The Road to the Bright City
Submitted by Thomas Hynes, Boston, Mass.
June / July 2015
My grandfather John Bernard “Barney” Hynes and his brother Thomas J. Hynes emigrated from Loughrea, Galway, Ireland to Boston, Massachusetts in 1875. They were in their early teens.
Barney got a job with the Elevated Railroad Company, where he worked for 40 years and moonlighted at night singing, mostly at Irish wakes.
Tom went to Harvard where he spent countless hours on the athletic fields – as the groundskeeper. Tom managed to buy a rooming house on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge and actually made enough money to return to Ireland where he bought a pub and a farm in Loughrea.
Barney had five children: Tom, Sr., my father, born in 1895; John B., born in 1898; and later Mary, Jimmy, and Joe.
For the first generation born in the U.S., it was work and a hard-scrabble education. For my father, John B., and Joe, college at night after a full day’s work led to civil service work at City Hall, the Parks Department, and the Courts.
When Mayor James Michael Curley went to jail in 1948, John B. Hynes, then City Clerk, was appointed mayor. (The president of the city council should have been mayor pro tem, but he was under indictment.) Following his five-month imprisonment, Curley returned to office. In his book, I’d Do it Again, he wrote: “I returned to my desk at city hall the day after Thanksgiving and relieved Johnny Hynes, the temporary mayor during my absence. In two hours I received sixty persons in my office and found jobs for them. Hynes was visibly upset when I told the press I had accomplished more in five hours than he had in five months, and his resentment deepened to the extent that he decided to run against me in the next mayoralty campaign. When I heard this, I drank a toast to him at a city hall luncheon and said, ‘Johnny can have my job any time,’ I said. ‘Whenever I quit.’”
Hynes beat Curley by 13,595 votes in a bitterly-fought campaign and served three consecutive terms from 1950 to 1960.
One of the few home movies we have in color is Mayor Hynes doing an Irish jig in our living room at a family party. Notable in the film is the blue smoke and brown whiskey glasses.
Growing up as a kid in West Roxbury, my Irish heritage was deeply influenced by the neighbors with families of five, six, and seven kids. Mrs. Burns baking Irish bread on Saturdays and Mrs. O’Connell going off to 6 o’clock mass every morning set a standard that did not go unnoticed.
When my father died in 1949, leaving a widow and five children, the extended Irish on both sides of the family tree were always there to lend their support.
In my generation, there was a transition to private Catholic schools and colleges. My older brother, John B. (“Jack”) went to Notre Dame where his study was interrupted by WWII. In 1944, while flying a B-17 over Germany, he was shot down. He survived P.O.W. camp and returned to graduate from Notre Dame.
Today, John B. Hynes, Jr., (the son of Mayor John B.) is the elder statesman of the clan. Also a Notre Dame graduate, he has had a distinguished career as a journalist and T.V. newscaster. His son, John B. Hynes III, a Harvard graduate, is focusing on the development of the Seaport Square 24-acre site, which is to be completed within this decade.
From impoverished beginnings and no education, to night school and elite colleges (the Hynes family has multiple degrees from Boston College, Notre Dame, Harvard, Emmanuel, Regis, Middlebury and M.I.T.), we have seen the evolution of our family from blue-collar laborers to civil servants, to politics and law, to distinguished careers in media, business, science, education, and real estate. God bless America. ♦
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[EDITOR: Tom Hynes is co-chairman and CEO of Collier International’s Boston office, a full-service commercial real estate firm. He is a former Business 100 Keynote Speaker.]