The New York City Fire Department’s Ceremonial Unit and Pipes and Drums Band joined the Society of Old Brooklynites to help commemorate the 107th memorial tribute to the Revolutionary War prison ship martyrs in conjunction with the 239th anniversary of the Battle of Brooklyn.
With the swirl of bagpipes and the sharp precision of the FDNY Color Guard, the ceremonies opened with U.S. Marine Corps Major Andrew Thompson leading the gathering with the Pledge of Allegiance and then the National Anthem sung by Tenor Theron Cromer from the Martha Cardona Opera Company.
Master of ceremonies Michael Spinner then narrated the long-standing traditional Maritime piping ceremony which included calling out the names of the 15 British prison ships –some which were anchored in Brooklyn’s Wallabout Bay — that held captive thousands of colonial sailors, militia, soldiers and citizens under the most inhuman and deplorable conditions. They were America’s first POWs! The narrative include the shrill sound of the bosun’s pipe, taps and eight slow bells.
The event took place at the base of the 149-foot-tall Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Fort Greene Park. Forty feet under this towering monument is a crypt containing the actual remains of 11,500 patriots who failed to swear allegiance to the British crown.
The program continued with the keynote speech by society President George Broadhead, a Marine Corps veteran who was decorated with the Silver Star for his gallantry under fire during the Korean War. He also holds a Purple Heart. Professor Maurice Decaul from Columbia University then read a stirring poem about the plight of the martyrs he wrote for this somber occasion.
Mena Rhodes Kelly, an author, member of the society and a member of the New York City Chapter of the DAR gave some remarks about the historic significance of the monument and the men that lay dead under it.
Craig Gabrian from the Young Dancers in Repertory performed an interpretive dance which highlighted the suffering of the revolutionary martyrs. Leslie Lewis, an Army World War II veteran, read a proclamation from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams reminding all Brooklynites about the sacrifices made by the martyrs and the importance of remembering this historic monument.
Also in attendance were Brooklyn Borough Historian Ron Schweiger, the society’s immediate past president, and Society Director Brigadier General Arnold Albert (USARet.)
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Heads up on this coming Saturday’s remembrance ceremony for the Maryland 400. The event, which in prior years had started at the Rawley American Legion Post and then concluded at the Old Stone House on Third Street just off Fifth Avenue, will only be held at the Old Stone House. At 12 noon, the Brooklyn Irish-American Parade Committee will lead a brief parade from Fourth Street into Washington Park, then around the Old Stone House to the front lawn.
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According to local political scuttlebutt, it looks like the Democrats will be tapping Coney Island’s Pamela Harris, a retired New York City correction officer as their candidate to fill the seat vacated by former Assemblymember Alec Brook-Krasny in the 46th AD. On the GOP side, the likely challenger will be Dyker Heights Republican District Leader Lucretia Regina Potter with the support of the county Conservative Party.