One requirement of living in Boston is knowing the song “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” by the Dropkick Murphys and joining in with every stranger around you in screaming the “woah” anytime it comes on, whether you’re at a bar or a sports game – (I don’t make the rules.)
While the band name is known by most, what many don’t realize is that the name actually technically belonged to someone else first, or rather, something else.
After moving to the suburbs 10 years ago, Dorchester native Emily Sweeney was in a little restaurant called Crossroads Cafe in Acton, MA. While eating her usual salmon burger, she overheard people talking about Dropkick Murphy’s farm. Her initial thought was, were they talking about the band?
(Photo by Matthew Modoono)
Turns out, they were talking about Dr. John “Dropkick” Murphy, the professional wrestler whose future farm would be the namesake of the American Celtic Punk Band Dropkick Murphys.
The Malden-born athlete was known as the best drop-kicker across the country and when he wasn’t shedding some drops of blood in the ring at night, he was studying it while putting himself through med school during the day.
When Sweeney found this out, she was immediately intrigued by his character. But what really sealed the deal was finding out that he opened a detox center/fitness center called Bellows Farm in Acton, where alcoholics would sober up and elite athletes would square up.
The Farm, also known as Dropkick’s, was open to the public and operated during the 1940s through 1971, a few years before Murphy died in 1977.
Sweeney began her research over a decade ago, resulting in the “labor of love” that is her new book “Dropkick Murphy: A Legendary Life.” She soon realized that finding reliable information about The Farm was no easy task considering the lack of record keeping. So, Sweeney started to reach out to family members of Murphy and tried to find former patients.
Luckily, she was able to get in touch with Bobby Byrne who had documented his stay at Dropkick’s and now operates a saloon in Mashpee. He was able to provide some insight into The Farm and help fill in the blanks.
“It’s screamin’ and yellin’ and swearin,’ all day long…” Byrne recalled. “Everybody had a nickname [and] almost every name was Irish. It sounded like the Dublin phone book.”
But even with accounts like Byrne’s, there were many moments over the years where Sweeney felt discouraged. Did she have enough sources? Was she missing anything? In times of frustration, she would go on long runs and listen to, you guessed it, Dropkick Murphys, until a light bulb went off above her head.
“Every single time I would hit a wall in the research, something else would turn up,” Sweeney said. “There were breadcrumbs that kept me going.”
Those breadcrumbs led to fulfilling moments, like when Sweeney hand-delivered a copy of the book to one of Murphy’s sons, who is now in his 80s himself and helped by sharing details he remembered from his childhood.
When reading, Sweeney wants people to know that it’s not just a book about wrestling or fighting addiction.
“I hope that people read the book and enjoy it,” Sweeney said. “It’s an amazing story and it’s a piece of history that could have been forgotten. I’m just happy to keep his memory and legacy alive.”
And not for nothing, Sweeney thinks this would be a great story to play out on the big screen. When asked who she thinks would play Dropkick, she said Chris or Liam Hemsworth could compete for the part!
To see exclusive images of Dropkick Murphy, hear from Sweeney herself about the making of the book and get an autographed copy, ship it up to the Boston Public Library branch in South Boston on Thursday, June 22nd at 6:30.