The Irish in America


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Meet Maureen (Part III)

I had a few more questions for our favorite Irish American, Maureen Teahan Murray. Maureen immigrated to Lawrence Massachusetts just about sixty-six years ago this month. She and her sister Joan left Milltown, County Kerry, Ireland in November 1947 and arrived in the United States just in time for Thanksgiving. Read the story of her auspicious arrival – click here. A full list of links to earlier Meet Maureen entries, as well as her delightful stories of growing up in Milltown follows this article.

And now we will get to know a little bit more about Maureen and her adjustment to life in America…

 

Merrimack River in Lawrence, Massachusetts

Merrimack River in Lawrence, Massachusetts

What was the biggest adjustment you had to make to life in the US?

Our biggest adjustment to life in the U.S. was waking up at 4:30 AM to eat breakfast and make our  lunch for work. We crossed the bridge in S. Lawrence, MA over the Merrimack River on bitter winter mornings. Finding it more comfortable to keep moving the 20 minutes it took to walk rather than stand waiting for the bus that would take us to the Wood Mill Factory.

Maureen worked in the “English Drawing Room” at the Wood Mill for a year-and-a-half. Here’s how she describes her job:

The men placed large wool bobbins on a frame and we pulled the wool fibre down onto smaller bobbins and secured them then started the machine. That filled even smaller bobbins of wool. Then the men removed them and we repeated the process. Someone else worked with the wool after we were finished preparing it.
Toohig Girls 1950

(photo courtesy of Fran Valcourt, Mary’s daughter)

Did you make friends with mostly other Irish/Irish Americans? Was that important to you?

Most of our new friends were Irish American-many first generation American born, but we didn’t seek them out. A few months after we settled in Lawrence I had to have an appendectomy. Dr. Frank McCarthy had a private clinic there and his receptionist was Mary Toohig. When I was in the hospital before the operation he told me he would send someone to see me. While recuperating, I was surprised to meet Mary and her sister, Ann. I expected medical professionals were coming to check on me. Still medicated at first I thought I was dreaming when I met the Toohig sisters. They were from a family of eight and their parents were both born in Skibereen, Cork. Almost sixty-five years later Mary is still one of my best friends.

Toohig Family

Toohig Family (photo courtesy of Fran Valcourt)

Early on, what/who did you miss most from Ireland?

 Family we left behind were sorely missed when we first came here. My father, and brothers and sisters, Kitty, Dolly, Helen, John and Donal. Also, our grandfather Teahan who lived on the farm in Lyre, Milltown. Eventually, Kitty, Dolly and Helen joined us in the states. Donal tried living here for a year but then went back to Limerick.

Although new friends made in America couldn’t take the place of family left behind in Ireland, friends like the Toohigs helped make Lawrence, Massachusetts feel a little bit more like home. Do you have any questions for Maureen about her immigration experience in America? Leave a comment!
Click on the following titles to read more about Maureen and her memories:
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Pride & Place Pictures of Ireland + A Special Offer Just For You!

Old House in Mayo Mountains - photo courtesy of Pride&Place Pictures of Ireland

Old House in Mayo Mountains – photo courtesy of Pride & Place Pictures of Ireland

It is my pleasure to introduce you to an exciting new venture – Pride & Place Pictures of Ireland. Now, this is a fantastic idea!

Paul Mulligan is an Irish photographer who believes there is something very special about Ireland – its landscapes and seascapes, its villages and people. Paul knows that many people all over the world share this passion for Ireland. Some have emigrated and miss home, while others have memories of an amazing holiday spent in Ireland. There are also those who have never even visited Ireland, but feel an affinity to the place of their ancestor’s birth.

Whatever the case, Paul can bring that special piece of Ireland home to you. From the Pride & Place website:

All over the world there are many Irish exploring their roots or working abroad

It might be very important to you to have a photo of home where you live or work.

What better than a photograph of Ireland that is dear to you and reminds you of home.

Dundalk Bay - courtesy of Pride&Place Pictures of Ireland

Dundalk Bay – courtesy of Pride & Place Pictures of Ireland

There are many photos of Ireland online that you can choose from ,however they tend to be much of the same.

The service we offer is simple and the end product can be amazing for you.We Take the picture you want us to take. You Pick. We Click.

It could be the tree you climbed when you were young, maybe you carved your name on it. It could be the church where you, your parents or grandparents got married. Anything or anywhere specific to you, your memories and roots in Ireland.

Pride & Place Pictures of Ireland is offering The Irish in America readers a special discount – when you contact them, mention the code “irishamerica” to receive 20% off your order! Don’t hesitate to get in touch – Paul would love to hear from you and as he says, “It’s free to talk!”

Don’t know where your ancestor’s came from in Ireland? The Irish in America can help you sort that out – take a look at our Services page for information on hiring us to do some genealogical digging. For a special rate of $35 The Irish in America will complete a general search on the origin of your surname in Ireland. Then, you will have something to go on when you contact Pride & Place. If you wish to go a little deeper, one of our other research packages may be of interest. Click here to send us an email!

House in the Connemara Hills - courtesy of Pride&Place Pictures of Ireland

House in the Connemara Hills – courtesy of Pride & Place Pictures of Ireland

Pride & Place…a great way to remember home, dream of a favorite vacation spot, or honor your ancestors who left Ireland all those years ago. Visit Pride & Place Pictures of Ireland to see more gorgeous photos and for more information.


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Day Eleven of Irish American Favorites: Maureen Teahan Murray

Maureen in 1953

Maureen in 1953

Shortly before Thanksgiving last year, Mary contacted me through the blog. She wrote that her mother, Maureen, had a short Christmas story about her childhood in Milltown, County Kerry she wanted to share. I told Mary to send it along, and I would take a look. Click here to read Maureen’s first contribution to the blog, An Orange for Baby Jesus.

I immediately fell in love with Maureen’s writing and wanted to learn more about the woman behind the story. Mary filled me, telling me how Maureen and her sister Joan arrived in New York City on November 26, 1947, just in time for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I wrote about Maureen, Joan, and the parade here.

Maureen’s stories just keep getting better. She has a gift for framing her memories perfectly and telling us more than we may realize at first. I am a huge fan of the short story, and Maureen’s memoir essays are beautifully written and perfectly constructed. Catch up on Maureen’s Memories – here’s a list of her stories we have featured so far:

I am honored Maureen choses to share her memories through my blog. I think we make a good team – I explore the experiences of the Irish in America, Maureen recalls memories of Ireland with the perspective of an Irish American gained through over sixty-five years and three thousand miles.

In the coming weeks, I plan to introduce a series of posts which will trace Maureen’s immigration journey and life in America.  In the meantime, a huge “thank you” to Maureen and her daughter, Mary. They make The Irish in America a better place! I can’t wait for Maureen’s next story…


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DAY 30: Jimmy and Helen

Helen and Jimmy McCormack

Helen and Jimmy McCormack

Can’t believe the month is already over. And here I sit with a list a mile long of things I love about Ireland! What to pick for my last favorite thing…

The entire Irish branch of the McCormack family tree is the best, and their warmth, humor, and hospitality make our visits to Ireland fantastic. But Jimmy and Helen are the ones who are usually stuck with the Yanks when we visit. They live on the farm in Ballyedmond, County Laois where my great-grandfather was born, so I suppose it is the natural place for us to end up.

I could go on forever about Helen’s magnificent cooking and entertaining panache or Jimmy’s GSOH (Good Sense Of Humor for those of you who don’t read the personal ads in the Farmer’s Journal on Thursdays) but what makes them so special is their generosity. Whenever we visit, they invite us into their lives and make us feel welcome.

A couple of years ago, Jimmy and Helen even came to our rescue. There was a problem with the self-catering accommodation my mom, dad, sister, and I had booked for our two weeks in Ireland. (We will save that story for another time, this is about my favorite things in Ireland, after all.) Jimmy and Helen found us a place to stay…

Lisheen Castle, Ballingarry, County Tipperary

Lisheen Castle, County Tipperary

Yes, we actually stayed in this castle. Our vacation went from disappointing to a fairytale in less than a day, thanks to Jimmy and Helen. It was a memorable couple of weeks.

An afternoon at Birr Castle

An afternoon at Birr Castle

But even more memorable than a castle are the evenings spent at the farm in Ballyedmond, after a day of site-seeing and a glorious dinner by Helen, relaxing while Jenny or Sarah do their homework, deciding whether we will go to the pub. That is a tough decision, sometimes it even requires a vote by secret ballot. The pub usually wins.

I am so fortunate to have family in Ireland like Jimmy and Helen, and all the McCormacks. Luckier still that they are my friends. Now, if I could only get them to come visit us in the States!

Thanks for following my month of Irish favorites…hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have!

Photos by Regan McCormack

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DAY 29: Michael Quirke

It’s been too many years since I’ve made it up to Sligo for a visit with my favorite butcher-turned-woodcarver, Michael Quirke. I have a couple of Michael Quirke’s gorgeous sculptures at home, so I am reminded of him so daily but I miss seeing him in his workshop and listening to him talk. When Michael Quirke describes his pieces and sets them within the mythology of Ireland, it is pure magic. I am transported to my childhood, when I considered folk tales to be true stories. The days before I got so “smart” and realized no one lived for thousands of years and no one could ever turn me into a swan.

MichaelQuirke_sculpturesRegan and I each have a couple Quirke creations. Pictured on the right are Amhairghin (mine) and Queen Maeve (Regan’s). I love it when you walk in to the shop, inevitably just as someone else walks out, and Mr. Quirke looks up and welcomes you. He might look a bit tired, but one comment on a sculpture in the window is all it takes. He was just catching his breath. With a twinkle in his eye, he launches into a wonderful story. And when you decide on a purchase, you get to hear the story all over again – always with a new details and instructions for care – when he pulls out a piece of paper and a pencil and writes it all down for you.

Regan and I visited Mr. Quirke for the first time in 1995 on instructions from our Aunt Eeny to buy a sculpture for her to add to her collection. She had visited him several years earlier. I don’t remember at the moment which one we picked out for Eeny, but Mr. Quirke told us the story, then told us again as he wrote it out, wrapped the treasure in brown paper, and tied it with twine.

Then he asked us for our favorite animals, scrounged up a couple of scraps of wood, and carved the images of our favorites on one side, with our name on the reverse. Of course, more stories about our animals followed. I treasure this little square as much as the larger-scale sculptures. Visiting Sligo is a priority for my next visit to Ireland, and I can’t wait to take the journey through Irish folklore with Michael Quirke.

MichaelQuirke_names


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DAY 27: I LOVE MAYO

I saw this beautiful print on a website a couple of years ago and fell in love with I Love Mayo – the company owned by talented artist Jane Steger-Lewis. Jane is based in the west of Ireland, on County Mayo’s Achill Island.

irelandmapImage from www.ILoveMayo.com – click to visit the website!

I sent out I Love Mayo Christmas cards in 2011. I have never received more compliments on a Christmas card. Click here to see the whimsical and very special cards. I am a huge fan of her “Irish Blessing” series of prints – they are a beautiful and super versatile for gift-giving. Birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, retirements…you name it. Click here to see the full selection prints. Someday I hope to own a Jane Steger-Lewis original painting…I have my eye on BeakyDozy, or LaToya! I’m not posting pictures of these items here on purpose – I want you to go straight to Jane’s website and see all of her gorgeous work.

Jane is as delightful as her artwork. She is truly a pleasure to do business with. I think everyone should have a little piece of Ireland in their home, and ILoveMayo.com makes this possible. Thanks, Jane, for making my world a bit brighter!


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DAY 25: Ardmore Pottery & Gallery

View from Ardmore Pottery

View from Ardmore Pottery

I love Ardmore Pottery & Gallery. It’s a pottery studio and stylish craft shop rolled into one. From www.ArdmorePottery.com:

Mary Lincoln established Ardmore Pottery and Gallery in 1983 out of her home in Ardmore, Co. Waterford. The premises, having expanded over the years, has maintained its original location. Ardmore Pottery and Gallery is proud to have sustained its founding ethos: to house under one roof the best of Irish craftwork alongside a working pottery studio.

ardmorepotteryThe pottery is gorgeous. Regan and I picked up a sweet milk jug for our mom last September when we visited, and I bought an adorable cream and sugar set – one polka dots, the other stripes – for Regan’s birthday. Someday I am going to get an entire set of Ardmore pottery dishes.

Ardmore Pottery has a great selection of unique Irish crafts. This is the kind of shop where you feel like each item was hand-picked just for you, which means I usually want one of everything!

Regan snapped the photo on the right of some of her favorite Ardmore Pottery items. Her photo-styling skills may need a little work, but she has good taste. The leather bag is beautiful!

Next time you are in Ireland’s “Sunny Southeast” be sure to visit lovely Ardmore and the exquisite Ardmore Pottery & Gallery!

137_Ardmore