The Irish Emigrant
Plymouth AOH marks brig St. John tragedy
Each year since 1992, the Plymouth Division 9 of the Ancient Order of Hibernians has commemorated the sinking of the brig St. John, which sailed from Galway, Ireland, in September of 1849, bound for Boston. The ship was caught in a storm which blew her off course south of Cohasset Harbor, where she was smashed upon the rocks of Grampus Ledge on October 7, 1849.
Ninety-nine passengers were lost that day, all of whom were emigrant Irish men, women, and children. Only 12 passengers survived, with 45 bodies recovered from the sea and buried in a mass, unmarked grave at Cohasset’s Central Cemetery. In 1914 the Massachusetts State AOH and the Massachusetts State Ladies AOH erected a 20-foot tall Celtic cross at a high point in the cemetery, near the gravesite.
This year (2011), on the 162nd anniversary of the tragedy, the AOH’s annual commemoration was well attended, starting with a Mass at St. Anthony’s Church in Cohasset, celebrated by Listowel, Co. Kerry native Fr. Sean Maher and Deacon Bill Nagle of the Plymouth AOH. The Mass was followed by a reception at the Parish Center, with guest speaker Dr. Bill O’Connell of Duxbury, historian of the Plymouth AOH.
The gathering was treated to a song by Rik Tinory titled “Mother of Ireland,” which included a brief soliloquy by Seamus Mulligan, whose Irish music program can be heard on WROL on Sunday afternoons. Bagpiper Paul Boyle, a member of the Plymouth AOH and the Boston Police Gaelic Pipe Column, added his own stirring counterpoint.
Other luminaries present included Massachusetts State AOH President Dick Wall; past National President of the AOH, Jack Meehan; past Massachusetts State President of the AOH, Dick MacDonald; and past National President of the Ladies AOH, Mary Ryan.