Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Michael McNamara 1825-1915
















Michael McNamara died on December 4, 1915 in Foxboro at the age of 90 years. He was born in Crosshaven, County Cork, Ireland in 1825, the son of James and Ellen McNamara.

At the age of 15, McNamara went to sea and followed a sailor’s life for several years. His first vessel navigated between England, Wales, and the city of Cork, Ireland. After a time of running this course, he engaged as a sailor on the Atlantic liners running between Liverpool and New York.

On January 10, 1851, while residing in Crosshaven, he married Anna Buckley.
Soon after the end of the “Irish Potato Famine” in 1852, alongside tens of thousands of Irish immigrants, the McNamara’s arrived in Boston. His first employment was as a ‘stevedore’ or dockworker on the wharfs of Boston harbor.

On September 19, 1861, soon after the outbreak of the Civil War, he enlisted on the “Ohio” at the Charlestown Naval Yard and was afterward transferred to the frigate “Congress”. On March 8, 1862, in Hampton Roads, Virginia, the frigate engaged in a battle with the newly converted Confederate ironclad, CSS Virginia. The Confederate gunners put several raking shells into the frigate's hull, causing heavy casualties and soon the “Congress” was afire. McNamara was among the last two sailors to leave the burning ship. He was reassigned to the gunboat “Flag” and was involved in the harbor blockade at Charlestown, South Carolina. He was awarded a diploma for his patriotism in the Navy and was discharged on February 9, 1863.

McNamara returned to Boston and in 1864 he was made a member of the Boston Police Department. He served at Station 2, Court Street for 20 years and remarkably earned the record of never having lost an hour’s time during his entire service. He is remembered as “...one of the most faithful, conscientious and competent officers on the entire force, and during his service was honored for his unvarying bravery in several dangerous situations where is life was at stake.”

After his retirement in 1884, Michael, Anna, and their three sons, Thomas, James and William resettled in Foxboro. Under the leadership of a dynamic young priest, Fr. Patrick H. Callahan, the McNamara’s joined forces with other Irish Catholic families including the Brannons, Foleys, Fitzpatricks, Kirbys, Tierneys, Devines, Clarks, and Gormans to revivify the faith and rebuild their church --- the previous two establishments having been destroyed by fire.

In 1884, Foxboro in particular and the Commonwealth in general, were in the throes of a “Temperance Movement.” Foxboro’s clergy, Fr. Callanan included, were supporters of limiting the licensing of liquor. But each year the town voted to favor licensing. The solution to the conundrum was the hiring of Michael McNamara for one year as a constable.

The impact of an experienced Boston policeman on the force brought quick results including arrests and successful court cases involving illegal distribution of liquor. The Foxboro Reporter soon praised the constables, “The authorities now seem bent on the enforcement of law and they have officers who will go where they are sent, even into the lions den.”

The priest and parishioner were truly new role models of enthusiasm and behavior. On May 6, 1888, Archbishop John J. Williams rededicated the newly refurbished St. Mary's church. Michael McNamara’s contributions included a memorial stained glass window, and new vestment cases and wardrobes for both vestries.

Michael McNamara died at his son Thomas’ house on Central Street. At the time of his death he was surrounded by his wife, three sons, daughters-in-law and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. But the extraordinary story does not end with his immediate death.

About the hour of midnight, not far past the twelve hours after the last rites over the body of her husband, Anna McNamara, the faithful and devoted wife of 64 years, passed away. Everyone believed she died from a ‘broken heart.’

Anna (Buckley) McNamara was born in Ireland, near the home of her husband, the daughter of Timothy and Eilcia Buckley. She was devoted of Christian character, and was honored and beloved not only by every member of her family but by all with whom she came in contact. Anna and Michael are buried together in St. Mary’s Cemetery on Mechanic Street.

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