Sunday, April 26, 2009

Spectacular Spring!

The spring in Northeast Ohio is spectacular! In the forests, the wildflowers are already in spectacular bloom. Yesterday I saw thousands of trout lily in bloom and even many large white trillium. St Patrick would have loved the trillium as a metaphor for the the Holy Trinity. Three leaves to the plant and three petals to the bloom. Also, there are spicebush and serviceberry in bloom in the woods, especially on the edges. In Appalachia, the serviceberry are called "sarvis," and in other places you here names like "shadblow" and Juneberry. A wonderful sign of spring. Soon we'll see the dogwood and redbud.

The cultivated flowers and trees are also in full spectacular bloom: Bradford pear, star magnolia, saucer magnolia (is there a more spectacular flowering tree?), weeping cherry. Daffodils at full bloom.

After the hard winter: this spring. Our troubles are many; we can't do much about them. Yet we are given this gift of springtime. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Great Resource for Learning Irish-Gaelic

I have another blog that I have neglected lately focused on learning Irish-Gaelic: My latest entry mentions a tremendous resource for all learners of Irish called The Gaelminn Gazette, a digital magazine (or "e-zine") for learners. This magazine can be reached by going to the home page of Gaeltacht Minnesota,, and then clicking on the link "Latest Gaelminn Gazette."

Gaeltacht Minnesota is a tremendous resource and we are very grateful to them, Go raibh maith agut!

Irish needs intelligent, well-organized groups like them if the language is to be saved and if it is to thrive. It probably also needs ragtaggle groups like "Gaeltacht Cleveland," we who meet Wednesday nights, 7-9 PM, at the Irish-American Club East Side, in Euclid, Ohio (E. 228th Street and Lake Shore Boulevard--in the basement near the pub). Come and join us!

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Newest Coughlin: Maggie Jean

This is Margaret (Maggie) Jean Coughlin, beautiful daughter of Nellie and Ryan Coughlin. She shares the name "Margaret" with her grandmother, Margaret Ann Fitzpatrick Coughlin, her great grandmother, Margaret Ann Sullivan Fitzpatrick, and her second cousin Margaret Ann ("Maggie") Brock.

We rejoice at her birth!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Beautiful Irish Singers: Heidi Talbot and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh

There's something about a beautiful female voice that affects me so deeply. I'm reminded of Walt Whitman's reaction to operatic voices (in Walt's case, I think the attraction was to male voices). Somehow, the voice, the power of song, goes straight to the heart, straight to the soul. I find that the great American folksinger Judy Collins does that to me. And certainly the great Irish singers Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh of Altan and Heidi Talbot, formerly of Cherish the Ladies, do that. Recently I listened to the album Woman of the House by Cherish the Ladies. A song that Heidi sings on that CD, "The Green Fields of Canada," will touch your heart. It's the amazing combination of great lyrics, beautiful tune, and beautiful performance. There is almost nothing like it in the world.

Maith thú! Mairéad and Heidi!

Message to Bishop Richard Lennon of Cleveland

Word is now dribbling out (in xeroxed letters to lay people before pastors receive official notice) that the appeals of Bishop Richard Lennon's church closings are going to be turned down. The fix is in. It's probably always been in. Bishop Lennon thinks that this is his Church. But it's not. He's not from around here. He is a carpetbagger from 600 miles away. This diocese, these churches, are our churches. We built them, sometimes with our own hands, with our muscles, bones, and blood, and we financed them. They don't belong to Rome or to the bishop's chair in the Diocese of Cleveland. They belong to the men and women, living and dead, of the Diocese of Cleveland. These are our churches, this is our Church.

Go back to Boston, Bishop Lennon.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Genealogy: Some Thoughts

I have two cousins and one shirt-tail cousin that I didn't even know ten years ago who have done incredible genealogical research. The shirt-tail cousin is Cindy MacSuibhne, a woman who married a Sweeney relative (the family changed their last name from the Anglicized "Sweeney" to the very Irish-Gaelic "MacSuibhne"). Cindy has done research into the Fitzpatrick-Broghan-Sweeney branches of the family, my mother's paternal side. Research on the Coughlin side has been pursued by Sam Galioto, Jr. Sam is a Coughlin descendant through my grandfather Connie Coughlin's sister. The other great family researcher has been Jack Pendergast, a 3rd cousin, who, like me, is a descendant of Daniel Coghlin (later "Coughlin") and Mary Crowley. Before Jack and Sam's research, all I knew is that my great grandfather Cornelius Coughlin was born in County Cork, Ireland. I didn't know his parents, Daniel and Mary, and I didn't know Cornelius had siblings, Jeremiah, Bartholemew, and Catherine. And amazingly, I didn't know the family had all settled in Scipio Town, Cayuga County, New York. I can't for the life of me figure out why that information didn't come down to me.

I think a lot of Jack's research has been done the old-fashioned way, sending for records and even combing through books, lists, etc. In fact, I think he has done research in parish and diocesan files in Ireland, trying to figure out where exactly in West Cork our Coughlin's came from (that puzzle has not been solved).

I have had an idea for using the power of Google searches to do some genealogical research. Recently I've been trying to use certain names in Google searches to see if these families show up in the same area in County Cork. I do indeed find families like Coughlin's, Crowley's, Lavin's, McCarthy's in West Cork. But here's an oddity: in my preliminary searches I have found a cluster of these families outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee [check out]. The Mt. Olivet Cathlic Cemetery, three miles outside Chattanooga, lists a Daniel Crowley from County Cork (1810-1860), Rose Coughlin, Patrick and Bridget Lavin, and Joseph McCarthy--and lots of other Irish and Cork names. I still need to pursue these searches more and follow up on them. I think the intelligent use of Google can help in genealogical research. And in coming years more and more records are going to be available online. I know that lots of critical Irish records were burned and destroyed (I think in the 1916 Rising and the civil war that followed). But I imagine that people are trying to cobble together remaining bits and pieces of land and church records, and some day we might be able to access this material via computer.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Welcome to a New Coughlin! Ryan and Nellie's Baby Girl

My brother Kevin's son Ryan, and Ryan's wife Nellie, have brought a new baby into the world: Margaret (Maggie) Jean Coughlin, a 7 lb. 6 ounce beauty. "Margaret" was the name of my mother (Ryan's grandmother). My mother helped take care of Kev's boys, Ryan, Tommy, and Cody, the last years of her life (a great blessing both for my Mom and for Kev's boys). What a wonderful thing that Ryan and Nellie named their baby after Mom. I hope Baby Maggie has the spirit of her Great Grandmother!

Jack P.

Because I don't really know exactly what's going on with my cousin Jack P., I am temporarily removing my posting of 2 days ago. Just let me say that I'm thinking of Jack, Vicki, and Kay.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Slán Abhaile, Jack Pendergast!

Slán Abhaile, Jack Pendergast!

Jack Pendergast called me today to say goodbye. When I asked him how he was doing, he answered, "I'm on the way out, Bob." I was so astonished I hardly knew what to say. I thanked him for all the genealogy work he has done on the Coughlin family. I promised him I would continue with this work. And I wished him the Lord's blessings.

I don't know how close it is till the end. Whatever it may be, I offer my best wishes to Vicki and Kay, and to all Jack's family and friends ( I know the friends are legion, here in America, in Ireland, and all over). How can anyone sufficiently thank Jack for his work for Irish music and Irish musicians--his work with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann ?

Slán Abhaile, Jack Pendergast! Blessing on your way home. Go n-Éirí an Bóthar Leat! May the Road Rise to Meet You! And May the Lord Hold You in the Palm of His Hand!

"Keep him, Lord, like the apple of your eye. Shelter him under the shadow of your wings!"

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter!

I spent some time on Good Friday with Linda at Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine in Euclid, Ohio. This holy place, a replica of Lourdes, sits on a high hill above Euclid Avenue, US Route 20, with a view of Lake Erie a few miles to the north. This shrine is an island of sanity in a sea of insanity. There is no doubt that it is a holy place.

At the Grotto Linda and I lit candles--for my Dad and Mom, for Linda's Dad and Mom, and for all our friends and family, living and dead. I thought especially of Kenny Przybylski and Sr. Franzita Kane. As we did the Stations of the Cross, I thought of my friends who have health challenges: Linda Cotter, Jack Pendergast, Mike Gerrity, John Connell. And certainly their spouses who help them cope: Chris, Vicki, Terry, Marlene.

We Catholics and Christians (and really, all of us, whether Christian or not) have the great gift of Holy Week: The Eucharist of Holy Thursday; the suffering and crucifixion of Good Friday; the waiting of Holy Saturday; the victory over sin and death of Easter Sunday. May all this redeemed suffering and the greatest victory be with you, with all of us, this Easter.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

New Poem about St. William's School, 1956

Mrs. Geraldine Dempsey Speaks Out About Elvis

(Euclid, Ohio, 1956)

We third graders didn’t know much about Elvis,
But we would walk around St. William’s playground singing “Hound Dog.”

Mrs. Geraldine Dempsey was not amused:

“I know what you’re singing—by that hoodlum Elvis Presley.
Do you know he drives around Memphis in his expensive, fancy machine?
And he doesn’t believe in marriage.
He once said, ‘Why get married
When you can milk the cow
From the other side of the fence.’”

We hadn’t a clue what our third grade teacher meant,
Or how she knew all this stuff about Elvis.

Mrs. Dempsey’s attention turned:

“Mr. Talty, put your galoshes in the cloak room.
And Mr. Dwyer, take your wrap back there too.
And Mr. Fitzpatrick, ‘dun do bhéal,’ shut your mouth,”
The old Gaelic phrase slipping out.

“Now class, let’s say the ‘Hail Mary.’”

It was 1956, Euclid, Ohio,
The age of rock and roll,
And Mrs. Dempsey was just peaking out of Ireland of the Middle Ages.

[Robert M. Coughlin
Kirtland, Ohio
April 9, 2008]

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

"Holy Week Snowstorm"--New Poem

Holy Week Snowstorm

The heavy wet snow laid
A white pall over my newly bloomed daffodils,
Wound a heavy sheet around my crocuses and hyacinth--
An early demise to spring beauty, trout lily, bloodroot,
Which gave us so much hope and joy just days ago.

We don’t give in to despair because we know
Later this week the daffodils, trout lily, bloodroot will rise,
Lift their heads to the sun

Once again.

[Robert M. Coughlin, Kirtland, Ohio, April 7, 2009]

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Wildflowers in Northeast Ohio

Today we went hiking in the North Chagrin Reservation, an incredibly beautiful Cleveland Metropark (which is partially in Lake County and partially in Cuyahoga County). We began our hike at Squire's Castle, up a fairly steep bridle path. The hillside was full of early wildflowers, including spring beauties, blood root, trout lilly, spicebush, and a few others that we couldn't identify. This seems early for the blooming of Northeast Ohio wildflowers.

We hiked the bridle path to the Strawberry Lane area, then back to Squire's Castle. It was a fine spring day, about 58 degrees with partially sunny skies.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Great Xenia Tornado of April 3, 1974

Great Xenia Tornado of April 3, 1974

About 3 years before I met her, Linda was almost caught in the nastiest, deadliest tornado ever to hit Ohio. She was just outside the town of Yellow Springs, with a group of school children, hiking through John Bryant State Park with Jan Wolanin, an environmental educator, when the tornado hit. Xenia, just mikes away, took a direct hit (see the article that follows for the incredible impact of the tornado on Xenia). Linda's Volkswagen Beetle was clobbered with gigantic hailstones, dented beyond belief. But she, Jan, and all the little children were safe. When Linda tried to drive back to Dayton through Xenia, she saw the devastation and thought that, somehow, Xenia had been bombed. The area was awash with sirens, ambulances, fire trucks, police cars, and astonishing devastation.

That same tornado hit the west side of Cincinnati, devastating the Saylor Park neighborhood. My old friend Henry Scott was working that day at a Cincinnati hospital and could see the tornado sweeping across the west side of Cincinnati. The Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, where I lived, was spared the destruction.

Source: (click on the link for photos relating to this story.

The tornado superoutbreak of April 3-4, 1974 resulted in 148 tornadoes in 13 states. Across the United States, 315 people were killed, more than 6,000 injured, and 27,000 families suffered property losses. The Xenia Tornado caused the most deaths of any tornado in the outbreak. In Ohio, 12 tornadoes touched down, killing 36 people.
The Xenia Tornado touched down at 4:30 PM nine miles southwest of Xenia and entered the city about ten minutes later. It continued northeastward on a path of 32 miles through Xenia and Wilberforce into Clark County. The Xenia Tornado killed 32 people from Xenia to Wilberforce. About half of the buildings in the city of 27,000 were damaged and 300 homes destroyed. Nine Xenia churches were destroyed, as were seven of the twelve schools in the city. Fortunately, the tornado occurred an hour after classes had been dismissed. The roof and windows were blown from the Greene County Courthouse. A train passing through Xenia was struck by the tornado and 7 of the 47 cars were blown over, resulting in the blockage of Main Street.
More than 1300 people were treated for injuries at Green Memorial Hospital. Restaurants that were not destroyed handed out thousands of free meals to residents and rescue workers in Xenia. Convoys of generators, floodlights, bulldozers, and dump trucks arrived overnight from nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The tornado also struck Wilberforce University and Central State University, destroying many buildings and injuring several people on each campus.
Another violent tornado struck west of Cincinnati where homes were leveled and two people killed in Saylor Park. Other tornadoes that night caused significant damage in London and Mason and in rural areas of Adams and Paulding Counties.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Great Walt Whitman Poem

A Noiseless Patient Spider

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

Walt Whitman is the father of modern American poetry (there was a long pregnancy, a long gestation!). He is the greatest American poet (along with Galway Kinnell, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Li-Young Lee, E.E. Cummings, Wallace Stevens, and a dozen others). The poem above never particularly struck me until I read the analysis written by one of my students.

I like the prayer-like or hymn-like quality of this poem with the repetition of "o my soul." This somewhat mournful (yet not mournful) refrain makes the poem so human, so full of feeling. This poet's soul is an adventurer, a seeker, living in a rather lonely and scary environment: "Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space." He sends forth, ventures out, seeks, throws, launches these filaments of hope, trying to connect with the wonders of the universe (which I take to mean both things and people). It's an act of faith, an act of hope. Walt Whitman has written a great prayer, and I pray that prayer too, o my soul!