Monday, December 31, 2007


It seems like I was just sitting here writing my New Year's Resolutions for 2007, and already the year is over. Again, I am writing this 1 hour till Midnite. Where did the time go? I can't say that 2007 was unproductive. It was very successful to say the least. Jerome's grave was cleaned up and the family Celtic Cross was re-erected. That was a huge accomplishment, one that took two years, one that would not have been possible without the great collaboration of a group of people that believed in this quest. And the research... it's been endless, to the point where I've given soooooooooooooo many hours late at nite to find the answers to so many questions about Jerome's life and even his brother Daniel and Bernard's lives. More ironic points were found, such as the fact that Emma DeLong (wife to Lt. George W. DeLong of the Jeannette Expedition) shared the same birthday as me.

So I sit here with a sigh of relief and a sense of accomplishement. I feel the research is for the most part done. It's time to start writing.

2007 was a busy year. 2008 is now here. Time to slow down, and keep things simple. Do one thing at a time. "Pray, Hope, and Don't Worry" (thanks St. Pio).

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veteran's Day

Happy Veteran's Day, Uncle Jerome. You were a member of the re-organized 69th Regiment and also a member of the US Navy. May we all recognize your contributions to the US side of things, and in your honour today, thank you for noble sacrifice in the Arctic 126 years ago.
You did not die in vain. And one day soon I will be hanging a banner over your cross that says "VINDICATED".
Your Great-Great Grandniece,

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Day of Honour

Renate Buckley holding the wreath she made at my request to honour Jerome Collins. The ribbon says "Jerome J. Collins, Loyal To His Science, Loyal To His Country". Renate owns the North Gate Bridge floral shop in Cork. Her husband and I have a Fenian connection that dates all the way back to 1866, which they are currently looking further into. Another irony is that her shop is located by the North Gate Bridge, which is the very bridge that Jerome engineered in the 1860's! It's a small world, isn't it?

These are the boutonnieres (Ronnie likes to say "button-holes") which Renate also made for the ceremony. They all have a ribbon attached that are the colors of the Irish flag. Everyone who attended received one.

The stage was set, the flowers and wreath were at the ready, and there was no rain in sight. A handful of people arrived at the grave of Jerome Collins today at 2pm to honour their native son of Cork. The Lord Mayor, Cllr. Donal Counihan, presided over the event. Ronnie Herlihy, Catryn Power, Kay Scannell, Michael O'Keeffe, Maura O'Keeffe, Dermot Houston, Kieran McCarthy, and Mairead Lucey were in attendance. Ronnie gave his greeting message, then read a few words that I had prepared and emailed over, followed by a poem Ronnie found that was written over 100 years ago. The Lord Mayor laid the wreath, and then the ceremony was over. I was lucky enough to hear the entire event live via Ronnie's cell phone, and I felt like I was right in Cork for the 1/2 hour I was listening in.

This day has been two years in the making and was a very emotional day for me personally. So many people worked together to make this happen: from letter writing, to securing the $10,000 Euros, to doing the actual work on the Celtic cross monument, to arranging the ceremony, not to mention the endless emails and phone calls that it took just for this day to come.

The list is large of all the people who contributed to the preservation of the Collins monument. Thank you's have been sent off, but it all boils down to the Cork City Council, the Cork County Council, and both Lord Mayors of the City and County. Michael O'Keeffe and Richard Henchion are two men who should also be commended, they looked after the grave for many years on their own accord, keeping it tidy, and if it weren't for Michael telling me it was tilting over, I would have never known to take action to preserve it. I was able to speak with Michael on Ronnie's cell phone on Sunday, and he painted a picture for me of what Jerome's funeral was like in March of 1884, as he had me imagine the worst weather possible that day with the entire city of Cork turning out to pay their respect to their dead hero, Jerome Collins. The funeral was noted as "the longest in the world" having travelled almost 15,000 miles long from Siberia to New York City and back to Cork. The funeral in Cork was over 1 mile long itself, mourners braving the severe winds and rain to make sure their native son of Ireland was given a proper and honourable burial. The storm which Jerome was so famous for forecasting came to pay its respect that day.

Catryn and her assistant Kay were also key players in making this all come together as I've said before in my previous post, as was Ronnie.

Click on the photos below to view them larger.
This is a photo of the article which appeared in the Cork Evening Echo on Tuesday, Nov. 6th about the wreath laying ceremony.

The Lord Mayor, Cllr. Donal Counihan laying the wreath at the Collins Celtic cross in honour of Jerome , and to also commemorate the newly restored monument.

Catryn with daughter on left, Kay on right. Catryn said words of thanks to all who helped her obtain funding and did the work on the monument.
Ronnie Herlihy who spoke at the ceremony. He read a welcome message and then a poem written about Jerome's funeral over 100 years ago. I never realized how TALL this monument was after seeing others standing next to it.
Photo similar to that of the one in the newspaper, minus Kieran, Maura, and Mairead. Left to Right is: Dermot, Kay, Catryn, Ronnie, Michael, and The Lord Mayor.
The white flowers symbolize a common bond that I share with Jerome: snow. Here in Minnesota we are no strangers to snow. It is in the Arctic where Jerome died in the snow of the Lena Delta, in Northern Siberia. White roses are also the highest form of grace you can offer your loved ones who have passed on, however in this case I chose carnations. The Laurel is for honour. And the pine symbolizes my dedication as his living ancestor in Minnesota. The writing on the ribbon is self-explan, as are the colors in the ribbon on top. Renate did an outstanding job.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Jerome Collins' Grave - early 1900's

Jerome Collins Grave - 2006 (photo courtesty Ronnie Herlihy)

Jerome Collins' Grave - NOW (photo courtesty CCC)

It's been a monumental week (literally), in that Uncle Jerome's grave finally got the polish and re-erection that has been long overdue. His Celtic Cross is straightened up now, with no worries of it falling over and posing a hazard to visitors or other monuments in the cemetery. I initially made this request in the Fall of 2005, and now, in the Fall of 2007, with Uncle Jerome's birthday right around the corner next Wednesday on October 17th, his grave and that of his parents and brothers looks right again.

I don't know what I would have done without Catryn Power, Cork County Archaeologist. She was the woman that made this all happen. And thank you to Cork County Council for appropriating the funds to the engineer who did a beautiful job. And thanks to Ronnie as well for his own letter writing campaign. I've been told (jokingly and perhaps semi-serious) that I was a bit "snotty" ( or was it "snippy"?) in my letter that I wrote to the Council making one last plea to get them to do something about the condition of the grave, and this person was right to think so.... but you have to understand something. I live in Minnesota. "So what", you say. Well, Minnesota is one of the most patient and kind states I know. I think it's in the top 10 most desirable states to live, and one of the friendliest. We help people around here, we are generous and always give hotdishes or casseroles and baked goods to our friends and neighbors; it takes a lot to ruffle our feathers. So, when I waited, patiently, month after month after month for almost 2 years wondering when something would be done about Uncle Jerome's grave and Celtic Cross, and nothing happened despite everyone's requests... well, I lost patience.... and when a Minnesotan looses patience, well, you know it's been a long wait. So, I hope Cork can forgive the "snottiness", but you can't say I didn't patiently wait.

It is Cousin Louise who should get all the credit. It was her vision which made this happen. I remember speaking with her in 2005, and she spoke right up and said, "you know what, that Cross is crooked, they (the gov't in Cork) should straighten it up". And so, it began, my long arduous journey to honour her request and make it happen. She was right, it WAS crooked, even the caretakers who had so respectfully looked after it for so many years agreed. But without the request of a family member, it would not happen. That's where I came in. And thus opened up a whole new can of worms in that I would not only find Catryn and Ronnie, but many others in Cork along the way who believed in all that I have been trying to do to restore honour to Uncle Jerome.

A little birdie told me there may be a big "to-do" at Jerome's grave end of this month in honour of his 126th anniversary of his death in the Arctic. The re-erection of his monument couldn't have been timed any better. It's possible this will make the newspaper in Cork, with a few people present to hang a wreath that I will send money on over for. Unfortunately, as it was the same scenario last year, I am again unable to attend due to a new house and not enough funds to bring all the family with me. My mom mentioned she purchased a lottery ticket tonight, but since the phone has not wrung I can only suspect she either A. didn't win or B. won and decided to fly off to the Caribbean with her boyfriend without telling me. Let's hope I get a postcard from Jamaica.....

With all that said, Ronnie has done some excellent detective work and found more evidence about the family before Jerome's father was married. Some interesting details have sprung up, which I am excited to learn about. Ronnie's diligence has paid off. I was able to skype with him and Catryn this morning, they got together to fill out papers in hopes of gaining grant money to further restore the gravesite to it's former glory by adding the railings which were once present but are no longer.

It's been a great week. I can hear a great many sighs of relief from here to Cork and back. Ronnie went to the pub tonite. I myself opened up a bottle of wine. I hope Uncle Jerome is happy, this is the most perfect birthday present I could have wished for him.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


(pictured: sign from the entrance to Arbutus Lodge)

(pictured: a stately looking Arbutus Lodge in Cork, photo by Paddy Leahy)

Last night I received bad news. The home where Jerome was born is no more. Demolished. Gone.

Arbutus Lodge on the Old Blackrock Road has seen many changes, from when Jerome's parents (my GGG Grandparents) lived there to raise 9 children in 1841 all the way through to the recent fire damage that ravaged the house and deemed it unworthy of salvage in the new owner's eyes. My efforts to try and protect it as a historic site too late, I had not even made it over to Cork to see it in person, something I had hoped to do. I am grateful that Ronnie was allowed entry and viewed the house first hand, he was my eyes and ears, and relayed to me through his photos just how terrible of a condition the house was in, and yet, looking past the soot and damage, I could close my eyes and imagine for a moment the glory of Arbutus Lodge in it's day. I saw the original fireplace, and thought how Jerome and the family must have sat by the warm fire on cold nights. I saw the original staircase, and wondered how many times the children would run up and down those stairs, and I imagined how they would peer out the windows on rainy days. My family's home... gone.

(pictured: the site where Arbutus Lodge once
stood in it's glory days on the Old Blackrock Road, Cork)

Ronnie saved a few bricks for me, and is getting the sign on the entrance which says "Arbutus Lodge", who knows how many years it has hung there, displaying it's provenance to the rest of the city, possibly 166 years if not more. We might have missed the boat to try to get the home marked as a historic sight, but I have to admit that it was probably not worth salvaging. I've seen the cracks in the walls, the interior damage from the fire, and as much as I hate to admit, it probably was worth more dead than alive according to an article that ran in the paper over there last year. It's a testament how important it is to preserve our history, to not wait until the last moment, when it may be too late. Arbutus Lodge was in the hands of a new family up until last year, they were the keepers of the house, and it's history. I only wish they realized the importance of the site, that it was more than a home, it was living history. I feel that when we are surrounded by living history, that it is our responsibility to preserve it for future generations to come. However, this family was more than likely not aware of the historic value of Arbutus Lodge, hence the fate which fell upon it this week. Thank gosh we saved Jerome's Celtic Cross just in the nick of time.

(pictured: an old piano charred from a previous
fire and demolished along with the home)
Photos: Courtesy Ronnie Herlihy.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

An Air Of Excitement

For the past two weeks I have had this air of excitement around me that I can't quite understand where it's coming from. I wrote Ronnie that it's like staring at a Christmas present, you don't know what's inside the box, you just know it's gonna be good. And that's how it's been for me these two weeks since I made contact with a geological site out on the east coast that has everything to do with Uncle Jerome. Things took a turn for the better, emails have been flying in stating photos are being sent to us, letters are being scanned for me, and even city council meeting minutes are being pulled from the year of 1973 just to find a connection to Jerome. I made a really lovely contact with the wife of a now deceased author, unfortunately she couldn't help by giving more info, but speaking with her confirmed that I can move on to other new leads. I thanked her as the book her husband wrote has given me great insite into a part of Uncle Jerome's life that our family didn't know about until recently, and that I think was something she was grateful to hear, knowing their book helped someone on a significant level.

Ronnie stated he sent a request to a local paper in Cork asking to find relatives in hopes they might have more info about the Collins family in Cork, Ireland. I'm crossing my fingers and toes the paper will print the request, and praying someone will step forth to lay claim to my family. It would be great to meet long-lost relatives, and to learn more about them.

The research is easy when there is a goal, this is one thing I am learning along the way. It's something I'm passionate about. The support I am getting all over the world from different contacts have made all the difference too, they are all like personal cheerleaders urging me and pushing me on to write this book with Ronnie. It's humbling to know there are people out there who have a great interest in Uncle Jerome's life, and it's with honor and a sense of pride that I go forth.
With that said, part II of our story on Uncle Jerome just came out in Western Australia, and this is the cover of the latest Irish Scene Magazine that Fred Rea, the editor, sent on to me. I took a look inside and they organized our story so nicely with a beautiful layout, with a few surprising photos that Fred included as well. That guy has a good eye, and I'm still grateful for him letting us tell Jerome's story.

Between this new article coming out, and my new discoveries about Jerome on the east coast, you'd think that would be the icing on the cake. But it's not. Last Friday I wrote to some very important people in Cork, including the Lord Mayor of Cork City, the Heritage Officer, the County Archaeologist (Catryn Power), and the Divisional Manager of South Cork, Declan Daly and Mary O'Halloran. Here is a copy of my letter:

Dear Mr. Daly, (CC: The Lord Mayor, Cllr. Donal Counihan; Catryn Power, Cork County Archaeologist; Cork City Heritage Offier Niamh Twomey)

I understand you've held correspondence with my colleague Ronnie H. regarding the work that needs to be done to my family's Celtic Cross monument at Curraghkippane cemetery, as you know not only the Collins' family is buried there but the Irish Nationalist Jerome J. Collins who holds many achievements under his belt. Jerome's Celtic Cross at Curraghkippane is now in a dire straight, it poses a threat to all who visit the cemetery should it fall on anyone due to the severity of the tilt. It also poses a threat to other monuments at the cemetery should it fall and shatter on them should a gale arise. Not only is my GG GrandUncle Jerome buried at that site, but also my GGG GrandFather, GGG GrandMother, Jerome's brother, and possibly his uncle or grandfather. As I stated, Jerome was an Irish Nationalist, true to his country and homeland of Ireland. It is a downright pity that his grave is not decorated every year by the City Council and the County Council for his and his father's services to the City and County of Cork, not to mention Jerome's outstanding achievements as an individual towards Meteorology, Engineering, the founder of the Clan na Gael, and is a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal in America. I have pleaded with the County Council to re-erect his monument for almost 2 years now, through the aid of Catryn Power and Ronnie H.'s requests, but appropriate funds are not made for a mason. Let me assure you, the Celtic Cross has blown down once before, it can happen again. I insist that Jerome's Celtic Cross not be left in this dishonourable state of which it is now in. Letting it remain in this poor state gives the impression that the City of Cork and the County of Cork will forever let Jerome J. Collins be forgotten. Letting the Celtic Cross remain in this poor state also reflects poorly on the City of Cork and the County of Cork in that they do not care about their heroes, that they'd rather forget their Irish heroes than pay the proper honour and respect due. Is is my wish that the Celtic Cross be re-erected, and properly decorated every year to honour Jerome Collins. I will also be addressing Cork City Heritage Offier Niamh Twomey about the preservation of the family home as a historical marker as it's the birthplace of Jerome Collins.
I am more than willing to contribute proof of Jerome's outstanding achievements. I have attached articles I co-authored with Ronnie H. of Cork City and of the South Parish Historical Society last year. There is also an article about myself and my fight to clear Jerome's name through the US Navy in America which appeared in the Cork Evening Echo last November. Both Ronnie and I have on separate occasions been interviewed by Tom MacSweeney on RTE Radio 1 Seascapes programme about Jerome. We also ran Jerome's story in The Holly Bough of 2006, with our most recent article coming out down in Western Australia this past month. We are co-authoring Jerome's biography, most of our research has been accomplished and writing has begun. I hope my blog may provide some insight into the work I am doing on behalf of my ancestor:
It is my hope that the Cork County Council and the Cork City Council will step up to the plate and aid my family to properly restore honour to Jerome Collins and that of the Collins family from Cork. The death of Jerome at the young age of 40 in Siberia was a tragedy; the fact that he has been forgotten by his country of Ireland is an even greater tragedy. I trust you will all do what is right and expedite this matter appropriately. I initially made my first request through Catryn Power, Cork County Archaeologist, to re-erect the monument in the fall of 2005. She did all she could on my behalf, which I am ever so grateful for. It is very hard to accept that a prestigious government such as Cork County is taking this long to act upon my request as a living family member, it is even harder to accept that my ancestor's grave is forgotten by a country he held close to his heart and always put first in every aspect of his life up until his death on the frozen tundra in Siberia in 1881. John Devoy would have been appalled, he was a great friend to Jerome and his brother Dr. Daniel F. Collins (who is my GG Grandfather). In fact, Devoy wrote that a statue commemorating Jerome should be placed at the North Gate Bridge in Jerome's honour, which you all know was previously engineered by Jerome and made from cast iron. Devoy also saved my GG Grandfather's life, testimony to the strong ties my family had to the freedom of Ireland.

I would like to view the engineer's report of the Celtic Cross, someone made a visit there this spring and cleared away all the debris and greenery to inspect the base of the monument. I await to hear from you, and thank you for your time Mr. Daly. Kind Regards,~Amy J.

Before I go on any further, I should add that Ronnie wrote his own letter a few months ago pretty much stating the same concerns as I expressed. His letter was the catalyst that sought the initial funding in the spring, and it seems my letter would be the straw that broke the camel's back. Last night Ronnie skyped me and asked if I received the email from Catryn. I said, "no, I've been running errands for the day and just put my son in the bath". So he proceeded to read her email to us:

Sent: Wednesday, August 22, 2007 10:14 PM
Subject: you won at last
hi amy and roger well done, you have got 10,000 euros for the repair of the memorial; one of the engineers is getting tenders for its repair. ronnie should have a letter by now. catryn

I hooted and hollered and waved my hands in the air when he read this. I celebrated last night over a bottle of wine, and this morning I called Catryn, Mary, and Declan in Cork to thank them personally for approving the funding. Mary's claim is that the site is just flat out unsafe, and provides a danger to anyone who visit's the Celtic Cross, therefore justifying the need for repair.

The first person I called last night was Cousin Louise, she was so overjoyed and feels Jerome and the family had a hand in all this coming about. I couldn't agree more.

That Christmas present I mentioned at the beginning arrived last night, the feeling of something good about to happen, and this was it, the moment was here. I am so happy that Jerome's Celtic Cross will finally be put in a presentable, safe, and honourable state. He and his parents and brothers deserved nothing less.

Two down, two to go. Meaning we found the diary, we got Jerome's cross fixed. All's left to do is find his Congressional Gold Medal or seek a replacement, and keep on the Navy to remove the charges on Jerome's record which will finally set him free from arrest and suspension.
Oh... and continue writing a book about all this............ ;)

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Trip Around The World

I keep apologizing every time I post for the long delays inbetween my posts. But since this blog isn't the most popular one out there, well, I think I can be forgiven.

I am still enjoying contact with Jack from the AOH on the east coast. He's such a great man, always willing to inform me and educate me in regard to Ireland and her history. Same with Fred and Ronnie. Mike has been such a Godsend to us, actually told me that he feels like he's watching the birth of a baby as he's witness to Ronnie and I writing Jerome's bio. And he's right. But for me I think this has been in the making since I was 12 years old and just didn't know it until I started piecing the puzzle together and accepted the ironies of the contacts I had made.

Fred showed me on Skype what Part II of our article looks like, said he'll post it from either Western Australia or Boston, he hasn't decided yet. He said he has a few 'round the world tickets and will be going to Cork to give a presentation to Ronnie's historical society this month, and then go to Boston and then California where ironically the AOH is rolling out the red carpet for him and then on to New Zealand and back home to Western Australia. Hope that man gets some sleep with all those time zone changes. Fred is a wonderful singer, and is so modest and humble about it. I hope Ronnie gets him to sing a few notes after he gives his presentation, after all, Ronnie is taping it for me (I've yet to afford the expense to go with my family over to Ireland!). Anyway, from what I could tell, the article looks great and my photo and Ronnie's appears in this 2nd 1/2 of Jerome's story.
I'm still trying to make waves with the Navy and have been calling them trying to get Jerome's record cleared of the trivial charges. No news yet. I'm being ignored. Things are going at a slow pace with all my requests I have out there. I'm waiting on documentation from quite a few sources, and everyone is taking their time. Frustrating. But every month is still bringing about new discoveries and this month brings me back out to the east coast before Jerome sailed on the Jeannette. The man touched so many lives and locations and left such a huge trail, it's amazing that an imprint of his life hasn't been rightfully preserved.

All in all, I've been busy doing research every spare moment I have. Well, ALMOST. Incase you are one of the few people out there that didn't notice, the 7th and final Harry Potter book was released, and I'm just about to the end. What can I say? I love Harry Potter... I'm 37 and I love Harry Potter. Meanwhile at 37 years of age Uncle Jerome was already busy memorizing the lines to HMS Pinafore, visiting Thomas Edison, exploring geological sites, learning photography, forecasting trans-atlantic storms, and oh, gearing up to sail to the North Pole. Now if that doesn't make me feel unaccomplished, I don't know what will. But back then, Jerome didn't have iPods and iPhones and Google, he didn't have Harry Potter books and TV, DVD's and VCR's, so it makes sense to say in the 1800's they led a very focused education without much distraction. Now, if I were writing Jerome's bio in his era, the book would have been written and published months ago. But I have to multi-task living in 2007, and on somedays I multi-multi-task! So on that note, I have to go let the dogs out, clean the kitchen and make some phone calls while I do some laundry and pick up toys while my computer is busy burning some music cd's, and maybe eat something inbetween all this .

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Making Connections

Many apologies for the delay to update my blog. I've been busy, busy, busy.

Our new home is coming along quite well, we finally have grass!! Fences have been put up and stained, and a rock with a blast hole has been displayed in our front yard as a tribute to where my husband works at a mine. We are very happy with all the improvements and thankful for our friends' help when called upon.

I have been enjoying more phone calls and photos and packages from Jack out on the east coast with the AOH (Ancient Order of Hibernians). He has made a few visits already to a Navy Museum on my behalf, and has just recently finished reading "Icebound" by Leonard F. Guttridge which is about the tragic Jeannette Expedition of 1879 that Uncle Jerome sailed on. Now that Jack has read this book, he states he is more comfortable with the story and wants to attempt to look for more clues and items relative to my research. This is good news. He was sympathetic to the fact Jerome was not painted in a very good light in "Icebound", Mr. Guttridge obviously did not know the full scale of Jerome's life when he wrote the book; since he based most of his knowledge from the Inquiries which were held after 1882/1883, it's easy to understand that the US Navy did all they could to protect their own by allowing dishonour and fault to lay with Jerome since he was Irish and an (indirect) threat to Lt. De Long. The two men were obviously both recording every aspect of the Expedition to the North Pole in their diaries and logbooks, but the race was on as to who would be the first one published. Jerome's only want was to make for scientific headway, however it's only natural to assume that he would have had the greatest story of all time being an employee of the New York Herald with quite a few years of journalism under his belt by 1879. Lt. De Long took advantage of his power with the Navy, he forced Jerome's diaries to sink with the ship... all but one which was hidden on Jerome's person during the escape to the Lena Delta in Siberia.

The story of HOW Jerome's story is coming to light is amazing in itself. I may keep repeating myself by saying this, but there are forces at work greater than myself to make all this happen. Jack has a friend named John. I was introduced to John by Mike. I have been in contact with Mike in Tennessee for well over a year now, he's a so-called expert on the Clan na Gael and all things Fenian. Mike told me he had a friend with the AOH, that would be John. It wasn't until recently after speaking back and forth with John that we realized we had a connection, one that was 141 years old! Apparently Uncle Jerome was working at a prison in London in 1866 when a bunch of Fenians were thrown in jail, John's Great Grandfather included. Jerome tried to makes plans to free the prisoners, however the plan failed, and Jerome had to flee to America in 1866. Now, 141 years later, the tables have turned and John is trying to help ME free Jerome and bring his story to light. Amazing how two people with such a strong connection could find each other in this world, but as I said, greater forces are at work and I've no doubt our introduction to each other was no coincidence.

Ronnie is still plugging away in Cork doing all he can to find out bits and pieces of the Collins' family in Cork, Ireland. He's doing a great job as always, and will be paying a visit to the National Library of Ireland to try and solidify more facts about Jerome. I can't wait to find what discoveries he'll make, it's going to be very exciting next week.

Part 1 of our 3rd article together was just published down in Western Australia in the Irish Scene magazine: Volume 9/Number 4, May/June 2007 issue. Click here to go to the Irish Scene website to request a copy of the magazine, Fred Rea is the editor. Part two is coming out next month in July. Fred has been an incredible wealth of knowledge. He is hooked up to Skype and it's enjoyable speaking with him, not to mention the great singing talent he has but shhhhhh! don't say anything because I can see him blushing all the way from Minnesota to Western Australia! Every time I speak with Fred I told him it's like I'm going to college for free, the education and history he passes on to me about the Irish and how they came to Western Australia is heartbreaking. Just a few days ago he was telling me how ships filled with orphans were taken from Ireland and brought to Australia, most of the children would be elderly now and some have attempted to search for their relatives back home in Ireland after all this time. Amazing story.

Fred is very passionate about his Irish heritage. He is a writer and journalist in every sense of the word, but you can tell he wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to his native home of Cork, Ireland. It's been said that Ireland's greatest export is her people, and it's certainly true. Fred Rea is a prime example of that as he is dedicated, devoted, and loyal to his country of not only Ireland but Western Australia where many Irish rebels and prisoners were forced to live. Now the Irish in Australia are embracing their heritage, when once it was shamed upon to be born from a family with convict ties. Not anymore, says Fred. And Fred is doing all he can to promote the Irish in Australia to a proud heritage. For all the help he as offered to me, the advice and the stories, I would like to thank Fred Rea and encourage everyone to subscribe to his magazine which is a work of passion & honor; educational and entertaining to us all.

This next week I am sending out forms to obtain Jerome's Navy Records and also ask for a copy of his Congressional Gold Medal. I am expecting to be turned down for both requests, they will probably claim no records exist, and claim the Medal was only a 1 time issue and can't be reissued. While I don't expect much to come from my attempts, I do expect to be given leads to other areas which might help open doors so that I can accomplish the task of freeing Jerome. I have also been told by Congressman Oberstar's office in Minnesota to just go straight to the top and write to The President of The United States, Mr. George Bush, and ask for a pardon on Jerome's record. But it seems to me (and cousin Louise in PA) that asking for a pardon would be admitting that Jerome was indeed guilty of trivial offenses and deserved to be placed under arrest and suspension while forced to serve under Navy regulations during the Jeannette Arctic Expedition of 1879. Since 1884, the Collins' family has fought back by denying Jerome did any wrong, and that in fact the Navy was responsible for Jerome's death, being subjected to harsh treatment because he was Irish. Yet this blemish on his record still exists to this day, a record which I have yet to find, which I expect once I send out a request for his records this next week will come back unfounded. Without his record, I fear I can't free Jerome and ask that his record be wiped clean. How am I supposed to ask the Navy to reverse these charges against Jerome without his Navy record? There is only one alternative, to produce the actual Inquiry of 1884 in it's entirety and give it to the Navy as proof that Jerome served, which I have, but there is over 1000 pages and I seriously don't think someone at the Navy will make time to read through this voluminous document. Herein lies the catch.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Coincidences & Shopping Lists.

Spring is finally here in Minnesota. The blue jays are squawking, robins are chirping, even the buds on the trees are getting bigger by the day. All the snow is gone save the black ice sheets which cover the northern lakes up here. Opening fishing weekend is right around the corner, and I feel most boats will see mini ice chunks still floating and drifting along by the time opener rolls around. Ducks and geese are back, and the eerie sound of the loon echos across the lakes as they negotiate their way through the ice and water to dive for food.

Things have been busy. I've been meaning to post a story for a few weeks now about a very strange incident which occurred over in Cork at Curraghkippane, where Jerome's Celtic Cross is. Rather than rewrite it myself, I will quote my colleague Ronnie from his email that he sent me on April 4th (with his kind permission) and let him describe in his own words what he says to me will "knock your socks off".

Hi Amy,
I was thinking after I sent the pic that the evening light has been great recently for taking pics, so I decided to head up to Curraghkippane to get some good pics for the book. So I did. When I went to the grave I noticed that someone had put a vase with some artificial flowers on the base of the headstone. That was fine, so I moved them to take the pics and there was something not the same about the headstone but I couldn't quite tell what it was. Anyway about five minutes later it dawned on me, all the thick ivy and greenery that was growing around the base of the headstone has been cleared away, leaving it looking very clean. The council must have begun to act on the letter I sent or on Catryn's instructions to check for themselves the subsidence of the Celtic Cross. I rang Michael to ask him if he had been up and done it, but it wasn't him, so it must be the County Council.

Then something remarkable happened, this co-incidence is going to knock your socks off. I'd finished taking the pics and was heading out of the graveyard when this man came in, he was also holding a camera, so I jokingly said that I'm glad I not the only one who goes around graveyards taking pics. He smiled and said that he was there because he wanted to see the place where both the longest and shortest funeral's in the world were. He's a Corkman but has been living in Australia for many years and was heading back there tomorrow. He said he'd read the Holly Bough article about Jerome Collins and thought it a great story. He asked if I knew where Jerome was buried in the graveyard, I had to think about it for a few moments, but then I finally remembered (kidding). Says I, I've just spent the last half an hour taking pics of it, and I told him that we were the ones who wrote the article in the HB. Turns out he's involved in a magazine over in Perth, Western Australia, called the "Irish Scene" and he's doing an article about Curraghkippane being the home to both the longest and shortest funerals. They're very much into the whole Fenian history over there, particularly as Freemantle is in their area and that was the prison from where the Fenians escaped on the Catalpa. He wants to know if we'd send him on stuff about Jerome that they could use in the magazine, I said that we could send him the HB (Holly Bough) article if he wanted to use that and he was delighted. He gave me a copy of the magazine and a cd on which many of the lyrics of the songs are the words of John Boyle O'Reilly and John Breslin. The cd is entitled 'John Boyle O'Reilly and The Fenian Escape from Freemantle Jail".

After I read this email I just about fell outta my chair and was almost completely naked after my socks AND shirt was blown off. Good thing my window blinds were down in order to save the eyes of my poor neighbors! What was really amazing is that I skyped with Ronnie immediately after getting his email and he proceeded to tell me that there was one stubborn little cloud in the way which he had to wait for in order to take a proper pic of the Celtic Cross. It took about 15 minutes before the cloud moved and the sun shone so he could continue his photos. If it weren't for that stubborn little cloud, he would not have met the magazine man from "down under" on his way out of the cemetery. It's my own thought that since Jerome was a meteorologist, that he must have had something to do with this coincidental meeting between Ronnie and the "Irish Scene" writer! And I am proud to say that Ronnie and I submitted our article today much to the magazine's delight! This will be our third publication together in just one year. I'll keep you posted as to when it finally arrives.
Now, on to other news. The AOH is still helping, most in particular a man by the name of Jack, of whom I'll call "Just Jack" (for you Will & Grace fans you might chuckle). Jack has taken my plight under his wing and has already visited the US Naval Academy Museum on my behalf, and now wants a grocery list from me. This list is to pertain to items that I need to find which will help bring about Jerome's freedom. As mentioned in my New Year's Eve Resolution post, one of my goals was to free Jerome from the chains of arrest and suspension that were never lifted in 1884. In order to DO this, I need to find his US Navy records. This is where Jack is stepping up to the plate to assist me. Once that is obtained, then I will approach the Secretary of the Navy or whatever particular department it takes in the US Navy and plea that the charges be overturned which still taint his record to this day. I will also ask they reissue his Congressional Gold Medal, and offer a formal apology to the family of Jerome Collins. A huge wish list, but one that I know can be accomplished. Jack has given me weekly phone calls and is always eager to talk about the goings-ons of the AOH along with his own ancestor who is Irish from Fermoy, Ireland. Because Jack has been so kind to offer his assistance, Ronnie in turn has offered his own in order to help shed more light on Jack's ancestor and has made some inquiries in Fermoy on Jack's behalf. A nice little cultural exchange, don't you think?
Just this week I reconnected with a relative, Audrey. Her late husband Robert is the grandnephew to Jerome. His grandfather is my great-great grandfather. Robert and Audrey paid a visit to Curraghkippane in the 80's, he was interviewed by the late Walter McGrath of the Cork Evening Echo and ran a story about Jerome. She's also putting me in touch with their two boys, who are married with kids and one is even a grandfather now. I remember seeing them many many MANY years ago at my own grandparents home in Duluth, MN during the holidays when I was just a small kid. "Uncle Bob" (Robert) would always ask for a hug and kiss and I was way too shy and always refused. What I remember most is seeing family that I never really had the opportunity to see much, all these "big people" surrounding me during Christmas or Thanksgiving really made an impression on me. I wanted to know more about them, I was curious. And it took my teacher, Mr. Sjoberg, when I was 12 to push me to explore that curiosity of my ancestry. Over the years the families moved, grew up, and fell out of touch. But this week, I felt like I brought the past back into my life, in a more technical way with emails and so forth. And I feel that I need to keep track of who and where everyone is in the family, so that we all know where we came from and can pass on down our heritage, keeping traditions alive. I hope one day to have a Collins Family Reunion, and I hope to locate everyone in the family that has been lost, or fell out of touch. That is a huge task itself, but again, it's do-able.
With spring here, a new season has begun. And in my life, a new refreshing aspect has been added which was not present this winter; a connection with relatives who were for years unconnected. I hope I am able to give to them what I hope to receive, that sense of belonging to a proud family full of tradition and honor.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Finally..... help is on the way.

For the past 3 weeks I've enjoyed telephone calls from a man that is with the AOH, Ancient Order of Hibernians. Thanks to Mr. Tennessee, I've been put in touch with him through his friend who is also a member of the AOH. Things have gotten quite interesting, I've learned more pieces of the puzzle that I never knew before. A connection was made, a very old and significant connection, one that Uncle Jerome could have only organized himself. And I discovered, had it not been for John Devoy, I might not be here today. Yes, you heard me, John Devoy, probably the most famous Fenian in all of Irish history.

What's absolutely astounding is I finally found help. The AOH member has taken hold of my story and the work that I am doing on behalf of Uncle Jerome. I finally have supporters, a few at the moment, but it's enough. They are actually going to places that I can't right now, making inquiries and taking photos on my behalf. They BELIEVE in what I am trying to accomplish, which is vindicating Jerome and freeing him from his arrest/suspension which binds him in death to this day. They will help. And I can't express enough my deepest gratitude, I say that with a huge sigh of relief. Finally, help has arrived, and just in time.

I've about given up asking my local and state politicians to assist me. I've been lead on by Senator Coleman's office for well over a year now, and basically got the feeling they just wanted me off their backs. Sure, they made some inquiries for me, but they weren't aggressive about the search. I also sent Senator Ted Kennedy a long letter, and as expected it has gone unanswered. Guess it's because I'm not his constituent, never mind the fact we are both Irish. It's the politicians that put my family in this boat, (no pun intended for those of you that get that), and it's been over 120+ years that my family has questioned why... why weren't the charges against Jerome removed? Why weren't they ruled upon? Why was a mock inquiry allowed if they had no intention of ever erasing the stain that still holds my ancestor under arrest to this day? I can't help but think that even though my Irish family didn't really seem to suffer the common day discrimination that all Irish were branded with in the 1860's and 70's and so forth because they were honestly quite "well to do" at the time, they were unequivocally politically discriminated against during the inquiry. And I can't help but think that discrimination continues to this day. I have this thought that every search I do for Uncle Jerome's records are flagged with comments such as "DO NOT REVEAL" or "TOP SECRET". I can't help but think that no one, even to this day, wants to admit that the Navy made a mistake. God forbid the US Navy admits THAT. It's almost as if someone is playing that game "hot potato" with Jerome's file... once I get near enough to finding it, it's all of a sudden not where I think it is and I'm passed off to ask somewhere else, for fear that once I do read his file I'll find the missing documents which were stolen from his cold dead body on the Lena Delta, or I'll learn the truth that James Gordon Bennett conspired with the US Navy to cover up what really happened to Jerome while forced to sign on as a seaman with the Navy just to represent the New York Herald. Conspiracy. It's been around for hundreds of years. Today, it's the stuff that movies are made of. When I'm done with all this, I'll be giving a copy of the script to Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese. Seriously. This is the wish of Cousin Louise, and I'll carry it out in her honor.

Until then, the search is still going, people are helping, and the story of Jerome's life is being written. I could say that I can't ask for any more than that, but c'mon here.... I always hope for more. St. Pio always said, "Pray, Hope, and Don't worry". Ok then.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Saint Patrick's Day

Our house proudly decorated for St. Patrick's Day.

This is Jerome's Celtic Cross Monument at Curraghkippane Cemetary, just outside Cork City, the tilt is so severe that it poses a threat to life should a gale come through, and also to other grave markers should it fall on them and smash.
This is a view of Jerome's Celtic Cross (center), up until recently it was the only one in the cemetary (and possibly all of Ireland) to face NORTH in his honor, the rest on a traditional east/west alignment.
Another view of Jerome J. Collins Celtic Cross monument at Curraghkippane, should the wind blow just right, it's possible it could blow down, not only destroying itself but surrounding grave markers in addition.

This is a marker honoring Jerome J. Collins of Cork, it is located on the South Gate Bridge in Cork City, next to the Beamish Brewery which now stands on the Collins' family Salt & Lime Works. Notice that "Jeannette" is spelled wrong in the photo.
A close-up look at the plaque to Jerome and the Collins family on the Celtic Cross monument at Curraghkippane cemetary, Cork, Ireland. It reads, "Sacred To The Memory Of Jerome J. Collins, His Father, Mother, And Brothers. R.I.P."

Things are renewed, I'm refreshed, and ready to tackle my mission again. It's not by choice that I am jumping back into the swing of things before this week is over with, things usually find ME before I'm ready to give up my break, and this has been a very productive week Jerome-wise.

Items are coming to the forefront about Jerome and his activities as early as 1866. I've recently reconnected with a so-called Fenian expert who has shed much light on the Fenians during this period. I'll call him Mr. Tennessee, because I haven't asked his permission to post his name yet on my blog. Well, Mr. Tennessee gave me a ring the other day, we had a nice chat on the phone and he is a wealth of information, citing many numerous resources that I was never aware of. I can't thank Mr. Tennessee enough for his offer of help. He also put me in touch with a member of the AOH, I am waiting to hear back from that member as he took an interest in my story and the work I am doing for "Uncle Jerome".

Things on the other side of the pond in Cork, however, are slow going. Guess they always are, as Ronnie and I spoke the other day about this. We talked about our letters we are writing to the Monuments Committee in Cork and the Cork County Council. We are appealing for the safety of Jerome's Celtic Cross monument, it's severely tilted over and poses a threat and hazard to people visiting the grave and other monuments should it fall over. We hope they will rightly honor Jerome by acting on this quickly to re-erect his Celtic Cross, possibly even decorating his grave every year as he was a devoted Nationalist to Ireland. I've brought this issue up well over a year ago to the County Council, they approved some funding, but the cost of the masonry outweighs the funding. What's troubling is that Jerome was Clerk of Works for the City, and his father also served on the City Council for many years, both esteemed members of the city and of society, yet the city lets the gravesite remain in such a poor state. Ronnie and I hope to change this through our letters.

Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day. Ronnie's birthday. The Day that the North Gate Bridge was officially opened which Jerome engineered. I proudly displayed two flags at our house, one of the Irish Flag, the other of the Cork City Flag. Both were sent on to me from Ronnie last year which is "the job" as he says. I have shamrock lights in my windows, and a nice Irish themed wreath on front of our deck. Can't miss our house, can ya?

My discoveries with Paris last month have simmered down for a while. What I'm trying to do now is get some text translated into English. Looks like I've been thrown into Jerome's recent activities in America as well. I'll be exploring and researching this era of his life, there's many questions and answers waiting to come to light. Thanks to Mr. Tennessee and his vast resources, I'll be working on this now.

Around here where I live in Northeastern Minnesota, there are no St. Patrick's Day parades that I'm aware of. It's too cold, and too snowy. I hope that I'll have the blessing to be in Ireland during St. Patrick's Day, maybe next year. And I hope to make the trip over to Ireland even before then. Until then, I'll proudly display my pride any way that I can. After all, even though he's not a formerly recognized hero to Ireland, Jerome J. Collins is MY hero.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Turtle and the Hare

I've been struggling for a while as to what I should post next. The long hours of research have taken away much needed sleep, the cold winter here in Minnesota has been almost unwelcome with temps dipping down to -40 or even -50 below zero with the windchill at times. Today it warmed up, we took a much needed sled ride behind the 4wheeler in the snow, and then the snow began to fall so peacefully that all I could hear was the wind in the trees gently escorting the flakes down to the ground, every so often landing on the tips of our noses and eyelashes.

It's been tiring, looking through books and papers, Uncle Jerome has managed to point me in the right direction these past two months, and I've made significant headway into aspects of his life that were only too briefly touched on in other written accounts of his life. I can't help but trust he's guiding me, these little headways I'm making are coming so fast that I have a hard time keeping up with myself. Quite a few times I've laid my head down to rest next to the keyboard, only to wake up with a stiff neck and drool on my arm.

Ronnie emailed tonite, he said he's been tired these past few days himself. I think we're both trying so hard to make headway with our book that we're allowing ourselves to be drained by it all. I knew this would be work, I had no doubt as did Ronnie. But I think we need to be like the turtle, slow and steady wins the race. So, it's time for a break, or at least time to turn my attention to another aspect of Jerome's life, one that I haven't challenged myself with yet. Possibly one that is a bit easier to research than the timeline I am doing right now. Either way, I need to slow things up a bit. I don't think my poor desk can take my snoring and drool much longer.

St. Patrick's Day is right around the corner. This year I'm hoping to have a St. Patrick's Day dinner for our family, something that we've never done before in my own family let alone my husband's. His grandmother is Irish, so I picked up a shamrock plant for her and myself yesterday at the floral shop in town. It wasn't until today when I watered the plant that I noticed each stem had 4-leaf clovers, something I've never seen before. I called up my husband's grandmother and told her to look at her shamrock, and sure enough, hers also had 4-leaf clovers. Her other plant only had 3-leaf clovers. Whether they were genetically altered to produce them like this, or it was luck, I haven't a clue. But personally, I like to think it was the tried and true "luck o' the Irish" myself.

It's hard to keep my blog current as I can't give out details to our book, or the headways that Ronnie and I are making each week. But I assure you, the book is being written, and Jerome Collins' story will be told accurately. My head is bobbing, so I best sign off for now.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Very Long Search

Well, it happened. Jerome's diary was located and I am overjoyed. We now have a major key element to our book. I honestly didn't expect this discovery to arrive so soon, and wasn't prepared for what I was about to read. It was very disheartening to say the least.
I live in Minnesota, and as I write this it is -20F (not including the windchill), how did Jerome survive in these conditions day after day? My nostrils stick together when I inhale a deep breath as I let our dogs out for a quick run and back, all I have to do is close the door and I am back in my warm shelter. I see the bright stars in the night sky, it's always coldest on a clear night. The snow squeeks when the mercury dips below zero. It's something I can't fathom... how Jerome and his mates from the Jeannette survived as long as they did, battled the ice and sea to reach land, only to be imprisoned by a commander that refused to leave his logbooks behind in order to search for natives. How I hate De Long for what he did to Jerome. How I hate Melville for his arrogance and delay.

Ronnie was approached again this week by another book publisher that is interested in our story. I told him to let 'em keep knockin' at our door, let's just do the job at hand and write the book.

Now, it's time that I free Jerome and break the chains that bind him in death even to this day. Cross your fingers on that.