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Helen McDonough, 95; Irish immigrant was a maid for James Michael Curley and link to storied era

Helen and Joseph McDonough (right) delayed their wedding for six months so that James Michael Curley (left, alongside his wife, Gertrude) could attend. Curley was in prison in 1947.
Helen and Joseph McDonough (right) delayed their wedding for six months so that James Michael Curley (left, alongside his wife, Gertrude) could attend. Curley was in prison in 1947. Family photo/1948

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When tight finances forced James Michael Curley to lay off his domestic staff, Helen McDonough, an Irish immigrant fiercely loyal to the former governor and Boston mayor, sought work with a wealthy Back Bay family that employed her sister.

But during the interview, the lady of that house shunned her job reference from Curley with a curt, “oh, we all know he’s a crook,” according to “The Rascal King,” Jack Beatty’s biography of Curley. “He’s no crook,” Mrs. McDonough retorted. “I don’t like what you’re saying about the governor. I wouldn’t work for you if I never worked again.”

Mrs. McDonough, who delayed her wedding so Curley could finish a prison term and escort her down the aisle, died last Monday. She was 95.

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