Henry O'Meara, my great-grandfather, was a prominent Bostonian in the late 19th century, a time when Bostonians of Irish extraction were beginning to be accepted as a part of the cultural life of the city. He was a journalist, speaker and poet, regularly called upon to take part in the dedications of civic monuments, receptions for visiting dignitaries and other official and semi-official occasions.
He was born at St. John's, Newfoundland, and educated at St. Dunstan's College, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
His brother, Stephen O'Meara was the publisher of the Boston Journal, and served as Police Commissioner.
This site features an on-line version of his book:
Henry O'Meara, author, poet and journalist was born in St. John, Newfoundland, Sept. 1, 1850. He was educated chiefly at the Central Academy of St. Dunstan's College in Charlottetown, P.E.I. While at the latter he manifested a special interes in the rhetoric class, in which he was associated with the present Archbishop of Halifax, and with the poet-editor Mr. James Jeffery Roche.
At the close of his classical studies he came with other members of his family to Boston, and after a brief experience at the Merchants' Exchange news room he was engaged in the book department of the "Pilot" publishing establishment, then conducted by Mr. Patrick Donahoe, in which position he availed himself of its opportunities for an acquaintance with books and authors.
He was promoted to an editorial position on "The Pilot," where for some years he was a co-worker with the chief editor, Mr. John Boyle O'Reilly. Subsequently, during an interval of half a year, he taught classes at theHouse of the Angel Guardian in Boston Highlands. He afterwards accepted an engagement for special department work on the Boston "Herald." The editorial charge of the "Catholic Herald" at Lawrence, Mass., was given him during the first six months of its existence.
Mr. O'Meara has also contributed to most of the papers in Boston at various times, particularly in the matter of poems, sketches, and stories.
He has been for a numer of years past employed in the editorial department of the "Boston Journal," where he has had charge of the "Weekly Jourhal," and his varied work on the daily, particularly in the line of descriptive writing, has been uniformly credited with grace and diction.
In dramatic matters he has long displayed a special taste, having been the dramatic critic of the "Boston Times," and having also contributed critical articles to other Boston papers. One of the projects whe has in part accomlished has been the preparation of short poems in tribute to the heroines of Shakespeare. He has also written a drama entitled "Desertion, or the Bridge of Ice," which is based on provintial life during the civil war.
It is in the line of poetry that Mr. O'Meara has attained most of his prominence. He has published a handsome volume entitled "Ballads of America" which has already passed through two editions, the last containing among the additional verses the "Ode to our Naval Heroes," written by him at the invitation of the city of Boston, and sung at the meeting in memory of Admiral Porter. The work has won high praise from the press and literary critics. The poet John G. Whittier wrote, "I have read with much satisfaction the spirited ‘Ballads of america.'" In the course of an interesting correspendence Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, "I am almos afraide to compliment you on [inkblot] and beautiful book after the flattering tribute you have paid me in your dedication, and the poem specially inscribed to me. I hope you will live to give us many more songs of patriotism, friendship and all the generous emotions which find their fitting expression in melodious verse."
Mr. O'Meara has served as poet for the city of Boston on various occasions. Prominent among these was Columbus Day, on which he contributed a poem to be read by him in the presence of upwards of fifteen thousand persons, including the Most Rev. Archbishop Williams, the Lieutenant Governor, the Mayor of Boston and the consuls of European countries at the unveiling of the Columbus stature. In this connection a Boston paper remarked, "Mr. O'Meara is undoubtedly the official exponenet of poesy in Boston."
At the dedication of the Boston Chamber of Commerce building he was the poet of the day. The stanza was:
When he had concluded the utterance of the last sentiment, Ex-Secretary of State Bayard, now ambassador to Great Britain, who was on the platform, presented with a copy of his programme, on which was his autograph with the words, "Your poem is beautiful and true."
Among the other occasions on which Mr. O'Meara served as poet were the dedication of the Elkss' monument, the field day of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery, and the anniversary celebration by the town of Lexington. Incedentally, poems by him have been delivered at reunions and banquets of the Druggists' Association, the Gettysburg Club, the Clover Club, the Catholic Union, of which he is a zealous member, the Vermont Veterans, the odd Glen Club, the Young Men's Christian Association of Boston College, the Boston Press Club, the New England Ladies' Press Association and divers other organizations. Various hymns and songs by him have been set to music, a prominent one being "The Flag above the School," which has become the standard one for school flag-raisings. At the festival in Mechanics' building, Boston, in aid fo the Working Girls' Home, a song by him was sung by the entire audience.
An idea of the widespread sympathies of his muse may be had from the fact that when St. John's, Newfoundland, was desolated by fire he acceded to a request to write a poem to be sold for the benefit of the sufferers; and when the Hawaiian Islanders were urging their proposition for annexation to the United States he wrote a poem in that interest which was formally acknowledged by the commissioners at Washington, and transmitted by them for publication in the islands.
Mr. O'Meara is married and is the father of four children, his wife being also a talented writer; his sister, a member of the Order of Notre Dame also wrote poetry.
James Bernard Cullen The Story of the Irish in Boston revised edition, 1893 pp. 523-7
Last Updated: by Harriet Fell