SUMMER 2014 / VOL. 14 ISSUE 
2
Celtic Sailors Relate Their Sea Stories

These Irish American Post stories are provided by service personnel aboard the USS George Washington, off the coast of Singapore in early summer, 2014.
 
 

Shanna Sullivan
Petty Officer 3rd Class
 

I asked my uncle, who is very in tune to mostly every branch of our family tree on the Sullivan side (He wanted to marry a girl from another Sullivan tree and had to make sure that none of our branches crossed. He is also a Journalist for Bloomberg so his investigating skills are very keen). When I asked him about having anything to contribute to the Irish American Post Request, he responded with the conversation below. Please forgive the directives, Your, when heís speaking to me. Itís also very wordy. The Irish are known for the gift of gab. I believe Chief Ellis can attest to my ĎIrishnessí in that respect.

"My (His) grandmother was born in Co. Tyrone, Ireland (Northern Ireland actually). She was my father's mother. My father's father's people ó the Sullivans ó were from Valentia, a small island in County Kerry. They were stone cutters. My mother's father was from Galway. He spelled his name Connolly, but we have also seen it spelled Coneely.

My father used to listen to "The Irish Hour" on AM radio in the 1960s. But we really didn't do much to celebrate our Irish heritage.

Dan (his son) and I did go to Valentia Island a few years ago ó I cannot remember exactly when, 2009 or 2010. Your great-grandfather Philip A. Sullivan was in the U.S. Second Division in World War I and fought at Belleau Wood, the Meuse- Argonne Offensive and every other engagement the Division was involved in. My great-grandfather, Michael Connolly, was in the U.S. Army's Siberian occupation force during World War I. He was in the 27th Infantry and made the march to Lake Baikal in Siberia.

Addenda from Dad: Uncle Johnny (his real name was William Gallagher) was a chief petty officer (torpedo man) in World War II and served on a variety of destroyers in both Atlantic convoy duty, as well as in the Pacific. He was on the U.S.S. George, which took part in one of the most successful anti-submarine campaigns against the Japanese in the Pacific.

Your Uncle Jimmy Connolly was a crew chief and repaired B-25 bombers on Corsica during World War II. Your other uncle John Connolly was also in the Air Corps in World War II but I don't know what he did.

Everyone has their reasons for joining the Navy. My personal story is one where I had set out to lose a large amount of weight (150 pounds-plus by the end of boot camp) for health reason and I thought the Navy could help me maintain that fitness level and hold me accountable. As far as the other reasonÖ I had the privilege to have my grandfather around for my entire life but, Iíd never really held a real conversation with him.

He passed away a few years ago and Iíd had this strange oceanic moment, looking at him in the casket and thinking, ĎI donít know this man at all.í It broke my heart. I looked at my father and had another moment where Iíd felt like I didnít know him either.

This event lead me to join my fatherís profession (cross-country truck driving) for a little while. I wanted to get to know him better. If the worst imaginable thing were to happen to him and someone were to say, "Tell me about your old man," I could, after driving with him for that period of time. I can tell you everything about him.

My uncle, on my motherís side is a retired Navy lieutenant, now working in the San Diego area, in charge of one of the ports out there.

Joining the Navy has connected me to family, past and present and has impacted my life in so many ways. Without any ego, I am a living legacy to everyone that has come before me. I really enjoy the history of it all. I didnít know about a few of those relatives until my Uncle, just now mentioning them.

I have a deeper sense of pride for what I do and where I am. I live on a warship in Japan. There arenít many people that can say that.

We keep most of our Irish traditions alive with music and food. My mother makes a wonderful corned beef and cabbage. I sing with gospel choir on board but my background began with the more operatic style/aria songs. "Danny Boy" was one of the first songs, I had learn to sing as well the poem "Tis the Last Rose of Summer" by Thomas Moore adapted into a song. Sad and beautiful.

'Tis the last rose of summer,
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone;
No flower of her kindred,
No rosebud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes,
Or give sigh for sigh.

I'll not leave thee, thou lone one!
To pine on the stem;
Since the lovely are sleeping,
Go, sleep thou with them.
Thus kindly I scatter,
Thy leaves o'er the bed,
Where thy mates of the garden
Lie scentless and dead.

So soon may I follow,
When friendships decay,
And from Love's shining circle
The gems drop away.
When true hearts lie withered,
And fond ones are flown,
Oh! who would inhabit
This bleak world alone?


Andrew Armstrong
Culinary Specialist Seaman Apprentice

Iíll be in service a year next month (June, 2014). My hometown is Latrobe, Pa., and come am from a large family. My parents are Christine Armstrong and Ronald Oliver. I am the youngest child of four.

My Irish heritage has deep roots through my maternal (Armstrong) lineage reaching back to 1789 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. My great-great-great-great-great grandfather John Armstrong, Sr. was born in 1789 and immigrated to America with his wife Isabelle and my fourth-great grandfather John, Jr. in 1818. My family made a living running a local newspaper, teaching school, and eventually establishing a successful career in law and becoming elders in a local protestant church.

I grew up with vague stories of my forefathers, but much of what I know has been unearthed from old newspapers, records, and family testimonies.

I have never been to Ireland, but I plan on making a trip with my mother as soon as I am able.

My maternal grandmother and great-aunt where noted for promoting and celebrating our Irish heritage. They would"fix special meals for family get- togethers and displaying Irish blessings all over the house. God has always been an important stable in our family, going all the way back to the patriarch John Armstrong, Sr.

One of my favorite Irish actors is Sir Richard Harris. He is widely known for his portrayal of wizard Prof. Albus Dumbledore in the "Harry Potter "franchise.

I knew John Barry was the founder of the U,S. Navy. That adds a sense of pride to my naval service. I enlisted in the Navy, to improve my quality of life and a better future with different and unique opportunities for myself.

My great-uncle was the last known Armstrong to serve his country in the U.S. Navy. He served during the Vietnam war-era, and I have had family members serve in other branches. I feel a sense of pride and respect for myself and more importantly them, to sacrifice so much so that I might have the opportunity to do the same.

I trained to be a modern-day sailor in Great Lakes, IL. It was an eight-week process that build a sailor from a civilian. It wasn't too difficult. Stressful and mentally changeling, but that was done in order to build a sailor to work well in stressful situations.

Onboard my current ship ó the forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington ó I work in the food production service. I am responsible for providing quality meals to the crew which includes the officers and air wing squadrons.

The USS George Washington's home port is in Japan, but I have since visited other countries in the nearby regionóHong Kong, Korea, Singapore and so on. I would have never dreamed I would be visiting such exotic countries rich in history and culture.

I am not sure what my future holds. I entertain the idea of becoming a commissioned officer in the Chaplain Corps.


Ian Alexander Ferguson
Quartermaster Seaman Apprentice/E-2
Time in service: 10 months
Hometown: Bend, Oregon

Family: Large ó two brothers, three sisters. One mother by the name of Karolyn Hoida, one father by the name of Scott Ferguson. I am the sandwich kid.

Our part of the Ferguson clan has been in the United States for several generations; however, an uncle of the family keeps track of genealogical records. The Fergusons are believed to be from the clan leader's daughter, (daughter of Fergus) as for the Fergussons are believed to be from the son. After the Jacobite Rebellion (1700s), many of the Fergusons moved to the English colonies in America. A few remained in western Scotland, presumably in the town of Wrath. However, while in the area, the family found no town by that name.

About the age of four when my father brought me to Ireland; however, we lived in Scotland (Athol), for my father's work as a civic engineer. We were there (moving between the U.S. and there) for about 10 years.

One of our favorite times to celebrate is during the August Celtic festival, near Robert Burns' birthday. We read poetry by Robert Burns, with the family's particular favorite being "To a Mouse." We use to cook haggis, until my mother banned it after we (my father and I) forgot to puncture the stomach. During New Yearís, the family often sings Celtic carols, while my father accompanies us with his guitar, and myself by fiddle. Our favorite tune for that time is "Sleepin Soond I'da Mourin" (A common Celtic New Yearís tune).

Jonathan Swift is a family favorite, especially for his satire "A Modest Proposal." My favorite Irish movie is "The Wind That Shakes the Barley." However, my favorite Celtic movie is "Braveheart". My uncle, Brett Ferguson, is always up for a game of rugby; however, my father and I have leaned towards the music side of life rather than traditional sports.

Until I read on a previous email, I did not know that John Barry was an Irishman. I take pride that a fellow Celt had a major role in U.S. history; however (also speaking on behalf of my father, too), I'm surprised that such a grand innovator did not come from Scotland.

I am the first to serve in the military since the Civil War on my father's side of the family tree. My great-great-grandfather, Gene Ferguson, was a modest farmer. Gene's father served in the ranks along with the Yankees alongside many Irish regiments during the Civil War. I joined the Navy simply because I enjoy being on the water.

Boot camp was in Great Lakes, IL. If you enjoy the water, I would highly recommend to a friend to join the Navy. The food is decent, as well as the pay during boot camp (seeing that the individual is getting paid to stand at attention and get yelled at, and may need to push out a few push-ups, and learn how to fold clothes).

I am a quartermaster aboard an aircraft carrier. Our rate was traditionally known for steering the ship, and we still do on smaller ships. Yet on this larger ship, our primary watch involves looking at digital charts to ensure the ship is being safely navigated. This is my first command.

I am single; however, I have a border collie back at home with my father. My father still insists that the dog can outsmart me, and I believe him. The last time I saw the two of them was last year during Christmas.

I enjoy fly-fishing, fiddling, fencing, archery, ball room dancing and studying celestial bodies on my free time. I still have as of yet to see where this job takes me. I would like to take a tour on a small boy before I decide if this is my dream job. I was also considering joining the Merchant Marines.

Dulcius ex asperis. (Ed. note: clan motto: Sweeter After Difficulties. The clan war cry is Clann Fhearghuis gu brath!


Grace Scott Higgins
Machinist Mate Fireman
Almost two years in the U.S. Navy,
Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland; living in Mesa, AZ.

Iím the youngest of five, all of us are from Belfast originally, My Momís name is Shelagh and My Dadís name is William. Iím first generation Irish; we moved to America when I was a child and have lived here for over decade. Our family is from Belfast, I have so many cousins, uncles and aunts itís hard to remember who is who!!

Iíve been back to Ireland about four times since we moved and I miss it; itís hard not seeing the people I grew up with everyday! The last time I went back I was 18, which was about four years ago. I hung out with my family, and went and saw a few sights ó the castles and the beach!

I celebrate my heritage in the small ways. I try and improve my Gaelic ó I have my dad teach me how to cook my favorite Irish meals like champ and taco chippy.

Not many famous Irish movies I can name off the top of my head. Colin Farrell is all right. I played the tin whistle as a kid. My family is very big football supporters, and Iím a Manchester United fan. GO MAN U!!!

I think the reason that many feel the need to serve Ireland is to keep our independence, to keep on protecting what so many fought and died for.

I joined the U.S. Navy so I could go to college, and learn how to take better care of myself and my family. I work in reactor department and Iím a machinist mate. In my off-time, I watch movies. Iím still thinking about re enlisting, but Iím not sure yet. Iím not married and I have two cats, Bob and Mashed Potatoes.

Iím going to go back to school and get my degree, and then see what happens from

There. All is know is there is a trip back home to Belfast for sure!
 
 


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