Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A foray into Ireland and fiction - sort of

Author Joan Scanlon Bennett

By Joan Scanlon Bennett

My Great Grandfather

On the warm and foggy morning of June 24, 1864, Patrick Michael O' Fallion stood at the rail of the Argosy gazing on, for the first time, the shores of America.

Thus began Terence Fallon's biography of his great grandfather's life, which he had chosen to record for his Writing Class assignment.

Terence had become enthralled with the stories he had begun listening to as a small boy on his father's knee. They were always about family members and the trials and tribulations caused by England's aggressive seizure of lands and property that rightfully belonged to the Irish people.

Terence was particularly interested in his great grandfather's history, as he was the first male member of the O'Fallion family to emigrate to the United States at the end of the Irish Famine.
Early photo

A million or more natives of Eire died of starvation. Patrick Michael and his family barely survived. It was then with what little money the family could scrape up, passage was procured for Patrick on the Argosy bound for America.

Patrick Michael, Terence continued, was awed by what he beheld as the ship's captain maneuvered the vessel around ships anchored along the docks on either side of the wide Hudson River. Anxious to disembark as fast as possible Patrick hopped over the railing and landed on the dock twenty feet below.

Not knowing how to find Battery Park, where he was to meet a friend who had left home before Patrick and who had lodging he would share, he decided leaving the waterfront was wise but he'd better ask a copper for directions.

He was in luck as the officer, himself an Irishman, understood Patrick's brogue and steered him in the right direction.

Patrick's education has been cut short when the English government in Ireland closed the Catholic schools run by the orders of priests and brothers across the country. Patrick spoke and read the Gaelic Irish language but had not mastered English so he found it difficult looking for the street signs the copper had given him.

His only recourse was to ask fellow pedestrians for help. Many would ignore him while others laughed listening to his brogue. I will work on that he thought to himself. If I am going to make a life here in America I will learn to speak correctly.

Daniel Lynch began to worry, thinking that his friend might have missed the boat or was hopelessly lost in the unknown city of New York.

His concern turned to gladness when Patrick arrived tired but none the worse for wear. Tears filled the eyes of both men so happy they were to be reunited after years of separation.

Terence, of course, knew the rest of the story of his great grandfather's life so he continued with the tale. Perhaps his readers would find it amazing,  as he did.

Daniel brought Patrick to his humble lodgings on Houston Street, put the pot on the coal stove for tea and then began to explain what the life of an Irishman in New York City was like.

"We are not welcome in this city, Patrick," he began.

The only work we get is the grunt work, no matter we have skills or not. Some of us fellas who have proven ourselves have been able to join the fire department or even the police department but we're few and far between. Many a soul have joined the Army or Navy so as not to starve while looking for work."

The tea had steeped. Daniel filled two tin cups and continued the enlightenment of Patrick.

"You are welcome to stay here while you search for a job or you can come with me to the Navy recruiting office. I'm off to fight for the Union. Freedom for the slaves of the South, equality for all men."

Terence felt a great pride as he researched this part of his grandfather's history and typed it into his computer.

It took but a short time for Patrick to think about joining the Navy, saying "Danny boy, I'll be right behind you on that line tomorrow morning."

He was already thinking of what skills he would be taught that would serve him well in the future.

Unfortunately life as a sailor was very boring so Patrick spent every free moment perfecting his English and reading every book he could get his hands on. He read first the Bible as he had easy access to it then he perused the ship's training manuals in order to acquaint himself with various trades he might like to learn.

Nothing intrigued him but he was sure when he decided on a career, as he saw it, he would reach his goal.

One long year aboard the warship was enough for Patrick and when the Civil War ended, the North victorious, he was not required to remain in the Navy.

The Port of New York was teeming with soldiers, sailors and even Marines when his ship docked. Groups of longshoremen ran from ship to ship unloading cargo.

Patrick thought to himself, "I could do that kind of work, but no thanks. It's an honorable job but not for me."

He hurried away from the docks heading toward the Brooklyn Ferry. Back home, in Ireland, Patrick preferred country life to living in Dublin or Cork so rather than suffocating in New York City he knew he would find a less vibrant lifestyle in Brooklyn where he planned to take up residence.

The money Patrick earned while in the service was used to rent a small home walking distance to the ferry but rather than search for employment in New York he searched the local newspaper's want ads.

His first job was janitor in a small newspaper office. The managing editor noticed his love of the written word and began giving him stories to cover.

Thus began Patrick's writing career, wrote Terence toward the end of

the biography.

My great grandfather authored several books on a range of topics including the Irish famine, his experiences as a sailor during the Civil War, treatment of the Irish immigrants in America and the love of his life, my grandmother, Mary Rose McFadden, herself a poet.

Great grandfather, Terence concluded, was not an extraordinary man but in my eyes he used the intelligence he was gifted with to make a mark on the world and leave a legacy for his descendants to be proud of

Editor's note: This story, a mix of family history and fiction, is a new feature of this blog. Aye, and it celebrates that Ireland's Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University is right here in Great New Haven.

New Haven's Pardee-Morris House Opens for Summer June 7

Margaret Anne Tockarshewsky
NEW HAVEN -  The historic Pardee-Morris House—"one of the oldest surviving historic structures in Connecticut" opens for the summer at noon June 7, according to a release.
"The day’s activities will include a flag-raising ceremony - complete with musket firing, the dulcet tones of 'Just Four Friends,' from the Connecticut Yankee Chorus; a dazzling art exhibit of works by Nathan Hale School students; guided tours of the house; colonial games; and arts and crafts," the release said.
All events are free and last until 4 p.m., at 325 Lighthouse Road.
The flag will be raised on days when the historic site is open for concerts, lectures, tours and exhibits, all free of charge. The Pardee-Morris House will be open for tours on Sundays from noon to 4 p.m., through August 30, the release said.
Also in the release:
 Leo Stoutsenberger
In June at the Pardee-Morris House
·         Connecticut Open House Day – Saturday, June 13, noon – 4 p.m. - Free tours and a paper-marbling workshop for all ages.
·         PMH Summer Lecture Series opens on Sunday, June 21, at 2 p.m., with a lecture by Urban Miners founder Joe DeRisi, on recycling and reusing goods and used building materials to minimize waste and sustain the local community.
·         Opening performance of the 2015 Twilight Concert series - Wednesday, June 24, 7 p.m. (rain date: Thursday, June 25, 7 pm), featuring Goodnight Blue Moon.
The Museum thanks the East Shore Management Team; Knights of Columbus, Rodrigo Council #44; The Amity Charitable Trust; Frank Pinto and Rosemary Spring, and the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Connecticut for supporting the 2015 summer season.
The Pardee-Morris House dates from about 1780, and is listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places. Built by Amos Morris around 1750, the house was burned by the British during their raid on New Haven in 1779, and rebuilt and expanded by the Morris family. In 1918, William Pardee, a descendant of the Morris family, willed the property to the New Haven Colony Historical Society, today the New Haven Museum.
More on photos:
-  Art by Nathan Hale School students at the Pardee-Morris House. Margaret Anne Tockarshewsky
- Pardee-Morris House, c. 1970, watercolor, Leo Stoutsenberger, Collection of the New Haven Museum

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Get the lead out! Learn how at free New Haven event

NEW HAVEN >> The New Haven Health Department’s Bureau of Environmental Health will team up with the Yale Lead and Healthy Homes Program to hold their 15th Annual Lead Awareness Picnic from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 14 at the carousel building at Lighthouse Point Park, according to a release.

The free event aims to "educate local families about childhood lead poisoning prevention through educational booths, giveaways and entertainment that parents and children of all ages can enjoy," the release said.

"The Lead Awareness Picnic in New Haven is one of the city’s several efforts to help educate families about this serious, yet entirely preventable illness," said Paul Kowalski, director of the city Health Department’s Bureau of Environmental Health Program, also in the release. "This annual event, in combination with numerous efforts year-round, has resulted in a dramatic decrease in the number of childhood lead cases in New Haven over the years. However, the importance of bringing these numbers down even further cannot be overstated."

Representatives of the Health Department, Yale Lead and Healthy Homes Program, other service agencies and local entertainers, including a magician and a science show, will be on hand to demonstrate lead safety practices to participants through educational materials and interactive shows, the release said.

In addition to the lead poisoning prevention tips, there will be food, entertainment and games, the release said.

"Parents and children who are educated on possible lead hazards are more likely to take steps towards preventing lead poisoning in their homes and communities," said Kowalski. "While childhood lead poisoning has gained attention in recent years, many New Haven residents are still unaware of this problem."

"Families will learn how they can reduce their children’s risk of ingesting lead through frequent hand washing, thorough housecleaning to remove lead dust and lead-safe home improvement practices. Health and environmental experts recommend that parents take the following precautions to prevent childhood lead poisoning," according to the release.

"Lead poisoning prevention is particularly significant in New Haven, where health care providers reported that 107 children still tested positive for elevated blood lead levels in New Haven in 2014, said Kowalski. "Lead poisoning can cause developmental delays, behavioral problems, neuropsychological deficits and at very high levels, seizures, coma and even death."

"Children living in homes built before 1978 are at risk for exposure to lead through deteriorated paint, dust and from soil that has been contaminated with lead from old paint, and past emissions of leaded gasoline," the release said. "Children often appear healthy, while dangerously high blood lead levels rob them of their learning potential and cause irreversible neurological damage. The majority of New Haven’s lead poisoning cases are concentrated in the Fair Haven, Hill, Dixwell and Newhallville neighborhoods where the affected children live predominantly in rental housing units."

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Help Save Connecticut's Trees

The state  Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is asking that anyone thinking of  summer travel and camping "help prevent the introduction and spread of destructive wood pests, like the Asian Longhorned Beetle... by buying and burning firewood near their vacation or camping destination," according to a release.

 “Harmful forest insects often spend a portion of their lifecycle as larvae inside the trunk and branches of trees and folks transporting infested firewood from one location to another may unknowingly move insect pests,” said DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee, also in the release  "Purchasing firewood locally rather than transporting it from home is a best management practice that reduces the risk of spread of these destructive pests.”

State Entomologist Dr. Kirby Stafford of the New Haven-based Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, also noted: “We continue to see adverse impacts on our trees and forests by introduced insect pests such as the hemlock woolly adelgid, emerald ash borer, winter moth, and most recently, the southern pine beetle.”
“Buying and burning firewood locally is one way Connecticut’s citizens and visitors can help prevent the introduction or spread of some of these exotic, destructive insects," Stafford said in the release.

"The ALB is currently the greatest – but not the only – threat to the trees of Connecticut. The nearest infestation is within 30 miles of our border with Massachusetts, where Federal and State agricultural and forestry officials continue to eradicate the ALB infestation within a110 square mile quarantine zone in Worcester and surrounding towns. This effort has resulted in the cutting of more than 34,000 trees, and since October 2008 has cost the U.S. Department of Agriculture over $146 million. In New York, 137 square miles are under ALB regulation which includes the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, and a portion of central Long Island. "

Also in the release (shared unedited here): 

Emerald Ash Borer

 Another danger to the trees of our state is posed by the Emerald Ash Borer.  As a result of the presence of this beetle throughout much of Connecticut, there are restrictions on moving untreated firewood out-of state to New York and Rhode Island. Most New England State campgrounds and National Forest and Park campgrounds prohibit out-of state firewood. In addition to firewood confiscation, violators could face steep fines. 

The DEEP and CAES recommend the following steps to prevent wood movement: 

·         Purchase all firewood near your camp or seasonal home destination instead of bringing it from home. 

·         Burn all wood purchased at your camp or seasonal home destination and do not carry it back home with you.
DEEP is participating in a national program that seeks to heighten public awareness regarding the environmental dangers of moving firewood over long distances. This includes all wood intended to be burned including pine now that Southern Pine beetle has been discovered in Connecticut this past March.  For more information, visit the Don't Move Firewood website.


Suspected infestations of ALB or beetles should be reported to The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station at or the Office of the State Entomologist at 203-974-8474 or 203-974-8485. Reports can also be submitted to the Asian Longhorned beetle New England hotline number 866-702-9938.


 The Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) was first discovered attacking trees in the United States in New York City in 1996. ALB probably travelled to the United States inside solid wood packing material from China.  The beetle has been intercepted at ports of entry and found in warehouses in various locations around the United States. 

This beetle is a serious pest in China, where it kills hardwood trees.  In the United States, the beetle prefers maple species including boxelder, Norway, red, silver and sugar maples.  Other native preferred tree species include the birches, elms, horse chestnut, and willows. 

 Currently the only effective way to eradicate ALB is to remove infested trees and destroy them by chipping or burning.  To prevent further spread of the insect, quarantines are established to regulate movement of articles that could carry lifestages of the pest including all firewood. Early detection of infestations and rapid response are crucial to successful eradication of the beetle.
United States Department of Agriculture

Editor's note: All information in this post was contributed. Click one of the buttons below to share it.

Monday, May 18, 2015

New Haven Memorial Day ceremonies

NEW HAVEN -  Memorial Ceremony, 1 p.m. May 24, Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Long Wharf. Also at 3 p.m. a second event will be held at the War Memorial on the New Haven Green

Mayor Toni N. Harp will speak, as will Capt. Carl Lahti, the Commanding Officer of the Naval Submarine Base New London.

At 5 p.m. the city’s 18th annual Memorial Day concert, featuring Orchestra New England, will be held at the Lyman Center for the Performing Arts at Southern Connecticut State University.

Also, per a release:

Civil War Veterans Remembered:   On Memorial, Monday, May 25th., there will be a tour honoring the Civil War Veterans in Grove Street Cemetery.  There are over 150 Civil War veterans buried in the Cemetery, including famous Generals and Admirals and common volunteer infantrymen.  The tour will be led by Myles Alderman and will meet at the entrance to the Cemetery, 227 Grove Street, New Haven, CT   at 10:30 AM, on May 25th.

The Grove Street Cemetery, the first chartered burial ground in the United States, succeeded the previous common burial site, the New Haven Green. After severe yellow fever epidemics in 1794 and 1795 the Green, which held perhaps as many as 5,000 burials, was simply too crowded to continue as the chief burial ground. ln 1796 a group of New Haven citizens led by U.S, Senator James Hillhouse planned a new cemetery on a location at the edge of town. Their efforts were officially recognized in October, 1797 when the State of Connecticut incorporated the cemetery as The New Burying Ground in New Haven.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Blumenthal, Murphy on the fatal Amtrak crash in Philadelphia

Departure screen at #nhv Union Station photo by Wes Duplantier
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn., released this statement on Tuesday night’s fatal derailment of an Amtrak train heading from Washington, D.C. to New York City:
“My heart goes out to the victims of last night’s train derailment in Philadelphia. We all owe our thanks to the brave first responders who were on the scene in minutes, whose quick actions and hard work likely saved lives and prevented this from becoming an even bigger tragedy. There must be thorough investigations into what caused the derailment and how such accidents can be prevented,” said Murphy. “But even before last night it was clear that there’s more we can do as a nation to make rail travel safer and more reliable. Millions of Americans rely on rail to travel up and down the Northeast Corridor each year, and yet Congress refuses to make the investments needed to maintain and expand rail lines and safety features. As a member of the Appropriations transportation subcommittee, I’ll continue to work hard on behalf of the Northeast Corridor’s priorities.”
More on the crash:
From the site Billy Penn: "Amtrak 188: How often trains crash, and why they go off the rails"

Statement from U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.:  

Our hearts and prayers go out to those we lost and those who were injured in the tragic derailment last night. Our praise also goes out to the brave first responders, who worked in dark, dire, chaotic conditions, guiding passengers to safety. They are still at work now, helping families locate loved ones. It is critical now that the Federal Railroad Administration and National Transportation Safety Board complete a swift and thorough investigation so we learn what caused this calamitous event. It’s too soon to conclude the cause; but one thing is certain and that is that this horrific accident spotlights the urgent need to improve railroad safety all across this country. Crashes and derailments leading to mayhem and death have become far too common, contributing to an alarming spike in railroad-related deaths this last year. We simply cannot ignore the shrieking whistles of warning telling us:  it is long past time to upgrade our rail infrastructure and implement comprehensive railroad safety reform,” Blumenthal and Schumer said.

Here is statement by Vice President Joe Biden, who will be in New Haven Sunday for Yale Class Day:
"Jill and I were deeply saddened to learn of the Amtrak tragedy in Philadelphia last night. We are profoundly grateful for the efforts of the first responders and others who continue to assist those in need. The victims could have been any one of our parents, children, or someone from one of our communities. Amtrak is like a second family to me, as it is for so many other passengers. For my entire career, I’ve made the trip from Wilmington to Washington and back. I've come to know the conductors, engineers, and other regulars—men and women riding home to kiss their kids goodnight—as we passed the flickering lights of each neighborhood along the way.
Our thoughts are with every person who is grieving right now from this terrible tragedy. As a nation, we pray for the victims and their families"

This is a visual showing annual fatalities by transportation method, from "Findthebest." Data is from the NTSB's most recent report and is visualized on

Thursday, May 7, 2015

See all the West Haven fire videos

Contributed photo
Crews battled a brush fire in West Haven Thursday evening after a railroad transformer reportedly blew.

See all the videos here:  (Bottom three by Evan Lips, top one contributed by Sara McLoughlin)

Nick Bellantoni to share ‘Deeply Human’ archaeology stories

  : Albert Afraid of Hawk, 1899, Heyn Photographer (Courtesy Library of Congress NEW HAVEN — While Nick Bellantoni ,  emeritus   Co...