Category Archives: Irish Diaspora

Discovering landmarks and Family History on Blacksod Bay, County Mayo

Continuing along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, rain and low grey cloud were my only companions as I headed into this remote Irish-speaking part of County Mayo. Although visibility was reduced it was still possible to enjoy some lovely sights. The Irish-only road signs were something of a challenge at first, even though I am used to our bilingual signs here in Ireland and Irish-only signs in Donegal, and other Gaeltacht areas, these places were not familiar to me. However, once I figured out that ‘An Fod Dubh’ meant ‘Blacksod’ and that therefore ‘Chuan and Fhóid Duibh’ was Blacksod Bay, I chugged along happily in the beautiful Mullet Peninsula that protects Blacksod Bay from the worst of the Atlantic weather.

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Trá Oilí or Elly Beach

This eye catching beach is one of many big sandy beaches in the area. It sports the Blue Flag, one of the world’s most recognised eco-labels, indicating that it complies with a specific set of criteria on water quality, information points, environmental education, safety and beach management. Raining or not, this is a good beach for swimming!

Tír Sáile – the North Mayo Sculpture Trail –is the largest public arts project ever undertaken in Ireland.  Several of these sites are located here on the Mullet peninsula. This work is entitled ‘Deirbhile’s Twist’ and I like that it was formed by raising large granite boulders already lying around on the ground and arranging them into an eye catching feature. This is located at Falmore which is a beautiful location, even in the mist!

Saint Deirbhile (Dervilla) is a local saint who arrived at Falmore in the 6th Century. Arriving by donkey she was pursued by an unwanted suitor who,so the story goes, was very attracted to her beautiful eyes. Rather drastically she plucked them out to discourage him and he left, heartbroken. Water gushed from the spot where her eyes fell and after bathing her sockets her sight was restored. The ruins of her convent are here near the seashore with Deirbhile’s Well nearby. Modern day pilgrims believe that water from the well can help cure eye complaints and they come here for special devotion on August 15 each year.

Ruins of Dervilla's Monastery

Ruins of Dervilla’s Convent

And then on to the site I was particularly interested in – Blacksod weather station, situated at the end of the peninsula.

This is Blacksod Lighthouse, looking very unlike a traditional lighthouse, perched atop an old granite building that dates from 1864. This is a very significant place because it was from here that a weather report issued on 3rd June 1944 changed the course of history. The World War 2 D-Day landings scheduled for June 5th were delayed because of the hourly weather report lodged by Irish Coast Guardsman and lighthouse keeper Ted Sweeney, which indicated that there would be adverse conditions in the English Channel for the following few days. Blacksod was of particular significance because it was the first land-based observation station in Europe where weather readings could be professionally taken on the prevailing European Atlantic westerly weather systems. Ted’s report on June 3rd mentioned a rapidly falling barometer and strong winds which would have augured badly for the planned invasion. A further report from Ted at 12pm on June 4, said ‘heavy rain and drizzle cleared, cloud at 900 feet and visibility on land and sea very clear’. This meant that better weather was on the way for the south of England, and so Operation Overlord went ahead on June 6th 1944 with calm clear conditions in the English Channel.

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Plaque at Blacksod Lighthouse

There is a nice little harbour alongside the lighthouse, Termon Pier, which was almost totally deserted when I was there with only rain and wind to be heard and seen and a few currachs pulled up out of the water.

Winds were picking up the rain was relentless so it was time to leave. I was delighted that I had made the trip out here and discovered a few sights, in spite of the conditions.  Suddenly there was an incredible noise that almost deafened me and for the life of me I could not figure out what on earth it was.  On turning round I saw a helicopter had just taken off from right beside me, as  there is a Helicopter Landing base beside the Lighthouse!

A helicopter lifts off

A helicopter lifts off.

I left here very pleased with my foray into this area, and with the few treasures I had discovered. However, the Mullet Peninsula had one more surprise in store as not far along the road I  came upon Ionad Naomh Deirbhile, a local Visitor and Heritage Centre.

img_1292Although they were about to close I was invited in for tea and a homemade scone and here discovered the story of The Tuke Fund assisted emigrants. It is not always recognized that hunger in Ireland did not end with the famines of 1845- 1852 and 1879. Hunger and deprivation were a fact of life in poorer districts of the western seaboard in particular, with hundreds of families needing relief into the mid 1880s and beyond. James Hack Tuke (1819-1896) was an English Quaker who made it his mission to aid people suffering from starvation and deprivation in the West of Ireland. One of the features of the Tuke Fund assisted migration was that only entire families would be facilitated, thereby freeing up smallholdings for another family. The emigrants were provided with the fare and money to enable them settle in their new locations.  In 1883 and 1884, 3,300 emigrants left North West Mayo and Achill, boarding ships in Blacksod Bay.  They sailed on 10 separate voyages, for Boston and Quebec. There are impressive storyboards at the centre, where descendants of those who left here almost 140 years ago are welcomed. One such family arrived while I was there. It is reckoned that over 2 million people are descended from these North Mayo emigrants

The research on the Blacksod Tuke Emigration scheme was carried out by Rosemarie Geraghty, I believe for her thesis. Rosemarie has researched the 10 ships manifests that carried these families to their new lives in what she describes as the time of the  ‘forgotten famine’  and is absolutely delighted when descendants arrive here in search of their roots. I asked her what the charges are for family research and she said ‘They left here with nothing, we are never going to charge them to know where they came from.’ Rosemarie is ably assisted by Norah Cawley, a superb scone maker who makes visitors feel very welcome indeed. I have been to many a family research centre before, but never one like this – with such enthusiasm, warmth,  passion  and great scone making!

All of this information with family names  is available free to view, and is searchable under various headings, at http://www.blacksodbayemigration.ie . They just love to hear from anyone wherever in the world whose ancestors may have left this beautiful place over 130 years ago.

On what was a miserable wet grey cloudy day, how lucky was I to discover such wonderful silver linings at the Mullet Peninsula and on the shores of Blacksod Bay!  More treasures of the Wild Atlantic Way – Beidh mé arais arís!

 

St Deirbhile Stained Glass window at the Centre.

St Deirbhile Stained Glass window at the Centre.

References

http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/how-blacksod-lighthouse-changed-the-course-of-the-second-world-war-30319681.html

http://www.blacksodbayemigration.ie/

http://www.museumsofmayo.com/deirbhile.htm

 

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Filed under Emigration from Ireland, Family History, Ireland, Ireland and the World, Irish Countryside, Irish Diaspora, Irish History, Mayo Emigrants

The boy ‘full of frolicsome fun’ who went mad: Martin O’Meara V.C.

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Martin O’Meara

One hundred years ago, less than four months after Ireland’s Easter Rising, a 30 year-old Irishman from County Tipperary was caught up with tens of thousands of others in the bloody Battle of the Somme. This was Martin O’ Meara, whose tragic and sad story has captivated many. My personal story of discovery is here: Discovering Martin O’Meara V.C. & The Psychological Cost of World War One. Martin O’Meara had left the small rural farm in Co Tipperary where he was raised and eventually ended up in Western Australia. Not far from Perth, he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and was sent to France. The very first action the encountered by the 16th Battalion  was on the killing fields of the Somme, at Mouquet Farm near Pozières, France. On these days a century ago, between Wednesday the 9th and  Saturday 12th August 1916, Martin O’Meara astonished his Australian Expeditionary Force officers with acts of daring bravery and courage. His military records contain eye witness accounts of his actions during battle as follows:

“On the night of 8/9 August, I saw Private O’Meara go out into ‘No Man’s Land’ where it was being severely shelled and remove wounded to places of safety where he rendered first aid and subsequently assisted to carry them down to the Dressing Station. I personally saw him remove not less than 6 men, mostly of the 15th Battalion, A.I.F. and the Suffolk Battalion. One of the wounded whom I saw him remove in this is Lieut. Fogarty of the 15th Battalion . A.I F.”  – Captain Ross Harwood.

“Late in the afternoon of the 12th instant, after my Company had been relieved in the front firing line, I noticed Lieut. Carse of the No.4 Machine Gun Company, lying wounded in a sap which was at that time out off from the rear by a very heavy barrage. In order to go to the assistance of this officer No. 3970 Private O’Meara with great gallantry and utmost fearlessness went through the barrage and subsequently assisted to bring him down to the Regimental Aid Post”  – Captain A McLeod.

“On the morning  of the 11th August, O’Meara was on scouting duty in ‘No Man’s Land’. At this time some three machine guns were firing over the section of ground which he was examining, and it was also being very heavily shelled with H.E shells.  About ten minutes after I saw him going over the parapet into ‘No Man’s Land’. I saw him return carrying a wounded man whom he had found lying in a shell hole in ‘No Man’s Land’. Having dressed the wounds of this man he returned to ‘No Man’s Land’ in pursuance of his duty as a Scout. My notice was again drawn to this man on the morning of the 12th when the section of  trench occupied by my company was being heavily bombarded by H.E and Shrapnel. I withdrew the garrison to either flank from one portion that was in process of being completely obliterated which subsequently happened; one man failed to get out in time and was buried. O’Meara, despite the overwhelming fire, at once rushed to the spot, extricated the man concerned and thereby undoubtedly saved his life. During the advance of the Battalion, on the night of 9/10th a number of men were wounded and left lying on the ground over which the advance had been made and subsequently on the 11/12th runners and carriers who had occasion to cross this area were wounded there. I saw O’Meara on many occasions on the 10/11/12th August search the ground for wounded to whom he rendered first aid, and whom he subsequently brought in or assisted to bring in  “  – Major P Black.

“I saw O’Meara on a number of occasions attending to or bringing in wounded men from an area over which the Battalion had advanced and from ‘No Man’s Land’. I estimate that the number of men rescued by him is not less than 20. At times when he was carrying out this work of mercy, the shrapnel and machine gun fire was intense beyond description. I cannot state who these men were – they were mostly members of the 15th Battalion, A.I.F  and the Suffolk Battalion , but I am able to identify Lieut. FOGARTY of the 15th Battalion , A.I.F to whom he rendered first aid and whom he subsequently brought into trench.This officer had been wounded and had been lying in ‘No Man’s Land’ for about 4 hours: the enemy fire at this point was so dense that it had been impossible to make a search for wounded, but such conditions did not deter O’Meara “ – Lieutenant F. Wadge.

”I respectfully beg to draw your attention to the conduct of No. 3970 Private O’MEARA, M., during the recent operations of this Battalion. Private O’Meara is the most fearless and gallant soldier I have ever seen; besides doing the very arduous duties imposed on him, by reason of his being in the Scouting Section, efficiently and cheerfully, this man used to fill in his time bringing in wounded under all conditions. Private O’Meara is always cheerful and optimistic, will volunteer for any job, and can be trusted to carry any duty through with the utmost certainty. During Friday night’s operations I required more ammunition and bombs on the left Sector, most of the reserve stocks having been buried owing to there being no communication saps, and the perfect hail of shells that were blowing the parapets to pieces, I would not detail anyone for this job. O’Meara went on his own initiative to the Battalion Dump twice, returning with S.A.A. and Bombs; on his second return he managed to guide a fatigue party across and relieved us of our shortage. During these trips he located wounded men and carried 3 of them back to the Dressing Station. This man has been responsible for the evcuaton of at least 20 men under conditions that are indescribable.’‘ – Lieut. W. J. Lynas

”On the night of the 11/12th August, that section of the Front Line occupied by ‘D’ Company was intensely shelled. All communication trenches were blown in as well as  cosiderable portion of the Front system of trenches. It was discovered that the supply of S.A.A. was very short, and that all bombs and flares for signalling purposes had been buried: An Infantry assault was expected to succeed the barrage. O’Meara volunteered to go down to the Regimental Dump and procure ammunition, bombs and flares. He made this trip twice and on both occasions staggered back under a very heavy load of the munitions required” – Lt. R.S Somerville 

On the evening of the 12th instant, after my Battaion had been relieved I met O’Meara near CHALK PITS going in the direction of POZIERS. He has previously been sent down as a guide to ‘D’ Company. When I asked him where he was going he informed me that he had just heard of 2 wounded men from the Battalion who had no been brought in from ‘No man’s Land’. He was subsequently seen by Lieut. Cook in the front trenches. The following day the attached note was received from him by my Scout Officer. During the latter stages of the relief of the Battalion a very heavy German artillery barrage was put down over the Communication trenches south of POZIERS. In order to carry out his mission of mercy this man voluntary returned through the barrage referred to after having reached a position of comparative safety.” E Drake Brockman, Lieut-Colonel, Major-General, Comdg, 4th AUSTRALIAN DIVISION

The terrible fighting that took place at Pozières and Mouquet Farm over less than seven weeks resulted in 23,000 Australian casualties, with 6,800 dead. Charles Bean, an Australian war historian described some of the horror ..

The reader must take for granted many of the conditions – the flayed land, shell–hole bordering shell–hole, corpses of young men lying against the trench walls or in shell–holes; some – except for the dust settling on them – seeming to sleep; others torn in half; others rotting, swollen and discoloured. 

Add to this the deafening noise, the exhaustion, the sights and sounds of screaming men, the rats, the trenches – this was a scene of horror that must have impacted all those who were there.

The image below was photographed on August 28 1916, at  The “Gibraltar” bunker, Pozières. A fatigue party laden with sandbags heads for the fighting at Mouquet Farm. and shows the total devastation caused by the barrage of shells that rained down on the area.

Heading for the fighting at Mouquet Farm (Image Wikimedia Commons)

Martin O’Meara was awarded a Victoria Cross, the citation for which was published in the Supplement to the London Gazette of Friday 9, September 1916:

No. 3970 Pte. Martin O’Meara, Aus. Infy. For most conspicuous bravery. During four days of very heavy fighting he repeatedly went out and brought in wounded officers and men from “No Man’s Land” under intense artillery and machine gun fire. He also volunteered and carried up ammunition and bombs through a heavy barrage to a portion of the trenches, which was being heavily shelled at the time. He showed throughout an utter contempt of danger, and undoubtedly saved many lives.

I was delighted to have had the opportunity to see first hand the actual Victoria Cross presented to Martin O’Meara by  King George V at Buckingham Palace on 21 July 1917.

Martin O'Meara's Victoria Cross

Martin O’Meara’s Victoria Cross

O’Meara was wounded and was returned to England for treatment. Meanwhile news of his Victoria Cross award had reached Tipperary and there was great jubilation in the area. The local newspaper, the Nenagh Guardian of Sept 30, 1916, described him as ‘a bright lively boy full of frolicsome fun and a keen lover of sport’. He was welcomed back to Tipperary in October and on the 24th of that month he attended a meeting at nearby Borrisokane and thanked the gathering for their congratulations and for agreeing to take up a collection in his honour.

He rejoined the ANZACS but returned again to Tipperary in October 1917, where his demeanor was described as ‘strange’. He had failed to attend an event in Lorrha where his sister accepted a gold watch purchased from proceeds of the collection and the balance of £150. As a serving soldier he was not permitted to accept the money but it was held in trust for him. Martin was wounded three times during the war. He was  returned to Australia in November 1918 before the end of the war and almost immediately was hospitalized suffering from a mental breakdown. At what stage did the breakdown happen? Was it after the Mouquet Farm actions for which he won the V.C.? Was it a slow process that began to overcome him while on active service?  Reading the accounts above given by the officers in the field, one would wonder what drove him to be so courageous and to put himself in such danger to carry out the deeds in the first place. Did the breakdown happen before he returned to Australia? Was that the real reason he was sent home early? There are many unanswered questions regarding Martin and his mental illness. Shellshock was a relatively new phenomenon and was often seen as ‘malingering’ when displayed in regular soldiers. Treatment was in its infancy and there is no doubt but that his condition was both misunderstood and treated in a very basic fashion, certainly in the early days.

The  bright lively boy full of frolicsome fun who ran and played  in the green fields of Tipperary, the efficient,cheerful and optimistic soldier who went into battle, had gone mad.  Martin O’Meara, the hero of Pozières was incarcerated in mental institutions for the rest of his days, often restrained  in a strait jacket, often violent, often hearing voices. He died after 17 years in torment on 20 December 1935  and lies in this lonely plot in a vast graveyard in Western Australia.

Martin O Meara, the once bright lively boy full of frolicsome fun, lies in this lonely grave in Western Australia.

Martin O Meara V.C.  lies in this lonely grave in Western Australia.

After his death, the Catholic parish priest in Lorrha Co Tipperary went to court to have Martin’s bequest for the restoration of the old Abbey  in the village set aside and instead used to provide a pair of confessionals in the Church with the balance to be used for the building of Redwood school. An ironic enough situation given that the local clergy did not attend the event held in Martin’s honour many years earlier. The £150 pounds had become £370. 9 shillings and 1 penny by 1939. £60 pounds was expended on the confessionals and after expenses of £8. 8 shillings the balance of £362.1s.1d was allocated to Redwood school. This was a substantial sum in 1939 – equivalent to about €18,400 in modern currency. It is to he hoped that the pupils of that school are familiar with the story of the local hero, Martin O’Meara who played sport in the area just as they do and who loved having fun, who so courageously looked after his comrades in terrible circumstances. It is to be hoped that he is more to them than a name  inscribed on a local memorial in Lorrha village and on a small brass plaque in the Catholic church.

In Western Australia Martin O’Meara is well and proudly remembered nowadays by the Irish community, in particular Fred Rea of ‘The Australian Irish Scene’ and Ian Loftus and he is commemorated in Collie where he enlisted, as well as at the State War Memorial in Perth’s Kings Park on an annual basis. My good friend Leith Landauer who is a  guide at Kings Park first introduced me to Martin’s story. She has done trojan work to highlight the sacrifice he made for fellow Australians. To mark the centenary of the actions that earned him the Victoria Cross, Ian has written a biography of Martin O’Meara dispelling some of the myths and exploring the real story of this Tipperary man, this Irishman who gave his life, body mind and soul to help others. The book is aptly titled The most fearless and gallant soldier I have ever seen and is available here.

Martin O’Meara V.C.

November 6 1885 – December 20 1935

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam

Oh, The Pity of War.

Wilfred Owen – Mental Cases

Who are these? Why sit they here in twilight?
Wherefore rock they, purgatorial shadows,
Drooping tongues from jaws that slob their relish,
Baring teeth that leer like skulls’ teeth wicked?
Stroke on stroke of pain, – but what slow panic,
Gouged these chasms round their fretted sockets?
Ever from their hair and through their hands’ palms
Misery swelters. Surely we have perished
Sleeping, and walk hell; but who these hellish?

– These are men whose minds the Dead have ravished.
Memory fingers in their hair of murders,
Multitudinous murders they once witnessed.
Wading sloughs of flesh these helpless wander,
Treading blood from lungs that had loved laughter.
Always they must see these things and hear them, 
Batter of guns and shatter of flying muscles,
Carnage incomparable, and human squander
Rucked too thick for these men’s extrication.

Therefore still their eyeballs shrink tormented
Back into their brains, because on their sense 
Sunlight seems a blood-smear; night comes blood-black;
Dawn breaks open like a wound that bleeds afresh.
– Thus their heads wear this hilarious, hideous,
Awful falseness of set-smiling corpses.
– Thus their hands are plucking at each other; 
Picking at the rope-knouts of their scourging;
Snatching after us who smote them, brother,
Pawing us who dealt them war and madness

References

National Archives of Australia Records

Australian Dictionary of Biography

Charles Bean, The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1916, Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918, Volume III, p. 728

War image is from the Collection Database of the  Australian War Memorial ID Number: EZ0098

https://ianloftus.com/martin-omeara-vc/the-most-fearless-and-gallant-soldier-i-have-ever-seen/www.awm.gov.au

http://www.seamusjking.com

Army Museum of Western Australia

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Filed under Ireland, Ireland and the World, Irish at War, Irish Australian, Irish Diaspora, Irish diaspora in Australia

Remembering Aunt May.

James Gallagher and Mary Friel with their firstborn, Mary Isabella Gallagher in 1917

James Gallagher and Mary Friel, our grandparents, with their firstborn, Mary Isabella Gallagher in 1917

On  May 17, 1917 our aunt May was born at her grandparent’s house in Pollaid, Fanad Co Donegal. At that time her father James Gallagher  was teaching in Templedouglas National School in Glenswilly. As was quite usual then, the expectant mother returned to the home of her parents to give birth. Mary Isabella (always known as ‘May’) was  christened on the same day as she was born, at St Columba’s Church in Tamney. The godparents (sponsors) were Anna Friel, Mary’s sister and her brother Francis.

Baptismal certificate

Baptismal certificate.

The birth was not registered in the civil register until July and we can see that her mother’s sister, Susan McAteer, was present when Aunt May arrived into the world.

Civil birth registration

Civil birth certificate.

Aunt May left Ireland in February 1938 to join a religious teaching order, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, in the south of England. At that time, it was understood that religious sisters would not ever return to their family home, so it was knowing this that the 20-year-old bravely boarded a bus in her home village of Carrigart, Co Donegal on a cold February morning. She told me years later that she was crying as she did so, and that the local priest came on to the bus and ordered her to stop crying, but also very kindly said to her ‘If you don’t like it, you don’t have to stay.’  This she said, gave her great courage and it was something she repeated to herself many times a day for years afterwards. But her mother had now died and she felt compelled by the special promise she had made to her. She also told me, something that astounded her brothers and sister, that when she was only 7 years of age, her mother asked her if she would become a nun, and she promised her that she would.  She told me that this was a conversation they had as they waited for the bucket of spring  water to fill at the local ‘spout’. While this may seem astonishing to modern readers, it was considered a great honour to have a daughter enter a convent,or to have a son who became a priest.  Her first wish was to join the Sisters of Nazareth in Derry only 40 miles away and to become a nurse. However, she had a first cousin who was already in the Sisters of Notre Dame, and she was prevailed upon to join that order instead.

imageShe had an interesting, sometimes sad and often joyful life, but  in later years suffered ill-health.  More about her will be posted  in a future blog. I was fortunate to spend her last four days by her bedside. I went to see her early in the morning before I had to get a flight back to Ireland. When I arrived home that afternoon, I picked up the phone to enquire about her, to be told that she had died earlier in the day. She died on May 10 2007 and was buried on May 15 2007 in Dumbarton Scotland, just days short of her much-anticipated 90th birthday.

She continues to be sadly missed by the writer and by my aunt and cousins who knew her very well. She is especially remembered today, on what would have been her 99th birthday.

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Filed under Family History, Ireland, Irish Diaspora

Postcards from Cobh Co. Cork

Just about a 15 minute drive away is the fascinating town of Cobh, County Cork. It was known in earlier times as Queenstown, then as Cove. The spelling was then changed to the Irish Cobh (‘bh’ in Irish sounds like ‘V’), so pronunciation remained unchanged. This seaport on the southern coast of Ireland features large in the history of our nation. Sitting on what is one of the world’s finest natural harbours, Cobh has witnessed the emigration of millions of Irish whether by transportation to penal colonies, or in search of a better life in the New World. It is a poignant place, where so many of our people last stood on their home soil. My uncle was one of these who left for America from here and the sight of Cobh as they pulled out to sea stayed with him as a sad and tearful memory for decades.

Stark figures indeed!

Stark figures indeed!

Cobh has also figured large in maritime history. Nearby is Haulbowline the base for the Irish Navy and Spike Island with its 18th century star-shaped fort and a former prison.

The beautiful cathedral church of the Diocese of Cloyne stands over the town.

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Designed by Pugin and opened in 1879, St Colman’s is on the site of the old Bridwell. This beautiful building dominates everything around. The spire was added to the structure later and completed in 1915. The largest Carillon  in Ireland and Britain comprising 49 bells is here and following restoration it is now considered one of the best in the world. Cast in Loughborough, England and weighing some 25 tons, the bronze bells were transported from Liverpool to Cobh by courtesy of the British Navy, as no civilian vessels could make such a delivery during World War 1. The bells are not rung with ropes but are played with a keyboard with pedals that move the clappers. I was here at 4 pm which is one of the times when the hour chimes are followed by a tune. It was quite an experience to hear them ring out over the harbour!

Cobh has very steep little lanes leading down to the water’s edge,with colourful houses and quite a nice assortment of buildings.

Way below the imposing spire at the water’s edge is a delightful park, known locally as The Prom. Restored and upgraded several times, it was constructed in 1805 and  renamed Kennedy Memorial Park in the 1980s. I am not sure what connection JFK had with the town.

Cobh famously was the last port of call for the ill-fated Titanic on her maiden voyage. The old White Star Line offices now house the Titanic Experience Exhibition. It was from here that the 3rd Class passengers embarked, while the 1st and 2nd class passengers embarked from the jetty at the old railway station.  Sadly the historic 3rd class pier has fallen into disrepair. (I have written posts on the TITANIC in the past, links to these are at the end of the post)

But Cobh is associated with another major maritime tragedy. On 7 May 1915, 101 years ago tomorrow, the Cunard liner RMS Lusitania sailing from New York to Liverpool was torpedoed by a German U Boat, off the County Cork coast with the loss of 1,198 lives. Although she sank within 18 minutes of being hit, 761 passengers survived. This incident is considered to be the catalyst for the entry of the USA into the war. In Cobh there is a fine monument commemorating the tragedy where many of the survivors and the dead came ashore.  The monument in the main street is directly in front of the building which was used as a morgue for the dead in 1915.

In the Kennedy Memorial Park there is a wall in remembrance of the survivors of the disaster.

194 of the Lusitania victims rest in three mass graves and 24 individual plots at the local cemetery. The mass graves contain 23 bodies, 52 bodies and 69 bodies respectively, with names of those buried there carved on 3 glass memorials.

These sad memorials are in the very historic graveyard that bears witness to a number of tragedies at sea, with many sailors resting here. It is worthy of a visit to experience some of the history and to marvel at some of the stonemasons craft.

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The Republican Plot

Back in the town, one of the most famous sculptures is dedicated to Annie Moore and her brothers who sailed from Cobh to join their parents in New York. Annie was the first person to pass through Ellis Island.

Cobh is a town that has so much to offer that it would take a number of visits to cover it all. I am fortunate that it is almost in my backyard, so I will be there on a regular basis, to explore its beauty and other aspects of the fascinating history of the place.

Previous posts on the Titanic

A Mayo village devastated by the Titanic disaster.

April 11 1912. Titanic sails from Queenstown.

April 13 1912 Titanic sails in calm waters

April 14 1912. Iceberg Ahead! Goodbye all!

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Filed under Emigration from Ireland, Ireland, Irish Diaspora, Irish Heritage, Irish History, Mayo Emigrants, My Travels, Titanic

Remembering Derryveagh Evictions 10 April 1861

For the past two days I have reposted blogs written to commemorate the first two days of evictions of families from Derryveagh County Donegal in April 1861. Today I repost the last in the series,looking at events on 10 April 1861.

The  earlier posts can be seen at Derryveagh Evictions I: Shattered Homes Shattered Lives and Derryveagh Evictions II:Shattered Hearths

Derryveagh Evictions III: The Scattering

The 10th of April 1861 was the third day of the brutal evictions ordered by the cruel landlord John George Adair, on his estate at Derryveagh, Co Donegal. By 2 o’clock in the afternoon of that day, the work was done. The Deputy Sheriff, Crookshank, and his 200 men had changed the landscape and changed the lives of a group of unfortunate and powerless people who were already living in hardship. Liam Dolan in his ‘Land War and Evictions in Derryveagh’ states:

”By two, Wednesday afternoon, the terrible work had been accomplished and a deathly silence fell over the whole area”.

This third post in the series marking the 150th anniversary of the Derryveagh evictions looks at the fate of the dispossessed.

A Derryveagh Family –  From an article by Paul J Mc Geady, Donegal Genealogy Resources.

The names of these people and the townlands where they lived, live on in lists. Unfortunately as there are differences in family names and numbers in particular townlands, it is hard to know which list is the definitive one. However, at the end of this post, I have included the names of the families and the townlands, according to one such list, from the Londonderry Standard.

So what became of these unfortunate families? Where did they end up?

Records from the Workhouse in Letterkenny list the people who went there and provide information on their occupations, their townland of origin and their date of entry. Many of these would have left the workhouse when their prospects changed – if work became available, to go to live with relatives, or perhaps to emigrate.

Others who had been offered temporary shelter, in Cloughaneely for example, may well have stayed in the area, as perhaps would those who found shelter with relatives and friends. May McClintock suggests in her publication that many may have indeed stayed in the general area, around Creeslough, Glendowan and Churchill.

A third tranche, mostly younger people, and many probably children of the people evicted, took advantage of the Donegal Relief Committee Fund and availed of assisted passage to Australia. The Donegal Relief  Fund had been set up in Australia in 1858  for the assistance of people from Donegal who were in dire circumstances. The geography of the county in the bleak and cold north-west with its barren, mountainous terrain, together with the decision by land owners to end the practice of allowing tenants to graze their sheep on the upper slopes in summer, gave rise to an annual famine lasting about three months. Following supplications from the local clergy in Donegal, the Donegal Relief Committee in Australia raised funds to help with immigration. The relief fund appears to have operated from 1858 when large numbers of people from Gweedore, Cloughaneely and Tory Island availed of the opportunity for a new life ‘down under’. Following the Derryveagh evictions, new pleas for help were made by the local clergy with the result that many young people had an opportunity to leave for a new life in Australia. And so in January 1862, 143 persons from Derryveagh joined 130 Gweedore people who departed Plymouth on a sea voyage of 3 months or more. That more family members  left Ireland is a certainty. England and Scotland were close to home and were accessible relatively cheaply. It is known that many went to Australia, some ended up in New Zealand and a number also went to America. The nature of the records at the time – where addresses recorded on ships lists often state the county of origin and not the townland, together with the preponderance of similar family and first names provide a challenge for researchers.

One researcher in particular stands out in the telling of the story and tracing of the families of Derryveagh. She is Lindel Buckley, a direct descendant of a family from Glendowan. Her great great grandmother who lived in Stramore, just to the south west of Altnadogue, and whose sister had married a Sweeney from Derryveagh, emigrated to New Zealand in the 1860s. Lindel has located and transcribed hundreds of  historical records from Donegal and of relevance to Donegal, and has made them available without charge on her website Donegal Genealogy Resources. Her extraordinary compilation has been and continues to be an inspiration to many. Through her work and her enthusiasm, she is one of the people who keep the Derryveagh story alive.

A new book, written by local school teacher Christy Gillespie and his pupils, documents the personal stories of the people who were evicted in Derryveagh and was launched last Saturday by the Australian Ambassador to Ireland, Bruce Davis and the local historian May McClintock. Aptly named “A Deathly Silence” this new book will hopefully interest a new generation and give  new insights into the people who are the key figures in this story,the people of Derryveagh.

THE  DERRYVEAGH PEOPLE BY TOWNLAND

BINGORMS

Hanna M’Award (Widow) and 7 children. – evicted and house levelled.

Joseph M’Cormack, wife and 5 children – restored to possession as caretaker.

ALTNADOGUE

Hugh Sweeney ( Widower) and 2 sons – evicted and house locked.

James Sweeney, wife and 8 children- evicted and house locked.

Owen Sweeney, wife, mother and 8 children – evicted and house locked.

MAGHERNASHANGAN

James M’Monagle, wife and 6 children- readmitted as tenant until November.

John Brady, wife and 5 children- readmitted as weekly tenant.

Francis Bradley, wife and 5 children -readmitted as weekly tenant.

Patrick Bradley, wife and 4 children -evicted and house levelled.

John and Fanny Bradley, a brother and sister, both deaf and dumb – allowed to retain possession.

Roger O’Flanigan, wife, brother, mother and 4 children- evicted and house levelled.

James Gallagher, wife and 7 children – evicted and house levelled.

SLOGHALL (STAGHALL?)

Daniel Friel, wife, mother, brother, and 1 child- evicted.

William M’Award, wife and 2 children- evicted and house levelled.

James Doherty, wife and 1 child- evicted and house levelled.

James Lawn, wife and 9 children – readmitted as tenant until November.

CLAGGAN

John Bradley, wife and 3 children – evicted and house levelled.

Michael Bradley, wife and 4 children – evicted and house levelled.

Catherine Conaghan (Widow), sister in law, brother in law, and 2 children – evicted and house levelled.

WARRENTOWN

Edward Coyle,wife and 1 child – evicted and house levelled.

Knocker Friel, wife and 6 children – evicted and house levelled.

Knocker Kelly and two servants – evicted and house levelled.

William Armstrong (Widower), and 3 children-evicted and house levelled.

Rose Dermot, Orphan – evicted and house levelled.

ARDARTUR

Daniel M’Award, wife and 6 children- evicted and house levelled.

Charles Doohan, wife, son and  2 grandchildren – evicted and house levelled.

William Doohan, wife and 4 children- evicted and house levelled.

John Doohan, wife and 5 children -evicted and house levelled.

Connell Doohan, wife – retained as weekly tenants.

Patrick Curran, wife and 5 children – evicted and house levelled.

DRUMNALIFFERNEY

Owen M’Award, wife and 4 children – evicted and house levelled

Mary M’Award (Widow) and 3 children -evicted and house levelled.

CASTLETOWN

Bryan Doherty (Widower), mother, sister and 1 child – evicted and house levelled.

Hugh Coll, wife and 4 children – evicted and house levelled.

Patrick Devenney, wife and 2 children -evicted and house levelled.

John Friel, wife and 2 children – evicted and house levelled.

Michael Friel and 1 child – evicted and house levelled.

Robert Burke, wife – evicted and house levelled.

Charles Callaghan- evicted and house levelled.

John Moore, wife and 2 children – evicted and house levelled.

Manus Rodden, brother and two sisters – orphans- evicted and house levelled.

Bernard Callaghan, mother and brother – evicted and house levelled.

SHREEHAGANON (SRUHANGARROW?)

Edward Sweeney and 3 children – evicted and house levelled.

Daniel Doherty, wife, father and 2 children -evicted and house levelled.

Bryan Doherty, wife and 4 children-evicted and house levelled.

– From the Londonderry Standard, Glenveagh, April 10th 1861.

References:

Dolan, Liam. 1980. Land War and Eviction in Derryveagh, 1840- 65. Annaverna Press.

McClintock, May. After the Battering Ram- the trail of the dispossessed from Derryveagh, 1861- 1991. An Taisce Pamphlet

Vaughan, William Edward. 1983. Sin, Sheep and Scotsmen: John George Adair and the Derryveagh evictions 1861. Ulster Historical Foundation. Accessed at TARA: Trinity Access to Research Archive

Families evicted from Derryveagh

Donegal Relief Fund- Australia. Accessed at Donegal Genealogy Resources

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Remembering Derryveagh Evictions 9 April 1861

Yesterday on 8 April I  reposted a blog commemorating the 1st day of evictions from Derryveagh County Donegal on this day in 1861. This post, Derryveagh Evictions 1: Shattered homes, shattered lives, can be seen here. Today I  the continue the series with the events of day 2 of the evictions on 9 April 1861.

Derryveagh Evictions II: Shattered Hearths

On April 9th 1861, the second day of the Derryveagh Evictions, the Deputy Sheriff and his 200 men, armed with battering rams and crowbars made their way through the townlands of Derryveagh. Their purpose was to clear the land of men, women and children to make way for the flocks of sheep that landlord John George Adair had imported from Scotland. Convinced that one of his stewards had been murdered by his tenants, and vexed that the murderers had not been identified by police, he set in train a legal process to evict all of them from his lands.

The townlands of Derryveagh where the evictions took place. Click to enlarge. Compiled from Historic and OSI maps – With many thanks to Sara Nylund.

According to the official report, 37 Husbands, 35 Wives, 159 Children and 13 ‘Other Inmates’ were evicted – a total of 244 people. Of these, 31 people, representing 4 families, were readmitted into possession as tenants, and a further 28 people, representing 6 families, were readmitted into possession as caretakers. These numbers include children. Eventually however, only 3 of these families were permanently reinstated, the rest were removed in the months after the main evictions. In Derryveagh, on those 3 terrible days, 28 of the 46 houses were either levelled or had the roof removed.

Accounts of the evictions and the effects on the families concerned make for harrowing reading. The first house to be levelled was that of a 60-year-old widow, Hanna Ward (Award), her 6 daughters and one son. Eyewitness accounts tell of the wailing and deep distress as they were forced from their home. When the ‘crowbar brigade’ began to demolish the house, the family ”became frantic with despair, throwing themselves to the ground; their terrifying cries resounding along the mountains for many miles”. It was said that ”those who witnessed their agony will never forget the sight”. This scene was repeated over and over again during the following few days. It was reported that the scenes were so harrowing that the policemen carrying out the evictions were moved to tears. In one house, an elderly man was repeatedly told by the sheriff to leave the house, and “the old man in doing so, kissed the walls of his house and each member of his family did the same”. There was no regard for individual circumstances  – no mercy was shown to Rose Dermott, an orphan, whose house was levelled just the same as those of 3 of her close neighbours, although a brother and sister who were both deaf and dumb had their house spared.

Such unimaginable terror was in itself bad enough, but the evicted families and their children had to find someplace to live. In the townland of Altnadogue for example, three Sweeney families with 18 children between them, were locked out of their homes. They moved to nearby Glendowan, away from Adair lands, and built sod houses for themselves. Hearing of the evictions, people in nearby Cloughaneely provided temporary shelter for some of the families. One family in Staghall, a man his wife and two children,were found to still be living in the ruins of their house some time later. The family had lived there for generations. A further group of five men were discovered huddled around a fire with no shelter as they were unwilling to move away. A month after the evictions, 14 families were still unaccounted for or were wandering through the ruins of their homes.

Six families found shelter with or near to, relatives and friends, but 13 families had to take refuge in the Workhouse in Letterkenny. In the Workhouse it was reported that the Derryveagh people sat in a huddle weeping, and were so distressed that they were unable to eat. The elderly John Doherty of Castletown died only days after being admitted to the Workhouse and Michael Bradley is said to have gone insane.

News of the evictions and the desperate plight of the dispossessed reached Irish people across the world. In Dublin, in France and in Australia  money was collected. The Donegal Relief Committee assisted young people from Derryveagh in making new lives in Australia. On January 18th 1862, emotional and heart-rending scenes once again broke the hearts of the people of Derryveagh as parents and friends bade farewell to 68 young men, 70 young women and a young married couple with their 2 small children, as they left Derryveagh forever on the long journey to Australia, probably never to return.

Over the next few years, many mostly young people emigrated from this locality – they headed to America, to Australia, to New Zealand.

References:

Dolan, Liam. 1980. Land War and Eviction in Derryveagh, 1840- 65. Annaverna Press.

McClintock, May. After the Battering Ram- the trail of the dispossessed from Derryveagh, 1861- 1991. An Taisce Pamphlet

Vaughan, William Edward. 1983. Sin, Sheep and Scotsmen: John George Adair and the Derryveagh evictions 1861. Ulster Historical Foundation. Accessed at TARA: Trinity Access to Research Archive

Official Statistic Report of the Evictions

Donegal Relief Fund- Australia. Accessed at Donegal Genealogy Resources

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Terry Wogan: From an Irish Convent to the IRA Bombings

This morning we heard the sad news of the death of Terry Wogan, an Irish-born broadcaster who for decades had various light entertainment programmes on TV and Radio mostly in the United Kingdom. It is reckoned that he may well have had the largest audiences of any broadcaster in the world. As the BBC compère for the Eurovision Song Contest he brought millions to their TV sets just to hear his witty comments. Even when living in Ireland we preferred to tune in to the BBC just for the fun of listening to him and his wry gentle sense of humour.
I first came across Terry Wogan when as a teenager I was incarcerated in the St. Louis Convent Boarding School in Dundalk, County Louth, hundreds of miles from home. In the rarefied atmosphere of all girls boarding school we were living in such an emotionally deficient bubble that we sometimes ‘fixated’ on people in the public domain. (Most especially male). The marriage of Ringo Starr of Beatles fame for example threw the entire school into disarray and at least one of our number cried for an entire term, such was her upset.
And likewise with the marriage of Terry Wogan to the lovely fashion model,Helen Joyce in 1965. I am not sure that I even knew much about him at that time! Ireland’s television service, just launched in 1961 was still in its infancy, but Terry Wogan had made a mark as a newsreader and announcer, he had been one of the TV commentators covering the 1963 visit of President Kennedy to Ireland. And he was handsome to boot. Yet he caused a stir when it became known that he had married Helen. Helen Joyce was probably as well-known as Terry for she regularly appeared in the Sunday newspaper (Sunday Press or Sunday Independent, I do not recall which). Each Sunday there was a strip of small photos of models modelling coats, or dresses, or hats with the name of the model added alongside.

Wogan Wedding

Terry Wogan marries Helen Joyce in 1965. (Image RTE Archives)

The marriage caused a great sense of disappointment. I clearly recall class mates being incredulous that Terry Wogan had done such a thing. How could he go off and get married! And besides,was she really THAT nice? Even though I was not really sure who he was I was caught up in the clamour of disbelief and the sense that perhaps he was not quite ‘of sound mind’ to have married at all! (These thoughts astonish me even now, but such was the lot of hormonal teenagers!)
Fast forward several years and I am an economic migrant living in London. In the 1970s IRA terrorists began bombing in the UK. It was a tough place to be Irish. Hardly a day passed without some hurtful remark or comment from work colleagues or shop assistants or bus conductors. Terry Wogan was by now presenting a morning radio show on the BBC. He held his head high throughout the atrocities. He never referred to the terror and the killings but remained proudly Irish and set a great example for those of us expats who lived and worked there. We watched footage of the carnage caused by so-called Irish patriots on TV in the evening and went to work listening to the soft Irish tones of Terry Wogan on his breakfast programme. To me personally his gentle quirky humour made it easier to be Irish in those dark times and his great good humour set me up for many a day as I headed to the office.
In the Telegraph Obituary published today John Humphrys of the Today programme ”put his finger on the Irishman’s secret: “It is just that he puts his audience at ease. That’s why they want to listen, because they feel better about themselves after they have listened to him. He has made the nation feel at ease with itself and that’s a great gift and we owe him a lot for that”. He certainly put a lot of expat Irish at ease during those awful times.

He also fronted the BBC presentation of the Annual Eurovision Song Contest which gave joy to millions as he gently berated the goings-on. His Eurovision quips were legendary, some of which can  be seen here .

But there are two quotes from him that I think sum him up:

About his long happy marriage of over 50 years to Helen: “If the present Mrs Wogan has a fault – and I must tread carefully here – this gem in the diadem of womanhood is a hoarder. She never throws anything out. Which may explain the longevity of our marriage.”

When he met the Queen of England (a regular listener to his programme) on a visit to the BBC she asked him how long he had worked at the BBC. He replied  ”Your Majesty, I’ve never worked here.”

Terry Wogan who broke the hearts of schoolgirls in 1965, has broken hearts again. While we rejoice that he has lived and are the better of it, the President of Ireland,The Queen of England, Prime Ministers of both the UK and Ireland, the Children in Need Charity which he started in 1980 and which has so far raised £300 million, his work colleagues in Ireland and London, his listeners and fans everywhere, and most especially his wife, children and grandchildren all mourn his passing on this day, January 31 2016.

Ochón! Ochón!

Terry Wogan after receieving his Knighthood at Buckingham palace in 2005 (Image Wikimedia Commons

Terry Wogan after receiving his Knighthood at Buckingham palace in 2005 (Image Wikimedia Commons)

 

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