Monday, August 31, 2009

Aunt Kay Coughlin's Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Aunt Kay Coughlin! Numero LXXXII. As of this September 11th, she'll be married to Uncle Bill Coughlin for 61 years. Aunt Kay was born Mary Catherine Smith, the daughter of a Smith and a Gilmore. She is a force of nature--knows and remembers almost everything about the family; a pillar of St. Mary Magdalene Church in Willowick for probably the last 50 years or so; a force in her neighborhood and city and family; the original multi-tasker! Happy Birthday, Aunt Kay!

Yesterday's celebration at her daughter Jackie's house involved some 50 or more family and friends stuffed in Jackie's small Mentor house and garage. I saw cousins, their spouses, and their children, who range probably from age 3 to 30's. I try hard but can't keep track of everyone and struggle with the names of the next generation of Coughlin's and Coughlin cousins. But what a wonderful family!

The Summer of the Blueberry

This summer I have had the most spectacular blueberry harvest imaginable. It should be remembered in history, at least here in Northeast Ohio, as "The Summer of the Blueberry." My blueberry bushes are about 5 years old now and have never had a big crop at all. But everything came together this year, somehow: weather, rainfall, maturity of the bushes, pollination, bee activity--whatever. As I noticed the proliferation of flowers early in the season I thought that I better put netting over my bushes as the fruit developed. I think the netting (old netting salvaged from Sage's Apple Farm in Chardon) saved the berries from the birds. And by early July the huge harvest began--and continued into mid or late August. We baked blueberry pies, pancakes, and muffins. We had blueberries on our cereal every morning. And we gave away many containers of berries to family and neighbors.

What a fantastic harvest! The Summer of the Blueberry!

Friday, August 28, 2009

"Love Changes Everything"--Tribute to Ted Kennedy

Tonight, at the wake of Ted Kennedy, his friend and former staff member, Nick Littlefield, sang a song to honor the great senator: "Love Changes Everything." As I listened to the words, I thought--yes, that's exactly right, exactly right. Here are the words of that song, sung by Michael Ball and found in the musical Aspects of Love, book and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Don Black and Charles Hart:


Love, love changes everything
Hands and faces, earth and sky
Love, love changes everything
How you live and how you die
Love, can make the summer fly
Or a night seem like a lifetime
Yes love, love changes everything
Now I tremble at your name
Nothing in the world will ever be the same

Love, love changes everything

Days are longer, words mean more
Love, love changes everything
Pain is deeper than before
Love will turn your world around
And that world will last forever
Yes love, love changes everything
Brings you glory, brings you shame
Nothing in the world will ever be the same

Off into the world we go

Planning futures, shaping years
Love comes in and suddenly all our wisdom disappears
Love makes fools of everyone
All the rules we made are broken
Yes love, love changes everyone
Live or perish in its flame
Love will never never let you be the same
Love will never never let you be the same

Here's a link to Nick Littlefield's performance at Ted Kennedy's wake:

There's a performance of this song by Michael Ball at

West Cork Possibilities for Coughlin and Crowley Origins

My cousin Jack Pendergast thought that our families might have come from the Bantry Bay area of West County Cork, Ireland. He focused in, I believe, on the settlement of Glengariff (also spelled Glengarriff). This little town is about 6 miles from the town of Bantry, and only about 2 miles from County Kerry. It is also not far from the copper mines of Allihies and Castletownbere (so many of the Irish miners of Butte, Montana emigrated from the Castletownbere part of West County Cork).

Other possible locations for these families might be Clonakilty, Skibbereen, Schull, Ballydehob, and the surrounding countryside. I think it's likely that these families didn't live in a village at all, but out in the townslands because they were farmers.

Ireland is such a crazyquilt of civil parishes, church parishes, townlands, baronies, counties, etc. I think the Coughlin and Crowley families (and relatives like Lavin's, Sullivan's, McCarthy's, etc) lived, in descending order of size, in County Cork, West County Cork, Carbery Barony, West Carbery Barony. And then we're stuck. But they possibly lived around Bantry Bay. This was certainly an Irish-speaking area when Daniel Coghlin and Mary Crowley were born and when their children (Jeremiah, Bartholemew, Catherine, Cornelius, and probably others) were born. And Irish was probably still the predominant language among the poor peasantry (my family!) when they left Ireland around 1857. I have some reason to believe that they didn't all come to New York State (Scipio Town in Cayuga County) at the same time. In a book Jack Pendergast sent me, I find mention of Catherine Coughlin in the Scipio/Cayuga area before mention of the other family members. I will try to post exact information on this at a later time.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Me and the Talking Crow of Willoughby-on-the-Lake

The big black bird landed on my shoulder and said, "My name is Corby. What's yours? My name is Corby. What's yours?"

"Startled" is not the word. Mom, who was carrying 10-month-old Denny over her shoulder, was dumbstruck, flabbergasted, gob-smacked. She immediately ran for the safety of our Windermere Drive home, right there in Willoughby-on-the-Lake--leaving me, her two-year-old, toddling down Windermere with a talking crow on his shoulder.

"I'm Bobby," I told the bird. Our discussion was interrupted when Mom finally came storming out of the house, waving a broomstick, yelling, "Get away from him! Get away from him, you damn bird!"

The bird quickly took off, flying over to Hayes Avenue, where he lived with his owner, a fellow everyone called "Jeep." Mom hopped in the brown '48 Ford, me and Denny at her side, in that era before safety belts, and drove the short way over to Jeep's car-repair place between Hayes and Lost Nation Boulevard, intending to give him a piece of her mind. Jeep was underneath a car, covered with grease.

"Your bird just scared the hell out of my boy, Jeep. Keep that damn thing at home!"

Jeep just laughed. "Calm down, Margaret Ann. Corby is a friendly bird and wouldn't hurt anyone. I'll give him a talking to." He laughed again and Mom finally smiled at the absurdity of the incident. She hopped back into the Ford, pulled her 2 babies close to her, and drove slowly in the April chill back home.

And that's the story of my encounter, at age 2, with Corby, the talking crow of Willoughby-on-the-Lake.

[The above story is essentially as I was told about it by my Mother, but a few minor details are reconstructed or made up. There was a man named "Jeep" in Willoughby. I believe his given name was something like Eugene Hodgson, or something close to that. He was about my Dad's age, born around 1922, and was a good friend to my Dad and the Coughlin family. But he wasn't the owner of the car-repair business and probably didn't own the talking crow.]

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

More thinking on the Coughlin Name and Origins

My family knows that our Coughlin ancestors came from County Cork, Ireland. But, alas, County Cork is the largest county in the country. So where in County Cork are they from? Linguistic evidence indicates that they probably come from West Cork. The name is commonly pronounced something like /COCK-lin/ in the west of the county and something like /COWL-in/ in the east and around Cork City. Also, the name Coughlin has many variants (among these are Coghlin, Coghlan, Coughlan, Cocklin--and sometimes Conklin, Conkling, Cohalan, etc.). In Irish-Gaelic, the name is written Ó Cochláin. I have read that the name is often assosciated with certain baronies in West Cork: Carberry, for example.

Our last name has appeared in many astonishingly different spellings over time (and in official documents)! My cousin Jack Pendergast has said that in some census records the name is listed as "Couthin," or something like that. Other times is is spelled "Conkling" on census forms. The first naturalization papers show "Coghlin," and on a grave marker in Old St. Bernard's Cemetery, Scipio, Cayuga County, New York, I believe it's also spelled "Coghlin." This makes me think that name spellings were more fluid, dynamic, and perhaps less important in the mid 1800's than now. Also, we know that Daniel and Mary Coghlin/Coughlin were unable to read and write, so someone else was transcribing a spoken name. And we know that the Irish pronunciation of Coghlin/Coughlin has a mid consonant sound that is not easily transcribed into English. The sound is somewhere between a breathy /k/ and the/x/ sound found in German (Nacht), in Scottish (loch), and perhaps in Greek (the initial sound of "Christ" as it is spoken in Greek). Transcribers have heard this sound as a /k/, as a /g/, and even as a /t/ sound. They have also heard the vowel preceding this as nasalized, thus begetting Conklin. And sometimes the ending sound is perceived as an "engwa," yielding Conkling. These sound permutations are all quite familiar in the Munster dialects of Irish-Gaelic, spoken by our great great grandparents, Daniel and Mary Crowley Coghlin, and our great grandfather, Cornelius Coughlin.

Senator Edward M. Kenndy, Rest in Peace

Almost exactly a year ago, on August 25, 2008, Senator Ted Kennedy ended his dramatic speech at the Democratic National Convention with these words: "The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on."

Ted Kennedy is now gone, God Rest His Soul, but the spirit and goodness of this great Irish-American remains. His strengths and virtues cannot be denied; nor can his weaknesses. But he rose above his human failings to become, in the minds of many, the greatest Senator in American history.

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy spoke these words to the Irish Parliament:

"It is that quality of the Irish--that remarkable combination of hope, confidence and imagination--that is needed more than ever today. The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics, whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were, and ask why not. It matters not how small a nation is that seeks world peace and freedom, for, to paraphrase a citizen of my country, 'the humblest nation of all the world, when clad in the armor of a righteous cause, is stronger than all the hosts of Error.'" [President Kennedy's address to the Irish Parliament June 1963]

The Kennedy's came from New Ross, County Wexford, arriving in America in 1848, in the midst of The Great Famine, An Gorta Mor. On June 27, 1963, JFK spoke these words to the people of New Ross:

“When my great grandfather left here [in 1848] to become a cooper in East Boston, he carried nothing with him except two things: a strong religious faith and a strong desire for liberty. I am glad to say that all of his great-grandchildren have valued that inheritance.”

Ted Kennedy, with all his flaws, took up the mantle of his brothers, did the work, maintained the hope, and kept the dream alive. Requiescat in Pace.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My Dad and Old-Fashioned Asthma Treatments

When I talked to my cousin Tom Quinn recently, he told me of how my Dad treated a severe asthma attack when he was in the Navy (the same approach was used when Dad was a child in Willoughby in the 1920's and 1930's).

The following is pasted from an online version of The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, March 18, 2005. Click here for the original article, with illustrations:

This article explains the use of asthma cigarettes, and in the original version, shows images of these cigarette brands used for acute asthmatic episodes.

In Stedman's Twentieth Century Practice of Modern Medical Science, Stewart and Gibson (
3) suggest that one of the primary treatments for an asthmatic paroxysm was the use of belladonna alkaloids; often these were delivered by smoking "asthma cigarettes" (Figure 1).
Smoking tobacco benefits a few, but the addition of a little stramonium to tobacco, or the smoking of cigarettes composed largely of stramonium, is of far greater service [in the treatment of an asthmatic paroxysm]. There are many forms of cigarettes sold by the druggists.

View larger version (70K):[in this window][in a new window]
Figure 1. Asthma cigarettes were used to deliver alkaloids with bronchodilator properties. They were sold commercially for asthma treatment until just before the middle of the 20th century. (Courtesy of Mark Saunders and his "Inhalatorium,"

Stramonium is the dried leaf and the flowering or fruiting tops of the plant, Datura stramonium. This is also referred to as the thorn-apple plant. The active ingredients in this were alkaloids of belladonna, which we now know had the effect of inhibiting cholinergic neurotransmission and thereby reflex bronchoconstriction.
In 1914, in the eighth edition of the Principles and Practice of Medicine, Osler (
8) points out that hypodermic injections of pilocarpine can be effective in the treatment of asthma. He also claims that the sedative antispasmodics, such as belladonna, "may be given in solution or used in the form of cigarettes. Nearly all the popular remedies either in this form or in pastilles contain some plant of the order Solanaceae ... Excellent cigarettes are now manufactured and asthmatics try various sorts since one form benefits one patient, another form another patient."

Thus, in 1914, anticholinergics by injection or inhalation were considered as first-line asthma therapies. Osler also made the important observation of the intraindividual differences in the response to asthma treatment. We now appreciate that these differences may reflect genetic variations in the mechanisms leading to the asthmatic response among subjects.
In the 1927 edition of Cecil's A Text-book of Medicine, Francis Rackemann (
9) again suggests the use of the smoke of stramonium leaves, atropine, and belladonna. In the seventh edition of Cecil's A Textbook of Medicine, published in 1947, Rackemann (10) still suggests the use of asthma powders or asthma cigarettes with the active ingredient consisting of belladonna-type alkaloids. However, by 1975, when the 14th edition of the textbook was published, belladonna alkaloids were not considered a significant enough part of asthma treatment to be included by J.B.L. Howell (11).

Asthma can still be a serious problem for some people, but today we have albuterol inhalers and other medicines that usually help sudden and severe asthma attacks. I don't know if asthma powders and asthma cigarettes are still available. Still, it happens that many people are still brought to emergency rooms in the grip of an asthma attack (it happened to my youngest daughter one Easter Sunday many years ago).

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Quinn's and the Coughlin's

This past week I had 2 amazing phone calls. The first was from Tom Quinn, the 64-year-old son of my Dad's cousin and best friend, also named Tom Quinn. Then last night I got a call from the older Tom Quinn--88 years old, in good health, with a mind sharp as a tack.

Conversation with Younger Tom

Younger Tom lives in Sacramento, California, and I believe works for the state. He had spent 20 years living in Japan and speaks fluent Japanese. In the 1960's he lived in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco and worked and played with some of the great musicians of that time and place (Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, and the like). Younger Tom ran across a blog entry I wrote on the passing of another Coughlin relative, Gene Slusser (the son of Warren and May Coughlin Slusser). I asked Younger Tom if he knew of another of our Coughlin cousin who had just died--Jack Pendergast. I don't believe he knew of Jack. Jack would have been pleased to learn of all these new connections!

Younger Tom proceeded to tell me a little about his siblings. They are scattered around the country and are quite successful. He has a brother, Chuck, who is an attorney in Kent, Ohio. A brother, Jim, who is a physician in Florida (not far from older Tom Quinn). Another brother, Mark, is a chef working near Disney World. There is a sister, Carol Schell, in Cincinnati (a teacher, I believe); another sister, Pat, in Texas; and another sister, Betsy, in Colorado.

Tom told me his Dad, older Tom, is the son of my great aunt, Angie Coughlin Quinn--my Grampa Connie Coughlin's sister. Older Tom's wife of about 65 years is Elizabeth (Betsy) Jewell Quinn, whose heritage can be traced back to the Mayflower! Older Tom met Betsy while taking some Navy training at Oberlin College during World War II.

Conversation with Older Tom

Last night I talked to older Tom Quinn of Osteen, Florida. I remembered that Tom and his family once lived on Kirtland Road, in Willoughby, Ohio--and Tom said that I had it correct--they lived at 4079 Kirtland Road. I vaguely remember being at that house as a kid; in my mind I remembered it as a kind of a small farm, right across the street from the Andrews School for Girls property. Tom said he graduated from Willoughby Union High School in 1940 and he was my Dad's best friend growing up. Dad lived about 4 miles from Tom, in Willoughby-on-the-Lake, and also attended Willoughby Union, graduating in 1941. I asked Tom specifically if he remembered my Uncle Jack Coughlin. He said Uncle Jack was a "lost soul," even before the trauma of his World War II years. Jack became a serious alcoholic, suffered from many illnesses during his troubled life, and died of cancer in August of 1970 at age 49.

Tom Quinn told me that after Pearl Harbor both he and my Dad joined the Navy. Dad took his physical, and when the doctor detected wheezing, my Dad said he was just getting over a cold. The truth of the matter is that Dad had suffered from very severe asthma, and had to lie to get into the Navy. Before Tom and Dad headed off to Great Lakes Naval Training Center (north of Chicago on Lake Michigan), my Gramma Cora Coughlin asked Tom to take care of my Dad if he had a severe asthma attack. Tom was to administer a couple of medicines that were used in those days to treat asthma. He was to make a kind of tent with a blanket over my Dad's head and Dad was to smoke "asthma cigarettes"; a second kind of medicine, "asthma powder," whatever that was, was also burned and inhaled. My Dad had only one serious asthma attack during his training, and Tom followed Gramma's instructions, possibly saving Dad's life. Some time during naval training, my Dad was chosen to be a signalman, and took some training at the University of Illinois. Tom was sent to Oberlin College to become a pilot and an officer (never quite getting past a geometry class at Oberlin, probably a result of the bare-bones education received at Willoughby Union High School). I guess it was at Oberlin that Tom met Betsy Jewell. And it was there that he got a good sense of his intelligence and potential.

I believe Tom mentioned that he has some 18 grandchildren and a couple of great-grandchildren. That means I have many more new cousins, located all over the country! I wish Jack Pendergast was around to learn of all these new cousins!

Asthma powder. I googled the term "asthma powder" and possibly located the medicine that my Dad inhaled when he had severe asthma. Click on this link for information on this medicine:

Here is a recipe I located for asthma powder at

This section is from the "Herb Formulas" extract from the "Herbs for Health" book, by Otto Mausert
Formula No. 6: Asthma Inhalation Powder
Note: This powder is used by Inhalation only; The powder is burned and only the smoke is inhaled.
1. Stramonium Leaves Ounces 6
2. Henbane Leaves Ounces 1/2
3. Lobelia Herb Ounces 1/2
4. Belladonna Leaves Ounces 1/2
5. Cascarilla Bark Ounces 1/2
6. Nitrate of Potash Ounces 1/2

Mix well and keep in a dry place, using powdered material.Directions: Place about half a teaspoonful of the mixture on a piece of tin or porcelain, light it with a match and inhale the fumes through the Nostrils. This should be done immediately upon sensing the approach of an Asthmatic Paroxysm.

There were lots of other asthma cures and powders available, as seen at this web site:

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thomas "Broken Hand" Fitzpatrick

I am half Fitzpatrick--my mother was born Margaret Ann Fitzpatrick. And growing up I had a first cousin my age named Tommy Fitzpatrick (Tom died in combat in Vietnam in 1969). So as a kid, when I ran across a book at the Upson Library on the great fur-trapper and exlorer, "Broken Hand" Tom Fitzpatrick, I grabbed it and read it. Recently I checked to see if Wikipedia had an entry on Tom Fitzpatrick. It did have a short one, with the external link below. Could this man be a relative? Who knows! I like to think he was. There are 2 other Fitzpatrick's in our family. My greatgrandfather Cornelius had a sister named Catherine who married a Thomas Fitzpatrick back in Cayuga County, NY. And my wife had an ancestor by the name of Fitzpatrick (Dehlia, I believe).

For the original website, with photos, go to this link: Here is the text of the "findagrave" article:

Thomas "Broken Hand" Fitzpatrick

1799, Ireland
Jan. 7, 1854, USA
Explorer. US Indian Agent. He was one of the "Mountain Men," a group of explorers credited with opening up the western United States. During his travels, he discovered the "South Pass" through the Rocky Mountains. The South Pass became a main passage into the Oregon Territory for settlers. He worked as a guide, among the groups he led were the John Bidwell party, believe to be the first "emigrant train" to California. He served as an Indian Agent for the United States, having already gained the respect of many Native Americans. The Nez Perce nicknamed him "Broken Hand" due to an accident which left him missing two fingers. He was the subject of the book, "Broken Hand, the Life of Thomas Fitzpatrick, Mountain Man, Guide and Indian Agent." (bio by: Evening Blues) Search Amazon for Thomas Fitzpatrick

Burial:Congressional Cemetery WashingtonDistrict of ColumbiaDistrict Of Columbia, USA
Maintained by: Find A GraveRecord added: Nov 12, 2003 Find A Grave Memorial# 8080246
Added by: Cristian Italia

Added by: Ethan F. Bishop

Cemetery PhotoAdded by: Janet Greentree

Monday, August 10, 2009

Obituary of Jack Pendergast

There's an online obit of Jack Pendergast at this link:

The details of Jack's life reveal what an extraordinary person he was!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Jack Pendergast, Requiescat in Pace Domini

My cousin, Jack Pendergast, has passed away. He is survived by his wife Vicki and two children, Kay and Dan. And he is mourned and celebrated in America, in Ireland, and throughout the world. Jack was a Coughlin relative, a descendant of Daniel Coghlin and Mary Crowley Coghlin, who emigrated from West County Cork, Ireland, with their children Jeremiah, Bartholemew, Catherine, and Cornelius some time around 1858. They settled in Scipio, Cayuga County, New York (on Cork Road!), where they farmed in the beautiful Finger Lake country of New York State. Two of their children, Jeremiah and Bart, fought for the Union in the Civil War, while my great grandfather, Cornelius, the youngest in the family, stayed at home and helped around the farm. Jack is a descendant of Bart Coughlin.

Jack served his country during the tense years of the Cold War (and has written about some of remarkable experiences in Europe during those years). For his service to his country, Jack will be laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery in October.

Jack spent many years as the Secretary of the international music association called, in Irish Gaelic, Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann. He spent considerable time in Ireland and will be profoundly missed by Irish men and women around the world for all he gave to Irish music.

Jack Pendergast was an extraordinary American and a great Irishman. His likes will never be seen again. Slán Abhaile, a Jack!

May perpetual light shine upon Jack. Amen!
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.