When I'd first heard about Hugh O'Boyle's condition I thought to myself, "Man I know this guy but for some reason I
couldn't picture his face". It had been so long since I had disassociated myself from the sunset crew. After attending the
memorial service for Hugh O'Boyle I kept thinking to myself I know this guy but still couldn't put it all together.Ý After the
service I'd had went home and was trying to remember what it was about Hugh. All of sudden it hit me like the theme to The
Stairway to Heaven. I woke up and said to myself "I remember now!" Hugh was that tall lanky kid who wore the white all
star converse tennis shoes with his laces pulled together real tight, he was the ring leader back then and we use to hang out
with him around the Sunset and West Portal District.
I'm a native San Franciscan and I grew up in the inner Sunset District, Me and a good friend of mine, Marc Calica use to
hang out with Hugh O'Boyle back in the day. Hugh was the one of the originals, one of the kings of the Sunset. Their was
a whole bunch of us hooligans hanging around at the time. I remember Hugh showed us how to sneak into the Empire
Movie Theater from the back alley in the West Portal District. We did all kinds of crazy things back then, we use to go to the
used Record Factory store with Hugh and wear our derby jackets and he would show us how to stick the record albums up
our backs with out getting caught. We use to pull beer runners from corner stores and hop the back of the N-Judah Street
cars with Hugh. Hugh may be gone but the times shared with him are not forgotten. God bless him and his family.
Mel R Chevalier
I spent my New Years in the Wasatch Mountains, at Alta, Utah
where the snow and wind were at 15 degrees or so
and I looked into the stars above
and shared a moment of truth
with Hugh O'Boyle
The greatest of times are not over
nor is the memory of a great man that understood
life and death, laughter and sadness
better than most---
His legacy is truly intact... like the Golden Gate Bridge, with all its'
glory and strength
and on that note, at 12:01 a.m.
I made that silent toast
into the stars above, with the wind and the snow
and that Hugh O'Boyle glow
from the stars above
a simple yet profound time it was
I first met Hugh about 1982. He showed up at my parent’s house when we were having a party. I think it was my graduation from high school. I knew some of the O’ Boyles from the Grove and Wood’s park but not Hugh. He was in the Merchant Navy and traveling all over the world. I remember keeping an eye on the door as this was kind of a family party and we of course had a keg and plenty of food. I did not want all the Mauls (aka ‘the Bro’s) showing up as they had a habit of destroying people’s houses and it was not going to be mine! One of my Aunt’s opened the door and Hugh immediately handed her a baby he was holding. That was Tom (T.Rodda) Green’s son aged about 1 year old. Tom’s Dad and mine were old school buddies but I really didn't’t know Tom that well either. I thought to myself ‘good deflection lad, hand over the baby to the gatekeeper and you’re in.’ I thought it best to keep an eye on these two. Outside of Tom Greene and the baby Hugh would not have known anyone in the house. There were about 150 there as we have a big family. About a half hour later I found Hugh in the backyard at the keg. Greene was on the piano. As I observed O’Boyle I found him loud, obnoxious and rude. He had taken charge of the keg and commented that the girl whose cup he had just filed had a “big ass.” And that was my cousin! I immediately fell in love with this man. I knew he was one of those types that you would either do battle against or die along side. It was one or the other with Hugh, no half measures. A year later it was graduation time and I met Hugh at another party somewhere in the Sunset. He was just back from some “shit-hole” of a country and had been thrown off his ship for arguing with the captain. The ship was due in San Francisco in about a week and “all my shit” was still on board. To kill time a road trip was in order and that night myself, Tom Green, Hugh and my dogs Seamus and Mocha hopped into my 1968 Ford slant 6 step side and headed off to Scottsdale Arizona for Tom Green’s friends Graduation from the Naval Academy. Don’t worry, Hugh had a map. By morning we made Needles, California and something unexpected happened, a common factor of Hugh’s travels. The piston’s rocker arm in the engine snapped. For those who know nothing about engines (like the three of us!) this meant the car could only travel at 30 mph max or else the loud tap-tap-tap of piston rod against engine block that would increase in volume and repetition with speed would eventually shatter the engine head an that would be that. Also we had no radio. We needed help fast and stopped at some Billy Bob’s Garage who said he could fix it in a few hours, but the part wouldn't’t be there until Monday. This was Saturday. I asked how far could we go in the present condition. He said the end of town. We hopped into the truck and Hugh shouted “we’ll see you on our way back ye of little faith!” and were on the road again.
We traveled through Death Valley, Mojave and Joshua Tree Nat’l park. So much for Hughie’s map or the fact that we could have broken down at any moment. We never passed 30-40 mph, stopped when we wanted, caught lizards and explored. Hughie knew the names of all the mountain ranges, the type of lizards and animals we saw, plants and their secrets and of course we had to find the ‘hot springs.’ Also he very much wanted to capture a Gila monster, but it never happened. Believe it or not we actually arrived at the graduation ceremony as it ended and went to a party at some Politician’s house outside Scottsdale, AZ. There is a whole story there but that will have to wait. All I can say is at one stage me and Hugh were cornered by an ever increasing number of “bitter Squids” who wanted to take us out into the desert and hammer us. At the last moment Tom Green appears and starts playing the piano. The mother of the house comes flying across the room and falls all over Tom and his music. Hughie takes the cue and sits down on the piano bench with Green and the mother, gives the finger to the angry squids and the situation was transformed. Before the night was over my two dogs were in this politicians, house eating spare ribs and steak. If you don’t believe me it is because you never met Hugh.
On the way home Hughie was not allowed drive. He did drive for a bit and we got pulled. He gave his brothers name and we got away. Later he wrote a letter to the Arizona Police Board about the “ignorance and ineptitude” of the officer that cited him along with a few more superlatives regarding the police force, highway patrol and state of Arizona in general. He showed me the response letter and it said that if he ever set foot in the Good State of Arizona again he would be arrested on sight. We made it back as far as the Goviotta Pass in So. California. I was asleep in the back of the truck with the dogs and Green was driving. He kept pushing the truck to 50-60 mph and we paid for it. Stuck in Goviatta, we searched for rattlesnakes until someone drove from SF to rescue us many hours later. Back in SF I was totally exhausted and de-moralized since losing my truck. But that was short lived. Hugh’s ship was due into port and we had to organize the Bro’s to storm the vessel and get Hugh’s ‘stuff’ off the ship. Another story for another day.
I have many, many stories I could tell of Hugh but this may not be the time or place. I will relate one more sceal of when I got a call in SF from Hugh from the east coast. He had to be ‘out of town’ within 48 hours. Don’t ask how it worked but the next day I was there and our plan was set into action. A car was obtained by a company that lets you drive someone’s car that had moved from coast to coast and didn't’t want to drive. We had to agree to a specific route to take but that was all scrapped as soon as we left the depot. Hugh did not want to pay any east coast toll road fees so we zig-zagged around whatever roads had the toll booths. The car held all of Hugh’s ‘stuff’ including a small dog, a big lizard, some snakes, his skateboards, books and the surfboard was strapped to the roof. There was also some other very precious cargo but, sin sceal eile for now. Looking back it was absolutely ridiculous to travel like this when you were trying to avoid ‘detection’ but in the spirit of Hugh sometimes you have to be careless with things in order to keep them. We traveled for 4 or 5 days. Never took a hotel or stayed in one spot for more than 3 or 4 hours for sleep. Once again we had no radio so we talked, debated and argued. Hugh was extremely well read and had a good grasp of Political, Social and Revolutionary ideology. Many people saw (and heard) this man and enjoyed his company for years and never new the knowledge he had accumulated through reading and travelling. He used to devour books and write in his own footnotes and analysis in true Hughie style before passing them on. He’d also scratch out in black marker the name of the library that had donated the book to his education programme. I still don’t know when he found time to read a book.
Back to the story and one night I remember sleeping in a field in the high lands of Montana, or maybe it was Dakota and I realized I would never had been here nor would be hear again if it was not for the Shaman, the medicine man that had lead me on this journey. I also realized that there were forces that I could not understand watching over us. Simpletons would say Hugh was ‘lucky’. It was much more. Hugh was here to bring others to places they would not go in a ‘normal’ lifetime. He would hop the fence, sneak past the guard, ignore the sign or just blaze his way into places you were "not supposed to go." This was every day with him. I was stopped by California Hi-way Patrol 40 minutes after leaving him in a safe place and ticketed for speeding. If a cop had stopped us the previous 4-5 days crossing the country it would have been jail for sure but it never happened. Some would call that ‘luck.’
When I got news Hughie died I was very sad. Jak Churton left a message on my phone as I live abroad. I new Hugh was dying. He was at my wedding and I knew he was very sick then. That picture Jimmy Crow took of Hugh walking into the Graveyard is at Killererin Church, Co. Galway the day of my wedding. I think it is one of the most powerful pictures I have ever seen. Hugh is saying ‘carry on, I have to go this way.’ I walked the country road saying the Rosary that day in respect of Hugh’s deep religious beliefs. His patron was St. Jude, patron of lost causes. At least that’s the saint he assigned me and I still have all the little tokens he’d send from over seas. While on top of a hill overlooking a vast forest a powerful wind swept in. There is a wind here in Ireland that folklore says carries the spirits of the dead. It is warm, doesn't really have rain in it and swirls from a strange direction. Maybe it is the Sirrocco but it is in all the old folk stories. As this wind hit me I never felt the presence of my old friend so strongly. I laughed, cried, got pelted by flying debris, was terrified and fearless. Just like a visit from Hugh. It didn't’t last long, maybe an hour or less. It coincided with the time Hugh would have been having his funeral. I wrote a poem about it and sent it to Mary O who was very helpful to Hugh when it may not have been too popular to be helping him.
The last time I saw Hugh was at the Train Station in Mallow Co. Cork. He was on one of his dog missions where we would travel all over the countryside and buy Jack Russell’s from farmers and sell them in the States for a healthy profit. I remember him walking away pushing his skateboard that was loaded with 3 travel kennels full of pups plus all the gifts and ‘stuff’ he had to collect for the ‘numbskulls’ back home in SF. The cargo was as tall as himself and he was over 6 ft tall. I shook my head in disbelief saying "he’ll never make it". About two days later I got a call saying he got all the ‘shit’ home and of course had some wild tales of how he managed that. He was now on his way to somewhere else because he had to visit someone and the journey would continue. He was planning to come visit me again that summer as he was organizing a big trip for the Bro’s or some sort of incredible journey,…’see you on the way back, ye of little faith’. I will see you again my old friend. I will see you again.
Contae na Gaillimhe
As a kid all I ever did was hang around Lincoln High School in the Sunset and play backetball. I remember this little blond kid from 21st Avenue that would try to try to guard me and would prefer to tackle me rather than allow me to score a basket. You just had to love his heart and toughness.
One night I was having a good game for St. Cecilia's against St. Paul the Shipwreck over on 3rd Street. The Bayview fans were not happy that the Sunset kids were beating the local favorites. It was kind of a tense situation. I looked over on the side of the court and St.Anne's was there waiting to play the next game. I saw Hugie and he was happy to see me. That kid had the sweetest smile in the world. During a time out he walked out on the court and slapped me on the back.
Years later I went to college, but deep inside was still a Sunset guy. I heard all about Hughie and the BMIS (Big Man in Sunset) that he became. As for me I will always remember that kid with the sweet smile.
I was a shipmate with Hugh and he visited me in Wilmington,North Carolina. He met many of my friends and as usual they recognized the fine young man he was and he became "one of us". He would ride his skate board 10 miles to come visit. When all he need do is give a ring and a car would be there to fetch him up. He's with the Master, for he was a good man and a great shipmate. We miss him.