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.