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 .