John Mary Pius Boland, Irish Nationalist politician, is born at 135 Capel Street, Dublin, on September 16, 1870. He serves as a Member of Parliament (MP) in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and as a member of the Irish Parliamentary Party for South Kerry (1900–1918). He is also noteworthy as a gold medalist tennis player at the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896.
Boland is born to Patrick Boland (1840–1877), businessman, and Mary Donnelly. Following the death of his mother in 1882, he is placed with his six siblings under the guardianship of his uncle Nicholas Donnelly, auxiliary bishop of Dublin.
Boland is educated at two private Catholic schools, one Irish, the second English, and both of whose existence and evolution are influenced by John Henry Newman – the Catholic University School, Dublin, and The Oratory School, Birmingham. His secondary education at the two schools helps give him the foundation and understanding to play an influential role in the politics of Great Britain and Ireland at the beginning of the 20th century, when he is a member of the Irish Parliamentary Party which pursues constitutional Home Rule.
In 1892 Boland graduates with a BA from London University. He studies for a semester in Bonn, Germany, where he is a member of Bavaria Bonn, a student fraternity that is member of the Cartellverband. He studies law at Christ Church, Oxford, graduating with a BA in 1896 and MA in 1901. Although called to the Bar in 1897, he never practises.
Boland is the first Olympic champion in tennis for Great Britain and Ireland at the first modern Olympics, which takes place in Athens in 1896. He visits his friend Thrasyvoulos Manos in Athens during the Olympics, and Manos, a member of the organising committee, enters Boland in the tennis tournament. Boland promptly wins the singles tournament, defeating Friedrich Traun of Germany in the first round, Evangelos Rallis of Greece in the second, Konstantinos Paspatis of Greece in the semifinals, and Dionysios Kasdaglis of Greece in the final.
Boland then enters the doubles event with Traun, the German runner whom he had defeated in the first round of the singles. Together, they win the doubles event. They defeat Aristidis and Konstantinos Akratopoulos of Greece in the first round, have a bye in the semifinals, and defeat Demetrios Petrokokkinos of Greece and Dimitrios Kasdaglis in the final. When the Union Flag and the German flag are run up the flagpole to honour Boland and Traun’s victory, Boland points out to the man hoisting the flags that he is Irish, adding “It’s a gold harp on a green ground, we hope.” The officials agree to have an Irish flag prepared.
In 1908, Boland is appointed a member of the commission for the foundation of the National University of Ireland (NUI). From 1926 to 1947, he is General Secretary of the Catholic Truth Society. He receives a papal knighthood, becoming a Knight of St. Gregory in recognition for his work in education, and in 1950 he is awarded an honorary doctorate of Laws by the NUI.
Boland marries Eileen Moloney (1876–1937), daughter of an Australian Dr. Patrick Moloney, at SS Peter and Edward, Palace-street, Westminster, on October 22, 1902. They have one son and five daughters. His daughter Honor Crowley (née Boland) succeeds her husband, Frederick Crowley, upon his death sitting as Fianna Fáil TD for South Kerry from 1945 until her death in 1966. His daughter Bridget Boland is a playwright who writes The Prisoner.
Boland dies at the age of 87 at his home in London on Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1958.