Inner View: J. Michael Finn, “Illuminations”
Mike, your history column Illuminations is always interesting, how did you become so passionate about Irish history?
It all started with the Irish language, my wife Marion saw an ad in our parish bulletin in 1980 that said, “Learn Irish by St. Patrick’s Day.” As it was just before, she decided to enroll me in the course as a Christmas gift.
Did you learn Irish?
Well I did learn a little Irish, but I was hardly speaking Irish by St. Patrick’s Day. Through that class, however, I became involved in the Irish community; I joined the Ancient Order of Hibernians and eventually made two trips to Ireland. When my wife complains about all my books and history research, I remind her that she was the one who started it all!
It was through the Hibernians that I became really interested in Irish history. I was appointed the historian for the Patrick Pearse Division (of the Ancient Order of Hibernians) here in Columbus. I must have been successful at that because in 1996, I was appointed AOH State Historian. Thanks to the support of succeeding AOH State Presidents, I have continued to be reappointed to that position.
You’re the longest, continually running columnist for iIrish since its beginning, how did that come about?
In 2007, some of the Irish history articles I wrote were floating around the internet and iIrish Publisher John O’Brien, Jr. asked me if I would write a few articles for an Irish paper he had started. He apparently liked what I wrote, because he soon asked me to write on a regular basis. I think my first monthly article appeared under the column Illuminations in May of 2007. I’ve been with John and his excellent publication ever since.
I hope my history articles have educated the readers about the variety and complexity of Irish history. Most importantly, I try each month to tell a story about a person, place or event in Irish history; illuminating them and explaining why it is so important for us to know our history.
Your research and writing isn’t limited to Irish history, what else are you doing?
History, you might say, has taken over my life. In addition to writing for iIrish, I began contributing articles to the monthly history bulletin of the Catholic Record Society of the Diocese of Columbus. That led to me being elected as Chairman of the Catholic Record Society. I am on my third two-year term as Chairman.
That must require a great deal of your time, is there space for anything else in your life?
When I’m not working on something historical, I work for the State of Ohio as a Financial Planning Analyst for the Department of Commerce. One of these days I’m going to retire, which will give me more time to pursue some Irish and Catholic history research projects that have been calling to me from my file cabinet. A big part of my retirement plan includes hitting the lottery! I live in Columbus with my wife Marion. We have one daughter, Kathleen, who lives in Cincinnati.
*J. Michael Finn is the Ohio State Historian for the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Division Historian for the Patrick Pearse Division in Columbus, Ohio. He is also Chairman of the Catholic Record Society for the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio. He writes on Irish and Irish-American history; Ohio history and Ohio Catholic history. You may contact him at FC*******@ao*.com.
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