Jerome Collins

Published in 18th–19th - Century History, Issue 4 (Jul/Aug 2009), Letters, Volume 17

Sir,

—Although delighted to see an article on Jerome Collins in the lastissue (HI 17.3, May/June 2009), permit me to make a few corrections andobservations. His second name was not Janus but James. In fact, hetravelled openly under the name James Collins when he went to Americain 1866: it wasn’t a case of having to flee after his Pentonville plotwas discovered. Although it was probably the cause of his leaving forAmerica, there was a seven-month gap between his Pentonville plot andhis departure, so he certainly wasn’t in fear of being arrested. Interms of his position within Clan na Gael, he was on much more than‘good terms’ with the leadership of the organisation, Dr WilliamCarroll and John Devoy. Both held him in high esteem and saw him asbeing very much part of the organisation. Dr Carroll wrote of him onthe eve of Collins’s departure on the Jeannette expedition:

‘I wish him a safe return, but am sorry he is going, we are not likelyto see him again and certain not to see his like when we need his aid.’

Many years after the death of Collins, Devoy wrote of him:

‘Jerome Collins was one of the best and purest men I ever knew, and noIrishman of his time had a finer intellect. The Clan na Gael has everyright to be proud of its founder and the nationalists of Cork are rightin decorating his grave once a year when they pay tribute to the deadwho were true to Ireland.’

Also, it was to Collins and not Devoy that O’Donovan Rossa sent theinventor John Phillip Holland in 1876 when Holland was looking forbacking to build his submarine, another indication of the position thatCollins occupied in the organisation.
As for his weather forecasting, while it’s true to say that only sevenout of 40 were ‘completely accurate’, another ten were partiallyaccurate, with 23 being either only slightly accurate or failures. Thatmeans that just under 45 per cent of his forecasts in that first yearhad a fair degree of accuracy, not a bad outcome when you think thatthis was the 1870s and consider the limited information he had to workwith. Even today’s meteorologists, with all the technical informationfrom satellites, etc., cannot predict the weather with total accuracy.
Finally, Collins was not buried in New York, as the article suggests,so he did not need to be disinterred. His mother had died shortly afterhe left on the Polar expedition and she was buried in New York. It washer body that was disinterred so that both of them could be returned totheir native soil to be buried in the family grave at Curraghkippane.This was done at the request of his two brothers in New York, not atthe request of the people of Cork.

—Yours etc.,
RONNIE HERLIHY

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