It was a time in America when the Irish mob was at the peak of its power, and poverty, crime, and corruption ran rampant on the streets of the Irish slums in South Boston. One man would try to climb to the top of the world of organized crime. Follow Anthony Griffin on his journey as a young kid from the streets of Southie to his rise through the ranks of the Irish mob. Helped along the way by his friends and mob boss Sean Finn, Anthony Griffin is faced with the realities of choosing a life as a gangster. As Anthony’s journey takes him down a dark path filled with violence, death, love, loyalty, and betrayal, he is in conflict with himself and with his very soul. Nar lagai Dia do lamh, lad! May God not weaken your hand, lad!
Chapter 1 As I lie on my back, staring up at the ceiling, I keep fading in and out of consciousness, and as I do, I see pieces of my life flash before me. As I see those pieces of my life, I realize now that if there is a heaven, I will never see it. I have always tried to look at myself as a good person who never did any harm to good, honest people, but if I am honest with myself, I have to admit that I was never any good to anyone. I was nothing but a thief, a crook, and even a murderer. As I think about the life I have lived and all the horrible things I have done, I can’t help but go back to my memories as a kid, where it all began. I was born and raised in the Irish slums of South Boston. Southie, we all called it. Southie was a neighborhood made up of Irish immigrants and their children who fled Ireland during the great famine. Southie was a rough place to grow up broken-down tenements all over, garbage in the streets, and poverty throughout the neighborhood. And wherever there is poverty, there is always plenty of crime. Crime was everywhere in my neighborhood. People scraped and clawed to make whatever money they could by doing whatever they had to do. My father was an exception, though. He made an honest living as a fisherman and never turned to a life of crime like so many others in our neighborhood, but he paid the price for it. We were dirt-poor, and we barely scraped by. My father did not speak English very well, and when he tried, you could not understand him. He was a hardened man who drank way too much, probably to wash away his frustration over being poor and not being able to find success here in America. He and my mother came from the old country in 1879. Six years later, I was born. My parents named me Anthony Griffin after my mother’s father, who still lived back in Cork, Ireland. I guess it was a tradition to do so. At a young age, growing up in my neighborhood, I had to learn how to be tough. I remember my father smacking me around a lot as a kid, and at the time I thought it was just the old man venting his anger. But now that I think back, I believe the old man was trying to toughen me up. I can still remember my first fight. A kid named Robert McCain, who lived on the same block as me, came up to me and punched me in the face because of an argument that we’d had. I started to cry, and then he started to throw more punches. As the kid continued to swing at me, I started to realize that he had nothing on my old man. My old man could give a beating a whole lot worse than this kid could ever think of. So, at that moment, I stopped crying and threw some punches of my own. Robert probably got the best of me, but I never quit. I kept swinging blow for blow with him until someone broke us up. Robert respected me for it in the end, and so did all the other kids in the neighborhood. They all saw that I was a scrappy kid, and I knew at that point that I was never again going to be scared over a fight. That was the last time I can remember crying. After that fight, Robert and I became best friends. We often fought against other kids, trying to prove that we were the toughest kids on our block, and most of the time we proved it. But there was another kid named Liam Lowery who lived down the street. He proved to be just as tough. We battled it out with him and his friends many times, until we all got tired of beating each other up and decided to join forces. After the three of us became friends, we ruled our block. No other kids on our block dared challenge us, for fear of catching a beating. We may have been little hooligans embracing the street life, but in my neighborhood, it was either embrace the life or be swallowed up by it. The three of us looked up to the criminals in our neighborhood not the small-time crooks but the guys with the money and big reputations, the ones everyone feared, and at the top of that list was a guy by the name of Sean Finn. Sean Finn was much more than just an average criminal. He ran all of Southie. He was the boss in my neighborhood. He ran the gambling, lone-sharking, extortion you name it. If it was illegal and there was money to be made, then he either ran it or got a piece of it. If you did anything in the neighborhood without Finn getting his piece, then you wound up with a broken leg or, even worse, your neck sliced open. Finn was well-organized. He had a lot of soldiers, but at the core of his organization was a crew of five men. Finn’s number-one, most trusted guy was Colin Doyle. Doyle had grown up with Finn in the old country, and they were best friends. He was a smart guy, and he was also ruthless. He and Finn were the most feared men in the neighborhood. Another guy was a man named Tom O’Brian. O’Brian was a quiet man who seemed to be a little withdrawn, but everybody in the neighborhood knew what kind of man he was. He was a cold-blooded murderer who would kill you at the drop of Finn’s command. He usually ran most of Finn’s gambling operations. Another guy was Aidan McNeil. Aidan was known as a wild man. He was crazy, and he wanted everyone to know it. Aidan took care of some lone-sharking and collections for Finn. The fourth guy was Brady Smith. Everyone called him Big Brady. He was big, and he was very intimidating, a bare-knuckle fighter known for having heavy hands. He did a lot of collecting; whether it was for shakedowns, protection money, or whatever, he was usually the guy to do it. The last guy was Sean Gowan. Sean’s father had been a close friend of Finn’s before being killed by a rival gang. After Sean’s father died, Finn took Sean in and helped raise him. After that, he worked for Finn. These men were the law in my neighborhood, and they all worked for the man that ruled the streets of Southie: Sean Finn. Finn was also popular with the politicians. Finn had the power of the people in our neighborhood, and having the power of the people meant having the power of the vote, and the vote went whatever way Finn wanted it to, whether it was for the gain of the Irish interest or the gain of Finn’s pocketbook. My friends and I all looked up to Finn and his crew, and we all wanted to be just like them. They had money, they had power, and they had respectand that was exactly what we wanted. For us kids that lived in the Irish slums of Boston, there were no dreams of someday going off to college or getting some great job somewhere. An Irishman could not even find a decent job, let alone go to college. For us, the dream was to someday have money, power, and respect. And the only way to get those things on the streets of Southie was to go out and take it. Chapter 2 I must have been about sixteen when I was first approached by two men from Finn’s organizationBig Brady and Aidan McNeil. Liam, Robert, and I were hanging around on the corner of our street, talking with a couple of the neighborhood kids, when we first saw Big Brady and Aidan approaching us. I was a little scared about it at first, but I couldn’t think of anything we had done that would have angered them or Finn. When the two of them reached us, Big Brady looked at me and asked me how I would feel about making some quick, easy money. “What would I have to do?” I asked him, but it did not matter what it was. I would have done anything for them, if it meant working for Finn. “Well,” Big Brady said, “I would like you and your boys to go down to McGwire’s hardware store and torch the place,” he told me. “I’ll make it worth your while.” “McGwire’s hardware store?” Liam said. “Why do you want that place torched?” Big Brady just looked down at Liam with that mean, scowling look he was known for. “McGwire doesn’t think he needs to pay for protection anymore,” he said and then smiled. “He was wrong.”
Matthew Smith Jr. is a devoted husband to a beautiful wife, and a proud father of four wonderful kids, who are all very special to him in there own unique way. He currently lives in Northern California, with strong ties to the Boston, Mass. area.