They asked me to say a few words at my son John’s grave in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York. It was Sunday, August 25, 2002 the year that John died. “They” were the Irish American Parade Committee of which John had been a co-founder.
The purpose of my trip, months after his burial, was to honor his book, "The Battle of Brooklyn, 1776." John Gallagher was an author-historian, proud of his family ties to Ireland and a true American patriot. During the Vietnam conflict he served in U. S. military intelligence, having earned a degree from Ecole des Sciences Politiques of the University of Paris. His tale of heroism on Brooklyn Heights would be his greatest legacy to our beloved city of New York.
Published just five years earlier, John’s book “took off” in Brooklyn. There had been little to celebrate up to then because Manhattan grabs all the glory for most everything. Brooklyn’s President Golden made the book a cause to celebrate because of its claim for the borough to have been the site of the first battle of the Revolution. He gave John citations and honors and proclaimed the third week in August as “The Battle of Brooklyn Week.”
Previously there had been only a small annual celebration of the “Battle of Long Island,” as it used to be called. John’s book disclaimed that. In 1776 there was little Long Island to speak of, but there was a very real place -- that the Dutch named Brooklyn -- where the battle actually took place.
When John died on Feb. 4, 2002, at the age of 64, Golden had the top of Battle Hill in Green-Wood Cemetery surveyed to find a place for his grave. A prominent spot under Minerva’s statue is his resting place. That’s where the decorating of the graves, accompanied by the Irish piper, concludes Battle of Brooklyn Week -- at John’s grave.
Every year I have come to New York from my home in Phoenix, which is now the Beatitudes Campus, “to say a few words.” The speeches I make are about Ireland. The consul general is always there. (He and I were both born in New Castle West, Limerick.) But the reason I keep on making those speeches is I feel I am filling a need. Too little is known about the good things that have come from Ireland.