James Francis Cahillane













New Release: On History’s Front Steps: One Irish Clan’s Exploits in Northampton, Massachusetts “The Paradise of America” by James Francis Cahillane (Florence Poets Society 2010, 126 pgs. $18).

             Jim Cahillane’s latest book is now on sale at local bookshops and at Collective Copies in Florence and Amherst. Cahillane’s innovation is that its fifty-six poems and five essays are derived from over sixty family and historical photographs from 1930 to 2010. The book was partially funded by a grant from the Northampton Arts Council.

            In a cover note Professor A. D. Cousins of Macquarie University says “In this book Jim Cahillane captures America through snapshots from one family’s history. He tells affectionately, wryly, perceptively, and movingly about dreams and the hard work (sometime luck) that made them come true. He tells of daring to cross boundaries, of family loyalties, of inheritances, and of keeping faith. His collection is a rich one. Image, poem, and essay take us from past present and back again. Many stories are crystallized within this volume, to the reader’s great pleasure.


THE BEST PLACE OF ALL: An Irish-American Memoir of Pluck, Luck & Automobiles (City of Northampton, 2004. 106 pages, 50 photographs) Copyright 2005: James Francis Cahillane. All Rights Reserved. “The Best Place of All has the ingredients of a traditional Irish-American saga—eloquence, humor, pathos—but this is also the fast-moving story of immigration in the twentieth century and how one dynamic go-getter embodies multigenerational progress. “Smiling Jim” Cahillane plunges into the life of mid-century Northampton, founding a family, setting up a business, and trouncing his political rivals. His son’s rollicking tale follows the new arrival, a nobody from a small corner of rural Ireland, for three decades until he becomes President Kennedy’s ‘Mayor Jim’ and a traveler between the Old and New Worlds.”  $18.


“A story of the American dream in full force.” “The reader is drawn in by Cahillane’s familiar tone and vivid descriptions of the beginning of modern Northampton.” Daily Hampshire Gazette

“A beautiful glimpse into life during the time.

 His father’s encounter with newly inaugurated President John F. Kennedy.

An honest and poignant portrayal with many references to the Catholic faith.” The Catholic Observer of the Diocese of Springfield, MA.  Available: Collective Copies, Broadside Books, Historic Northampton and the author.


A Winter Offering and A Second Collection. (The Florence Poets Society)

Copyright 2007: James Francis Cahillane. 50 Poems. $18.

A Winter Offering received Honorable Mention in Writer’s Digest International Self-Published book awards competition in 2006. Twenty-two poems were added in 2007 combining Jim’s first and second poetry books into one well-received chapbook. Six of the poems were published in college and university journals.


 “It is a wonderful collection and offers great beauty and inspiration to its readers.”

The Catholic Observer.

A Winter Offering is full of so much love, and glimpses of a life generously and lovingly lived. I am...so glad you have made this beautiful book for all of us.”

      Patricia Schneider, Author. Another River: New and Selected Poems


Available: from the author, Collective Copies, Broadside Books and local shops.


Steve Strimer of Collective Copies in Florence designed the three books listed above.


FIFTY YEARS OF CHANGE: A Motoring Livelihood in Northampton, Massachusetts (1938-1998). James Francis Cahillane University Without Walls Portfolio, University of Massachusetts, Amherst 1988. In partial fulfillment of the credits required for the degree of Bachelor of Arts. (Marketing and Management). (104 pages, with 1938 photograph of author and father.) The author’s life operating a business as it grew from 1930s and ‘40s gas stations into a large family-run car and truck dealership.


OPINION PAGE: Daily Hampshire Gazette, Northampton, MA (1992-2001) Approximately 100 “Jim Cahillane” monthly columns on topics of the day, frequently

from a historical perspective.


POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS: ” I wasn’t around for my father’s first campaign for mayor, nor deeply involved in his later ones. As a prominent mayor, Dad’s Democratic Party made him a delegate to the 1956 Democratic convention in Chicago. Dad supported Senator John F. Kennedy’s losing run for V.P., later introducing him to me during Jack’s bid for reelection to the senate in 1958. In step with much of my generation I was caught up in the hard fought 1960 Kennedy-Nixon presidential race. Many of us responded to JFK’s call for public service. From then on, often relying on the civics courses of our school days, we worked hard to make a progressive political difference in our city, state and country, an interest that continues to this day.”


Starting with Ed McColgan’s successful 1965 run for Northampton City Council’s Ward Four seat, Jim was a writer in numerous Democratic campaigns. Including: Mayor Sean Dunphy’s three successful citywide campaigns in 1969, Mayor David Cramer’s winning campaign, Mary McColgan’s Ward Four election to city council, and her husband Ed’s winning campaigns for State Representative. Jim wrote print and radio copy, speeches, and participated in debate preparations for various candidates. His key requirement for joining a new campaign is to work for “Democrats that I like,” which still holds in 2008.


PUBLIC SERVICE: In 1970 Northampton’s new Mayor, Sean Dunphy, invited Jim to lunch in order to propose that he take an appointment to the Northampton Redevelopment Authority. As a local businessman who was outspoken in support of industrial growth, Jim found it hard to refuse. A new industrial park would lighten the tax burden on local homeowners and keep expanding firms from moving elsewhere. Within six months of his appointment the chair of the committee, Francis “Tunker” Hogan, died. Jim was elected chairman and spent the next five years building the industrial park and looking for tenants to buy the land and bring jobs to the city. In 1974 the Dunphy administration voted for a downtown study, which fell to the Redevelopment Authority to run. A design group out of Cambridge, Mass. led the Pleasant/River Study. A year of public hearings and funding applications ended in a negative vote from the city council, losing a ten million dollar federal grant for implementation. Nonetheless, investments by private developers and future public projects throughout the downtown area led to a revival that continues to this day. Northampton’s civic vitality became a model for other communities and allowed local merchants to compete favorably with regional malls. The Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce honored Jim with a large civic dinner in 1986 as its “Citizen of the Year for 1985.”


*A PORTRAIT OF THE WRITER @ SIXTY: Much More To Be Said. Tentative title of an in-process book of edited essays featuring selected newspaper columns from The Daily Hampshire Gazette, Automotive News, Detroit and The Springfield Newspapers. Publication date 2008/9?


GUEST ESSAYS: Daily Hampshire Gazette, Northampton, MA (1992-present). Topics: The Roman Catholic church’s abuse scandal (March 2002), The Northampton State Hospital, The Race for Mayor—50 Years Ago (2003), Making Time for a Few Good Causes (2006), Never Go Short in a Land of Plenty (March 2007), Political Rookies are Prone to Errors, Barak as JFK and other Confusions, Father’s Day (2008).


THE NEW YORK TIMES: Letters to the editor: 1. A Look Back at Chrysler. 2. A Day in Oxford. 3. Appreciating Alan Bennet.


THE SPRINGFIELD NEWSPAPERS: Springfield, MA. Freelance articles on various topics: Posthumous essays recalling Frank Sinatra, Princess Diana, and George Romney of American Motors. University Without Walls at UMass’ 25th anniversary. A 2006 plea to support the UWW 35th anniversary scholarship fund appeal. An informative essay that asked for financial support at The University of Massachusetts Center for Renaissance Studies. An essay critiquing the use of religious icons in secular advertising, and another on the days when prizefighters were national heroes.  In 1998, a pitch for more efficient road design using modern roundabouts to move traffic, cutting fuel use and emissions.



AUTOMOTIVE NEWS, Detroit, MI: SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Journalism assignments supporting the 100th Anniversary issue of the automobile in America. “Jim Cahillane” articles and photos detailing the successful replication of the 1894 Duryea Brothers single-cylinder vehicle by Richard Stevens, a teacher at Putnam Vocational High School in Springfield, MA. 1993. Also, a number of “Commentary” essays on dealer and factory relations, plus contemporary management issues.




One hundred years of time would pass

Since the Duryea Bros. of Springfield, Mass


Upset their neighbors, and our coming world

As down Spruce Street they a carriage hurled


Powered by their imaginations, and gasoline

That sparked a universe: The automotive scene.


Detractors and admirers would ever come and go

Of brothers near forgotten, and children little know


‘Till a teacher said that he bravely would convey

A 3-D course in history: their ancient game replay.


All-new teams of acolytes to study learn and do

Olde wooden crafts of body work; bend and hew


A new piece of travel time, fine in all of its dimensions

Inside, we overhear Frank Duryea’s apprehensions:


“Shall I use a belt to drive, or will it get too hot?

Shall I hire an extra man? Will Charles approve or not?”


Yes, Richard Stevens’ had a dream for himself and you;

Come feel it, hear it, and see it now.

                                                          It’s proof our past is true.


             In appreciation of Richard Stevens, Rick Coffin and Jim Koehler for their brand new l894 Duryea car. You’ve redone the start of Western Massachusetts' automobile history.

Jim Cahillane, July 19, 1993.

















“Driving a Jeep back to D-Day” Thanks to an idea from writers Jules and Effin Older, in 1994 Jim took part in the 50th Anniversary D-Day commemorations in France and England. Chrysler Corporation provided a Jeep Cherokee for three weeks enabling Jim to retrace General Eisenhower’s route from the New Forest and Southwick House in Southern England, including a stop at Slapton Sands in Devon where over 800 men were lost in Operation Tiger, rehearsing the D-Day landings. On a P&O ferry to Normandy Jim sailed past the extensive armada of new and vintage ships in Portsmouth Harbor, including a WWII Liberty ship sailed there by a WWII age crew. He visited Omaha Beach and, with Maureen, laid flowers on local men’s graves in the American cemetery above it. Bomb craters and concrete German emplacements are still in place near the beach. At the last minute he joined a CNN TV crew in a U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter to view the invasion beaches, flying over the village of St. Mere E’glise, famous for John Steele the American parachutist who landed on the church spire during the early hours of June 6, 1944. The Airborne museum there has many artifacts from this early battle to retake France from the enemy.


THE CAPE COD TIMES: Article on the joys of spending two weeks in Florence, Italy. As a student at The British Institute of Florence, Jim studied basic Italian, while Maureen reveled in “The History of Florence.” We met the challenges of mastering the local bus system and visiting churches and museums filled with great art. Michelangelo’s “David” at the Academia dell’ Arte, Fra Angelico’s “Annunciation,” the Ghiberti’ carved Doors to Paradise on the Baptistry, the Boboli Gardens, the Duomo, and the Ponte Vecchio. Walking over the old Vecchio as its gold merchants and African street vendors compete for your attention is one of life’s great experiences. The Institute itself was near the St. Trinita Bridge, which was blown up by retreating German forces as the Allies advanced. The Vecchio was spared due to its age and history, but destroyed buildings blocked the American army’s approaches to that crossing.


WALKING IN ITALY AND MAJORCA: England is where we’ve done the most traveling over forty years, but Italy runs a close second as a country to love. Much of my writing’s depth and breadth often comes from living in a new place, and when possible, hiking at a pilgrim’s pace. In 1989 we made a weeklong trek across Umbria from Todi to Assisi. where we paid homage to my namesake, Saint Francis. I’d read the book, God’s Fool, years before and found a palpable peace and completion on hearing Mass in the crypt of the basilica, where Francis’ casket seemingly floats above the altar. In 2000 we joined a group of English walkers to traverse the pilgrim paths of hilly Majorca. Almond and orange trees were in their spring flowering. We found our way to the ancient hilltop shrine of Our Lady of Lluk. (p. Luke), which has its own miracle beginning. Heeding the good advice to bring a walking stick saved many a day during that week. Don’t leave home without your Leki!


ENGLAND: Is forever Maureen’s home in spirit, as it was in fact for the first twenty years of her life. Her parents, Evelyn and Eddie Stone, are buried in Swindon. As long as we have friends in Wiltshire, and relatives near Cambridge, we will return often. Again, we have walked with groups in the Cotswold’s and Somerset, in addition to the day hikes that are part and parcel of an English holiday.


NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND: Is a friendly town that has figured largely in our lives. Maureen was a four-year boarding student before she graduated from Notre Dame High School in 1951.

In 1953 I was honored to present a hand-lettered invitation from the city of Northampton, Massachusetts to the mayor of its English counterpart. The English mayor and other officials were welcomed to the City of Northampton’s tercentennial celebrations in 1954. In 1954 My father, Mayor James Cahillane, was host to large group from Northampton, England including its Roman Catholic bishop, T. Leo Parker.

In 1956, Northampton, Mass. Mayor, James Cahillane, was welcomed to Northampton, England where he was guest of honor at a Civic Luncheon in the Guild Hall. Mayor Walter Lewis was his host along with the Lord Lieutenant of Northampton, Earl Spencer.

In 1989 My wife Maureen and I were invited to attend the town’s 800th Anniversary of its Charter, which was granted by King Richard 1st. Using our invitations we passed through security to attend a service of thanksgiving at the thousand-year old round Holy Sepulcher Church. Prince Charles read the lesson; The Princess of Wales, Lady Diana Spencer, whose family home is nearby, was also in attendance.

In 1997 I recalled our Northampton day in an essay for The Springfield Republican at the time of Diana’s untimely death. The New York Times even called to apologize that due to the volume of submissions they could not take my “Diana” essay.


ON THE OCEAN BLUE: Taking an ocean liner anywhere is a conundrum for many. Some resist the idea of separating themselves and their sensitive stomachs from a solid shore. Others are claustrophobic, and then there are those that “ship out” because they joined the Navy or some other branch of the military. In my own case, if my future dad had not left Ireland on The Bremen in 1930, you would not be reading this. My troopship to England in 1952 forever set the direction of my adult life.


USNS GENERAL WILLIAM O. DARBY: In November 1952 I left Fort Dix NJ and sailed to Southampton, England aboard the “Darby.” It took us ten days because of an unscheduled stop in Newfoundland to offload a sick passenger. I was an Airman First Class, nineteen years old, and had been in the Air Force for nearly two years. My three stripes may have given me enough courage to submit two poems to the “Daily Darby” newsletter, which appear below in their original state.





Midst utter confusion, and mad delight.

We docked in Southampton,

In the dead of the night.

The ocean was calm,

The night was clear,

I listened--a foreign voice to hear

Hey Mac!!!! Gimme a beer. Overseas????






Read my reader and weep with me,

A home today is not what it should be,

Not for fear of an A bomb or fission

But a little ol’ screen called television


Howdy Doody comes up with Mr Garbo Zala.

While Berle’s telling jokes as old as


Winchell is calling, “All the ships at Sea.”

As John says to Marsha, “Ah come to me.”

                   J. F. Cahillane



Exact in their bad spelling, punctuation and typos from the ship’s newsletter. These two gems are sui generis when the topic turns to juvenilia and yours truly. TV was the latest thing in entertainment; the puppet Howdy Doody, comic Milton Berle, and radio and newspaper columnist, Walter Winchell, were all on my cultural radar. Atomic bombs were being tested in the atmosphere, and I was on my way to an airbase that, we assumed, housed them in the earthen bunkers that adjoined the longest runway in the UK, if not all of Europe. In a few more years the supersonic airliner, Concorde, would be test flown from RAF Fairford.



THE QUEEN ELIZABETH: If my fiancée’, Maureen Stone, had not, with her parents’ permission, taken Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth from Southampton to New York in June of 1955, well, a lot of people’s lives would be non-existent. We wouldn’t sail together until I won a Greek isles Sun Line cruise for hitting my sales quota of new Dodges in 1984.


 In September



In September,

In Northampton

On a sunny day;

A young woman

Walked under

A bright-red umbrella.

In September,

On another sunny day,

A young woman married me.

In September;


I always feel secure,

Always feel loved.

In September.



THE WINDSTAR: March 1988.From Martinique to the Windward Islands on a 440-foot long sailing ship.  We hit a sales quota and chose this trip from a list that included flying to Phuket, Thailand, which to us seemed a waste of a couple days vacation when we could be down in the Caribbean in a few hours.  The Windstar is a special experience because of its shallow draft we were able to visit small islands where the big cruise liners could not. Our “wet landings” in rubberized powerboats added to the thrill of new places.



CUNARD QEII: BOSTON to SOUTHAMPTON: September 15, 2001. In what was the worst week of the 21st century to date, we were booked to celebrate our 46th wedding anniversary by doing what I’d long promised to do, to return to England on the successor ship to the original “Queen Elizabeth” that had brought Maureen to America. We were booked to sail from New York, but due to the 9/11 atrocity the ship detoured to Boston, was quickly restocked in a miracle of reorganization, took on passengers from Cunard’s Caronia liner because airports were closed across the country, and sailed right on time at 5 p.m. Hundreds of shaken travelers canceled their booking, but we did not. Onboard we heard a few horror stories from folks who’d been locked-down in airports, dining on saltines, before being allowed to head for Boston and join the ship at the last moment. The Cunard crew was unflappable as they worked to relieve tensions and make everyone on board comfortable. That we found ourselves in a five-day cocoon away from 24-hour media terror speculation and bad news from New York was, in retrospect, a blessing.


CUNARD QEII: SOUTHAMPTON TO THE MEDITERREAN. September 2005: Two weeks at sea to celebrate fifty years of marriage bliss. We know that we’re blessed, and we were again this 50th anniversary year as we lived out our chosen song, “Our love is here to stay” by George and Ira Gershwin. We’d been to the Colorado Rockies some years before, and on this trip we would visit Gibraltar to test old Ira’s lyrics” The Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, but our love is here to stay:” A providential song choice for two kids dancing in Swindon, Wiltshire in mid-20th century.


FLYING TOO HIGH: Air travel has gone from semi-formal dress exotic to plebian boredom. My first commercial flight was in January 1954 from London to New York on Pan American. I’d been in England for a year, and my mother conspired to fly me home for my dad’s inauguration ceremony as the new mayor of Northampton, MA. I arrived home just in time to miss the ceremony, but the long thirteen-hour flight was eventful as I was invited to visit the flight deck by the pilot who’d had Northampton connections and recognized my name on the passenger list. I wouldn’t fly overseas again until Maureen and I went back to England for her brother’s 1968 wedding. We had five children and international travel was low on our list of priorities. We much enjoyed our first English holiday and have had the good fortune to return many times: Germany, Majorca, France, the Canaries, Ireland, Greece, Bermuda, California, Florida, Hawaii and Scotland. Also, Sardinia, Tuscany, Umbria, Florence, and Venice, Italy became favorite memories. All of these happy landings continue to provide breadth and depth for my articles and poetry.




DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN HISTORY SUPPLEMENT: Charles Scribner’s Sons Reference Books (New York 1996).

Automobile Industry Monograph: James F. Cahillane.

The monograph reviews twenty years of dramatic change in the domestic car industry. Mid-East wars, oil embargoes, gasoline shortages, higher clean air standards and safety concerns had an impact. In addition, the steady influx of foreign cars and foreign owned “transplants” changed the U.S. industry forever. The number of North American based automakers grew from four in the 1970’s to fifteen in 1994.


THE LUCK PENNY: An Irish-American Progress in Northampton, Massachusetts. A Thesis presented by James Francis. Cahillane. Submitted to the Graduate School of the University of Massachusetts in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree: MASTER OF ARTS. May 1997: Department of English.


THE COUNTRY JOURNAL: Journalism 2007-2008 Articles and photographs:

A series of events that were covered and reported in this weekly newspaper devoted to the Hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. Topics: Historic-Barn fire at Cumworth Farm, Fund-raiser for cancer victim, dedication of public service building in Plainfield, author reading in Plainfield library, cruise night at the Cummington Fair, Christmas carol sing in center of Williamsburg, and attempts by interested groups and elected officials to bring Broadband access to make the Hilltowns competitive in the 21st century economy.



Florence Poetry Society Jan Slam. Florence Civic Center. January 27, 2008.

William Cullen Bryant House, Cummington, MA. June 29, 2008 Recorded by The Florence Poets Society for later broadcast on Northampton, MA Cable Television.

One of the Bryant poems remembers our brother, Jack, who left us this past January: