Letters to the Editor

Dear Sister and Brother Hibernians:


The Ancient Order of Hibernians is building a memorial honoring Commodore John Barry at the US Naval Academy.  A native of Wexford, Ireland, he is being honored because of his heroic service in the American Revolution; he was the first commissioned naval officer by President Washington, and is recognized by law as the first flag officer of the US Navy.


The first phase of the project was completed on January 6th with the installation of the Barry arch over the new pedestrian gate. It is now known as the Barry Gate.


The second phase of the project requires our raising funds to erect the 8-foot high memorial honoring Commodore Barry inside the new Barry Gate. This is the most expensive part of the project. We have reached the half-way point in climbing up the steep, challenging fundraising mountain of $200,000.00.  We need to conclude fundraising by mid-year.


We urgently need your help.  Before any work or construction can begin, we have to pay up front the total cost of the Project to the Naval Academy.


After the Barry Memorial is built, we plan to publish a booklet on the Project. In the booklet we will list the names of each individual as well as each division, board and organization that contributed to this historic effort. By enrolling as a contributor you and your future generations can point out with honorable pride to future family members that their ancestors answered the call and contributed to help make the Barry Memorial a reality. It can create a noble sense of family pride as the story passes down the generations.  We hope you individually, and your organizations will join the list of contributors.


Hibernian Charity is the AOH’s 501(c)3 organization and they assumed the responsibility to receive all of the needed funds.  All checks are to be made out to Hibernian Charity Barry Project.  All donations are tax deductible.  The attached literature provides details. Please feel free to make hard copies and/or distribute it by e-mail to fellow Hibernians as well as friends and colleagues.


Thank you for your help and support.

         John E. McInerney                                 Jack O’Brien

National Co-Chairman                            National Co-Chairman

To the Editor:


Through the National Hibernian Digest I write to thank all the Brothers and supporters of Commodore John Barry Div. 2, Syracuse, NY, for their outstanding support once again to the Christmas Appeal. In spite of these hard economic times they have, the second year running raised $2,000 for the Appeal. Once again the money will go to the objectives and beliefs we as Hibernians uphold and are as follows.

• The Finuance Center, $500 to assist in the pursuance of truth and justice in Ireland.

• Coiste, $1,000 helping ex-prisoners and their families in employment and education, etc

• Ionad Uibh Eachach, the Irish language school in Belfast, $500 for the furtherance and promotion of the Irish language.

Thank you, all my Brothers.

FFAI Chair Geordy Austin,

Commodore John Barry Division 2,  Syracuse, NY

Cardinal Dougherty losses omitted

To the Editor

It has come to the attention of Cardinal Dougherty Alumni members of the Order that there was an omission in the March-April issue of the Digest when it was neglected to mention in the editorial about High Schools who lost high numbers of alumni that Cardinal Dougherty also lost 27 members during the Vietnam War.

In our motto,

Pearse Kerr

President Division 25 (Cardinal Dougherty Alumni Div.)

Philadelphia, Pa.


LAOH National President

On behalf of the National Board, I wish everyone a happy, healthy, and safe summer.  Thank you for your many invitations to attend your State Conventions, I am trying to attend as many as possible. May our Heavenly Father guide you in your deliberations and on behalf of the National Board, I send congratulations to your newly elected officers and thank the outgoing officers for a job well done.

I recently attended the Massachusetts and Connecticut Conventions and I thank the Ladies for their hospitality and friendship.  It is great to meet the women that you have corresponded with as you moved up the chairs as well as the many sisters who form our membership.  Please remember to forward the list of elected officers to the National Secretary.

I attended the AOH Celebration of their 175th anniversary along with several of our National Board we had the pleasure of meeting Irish Council General Noel Kilkenny and his lovely wife Hanora as they hosted a reception in their home for the Anniversary Celebration.  It was a moving and exciting weekend and I extend our congratulations and our thanks to our brothers of the AOH for the invitation as well as being able to participate in this beautiful weekend.  The AOH National Historian has informed me that an Anniversary Commemorative Journal will be distributed in October at the AOH National President’s Dinner.  The Journal will contain a history of the Order and you can still sponsor a page of that history for only $100.

The Commodore John Barry Memorial has been approved by the United States Naval Academy and fundraising efforts are now underway.  Both the AOH and the LAOH have worked hard over the years to have Commodore John Barry recognized.  The Barry Memorial Project will be completed in two phases.  The project’s first phase will be placing an arching sign over the Academy’s new pedestrian gate and formally naming it the “Commodore John Barry Gate.”  The second phase will be the construction of an 8-foot granite memorial honoring Commodore Barry.  The memorial will be positioned inside the Barry Gate and the adjoining area will be called “Barry Plaza.”  The work will be concluded in late 2012.  The Commodore John Barry Memorial will be built through private individual donations.  A National fundraising effort is now underway.  Donations will be collected thru the Hibernian Charity; all donations should be mailed to Hibernian Charity Barry Project, PO Box 391, Meriden, Connecticut 06450. Please write checks out the “Hibernian Charity” and include “Barry Memorial” in the Memo line of your check.



Commodore John Barry Memorial Becoming a Reality

The US Naval Academy’s Memorials Oversight Committee approved the new Commodore John Barry Memorial on January 11th.  Written confirmation was signed February 7th.  The project will be completed in two phases.

Phase one will be the erection of the new Barry Gate at the pedestrian entrance on Prince George Street.  The majority of people entering and leaving the Academy pass through this gate.  The Barry Gate hopefully will be erected soon sometime this year once details are worked out.

Phase two will be the erection of the Barry Memorial inside the pedestrian gate.  This part of the project will take longer since the Hibernians will have to first raise all of the funds necessary to erect the memorial.

Once all of the final details are competed and the papers signed, an announcement will be made to the Irish American community and to the media.  At that point fundraising can start.  “This is where we need the help of brother and sister Hibernians in all states.  States should consider making donations at their conventions,” declared Bob April, President of the DC State Board. “The team of O’Brien and McInerney has worked diligently to make all of this a reality and we are now asking Hibernians across the country (states, counties, divisions and individuals) to consider helping make the Commodore Barry Memorial a reality.”

“The Barry Memorial will bring to the forefront the decisive role Commodore Barry played in founding the American Navy under the Constitution at the direction of President Washington,” said Jack O’Brien, Barry project coordinator.

John E. McInerney, the project’s public relations director, expanded that,  “With the Barry Gate and Memorial, future officers of the Navy will know who Commodore Barry was in our nation’s great naval history. This memorial will become the pride of the Navy and of Irish Americans,”

Historical Happenings

Another year of St Patrick’s Day celebration, tomfoolery and thoughtless antics has passed.  Why, we ask, can offensive comments aimed at any other ethnic group be termed racist when we Irish are held up to ridicule with no reaction.  It just goes to emphasize that we have a lot more work to do to convince America that we are, in fact, the best!  To those who enjoyed celebrating respectfully, isn’t it great to be Irish!

Speaking of great, congratulations are due to the Beltway Bulldogs, Mac and O.  I know there is a musical team called Mac and O, but our Mac and O are John McInerney and Jack O’Brien.  I call them the Beltway Bulldogs because once they get their teeth into something, they never let go until it’s finished.  As if successfully contributing to getting the last monument on the Antietam Battlefield to the memory of the Irish Brigade were not contribution enough, this dynamic duo has been the impetus behind the restoration of Commodore Barry’s original commission, established the main pedestrian gate to Annapolis as the Barry Gate, and now has been granted permission for a memorial to Commodore Barry within that gate.  That’s taking care of history.  Let’s all mark our calendars and bring up a contribution to that memorial at our State Conventions this year as our way of saying thanks.

Our Deputy National Chaplain had quite an experience when he ran to the aid of a parishioner who accidentally set himself on fire lighting a candle.  Father Reid’s quick thinking to get a fire extinguisher and rush to the 89-year old man’s aid was heroic at the least, but unfortunately the man died two days later from his burns.  Father Reid typically asked for prayers for the man he tried so hard to save, but after talking to him, I suggest that we offer a few prayers for our Deputy National Chaplain.  He was understandably upset about the incident and saddened by the outcome.

I received several calls and e-mails during the hallowed month of March to explain the tradition behind Corned Beef and Cabbage as an Irish dish when it was virtually unknown in Ireland.  I should have anticipated the request and had it in the last issue of the Digest, but I give it here and you can tuck it away until next year, or until you’ve finished with the leftovers – it’s always better a day or two after.  As you know, in the 19th century, the Irish tenant farmer relied on potatoes as a main food; on special occasions one might enjoy a bit of bacon and cabbage with the potatoes, but potatoes were the staple.  When blight hit the potato in 1845, it caused a major deficiency in the dietary staple and an apathetic government forced many to emigrate to survive, but that’s another story.

Upon arrival in America without resources, they were generally forced to settle in the least desirable parts of the cities where they landed.  In New York this was the slums of the lower east side around the notorious Five Points.  Unskilled and unschooled, they tried to scratch out a living and send a few pennies back to those they were forced to leave behind.  Personal gain eluded them as prejudice and No Irish Need Apply signs hindered their climb to economic stability, yet they persevered and eventually succeeded against incredible odds.

Among the hardships families had to endure in a slum environment was the lack of nourishing food.  It was generally up to the mother to prepare a healthy meal for her family and in this situation, her ingenuity left us a tradition.

In the mid-19th century, New York was a major port in the China tea trade.  From 1841 through 1860, clipper ships dominated that trade.  They were built to be the fastest sailing ships in the world.  When fully rigged and riding a trade wind, they could reach speeds of more than 16 knots which meant that the trip to China and back would only take about nine months, depending on the route taken.  However, an unlucky ship could spend an additional three weeks crossing due to Doldrums – a part of the ocean where they might encounter calms, squalls, and shifting winds.

The ships were originally provisioned before leaving New York with enough fresh water, flat bread, oats, coffee, rum, and salted beef to last until they reached China. After gastric complaints about re-provisioning in China for the trip home, many began to carry double provisions for the round trip.  These always included a bit extra in the event of doldrums.  Upon arrival back in New York, the excess provisions were generally dumped in the harbor for what else could one do with 6-month old lumps of beef that had been soaking in brine for all that time.

It was then that coincidence and circumstance collided and the Irish mothers seeking nourishment for their families spotted the floating beef in the river and fished it out.  Fortunately it was before the age of power boats spewing engine oil into the river.  They took it home and soon developed a method of preparing it so that their diet would have meat at least once a week – or at least when the ships came in.  They would boil the beef to remove the salt, discard the water and boil it again.  They found that repeating that process three times – once each for the Father, Son and Holy Ghost – would remove enough salt to make it palatable, however, while the salt was gone, so was the flavor!  That’s when a head of cabbage was added.  The last time the beef was boiled, it was boiled in water that had boiled a head of cabbage and a flavor was introduced to the meat.  It didn’t take long for ship’s crews to realize there was a market for the old brined beef and returning ships soon saw women lining up for the leftover salted beef which was now sold at a penny a pound.  It was a far cry from the bacon and cabbage they might have enjoyed in Ireland, but still it was a welcome dish.  In later years, the dish became a traditional favorite for it brought back memories of a mother’s love, especially since the modern dish was far more palatable than the one mom dragged out of the river.

On Saint Patrick’s Day, many people enjoy corned beef and cabbage and they believe it to be an Irish dish.  In a manner of speaking it is, but it should not remind us of Ireland.  Rather it should remind us of the ingenuity of Irish mothers, their dedication to their families and their determination to overcome any obstacles put in their path.  It should also remind us of the hardships endured by our immigrant ancestors who persevered and overcame the difficulties imposed on them in a tenement slum; perseverance that brought us to a better life so that we could enjoy a dish of corned beef and cabbage today in pleasant company and surroundings.

Until next time, don’t forget to check out AOH.COM and NYAOH.COM for recent histories and keep the tradition alive.