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Despite all his bravura and political showmanship, his coarse humour,* a great fixer, a downright trickster and grafter, yet with a genuine kindness that endeared him to vast swathes of Boston voters, James Michael Curley’s personal life was unusually tragic. Following the death of his first wife ‘ Mae’ (nee Herlihy), he remarried a widow, Gertrude Dennis with two sons. This was on the last day of his term as Governor of Massachusetts, January 7 1937, “ to give her at least one day as first lady of the Commonwealth.” Between his two wives he had nine children; but incredibly seven of them predeceased him.
James Michael Curley - four times mayor of Boston, twice elected to the House of Representatives, one term as Governor of Massachusetts, and two terms in jail, was the son of County Galway parents who emigrated as children to the US in the 1860s. The stories told about Curley are proverbially legion. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter rarely let an Irish politician go without asking if they had any stories about James Michael Curley. (The one president who shunned anything to do with Curley, was president John F Kennedy. But more about that in a moment).