Grandpop Was An Immigrant – Guest Post By Phyllis Easterbrook

Phyllis Easterbrook is a writer who lives in Missouri. Her grandfather was born near Ballymena, County Antrim, and in today’s post, she shares some beautiful memories of her Grandpop, her family’s American journey, and lovely insights into life in the row homes of Philadelphia many years ago.

And so over to Phyllis for the next installment in our Immigrant Tales – Stories of Our Ancestors…….

grandpop

Grandpop smoking his pipe, with Suzy, his beloved dog

 The Early Years:

 

Grandpop was born in Ireland, in a small town called Ahoghill, which sits in The Borough of Ballymena, in Northern Ireland. He accompanied his parents to the United States as an infant, thereby making me a second-generation American on my father’s side!

In 1889, John and Elizabeth (my great-grandparents) left Northern Ireland aboard the ship Furnessia, which docked in the port at New York City, after a two to three week voyage. This was three years before Ellis Island was transformed into the major immigration station. They, no doubt, were processed at Castle Garden Depot in lower Manhattan.

John and Elizabeth arrived with five children, ages ranging from ten years old down to 9 months old. Grandpop was the 9 month old.

Before my family’s arrival in America, Ireland was a country dealing with the aftermath of The Great Famine.  More than a million people died of starvation and just as many immigrated to other countries. The British government subsidized immigration to the US and Canada. The subsidy was a good thing for my ancestors, because at the United States immigration stations, some folks were sent away and back to their country of origin, if they could not prove they had adequate funds to support themselves and their families.

Grandpop2

Grammy and Grandpop in Philadelphia – the missing digits on his left hand can be seen.

 A Coal Miner In Pennsylvania:

 

Grandpop’s family settled in the coal mining regions of Pennsylvania with many of their kinsmen.  It’s interesting and kind of sad that they settled in the coal mining region as back in their country, Grandpop’s grandparents were farmers, and his own father was a carpenter. Nevertheless, it was where they, and many of their countrymen, took up residence and made their home.  Eventually two more children were added to the mix.

The story is told of Grandpop having a bit of a skirmish in the 8th grade. Apparently he had an altercation with a teacher, therefore deciding (to himself) never to go back to school. He went to the coal mines and secured a job, something his father never wanted any of his kids to do. So while his parents thought he was attending school each day, he was working in the mines. Eventually the school contacted his family, and Grandpop was found out. Somehow, I imagine, heated arguments ensued, he kept his job at the mines, and never went back to school.

lincoln logs

Grandpop’s Homemade Lincoln Logs

 Philadelphia, Here I Come!

 

At some point, I believe in the late teen years, Grandpop and one of his brothers decided they would not live in the coal-mining region for the rest of their lives. They had the “world” to conquer. They left family behind and made their way to Philadelphia where they each met and married their wives, had children and settled down.

I remember Grammy and Grandpop living in a row home in Philadelphia. I loved to go there. It was inviting and friendly and fun. Grandpop was fun (in my eyes anyway). Apparently even as a young child he was a handful. It was told that he was playing with fireworks (forbidden) and they exploded. He lost two digits on his hands. One is his thumb digit. As an adult, he always, always, smoked a pipe and he used that thumb, or what was left of it, to press down the tobacco in the pipe. I always though it was very clever of him as that digit was just the right size!

When Grandpop settled in Philadelphia, he secured a job with Abbott’s Dairy. He worked there until he retired. He barely made enough to support the family (by now with three children) but it was a fun place to work so he kept at it. My dad (the oldest child and only son) tells of having to work at a very young age selling eggs, just to help make ends meet.

Grandpop's cowboy and indians

Grandpop’s Cowboys and Indians

Grandpop was very creative and handy. He made his very own made-to-look-like Lincoln Logs, and I believe, crafted little cowboys and Indians, possibly made out of lead as they are heavy. He would be amazed and proud that even today, his great-great grand kids are still playing with the logs! (The little figures are put away, as no doubt they are covered in lead paint!)

Grandpop’s job at Abbott’s Dairy was as a mechanic and he put his skills to good use. Lack of formal education never seemed to hold him back.

The following comes from The Philly History Blog:

 

“Abbott’s Dairy shut down in 1984, after 108 years.

It is too bad. It sounds like it was a fun company.

In 1937 they put out a book called Raggedy Ann and Maizie Moocow,

with an ice cream driven plot (meant to illustrate the healthful benefits of ice cream).

It’s dairy truck drivers are remembered to have been known

to throw kids free ice cream sandwiches. . .”

 

Yep, sounds like a good fit for Grandpop!

 

Their street of row homes was a delight. Each connected with the other and if you sat on the tiny front porch and looked in both directions, you could wave to your neighbors probably ten houses each way. There was an alley in back where all the cars drove in and garages were under each home. Overlooking the alley, in between each home, was a tiny porch off the kitchen attached to the neighbors kitchen door. (the expression “back-door neighbors” comes to mind!) The porch was big enough for Grammy to stand on and yell down to us kids as we played in the alley to “put away our skates and come in for supper.”

At one end of the street was a little shop of some kind where one could buy the necessities – milk, bread, eggs, etc. At the other end, we could always count on a street vendor selling hot pretzels! Philadelphia Hot Pretzels! YUM! I know the tradition was to eat them with yellow mustard, but I was a holdout on the mustard. Just give me that big, soft, salty pretzel and I was good! Actually better than good!

Sometimes, if we were lucky, a little truck would come down the street playing a merry tune to get our attention. It was decked out in all pretty colors and on the back was a little tiny carousel with maybe four seats. I loved that thing and always begged Grammy for a ride. Money was so precious but she never said no.

Grandpop had a dog named Suzy.  That dog loved Grandpop and the feeling was quite mutual. Suzy knew Grandpop’s schedule and was at the ready when it was come-home-from-work time. Sweet little dog!

Grandpop3

Grandpop and Suzy

 The Florida Years

 

At one point in his career, Abbott’s Dairy sent Grandpop to Florida to give input on designing an ice cream shop for an extension of the company. Well, he had never been south of New Jersey before and fell in love with Florida!

When he retired, he decided he and Grammy would move there.  She was heartbroken because their whole family was in the Philadelphia area – her two daughters (my aunts) with their husbands and children, along with my dad (their son) and our family. But Grandpop had made up his mind and off they went. I was in second grade.

Obviously we ourselves headed south a lot, at all times of the year, to visit. But Grammy only lived three years in Florida before her death.  Grandpop’s health and mind suffered in later years but he was surrounded by his family as he eventually moved back “home”.

 

Sweet Memories

 

The memories are sweet and I will always remember his “fun” influence in my life.

A little fun fact: my dad and his cousin (both sons of the two brothers who left the coal-mining regions) each bought houses across the street from one another in Willow Grove. Dad’s cousin moved out of state when I was two years old so I did not remember them but years later, my second (or is it third) cousin (our mothers were pregnant at the same time) was doing family research and tracked us down.

I thank Janice for her research going all the way back to our roots in Ireland, which I’ve used here and for her new friendship. It’s really kind of amazing because she lives in South Carolina; our grandparents are buried in Pennsylvania; I live in Missouri!

I have fond vivid pictures of life in that row home in Philadelphia and my Grammy and Grandpop. I sure wish I had asked a lot of questions about them! But I was just a kid!!!

I’ll just have to hang on to my memories!

 

Phyllis

Phyllis Easterbrook

Thanks to Phyllis for sharing her grandfather’s immigrant tale with us today. On her blog PJ, Your Friend, Phyllis shares random thoughts and ideas and describes herself as a newish writer and storyteller. She is thankful for the words God gives her to share, and hopes readers enjoy, relate, and find meaning in her stories.  You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

If any other readers would like to share their family’s immigrant tales, please feel free to contact me with your submission. I love to hear stories of our ancestors and how their American dreams came to fruition.

 

 

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

The Irish American Influence – Guest Post By Brighid O’Sullivan

Brighid O’Sullivan grew up hearing Irish folk tales from her father in Western Massachusetts. She’s been writing short stories since she was a child and as an adult has written for History Magazine, History Channel magazine, and her local paper. She works full time as a nurse and has just published her debut novel, The Sun Palace, a story of history and magic set in 6th Century Ireland.

In today’s guest post, Brighid introduces us to the Irish American influences that have inspired her writing. 

 

The Sun Palace By Brighid O’Sullivan:

 

In 2007, I began writing my first novel, The Sun Palace. I knew nothing about Ireland or her history, had not known my great grandparents who emigrated to America, nor had I ever been to Ireland. What I did know about being Irish was given to me by my father, though that knowledge consisted of a few Irish folktales, playing records (yes, records!) made by Irish musicians, leprechauns my dad swore were like his guardian angels (an American view actually), rides on a St. Patrick’s day float in Holyoke Massachusetts, and lots of “blarney”. My dad was full of stories, most of which I did not believe.

Parade Happy

So why did I set my novel, The Sun Palace, in Ireland?

I started to read more than ever, which soon led me into European and Irish history, as well as novels written by Anne Rice, Morgan Llywelyn, Sebastian Barry, and Diana Gabaldon. I have a passion for anything historical and I love books. I collect and read all sorts of history, European as well as American, beginning and ending with Ireland, a place I grew to respect and love.

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Writing fiction is a laborious activity but writing historical fiction is even more so. There are all those research books one must read, buy, borrow, steal, and find!

I knew that, and like I said, I love history, but imagine trying to remember all those stories by heart like the druids did, or worse, what if books were actually forbidden? Lots of things were forbidden in the beginning of Ireland’s conquest by the English. To name a few, having an Irish name, Irish dress, and Irish trade, and we all know how the divisions of religion came to be.

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I read somewhere, there are more Irish in America than in all of Ireland! According to several statistics, 89,000 Irish emigrated from Ireland in 2013 but 55,000, many of them European, immigrated to Ireland! I believe that, because I’ve since been to Ireland twice and upon landing in Dublin for the first time, found myself saying, “so where are all the Irish?”

In one of my blog posts on my website Celtic Thoughts I talk about how if there was no Ireland there would be no America. For every accomplishment, from the beginning of America’s independence, to putting a man on the moon, Irish men and women have been part of the equation.

The fact that I am a writer goes back as far as the original bards in Celtic Ireland. ‘Tis in my blood and who I am. Blood that was shed for Ireland and America both … blood lost in wars, famines, mass emigration, prejudice and even death. I cannot help but feel grateful for such a sacrifice.

The Sun Palace

Oh and my idea for The Sun Palace? That grew from the kernel of a thought, after reading Tristan and Isolde, an Irish love story.

Check it out on Amazon and if you are generous enough to leave an honest review on the Amazon website, drop me an email about it @celticbrighid@gmail.com. I welcome all positive as well as constructive criticisms. As a much appreciated thank you, I will make sure you get my next published novel FREE.

My name is Brighid O’Sullivan and you can find me on Twitter, Pinterest, and on my website Celtic Thoughts writing about Irish and Irish American history.

 

Thanks so much, Brighid, for introducing us to your writing and your inspirations. Wishing you every success with The Sun Palace, and all of your future writing endeavors.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

 

 

To Ireland’s Far-Flung Exiles / A Poem By Irish American Mom

Ruined stone cottages lie dotted across the Irish landscape, permanent reminders of Ireland’s emigrants, forced to leave their homes by famine, and eviction. Over one million people left Ireland in the years of the Great Hunger from 1845 to 1850, and in the decades after many more followed.

Every time I see the old shell of a stone cottage I think of Ireland’s diaspora. In today’s post I thought I would share a poem I wrote dedicated to Ireland’s exiles, who made their new homes in America.

 

An Irish Half-Door

 To Ireland’s Far-Flung Exiles

by Mairéad Geary

 

They left these shores carting their memories of Irish summers:
Nettles drooping under the weight of glittering raindrops,
Wild blackberries beckoning on thorny bushes;
Yellow furze, purple heather, the colors of rural childhoods;
Lingering twilights, soft rains, rugged cliffs with secret caves,
Unceasing waves, bronzed for hours by the rays of the setting sun.

 

Heather and Gorse

On Ireland’s furrowed shores, I explore their untamed territory,
Discovering abandoned ruins, eerie memorials in barren fields;
Roofless shells with tumbling chimneys and spiritual hearths,
Systematically overgrown by nature’s wild abandon;
Eternal reminders of far-flung exiles, and their children’s children,
Dreaming of Ireland from some place far away.

An Old Irish House Ruin

I stand alone in green fields, gazing skyward at contrails
Pointing the way toward a western watery horizon.
My thoughts turn to refugees, viciously ousted,
Nothing but rags shrouding gaunt, emaciated bodies,
Silently trudging to port, in search of virulent vessels;
Some long forgotten, lost forever in their salty oblivion.

Irish Famine Eviction

Through melancholy mists and harrowing storms, some survived
The wretchedness of ocean crossing and mountain crossing,
Only to be scattered like rain drops upon thousands of valleys,
Where they learned to hope anew, paying tribute to their homeland
In sweat and tears; toiling to the rhythm of their songs;
Whilst laying the foundations for the winding roads of your dreams.

The Jeanie Johnston Famine Ship -  at night

And when those deep-seated recollections haunt you,
Echoing from the land where your forebears sleep
Beneath enduring lunar stones, listen to the bleak cry of time.
Come wade through rain-drenched grass, in praise of summer days.
Let Ireland’s gentle breezes polish your scars, and the light of home
Illuminate the ties that bind you to a new and ancient world.

Graveyard at Myross, West Cork

To all those with Irish roots who will visit Ireland this summer, may you feel a warm welcome in your ancestral home. I wish you safe travels. May you feel a deep and meaningful connection to the land of our forefathers.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

Tribute To An Irish Mother

Mothers will be celebrated throughout the United States this Sunday. When working on a post to describe the attributes of Irish and Irish American mothers, I came across this speech, delivered a number of years ago to a gathering of the Irish America Fund, by the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden.

His heartfelt, poignant words, dedicated to his own mother, perfectly sum up the way I feel about my Irish mother.  My words seemed inadequate beside this beautiful tribute. I decided instead to share his eloquent speech with you today, as a tribute to mothers everywhere.

 

Tribute to an Irish Mother

 

“Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden is the soul, spirit and essence of what it means to be an Irish American.

 

She is spiritual.

She is romantic.

She honors tradition,

and understands the thickest of all substances is blood,

and the greatest of all virtues is love.

 

She has taught her children, all her children in my neighborhood who flocked to her hearth, that you are defined by your sense of honor and you are redeemed by your loyalty.  She is quintessentially Irish — a combination of pragmatism and optimism.

She also understands as my friend Pat Moynihan once said, there is no “point in being Irish if you don’t know that the world is going to break your heart eventually.”

But she is more. She measures success in how quickly you get up after you have been knocked down.

 

She believes bravery lives in every heart,

and her expectation is that it will be summoned.

Failure at some point in everyone’s life is inevitable,

but giving up is unforgivable.

 

As long as you are alive you have an obligation to strive. And you are not dead until you’ve seen God’s face. My mother is a living portrait of what it means to be Irish – – proud, on the edge of defiance. Generous to a fault. Loyal to the end.

She made not only me believe, but scores of my friends and acquaintances believe in themselves. As a child I stuttered. She said it was because I was so bright I couldn’t get the thoughts out quickly enough. When my face was dirty, and I was not as well dressed as others, she told me how handsome I was. When my wife and daughter were killed, she told me God sends no cross a man is not able to bear.

 

And when I triumphed, she reminded me it was because of others.

 

She was watching through the kitchen window as I got knocked down by two bigger guys behind my grandfather’s home. She sent me back out and demanded that I, to use their phrase, “bloody their nose,” so I could walk down that alley the next day.

When my father quit his job on the spot because his abusive boss threw a bucket full of silver dollars on the floor of a car dealership to humiliate his employees, she told him how proud she was.

 

No one is better than you,

You are every man’s equal,

and every man is equal to you.

You must be a man of your word,

for without your word you are not a man.

 

When I was in eighth grade, I was a lieutenant on the safety patrol. My job was to keep order on the bus. My sister and best friend Valerie acted up. At dinner that night I told my mother and father I had a dilemma. I had to turn my sister in – it was a matter of honor. My parents said that was not my only option. The next day I turned my badge in.

I believe the traits that make my mother a remarkable woman mirror the traits that make the Irish a remarkable people. Bent, but never bowed. Discriminated against, but always looking down at their discriminator. Economically deprived, but spiritually enriched. Denied an education, but a land of scholars and poets.

As I look out at those massive Corinthian columns, I see my 5 foot, 2 inch mother, who stands taller in my eyes than any pillar in this room.

And I think of the Irish poem “Any Woman” by Katherine Tynan:

 

“I am the pillars of the house;

The keystone of the arch am I.

Take me away, and roof and wall

Would fall to ruin utterly.

 

I am the fire upon the hearth,

I am the light of the good sun,

I am the heat that warms the earth,

Which else were colder than a stone.”

 

- From a speech by Joseph R. Biden

 

Joe Biden’s mother passed away in 2010.  Her legacy is truly appreciated by her son. 

As an Irish American Mom I strive to be a straight-talking but supportive, encouraging mother, just like she was.

Wishing you all a very happy Mother’s Day.

 

 

 

Lá Na Máithreacha Shona Daoibh!

(Happy Mother’s Day)

Irish American Mom

Ships, Boats And Ferries – A Nostalgic Tribute

Ferries and ships depart and dock at Dublin’s ports on a daily basis. These boats mesmerize me.  Whenever I am in Dublin I often sit in my car, parked at the Summit in Howth, overlooking Dublin Bay.  Dublin’s waters grow busy, especially during afternoon rush hour.

Nostalgia overwhelms me watching Dublin’s shipping lanes. I left Ireland by airplane, so at first I didn’t understand why boats strike an emotional chord in my heart.

Stena Line

My mother will never watch these boats with me. She says they make her too sad, reminding her of days when all three of her daughters worked across the waters on foreign shores.

But I have never experienced a mother’s sadness at the loss of her children, yet these boats remind me of our nation’s sorrow. We are a country of immigrants, and even to this very day the Ireland’s young people are boarding ships and planes to seek their fortunes on distant shores.

In America boats are associated with leisure pursuits such as fishing, water skiing, cruising, and house-boating. The lonesomeness of immigration does not spring to most Americans’ minds upon seeing a water craft.

Not so for the Irish. Ever since I was a child, I have listened to Ireland’s folk music. Many of our traditional songs emphasize the pain of leaving family, friends and homeland. When I examined the lyrics of some Irish boat songs I realized I have been programmed since an early age to feel nostalgic at the sight of a ship.

In today’s post I share some excerpts from the sad, lonely songs of Ireland which focus on the pain of leaving. I hope these photos I took last summer will help illustrate the poignancy of these well-loved words.

The Cliffs Of Dooneen

 

“You may travel far far from your own native land

Far away o’er the mountains, far away o’er the foam

But of all the fine places that I’ve ever been

Sure there’s none can compare with the cliffs of Doneen.”

 

Irish Ferries By The Bailey Lighthouse

Carrickfergus

 

“I wish I was in Carrickfergus, only four nights in Ballygran

I would swim over the deepest ocean, the deepest ocean for my love to find.

But the sea is wide and I cannot swim over, and neither have I wings to fly

If I could find me a handsome boatman to ferry me over to my love and I.”

 

Irish Ferries

Come Back Paddy Reilly

 

“And tones that are tender and tones that are gruff

Are whispering over the sea,

“Come back, Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff

Come home, Paddy Reilly, to me”.

 

Ship By Howth

Botany Bay

 

“Farewell to your bricks and mortar

Farewell to your dirty lime

Farewell to your gangway and gang planks

And to hell with your overtime

For the good ship Ragamuffin

She is lying at the quay

For to take old Pat with a shovel on his back

To the shores of Botany Bay.”

 

Stena Line Passing Howth

The Shores Of Amerikay

 

“I’m bidding farewell to the land of my youth and the home I love so well

And the mountains so grand round my own native land

I’m bidding them all farewell

With an aching heart I’ll bid them adieu

For tomorrow I’ll sail far away

O’er the raging foam for to seek a home

On the shores of Amerikay.”

 

Stena Line Passing the Kish Lighthouse

Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore

 

“Our ship she lies at anchor, she’s standing by the quay

May fortune bright shine down each night, as we sail over the sea

Many ships were lost, many lives it cost on the journey that lies before

With a tear in my eye I’m bidding good-bye to Paddy’s Green shamrock shore.”

 

Ferry Leaving Dublin

The Leaving Of Liverpool

 

“So fare thee well, my own true love

And when I return, united we will be

It’s not the leaving of Liverpool that grieves me

But my darling, when I think of thee.”

 

Ferry In Dublin Bay

The Irish Rover

 

“In the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and six

We set sail from the sweet cove of Cork

We were sailing away with a cargo of bricks

For the grand city hall of New York

‘Twas an elegant craft, she was rigged fore and aft

And oh how the trade winds drove her

She could stand several blasts, she had twenty-seven masts

And they called her the Irish Rover.”

 

Ferry Photo Taken on Dollymount

The Holy Ground

 

“Now when we’re out a-sailing and you are far behind

Fine letters will I write to you with the secrets of my mind,

The secrets of my mind, my girl, you’re the girl that I adore,

And still I live in hope to see the Holy Ground once more.

You’re the girl that I adore,

And still I live in hope to see the Holy Ground once more.”

 

Boat In Dublin Bay

Farewell To Dublin In My Tears

 

“And now I’m standing on the Quay, my destiny’s uncertain

Where fortunes have been lost and won with the dealing of a hand

The past it is a purple haze, the future is an untold maze

The present is another gaze at dear old Dublin Town.”

 

Crow Watching The Stena Line Ferry

Home To Donegal

 

“The lights of London, are far behind

The thoughts of homeland are crowding my mind

Familiar places, come in to view

I see my home now, soon I’ll see you.”

 

Dublin's Boat, Ships and Ferries

Fiddler’s Green

 

“Wrap me up in me oil-skin and jumper

No more on the docks I’ll be seen

Just tell me old shipmates,

I’m taking a trip mates

And I’ll see you some day in Fiddler’s Green.”

 

Dublin Port

The Fields Of Athenry

 

“By a lonely harbour wall

She watched the last star falling.

And that prison ship sailed out against the sky.

Sure she’ll wait and hope and pray,

for her love in Botany Bay.

It’s so lonely round the fields of Athenry.”

 

I hope you’re not too teary after all these sad lyrics. Nostalgic and sentimental definitely are words to describe these excerpts.

And so now I think you’ll understand why the mere sight of a ship makes me a little wistful.  Do you ever feel the same way?

 

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom