South Shore towns from Weymouth to Plymouth hope to get a major tourism boost from a proposed Irish Heritage Trail that will highlight sites of interest to Irish-Americans and visitors from Ireland and around the world.
The best-laid plans of mice and men “Gang aft a-gley.” is no less true today than in Robert Burns’ time. Covid 19 forced the postponement and rethinking of a Scituate meeting to which political and civic leaders from nine South Shore towns were invited. The proposal for a South Shore Irish Heritage Trail from the Scituate/ West Cork Sister City Committee was to be unveiled at that meeting. Rather than a large group meeting as originally planned, there is now to be a three step approach: First, there will be an array of printed materials ready for distribution in October when town officials are more apt to have time to study them. Next, there will be an explanatory You Tube Video presentation for viewing in early November. This will be followed by the third step - a zoom Question and Answer meeting in mid November.
Backed by $1,250 in seed money from the Irish government, the hope is to win participation in a South Shore Irish Heritage Trail from communities that boast the highest concentration of residents with Irish roots in the entire United States. An astounding 40 to nearly 50 per cent of area residents can trace their heritage back to the Emerald Isle.
The South Shore Irish Heritage Trail’s mission is to celebrate the impressive contributions of Irish and Irish Americans on the South Shore and to increase significantly tourism to the nine towns. World travel for pleasure or business will not equal pre-pandemic level any time soon. But, humans have a wanderlust that is innate. The South Shore Irish Heritage Trail can offer an interesting, informative and accessible outlet for the need to travel. Day trips or weekend excursions will entice many to the area who will eat and shop during their visit and perhaps stay overnight. In short, the trail will bring new and much needed business to the area. Every one of our nine towns will need that increase in business traffic.
“One model for this project in the extremely successful Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland,” said Siobhan Hunter, Chair of the Scituate/West Cork Committee. “We hope to do something similar here showcasing sites with connections to Ireland and the immigrants who flocked here in pursuit of better lives.”
Among the early discussed stops along the Trail:
*The former Hull summer home of celebrated Irish-American John Boyle O’Reilly, a poet, journalist and civil rights activist. The family of President John F Kennedy also had links to the town.
* The Cohasset memorial to the 1849 shipwreck of the Brig St John in which nearly 100 Irish immigrants perished. The shipwreck of the Brig St. John was the worst shipwreck in the history of the South Shore.
* The Scituate Maritime and Irish Mossing Museum which chronicles a local industry begun by Irish immigrants in which many generations of Scituate young people participated.
* Marshfield’s proposed Irish Path which may incorporate bronze sculptures inspired by events in Irish history.
* Plymouth Public Library contains the only dedicated Irish Collection of any city or town on the South Shore.
The West Cork Committee invites participation from South Shore towns. One lure is possible continued funding from the Irish government through its Emigrant Support Program. The committee has applied for a $75,000 grant to fund planning and development of the Trail including an interactive web page to guide visitors to Irish-themed sites in the South Shore towns. “Not only would this be an asset to all those who live here regardless of ethnicity but the side benefits for tourism could benefit each community in a substantial way,” said Siobhan Hunter.