Brothers, as I sit here writing this column there is about 2 feet of snow outside of my window, Christmas has passed and I am looking forward to the New Year. Since I last wrote my column I have received many Christmas greetings from you the members and I thank you so much, also numerous communications about the Medal of Honor Grove which was the big story in the last edition. We have been receiving some donations to fix up the grove and have begun to have some repairs done. I have received inquiries from many states who want to get dates when they can come and fix up their plots and install flag poles etc. We have nothing definite set up yet but hopefully we will get some dates put aside when we meet with the Freedom’s Foundation early in the new year. As soon as we get information we will notify all the officers on the National Board and all the State presidents so you will be informed as soon as possible.
I met with two representatives, Joe Cavanagh and Bob Hausmann, from Harris Connect who work with non profit organizations throughout the country. One of their functions is to compile information supplied by members, put it in book form and sell the book to anyone who wants to purchase it. The idea of a member, division, county board or state board writing articles or having pictures of functions throughout the years published in a book along with history of that division or state or anything else a member would like to share with the world is worth looking into and it is free for us to supply this information. They make their money when the book is sold and we will get a percent of the profits. I will meet with them again when I get input from the rest of the board.
I attended many functions over the past two months including my own Division 39’s annual Communion Breakfast and on Veterans Day we held our annual mass for the veterans. Many more divisions are having these types of masses over the past few years and as we all know our troops need all the masses and prayers they can get. I also had the privilege of attending and participating in the presentations to the recipients of the Four Chaplain’s awards at the Chapel of the Four Chaplains at the old Navy Yard in Philadelphia. I also attended the exemplification of the major degrees by the Isle of Erin major degree team where over 60 members came into the ranks of the degreed and over 50 observers who we want to thank especially those who traveled from NJ and Delaware and other parts of the tri state area. The Philadelphia Firefighters John Redmond Division 22 was the host for the degrees and everyone had a great time.
I also attended a meeting with the new Consul General of Ireland, Noel Kilkenny, at the consulate in New York, accompanied by State president’s Jere Cole – NJ, Denny Donnelly – PA, Chip McLean – NY, past National President Ned McGinley and National Vice President Brendan Moore. It was the first chance that the AOH, as a group, had a chance to sit down with the new Consul General and go over our issues and how we, as an organization, could help the Government of Ireland help the Irish immigrants living in this country. It was a very open and productive meeting and we agreed to continue to meet on a regular basis in the future.
I also held a conference call with the Officers, Directors and all State Presidents. It was an informative meeting and many issues were discussed and we will continue to have these meetings on a quarterly basis. I attended an annual Mass in New Jersey for all Hibernians who died on 9/11. This Mass was well attended by the AOH and LAOH of NJ and others from around the area. It was celebrated in the chapel at Seton Hall University which is a beautiful chapel and a great job was done by the New Jersey state board. I attended the New York State board President’s dinner in Staten Island honoring President Chip McLean and past state president Matt Nelligan also received an award . It was a chance for me to meet with many of the brothers I had not seen for some time and again a great job done by the committee and the NY State Board. I attended the PA State Board meeting in Harrisburg PA and again had the chance to meet many of my brothers who I do not get to see as often as I would like. I thanked them for their help in cleaning up the Medal of Honor Grove at Valley Forge and for their very generous donation toward the upkeep of the Grove.
As has been our custom here in Philadelphia for the past 18 years, a group of volunteers from Division 39 assembled at 5 a.m., 2 weeks before Christmas and erected the Christmas Crèche in front of City Hall. This crèche was the brainchild of our past division and County Chaplain, Fr Thomas Doyle S.J, and was built and maintained by the members of Division 39, and the figurines and storage is done by the K of C. Much of this is due to the efforts of Tony Nahill AOH and John Stanton K of C. Both of these men deserve our gratitude and thanks as well as all the men who help erect and dismantle it each year. For anyone who happens to be in Philadelphia, the crèche is located across the street from city hall in Love Park and is viewed by thousands of people annually. Our logo and the Kof C logo appear on the front panel so we do get our name exposed so people know who we are and what we do.
Brothers many of you are well aware of a gruesome find just outside Philadelphia a few years ago which became known as “Duffy’s Cut”. The story goes that a group of 57 Irish Immigrants from Donegal, Tyrone and Derry arrived in Philadelphia in June of 1832 aboard the ship “John Stamp”. They were hired right off the dock by a fellow Irishman named Phillip Duffy to work on the Philadelphia Columbia railroad. He brought them there to complete the most expensive and dangerous mile on the entire stretch of railroad line. Duffy’s Cut is about 30 miles west of Philadelphia in a place called Malvern and today digging continues to unearth the bodies of those men who were buried there in a mass grave over 175 years ago. The local claim was that these men developed Cholera and died within eight weeks of their arrival here and were buried in a mass grave at the turn at Duffy’s Cut. Legend and folklore in the area has it that for years after their death, on more than one occasion, ghosts were seen dancing on top of the grave of these Irishmen.
On December 3rd 2010, just a few weeks ago, 2 members of my Division, Kevin Kilkenny, Tom Quinn and myself, met with William Watson, the head of the History Department at Immaculata University, who has been researching and doing an archaeological dig at the site for the past 6 or 7 years, showed us some of the artifacts and other materials they have recovered. Bill Watson and his twin Brother, Rev. Frank Watson, heard stories from their grandfather who worked for the railroad, about these Irishmen who were buried and the folklore around the Mainline about their deaths. After the death of their grandfather they went through a box of files owned by him and came across documents pertaining to the site. By 2004 the twins had assembled enough documented evidence of the deaths to have a historical marker placed on the site. They unearthed over 1000 artifacts from the camp which included clay pipes with Irish Logo’s, a bowl with the words “Flag of Ireland” and many other Irish items but no bodies or remains. In 2007, Geophysicist Timothy Bechtel, brought in a sophisticated ground penetrating radar machine which x-rayed the area and in 2009 the first set of human remains were found. Since then they have found six more remains and as we left the site on Friday afternoon December 3rd Mr. Watson informed us that the x-ray machine would be back on the site the following Sunday for another scope of work. He also showed us a huge tree under which they know that another body is buried but they can not remove the remains until they get permission to cut down the tree so they can remove all the remains. Many of the remains already recovered show that they did not all die from Cholera but were in fact murdered probably by vigilantes who did not want any of the 57 men leaving the valley in case they did have cholera. At least one scull has a bullet hole and many of the others have similar holes and also other markings of blunt force trauma to the face and head.
Bill Watson told us it is his life long project now to find the remains of all of these immigrants, collect their remains, identify them if possible and give them a proper burial. At least one person has been identified and his relatives in Ireland want to take his remains home to be buried in Donegal. West Mount Laurel cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, just outside Philadelphia, has agreed to take the rest of these remains and make sure they have a proper burial. In the meantime the Watson’s and their volunteers will continue to look for more remains and try to identify them. They are doing this on their own with no grant money from anywhere, all the work is voluntary and some of us who have an interest in the outcome will certainly try to raise funds as some money is needed for outside work and other things needed to complete the project For more information you can Google on Duffy’s cut.
I, as well as many of you, plan on attending the March for Life in Washington DC on January 24th and I know I will again see many of you there. The paper will probably be out prior to the march but we will have a story in the following edition. I also intend traveling to Derry for the Bloody Sunday march and the FFAI presentations to the various groups who still need our support. This also will be reported on in the next edition of the Digest.
Our church and our priests are under attack by a group of sick people who have reared their ugly head here in Philadelphia. Last week we were informed that a group of protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) in Topeka Kansas were going to protest in front of two of our Catholic High Schools, Father Judge and Archbishop Ryan high schools, and a Jewish center, at different times on December 20th. What we did discover, after some investigation, was they picked our schools apparently because they are high schools taught by priests, and they wanted to attack our priests. Father Judge High School, my alma mater, also has erected a monument, many years ago, recognizing the 27 graduates who lost their lives in Viet Nam, the most of any high school in the country.
They are a hate group who protest all over the country at veterans funerals coming home from Iraq & Afghanistan. They hate Jews, Catholics, gays, Blacks and basically everyone except themselves. They did show up with their filthy hateful signs, such as, Priests rape boys, only good soldiers are dead soldiers, God is your enemy, Thank God for dead soldiers and many more signs more disgusting than these. The police department was warned in advance that if they did not protect them, (the protesters about 10 of them) that they would be sued. Apparently this is how these people make their money to travel all over the country demonstrating, by suing people. At this demonstration there were about 200 police protecting them and about 500 of us counter protesters including vets, Kof C and of course the AOH was there in strength also. Everything went quietly but the protesters were shocked that we came out in such force to protect our priests and our faith. We counter protesters admire our police force who had to be there because they have a job to do.
Below is a snippet of the WBC protesters. Beware of these crazies in your communities. The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is an independent Baptist church known for its extreme stance against homosexuality and its protest activities, which include picketing funerals and desecrating the American flag. The church is widely described as a hate group and is monitored as such by the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center. It is headed by Fred Phelps and consists mostly of members of his large family; in 2007, it had 71 members. Located in a residential neighborhood on the west side of Topeka about three miles west of the Kansas State Capitol at 3701 West 12th Street, Topeka, Kansas, United States, its first public service was held on the afternoon of Sunday, November 27, 1955. The church has been actively involved in the anti gay movement since at least 1991 when it sought a crackdown on homosexual activity at Gage Park about a mile northwest of the church. In addition to anti gay protests at military funerals, the organization pickets other celebrity funerals that are likely to get it media attention. The WBC is not affiliated with any known Baptist conventions or associations. The church describes itself as following Primitive Baptist and Calvinist principles, though mainstream Primitive Baptists reject the WBC and Phelps.
Brothers this will be the last edition before St. Patrick’s Day and I wish you all a very happy St Patrick’s Day. Remember that this is the month that we see all the shirts, hats mugs etc that portray us as drunks and worse, so if you see any of these please ask the store owner or manager to remove it as it is offensive to you and the Irish people as a whole. Please let Mike O’Connor, chairman of Anti Defamation, know all the information on such materials so he can contact their corporate offices and try to get this garbage removed from the stores. Greeting cards are also part of the problem so check these out also; remember this is our heritage they are negatively depicting.
I am asking that this year you once again contact your politicians and get as many of our city and state officials to declare March as Irish American Heritage Month.
Last year we had numerous cities and states make and celebrate this month as well as our President declaring March as Irish American Heritage Month on a National level. Let’s do more this year by helping our IAHM Committee of JJ Kelly, Neil Cosgrove and Jack Schell, who have been working feverishly over the past three years to have March declared Irish American Heritage Month on a permanent basis. Hopefully this will be the year that we get it declared permanently.
Finally brothers on a very sad note we have lost two of our past LAOH National Presidents, Rita Murphy and Sally Murphy, whose wake I did attend in Baltimore and I have just found out that a past LAOH Chaplain, Fr. Francis Hanley, will be buried this week. Please keep them and their families in your prayers.