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Merrimack Valley

March 7, 2013

Fire Department history highlighted during Irish History month

LAWRENCE — For Irish Heritage month, the Rev. James T. O’Reilly, Ancient Order of Hibernian will honor men and women who have served in the city’s Fire Department.

The exhibit appropriately named “To Protect Lives, to Conserve Property” features 10 panels and is on display at Lawrence Heritage State Park, 1 Jackson St.

While there has been many firefighters and chiefs of Irish descent, the exhibit looks at the overall history of the Lawrence Fire Department and how it has progressed over the years, said Hibernian president Bill Sullivan.

”We wanted to do something civic-minded this year,” Sullivan said. “This is a multi-cultural group of people who go out every day and put their lives on the line.”

Sullivan said Hibernian member Frank Ford of Methuen came up with the idea for the exhibit. Ford’s father, Frank Ford Sr., was the Lawrence Fire Chief from 1960-1968.

Louise Sandberg, archivist at Lawrence Public Library, put the exhibit together with items donated by Joe Bella, Jack Lahey, Jim Driscoll, Lawrence History Center and Lawrence Public Library. James Regan, who has been collecting Lawrence firefighting memorabilia for years, also contributed items.

”My aim was to document, to tell the story of an institution,” Sandberg said. But she said she fell short of her goal.

”I couldn’t get more information and I’d like to know stories about fire,” Sandberg said.

The panels feature items from as early as 1850 as well as images from Pemberton Mill disaster.

In addition to the exhibit, Irish heritage month includes music, corned beef and cabbage dinner, films and speakers.

On Saturday, Francis J. O’Connor Jr. will be named Irish man of the year, the highest award bestowed by the Hibernians. St. Patrick’s day Banquet and dance 6 to 11 p.m., at Lawrence Firefighters Association Relief’s In, 1 Market St. Lawrence.

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