Monday, August 18, 2008

The Grand Finale

The last phase to restore Jerome J. Collins' grave happened just over a week ago.  While Ronnie was over here in the good 'ole US of A bumming around NYC for the first time with his family, things were coming together back home in Cork for the grave of Jerome J. Collins.

With the final addition of railings around the grave, it is now restored to it's former glory just as it was back in the early 1900's with exceptional detail.  Even the finials on the 4 corners were not overlooked.  I hope my family would be very proud and honoured.  It's a testament that the memory of Jerome Collins and what he died for is still remembered to this today.  

Thank you to Brendan Walsh of Cork, Ireland's  Walfab Engineering Ltd. for the excellent work, along with Mark Walsh of Cork, Ireland, and Wojciech Zabrocki of Wolczyn, Poland who returned home after completing this job.  All men seemed very proud to have had their hands on this work.  Brendan told me in his email, "I would like to say it is a great story to tell and well done for all the hard work involved".  Thank YOU Brendan, and also thank you to Mona Hallinan of Cork County Council for providing the funding for this project.  Also thank you to Ronnie for pushing the papers to get this done, as well as Catryn Power for her continual involvement and guidance.  

All photos courtesy of Brendan Walsh.  May not be used without written permission to Walfab Engineering LTD, Cork, Ireland.  

Friday, August 15, 2008

Good news and bad news

The bad news: I had an emergency appendectomy a week ago this Friday.

The good news: it was removed on the luckiest day of the year 8/8/08 and it did not burst, the Dr. got it out in time. Of course, any of you reading this will probably think I am unlucky for having such a surgery on the luckiest day of the year. I, however, view the glass half full and am thankful I listened to my intuition that "something was just not right" and made my husband haul my butt into the clinic where I was quickly diagnosed and admitted for surgery all in less than 4 hours time.

The bad news: I can't lift over 10lbs for the next 8 weeks nor can I go 4wheeling with my husband next week up the North Shore, which btw is one of my favorite places for sightseeing.

The good news: I don't have to mow the lawn for the next 8 weeks, nor do I have to lift heavy dishes, NOR do I have to lift heavy piles of laundry, OR take out the garbage, all courtesy of Dr's orders. Oh, did I forget to mention that I'm also getting out of vacuuming as well for the next 8 weeks? And my wonderful son who is going on 5 is my little cheerleader asking me if I'm feeling better every day, even though I have to kneel down to hug him instead of lifting him up.

The bad news: I got put on Levaquin per Dr's orders. A VERY bad drug to take after surgery with super scary side effects.

The good news: I refused to take the Levaquin and insisted to the Dr. he prescribe something with much less horrific side effects. Come to find out after googling "Levaquin" there are many class action lawsuits due to it's reputation to rip tendons, amongst many other problems the Dr. did not warn me about when he wrote out this script. What the heck, doc?!

The bad news: I was saying serious explicits every morning while trying to get out of bed for the first 4-5 days.

The good news: Everything is on the mend and each morning I am thankful for another day. I even lost 2lbs.

The bad news: I have 3 wounds that the Dr. gave me and about 5 stitches, not including the one in my belly button, which, btw, does not look like my cute little belly button anymore.

The good news: These 3 wounds are due to a laparoscopic surgery which is the new preferred method to remove an appendix. Had I had the traditional surgery with the huge traditional wound, well, I'd still be saying those morning explicits.

The bad news: Ronnie and his family came over to the US and had a great time in NYC and Boston. I never got to make it out there to see them.

The good news: If I made it out to NYC to see Ronnie and his family, I most certainly would have ended up having my appendectomy in NYC. Lucky thing I didn't make it out there.

The bad news: Just one week prior to my appendectomy, I happened to catch my Irish Claddagh ring on the ice maker at home. I had not taken off this ring for over 15 years and by now there was no way it could easily come off. When it caught, the seam split open catching my skin and hurting my finger like the dickens.

The good news: my handy~dandy husband used a couple of pliers to pry the ring off my hand. Whew, what a relief and no long term damage to my finger either. As for the ring, well, it hasn't gone back on my finger and it's not going to either. Do you know that if I hadn't of caught it on the ice maker, that the surgical team would have had to saw it off during my ER appendectomy on 8/8/08 because jewelry is a big no~no?

So this is why I have not posted as of late, because I have been too tired to do so. I do have more good news, but you will have to wait as I will post it this weekend sometime.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Jeannette Tragedy

For those of you who have not read this article yet, or were unable to to view it online, you can now click on the pictures below and read the story full-size.  "The Jeannette Tragedy" was published in two parts in  The Irish Echo  on July 9th and July 16th, 2008.  This newspaper is the most widely read Irish-American Newspaper in the US.  I am honoured to have been interviewed for this story, and even happier that it turned out so well.  

I am still waiting to hear from another writer with The Daily Mail, a national newspaper in Ireland,  as to when my other interview will be published.   When that happens, I'll be sure to let everyone know. 

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tornados in Northeastern Minnesota

"Severe weather moved through Northern Minnesota Monday night. Northlanders got quite a sight.

A tornado was spotted in Buhl at 8:45 PM, while a funnel cloud was spotted in Grand Rapids and a tornado was spotted 13 miles NNW of Virginia at 9:05. Talmoon had .75 hail. Squaw Lake had .88 inch hail. Coleraine sported 1 inch hail, while a 14" diameter tree was down near Bowstring Lake at 10:20 PM."

I personally saw two funnel clouds right over my own house in Aurora, while listening to the sirens going off in the next town just 5 miles away. It's no doubt the good people of the Iron Range were either in their basements or glued to their windows to see an event that Mother Nature does not let us see but for a few rare times in our lives.

Thanks to some of those same good people in Grand Rapids and the surrounding area, the photo's below were featured on our local 10pm news tonight and gave everyone in the path of this storm a reality check of what threatened over our heads just a few hours ago. As I write this, another storm is rolling through but with the threat of severe winds and larger than golf ball sized hail. This one I can handle, but a tornado I can not.

When the tornado sirens were going off, I was vacuuming and our little son who is 4&1/2 was helping me pick up his toys before bedtime. I turned on the TV, the radio, and loaded up the latest satellite imagery on my computer. The technology that had been used to alert citizens of the potential for deadly and destructive weather had reached me in about 1 minute from it's issue by the trained meteorologists who know when to send out these life saving alerts. The latest satellite technology and radar imagery used today is the Mercedes-Benz compared to the now outdated telegraph that Jerome Collins used in the late 1870's to issue his very own weather warnings via the New York Herald Weather Bureau to the west coast of Europe, Britain, and Ireland. One thing that Jerome has in common with the meteorologists of today, they both saved lives. Their weather forecasts alerted people to the threat of severe weather, either in a minutes notice as in today's example where I live, or less than a week's time in Jerome's day. Seafarers would usually confirm upon their entry into port that yes, they did indeed navigate through the storm which Jerome would have predicted to travel across the Atlantic to the coast of Europe, and therefore the people in Europe would have received fair warning in advance of the weather to come. I don't think that the meteorologists of today, or yesterday for that matter, ever received a proper thank you or commendation for saving a life. Firefighters are heralded as heros, Policemen are honored when fallen in the line of duty, and the US Armed forces are national symbols of noble sacrifice. So where's the recognition for the Meteorologist? Despite all this technology, we sometimes take for granted the job of a Meteorologist which is easily aided by technology. What if that technology failed us? Then we are forced to think to a time long ago, when simply observing the weather by looking up to the sky was where it all started.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Welcome Cousins!
Welcome Irish Echo!
Welcome NYC!

What a simply fascinating month it's been!  First I was FOUND, yes FOUND by the British branch of the Bernard A. Collins family, a cousin in the UK stumbled across this very blog while googling "Jerome J. Collins" our mutual family member!  She Emailed Me me stating she believed we were related, and now my long lost cousins are in touch with me, emails flying like crazy to my new-found relatives across the Atlantic and even in the Caribbean.  How exciting it's been to learn more about this side of the family and what happened to them after Jerome's brother Bernard moved from New York City to London in 1885.  Bernard has a long line of descendants, of which I am still learning about thanks to cousins Bridget, Maureen, and John.  If you think you are related to the Collins family tree via any one of Jerome's siblings OR his parents (Mark Collins and Ellen [nee Ryan] Collins) do not hesitate to Email Me.   Jerome's siblings were:  Dr. Daniel Francis Collins, Mark Jr., Patrick, Bernard A., Michael, William J., Mary Catherine, Thomas S.  All 9 children including Jerome Collins were born in County Cork, Ireland.  

Ronnie tells me work should be getting under way any day in regard to the railings that will be re-erected surrounding Jerome's grave.  Thanks to Mona who is the Conservation Officer with County Cork, she authorized the funds for the railings which will restore Jerome Collins' grave to it's former glory in the early 1900's.  Not only is Jerome buried on this site, but his parents and a brother.  Again, Catryn Power, County Archaeologist was beneficial as was Ronnie who seemed to get writer's cramps at all the forms he had to fill out to get the ball rolling on our endeavor.  When the work begins, I hope to post pics for everyone to see, as Ronnie plans on making a visit or two to Curraghkippane during the progress.  

This morning I contacted the Newseum in Washington D.C., as Jerome's bio is (incorrectly) listed on their website along with his name permanently etched on a huge glass Freedom Forum Journalists Memorial.  I contacted them a few years back, early in my research when I didn't know 1/8th as much as I do now about Jerome and our family history, and I told them THEN some info that is now proven to be incorrect.  The Newseum recently had their grand opening, and knowing this and the amount of increased traffic they would receive there and on their website, I spoke with a nice man by the name of Don Ross who agreed to let me send him new info about Jerome's life.  He seemed very happy that I called, especially since some of their reporters listed back in the 1800's don't have a lot of background info.  

129 years ago yesterday, the steamer Jeannette sailed from San Francisco Harbour by way of the Behring Strait in an attempt to be the first to reach the North Pole.  Jerome J. Collins was aboard as the NY Herald Correspondent, and served as the Meteorologist and Scientific Officer on board, despite having been forced to sign on as a seaman in order for the Navy to claim any glory under the US flag.  After almost 2 years stuck in ice, the Jeannette sank.  As they say, "the rest is history" and you can read about Jerome J. Collins in The Irish Echo which just printed today in NYC and will be posted in it's entirety on their website Thursday, July 10th.  The Irish Echo is "the USA's most widely read Irish American Newspaper".  I received an email last week from Edward T. O'Donnell with "The Irish Echo" stating he wanted an interview with me about Jerome.  I rang him immediately and we had a good chat.  This is the first US Newspaper that Jerome and I have appeared in since I have been doing research on his life, all the other news media has been overseas in Ireland and Australia.  What's great is that not only is the exposure right in the heart of NY where Jerome lived and worked, but it happened on the anniversary of the sailing of the Jeannette.  I hope that readers all over the US and beyond realize that Jerome really got the short end of the stick on this Expedition, not only was he Irish and unwanted on board by Lt. Cmdr. De Long, but  De Long refused to let Jerome go forth to seek help with two other members in the party during their last month of survival.  Jerome was the strongest and fittest man in the party when they reached the Lena Delta in Siberia, yet because of the martyr Commander De Long, the entire party perished including Jerome due to starvation and exposure, along with the fact that De Long would not leave his ship logs and records behind.  Jerome also suffered under arrest for 18 months until his harsh death, not allowed to help the crew escape to land once the Jeannette sank.  In addition, Jerome was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal posthumously to his family, this medal has been missing since 1900 and rumored by my family as possibly stolen.  If anyone has any knowledge of this Congressional Gold Medal for Jerome Collins' service aboard the Jeannette Arctic Expedition, or any knowledge of the whereabouts of his personal diary, or knowledge about Jerome J. Collins himself, please EMAIL ME with info.  

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Memorial Day is a national holiday in the United States to remember and honour those who have died during service to our nation.  
Jerome J. Collins perished on the Lena Delta in Siberia on October 30th, 1881 while officially enlisted and serving in the United States Navy.  When his body was returned to Cork in 1884 with that of his mother's, it is doubtful that his final resting place overlooking the Lee at Curraghkippane was regularly decorated on Memorial Day in honour of his sacrifice to the United States. 

So today, a wreath was placed on Jerome's grave for Memorial Day.  Once again, Ronnie is helping on his side of the pond and has the honour of placing the wreath. Renata made a beautiful laurel wreath with red, white and blue ribbons to commemorate Jerome's service to the US.  

Renata is standing outside her floral shop, and in the background you can see the North Gate Bridge, which is different from the cast iron bridge Jerome engineered in the 1860's.  However, the same water of the Lee still runs through.  Ronnie is wearing his team Jersey for Munster, which he proudly announced in his email they just became the European rugby champions for the 2nd time in 3 years.  


Here, Ronnie places the wreath at my request.

Jerome J. Collins (1841-1881) US Navy
Scientific Officer and 
New York Herald Correspondent of the 
Jeannette Arctic Expedition.
ALL Photos courtesy Ronnie Herlihy.  

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Living in a Small Town

I don't talk often about my personal life on here, other than the work I'm doing for Uncle Jerome. I guess that I don't want to draw attention to myself, which, ironically through this blog I am doing just that. However, anyone can see that I'm trying to promote Uncle Jerome, and not myself. I could spend every day talking about my mundane searching on the Internet for more clues to my family history. I could also spend every day writing about my family at home and things that have nothing to do with Uncle Jerome. But I choose not to. I don't think it would add much to my blog. It's all really just a balancing act anyway. My blog is not popular, it's not advertised (that I know of). It has been mentioned in the articles I've co-authored in Ireland and Western Australia, but even so it has not gained a lot of traffic. I'm not trying to put my blog down, either. I created this blog for me, to keep me in check and on the right path, and as a by-product you all get to read.

So, with "reading" in mind, I want to mention the Aurora Public Library, especially one librarian in particular who has been helping me dig and find books that I need which are relevant to Uncle Jerome. She took an interest because her husband has an Irish connection. The library is small, very quaint and fresh with a home town feel. No one gets snubbed or treated with an attitude; I mention this because just this past month I contacted other libraries out on the east coast for my research and I got treated just the opposite. Would you believe that even a church in New York told me the message I wanted to leave was too long and that I had to call back? Two facilities finally contacted me (one after I had been egging them for at least 3 months) and told me they were BOTH closing for renovations and that I was unable to get my hands on the documents I so very much needed in order to fill in the gaps about Uncle Jerome. It wasn't a total failure, and there were back up sources that we found. At any rate, it's hard dealing with libraries out of state over the phone, I just don't get the personal attention that I get from my home town library. My local library understands what I am trying to achieve, and they have gone above and beyond to find things for me even without my request. I think it's nice, actually. Try getting that type of personal attention from a huge library somewhere else.

With the anticipation of documents to arrive, I took the liberty to discover more of my family roots. Actually, my husband's family roots. I was able to help out my mother-in-law and father-in-law last month. They didn't know much about their family, and the little they knew left them with a semi-bad taste in their mouths to not want to know more. This is understandable. I had the pleasure to change all that after speaking with them both and asking if there was anything in particular they wanted to know about their family. For my mother-in-law, she was curious about her father, seems as if her and her siblings knew next to nothing about him. Thanks to my digging, I found the place where he was born and I also discovered that he was a WWI veteran. No one knew this, not even my mother-in-law; so with this knowledge she will now try and approach the local Veteran's office as her father was never buried with honours. I even stumbled across the names of her grandparents of whom she never knew.

As for my father-in-law, he had some great stories to tell about his Grandfather. But the buck stopped there. He didn't really know much about him and assumed that he came over off the boat from the "Old Country". Again, I dug, and found this was not the case. My father-in-law's Grandfather's Great Grandfather was actually the one who came over from the "old country", and after digging for a day I added on 3 more generations to the family tree of which he really knew nothing about prior to this. So it was a great feeling for me to help my in-laws discover their roots, and to give them a new found sense of pride of where they came from. They both had a spring in their step and their opinions of their families changed to a positive outlook. Genealogy can be a great tool, it's something I truly enjoy doing.

I have been meaning to post a video of the wreath laying ceremony for a few months now. Obviously I haven't gotten to it yet, and when it does get done, that terrible buzzing noise which I mentioned in my post from that day will be audible on the video. So it might prove to be an annoying distraction, but nonetheless I will still try and upload it for all to see.

I ran across a few more nice discoveries as did Ronnie on his side of the pond. I just need to get my hands on some microfilm and I think I should be set and ready to write my portion of the book. I've concentrated all my efforts on the hunting and gathering of research, and will write after my portion of the research has been found to my satisfaction, which should be in the next two months.
St. Patrick's Day is right around the corner, and our house is all lit up with green lights, the Ireland and Cork flag are once again hanging off our front deck. I even came home with a shamrock plant for myself today, and a "Leprechaun Toes" plant for my mom which she loved.