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.

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