Boland, John Mary Pius (1870–1958), politician, lawyer, and tennis player, was born on 16 September 1870 at 135 Capel Street, Dublin, the second son of Patrick Boland (1840–1877), a prosperous milling merchant, and his wife Mary Donnelly. After beginning his education at the Catholic University School on Lower Leeson Street, he transferred in 1881 to the Oratory School in Birmingham. In 1890 he spent a term at the University of Bonn before enrolling at London University, where he graduated Bachelor of Arts (BA) in 1892. He read jurisprudence at Christ Church, Oxford, graduating in 1896 (he received the Master of Arts (MA) in 1901). He was called to the bar from the Inner Temple, London, in 1897.
While he was at Oxford an incident occurred that influenced the course of Boland's life. In 1896 he travelled to Athens to visit classical sites and to attend the first modern Olympic games. A keen sportsman, he excelled at tennis and was persuaded to take part in the tennis competitions at the Athens games. He won a gold medal in the men's singles and another in the men's doubles; being an enthusiastic nationalist, he insisted that the Irish flag, not the union flag, be raised as he was presented with his medals by the king of Greece.
His patriotic stand was well received in nationalist circles in Ireland. This and a lifelong friendship with John Redmond (qv) gained for him an invitation to stand as a candidate for the Irish Party in the safe seat of South Kerry, which he held from 1900 to 1918. He was unopposed in the general elections of 1900 and 1906, and the first of 1910; in the second election of 1910 he was feebly challenged by a local man, T. B. Cronin, who stood as an independent nationalist in the interest of William O'Brien (qv). Boland stood down at the general election of December 1918.
As an MP Boland became a member of the national directory of the United Irish League, which by that time had become the constituency organisation of the Irish Party. In the autumn of 1901 he was busy organising the league throughout his constituency and established a South Kerry executive to supervise activities. Together with his colleagues in East Kerry and West Kerry, he took a close interest in a case in which fourteen members of the Glencar branch of the league were charged, on seemingly flimsy evidence, with intimidation. Not least because of the interest of local MPs in the case, the defendants were acquitted soon afterwards.
Boland was a junior whip in the Irish Party from 1906 to 1918. Throughout his political career he remained a loyal lieutenant of John Redmond, particularly during 1907–9 when William O'Brien and Tim Healy (qv) were feuding with the party leadership. From early September 1912 onwards Boland was one of the most active members of the party in the cause of home rule; he addressed home rule meetings in his constituency, culminating in a mass demonstration in Cahirciveen, addressed by his leader on 28 September. In 1911, 1912, 1913 and 1914 he addressed home rule meetings throughout Britain, speaking on more occasions than any other member of the party. He was also assiduous in his attendance at the parliamentary sessions of 1912, 1913 and 1914 to ensure that nothing untoward occurred to the home rule bill in its three readings in the house of commons.
After the outbreak of the first world war Boland was less zealous in promoting recruitment to the British army than his colleague Tom O'Donnell (qv), MP for West Kerry. However, he made occasional visits from London to address recruiting meetings in his constituency until mid 1915. Like the other members of the Irish Party, he was taken completely by surprise by the Easter rising in 1916 but continued to hope that a modus vivendi could be forged by the various political groupings in Ireland. He supported his party's opposition to the Conscription Bill in April 1918. With O'Donnell he addressed meetings during May in the East Cavan constituency in the acrimonious campaign leading to the by-election of 24 June 1918 in which Arthur Griffith (qv) defeated the Irish Party's candidate.
Boland was a member of the Gaelic League almost from its inception in 1893. Throughout his life he sought to promote the Irish language, though he never mastered it himself. From 1902 onwards he was joint secretary of the Irish Party's subcommittee on education, and in 1908 he was appointed to the Dublin statutory commission charged with setting up the National University of Ireland. Largely because of his single-minded efforts and those of O'Donnell, the Irish Party launched the successful campaign to have Irish instituted as an essential subject in the matriculation examination of the National University of Ireland (NUI).
During his parliamentary career Boland was also an ardent champion of Irish industry, enthusiastically supporting the Gaelic League's ‘Buy Irish Campaign’. He ensured that from July 1905 onwards Irish trade, as distinct from British trade, should be included in reports of British consuls and from November of the same year that Irish goods should have a national trademark. From 1907 to 1918 he was vice-president of the Irish Industrial Development Association and in 1918 he was appointed to the departmental committee on food production in Ireland.
A prominent supporter of the Catholic Truth Society from its establishment in 1899, Boland was its general secretary from 1926 to 1949. He was the author of The Glenbeigh summer school (1902), The European crisis and Ireland's commercial interests (1913), Irishman's day (1944), and Killarney and the leprechauns (1950). Boland was made a knight of the Order of St Gregory the Great, and received an honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD) degree from the NUI in 1950.
He married Eileen, daughter of Dr Patrick Moloney of Melbourne, in 1902, and thereafter resided in London; he died 17 March 1958 at his home, 40 St George's Square, Westminster. He and his wife had one son and five daughters including Honor Mary (qv) who married Frederick H. Crowley (qv), TD for South Kerry from 1927 to 1945; on her husband's death she retained the seat until 1966. Another daughter, Bridget, an employee of the BBC, was a playwright.
More information on this entry is available at the National Database of Irish-language biographies (Ainm.ie).