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From the archives | June 29

Eamon De Valera pleads Irish cause at Fenway Park

Eamon De Valera spoke to at Fenway Park crowd of about 50,000.

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Eamon De Valera spoke to at Fenway Park crowd of about 50,000.

Eamon De Valera, President of the Irish republic, got a reception from at least 50,000 people at Fenway Park yesterday afternoon such as no other Irish patriot ever received in Boston -- such a reception as only the head of a National is accorded -- and it is certain that only one who had the love, respect and confidence of the Irish people could get any such reception.

To say that it was thrilling is putting it mildly -- it was electric. The heart and head of the people of Irish blood were in it. In Eamon De Valera was personified the fulfillment of their hopes, and the very mystery which attaches to this man, who was comparatively unheard of until recently, somehow fulfilled the dreams of the race -- that some great figure would arise at the crucial moment and lead Ireland to freedom.

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In the thoughtful, militant, clean-cut face and gaunt personality of De Valera there is somehow also personified that new spirit which has come to Irishmen everywhere in which the demand has superseded the appeal for justice to Ireland. In that vast audience you sensed this new dignity that has sunk into their consciousness, born of the knowledge that millions of men of Irish blood have been fighting the past four years for democracy as against autocracy and for the self-determination of Nations in the world.

An inspiring assembly

It was an inspiring assemblage -- one in which the spirit of the Irish people rose above the spirit of faction, of group or party, and with all due respect to President De Valera and his associate, this great, new dignified spirit of Irish solidarity and nationality was perhaps expressed more clearly to the American mind by United States Senator David I. Walsh than by any other speakers.

He touched the sensitive chord that binds the Irishman or America to the motherland. He spoke with the dignity and passion which a great cause that is before the bar of the world demands. And never before did “Dave” Walsh rise to such heights of genuine eloquence. He said the things which Irish-Americans feel.

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This great audience differed from most of the audiences before whom the Irish question has been discussed in the past. The American horn men and women of Irish blood dominated in this great audience. They have been aroused as never before. They are in the fight with De Valera, and they appreciated the eloquent prayer with which Rev Fr. Philip O’Donnell opened the meeting -- a prayer so thrilling in its appeal that it was frequently applauded.

Another thing that “caught” that audience was the speech of Henry J. Boland, secretary to De Valera - another of the young men or the Ireland of today who is full of the new dignity which Ireland has taken on and speaks with rare force and a biting incisiveness. He, like De Valera and all these men, know American history well and they use the “deadly parallel” between the Irish Revolution and revolutionists and the America Revolution and revolutionists with tremendous effect.

Speakers all forceful

Another who thrilled the people was Maj Eugene F. Kinkead of Jersey City. He, like United States Senator Walsh, struck a note that found quick response. He spoke from the Irish-American point of view and he drove his points home with the inexorable logic of what has come to be termed the “new democracy.” He knows the economics as well as the politics and history of the entire question -- and he bares it to the inspection of the world. He aroused great enthusiasm.

The there was Daniel H. Coakley, who had the arduous job of speaking the first words to the crowd and introducing the chairman, Thomas H. Mahoney. But in the few words which Mr. Coakley spoke he said a great deal. He sensed that audience and knew what brought them together. Although “Joe” O’Connell only read the resolutions, he read them in a way that made them seem almost like his own personal utterance and conviction. When Chairman Mahoney put those resolutions there a unanimous “Aye” that could be heard over in Dorchester, and the silence that followed when he called for the “noes” caused a shout of laughter.

And Mayor Peters got a great reception. His welcome to President De Valera was hearty and the audience appreciated it.

It is doubtful if a more perfect day could have been selected -- clear, sunny and not too warm. It was an ideal day for a great outdoor meeting and the location could not have been much improved, although at times it looked rather serious and as if there would be a panic around the platform that had been erected for the speakers and guests at the “home plate.”

Crowd everywhere

A large audience was expected -- perhaps 25,000 people -- but 50,000 poured into the grounds. They filled the grandstand first, then the wings on the right and left, then they poured into the field and filled the space between the platform and grandstand -- jammed it -- then flowed around and backward in all directions, and there were thousands on the streets outside.

The jam became so great between the platform and grandstand that several women fainted and had to be carried on the speakers’ platform, where they were attended by Dr. James F. Gallagher. The crowd surged around the reporters’ tables that were on the ground in front of the speakers’ platform, and one of these tables was crumpled up, but fortunately nobody was injured.

There was considerable confusion while the crowd poured into the grandstands and the grounds, for many societies which paraded to the grounds came with bands of music. They came in through different entrances and were cheered as they marched along, but the societies and bands were swallowed up in the crowd before they got very far.

Finally the bands were massed at one corner of the grandstand and played Irish patriotic tunes for an hour or more before the speaking began.

Some of the societies were in uniform, such as the John Boyle O’Reilly Guards of Charlestown, and some of them carried the American flag and the flag of the Irish republic. The speakers’ platform was decorated with both colors. One the platform a soldier also held aloft one of the tattered American flags carried by the 101st in the Argonne, and at another corner of the stand a guard held aloft a flag of the Irish republic.

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