President’s Message

Brothers the convention is well and truly over and things have been quiet over the past 2 months although I had a lot of work to do at home rather than on the road. Following the convention I went to Ireland for my nieces wedding and had a very relaxing time. I spoke to some of the AOH people there and confirmed that I would be unable to attend the 15th of August march in Belfast but past president, Ned McGinley, would be representing the National Board of the AOH in America at the parade.  Ned reported that although it was a smaller parade than usual it was a beautiful day and the AOH’s from Ireland, England, Scotland and America were represented. It was the first time in over 30 years that the AOH parade was held on the Falls Rd in Belfast and it certainly went very well. The day began with many of the local people attending mass in honor of our Lady, followed in the afternoon with the laying of a wreath at the grave, in Milltown cemetery, of a great Irish Republican leader and member and officer of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Michael Davitt. A tremendous day was had by all who marched or were spectators. The weather was beautiful just like a summer Sunday should be.  On a sad note, Billy Collins, the Board of Erin Vice President, had a massive stroke and at this writing is in serious condition in a Belfast hospital. Please keep Bill and his family in your prayers.

I attended a meeting of the New Jersey Division 1 in Cape May County and then followed up with a meeting at Seton Hall University with National Director Jere Cole, Jim Lowney and Alan Delozier who is the director of Special Collections at the University. The purpose of the meeting was to begin to set up a program to have many of our archives material on display and catalogued by the University.  We had a great meeting and came away with a plan to have a lot of our AOH material not only in the University but when this project is completed any member would be able to go online and see exactly what we have.  I spoke to our archivist, Mike McCormack, who thinks this is the way to go in the future and we will be looking at other places where our material is stored and be able to connect all of it to our website. We will be working on this for the next two years and probably will be an ongoing project for many years to come.

I traveled to Verona New York, the site of our next national convention in 2012 at Turning Stone Resort.  I was joined there by the LAOH National President, Margaret Hennessy; both national chairs for the convention Matt Nelligan and Mary Leathem, Brendan Moore, James McKay and Thomas McNabb our national officers and the representatives for the hotel. We did have a few very good meetings and most of our questions were answered to our satisfaction but negotiations on a few minor issues are still ongoing.  It is a beautiful location, conveniently situated with all the amenities we would need for a successful convention and promises to be a great time for those who will be attending.

We have made most of our appointments to the National Board and hopefully we will have all of them completed in a few weeks. I am in the process now of setting in place a committee to come up with ideas on how to better serve our total AOH area using the resources we have and maybe coming up with ideas which would be accepted and supported by all of the country. After much thought and looking at our make-up throughout our country I have asked the president and vice president of the following states to form this committee: California, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia and have asked Frank Kearney to chair this committee. The duty of this committee will be to look for ways to share representation of those areas with less membership. I will ask that this be given a lot of thought before bringing a resolution before the next convention.  We will report more on this committee as it progresses.

The National Constitution is almost finished being updated and will be ready to distribute to divisions and on the website within a month. In my last article in the Digest, I mentioned that we needed to take out all reference to Canada, Canadian, Province and Provincial from the constitution because we had severed all ties with the AOH in Canada.  Let me explain why we had to do that. The AOH in Canada receives grants from the Canadian Government and in order to be eligible to do this they can not be affiliated in any way with any other country. The National President of Canada’s AOH wrote a letter requesting that we sever all ties, legally, but we can still continue to work together in a fraternal way as we do with the AOH in Ireland. There is no feud, no animosity and we are and will continue to work together for the interest of both our organizations, our heritage, our church and for a United Ireland. I hope this clears up any misconceptions but I did have only a few hours to put last month’s column together and it was done in a hurry and I do apologize for the haste and waste.

One of the other inquiries which I had from the last Digest was concerning the per capita increase. A lot of time and research was put into this not only by the national board but by our oversight committee and national treasurer. As most of you know the per capita was not raised since 1992 and since then the price of printing our digest has more than doubled, the price of mailing has soared and just about everything else has gone up. We have changed to conference calling for meetings to save money and our web site has saved us a lot on mailing but we were still coming up short every year. It was not to get more money for the National Board nor was it for any other reason than to continue as a viable organization without going into bankruptcy at some time in the future. One of the questions asked on the floor of the convention when this raise was discussed was did we raise it enough or was it a band aid to hold us over temporarily and the answer was that it was given a lot of thought and that this raise should hold us for at least another 18 years or more. I hope this answers any questions you may have had and any of you who have a question please do not hesitate to contact me and you will get a reply, maybe not the answer you wanted but you will get a reply.

I have asked a few of our people to work on a complete new set of updated forms for our National Office and for our website. I thank the people who volunteered especially Jeff Nisler for his expertise and time and by the time you get your next edition it should be all up and running but in the meantime please use the forms we have on the web.

Our 175th anniversary of the formation of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America, Inc is fast approaching and will be celebrated in New York City on October 8th to 11th, 2011 – which is Columbus Day weekend. There will be masses, banquets, visitations and celebrations of our anniversary and will be in conjunction with our national president’s dinner. Ed Wallace, past national president, is the chairman of this event and he has already started forming committees. We have struck a commemorative coin for the occasion which are numbered and will be on sale within the next month. We have also started on our program journal which will include a history of the AOH and each page will be sponsored by an individual or division.  The price per page sponsor has yet to be determined. Brother Jere Cole from New Jersey, and his committee will be in charge of the commemorative coins and Mike McCormack and his committee will be doing the history for the Journal. The members of the festivities in NY met last week to look at hotels etc and hopefully by the next edition of the digest we will have a lot more information on this anniversary celebration.

As most of you know we have been trying to get a memorial to Commodore John Barry erected at the Naval Academy in Annapolis MD for the past few years and both John McInerney and Jack O’Brien have been following through with this endeavor and finally we can see light at the end of the tunnel. The problem is we do not know if the light is red or green as of yet but in the next few weeks we will be meeting with the powers that be at the Academy and we are hoping that we get the green light to go ahead with our project. More will follow on our website and in future editions of the digest.

Brothers a very disturbing situation is taking place in Valley Forge Pennsylvania concerning the Medal of Honor Grove. Sister Marie Veronica of the IHM nuns retired to Camilla hall after a life of teaching. Not one to rest on her laurels she began a quest to research the country’s Medal of Honor recipients only to find out that many of them were not recognized because they had no state of record. Bob Dougherty, who was a charter member of the AOH Wolf Tone Division 1 in Westchester PA and a friend of sister Marie, when told by her of her findings notified then National President, Joe Roche, who immediately formed a committee to right this wrong.  In 1985, through the hard work of Joe and the committee the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America. a 7-foot high Wicklow Granite Obelisk, sent from Ireland and donated by the Irish Government, was erected by the AOH at the Medal of Honor Grove in Valley Forge Park. All the names of the recipients who had not been accredited to any state or territory, nor had been afforded the opportunity to become American citizens, are on this Obelisk. Not only did we put the names of the Irish recipients on the Obelisk but the names of all the recipients from the 12 other countries and the remaining 5 recipients with a birthplace unknown.

This Medal of Honor grove is a 52-acre site which was once a manicured area, now has become an eyesore and as PA State Senator, Andy Dinniman stated “the site is a desecration” further stating that that is not too strong a word to use. Through the efforts of the Senator and the hard work of long time charter member and present president of the Wolf Tone Division, Mick Dunleavy, they tried to find out how this could have happened and why it was in such disrepair. Mick notified me and I asked if he would go to the site, which he had visited numerous times before, and assess the situation. He reported that it was in deplorable condition and would take a lot of work to clean up and repair. I have decided that the least the AOH can do is to put this national monument back in its original condition. We have been given the weekend of October 8th 10th and 11th for a start date to clean up. I have asked contractors, landscapers, members of the AOH, LAOH, juniors and their friends to help. The response has been tremendous, so much so that we have now the support of Ed Lowry, who is head of the Veterans of Phila., and Bob Lord who is the head of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. We know that there will be more of the veterans’ organizations and others involved as time gets closer. We have talked about forming a fund for the upkeep of the grounds in the future through our Hibernian Charity but that will come at a later time.  I would be remiss if I did not thank Mick Dunleavy for his diligence and for all his help not only now, but back in 1985 when Mick was one of those people on the committee. Thanks Mick you have been a great friend for the past 30 some years.

I have been contacted by the committee to save St. Brigid’s church in the San Francisco area and I have written a letter in support of that project. There will be more information coming in the near future on this worthwhile cause.

Brothers on another note from Pennsylvania, there has been a lot of things happening over the past few years on a subject about Irish Immigrants who were brought over from Ireland to work on the railroad outside Philadelphia. It was believed that all these people died from cholera and were buried in a mass grave beside the railroad at a place called “Duffy’s Cut”.  I brought this to the attention of our very competent historian, Mike McCormack; about 5 years ago because I had read a small article in one of our local papers and Mike asked me to keep him informed on the story. Well now it is a huge story and Mike is on top of it as usual and these men now seem as though they were murdered by vigilantes. It is a fascinating and sad story and you can get more information in Mike’s column and by googling Duffy’s cut; follow the story where ever it may lead. It is very worthwhile reading.