Waving Goodbye

James Joyce once wrote, “The shortest way to Tara is via Holyhead.”

The Hill of Tara is in Ireland and was the seat of the High Kings of Celtic Ireland.

Holyhead is in Wales. If you look at a map of Ireland find Dublin and make a straight line with your finger across the water until you hit the first piece of land. That’s Holyhead.

Joyce’s message was that if the Irish people were to understand themselves and their country then they would have to leave the island.

Maybe there is some truth to that. I don’t know. Maybe it worked for him.

So here is the story I was going to write about the siblings of my great-great grandmother, Margaret Haughey. In my last posting I shared that she was the tenth of eleventh children born in the area of Lurgan, County Armagh.

For the record, I should note that most of them were born in Magheralin, County Down although some would later marry and live in the town of Lurgan. Magheralin borders Armagh, Down and Antrim.

There was a twenty-four year age difference between Margaret’s oldest brother Charles and her youngest sibling. Not at all uncommon in big families.

The family consisted of Charles, Henry, Mary, Luke, Arthur, James, Catherine, Edward, Rachael, Margaret and a male child born after Margaret.

Her oldest brother Charles married Mary Ann Leatham when Margaret was only five years old in 1845. She would soon become a very young auntie to Charles’ and Mary Ann’s two children, Arthur (1847)  and Maria (1849).

Sadly, Charles’ wife Mary Ann died in 1850 the year after little Maria was born. And Maria soon followed her mother to heaven when she died at the age of five in 1854.

That left Margaret’s big brother Charles on his own caring for his young son, Arthur.

But as many of them did back then. They kept on going.

Charles remarried. To a lady by the name Margaret McCusker and his sister Rachael Haughey married Andrew Pepper on the very same day, November 25, 1855 in a double wedding ceremony.

Other siblings married. The family expanded with lots of babies being born.

But when it was Margaret’s turn to hit the altar with her first husband, in 1863, she was not surrounded by all of her siblings. Her sister Rachael was not present at the wedding. Neither was her older brother Charles. Nor her brother Edward.

Because this is what happened.

Rachael and her husband Andrew Pepper boarded a ship to New Zealand in 1860.

Andrew PEPPER . Co Down a labourer aged 24 with his wife Rachael aged 23 & son, William John aged 2, arrived in Lyttelton, New Zealand on board Gananoque’ (785 tons) 9 May 1860;left London 9 Feb 1860 under Capt Norris.

That’s a very, very long way from home. An eighty-five day journey. Rachael had another child in Lurgan named Andrew but he must have died just before they set sail.

Things might have been good for awhile in New Zealand. But who knows?

This is what happened the following year. A little more than a year after they made the incredible voyage.

andrew.gif

That’s tragic on so many levels. The newspaper article alone is blog worthy.

Rachael’s husband was dead at the age of twenty-five and Rachael was on her own with no family or means of support. At the young age of twenty-four, stuck in a strange land so very far from home. And no way to get back home.

Could you imagine?

But family is family. And good families do their best to help each other.

Her eldest brother Charles hopped on the ship “Mersey” in 1862 and made his way to sister Rachael in New Zealand. Left his wife and family in Ireland.

Charles’ wife and children would arrive the following year in 1863 -along with Charles’ and Rachael’s brother Edward Haughey.

Another brother James Haughey would follow with his wife, Hannah and their very large brood.

Andrew’s untimely death prompted an influx of many members of this one clan to the shores of New Zealand. This one tragedy altered the course of their futures. Altered the history of my family.

The good news is that Rachael met a fellow from Tipperary and remarried. Had a bunch of kids. The other good news is that the Haugheys all did well on the islands. They survived, multiplied and spread across the land. Loads and loads of their descendants exist now.

Sad thing is that my great-great-great grandparents Luke and Mary had to wave goodbye not just to one daughter and a grandson in 1860. They, and the other remaining family members like their daughter, my great-great grandmother Margaret, would continue waving goodbye to loved ones for the next decade. While their countless family members boarded the ships. The numerous grandchildren. Nieces and nephews. And while they were waving they also knew they’d never see any of them again. Ever again.

Maybe James Joyce’s sentence had some truth to it. Maybe the shortest way to Tara is via Holyhead. Maybe, in the end, in order to understand themselves, their family and their country, they had to leave. I don’t know. Maybe it worked for them.

Note: A fellow by the name Lyndon Fraser wrote a book titled, “To Tara Via Holyhead: Irish Catholic Immigrants in Nineteenth-century.” Some of my family’s history is documented in the book with accompanying facts and photographs. 

The Past

My great-great grandmother was named Margaret Haughey and was born in Lurgan, County Armagh on March 8th, 1840. She was the tenth child of eleven born to Luke Haughey and Mary McDonald.

She grew up and married a weaver by the name of Bernard McConville on February 14th, 1863.

A baby boy, named after his father, was born January 2, 1864. Margaret’s mother, Mary McDonald Haughey was present at the birth of her grandson.

Sadly, it lists his father, Bernard, as being deceased by the time the little fellow arrived into the world.

And baby Bernard appears to have died soon after-in 1865.

So Margaret was married, widowed, a new mother and a grieving parent all in a matter of two years.

My great-great grandfather was a man by the name of Charles Dornan. He was a weaver and married a woman in Lurgan by the name of Anne Skeath on May 31st, 1863.

They would have two children, Mary and Hugh. By 1866 Charles lost both his wife and his two children. Anne died in 1866 along with her little daughter, Mary. Three short years. A family of four down to a family of one.

Margaret (Haughey) McConville and Charles Dornan, a young widow and widower, married in 1869. They would have seven children together. Lost a few of their kids at young ages.

My great-grandfather, Michael Dornan was one of their children. He would later succumb to tuberculosis at the early age of thirty-five in 1912 along with his one year old daughter, Annie, who also died from general tuberculosis that same year.

He left his wife, Maggie, with three young daughters and a son. My Nana, one of their children, was just six when she lost her dad and her little sister.

This blog posting was actually going to be a story about Margaret Haughey’s siblings who left Lurgan in the 1860s to set sail on a ship to New Zealand. I tend to veer. Guess that will have to be my next posting!

 

I remember having a discussion with a fellow a couple of years ago here in K.L. He was a guy at my husband’s office and a few of us were having drinks after work. He more or less said that researching ancestors was a waste of time. It’s about who you are now. And it has nothing to do with your ancient relatives. You have nothing to do with your ancestors.

With that being said, I have to mention that even my own husband also never quite understood my fascination with the dead. But he was certainly glad to support the project because I loved it so much. Also kept me off the streets and out of trouble. Lol. He never, ever said it was a waste of my time.

My feeling was that discovering my family’s history made me more sensitive to the plight of others before me. And after me. This man claimed that I would have been sensitive anyway. That’s who I was. I disagreed. I said that I had new appreciation for my ancestors and their troubles. We went back and forth for some time. Fuelled by passion and a couple of brewskies. He didn’t buy it.

But I did.

I appreciated the economic struggles during that time. People flocking from the rural areas and neighboring counties to the mill towns that offered employment. Migrations of people. Leaving the farms to live in cramped, damp row houses with their large families. I also imagined them toiling away, at very young ages, in the crowded mills. Spreading tuberculosis and who knows what else. Being overworked. Being uneducated. Most of the birth, marriage and death certificates are signed with “his X mark” or “her X mark.”

My heart broke at the images in my head of these two young people, newly married, losing their spouses and babies in a matter of a few short years.

I imagined how hard it was for my Nana to grow up without a Dad and what impact that had on her life.

I envisioned many who fled that life on ships for an unknown world. Because it might have been better than the one they were experiencing.

Yes, I might have been sympathetic anyway. Due to my parents raising us to care about others. But when it’s really personal you really identify with it. And you might want to do more.

I would have been totally fine if I never pursued my curiosity about the family tree. Would have a secure identity and continued community service work.

But I might work a little harder because my ancestors taught me a very valuable lesson from their graves. “It could be you. Because it was us. Not all of us survived it. But some of us did. You, mo chroi´, are the result. Make it worth our struggle.”

There are loads of quotes out there about history and the past. Most of them go something like this, “Those who do not learn from the past are destined to repeat it.”

I don’t want to be a part of a repetitive cycle in world history. Rather be a part of learning.

So, thank you, Margaret Haughey, mo chroi´, and the rest of you. I’m still learning and you will never be forgotten.

Eile síorai´

Swallowed Whole

Had the oddest dream the other night.

I was in a store but it was sort of like a warehouse. Not exactly Costco but more like the back garden section of Wal-Mart when they have empty shelves. In between seasons.

For some reason, Thumper (my Jack Russell) was with me.

There was a guy there. Tall and lanky. Think of a younger Sam Elliott with dark hair. But a bit scruffier. If that’s possible.

Anyway, he’s leaning against one of the shelves. Above him, on the top shelf, I spy an animal looking down at us. It looks like a small ferret but it’s black like a weasel.

I ask, “Is it yours?”

He replies, “Yes.”

I continue, “What is it???? Is it a ferret???”

His shrug is noncommittal.

I’m like, “It’s yours? And you don’t know??? Is it a mix of ferret and something else? What is it???”

I don’t get an answer.

The ferret or whatever it was suddenly jumps down to the floor. Opens his mouth and begins to swallow Thumper. Brought to mind one of those nature programs where the snake swallows something so much larger than itself-like a deer or a refrigerator.

I’m horrified. He’s got half of Thump in his mouth!

The guy says, “He’ll never be able to swallow all of him.”

No sooner were the words out of his mouth when the ferret gulped down my Thumper.

Swallowed him whole. All of him!

I’m sickened and rooted to the spot.

Then, all of a sudden, the ferret opens its mouth and spews out Thumper. Like a cannon ball shot into the air!  Couldn’t hold him in apparently.

Whew!

Next morning I’m telling my husband.

Asking, “What do you think that dream was all about? What on earth??? Is it the world being swallowed up? Is it me? Is it you? Nothing can hold Thumper down? What????”

He laughed and said, “I just don’t know, Mary.”

Do dreams have to mean anything?

I can only vividly remember two other dreams in my fifty two years of living.

One was when I was a little kid and the dream was about a strange man giving me a heart shaped box of candy. But I didn’t know he was a stranger because he was wearing a mask. Of my grandfather’s face! I think we can all safely assume a “Stranger Danger or Don’t Take Candy from Strangers” campaign might have planted that seed. It was absolutely horrifying. I thought I was totally safe because I was following the rules and not taking candy from a stranger. Shivers.

The other one was when I was teenager. I was driving a car on one of those highway bridges and suddenly the road just ended. Nothing. Just a cliff like scenario. I plummeted. The good news is that I never actually hit the ground because I woke up just before I did. With the bed sheet over my face. But the trip down was downright terrifying. Not sure what the genesis of that dream was but I suppose teen angst could have played a role.

Anyway, nary a clue as to the back story behind Thumper being gobbled up by a ferret. Just glad it was only a dream.

Do you remember your dreams or nightmares? Crazy as mine?

 

 

 

 

Essence

When I lived in Southern California I had the most wonderful dentist. Loved going each and every time. I wouldn’t be lying if I said it felt like I was visiting family. Everyone always asking about the kids. Even asking about Thumper the dog. The staff had been the same for years. Never any new faces. That’s very telling.

She was actually my neighbor -lived about five doors up from us. But I never saw her in the neighborhood so we caught up during my appointments.

Kind, funny, smart, beautiful on the inside and outside.

And she was a refugee.

When she was just five years old her parents, four siblings and a ton of other family members boarded a boat to escape Vietnam. No idea where they were going but the Dad knew they had to flee.

She told me she could remember being in a sack and thumping her head on the bottom of the boat.

They were rescued at sea, after floating for days amidst bombs, by a ship and soon found refuge in the United States. A Catholic Church in the Midwest sponsored them.

Sadly, her mom died from cancer some time after they arrived in the U.S.

Dad, a physician, ended up doing a fine job raising his children.

My dentist originally was pre-Med but once completed decided on dentistry. Her father had five children. All chose medicine or dentistry.  That’s a bunch of Drs. in just one family.

That is truly a success story. Against many odds.

Being a doctor might not necessarily be everyone’s idea of the pinnacle of success. We all know a profession is not the whole person. Doesn’t make you a better person or a person who is better than anyone else. But it is a wonderful accomplishment, an honorable profession and requires tremendous hard work. For anyone but especially for folks who start off fighting the odds without the usual support systems in place.

During the recent elections I read that a woman said her candidate would win if only the people whose four grandparents were born in the U.S. would vote.

I pondered that one. And I’d say she was probably right on the money.

But what she missed with that statement was that we all should be reminded that America has always been a nation of immigrants and refugees. Always. Even folks whose four grandparents (or great grandparents) were born in the U.S. have immigrant blood coursing through their veins.

 

My dentist arrived in a boat. Fleeing murder and mayhem. No papers. No nothing.

It was only through the goodness and generosity of the American people and a church community that allowed her family to not just survive the ordeal but to flourish. To serve the greater community. To become respectable, outstanding, tax paying citizens.

This story just reminds me of why I always loved my country. Her essence. The goodness, generosity and community of the people. Candidates and politicians come and go but I have every hope that the essence of America will and should remain the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Irish Sayings

When you grow up with an Irish background-even if you weren’t reared in Ireland- you grow up with a bunch of phrases your non Irish friends would never hear or would probably never even understand. We don’t even understand them so how could they?

My Nana laughingly called the little boys and/or the male dogs in my house, “McGuffin.” As in, “How’s McGuffin?” Or “McGuffin was over today.” Or “McGuffin barked all night.” You always knew who or what she was talking about and responded accordingly without missing a beat.

I had a boyfriend, S., and he liked my grandmother. All of my friends did. We went to an Irish festival one weekend and he bought something for her. She loved it. It was a coffee mug with the name “Mc Govern” on it. Nana’s mom was Maggie Mc Govern.

I asked him, “How did you know that??? That it was a family name?”

He said, “Well, I bought it for her because she’s always calling everyone McGovern.”

I laughed out loud. All this time he thought she was saying McGovern when she was actually saying McGuffin.

So you sort of had to grow up with it to really get it.

“Mother Machree!!!” was another one spewed out on a regular basis. My mom said it when she was exasperated. I suppose it’s better than swearing. Machree means “of my heart.” When I was young I just thought there once was some old lady who went by the name.

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” frequented our home. The exclamation not the trio. Most everyone I knew in my neighborhood was Catholic but they weren’t Irish. Never, ever heard any of my friend’s parents utter this. Just mine.

I remember when I first started working at AT&T and sitting in the break room minding my own business. I heard this gal, Tracy, exclaim, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” Probably over spilled coffee. My head instantly popped up and I thought, “I don’t know you but I know you.” It’s like when little kids notice other little kids in a crowd. You just know.

This one I never really understood when I was little. Just accepted it like all the others. They’d say, “Oh, sitting there like Lipton’s Orphan.” What?? I understood it to mean a woeful being and I was correct. But what?? Where on earth did that phrase originate? Adult research shows the origin of the phrase stemmed from a Lipton Tea marketing campaign. An Irishman, a pig, etc.

Sorry for your trouble. A phrase used for bereavement. Trouble means to agitate spiritually or mentally.  Not just as we commonly think of it when referring to that pesky neighborhood kid. But a bit more than that. One will never be more agitated spiritually or mentally than when a death occurs. So the phrase is not wordy but totally appropriate. And very Irish.

As an American kid I (and my friends) used the word “terrific” for everything. The weekend was terrific! You look terrific! The concert was terrific! My grandmother used the word in its original form. As in terrifying. She would tell me about a terrible storm the night before (she was deathly afraid of storms and would stand on the cellar stairs until it passed) and say, “It was absolutely terrific!” I have to think that was an Irish thing as I never heard anyone else’s parents or grandparents using it in that context.

Plenty more phrases and sayings were thrown around the house. Those were just a few that popped into my mind.

The truth is that I’d give anything to hear a few of those sayings. From the mouths of those who used to say them.

But still very thankful I had the opportunity to hear them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fakebook

We’ve all heard people say that Facebook is so fake. That the lives presented and wonderful photos are not a true (or I should say full) representation of the people who are posting. And that your list of “friends” is also fake. Most are not your real friends.

I agree with some of this. The part about most not being real friends. But I don’t agree with all of it.

A Facebook page can be a true representation of the person. Their loves and passions. Oftentimes their foibles. But one can still be genuine and not post every little thing, right?Isn’t that why kids (and adults!) are told to be careful what they post? There are future employers and admissions officers out there just ready to take a glance and make a judgement based on what they see. You don’t need to share every aspect of your life even if the red plastic cups are totally real.

I can pretty much predict what my FB friends will post. There are obviously some things that cannot be predicted like the loss of a loved one, an illness or a move. But everything else is just about a sure thing based on the past Facebook postings that demonstrate the interests of my FB friends.

That doesn’t mean those who are posting actually share every aspect of their lives.They share only what they want you to see. And that might be positive or negative. But not fake.

Facebook can be just like real life. We don’t always share everything with our friends in real life. We share exactly what we want to share. And that might be positive or negative. But not fake.

Which leads me to something else. What some people choose to share on line but might not share in real life. It’s quite surprising and this makes Facebook an interesting thing. People share things on their wall that they never would have shared with you while you worked together in an office. Or at the neighborhood block parties. Or at the church picnic.

Facebook provides a platform for folks to put absolutely anything out there. They are making the choice to share. Good or bad. My husband (not the biggest FB fan) likens it to writing on a bathroom wall.

Those filters that were firmly set in place at the workplace or at the church? Gone.

The platform became a regular Pandora’s box with an unleashing of all sorts of things. And none of it fake.

Like the over posters who have a rhythm and a choreography of their own. Almost oxymoronic. Ugly rant. Ugly rant. Ugly rant. Ugly rant. Insert beautiful Bible verse. Ugly rant. Ugly rant. Ugly rant. Ugly rant. Have a nice day! Ugly rant. Ugly rant.

I can’t imagine hearing all of that in real life. In the office? Oh my gosh! But it is still real, isn’t it?

And that leads to this.

Defriending. I’ve seen the FB postings,”I would never “defriend” anyone over politics!” That’s really lovely of them. But what they don’t understand (or can’t) is that most folks aren’t being deleted because of their politics but because of the deplorable way some people present their politics, views and postings to their on line audience. They are being real but it doesn’t make it palatable or even acceptable. It’s all in the presentation, my friends. Always has been.

Maybe those who choose to present negatively are seeking validation from like minded people or they really believe their posts will change opinions of others. Spoiler alert: That never happens.

If I read a posting and it sort of makes me sick to my stomach I probably shouldn’t be FB friends with them. Right? They’ve crossed some sort of line. We all have our lines. Doesn’t even have to be political. This does not mean I won’t still have fond memories of those people from a different place and a different time. Just no more FB memories.

This blog posting was probably a long time in the making but prompted this week.

One of my FB friends died a couple of days ago after a battle with cancer. We worked together back in Providence many, many moons ago.

I was thinking about his postings and how I enjoyed them because they were a reflection of his life and what obviously meant the most to him. His moments with his kids and wife. Friends around the pool. Photos of childhood friends. Photos of adult friends. Many sports references. BBQs with his extended family. His love of New England even though he had moved to Florida. His heritage. The beloved dog. Favorite music and bands.

He never posted about his illness. Because he chose not to share that. And probably many other things. What he did choose to post was very real.

Because Facebook isn’t fake. I’m thinking what you see on a wall is a pretty good indicator of the type of person sitting at that keyboard.

Yep, your list of friends might be fake. But the walls? Not so much.

Of course, this is totally my opinion and in the end not much of it matters.

But.

If it’s on our wall we have chosen to make it real.

Most will not litter their walls with red, plastic cups overflowing with vitriol. Most will choose a reflection of their love. That’s my hope.

 

 

 

Creatures of Habit

Stayed a week in Vermont this past summer with my cousin.

Two of the nights were at a family run motel. Not my family but a family.

First morning I woke up, grabbed a cup of coffee and went to the grassy area near the parking area.

Spied a woodchuck leisurely foraging in the newly mown grass.

I love wildlife. Think I’m a bit fascinated with their behaviors.

Next morning I wake up, grab a cup of Joe and head to the same place.

Who’s there?

The woodchuck. With his same old song and dance routine.

I chuckled and thought, “Well, isn’t he just a creature of habit?”

Second thing that popped into my mind was, “He’s probably thinking the very same thing about you, Mary!”

It is so true.

God forbid my razor is not in its usual place in the shower. I’d have a conniption fit.

I think about my daily routines.

My shower routine is better choreographed than a Riverdance production. Shampoo first quickly followed by conditioner. Next up is the cleansing of the face and body with a grand finale of the Venus. Two quick strokes under the arms and maybe six on each leg -under the knee of course.

I don’t want to detail the day. You get the picture. You are also a victim of routine.

I tease my Mom all the time. She eats at the same time every day. On the dot.

But here’s the thing. We are all creatures of habit.

It’s comforting and makes life a little easier to navigate.

We all use phrases like, “Getting back into the school routine” or “Have to get back to the routine.”

I just love wildlife. We’re fascinating.