married. Their first born was Rose Elizabeth born in 1890. In 1914 Rose married Joseph Patrick Kennedy (1888-1969) and had nine children. We are more familiar with the males – Joseph (1915-1944), John F. (1917-1963), Robert F. (1925-1968), Edward Moore (1932…….). It is interesting that Mary Josephine lived to see her grandson elected president and assassinated.
On February 12th. 1863, not yet one day old, John Francis was taken by his father Thomas to St. Stephens Church for baptism. It is not known why the name John was chosen but is was believed at the time that if parents wanted their son to be either a great writer or orator, he should be named John after the Apostle and Evangelist. The name John has continued since in the family. In the book “BOSTON IMMIGRANTS” Oscar Handlin has argued that one in a hundred lived and prospered, the ninety nine being lost, never to be heard of, Thomas Fitzgerald was ‘one in a hundred’.
A family gathering and celebration followed the christening of John Francis and during the afternoon Thomas decided to go into business with his brother James and forget his dream of a farm in the Mis-West. A broad-chested, powerfully made man with a handsome face and a ruddy complexion, he was known as ‘Cocky Tom’ for having one cocked eye. The Fitzgeralds had emigrated from Bruff between 1848 and 1855 – Tom being the last to arrive and he worked for his cousin Mary Ann and her husband Michael Hannon on their farm for three years. He had hoped to earn enough to get his own land but his wages were too little so he returned to Boston and began to work as a peddler – buying fish from the boats and peddling it through the crowded cobbled streets. One month after getting his peddlers licence he married Rosanna Cox. Six years later he had saved sufficient money for land but at the christening party of John Francis, he decided to invest his savings in his brothers grocery shop at 310 North Street. With this money they could expand into the liquor business and the menfolk assembled in the saloon at night, where the women bought groceries by day. Business prospered and in 1866 Thomas was able to buy a three-story brick building at 435 Hanover Street for 36,330. The sub-letting of this property yielded in just three years enough to buy 4 Webster Place, and 379 Hanover. The prospering Irishman had learned to collect rents as the Yankee owners had done from him.
John Francis first attended Ware Primary School and three years later he was promoted to the Eliot Grammar School, a promotion limited to 10% of the students of North End. He graduated in 1877 and in September of that year he got a license to hawk newspapers which meant earnings of $2.50 per week for work which started at 3.00 a.m. Very soon he got control of a very prestigious corner on the death (T.B.) of a young friend named Fred after whom he later named his last born son. From this corner he made contact with the ‘OTHER BOSTON’, the old prosperous Boston and there he set his sights. The slums of Boston were terribly over-crowded. In the nine years up to 1845, 33,346 immigrants had landed in Boston. In 1847 over 37,000 immigrants arrived in a city of 114,366 and by 1855 there were over 55,000 Irish in the city, 34% of the total population. In 1879 the family suffered a shattering loss when Rosanna died aged 48. Death notice as follows:
“In this city, 10th inst. Rosa Fitzgerald. Funeral from her late residence 465 Hanover street, March 12th. at 8.30 O’clock. Relatives and friends invited.”
After Rosanna’s death, there grew in Thomas Fitzgerald the ambition that one of his sons should be a doctor. At that time only 4% of all boys and girls attended secondary school. John Francis was chosen and on September he entered Boston Latin School, cradle of the War of Independence and home of Harvard University it was a popular tourist attraction.
Oscar Wilde, visiting Boston in 1882, complimented the city….“The only city in America which has influenced thought in Europe.”… Tours were conducted by students from Boston Latin School, among them John Francis Fitzgerald. He always always finished his tour at the Old North Church, which still housed the lanterns used to signal Paul Revere of the intentions of the British on the 18th. of April in “75”. Since the Catholics were forbidden to entre Protestant churches, he always excused himself at the doorway and allowed his visitors to enter alone. On an evening in May 1882, he was accompanying an English couple and their beautiful daughter and they insisted that he should enter the church with them. Not wanting to refuse the girl and prompted by his own curiosity, he led them to the belfry. Relieved at not being struck dead and as they looked down on the beauty of the city he recited Longfellow’s poem on Paul Revere:
“He said to his friend:
If the British march
By land or sea from the town tonight,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the Old North Church ad a signal light,
One if by land and two if my sea,
And I on the opposite shore will be ready
To ride to speed the alarm…”
As they left the church the newsboys were selling the evening papers and shouting the startling news… “Extra! Extra! Lord Frederick Cavendish, Chief secretary for Ireland assassinated in Dublin!”. The Englishman bought a paper and read the account to his family. Having done so he beckoned to them to follow him and turning, threw the paper into Fitzgerald’s face. Confused, Fitzgerald attempted to follow them but the girl turned about and in a wrathful tone told him to stay back where he belonged. The irony of this happening is that his grand-daughter Kathleen Kennedy married William Cavendish, the ninth Marquess of Hartington, great, grand-nephew of Lord Frederick Cavendish.
He passed his final exams in June 1884 and was admitted to Harvard Medical School in September. His stay was short lived because his father Thomas Fitzgerald (Cocky Tom) died on May 19th 1885. To help support the younger members of his family, John had to go to work and he went to Matthew Keany, political ward boss for advice and help. Keany wanted to pay for his studies but John had his mind fully made up and finally Keany employed him as political assistant and so his contact with politics began. Becoming one of Keany’s most trusted followers brought its rewards – a clerkship in the Custom House with an income of $1,500 plus benefits and now secure he set about marrying Mary Josephine Hannon, whom he had loved from their first meeting. Eventually having obtained a church dispensation (consanguinity of the 3rd degree), they were married on the 18th of September 1889 at St. Bernards Catholic Church in Concord. On July 22nd 1890 Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald was born.
Fitzgerald now set himself up in the insurance business and decided on an active role in politics. With Keany’s help he first stood for the Common Council, the lowest rung on the ladder and was elected. Again he made his mark when he succeeded in getting $350,000 allocated to build a park at North End. And then Keany got pneumonia and died in February 1892. Against much opposition Fitzgerald managed to gain control and became BOSS OF WARD B. Now he nominated himself for higher office and he chose to skip the Board of Aldermen and the State House of Representatives and stand for a seat in the 35 member State Senate. He formed a support group called the Jefferson Club and when elected in 1892 he became one of the youngest senators on Beacon Hill. In 1894 he sought the House Seat for the Democrats in the Ninth Congressional District, won the nomination and also the seat. Half a century later his grandson launched his political career in the same district. Now Congressman Fitzgerald – one of three Catholics out of a house of 350.
In Congress Henry Cabot Lodge was trying to impose a bill curbing immigration. Fitzgerald championed the immigrant cause, conscious of his own origins and succeeded in preventing the passage of the bill. It is of interest that his great grandson Joe Kennedy is fighting a similar battle in Congress at the moment, one hundred years later. Returning to Boston he bought a large mansion at 39 Welles Avenue in Dorchester. He could afford it because, as well as other business interests he had taken over for $500, a small Catholic weekly newspaper called “THE REPUBLIC”. Within two years he had turned a dying enterprise into a thriving business that netted him profits of $25,000 per year.
His main reason for retiring from Congress was to concentrate on his main ambition – to be Mayor of Boston. Apart from being a good business proposition, his buying of “THE REPUBLIC” was to control an organ of publicity and this also proved effective. It was well recognised that he was mayoral material but before he could declare his candidacy for 1901, Patrick A. Collins, one of the most respected politicians in Boston, went forward and Fitzgerald knew that it was time to postpone his challenge. Collins died in 1905 and the office was again vacant. Ned Donovan was the favourite among the WARD BOSSES but Fitzgerald entered the contest and his years of work and personal charisma had a wide appeal and he won the preliminary and then mayoral election. And so on the 1st of January 1906, the Honourable John Francis Fitzgerald was inducted Mayor of Boston. (A coincidence of age (43) appears when remember that J.F.K. became President at the same age.) “Never before,” the BOSTON EVENING TRANSCRIPT reported, “was there such a demonstration on inaugural day”.
“HONEY FITZ” – MAYOR OF BOSTON is the legend. But the legend suggests a longer incumbency. He served from 1906 – 1908, then failed to be re-elected (the giving of city contracts were being investigated at the time), was elected again in 1910 for a four year term and failed afterwards, Rose married Joseph Patrick Kennedy in 1915 and the limelight now centered on Kennedy’s rise to fame and fortune, culminating in his appointment as Ambassador to Britain and in the election of his son as the first Catholic President of the U.S.A. And yet it was Joe Junior whom the family had in mind to fill that elevated position but destiny dictated otherwise.
When his first grandchild (Joe Junior) was born, “Honey” was thrilled and when interviewed by reporters said that he was the happiest man in the world.
“Feeling fine and just as young as ever,” he chuckled, “though I’m another generation removed now. No, I don’t know what we’ll make of the youngster but he can yell all right and he’ll make a good man in the platform some day.” When asked if the baby would be going into politics he answered, “Of course, he is going to be President of the U.S……. and he may act as Mayor of Boston and governor of Massachusetts on his way to the President chair.” He expected the child to be called after himself but the child was called Joseph Patrick and the name oddly enough fulfilled the prediction, was to be reserved for the second son born in 1917 – John Fitzgerald Kennedy (J.F.K.)
While canvassing for the 1910 election the word FITZGERALDISM was coined – Fitzgeraldism is constructive – it means BETTER SCHOOLS, BETTER STREETS AND BETTER HOSPITALS. He introduced all the razzmatazz into his canvas and his fiery and humous oratory was climaxed when before the shouts had died down, he would ask the crowd to join him in singing a rousing melody – famourites being ‘The wearing of the Green’, ‘When Johnny comes marching home’, or ‘Sweet Adelene’. He incorporated music and song into all his rallies and thus was born the legend of “Honey” Fitz – the man with the golden voice.
In 1908 having failed to be re-elected and to remove himself from the scene, while the Grants Scandal Hearings were continuing he decided to visit Europe. With Mary Josephine and daughters Rose and Agnes he crossed the Atlantic on the S.S. CYMRIC. First they visited England and on the 1st of August crossed to Ireland. This was his first visit to Ireland and they visited the Pallatine Road in Bruff where his father had lived and then Lough Gur where Michael Hannon was born. He remarked that the area was indescribably lovely.
1823.19.01 Michael Fitzgerald
WITNESS Rev. P O’Brien and James Ryan
OFFSPRING 1823.04.12 Thomas Fitzgerald
1828.17.02 Edw. Fitzgerald
WITNESS James O’Flannagan
OFFSPRING 1829.22.06 Hanora
1830.29.09 Bridget & Johanna
1832.09.05 Mary Ann
1832.19.09 Michael Hannon son of John Hannon and Bridget Noonan
Michael married Mary Ann Fitzgerald and five of their nine children died leaving three girls and a crippled boy. The eldest girl Ellen, married Maurice Heffernan in 1885. Mary Josephine married 1857.04.05 Maurice Heffernan son of John Heffernan and Ellen Pillion.
The Fitzgerald Kennedys – Doris Kearns Goodwin
Bruff Parish Records – 1781-1899
Knockainey Parish Records – 1801-1899
Paul Revere’s Ride – Longfellow.