Posts Tagged ‘immigration’

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.


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. 

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I love books. Some more than others.

I remember reading John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden” and not being able to put it down once I got past the the first chapter or two.

It was supposedly based on his family’s history.

Loosely or not, I do not know.

But it was a fascinating story. Started on the East Coast. Ended on the West Coast.

There were so many times when I thought, “Oh, this person will marry that person.”

Or, “This is likely to happen.”

No, it didn’t work that way.

Maybe because it was based on a family history. And if we look at our own family history it’s not always all nicely tied up with a bow.

Life just happens.

I suppose that is one of the reasons I liked the book.

It gave me a snapshot of American history.  A family. Immigration. Westward migration.

Also a reality check.

When it comes to families nothing comes neatly packaged.

The girl from the neighboring farm does not always marry the boy from next door.

Lots of times, yes.

But not always.

Life is not predictable.

Sometimes it can be.

Other times it is not.

I loved that Steinbeck kept me guessing and always wanting more with each chapter.

If you haven’t read it I suggest you do. Makes you really think.


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Well, you all know I have been wanting to lose five pounds for the last decade. Laugh out loud.

I now have an added incentive. Sometimes these things just smack you upside the head. It just happened to be something I was looking over again the other day.

When my Granda Lennon arrived in America in 1925 from Liverpool he was an employee on a ship. He was discharged in New York City. The passenger manifest stated that he was 20 years old. That he stood five feet and seven inches. And that he weighed 3 pounds more than I do at this very moment.

Okay, now either Patrick was one “skinny malink” (an Irish term my mom used for real thin folk) or I have my work cut out for me! I can only hope that when he returned to his homeland of Ireland for good in 1935 that he had filled out a little.

The other thing I can hope for is possible errors at the immigration port. I think we all know there has been more than one mistake made during processing at those busy places. Any Greek person named Brown, formerly known as Bakalakis, can attest to this.

There were a few errors that I noticed.

One was that he was twenty years old. He wasn’t. He was born in 1907. So either he needed to up his age to gain employment, my math stinks or someone typed in twenty while looking the other way.

The other thing listed was that his race was English. My grandfather was an Irishman. He might have been living in Liverpool (like the other Lennons that all trace back to Ireland) when he boarded this ship but he was born in County Louth, Ireland. The document also lists his nationality as British.  I repeat. He was an Irishman.

Anyway, I am thankful for these errors.  Gives me hope that I don’t have that much work ahead of me.

I mentioned my grandfather’s weight and age to my husband. Didn’t even occur to me that they were about the same height. Of course, he had to say, “Yeah, I weighed the same when we first met.”

I wanted to grab the malink by the nape of his skinny little neck.

So, back to the drawing board. I perused the passenger list once again. Of the thirty people discharged that day in the port of New York there was more than one skinny malink.

I think I have my work cut out for me.

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The motto on my family’s coat of arms means “Of ancient Irish stock.” In case you didn’t already know I am really proud to be from that stock.

Grew up on, “There are two kinds of people in the world. The Irish. And those that wish they were.”

And a bit of, “You know what I would want to be if I wasn’t Irish? Dead!”

All to be taken in good humor, of course.

But I am most proud of the Irish female. There are plenty of tough Irish women that have made a difference in the world. I have written about some of them. Mother Jones being just one that quickly pops to mind.

But there are none that I hold in higher regard than Mary Elizabeth Dornan Kelly and Margaret McCabe Lennon.

One was my Irish Nana. And the other was my Irish Granny. One I knew very well. One I didn’t. I loved them both.

They arrived on the shores of America on their own. As single, young women. Their families left behind to seek a better life. To work and find opportunity that did not exist for them in Ireland at the time. Armed with nothing more than a letter of recommendation and the promise to board with relatives that had come before them. One arrived in the late 1920s to the big city of New York and the other made her way to the little state of Rhode Island in 1930.

I can only imagine how difficult it was for them.

Both were devout Catholics. And beautiful. And smart. Just a matter of time before two handsome Irish men had the good fortune of meeting and marrying them.

The Nana stayed in the U.S. and raised four children. The Granny went back to Ireland with a husband and four children. They would complete the family with three more children born in Ireland.

I always feel really blessed that the children of these two women found each other in the United States. And had my brothers and me.

So, on this March 17th, I will be raising a glass in their memory. To my strong, beautiful and brave Irish grandmothers. Without them I would be nothing.

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