Saturday, September 13, 2008

John Barry Day, September 13, 2008

John Barry Day 2008

John Barry Kelly and Tim McGrath take John Barry Day seriously.

Students get to learn more about commodore
Saturday, September 13, 2008
By Lucas K. Murray

LOGAN TWP. On an average day, about 35,000 cars make the trip across the Commodore Barry Bridge. Chances are, each motorist knows exactly how much the bridge toll is, but not much about the man whom the structure is named for.

They're even less likely to know that today Sept. 13 is Commodore John Barry Day across the nation. So to celebrate the commodore's life, the Delaware River Port Authority hosted students from both sides of the span at the foot of the bridge.

"We invited Logan and thought ÔWhy not invite someone from the other end of the bridge?" so we also have Chester City," Director of Customer Service and Public Relations Fran O'Brien said. "They're working together, they're partnering up in groups."

Teaching students about the legacy of Commodore Barry is mandatory in New Jersey, but it takes on a special meaning for teachers at Logan Elementary School. Social Studies teacher Kimberly Williams said the curriculum there includes math and science.

"We talked to them about his history, starting from Ireland at 9 years old when he started sailing," Williams said. "We talked about what the kids did in Colonial times, versus life now."

The youngsters had an opportunity to interact with "the commodore" himself. John Barry Kelly, whose great-great-grandmother was a Barry, took on the role of his namesake, complete in colonial garb.

He regaled them with stories of the "Father of the United States Navy" and his victories at sea. One of Barry's most significant moments came as he commanded a brigantine off the coast of Wildwood Crest in what used to be called "Turtle Gut Inlet," at the present day Toledo Avenue.

"There was a merchant ship transporting gunpowder to the Continental Army, and it was being pursued by superior British forces," Kelly explained. "He intercepted them and gave protection to the ship while they were unloading."

Barry booby-trapped her, and when the British arrived to board the then-abandoned ship, it exploded.

"They say you could hear it 60 miles from the sea to Philadelphia," Kelly said.

Philadelphia-based author Tim McGrath is currently putting a book together chronicling Barry's life. Many of Barry's papers can be found at the Independence Seaport Museum on Philadelphia's Penns Landing.

McGrath has authored a short children's book using information he collected while researching "First Among Captains," with illustrations by his son, renowned illustrator Ted McGrath.

"He's more and more becoming forgotten in history," the elder McGrath said of Barry. "I just found his story fascinating."

The story includes Barry commanding his ship at the age of 21. During the Revolution, Barry teamed with General Anthony Wayne to sneak cattle from New Jersey by barge across the Delaware to take to Washington at Valley Forge.

McGrath said that while Wayne ferried the cattle, Barry "burned every haystack on the Delaware" to distract the British as the cows crossed at Burlington.

Barry had many friends who were both Federalist and Republican, but ultimately let the sea guide him.

"He was like Washington in that he stayed above the politics of the time, which were just as divisive as they are now," McGrath said.


ReadStrong students gather at Commodore Barry Bridge

The fall ReadStrong Community outreach program, hosted by the Delaware River Port Authority, will be on the New Jersey side of the Commodore Barry Bridge in Logan Township today from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

ReadStrong is a reading and literacy mentoring program providing reading and related activities outside the classroom to elementary school children. Students take field trips focusing on specific learning experiences.

In addition to U.S. history, this fall's theme focuses on the man considered to be the father of the U.S. Navy, Commodore John Barry. A day honoring him is celebrated in New Jersey and Pennsylvania on Sept. 13.

Taking part in today's program will be approximately 80 second- and third-grade students from the Chester Community Charter School in Chester and the Logan Township Elementary School in Logan Township. Philadelphia Inquirer

On this day in history -

On Sept. 13, 1759, during the final French and Indian War, the British defeated the French on the Plains of Abraham overlooking Quebec City.

In 1788 the Congress of the Confederation authorized the first national election and declared New York City the temporary national capital.

In 1803 Commodore John Barry, considered by many to be the father of the American Navy, died in Philadelphia; he was 58.

In 1894 British novelist J.B. Priestley was born in Bradford, England.

In 1943 Chiang Kai-shek became president of China.

In 1948 Republican Margaret Chase Smith of Maine was elected to the U.S. Senate, becoming the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress.

In 1971 a four-day inmates' rebellion at the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York ended as police and guards stormed the prison; the ordeal and final assault claimed 43 lives.

In 1996 rapper Tupac Shakur died at a Las Vegas hospital six days after he was wounded in a drive-by shooting; he was 25.

In 1998 former Alabama Gov. George Wallace died; he was 79. Also in 1998 Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa hit his 61st and 62nd home runs of the season to pass Roger Maris and pull into a tie with Mark McGwire.

In 2001 President George W. Bush called the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington "the first war of the 21st Century" as his administration labeled fugitive Osama bin Laden a prime suspect. (The United States promised to wage all-out retaliation against those responsible and any regime that protected them.) Also in 2001 jetliners returned to the nation's skies for the first time in two days, carrying nervous passengers who faced strict new security measures.

In 2002 President George W. Bush said it was "highly doubtful" that Saddam Hussein would comply with demands that he disarm and avoid a confrontation with the world community.

In 2003 angry mourners swarmed Fallujah, Iraq, a day after eight Iraqi police were killed in a friendly fire incident involving U.S. troops; the U.S. military apologized for the deaths. Also in 2003 Indiana Gov. Frank O'Bannon died in Chicago; he was 73.


Address at Annual Commdore John Barry Commemoration

Issued : Sunday 29 June, 2008
Areas : Wexford

Minister, Leas Ceann Comhairle, Oireachtas Members, Councillors, Ladies and Gentlemen

It is my great honour and privilege to welcome all of you to this important event in Wexford's civic calendar. In particular, I welcome Minister Brian Lenihan, and the representative of the United States Embassy, Mr Robert Faucher. I am delighted that you can join with us in honouring a distinguished son of Wexford, who contributed so much to his adopted country of America.

It is a particular honour for me to be here today as Mayor of the historic Borough of Wexford. 52 years my grandfather, Eddie Hall accepted the gift of this statue from the people of America on behalf of the people of Ireland. Earlier this year it was my great honour to open and name Commodore John Barry Park on the docks in Annapolis, Maryland - home of the American Naval Academy where thousands of young cadets follow in the footsteps of John Barry.

45 years ago this weekend another great descendant of this county, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, laid a wreath here. In doing so, the President of the United States acknowledged the role that John Barry had played in the revolutionary war, and in the establishment of a free and democratic America. The following day President Kennedy told Dail Eireann that he kept Barry's sword in his office to inspire him. On that same historic occasion on 28 June 1963, Kennedy outlined the links between Ireland and America. He said "Benjamin Franklin, the envoy of the American Revolution, was received by the Irish parliament in 1772. Our interests have been joined ever since. Franklin sent leaflets to Irish Freedom Fighters. O'Connell was influenced by Washington. And Robert Emmet influenced Lincoln. Irish volunteers played so predominant a role in the American army that Lord Mountjoy lamented in the British parliament that "we have lost America through the Irish".

Our interests continue to be joined. Not only in the strong ecomonic and investment links between our countries. But in the true acts of friendship that we have seen from America in guiding and helping the path to peace in Ireland. Commodore John Barry, the founder of the U.S. Navy, was one of many sons and daughters of Wexford who built a new life in America. We remember and salute them all today.

This evening's event has a second purpose. To remember all Wexford Seafarers who built and sustained this community, and who in some of Ireland's darkest hours - sustained the nation itself. We remember the crews of the Wexford steamship fleet, who provisioned this land, at great risk and hardship during the last World War. Our very street names recall those ships - Edenvale Avenue, Menapia Avenue. And the heroic Kerlogue with its 11 man crew, who braved tempestuous seas and possible air attack, to save 168 German sailors from drowning in the Bay of Biscay in December 1943. Among the crew of the Kerlogue was the father of the current Minister for Europe, Dick Roche.

For at least 10 solid hours until well after last light, the 11 gallant crewmen pulled survivors into their boat. Frank Forde is his book "The Long Watch" wrote "cabins, storerooms and alleyways were soon packed with shivering, soaked and sodden men. Others were placed in the engine room where it became so crowded that Chief Engineer, Eric Giggins, could not move around the machinery and so by signs - as none could speak English - he got the survivors to move instruments he could not reach." In general, convoys did not stop, even for their own in the water, for fear of being torpedoed themselves. However these ships, with Eire and the tri-colour painted on their sides certainly did. We remember them with pride and gratitude this evening.

It is no surpise that this county of Wexford produced John Barry. A man whose blood carried the salt of the Slaney estuary. We salute his memory, his life and his works.

May the deeds of John Barry and all the sea-faring sons and daughters of Wexford, who followed him in the service of liberty and freedom, inspire this generation of Wexfordians to serve our community better.

As John F Kennedy told Dail Eireann exactly 45 years ago "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 sceptics or cynics, whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men and women who can dream of things that never were and ask why not?"

LLl Let us move forward on Wexford's great journey with confidence and pride.

Wexford's Native Son

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Commodore John Barry

."Father of the American Navy"
Born 1745 - Our Lady's Island, Co. Wexford.

Few people are well acquainted with the gallantry and heroic exploits
of America's Wexford born naval commander, Commodore John Barry.
Obscured by his contemporary, naval commander John Paul Jones, Barry remains to this day an unsung hero of the young American Republic.

John Barry was born in a modest thatched cottage in 1745 at Ballysampson,
Our Lady's Island, County Wexford, an area with a strong maritime tradition.
Yet Barry's father was a poor tenant farmer who was evicted by his British landlord. The family was then forced to relocate to the village of Rosslare.

At Rosslare, the youth's uncle, Nicholas Barry, was captain of a fishing skiff, and the young man determined at an early age to follow his uncle to sea.

Barry started out as a ship's cabin boy, and graduated from seaman to able seaman and ultimately achieved Mate's rating.

Statue of
John Barry
Crescent Quay,

Barry grew to become a tall, muscular, and well respected seaman.

In the space of 58 years, he rose from humble cabin boy to senior commander of the entire United States fleet. Intrepid in battle, he was humane to his men as well as adversaries and prisoners.
Barry's war contributions are unparalleled, he :

was the first to capture a British war vessel on the high seas.
captured two British ships after being severely wounded in a ferocious
sea battle.
quelled three mutinies.
fought on land at the Battles of Trenton and Princeton.
captured over 20 ships including an armed British schooner in the lowe Delaware.
authored a Signal Book which established a set of signals used for effective
communication between ships.
fought the last naval battle of the American Revolution aboard the frigate Alliance in 1783.
Barry's last day of active duty came on March 6th 1801, when he brought the USS United States into port.
He remained head of the American Navy until his death on September 12th 1803, from the complications of asthma.

On September 14th 1803, John Barry received his final salute in a full military burial in Philadelphia's Old St. Mary's Churchyard.

The John Barry Memorial at Crescent Quay, Wexford was erected to his memory, a gift from the people of the United States to Wexford.

Grave of Commodore John Barry
in Saint Mary's Catholic Church
yard, Philadelphia, USA.

Bill Kelly can be reaced at:

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