100 Years of Getting on and Giving Back for West-of-Ireland Immigrants
Boston, USA—On October 18, 2008 the County Mayo Association of Boston will celebrate its centenary and the Association's first ten decades of fundraising, philanthropy and transatlantic advocacy.
At the Centennial Banquet, the Association will recognise their Mayo Person of the Year, Father Michael Tracey from Killawalla, County Mayo, and now Pastor of Our Lady of the Gulf Parish, Bay St Louis, Mississippi. Fr. Tracey is being honoured for his outreach and support for victims of Hurricane Katrina. As part of his award, the Association will donate funds to support Tracey's ongoing re-building work in Mississippi.
Minister Eamonn O'Cuiv and Mayo County Manager Des Mahon will travel to Boston for the event--as well as representatives from Mayo associations in Galway, Dublin, New York, Philadelphia, and Toronto. Thomas Menino, Mayor of Boston, is slated to attend at 8 p.m.
In the mid-1800s, County Mayo was one of the worst hit by the Great Irish Famine--spurring a large scale immigration to the U.S. From 1845-1851, this rural, agrarian county's population declined by approximately 200,000 people.
In 1908, a group of young Irishmen in Boston chartered the Mayo Men’s Benevolent Association to provide intellectual stimulation and social events for their members and "to preserve the memory of the late Michael Davitt." Born in Straide, County Mayo, Michael Davitt (1846-1906, a victim of land evictions, founded the Irish National Land League, which fought for the rights of Irish tenant farmers against 19th-century British landlordism.
Shortly afterward, Mayo women in Boston formed the Mayo Women’s Auxiliary, which held grand balls and galas to collect funds to benefit Irish and American charities and institutions. One event, combining all of the Boston-area Irish clubs and associations, raised an astounding $4,000.
Also, true to their tradition of political activism, Mayo men and women participated enthusiastically in local Boston politics.
During the Ireland’s 1916 Easter Rising and the War of Independence, Boston-Mayo people held huge rallies to protest the execution of Irish patriots, and the proposed execution of American-born Eamonn de Valera. They sold "Victory Bonds" in conjunction with other Irish-American Associations to raise funds for the Irish cause.
After the American Great Depression and World War II, the focus of both Mayo men and Mayo women turned to "benevolence"-- the hallmark of the original charter in 1908.
In the 1950s, it was proposed to merge the men and women’s organisations. But the Mayo women were reluctant to share their funds (they had a larger fund than the men) with their male counterparts. However, the two organisations eventually merged to become the County Mayo Association of Boston. Since the 1950s, the Association has continued to collect funds for organisations, institutions, and individuals - here and in Ireland.
Today, the Mayo Association sponsors exhibits and they bring numerous Irish individuals, artists and groups to Boston to perform, while still benefiting worthy or charitable causes.