The mission of LowellIrish is to collect and preserve the history and cultural materials, which document the presence of the Irish community in Lowell. As the first immigrant group in a city that continues to celebrate its immigrant past, LowellIrish will serve as an advocate to support a better understanding of the historical, political, religious, and social function the Irish played in the formation of the city.
It made the front page of the Lowell Sun in June of
1915. The Broadway Social and Athletic
Club held what would become the first of its annual banquets. The club was formed the year before by a
group of Acre neighbors who wanted a place to get together talk politics and
have a game of baseball. Originally the
club was on Broadway Street itself, near where the White Electric building used
to be. The club soon relocated to what
many will be remembered as the Marine Club or the Firefighter’s Club at the
intersection of Fletcher, Cross, and Willie.
The club, though only a year old in 1915, grew quickly
gathering athletes and politicians alike in its ranks. Though located in not the most prestigious neighborhood
of the city, some of Lowell’s most well-known movers and shakers sought
membership cards. Being a member not
only gave individuals a chance to make contacts with city councilors or job
potentials, but it also mixed different classes. Most of its members resided in the Acre, but
there were many others who lived elsewhere and whose roots began in the Acre. Reading a list of members and attendees to
that banquet in 1915 reads like a page from the Dublin white pages. There were: the McCanns, O’Sullivans,
Murphys, and Caseys; There were the Feeneys, Scanalls, Hessians, and Dohertys
Of that night the Sun said it “to be one of the most
successful affairs of its kind ever held in this city,” and would be the talk
of the town for many years. The rooms on
“upper Broadway” were festooned with streamers of red, white, and blue on the
outside with a large welcome sign.
Inside potted palms and flowering plants filled the hall. The evening started off with the grand
procession by its members into the hall followed by a turkey dinner. Mayor Dennis J. Murphy was in attendance
while Rep. When It’s
Moonlight in Mayo. Francis Connor
sang, Ireland, I Love You. When Frank Clough finished his musical number
the audience requested 5 more encores from him, perhaps to curtail the
speeches. It’s interesting to note how
the speakers encouraged its younger members to seek education by attending
Lowell Textile School. Another speaker
encouraged all to embody, especially the younger members, the goals of the
club; “friendship, fidelity, and community.” There was much talk of citizenship, love of
country, the growth of bigotry in the country and believing in and spreading of
false rumors in the news. Little did
these men know that in a few years many would be called to defend these rights
and liberties in the Great War.
Walter H Hickey
Dennis A. Murphy, an Acre man himself, was toastmaster. The speeches continued with club President
McCann recounting the group’s mission to provide social events for a few
friends, and how it had expanded, and even just purchased a summer camp
exclusive for its members. In between
the speeches were a number of musical numbers.
James Dowling sang
Let’s not forget the other title in club’s name-
athletics. The North Common had been
hosting ball games probably since the first days of Abner Doubleday invented
baseball. In the late 1800s the
Columbians of St. Patrick’s Boys School was one of the first teams playing
there. Then the Emeralds and the
Sanctuary Team from St. Pat’s. As the
Sun said in 1916, the Broadway Club boys, many from old St. Pat’s “is going to
uphold the traditional valor of the Acre lads on the baseball diamond.” The traditional rivals of the Acre teams were
those from the South Common. In the
beginning crowds up to 3000 people would come to watch the games. Soon those numbers triples. The rivalry between the North and South
Commons had been going on for 50 years.
A writer commented that those not wanting to watch the game could
observe the 101 arguments that were going on amongst the spectators as to who
had the better team. Baseball wasn’t the
only sport the club engaged in. They
sponsored boxing matches as well.
The competition got so bad that in 1916 it was commented
that the North Common supporters should “learn to be good losers as well as
good winners.” It seems that spectators
from the Club were interfering with the other team’s players. They were warned that other teams would not
want to come to the North Common if such activity continued. It cautioned them to, “curb (your) over
demonstrative partisans and insist on fair play.” They were later described as “the Broadways,
whose habitat is the North Common, are a fighting bunch willing to take on
For many decades the group sponsored dances (tickets cost 35
cents), political rallies, minstrel shows, and were active in wider community
events. They were regular marchers
during 4th of July festivities.
Members marched wearing dark suits, and straw hats while carrying gold
canes with American flags attached.
Patrick Kearns, "Big Jack's Bartender"
By the 1940s the mission of the Broadway Social and Athletic
Club had been reached. Its members were now among Lowell’s educated, political,
and business leaders. Soon the only
mention of the club was in its aged members obituaries. After World War II the club was sold and
turned into the Marine Club.
The Photos: almost 30 years ago someone handed me a group of
aged photos and said if I didn’t give them a home they were being thrown
out. That’s how a lot of things have
come my way. The photos are 3x4 inches
in sepia tone, probably 30-40 of them.
In rough penmanship each is identified.
They are all of members of the Broadway Social and Athletic Club. Probably the only artifacts remaining from a
time long ago.