The Gallaghers of Ballinrobe

IN MARCH 2020, Pat Gallagher had an idea. He asked his brother, Owen, what he thought of writing a book about the family of their father, James Gallagher, who grew up in the early decades of the 20th century in the West of Ireland in the small town of Ballinrobe, County Mayo. The shutdown from COVID-19 was just beginning, and the thinking was they would have more time on their hands than usual. What better way to spend quarantine than exploring the stories of our aunts, uncles and other relatives. The task turned out to be much more complicated (and rewarding) than anticipated. It involved sifting through ship manifests, census, birth and marriage records, newspaper archives, and, most enjoyable, sessions delving into the memories of extended-family members. Sorely missed was the chance to hear first-hand the tales from our deceased cousins John O'Brien and Pete Gallagher. This book's stories and more than 500 images are the result of the past year's journey. The goal was both simple and ambitious: making the memories of the Gallaghers of Ballinrobe ours forever.

IN MARCH 2020, Pat Gallagher had an idea. He asked his brother, Owen, what he thought of writing a book about the family of their father, James Gallagher, who grew up in the early decades of the 20th century in the West of Ireland in the small town of Ballinrobe, County Mayo. The shutdown from COVID-19 was just beginning, and the thinking was they would have more time on their hands than usual. What better way to spend quarantine than exploring the stories of our aunts, uncles and other relatives.
The task turned out to be much more complicated (and rewarding) than anticipated. It involved sifting through ship manifests, census, birth and marriage records, newspaper archives, and, most enjoyable, sessions delving into the memories of extended-family members. Sorely missed was the chance to hear first-hand the tales from our deceased cousins John O'Brien and Pete Gallagher. This book's stories and more than 500 images are the result of the past year's journey. The goal was both simple and ambitious: making the memories of the Gallaghers of Ballinrobe ours forever.


Create successful ePaper yourself

Turn your PDF publications into a flip-book with our unique Google optimized e-Paper software.



of Ballinrobe

The Story of Pat Gallagher and Mary Sheridan's Family

By their grandchildren


The decades between 1840 and 1950 were hard times for our parents,

grandparents and great-grandparents. That they not only survived, but thrived and made a

better life for each succeeding generation is a testament to their character. They would

endure famine, two pandemics, two world wars, a war for independence, a civil war and

economic depression. All whose families lived in the West of Ireland in those days

should not only be aware of the struggle and sacrifice, but be proud of the resilience.

We were too young to appreciate it at the time, but the greatest and strongest

people we would ever meet were in our own homes as we grew. They would on occasion

visit each other on holidays or other times and share wonderful stories, but we did not

then recognize the importance of what was being shared. It is only now that we are much

older and have time to reflect, that we truly cherish what wonderful people they were and

the wisdom they gave. We are writing this book so they will not be soon forgotten.

On Oct. 18, 1896, in Ballinrobe, a small market town in County Mayo, Pat

Gallagher married Mary Sheridan. Their story, however, started much earlier, when a

young farmer from Donegal leased a farm just east of town, in Cornaroya. Over the next

eight decades the family would see land disputes, deportation, robbery, untimely deaths,

and the devastation of the Great Potato Famine. The hardships of the family’s past,

tempered Pat and Mary Gallagher and made their family much stronger. They would

need that toughness. They would have 12 children, including a daughter who died in

infancy. Two more would die as young men, one of a devastating disease and the second

in a terrible accident. The Irish diaspora would continue, as six would immigrate to

America and one to England. Only two would live out their lives in their hometown.

Despite the challenges, the family maintained a closeness that has been part of

the inheritance passed down. The intimacy was usually tempered by the natural reserve

of the Irish and an instinct toward privacy, but it has proved to be a deep and lasting

bond. The family moved forward, with each generation building on the successes of the

previous. The farms in Cornaroya our ancestors worked are long gone, but the memories

created there are ours forever. Our ancestors left tracks in history that can never be


Their bonds may best be illustrated in how Pat and Mary’s youngest son, Owen,

told visitors how the deep emotional memories he had of the day his older brother John

was killed tragically in a bicycle accident were never far from his mind. Similar

emotions were undoubtedly present for his brothers, sisters and parents. Following are

the stories of the Gallaghers of Ballinrobe, in hopes that their history will continue to be

cherished for generations to come.

July 2021




1. Pat and Mary Gallagher 7

The Sheridans 23

The Gallaghers Next Door 23

2. County Mayo, Ballinrobe, etc. 37

3. Michael Gallagher 53

4. Delia Gallagher 61

5. John Gallagher 95

6. Nora Gallagher 103

7. Peter Gallagher 115

8. Pat Gallagher 145

9. James Gallagher 169

10. Tom Gallagher 205

11. Owen Gallagher 221

12. Ann Gallagher 233

13. Mary Gallagher 245


1. Blue Hen Dairy – Where Uncle Pete worked.

2. St. Francis Hospital – Where Aunt Catherine and Patsy O’Brien worked as nurses.

3. Krueger Brewery – Uncle Tom, Uncle Mike and Uncle Jim all worked there.

4. Uncle Pete & Aunt May’s first home – 714 N. Clayton St.

5. Uncle Tom’s first home; Uncle Jim & Aunt Ann also lived there – 611 N. Broom St.

6. Uncle Jim and Aunt Catherine’s home – 43 S. Sycamore St. (Union Park Gardens).

7. Aunt Delia and Uncle Mike’s first home – 610 N. Van Buren St.

8. Diamond State Brewery – Where Uncle Jim worked as a brew master.

9. St. Paul’s School & Church – Both Aunt Delia’s & Uncle Pete’s children attended.

10. James Tucker home (Aunt May’s sponsor & uncle) – 110 N. Franklin St.

11. Uncle Pete & Aunt May’s second home (the bar) – 101 N. Franklin St.

12. Wilmington Train Station.

13. St. Peter’s Cathedral – Where Uncle Tom was attacked.

14. St. Patrick's Church – Where Uncle Pete and Aunt May met in Wilmington.

15. Aunt Catherine Hoopes’ early home – 1720 Hancock St.

16. Fountain at Josephine Gardens – Spot of iconic photos for Aunt Delia & Uncle Jim.

17. Brandywine Zoo – Where Uncle Pete worked briefly.

18. Salesianum High School – 10 Gallagher descendants have attended.



Ireland 5

Cornaroya 13

Ballinrobe town 19

Ballinrobe area 22


Gallagher Family 2

Michael Gallagher Family 10

Ned Sheridan Family 24

Owen Gallagher Family 28

Mike O'Brien Family 85

May Tierney Family 136

Catherine Oliver Family 162

Catherine Hoopes Family 188


Highlighted locations are mentioned in book,


* Ballinrobe – Gallagher home.

* Castlebar – County town.

* Knock – Marian shrine.

* Tourmakeady – Site of 1921 IRA ambush.

* Ballynalty – Home of Tohers (Uncle Pete's


* Roundfort – Home of the McCormicks

(Chapter One).

* Westport – Home of Heratys (Uncle Pat).

* Ballindine – Home of Anthony Gallagher.


* Navan, Swords – Home of the O'Briens

(Aunt Delia's chapter).

* SixMileCross – Home of the Gormleys

(Uncle Jim).

* Cobh – Point of departure for many Irish

immigrants to America.

* Monaghan – Site of convent joined by

Aunt Mary.

* Fastnet – The most southerly point of



“An sean Madra don bhóthar chruaidh.”

“The old dog for the hard road,

(the pup for the boreen)”

Irish proverb




Uncle Owen's dog Prince walks along the boreen in 1993. At right in this view looking toward the Convent Road are

the remains of the old Gallagher home and related buildings. The Gallaghers owned land on both sides of the boreen.

Take a walk down the boreen from the Convent

Road in the Cornaroya section of Ballinrobe and small bits

of the Gallagher family history will unfold around you.

Of course, the scenery has changed over the

decades. Today you will first pass modern developments

that have been built with the boom, bust and boom of the

Irish economy. Not too long ago, before those homes were

built, the view from the Convent Road would have been of

green fields, an old house or two and stone walls not too

dissimilar from the view a century before.

Farther down the boreen – the Irish term for a

usually unpaved country lane – the road narrows and the

contrast between modern Ireland and the past comes more

into focus. You will soon come to a home on your right

where the last of our grandparents’ children to stay in their

hometown lived out his final days. On the other side of the

boreen, is the site of the cottage where Pat and Mary

(Sheridan) Gallagher’s young family grew. Little visible

evidence of the cottage remains, but a quarter century ago,

you could still walk inside three remaining stone walls that

once surrounded the close-knit family. Walking farther, the

boreen darkens before bending past the homes of friends

and relatives of the Gallagher family before heading off

toward the town itself.

The Gallagher family was certainly more blessed

than not, but you cannot deny that the traditional expression

(or curse, depending on your point of view) “May you live

in interesting times” applied. Our grandparents, their

ancestors and their descendants lived through periods of

famine, sickness, battles over land rights and the mixed

emotions that must have come as so many people left for

America, Britain or elsewhere. Over three decades, Pat and

Mary Gallagher would see three of their first four children

die young, a world war, a continuing bloody struggle for

Irish independence from England and a civil war. Yet

through it all they raised a strong, determined family. All

the adversity just seemed to temper each member of the

family. It made them stronger for their own challenges

ahead. Like those who came before and those who would

come after, we will see in the coming chapters how they



The Ballinrobe of the 1800s cannot be fully understood

without some knowledge of Ireland in the preceding centuries.

The phrase “beyond the pale” originated in Ireland. By the 14th

century, the Norman/English invaders of the island were

struggling. The remaining settlers had retreated to four eastern

counties around the city of Dublin: Louth, Meath, Dublin and

Kildare. The king's perimeter was marked with wooden fence

posts pounded into the Irish turf. These were called “pales,” from

the Latin palus, meaning “stake.” The English settlement fortified

its boundaries by turning the fence line into an impressive barrier:

a 10-foot-deep ditch surrounded by 8-foot banks and ringed by a

thorny hedge. Once settlers passed “The Pale,” they were outside

the authority and safety of English law, and subject to all the

“savageries” of rural Ireland. “Beyond the pale” then became a

phrase meaning "outside the limits of acceptable behavior or


In the 16th century, the Tudor monarchs Henry VIII and

his daughter Elizabeth I started the re-population of Ireland with

Protestants loyal to the crown. The Irish were treated not that

different than Native Americans would come to be. The Irish

were viewed as primitive and non-industrious. They could not be

trusted with the land. The land needed to be re-populated with

loyal British subjects.

In the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell declared that the

Irish must go “to Hell or to Connacht,” the land west of the River

Shannon. Connacht was chosen as a native reservation because it

was far from mainland Europe and possible Catholic support. The

Plantations of Ireland were confiscated land granted to

“Adventurers” or “Planters,” as the new owners were known.

By the late 17th century, Ireland was sucked into

England’s civil war, the conflict between the Catholic forces of

James II and the Protestant William of Orange. The decisive

battle in Ireland took place at the River Boyne on July 1, 1690,

when William’s forces defeated James’ army. James fled to


After the Battle of the Boyne, the Penal Laws were

enacted in 1695. They were a series of edicts imposed by the

“Irish” Parliament (which was made up of the transplanted

English and Scotts). Irish Catholics were forbidden to attend

Catholic worship. They were forbidden to own land. They were

forbidden to receive an education. They were forbidden to enter a

profession or engage in trade or commerce. And they were

forbidden to keep any arms.

Our Grandfather Pat Gallagher, above in

a photo from 1931, was born in

Cornaroya in December 1864. He

married our Grandmother Mary

Sheridan on Oct. 18, 1896. She never

wanted her picture taken. Below, another

photo from 1931 shows our grandfather

in the fields behind the family home.


Pat Gallagher and son Jim in 1931 in front of their home on the boreen. Uncle Jim said he

believed the woman partially seen standing in the doorway is his mother. To the best of his

knowledge, she never was formally photographed. Father and son are wearing 'Pioneer Pins' on

their left lapels, signifying their support for the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred

Heart, a Catholic organization based in Ireland that supported abstinence from alcohol.

were all great men and women in their own ways.

Our Grandfather Pat Gallagher was born in

Cornaroya in December 1864. His birth was not registered

until January, so in some places the year is listed as 1865.

Our Grandmother Mary Sheridan was born June 16, 1877,

also in Cornaroya. They were married Oct. 18, 1896, and

lived with Pat’s father on his family farm they would

eventually call their own. Their hometown dates to the 14th

century. Its name indicates simply it was the town on the

River Robe; Baile is the Irish word for town, and the Robe

runs through it. Their house was small, with three rooms

and a thatched roof. It had three windows facing the road.

According to information from the Irish Census of 1901,

the Gallaghers also would have had a stable, cow house,

piggery, chicken coop and turf house behind their home.

Pat’s cousin Peter Gallagher’s family lived next door. In

order not to confuse this Peter with Pat’s father Peter or son

Peter, he was fondly referred to by the family as “Peter

Gallagher Next Door.”


The issue of getting confused by similar names

from different generations or branches of the family is hard

to avoid, so we’ll try to keep things as clear as possible.

For the purpose of this story, Pat and Mary Gallagher are

referred to as “our” grandparents, with their children our

aunts and uncles.

Based on often spotty church and civil records and

the memories of various family members, the family’s

history can be traced to the late 18th century. Those prefamine

days were a time of significant migration within

Ireland. Many Catholics from Ulster either chose to or were

forced by sectarian violence to leave their home counties

and resettle in Connaught. Many ended up in County

Mayo. As legend has it – and by legend we mean mainly


the story told by Uncle Owen – our Great-Great-

Grandfather Michael Gallagher and his brother came down

to County Mayo from Donegal. Michael, who was probably

born sometime in the late 1790s, settled in Ballinrobe,

while his brother went on to Westport. Uncle Owen vaguely

remembered that brother dying from being kicked in the

head by a horse he borrowed from Michael, but he said the

story could have been about another set of brothers entirely.

In any event, Michael married a local girl named Bridget,

born in 1800. We could not find documentation on

Bridget's maiden name. Michael and Bridget had at least

four children. The first, Owen, was born about 1825. Peter

came about 1831, with a daughter, Honor, around 1833. It’s

unclear when another brother, Michael, was born. Peter is

our great-grandfather. There may have been additional

children, but no records could be confirmed.

The years when this generation of Gallaghers was

born and grew were particularly difficult for Ireland in

general and County Mayo specifically. The Irish proverb

“the hard road for the old dog” was particularly

appropriate; maturity and experience were vital for

survival. By the first half of the 1800s, centuries of

conquest and rebellion had led to the United Kingdom of

Great Britain and Ireland, formally created by the Acts of

Union in 1801. The Union came just three years after the

Rebellion of 1798, which featured the Battle of Castlebar,

up the road a bit from Ballinrobe. Over the next decades,

various Poor Laws and the Catholic Relief Act of 1829

were intended, at least in name, to help the Irish. In reality,

they created a situation where poor tenant farmers faced a

greater and greater threat of losing the land they occupied.

And then came the Great Famine.

In the five years after the first potato crop failed in

1845, County Mayo lost nearly 30 percent of its almost

400,000 people to starvation, disease and emigration. Small

tenant farms disappeared dramatically, with the number

falling in the province of Connaught from 35,600 in 1847

to just 9,700 a year later, according to one report for the

British government. Newly built workhouses were

overflowing. Some people were unable to make the journey

by foot to the workhouse and died along the way; more

were so weak they walked to the graveyards rather than die

on the roadside. The English response to the famine only

made things worse. “Would to God the Government would

send us food instead of soldiers,” one Ballinrobe inhabitant

told the Freemans Journal newspaper. A PBS documentary

titled “The Great Hunger and The Irish Diaspora” quotes an

eyewitness in Ballinrobe from 1849 describing “the streets

daily thronged with moving skeletons. The fields are strewn

with the dead.” The Irish simply called the period An Droch


The home of 'Peter Gallagher Next Door' (inset) on the boreen in Cornaroya was next to Pat and Mary

Gallagher's home. The houses were on land where their fathers and Grandfather Michael farmed.

Shaol, or “The Bad Times.”

The degree of suffering is hard to imagine for

people in an area already one of Ireland's poorest, but

Michael and Bridget Gallagher were blessed to emerge

from this misery with some degree of security. Sometime

before 1854, they acquired the lease to about 50 acres in

Cornaroya from Col. Charles Knox, the leading Ballinrobe

landowner. The Griffith’s Land Valuation of 1854 shows

Michael Gallagher leasing the acres from Knox for 29

pounds a year. Many families in Cornaroya at the time

rented significantly smaller farms, many under 5 acres,

barely enough to support a family. The Gallaghers having

50 acres means they may have had additional crops to sell

and help pay rent and other expenses.

Uncle Owen at one point talked of a land dispute

between the Gallaghers and the Bourke family, another top

leasee in Cornaroya with more than 50 acres. He didn’t

know exactly when it happened but thought the clash may

have involved what he called a “stick fight.” The dispute’s

outcome was very much in doubt, Uncle Owen said, until

the Walsh family joined in on the Gallagher side. Uncle

Owen thought his Great-Grandfather Michael’s wife

Bridget may have been a Walsh (pronounced “Welch”).

Against the joint effort, the land dispute was resolved very

satisfactorily, at least for the Gallaghers. To this day, there is

a Walsh home in the middle of the Gallagher properties

along the boreen in Cornaroya.


Michael Gallagher passed away sometime between

1868 and 1870. Bridget died in 1870 at age 70. Her son

Peter is listed as the “informant” (or witness) on the record

of her death. Before Michael died, he apparently found

himself brought up on some minor charges at the Ballinrobe

Petty Sessions. The Sept. 21, 1867, Ballinrobe Chronicle

mentions Michael Gallagher was fined one shilling plus

court costs for “having three pigs on the road at Cornaroya

on the 11th last.” Following in his father’s footsteps, the

newspaper reported a year later, on Nov. 28, 1868, that

Peter Gallagher was fined for having four pigs on the public

road at Cornaroya. The extra pig upped his fine to two


Property records spanning the years 1868 to 1884

show Michael and Bridget’s eldest son, Owen, by that time

occupying about 36 acres of his father’s property. His

brother Peter, our great-grandfather, is listed as the lease

holder of 12 acres that included his father's house and other

farm structures. Owen, with his wife, Catherine Hyland,

built a new home next to his father's cottage. Owen and


Records from the Valuation Office of Ireland (1868-1884) show the property transfer of the land originally leased by

our Great-Great-Grandfather Michael Gallagher to his sons. Michael's name was crossed out after he died. Peter, our

great-grandfather, inherits the lease on 12 acres on lot 9 (see map on opposite page.) Owen, the father of 'Peter

Gallagher Next Door,' gets 36 acres on lots 10, 11 and 12. Under the heading 'Description (of Tenement),' the notations

for both their properties indicate they included house and land. Peter's includes improvements, such as a shed or barn.

Peter’s sister, Honor, had moved out after marrying the

town blacksmith in the 1850s.

A third son, Michael, apparently ran into trouble

with the law and was deported by a British magistrate to

Australia. We don’t know exactly why or when. (Penal

transportation to Van Diemen’s Land in Australia ran from

1791 to 1853.) Rebellion against the Crown by the Irish was

a popular offense. But even minor charges such as stealing

a chicken could get an Irishman sent to the penal colonies.

For some, transportation seemed a better option than

poverty at home. British perceptions in the nineteenth

century were that the Irish were ignorant, superstitious,

primitive, dirty, vengeful and violent. They needed to be

managed. The magistrate apparently thought Michael

needed managing and deported him. When Uncle Owen

told his nephew Pat this story, it reminded Pat of the movie

“The Quiet Man” in which Director John Ford connotes a

sense of both pride and anger with deportation to Australia.

When first meeting Sean Thornton (John Wayne), Father

Lonergan (Ward Bond) tells him, “Ah yes, I knew your

people, Sean. Your grandfather, he died in Australia, in a

penal colony. And your father, he was a good man, too.”

Michaleen Oge Flynn (Barry Fitzgerald) later proudly adds,

“I could tell you blood-curdling stories (about the deported

grandfather), but, but me throat, me throat’s gone dry!”

According to Uncle Owen, after Michael had

served his sentence, he had a doctor in Australia write his

sister to see if he should come home to Ireland. Honor did

not think this was wise. Why, we don’t know. Nor do we

know what eventually happened with Michael. He may

have married and had children. As Uncle Owen said, “He

may have become a millionaire.”

Back in Ballinrobe, Michael's three siblings were

all getting married: Honor to Pat Malley, Owen to Catherine

Hyland and Peter to Bridget McCormick.

Owen and Catherine had at least seven children.

Only the fifth of the seven was a boy, Michael, born in

1868. He may have been the first or second in the family to

come to America. He settled in the Cleveland, Ohio, area

and lived until 1954. His mother, Catherine, died Jan. 2,

1874, when she was only 45 years old, leaving Owen to

raise their children. Catherine's death record shows she


A 19th century map of Cornaroya shows the boundaries of the individual properties. The Gallaghers leased lots 9, 10, 11

and 12. They later added lot 7, at the corner of the boreen and the Convent Road. Our Great-Grandfather Peter's land

is shaded green; Owen's is in blue. Valuation records show lot 13 was leased by the Connell family; 14 was eventually

leased by the Walshes. Our maternal Great-Grandparents John and Nora Sheridan took over the lease of land in lot 17

in 1891. The 'X' marks where this book's cover photo was taken.


The cottage where Pat and Mary (Sheridan) Gallagher raised their family was where our Great-Grandfather Peter

Gallagher and Great-Great-Grandfather Michael Gallagher also lived.

suffered from consumption (tuberculosis) for five months

and passed with her husband by her side. Within the year –

on Sept. 2, 1874 – Owen re-married, to Peggy McCormick,

his brother’s sister-in-law. Peggy was only 24, 21 years

younger than Owen. They had eight children of their own.

The first four were girls. Their fifth, Patrick, may not have

lived to adulthood. Their sixth, “Peter Gallagher Next

Door,” would eventually inherit the land. Peter is the father

of Eugene Gallagher, who still lives with his family along

the boreen. He once told of how his grandmother loved to

smoke a pipe in the cool, quiet of an evening.

Meanwhile, Michael and Bridget Gallagher’s

youngest child, Honor, married blacksmith Pat Malley on

Feb. 23, 1854. They lived on Chapel Street at the northwest

end of town heading toward the old church. They had at

least seven children, though there may have been more

before the first we could confirm in 1862; those we know

were Patrick, Mary, Owen, Margaret, John, Peter and Kate.

Honor and Pat Malley were both alive at the time of the

1901 census. Patrick, Owen, Peter and Mary Kate were all

living at home at the time. Honor died in October 1906 at

age 73; her husband passed in 1912.

Which brings us back to Peter Gallagher, our


In 1861, Peter married Bridget McCormick, of

Roundfort, which is about six miles east of Ballinrobe and

two miles south of Hollymount. Her father was Thomas.

Peter and Bridget’s first born, Mary, died when she was

about a year old, on Oct. 10, 1864. Bridget so loved Mary

that she never fully got over the loss. Uncle Jim once said

of his grandmother, “She could often be heard outside at

night crying and praying for the soul of her baby daughter.”

Peter and Bridget Gallagher had two other

children. Our Grandfather Pat was born in December 1864

and Michael on Feb. 26, 1867. Michael went to America,

probably sometime around 1890. He stayed in New York

and got married, but we are not sure to whom. Tragically,

Michael would soon pass away. His wife wrote his mother

and father about the sad news and sent his silver pocket

watch with a gold chain home to Ballinrobe. It is still being

passed along to the next generations.


Before the next generation of Gallaghers began

(our aunts and uncles), those living along the boreen would

have been affected by or known about many important

events going on in the region, or Ireland in general.

In 1879, another “mini potato famine” reinforced

deep fears of starvation in the West. Many of Mayo’s

farmers were still reliant on the potato because the soil

could not support any other crop sufficiently to feed their

families. In the weeks before the 1879 harvest, the telltale

signs of browning leaves on the plants led to panic through

the county. The harvest was the lowest in a decade and

under half the previous year’s. Fortunately, the mini-famine

resulted mostly in hunger rather than death, due mainly to

changes in society, including resources sent back to “the

old country” from those who had left for America during

and after The Great Hunger.


Our Grandfather Pat Gallagher rides a cart with James Kavanaugh, the father of Martin Kavanaugh, who with

his wife Breege has run the Friarsquarter House Bed and Breakfast on the Convent Road for many years. The

photo was taken outside the Moran house, a bit farther out the Convent Road than the B&B.

Our grandfather sits with his youngest daughters Ann and Mary in 1931. He would have

been about 66 years old.


Also in 1879, less than 20 miles north of

Ballinrobe, the Blessed Mother appeared in the village of

Knock. Fifteen people recounted seeing a light coming from

the parish chapel at about 8:30 p.m. Aug. 21. The apparition,

which lasted two hours, included Our Lady, St. Joseph, St.

John the Evangelist and a lamb. It is the only reported

apparition worldwide that included the Lamb of God.

That eventful year also saw the founding of The

Irish National Land League at a meeting in Castlebar, with

Charles Stewart Parnell its president and Mayo native

Michael Davitt organizing secretary. The Land League

helped fight for the rights of farmers, who regularly suffered

the threat of eviction if they were unable to pay their rent.

The agitation led to 1885’s Ashbourne Act, which put

limited tenant land purchase in motion. Parliament passed

several Land Acts over time that addressed the push for the

so-called “Three Fs”: Fair Rent, Free Sale and Fixity of

Tenure. Fair rent would be decided by land courts instead of

landlords; Free Sale meant a tenant could sell a holding

without landlord interference; and Fixity of Tenure meant a

tenant could not be evicted if the rent was paid. The

Gallaghers were supporters of the United Irish League, a

nationalist party launched in 1898. The Ballinrobe

Chronicle of March 26, 1903, shows P. Gallagher, Mrs.

Gallagher (probably Owen's widow) and J. Sheridan, at a

shilling each, among the 10 residents of Cornaroya

contributing to the League's Ballinrobe branch.

It is unclear when the Gallaghers were able stop

renting and “own” their land in Cornaroya. By 1914, 75

percent of renters in Ireland were buying out their landlords

under various government programs. The Gallaghers

initially paid rent to Col. Charles Knox and then his son

Charles H. Knox. Payments eventually went to the Irish

Free State/Republic. The amount remained stable over the

decades, eventually being eliminated in the 1970s when it

cost the government more to collect than it was worth.


In the last half of the nineteenth century, Ned

Sheridan was also building a family in Ballinaya, just south

of Ballinrobe. They were the ancestors of our grandmother.

Ned Sheridan married Mary Hamrogue around 1840. They

had at least six children: Edward, Mary, Patrick, twins

James and John, and Honor. John is our maternal greatgrandfather.

Meanwhile, laborer Michael Rooney and his wife

gave birth to a daughter Honor (Nora) around 1845

somewhere in Cornaroya. Nora would go on to marry John

Sheridan on Feb. 16, 1870, at St. Mary’s in Ballinrobe.

After the marriage, John and Nora lived with an

aunt and uncle in Cornaroya to the east of the Gallagher

properties. John and Nora had 10 children: Catherine

(1871), Edward (1873), Annie (1875), our Grandmother

Mary (1877), John (1879), James (1881), Patrick (1882),

Hanna (1884) and Maggie (1887). They lost their first

child, Mary, in infancy.

John and Nora’s fourth child was born June 16,

1877. Mary and her brothers and sisters all would attend

school and learn to read and write. Mary was only 19 when

she married Pat Gallagher on Oct. 18, 1896. The witnesses

were listed as Pat Malley, the groom's first cousin, and

Mary Walshe; the Rev. Andrew Judge presided. The

newlyweds lived with Pat’s father and mother in the small

cottage along the boreen.


An unmistakable feature of the landscape around

the boreen, and throughout the West of Ireland, are the

stone walls that line many roads and separate fields from

one another. Our grandfather had a reputation of being

highly skilled at working with stone. According to Jim

Four generations of

Gallaghers lived on the

family farm in Cornaroya.

The walls of the old home,

shown in 1993, have

finally disappeared, but

plenty of memories

remain. The metal bars

are a cattle chute added

after the structure was no

longer used as a home.


Grandfather Pat Gallagher was

known for his ability to build stone

walls. He may or may not have had

a hand in erecting these examples

near Connell's gate. Inset is a pipe

Uncle Owen found when repairing

one of the walls around the old

house. He believed it belonged to his

father or grandfather. According to

the book 'Old Days and Old Ways,'

the clay pipe was 'the countryman's

constant companion.' Traditionally,

the shank of the pipe was dipped

into some Guinness or whiskey to

seal the mouthpiece and impart a

pleasant flavor to the clay.

Tierney (Eugene Gallagher’s brother in-law), Pat Gallagher

was one of the best rock-wall builders in Ballinrobe. “He

could square off a stone with just several whacks of a

chisel; he always had a chisel in his pocket,” Jim Tierney

said. Many of the walls he built were still standing at the

end of the twentieth century, and Uncle Owen could point

out various walls his father constructed. Aunt Delia

remembered her father’s hands being very rough from all

the stone and farm work.

Our grandfather and the grandfather of

Philadelphia’s own Princess Grace Kelly were two of the

best stone builders in County Mayo. They worked together

on occasion when Pat Gallagher was young. According to

the website BeyondGraceKelly.com, John Peter Kelly was a

bricklayer from Newport in South Mayo, which is just north

of Westport. He was born in 1857 in Drimurla but left

Ireland in 1887 for Philadelphia.

When not building walls, there would have been

constant work for Pat Gallagher (as well as his wife and

children) to keep their farm going. A family farm in Ireland

at the time may have been small compared with sprawling

American examples, but the tasks were still plentiful. They

would grow much of their own food and tend to animals

that provided many of the basics needed for survival. Items

that later generations may take for granted – butter, bread,

milk – were the product of hours of chores. Meanwhile,

extracting the turf, which was the main source of fuel, was

another job essential to any home. The cutting, stacking and

hauling in spring and summer would be vital to sustaining a

family through the winter months. Each family would have

their own section to work in the bogs around Ballinrobe.

Our grandfather also often went to England to find

additional employment, most likely as a laborer. But he

would be back in December. Aunt Delia remembered her

father would always be home to help “bring in the

Christmas.” She could recall her mother saying, “God is

good and Father is coming tomorrow.”

There was, of course, more to Pat Gallagher than

farming and wall-building. Interest in saving the Irish

language saw a resurgence with the growth of Irish

nationalism in the 19th century. Gaelic had been dying out

except in some isolated areas of the West. Jim Tierney

remembered “Pat Gallagher spoke the old Irish very well

and that a professor had actually come to talk with him and

study the pronunciation and dialect” of Connaught.

Our grandfather probably was familiar with the

language from native-speakers around him. But he may

have received help from his education by the Christian

Brothers, which apparently lasted all of one year. Pat

Gallagher may have attended either an "underground"

Catholic school or a British-government-sanctioned

National School before he turned 12. But records from

Ballinrobe’s Christian Brothers School, which opened in

1876, show Pat and his younger brother Michael among the

school’s initial class. Records show the pair ended their

tenure a year later; the reason given is “At Work.”

Beginning in 1802, the Christian Brothers began founding

schools all around Ireland to offer an alternative to the

National Schools, where Catholic symbols and teachings

were banned, along with lessons on Gaelic and Irish history.

The Christian Brothers, who came to Ballinrobe in 1868,

got around those rules by refusing any government funding,

instead relying on community donations. The school finally

opened after a decade-long search for a location. In 1876,


A colorized photo shows Ballinrobe's Abbey Street around 1900 on what appears to be a market

day. The view is looking north from the spot marked with a red dot on the map opposite. The

road leads to the old Abbey and Abbey Cemetery.

Prints, including the three above on this page, hang

in Uncle Jim's son Pat's basement. They show

Ireland around the year 1900. Above left is the

Cornmarket, with the view looking west from the

map's green dot. The building under the blue arrow

was the jail and the red arrow the weighbridge, used

for measuring large loads at the market. Above right

is Glebe Street, looking west from the map's blue

dot; come 1960, Margaret Burke’s store would be on

the left. The photo at right, from the Wikimedia

Commons website, shows Bridge Street from

between 1880 and 1900. The street leads out of

town toward Chapel Road, where Honor

(Gallagher) Malley lived.


Below is a photo from the Maggieblanck.com website

showing Market/Main Street, with St. Mary's in the

distance on the left. The location is the red dot on the map.

Above is another photo from

Pat's basement. It shows the

inside of a typical cottage,

featuring the dish cupboard,

spinning wheel and a pot

hanging from a crane in the

open fireplace.


Charles H. Knox agreed to lease to the Brothers the

building and grounds of an old National School near the

Cornmarket. It was the same school Pat Gallagher’s sons

would attend decades later. His wife, Mary Sheridan, and

their daughters would have been taught by the nuns at the

Convent of Mercy.

Pat Gallagher knew his way around town, but he

wasn't always ready to embrace the latest technology to get

where he needed to go. Aunt Delia recalled one such

occasion. Her father was out walking when a neighbor

pulled up in a new motorcar and offered him a lift. “No

thanks,” our grandfather said. “I'm in a hurry.” Apparently,

walking was more reliable ... and often quicker. A little

impatience also may have led to a nickname our

grandfather had from his wife. She would worry about him

walking the narrow roads to neighboring towns and

frequently referred to him as “The Wrong of the Road.”

As our grandfather worked to provide for his

family, his wife would have had to work, work, work to

keep up a house filling with children. Cows needed milking,

butter needed churning, chickens and pigs needed feeding,

gardens tending, clothes mending, bread baking, meals

fixing ... and the washing was done by hand. Then there

were the men and the mud they tracked in. It’s no wonder

one fond memory from Uncle Tom was of his mother

having to hurry off to Mass at the last minute, “with her

shawl flowing behind her as she went over the wall and

through the fields toward church.”


For our grandparents, children started arriving in

1897 with the birth of Michael. A daughter, Mary, arrived

about a year and a half later, in 1899. Sadly, Mary died

almost immediately. Fortunately, our grandmother would

have had her mother-in-law, Bridget, to help console her.

She had suffered so much from the same experience with

the death of her first child as an infant. That emotional

support ended with Bridget Gallagher's death March 14,

1909, of bronchitis at age 69. When her husband, Peter,

died March 7, 1912, at age 81, our grandfather inherited the

farm and about 12 acres.

The new century brought 10 more children for Pat

and Mary Gallagher, beginning with Delia (1901), then

John (1903), Nora (1906), Peter (1908), Patrick (1909),

James (1911), Thomas (1914), Owen (1916), Ann (1921)

and, finally, a second Mary, born in 1922.

Over the course of about 20 years, the children

would live through World War I, the Easter Rising, the

Spanish Influenza, the Irish War of Independence, the

Construction began on the Convent of Mercy in

Ballinrobe in 1853. Over the years it would provide

employment for a number of Gallaghers, who lived a

short walk away. The building is now privately owned

after the relocation of the remaining nuns to Castlebar.

emergence of the Irish Free State and the Irish Civil War. It

was a time when the decades-long struggle for Ireland to

govern itself, known as Home Rule, concluded. The House

of Lords had vetoed Home Rule for years, but eventually

lost that power in 1911, an event that had some significance

to the Gallaghers. Uncle Jim told his son Pat that “you can

always remember the year I was born, because it was the

year the House of Lords lost the veto power.”

Implementation of Home Rule, which was granted

in 1914, was suspended with the outbreak of World War I.

Irish rebels interested in an independent republic soon lost

any patience they had and staged the Easter Rising in 1916,

the year Uncle Owen was born. The initial rising in Dublin

failed, but it was followed by the Irish War of Independence

(1919-1921), culminating with the establishment of the

Irish Free State through a Treaty negotiated with England.

Aunt Delia said her father favored the Home Rule efforts

and was a fan of Lloyd George, the British prime minister

from 1916 to 1922, who negotiated the Treaty. Controversy

over the Treaty resulted in the Irish Civil War (1922-23),

with the Free State side prevailing.

Aunt Delia was the first of Pat and Mary

Gallagher’s children to move to America, with five others

following and settling in the Philadelphia and Wilmington,

Del., areas. Aunt Nora married and died in Ballinrobe.

Uncle Owen, who died in 1999, lived out his years as a

bachelor in his home across the boreen from the old cottage.

Aunt Mary moved to Leeds, England. Before she died in

2006, she was the last surviving of the brothers and sisters.

The family may not have had much money, but

they were rich in other ways. They were not famous or


powerful but thrived on the faith, friendship and small joys

that were typical of many other families of their time.

There are no available pictures of our

grandmother, with the possible exception of a partial view

of her dress and lower legs in a photo of her husband and

son Uncle Jim outside their home in 1931. Aunt Delia took

the photo when she returned home after Uncle John’s death.

“Mother never wanted her picture taken,” Uncle Jim said

once when examining the photo. “I think that could be her

in the doorway.” Only a few stories about Mary Gallagher

have come down through the years. But one exception tells

it all. Uncle Pat would often tell his daughter, “My mother

was a saint.” He would often tear up when talking about her.

The Convent of Mercy had a significant

connection with the Gallaghers. It was located between the

Gallagher property and the town on what came to be known

as the Convent Road. You could get to the convent by

crossing the field in front of the old cottage. That field

would one day hold Uncle Owen’s new house. Construction

began on the convent in 1853 in a field rented from Col.

Knox. Over the years it would provide employment for a

number of Gallaghers. Some of the nuns would eventually

help keep an eye on Uncle Owen as he grew old. He left a

generous portion of his estate to the sisters when he died.

A story that at first sounds more serious than it

turns out is one involving Honnie Burke, a cousin of our

grandfather and good friend and neighbor of our

grandmother. She sued Pat Gallagher and his cousin “Peter

Gallagher Next Door” over a right of passage for her geese

to get to water. It sounds as though this could have caused

friction, but Aunt Ann always said it did not. “That was just

what was done,” she would say.

Among the possible explanations is that some

people had no direct access to water or to some of their own

fields without crossing someone else's property. Arguments

over access were common, especially when fields were

changing ownership in the first decades of the twentieth

century. It may have been at this point that Honnie Burke’s

geese were threatened with the loss of access to the water.

The proper recourse would have been to take the matter to

court and have the judge grant the access that would be

legal, permanent and transferable from owner to owner.

This may also be the origin of “Connell’s Gate,” a right of

passage that sat just to the right of the old Gallagher cottage

and connected with the Connells’ fields. It is likely the most

photographed spot on the property.

Honnie Burke was born Honor McCormick in

Caherforte around 1874. Her father was John McCormick

and Mother Honor Hyland. John McCormick was probably

a brother of Bridget and Peggy McCormick’s father,

The view from a room at the Friarsquarter House Bed

and Breakfast in 1993 offers a view of Cornaroya fields

that would not have been too different a century earlier.

Cornaroya translates as 'hill of the red cow.'

Thomas. Another brother appears to have been Pat

McCormick, great-grandfather of current Caherforte

resident Michael (Mick) and Claremorris resident Seamus

McCormick. Honnie Burke’s granddaughter Marium

Greeney believes the father of John, Thomas and Pat

McCormick may have been named John. Honnie

McCormick married Richard Burke in 1917 and moved to



A deep sadness would visit the boreen several

times. In 1921, the Gallaghers’ oldest son, Uncle Michael,

died of tuberculosis. The loss would hit the family very

hard, especially his father. Less than a decade later, on a

dark road between Kilmaine and Ballinrobe, Pat and

Mary’s second son, John, would be killed while riding his

bike toward home.

A dozen years later, on July 29, 1942, our

grandfather died of a carcinoma at age 76. He was sick for

three weeks, and Uncle Jim and Uncle Owen took turns

sitting with him so he would not be alone. Our cousin

Eugene Gallagher described the day Pat Gallagher died as

the day he became a man. Eugene and his father, “Peter

Gallagher Next Door,” were working in the fields coating

the potatoes with a blight protection when word came his

uncle had passed away. Eugene’s father told him he had to

leave and asked Eugene if he was man enough to finish the

job by himself. Eugene assured him he was.


Six months later, on Dec. 19, our grandmother

died from colon cancer after suffering from Parkinson’s

disease for many years. Parkinson’s is a debilitating illness

that can last as many as 20 years. Uncle Pat, who would

himself die from Parkinson's, thought his mother was

showing the first signs of the illness as early as 1920. Aunt

Ann remembered that when her mother died, it was Honnie

Burke who closed her eyes and stood on a rickety old chair

to light a paraffin lamp as people came to pay their respects.

In the years after their parents died, Uncle Jim and

Aunt Ann would follow Delia, Peter, Pat and Tom in

coming to America. They would carry with them the

memories and bonds built over the years by their

remarkable family. Their story continues today.




The bonds between the Gallaghers and Sheridans

span two continents and more than 125 years.

Their beginnings can be traced to the latter part of

the nineteenth century. The connections grew through a

marriage and as the families spread from Ireland to

America. The ties matured into powerful friendships in

Philadelphia and beyond.

Around 1840, Ned Sheridan married Mary

Hamrogue and raised a family on their farm just south of

Ballinrobe, in the area identified in some records as

Ballinaya and others as Lissanisky. They had at least six

children: Edward, Mary, Patrick, twins James and John, and

Honor. All but Honor were born in the 1840s.

Meanwhile, in Cornaroya, Michael Rooney and

his wife gave birth to a daughter Honor (Nora) around

1845. The location of their home is unclear; it may have

been one of the numerous laborers' cottages in town. Nora

was 25 years old when in 1870 she married one of Ned and

Mary (Hamrogue) Sheridan’s sons, John. They are our

maternal great-grandparents.


Living alongside the “Gallaghers of Ballinrobe”

for whom this book is named was another family with

claim to the same title. Maybe even a stronger one. There

are numerous descendants of that family who still call

Cornaroya, Ballinrobe and County Mayo home.

They are part of the family tree of Owen

Gallagher, the brother of our Great-Grandfather Peter

Gallagher. The brothers each inherited part of the 50 or so

acres their father Michael had leased along the boreen in

Cornaroya. Sometime in the late 19th century a new home

was built next to the existing cottage. The brothers ended

up married to sisters Bridget and Peggy McCormick. Owen

Gallagher, born around 1825, originally married Catherine

Hyland, but she died of consumption in 1874, having given

birth to seven children.

The two brothers' families grew side by side. By

the time our aunts and uncles were growing up, their first

and second cousins next door were like part of one huge

family. The eight additional children Owen Gallagher had

with Peggy McCormick included Aunt Delia’s closest


Uncle Pete, from left, his cousin Francis Sheridan and one of the three Duffy

brothers are well-dressed for an unknown occasion, probably sometime in

the late 1920s. The location is Philadelphia's Fairmount Park.




Above, the young family of Uncle Jim and Catherine Gallagher is

joined by Francis Sheridan at Uncle Tom and Aunt Ann's Champlain

Avenue home in the mid-1960s. In the picture at left, Uncle Pete, right,

is with a cousin, either John Sheridan or George Mitchel.

The young couple lived on the farm in Cornaroya

that had been leased by John's Uncle James Murphy since

at least 1850. The couple took over the lease of the almost

2-acre property and several other small plots when James

Murphy died in 1891 when he was 90 years old. Honor

Sheridan, identified as a niece-in-law, is listed on the death

record as being present when widower James Murphy died

after six days of "senile decay." The farm was located in lot

17 in Cornaroya (See map earlier in this chapter). It is there

that Aunt Delia lived with her maternal grandfather when

she was a young girl.

James Murphy was born in 1801. His wife,

Bridget, died in 1873 at 75. James may have had a wee bit

of a temper, at least in his later years. A court record from

when he was nearly 80 years old indicates he was accused

of throwing a bottle of ink at a Ballinrobe man by the name

of John Noon. The resolution of the case is unknown, as is

what would drive a man to toss an ink bottle.

In any event, John and Nora Sheridan had at least

10 children. Their first, Mary, died in infancy in February

1871. It was, tragically, not an uncommon fate in Ireland at

the time. On the Gallagher side, the first daughters of both

our grandparents and great-grandparents died at or soon

after birth. Both children also were named Mary.

Later in 1871, John and Nora had their second

child, Catherine, followed by Ed (1873), Annie (1875), our

Grandmother Mary (1877), John (1879), James (1881), Pat

(1882), Honor, or “Hanna,” (1884) and Maggie (1887).

James and Patrick both died young: James of

“convulsions” when he was only six days old; Patrick when

he was a year old in August 1883.


Four of John and Nora's children immigrated to

America when they were quite young:

* Catherine Sheridan, born Dec. 2, 1871, may have arrived

in the U.S. as early as 1880. She married Francis

"Frederick" Mitchel, also of Ireland, in Philadelphia in

1892. Before Frederick died on May 26, 1903, at age 41,

they had three children: Frances, George and Anna. Frances

married Carl Zeisberg, a 30-year writer and editor for the

Philadelphia Evening Bulletin and member of the U.S. Table

Tennis Hall of Fame. It’s unclear if George or Anna ever

married. Catherine died Nov. 24, 1961.

* Annie, born in May 1875, immigrated young, but it's

unclear exactly when. She made a return visit to Ballinrobe

with her nephews John and Francis sometime after the turn

of the century. During the visit, she developed a close

affection for one of her sister Mary’s daughters, our Aunt

Nora. Annie also paid for the ticket that brought Nora’s

sister Delia to America in 1924. She worked for Lit Brothers

Department Store at Seventh and Market streets in

Philadelphia and also managed a gift shop for a time. Annie


never married. She died May 7, 1953, at St. Mary’s

Hospital in Philadelphia.

* Hanna, born May 25, 1884, emigrated May 26, 1900, one

day after her 16th birthday. She was slight, standing only 5

feet 5 inches tall and weighing 100 pounds. Aunt Hanna

lived most of her life with her sister Catherine in

Philadelphia. She worked as a buyer and saleswoman for

Snellenburg's Department Store at 11th and Market streets.

Later in life, she moved to Ambler, Montgomery County,

and died in January 1969.

* Ed Sheridan, born Nov. 8, 1873, probably immigrated to

America in 1892. His family was an important part of the

connection with the Gallaghers in America. In 1901, he

married Esther Larner, who had been born March 17, 1877,

in Lancashire County, England. They had three sons in

Philadelphia: John (1902), Francis (1903) and Edward

(1904). By 1910, census records show Ed Sheridan Sr. was

a bartender renting a home for the family on Stillman

Street. By 1920, the family lived above the bar he owned

on North Front Street. He died Oct. 4, 1921. In 1930, the

family lived on Mount Vernon Street. By 1940, they had

moved to Roselyn Street. At that point, Esther’s sister Anna

and her husband, Michael Duffy, lived directly behind the

Sheridans, at 423 Champlost Ave., with their four children:

Thomas (1900), Ed (1902), Esther (1906) and Joe (1912).

Only an alley separated the families. Also close by was

Aunt Catherine (Sheridan) Mitchel’s home at 1740 Green

St. She was living there with two of her children, George

and Anna, and Aunt Hanna.

Sadly, Ed and Esther Sheridan’s youngest son,

Edward, did not live to see his 15th birthday. He died as

part of the Spanish Influenza outbreak of 1918. As World

War I raged, the city of Philadelphia hosted a parade to

promote Liberty Loans, bonds issued to pay for the war and

bolster morale. On Sept. 28, as many as 200,000 people

jammed Broad Street to watch the marching bands,

uniformed troops and various floats. Within 72 hours, every

bed in Philadelphia’s 31 hospitals was filled. Within a few

weeks, some 4,500 people in Philadelphia had died from

the flu or its complications. Ed Sheridan died Oct. 8,

officially of pneumonia. He had suffered from an

underlying problem with his heart for three years. He was

only 14 years and six months old.

Over the years, Aunt Esther and her two surviving

sons strengthened the Sheridan and Gallagher connection.

Our Uncle Pete stayed with them after arriving in

America in 1927. Uncle Pat was very close to the Sheridans

and Duffys when he settled in Philadelphia. They would

often travel together to visit the Gallaghers in Delaware on

holidays or for weddings, graduations and funerals. Aunt

Delia lived with the Sheridans on Mount Vernon Street while

she resided in Philadelphia in the 1930s. And her son, John,

stayed with the family when he attended LaSalle University.

Aunt Esther’s oldest son, John, was born July 12,

1902. He attended Drexel University and worked for Collins

& Aikman Inc. in the textile industry. He married Florence

“Flossy” Kane in 1936. After WWII, John relocated with his

company to North Carolina. He died Aug. 17, 1971, at age

69 in Ocean City, N.J. Florence died in 2000. Francis, was

born Oct. 14, 1903. Like his brother, he attended Drexel and

worked for Collins & Aikman but did not relocate. Instead,

he went into the floor-covering industry. Patsy DeAscanis

remembers her mother and Uncle Pat were impressed with

his position. Francis never married and died June 25, 1990.


Three other children of John and Nora Sheridan

lived out their adult lives around Ballinrobe.

* Mary, our grandmother, married Pat Gallagher in October

1896 and raised our aunts and uncles along the boreen in

Cornaroya, not far from her parents’ farm.

* Maggie lived with her parents until they died, her mother

of liver cancer in 1905 and father in 1917. She wrote a letter,

shortly before her death, to Uncle Owen asking if he would

dig her grave in the Abbey cemetery. He complied.

* John was still single and living on the family farm with his

father and sister Maggie when a young Aunt Delia began

living there to help the family. He was known to the

Gallaghers as Uncle Johnny; Aunt Ann remembered his “oldfashioned

visits” that he ended with a quick goodbye and a

“God bless.” He eventually married and inherited the farm.

He and his wife had two daughters. One of them, Mary,

married William Duffy and they had two boys, John and

Liam. Liam, a carpenter, lives on the family farm, where he

has a workshop.


There is no one around to confirm the story, but

John Sheridan, our great-grandfather, was involved in a legal

dispute that made the local newspaper in September 1896.

It’s a story that offers a glimpse into what daily life was

occasionally like at that time, fertilized with a bit of land

dispute, some harmless violence and not a little humor.

That September, John Sheridan was the

complainant during a petty court session in Ballinrobe. The

case involved a dispute over the right to transport a cart of

manure through a gate in a field owned by the Sullivan

family. That day, John Sheridan, who lived two miles away,


Francis Sheridan,

Leon and Patsy

DeAscanis, and

Aunt Ann are

together for the

wedding of Uncle

Pat's daughter,

Mary Kathryn, in

Philadelphia in the


was among those hired to do the work for Michael Malley

of Lissanisky, who was ill. Hauling another cart of manure

was John’s twin brother, James.

The gate in dispute was along a boreen off the

main road from Ballinrobe to Cong, according to the story

in the Ballinrobe Chronicle. Accompanying John Sheridan

on his task was Mrs. Malley. Witnesses to the event

included Pat Leonard, who was loading another cart, and

Mary Sheridan. She may have been John's daughter (our

grandmother) or John's niece (James Sheridan's daughter).

A confrontation happened when John was

“knocking the gap” in a stone wall on the Sullivans’

property to get to the Malleys’ field and pick up the manure.

The passage was the only access to the Malley field; John

Sheridan testified the gap was there for the past 300 years.

But Pat Sullivan, the defendant in the case, objected.

“(John Sheridan) said Mrs. Malley and he were

about knocking the gap in the field to admit the horse and

cart when Pat Sullivan came up,” the story reads. “He

carried a large stone and grasping it in his hand, he struck

witness on the forehead; he put up his hand to guard

himself from the blow. Defendant then caught hold of two

of the fingers of his upraised hand and commenced to eat

his hand ‘like a dog.’ Mrs. Malley rescued him by taking

Sullivan tightly by the nose and thus ‘smothering him.’”

Sullivan testified he was at the scene to witness a

formal objection by his family to the Malleys’ use of the

passage. He admitted hitting John Sheridan’s clenched hand

across the wall, but nothing else. He said Sheridan then hit

him several times in the face.

John Sheridan denied he hit Pat Sullivan during

the confrontation. Sullivan’s own mother testified she had

beseeched her son to go home before he ever struck a blow.

As part of the case, Mrs. Sullivan had accused

James Sheridan of assaulting her during the confrontation.

Asked to point out her assailant in court, she hesitated. The

newspaper account says she looked back and forth from

John to James with some confusion because they “are twins

and are as alike as two peas.” She eventually identified

James as the one who hit her.

The case ended with acknowledgment that local

prominent landowner Charles H. Knox should rule on the

right to use the passage. Pat Sullivan was fined 5s and 10s

court costs. All other summonses were dismissed.


John Sheridan’s twin brother, James, was listed in

the 1901 Census as the head of a household of mainly

women and girls. The listing says they lived in Lissanisky,

but other records indicate the family considered themselves

residents of Ballinaya.

In 1901, James lived with: his wife, Bridget,

whom he married in 1884; Mother-in-law Mary O'Brien;

four daughters, Mary, Catherine, Bridget and Annie; and a

son, Michael. A fifth daughter, Maggie, would be born

within the year. A son Ned, named for his grandfather, died

of convulsions at five days old in 1890. James himself died

of pneumonia in 1903.

By the 1911 Census, Mary O'Brien is listed as the

head of the household, which also included her daughter

and Bridget's three youngest children, Michael, Annie and

Maggie. Mary O'Brien died in 1913. Bridget's oldest

daughter, Mary, who was 16 in 1901, immigrated to

America. She lived there with her uncle and aunt Ed and

Esther (Larner) Sheridan in Philadelphia before marrying a

Thomas Brown. Mary's sister Annie also immigrated to

America but never married. Their sister Bridget came to

America in 1910 but returned to Ballinrobe and married a

John Walsh in 1921.




Margaret (Gallagher) -- one of Peter Gallagher Next

Door’s sisters -- and her husband, Thomas Mellet, pose

with four of their children in this photo from the early

1930s. Front center is Bridie (later Butler); in back, from

left, are Thomas, who died in 1936, Martin and Harry.

CONTINUED from Page 23

friend, Sarah Gallagher (later Connell/O'Connell), as well

as “Peter Gallagher Next Door,” who got his nickname to

distinguish him from the too many other Peter Gallaghers

around at the time. The six other brothers and sisters were

Bridget (b. 1876), Margaret (1878), Annie (1881), Winifred

(1884), Patrick (1887) and Owen (1897). Peter was born in

1890, Sarah in 1893.

“Peter Gallagher Next Door” married Maggie

McDermott in 1926, with our Uncle John serving as best

man. (It was four years before John died in a tragic bicycle

incident.) Peter and Maggie had seven children: Eugene,

Jack, Margaret, Peter, Philomena, Tommy and Delma.

Those children went forth and multiplied, as have their

children, who are now raising the latest Gallaghers of

Ballinrobe. Maggie died in 1977, seven years after her


The family has, of course, expanded beyond the

borders of “the old country” and the name Gallagher. There

'Peter Gallagher Next Door' was a first cousin of our

Grandfather Pat Gallagher. He and his wife Maggie

(McDermott) lived in the home of his parents Owen and

Peggy (McCormick) Gallagher next door to our aunts

and uncles. His children included current boreen

residents Eugene and, of course, another Peter.

are Kings, Mellets, Connells, Burkes, Butlers and others

who share bonds with Peter and Owen Gallagher from 170

years ago.

From Peter Gallagher Next Door’s generation, we

know Margaret married Thomas Mellet and had 10 children

between 1902 and 1919. (As with many names, the spelling

can vary from source to source, including Mellot or

Mellett.) By whatever spelling, they lived on New Street in

Ballinrobe. Their oldest daughter, Katie, met Aunt Delia

when she arrived by ship in New York in 1924. Peter's

sister Anne married Thomas King in 1906. They had seven

children by 1918; two daughters, Mamie and Bridget, came

to America. Peter himself raised his family in his father's


Eugene Gallagher,

holding a cigarette,

gathers with at least six

cousins, including Aunt

Nora, probably sometime

in the 1970s. In front,

from left, are Bridie

(Mellet) Butler, Bridie

(King) Mullin, Aunt Nora

and Annie (King) Clancy.

Bridie Mullin's son the

Rev. Thomas Mullin is at

the far left and son Bobby

is behind Eugene. The tall

man in the white shirt

could not be identified.

home, until he built a new bungalow, probably in the late

1950s, on the boreen slightly closer to the Convent Road.

That bungalow has given way to modern developments.

Among Peter’s children, Delma, who married

Andy Derhen, would go on to hold various jobs at the

United Nations. She died in 1998, leaving two children,

Brian and Vanessa. Tommy moved to Virginia, married

Sharon Slaughter in 1968 and raised a family there while

keeping in touch with his Gallagher cousins in the

Wilmington, Del., area. He died in 2006; his children are

Kara and Kelly.

Eugene and Peter raised their own families next

door to each other along the boreen in Cornaroya. They

moved from the original cottage where they were raised to

a pair of plots around a bend in the road at different times.

Memory and Valuation Office records indicate their homes

were under construction around 1970/71. We owe a debt of

gratitude to Peter’s wife, Maureen, for how she was among

those who helped Uncle Owen as his health failed in the

late 1990s.

Peter Gallagher Next Door’s oldest son, Eugene,

had a way of standing out to his relatives in the U.S. Maybe

it was because he came to America and served in the

Korean War. Maybe because two of his daughters stayed

for a while with Uncle Jim’s son Pat in Wilmington. Or

maybe it was simply because his personality exuded the

graciousness, humor and love of family we think of as

typical for an Irish gentleman farmer. "All the nice things

we say about the Gallaghers we say for only one reason,"

he once reflected, before pausing in the way he would

when making a profound declaration. Prodded for the

reason, he finally added, "Because they're true."

Eugene’s service in the military in the 1950s

earned him U.S. citizenship. And after returning to

Ballinrobe and starting his family, he often traveled to

America for reunions with Army buddies or to visit his

many relatives. On one such visit he came for a World Cup

soccer game and ended up at the funeral of his cousin, our

Uncle Tom. On another visit, he charmed the mother-inlaw

of Uncle Jim’s son Owen by serenading her with a

favorite song at the kitchen table. He also insisted that

Owen and Lynn take him to an arena inside the Trump

Plaza casino in Atlantic City from where he had watched so

many televised boxing broadcasts over the years. He


At left, Delma Gallagher, front, her sister Philomena, back, Mary Moran, right, and John Moran, left, are together

for John's First Communion. Shown in front of his home, center, and with his bike, right, is Delma's brother Jack

Gallagher, who raised a family with his wife, Mary, on New Street. He worked for the Post Office for 35 years.

charmed a security guard into letting the three of them into

the then-closed hall.

Eugene's travels also took him to Africa and the

Middle East. He had his picture taken at the former jail cell

of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. And he walked 100

miles in Jordan to raise money for charity. For the latter

excursion, he got sponsors to pledge money for his effort to

support the Irish Heart Foundation in February/March

2001. At one point, the walk took him to the Israeli border,

but he was cautioned not to cross over. Eugene, however,

figuring he was so close, took a quick step into Israel and

back. He was so close, he couldn't resist.

Back in Cornaroya, Eugene could be counted on

to welcome visitors – “Yanks,” he called them – when they

arrived from America. He married Ann Tierney of Glebe

Street in Ballinrobe in 1971 at Ballintubber Abbey. Their

crowded home often hosted visitors who were treated to a

bit of rhubarb pie and tea – or maybe a drop of something

stronger. Eugene and his family would often get a mention

in local newspaper accounts of the winners of livestock and

other competitions at area fairs. You can also find the latest

generation active in efforts promoting social issues. Eugene

and Ann’s children are Maria, Claire, Patrick, Angela and

Louise. Ann's brother James Tierney eventually bought the

fields along the boreen where the original Gallagher

cottages were located.

Tommy Gallagher sits with Aunt Mary, center, and his

sister Delma in the 1940s on the wall at the Cornaroya

home of Tommy's father, Peter.


Below left are three Peter Gallaghers in 1992; they are Peter Gallagher Next Door's son, with bike, flanked by Uncle

Pete's son and that Pete's own son. The photo above shows the oldest of the trio with his father's old home seen above

his right shoulder. The home of Pat and Mary Gallagher would have been to his left, just outside the picture.

Above is yet another Peter Gallagher, a son of our Great-

Uncle Owen Gallagher. Peter lived next door to the home

of our aunts and uncles, hence his nickname. In the

background is a side window of that old Gallagher cottage

along the boreen. The woman is unidentified.


At left, Peter Gallagher and wife Maureen (Hennelly) celebrate their

wedding in Partry and their 50th anniversary in 2018. Above, Peter's

brother Eugene and wife Ann (Tierney) share a toast after their 1971

wedding at Ballintubber Abbey.

Eugene’s brother Jack married Mary McDonald,

of Aughoose, in 1967. They lived on New Street while Jack

worked at the Post Office, retiring in 1994 after 35 years.

He died in August 1998. His obituary noted: “His easy

manner endeared him to everyone who made his

acquaintance and the large crowds at the funeral, including

many former colleagues from An Post, reflected the high

regard in which he was held.” Jack was survived by his

wife, son Allan and daughter Nollaig.

Peter Gallagher married Maureen Hennelly of

Tooreen, Partry, in 1968. They have four children, Eithne,

Linda, Peter (of course) and Tres. All but Eithne lived for a

while in Uncle Owen’s old home along the boreen after he

died in 1999. Today, the home is rented to a nice, but

unrelated family.

Peter, Jack and Eugene’s sister Philomena moved

to England and married Ray Haughton. She was a nurse

and had five children (Caroline, Alison, Claire, Andrew and

Peter) before dying of cancer.

Another sister, Margaret, lived on Glebe Street.

She married Jim/Seamus Burke, an ardent nationalist who

was part of several key moments in the struggle to unite the

counties of Ireland. In the late 1930s, he won a famous

habeas corpus challenge against the government on the

grounds that political prisoners should not be held in

custody without trial. He was released but soon arrested

again in 1940, spending the rest of World War II in custody.

Margaret and Jim were married in 1960. They opened a

grocery/hardware store on the first floor of their Glebe

Sreet home that operated for 20 years. When Jim died in


Above, Mary Mellet wears her

Communion dress while holding

a doll given to her by sister

Katie. Mary died at age 8. Below

is their sister Nelly in New York.

Above are Uncle Jim's

daughter Margaret and Peter

Gallagher Next Door's

daughter Margaret Burke at

her Ballinrobe home during a

visit in July 1997. At right, a

very young Eugene is with

cousins Margaret and Nora

Connell, two daughters of his

Aunt Sarah.

1967, his Mayo comrades and other members of the Old

IRA formed a guard of honor at his funeral. Margaret

passed away in 2002. They had one daughter, Breege.

As mentioned, Peter Gallagher’s sister Maggie

married Thomas Mellet around 1902. They had 10 children,

four of whom died early: a daughter as an infant, Sarah at

age 3, Mary at 8, and Thomas at 27. Three of their older

girls – Katie, Margaret (Mog), and Eileen, (Nelly) – all

came to New York. Katie and Mog married brothers Pete

and Tom. Tom was a commandant in the old IRA and

probably entered the U.S. through Canada. A picture that

Aunt Delia had shows Mary in her First Communion dress

holding a doll given to her for Christmas by sister Katie.

Another daughter of Maggie and Thomas, Bridie,

stayed in Ballinrobe and married Tom Butler. They had

three children: Gerard and his family are still in Ballinrobe;

Collette is in County Kildare; and Tommy lived in Balla.

Maggie and Thomas’ son Martin moved to Ballynew with

his family. Son Harry was the subject of a chapter in “Itchy

Feet and Thirsty Work.” The 1990 book by Bridie Mulloy

detailed Harry’s work as a carpenter and wheelwright. He

was known for his skills making doors, windows, carts and


Breege Burke came across this photo among the possessions of her Grandmother Maggie (McDermott)

Gallagher. Our best guess is all five are cousins. The two at center are our Uncle Jim and his cousin Annie

King, who married Manus Clancy and moved to England. With help from the Butler family, the others,

from left, appear to be Bridie (Mellet) Butler, Richard O’Connell (at least he looks like his brother and

nephew) and Martin Mellet, who moved to Ballinew.

coffins. For decades, he also was responsible for

maintenance at St. Mary’s Church.

In the past few years in Cornaroya, Peter and

Maureen Gallagher celebrated their 50th wedding

anniversary (in 2018) and extended family gathered as

Eugene marked his 90th birthday (in 2017). Eugene and

Ann celebrated their 50th year of marriage this June. They

are still surrounded by loved ones, in person and in spirit,

with connections new and old to their small corner of


Brothers Eugene and Tommy Gallagher are together in Eugene's Cornaroya backyard in the 1990s.

At right is their mother, Maggie (McDermott) Gallagher, with Mary, the wife of her son Jack.


“Down a boreen green came a sweet colleen

and she smiled as she passed me by.”

“Star of The County Down”




The Robe River, a welcome sign

and the County Mayo flag.

A Catholic pastor in South Jersey, himself from County Longford,

once pointed out the phrase commonly used in Ireland by those meeting

someone from our home county: “Mayo, God help us!”

It is a phrase that may have survived from famine times, with

people acknowledging the severity of what the people from the western

county had gone through in those dark days. It may also have a less

sympathetic meaning, as a comment on one characteristic or another

attributed, rightly or wrongly, to a typical Mayo man or woman. Stubbornly

independent? Often wrong but never in doubt? We prefer to think of it as a

simple prayer for all the people, and their descendants, who have ever

called Mayo home.

The following are some brief, hopefully interesting, amusing or

helpful looks at the county, the town of Ballinrobe, our family names and

other aspects of life our ancestors would have been familiar with.


Mayo belongs to the Province of Connaught in the West of

Ireland. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, County

Galway to the south, County Roscommon to the east, with County Sligo a

bit to the northeast. The current population is about 130,000. In 1841, the

census showed there were 388,887 people living in Mayo, a number that

had fallen by 1901 to 199,166. Emigration had driven the population to a


low of 109,525 in 1971. The county town is Castlebar.

Establishment of the county dates to the shiring of

Connaught around 1570. The county’s name comes from

the Irish words “Maigh Eo,” meaning “plain of the yew

trees,” and originates from the village of Mayo, now known

as Mayo Abbey. The yew is among the longest-living trees

and once was thought to be immortal.

Mayo is one of the most picturesque parts of

Ireland. Its Lake District includes Lough Carra, Lough

Mask and Lough Corrib. The county is also known for its

salmon fishing, bogland and heather, as well as some of the

most beautiful islands, in Clew Bay. Ireland’s largest island,

Achill, lies off Mayo's west coast. It may have been one of

these islands (if not the Aran Islands off Galway) that

Uncle Jim was referring to when he shared some Irish

wisdom about the weather. He said if you stood along the

coast and could see the island, you knew it was going to

rain. If you couldn’t see the island, it was already raining.

Some other Mayo facts:

* Mayo is home to the town of Lahardane, which was hit

hard when the Titanic sank in 1912, with 14 people from

the village lost.

* The county is the setting of John Millington Synge’s “The

Playboy of the Western World.”

* Pilgrims flock to Mayo’s Marian shrine in Knock and to

Croagh Patrick, a mountain where St. Patrick is said to

have fasted for 40 days and nights.

* Mayo natives include Grace Kelly’s grandfather; U.S.

First Lady Pat Nixon’s paternal grandparents; highwayman/

folk hero Capt. Anthony Gallagher (no relation known);

and Mary Robinson, the first woman president of Ireland.

* In addition to our family, another Mayo-Delaware

connection involves a great-great-great-grandfather of

newly elected U.S. President Joe Biden. Edward Blewitt

was from the north Mayo town of Ballina.

* As a sailor in the U.S. Navy, John King, born in Currabee,

Ballinrobe, became one of only 19 in history to be awarded

the Medal of Honor twice. Both occasions, one in 1901, the

second in 1909, involved heroic actions after a boiler

explosion. The destroyer USS John King was named in his

honor, and a statue stands in his memory in the Cornmarket

in his hometown. He was a cousin of John King, who

married Annie Gallagher in 1906.

* In July 1894, American boxer James “Gentleman Jim”

Corbett visited Ballinrobe. His father, Patrick, was born at

nearby Ballycusheen. Corbett gave a performance in

Ballinrobe town hall to benefit the church in Partry, where

his uncle, the Rev. James Corbett, was a parish priest. Years

later, a newspaper remembered the big reception in Mayo

"... with tar-barrels, processions and bon fires illuminating

Tradition says St. Patrick prayed and fasted on County

Mayo's Croagh Patrick for 40 days in the year 440.

the hills around Ballinrobe, the slogan being: "Then fill up

your glasses right up to the brim. And drink to the health of

bold Gentleman Jim."


In 1902, Samuel Bayne published a book titled

“On an Irish Jaunting-Car through Donegal and

Connemara.” Bayne was born to a Presbyterian merchant in

County Donegal, immigrated to the U.S. in 1869 and made

his fortune in banking. His book spends a lot of time

discussing castles, gardens and various lords and ladies.

Chapter 12 is titled “Ballinrobe to Leenane.” After detailing

his visit to Sligo, he writes: “Our next points were

Claremorris and Ballinrobe. They were not interesting, so

we took a car to Cong.”

With apologies to Mr. Bayne, there are a few

interesting aspects to the town that gets its name from the

River Robe and is one of the oldest in County Mayo. There

is evidence the area has been continuously inhabited since

about 1000 B.C. Ballinrobe was established as a borough in

the wake of the Norman conquest of the thirteenth century.

Archaeologists have found evidence of early Christian and

medieval times in the remains of various local churches and

townhouses. A monastery for friars of the order of St.

Augustine was founded sometime prior to 1337. The ruins

of the Abbey are the present-day location of an old


At least 15 people reported that on Aug. 21, 1879, the Blessed Mother, Joseph, St. John the Evangelist and

a lamb appeared to them at the parish church in Knock, located about 20 miles northeast of Ballinrobe.

cemetery, home to the remains of numerous Gallaghers and


Ballinrobe was one of County Mayo’s major

market towns of the 19th century and was a garrison town

until 1926.

Well into the mid-1900s, market day in Ballinrobe

was Monday, with each commodity having its special

place. Turf, hay, potatoes, turnips and cabbage were sold on

Abbey Street; poultry on Glebe Street; calves on Bridge

Street; and cloth, flannel, woolen socks, lace, wheat, oats

and barley outside the Market House. Perishable goods

such as butter, meat and bread were sold in the lower part

of the Market House. Among the biggest events were

special livestock fairs held in June, on Whit (or Pentecost)

Monday, and in December.

By the 1830s, a chief constabulary police station

had been established. Petty court sessions, often wellattended,

were held every Monday, with general sessions in

June and December. “The courthouse,” an 1837 report said,

“is a neat building well adapted to the purpose, and

affording also accommodation for the market. The

bridewell (jail) contains four cells, three day-rooms, and

two airing yards, with other requisite accommodation.”

In more recent years, Ballinrobe’s growth has

been attributable to a national construction boom and the

town’s proximity to Galway and Castlebar. It is home to

many immigrants from other EU member states.


Sheridan is an Anglicized form of the Old Gaelic

O’Sirideain. The “O” indicates “male descendant or son

of,” with “siride” meaning “elf.” In Irish mythology, the elf

was usually looked upon as a mischievous creature. The

motto on the family coat of arms reads, “Cervus lacessitus

Leo,” which translates to “The stag at bay becomes a lion.”

The family originated in County Longford, where

they held church properties as well as the hereditary

position of Erenagh of Granard, or lay lords of the church.

They later moved to County Cavan, the county in which the

name is most common today.

The first recorded current spelling of the family

name, dated 1612, is of the Rev. Denis Sheridan, of County

Cavan. He assisted in translating the Bible into Irish.

Gallagher is an Irish Gaelic clan based most

prominently in what is today County Donegal. The name

originated in the 10th century as a derivative of its founder

Gallchobhair mac Rorcan. The name Gallagher is of

ancient Gaelic origin and is derived from the word

“gallchobhar,” meaning “foreign help.”

For nearly 100 years after the arrival of the

Normans in 1169 AD, the old world of Gaelic Ireland was

in retreat. To halt the Norman onslaught, the remaining

independent Irish chieftains needed a new weapon, and

they found it in the mercenary warriors from the Western

Isles of Scotland. These Galloglass, or “foreign Gaels,” had

served as elite warriors in Scotland for over 100 years prior

to their arrival in Ireland. They had intermarried with the

Gaels in Scotland and adopted their Gaelic language and

customs, but had retained the fearlessness and fighting

prowess of their Viking forebears. The Galloglass fought

like the Normans, protected in mail coats and iron helmets.

They were notable for two-handed axes and Claymores, a

large two-handed sword. With the aid of the Galloglass, the

Irish chiefs rolled back the Normans. The English

authorities were pushed back to a small area within about


Ballinrobe was a garrison town until the last soldiers departed in 1926. British troops withdrew in

1922 after the signing of the Treaty that created the Irish Free State. The land where the ruins of the

cavalry barracks stand at the south end of Main Street was once the home of Lord Tyrawley. He sold

the property to the War Office in 1821. The infantry barracks were located off High Street.

four miles of Dublin known as “The Pale.”

These Scots-Galloglass can be readily

distinguished from the later Scottish settlers that flooded

Ireland in the 16th and 17th centuries. The later arrivals

were Protestant and spoke English, in contrast to the

Catholic faith and Gaelic language of the native Gaels and

Galloglass. Today, Gallaghers are part and parcel of Irish

society and can be found throughout the country. They have

been a part of Ireland for over a thousand years and more

than 30 generations.


An army barracks was built in Ballinrobe around

1700 on the site of the 14th century Ballinrobe Castle. It

was located just south of the current intersection of Bridge

and High streets. By 1831, Ballinrobe had barracks for

cavalry and infantry. The former accommodated eight

officers and 106 non-commissioned officers and privates,

with stabling for 84 horses. The latter housed six officers

and 96 non-commissioned officers and men, with a hospital

for 20 patients.

The military had an unpopular presence in and

around the town for many years, including in times of

famine and evictions. In the later 19th century, soldiers and

members of the Royal Irish Constabulary, the quasimilitary

police force in Ireland from 1822 until 1922, were

out in force as various factions asserted the rights of tenant

farmers against unfair landlords.

The situation turned violent in October 1898, two

years after our grandparents were married and 10 months

after their first child was born. Police had learned of a

planned mass rally in Ballinrobe for the recently launched

United Irish League, a nationalist party seeking land

reform. The sought-after changes included compelling

larger grazier farmers to surrender their lands for

redistribution. Authorities issued a proclamation forbidding

the meeting, set for that Sunday evening. Public roads

leading into town were blocked, but supporters by the

thousands found their way into town by that Saturday

evening. The police responded with force.

The clash was one of the few times news from

Ballinrobe appeared in the New York Times. The paper ran

a brief account about what it called the “great excitement”

in Ballinrobe. It reported: “About twenty-thousand people

assembled and Messrs. Michael Davitt and William

O’Brien, who were to be the speakers, were met outside of

town by a detachment of 200 police, and were prevented

from entering the place. The police were forced to charge

the crowds frequently during the night, and many persons

were injured.”

Speaking at an alternate rally at a private home

outside town, William O’Brien questioned whether Dublin

Castle was abandoning its strategy of killing the Home

Rule effort by kindness and “going to bark back upon the

brutally candid old English system of killing Home Rule

with the bludgeon and the bayonet.”

Some years earlier, in November 1880, the term

“boycott” was coined via the struggle against Charles

Boycott, a ruthless land agent in the Lough Mask area.

Activists from the Land League encouraged Boycott’s

employees to withdraw their labor and began a campaign

of isolation against him, including shops in nearby

Ballinrobe refusing to serve him. Ballinrobe and


Claremorris were swamped with as many as 750 soldiers,

led by officers of the Royal Artillery and 19th Hussars,

ready to break the “boycott.” Charles Boycott would leave

Ireland in disgrace by the end of the year. Soon there were

reports of “boycotting” all over Ireland. The mostly

nonviolent pressure was one of the most successful tactics

ever used against the British in Ireland.

Hostilities between the two countries eventually

abated with the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty on Dec.

26, 1921, which led to the Irish Free State. However, fierce

disagreements about the Treaty split Ireland into Civil War.

Michael Collins was a key figure on the pro-Treaty side. He

gave a speech in Castlebar in June 1922 that became a

target of anti-treaty forces. Railroad tracks were torn up in

an unsuccessful try keep him away. His speech was cut

short due to agitators in the crowd, and a woman was shot

in the ensuing panic. Less than five months later, Collins

was assassinated in an ambush in County Cork. The pro-

Treaty side prevailed in the war, which ended in April/May



There are few aspects of rural Irish life more

romanticized than the wee, humble cottage. The people

who actually lived in them – often families of 10 or more –

probably had a more realistic view of their

accommodations than what is portrayed in many a song or


A most notable characteristic of the cottage is the

half door, an ingenious device that kept the children in and

the animals out. A secondary use was to allow in light and

fresh air; most cottages were damp and stuffy as a result of

small windows and smoke from the fireplace. A third use

was as a prop to lean on while smoking the pipe, gossiping

with neighbors or shouting that the dinner was ready.

The size and number of windows in a house were

curtailed by practicality – and to a lesser extent window

taxes. From 1799 until 1851 taxes were levied on houses

with more than six windows. The levies became known as

the “typhus tax” because of the resulting respiratory

problems caused by poor ventilation. However the main

reason for small windows was to retain heat in the winter

and keep things cool in the summer. The walls of a cottage

were typically about 2 feet thick to support the roof and

beams, leading to the attractive deep window reveals found

in most cottages. Roofs were usually constructed of

coupled rafters, then stuffed with turf for insulation, with

the exterior usually thatched.

In the mid-19th century, as far as the parish of

The thatched-roof cottage, such as this one preserved

near Ballinrobe, is a symbol of simpler times in the Irish


Ballinrobe was concerned, the cabins of the poor were

“built with dry walls of limestone generally” and plastered

inside with mortar or clay. Their size was commonly about

16 feet wide and from 20 to 30 feet long.

The fireplace was the heart and soul of the

cottage, around which daily life revolved – cooking,

drying, heating and social gatherings. The fire was never

allowed to extinguish, with ashes strewn over it at night to

keep the embers alive for morning. The importance of the

hearth in cottage life is illustrated in the famous saying

loosely translated as “There’s no place like home.” The

literal translation is “There’s no hearth like your own

hearth” (níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin).


There is no smell

associated with the West of

Ireland more than the sweet

aroma of a turf fire burning in a

poorly ventilated home. Turf,

known in other parts of the world

as peat, fueled homes in Ireland

for centuries. It is a byproduct of

fallen trees from a time when the

country was covered by forests.

In our parents' time, and

much further back, the turf was

cut from the bog using a slean, a

sort of specialized, two-sided

spade. This was hard, backbreaking

work. One man

would dig into the plot of bog

The sleane, used for

cutting turf.


with the slean and take up a brick of turf. He would then

throw it to another person standing close by. That man

would catch the turf and place it gently on the ground. At

this stage, the turf would be very moist and could easily

break in your hands. The bricks were allowed to dry on both

sides, until a crust was formed. They were then footed, with

four or more in an upright position, to continue drying. It

was very important the stack got a strong breeze and

sunshine. This procedure would continue for days or weeks,

until it was decided enough turf was cut for the winter.

Finally, the dried turf was brought home by sack or donkey

and cart. Each farm was given a plot of bog, so the

Gallaghers would have had their own section, possibly in

Derryfad near Claremorris.


A typical diet in 19th century Ballinrobe would

have consisted mostly of potatoes, eggs, oat bread,

buttermilk, maybe some Indian meal and bacon. Other

meats were generally reserved for special occasions such as

Easter and Christmas.

In the first half of the 1800s, the ballooning

population of County Mayo had become dangerously reliant

on the potato crop. When the crop failed, starting in 1845, it

led to the utter devastation of The Great Famine. After the

loss of so many people to starvation, disease and

emigration, the food situation slowly improved. Farms, in

general, became larger, and different food became more


In the late 1800s and early 1900s, according to the

website Dochara.com, the development of processed food

industries, the expansion of retail outlets into even small

towns and villages, and more efficient distribution via

railway and roads, brought a significant shift to “shop

bought” goods. This sort of food was looked on as superior

and the ability to buy it as a measure of affluence. Bread,

potatoes and porridge still formed the staple diet of the

poor, but there was greatly increased consumption of dairy

products and meats. More affluent people took to having

bacon and eggs at breakfast. The main meal was taken in

the middle of the day.

During our grandparents’ time, farmers in rural

Ireland would have had what today might be called an allorganic

diet – almost exclusively the result of their own

labor. They would have sown potatoes, cabbage, turnips,

kale and rhubarb. One thing people would buy was Indian

meal, which was readily available and could be used in

“stir-about,” a type of porridge. Indian meal is similar to

oatmeal, but a little less refined. Made from corn and

Turf cut from the bog was the source of heat in Irish

homes. The drying process included footing (stacking)

bricks of the damp sod. The stacks can still be found in

the bogs outside Ballinrobe today.

'The Sheaf' sculpture by Jackie McKenna stands in the

Cornmarket, a central focus for Ballinrobe where

markets and fairs were once held. In the past it was

known as 'The Fair Place' or 'The Common.'


A photo from July 1992 shows the remains of the old Gallagher homes and farm buildings along the boreen in

Cornaroya. The load of hay is heading toward the Convent Road. In the foreground right is Connell's gate.

imported from America, it was introduced during the

Great Famine as a dietary supplement to the potato. The

old folks say it came from the native Americans. At any

rate, it was readily available.

Bernadette Cafferky, a niece of Aunt May, still

has the books from the store her Grandfather Michael Mohan

operated in Lecarrow, a few miles east of Ballinrobe. In the

mid-1800s, her paternal grandfather went to England to find

work. He also was able to attend school after work and used

the knowledge he gained to open a store when he returned to

Ireland. The store was attached to the house, and Michael’s

wife assisted in the day-to-day running of things. An entry

from the books for 1890 is typical for the time. The page

details what one customer obtained from the store over a

period of months. The items were usually bought on credit,

which would be paid off when cash was available, typically

when a farmer sold his crops or animals at a local fair. The

items are mostly things that couldn't be produced on a local

farm: tea, tobacco, flour and Indian meal. Two pounds of

sugar cost 4.5 pence; an ounce of tobacco 3 pence. This

particular customer had recently made a payment of 2 pounds

toward a total credit of 5 pounds, 6 shillings, 8.5 pence.


A page from the books of the Mohan store in

Lecarrow lists the purchases and payments of one

customer in 1890.

A typical kitchen in rural Ireland had a large, open

fireplace where all the cooking would take place. The doors

to the bedrooms would be left open to allow some heat to

pass through. Inside the large fireplace hung a cast-iron

crane, which had a hinge that allowed it to swing back and

forth. On the crane was an arm with holes for hooks that

allowed other appliances to be attached, such as pots for

boiling the spuds. For the animals, lesser-quality potatoes

were boiled, strained and cooled, then mashed with a wooden

“ponder” (similar to a thick handle). Indian meal and any

spare milk was added, and – voila! – the pigs feed for

another day was done.

Pigs were a source of income for people living in


Items that helped ease the workload on the Irish farm included a hand-cranked butter churn, left, shown open at

center. Another useful tool, at right, was a knapsack for spraying blight protection on the potato crop.

Now used as a lawn decoration, the crane and pot were

once a mainstay of the Irish kitchen.

the country. Farmers would keep a sow (the female) to have

the bonhams, or piglets. When the bonhams were old

enough and in good condition they would be taken to

market in Ballinrobe and sold. One or two were kept on the

farm; when the time was right, a butcher would call and the

pig would be slaughtered, providing plenty of bacon for the

family. The butcher would cut up the carcass. It was put

into a large wooden barrel with layers of salt between each

piece to create a brine to preserve the bacon. More bacon

would hang from the kitchen ceiling, getting a distinctive

flavor from the smoke of the open fire. On a day when

bacon was on the menu, it was there waiting to be used. In

the meantime, the sow may have had more bonhams and

the cycle started again.

Eggs were good for feeding the family and

bartering with the shopkeeper or neighbors. Farming was a

communal affair, and neighbors needed to pull together.

What one neighbor had in surplus could be traded with

another. Men, women and children all contributed.

The cow was only the beginning of the dairy

process. Once the cow was milked, the milk was poured

into a container through a wire strainer and piece of muslin

cloth to prevent any dirt from getting into the mix. The next

day the cream would be removed from the top and placed

into a cream jug until there was enough to put in the churn

to make the butter. The churn's handle would be cranked

and cranked until, eventually, the butter started to form.

Inside the churn was a gadget called a dash; it's the friction

of the milk or cream against the dash that makes the butter.

After the butter was removed from the churn, salt was

added and the butter rolled, as if kneading bread, to

remove the excess milk. The liquid left in the churn was


The buttermilk was used to make the caiscin, the

brown bread, that was baked every day. The shape of a

cross typically was made on top of the cake before it was

baked. Some say the step was included so God would bless

the cake; “heathens” might say it was simply to allow the

cake to rise equally.


Until more recent times, there was, in general, a

significant difference between how St. Patrick’s Day was

celebrated in, say, America, and in Ireland itself.

Boisterous, sometimes well-lubricated parades

and other celebrations were common in Philadelphia,

Wilmington and other outposts of the Irish diaspora.

Conventional wisdom held that Ireland marked the day

with a more reverent observance of the island’s patron


But reality is not so black (or green) and white.

A debate from the quarterly meeting of the

Ballinrobe District Council in March 1906 shows there was

not complete agreement on how the saint’s feast day was or


'Since I was born I heard it said on St. Patrick's Day –

Did you wet the shamrock yet?' – From 1906 debate

recounted in the Western People.

should be observed. It touches on a broad range of issues,

from drinking and the law to Home Rule and free

commerce. The unnamed reporter/informant recounting the

meeting for The Western People helpfully includes a sort of

Greek chorus to set the mood.

The meeting started with a report on the condition

of public roads, which were said to be in a “reasonable

condition of repair.” However, the contractor for the road

from Ballinrobe to Roundfort (as far as Gallows Hill) came

in for criticism about owing a large balance of material.

The meeting then proceeded with council’s

ordinary business, including the reading of a “circular”

letter from the Executive Gaelic League, Dublin, asking the

council to secure the observance of St. Patrick’s Day as a

general holiday.

A Mr. Costello approved the suggestion, opening

the debate, which was reported as follows:

Mr. J. Walsh – It’s a very proper suggestion and I

think we should call on all publicans to close that day.

Mr. T. Conroy – Well, I think not.

Mr. Walsh – It is a most disgraceful thing to see

drunken people on St. Patrick’s Day.

Mr. Heveran – That is the day they all wet the

shamrock. (laughter)

Mr. Joyce – Since I was born I heard it said on St.

Patrick’s Day – Did you wet the shamrock yet? And sure if

the public houses are closed we cannot wet it.

Mr. Casey – Can’t you wet it as much as you like

in your own home? (laughter)

Mr. Walsh – I propose you ask the shopkeepers to

close their shops on St. Patrick’s Day.

Mr. Costello seconded the motion.

Mr. P. Conroy – We will have a fair in Headford

A cross is often found on the brown bread common to

Irish homes. This loaf is from the kitchen of Aunt

Delia's daughter, Patsy DeAscanis.

that day. (Headford is a town along the Mayo, Galway


Mr. Casey – If you travel to Headford that day

you’ll be entitled to a drink; you’ll be a bona fide traveller,

that’s the law. All the same, I’d be for making the publicans

close that day. (laughter)

Mr. Diskin said that without that resolution at all,

he would close on St. Patrick’s Day. (Hear, hear)

Mr. T. Conroy – I would like to see business in

general suspended that day. Now I myself am a teetotaler,

but I know there are a few publicans in town that want to

earn a few shillings that day, and why should we interfere

with them? What is the use in our making new rules until

we have Home Rule?

Mr. J Walsh – Let me tell you. Home Rule is not

worth a jot if the people won’t keep sober.

Mr. Casey – Hear, hear.

Mr. Costello – Adopt the resolution. It will not be

binding on the publicans.

Clerk – No. You are only asking them to close and

they can do as they like.

A poll was taken, when all except Messrs.

Heveran and T. Conroy voted in favor of the resolution.

Mr. T. Conroy – Now I suppose that each

councilor is sworn to act on St. Patrick’s Day in accordance

with his vote. (Laughter)


The Convent of Mercy in Ballinrobe, also known

as St. Joseph’s Convent, was a significant presence for the

Gallagher family for more than 150 years. The building

adjacent to the family’s fields provided jobs for many in the


The St. Joseph

Convent of Mercy in

Ballinrobe was

located behind the

fields of the


Cornaroya property.

It provided

employment for

many of the

Gallagher brothers

and schooling for

their sisters. The

convent was founded

in 1851.

family when other employment was scarce and comfort to

others, including Uncle Owen in his later years. He left a

portion of his estate to the Sisters of Mercy when he died in


The convent was founded from Westport in 1851.

Its mission included the education of children, visitation

and care of the sick, and helping the poor.

The following account comes from the 1970

Convent of Mercy School Magazine by way of the website


On Feb. 19, 1851, Mother Gertrude O’Brien, Sr.

M. de Pazzi, Sr. M. de Sales and Sr. M. Veronica came

from Westport to Ballinrobe to start a new foundation. The

Rev. Tom Hardiman, of Ballinrobe, and Mother M. Paul

Cullen, superior in Westport, accompanied them.

The Catholics of Ballinrobe were very poor at the

time and unable to adequately provide for the foundation.

The Rev. Dr. McHale gave considerable financial aid, and a

solicitor, Mr. Blake, vacated his house on Main Street,

opposite the main gates to St. Mary’s Church, to provide

the sisters a temporary convent dedicated to St. Joseph. In

1853, steps were taken to secure a site for a permanent

convent. A field was rented from Col. Knox and

construction began. The sisters took up residence in their

new home in 1854. Classes were organized more fully and

a Sunday School for adults was started. In 1861 the funds

of the convent were very low, and the superior, Mother M.

Gertrude, opened a boarding school for young girls.

Bazaars became a yearly event, raising the then-substantial

sum of as much as £130.

In 1862, civil authorities requested that the sisters

assist in the Workhouse Hospital and four of them took up

duty there. In the following year, the schools were

connected with the National Board and the building of a

new National School was commenced in 1899.

In 1918, a Secondary School was opened at the

request of Canon Edward Alfred D’Alton, who had become

pastor in Ballinrobe in 1911. Within a short time, there

were 60 pupils enrolled. Later, a Commercial School was

opened and pupils were prepared for secretarial and other

posts. The centenary of the foundation of the convent was

celebrated during Easter Week 1951. On April 22, 1956, the

Rev. T. Gunnigan formally opened and blessed a new

Secondary School. In 1970, the building was being

extended and a new Primary School was also under


By 2008, however, the Convent of Mercy had run

its course. The 12 aging nuns who remained at the 34-

bedroom building were relocated to the order’s home in

Castlebar. But before they left, more than 500 people

attended a ceremony on the convent grounds to thank the

sisters for their 16 decades of ministry to the people of

Ballinrobe. According to an account in The Mayo News,

Monsignor Tom Shannon told the gathering: “The pupils

who passed through these schools will, to this day, testify to

the worth of the education they received at the hands of the

Sisters of Mercy.”

In 2015, a story in The Mayo News reported the

old convent was opening its doors to children once again. A

portion of the building was restored by new, private owners

to provide pre-school and after-school services.



The Catholic Church in Ireland dates to St. Patrick

and the fifth century. Following his preaching, many

monasteries and other churches were founded in the West

of Ireland. There were several abbeys in the area around

Ballinrobe, including Ballintubber and Burriscarra, several

miles north of town; Inismaine Abbey on the shores of

Lough Mask; and Cong Abbey (in ruins), to the south. All

date to the sixth and seventh centuries.

Later monastic establishments in or near

Ballinrobe were the Killeentreva Church and the Augustine

Abbey. The Killeentreva Church, which is on the road to

Creagh Demesne, was possibly established in the 12th

century by a small settlement of nuns. The Augustine

Abbey was built in the early 1300s. Mass was celebrated in

the Abbey as late as 1692, but it was deserted by the end of

that century. In the 1400s, the Knights Hospitallers had a

house and chapel, St. John the Baptist Church, near the

Augustinian Abbey.

The book “How The Irish Saved Civilization”

makes the case the dedication and scholarship found in

Irish monasteries preserved much of Western learning

during the Dark Ages. But Catholics in Ireland began their

own dark ages when the church and its sacraments were

outlawed after the Tudor conquest. For several centuries,

the English Crown attempted to suppress Ireland’s Catholic

majority, but that only led to Irish nationalism coalescing

around the faith.

Dismantling of the penal laws targeting Catholics

began slowly in 1766. They were finally removed by the

Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829. Among the changes were

The 'Old Church' in Ballinrobe, seen today, above, and,

below, in a postcard kept by Uncle Jim, was built in the

first half of the nineteenth century on the road to

Castlebar. The inside of the ruins are seen at left.


The foundation for St. Mary's Catholic Church in Ballinrobe was laid in 1851. The church wasn't dedicated until

1863. The structure now features a collection of Harry Clarke stained-glass windows, commissioned in 1924.

that Masses no longer had to be celebrated in secret.

In Ballinrobe, Masses were apparently held in the

19th century for a while in a chapel on Bridge Street,

located at the back of Willie Jennings’ butcher shop.

Eventually, the reforms opened the way for construction of

the “old church” on the road to Partry and Castlebar. An

1837 account says the chapel, “a large slated building with

a lofty square tower, was erected in 1815 by subscription.”

A plaque above the entrance indicates the church opened in

MDCCCXIX (1819). Its tower may have been a later

addition, c. 1827. The tower, visible from a great distance,

allowed the church to compete in status with the Church of

Ireland structure within town on higher ground. The

Protestant Church was eventually converted into the public

library off Main Street.

The relatively short-lived Catholic church’s layout

was “a free standing cruciform-plan,” also called a “Latin

Cross.” The original slated roof and timber joists were

removed and relocated to the boy’s secondary school

behind the current Parish Center. The ruins of the church

remain today.

It was probably at this church on the Castlebar

Road that an incident of vandalism happened that was

reported in the Baptist Magazine and Literary Review of

1854. It occurred during a huge mission in Ballinrobe.

Overnight, vandals broke into the church and carried away

altar vessels, including a ciborium containing the Blessed

Sacrament and a massive silver monstrance. Stunned

parishioners took part in an elaborate procession the

following Sunday and commenced with a Forty Hours

Adoration. An impressive total of 60 pounds was raised to

replace the stolen items.


The inconvenient location of the “old church”

outside town probably was a factor in the decision to soon

build the new Church of St. Mary’s in the heart of

Ballinrobe. Its foundation stone was laid in 1851.

The Rev. Peter Conway was appointed the first

curate of Ballinrobe in 1847. He was responsible for

negotiating permission from prominent landowner Col.

Knox to construct St. Mary’s on Main Street. Construction

started in 1853. But due to a lack of funding through the

post-famine times, the building was not dedicated until

Pentecost Sunday 1863.


Saint Mary’s is now home to one of the largest

collections of panels by renowned stained-glass artist Harry

Clarke. Monsignor Edward Alfred D’Alton commissioned

them in the autumn of 1924. The first windows were

installed that year and depict scenes from the life of Jesus

and Mary. Twelve panels were added in 1925 depicting the

lives of eight Irish saints, including Brigid, Patrick and


There have been numerous additions and

renovations over the years, and St. Mary’s remains an

integral part of the community.


Electricity was first introduced to Ireland in 1880

with a streetlamp outside the Dublin office of The

Freemans Journal newspaper. By 1927, County Mayo had

10 local electricity providers, including the Ballinrobe

Electric and Woolen Co. Ltd. Records show that provider,

founded in 1920 and located on Bridge Street, supplied

power to 136 homes and businesses in Ballinrobe in 1929.

It was awarded a £100 per year contract to light the town’s

streets in 1936. But electricity for rural Ireland, through the

national Electric Supply Board, did not begin in earnest

until 1946.

Rural “electrification” was touted as the greatest

social revolution since the land reforms of the 1880s and

’90s. It was promoted as a way to provide unlimited

opportunities for rural development. The ESB took over the

Ballinrobe Electric and Woolen Co. in March 1947.

Overall, the results did not live up to the dramatic

expectations, but it did create excitement in Cornaroya. The

poles erected to run wires out of town were enough of an

attraction to be used as a backdrop for photos of Aunt Ann

and others. Ann's cousin from next door Tommy was part

of the rural electrification efforts before he left for America

in the mid-1950s. Relatives from Ballinrobe remember

most of the work he was involved with was “back the

mountains” in areas such as Cornamona.


In 1704, a new law required the registration of

Catholic priests. One was Fr. Duffy, who ministered in

Ballinrobe from 1696 until 1712. He was eventually

captured and deported to Spain, where he died.

It was this persecution of priests that is at the heart

of a legend from Ballintubber Abbey. The story is that a

man named John Mallowney – also known as Seán na

Sagart, or John of the priest – was about to be hung for

Poles used in the electrification of rural areas are the

backdrop for this 1949 photo of Aunt Ann and her

cousins Eugene and Jack Gallagher.

stealing a horse when he worked out a deal with the sheriff

of Mayo. He would keep his life in exchange for the “rent”

of a priest’s head each year.

He made good on the rent and killed many priests.

But there were two he had trouble tracking. Finally, he

decided to pretend he was about to die and had his sister

summon the older of the two priests to hear the confession

of his many crimes. When the priest leaned close to listen,

Seán na Sagart stabbed the cleric in the heart. At the burial

the next day, the younger of the two priests wore a disguise

but was recognized by the priest hunter. The young priest

fled but was soon stabbed in the leg. As he was about to be

killed, a peddler caught up to Seán na Sagart and killed

him with his own dagger. Soldiers buried his body, but it


was soon dug up and tossed in a local lake. But the young

priest had the people drag the lake and rebury the body. An

ash sapling at the site is said to have grown into a tree and

split his grave in two. That tree on the grounds of

Ballintubber Abbey is known as the “Seán na Sagart tree.”


Workhouses were the last resort of the destitute in

Ireland into the 20th century. It was an often brutal system

of social welfare in which entire families had to enter the

workhouse together. To qualify for admission, people had

to give up any land they had.

The Ballinrobe Poor Law Union built a

workhouse around 1840 on a six-acre site on the Kilmaine

Road to the southeast of town. It was designed to hold 800.

But with famine just ahead, the workhouse soon became

woefully inadequate. It tried to admit as many as three

times the number it could care for. Hundreds ended their

last days there weekly, and many were turned away. Troops

were sent to town to deal with the resulting unrest.

An article in the Mayo Constitution in March

1847 reported: “In Ballinrobe, the workhouse is in the most

awfully deplorable state, pestilence having attacked

paupers, officers, and all. In fact, this building is one

horrible charnel house … every officer swept away, while

the number of deaths among the inmates is unknown.”

After the Great Famine, life improved in the

Ballinrobe workhouse. The appointment of the Sisters of

Mercy as nurses saw a dramatic improvement in the

medical care provided to the sick, according to the website

ballinrobeworkhouse.weebly.com. Discipline became more

relaxed and food improved. Some recreational time was

allowed and outings were organized for the children.

Newspapers and books were permitted, and an allowance

of tobacco and snuff was provided for the elderly. In the

ensuing decades, the workhouse became a place for the

sick, the old, the homeless and unmarried mothers and less

of a prison for the poor. But not everything improved. The

full story of the horrors suffered by many of the young

mothers and their children is still being uncovered.

Most of the workhouse buildings were burned

down during the Irish Civil War. A simple headstone now

marks the resting place of thousands of Ballinrobe’s poor.


The Congested Districts Board for Ireland was

established in 1891 to alleviate poverty and crowded living

conditions in the West. Its scope ranged from building a

The legendary 'Sean na Sagart tree' at Ballintubber

Abbey has a complicated and dark history.

small stone wall to purchasing the entirety of Clare island

in Clew Bay.

The board sought to improve transportation,

especially roads and railways, and to provide better

facilities for local industries. By 1903, the CDB was

authorized to purchase extra land from large estates to

increase the small holdings of tenants. In 1909, it was

granted compulsory powers of purchase and began

redistributing over 1,000 estates totaling 2 million acres.

This allowed the CDB to relocate farmers with small land

holdings to 20-acre plots, with contiguous fields, and a new


One example was the CDB relocating the family

of Uncle Pete’s eventual wife May Tierney from

Carrowmore to Gallows Hill. The Tierneys traded in their

single-story cottage and nine acres for a new two-story

home, 20 acres with adjacent fields, and a new horse and

cart. The family apparently had the option of the two-story

house at 75 pounds or a single-story cottage for 50 pounds.

The cost was spread over about 66 years, with the rent

initially paid to the British Government then the Irish Free


The Tierney home after they relocated to Gallows Hill is a typical example of a two-story

home built with plans from the Congested Districts Board.

State. Some farmers were not as lucky and got land in the

Midlands, such as County Meath, where they were not

always pleasantly welcomed. One cousin remembers a time

when the issue came up as Meath and Mayo were

competing for the All-Ireland Gaelic football trophy. Signs

erected around Meath said: “You took our land, but you

won't take our Sam (the trophy).”

The CDB had its successes, but it is generally

thought its promise far exceeded its performance. The

board invested heavily in projects in the West that

floundered once subsidies ended. As a result, the hoped-for

goal to spur emigration from the crowded West to the moredeveloped

East failed. The board was dissolved in 1923,

although some of its functions continued under the Land



A recent addition to the landscape around

Ballinrobe involves a small sculpture and bench on the road

into town from the Neale. The sculpture is of a pair of

boots. It pays tribute to a time when country folk, who

would have walked that far in their bare feet, would stop to

put on their shoes before they headed into town. The streets

of stone there would not have been easy on bare feet, even

those used to the local rocky fields.

A plaque with the statue reads: “In the past,

people from the countryside put on their shoes/boots at this

spot before walking into Ballinrobe; this saved wear and

A sculpture heading into Ballinrobe pays tribute to the

barefoot country folk who would put on their shoes as

they approached town.

tear. Children did not use footwear until they were 16 years

or more. And from St. Patrick’s Day to October 1 women

frequently wore no shoes. On occasions, a pair of shoes

was shared in rotation, by different members of a family.”

For more on footwear in Ballinrobe, see Chapter 4

where Aunt Delia is asked, “Is it your brown shoes you’d

be wearing?”

Sources for this chapter include Irish Origins,

Historical Ballinrobe, Cottageology, Wickapedia,

Surnamedb.com, Irishnewsarchive.com and Mayo-



“He is dead,” Greta Conroy said of Michael

Furey. “He died when he was only seventeen.

Isn’t it a terrible thing to die so young as that?”

James Joyce

“The Dead”





For both Ireland in general and along the boreen

in Cornaroya, everything was different after 1921.

On that July 9, a truce was declared between the

IRA and the British military in the War for Irish

Independence. On Dec. 6, the Anglo-Irish Treaty was

signed in London, opening the way for establishment of the

Irish Free State.

But the excitement of those developments was

muted by a terrible grief for the family of Pat and Mary

Gallagher in Ballinrobe. Their first-born child, Michael,

died that March 21.

When Uncle Michael was born, the future looked

bright. He was the pride of both parents and grandparents.

He was to inherit the farm and lands. He would be the one

to lead his family into the next century. Instead, Michael

Gallagher would not see his 25th birthday, struck down by

a deadly disease that had plagued Ireland for more than a


When he died from tuberculosis, Uncle Michael

was six years older than John, his closest brother. He had

five more brothers younger than John, all still teenagers or

younger. Michael was so much bigger and stronger than the

rest. It seemed inconceivable he could be the one struck

down. Uncle Jim said Michael was extremely close to their

father. His death, he added, was a tragedy for the whole

family, but it affected his father the most. In his despair, Pat

Gallagher wondered why Michael had to die.

Uncle Michael is buried in the cemetery located among

the ruins of the old Augustine Abbey in Ballinrobe. The

family plot there includes several generations of


St. Theresa’s Sanatorium for TB patients opened in Ballinrobe in 1924 on

the old Creagh Estate. It was out of operation for two years after a fire in

1939, but otherwise operated until it was sold in 1959.



An estimated 7,000 Irish people died from

the dreaded “consumption” in 1921, Uncle Michael

among them.

Suggestions about treatment for tuberculosis

were plentiful at the time, but none were proven

effective. Many lacked any scientific backing and

others were useless – or worse. Some doctors insisted

it was absolutely necessary that bad teeth be attended

to. Others focused on cleanliness. One ad from the

early 1900s touted the popular product Chlorodyne as

the best-known remedy for a number of ailments,

including consumption. Its principal ingredients were

a mixture of laudanum (an alcoholic solution of

opium), tincture of cannabis and chloroform. It lived

up to its claim of relieving pain, if not as a TB cure.

It was not until the 1950s that an antibiotic

treatment became available that would eventually

ease the scourge of the bacterial infection of the

lungs. The disease was passed on when someone

breathed in droplets containing the bacteria sent

airborne when an infected person coughed, sneezed,

sang or spoke loudly.

The Tuberculosis Prevention Act of 1908

had given power to county councils to provide clinics

for the treatment of the disease, but County Mayo

was still without a tuberculosis officer in 1923. That

August, the County Council’s Finance Committee

approved advertising to hire such an officer. By

October 1924, Dr. James G. Thornton had filled the

post and was visiting towns on a regular basis to

An ad from 1903 calls Chlorodyne the most

wonderful and valuable remedy ever discovered.

provide examinations. He held clinics in Ballinrobe

for two hours on the first Friday of the month,

according to a notice in the Connaught Telegraph.

A sanatorium opened in Ballinrobe in 1924,

after the Creagh Estate was handed over to the

County Mayo Board of Health. Until 1954, 40 or 50

patients at a time were treated at Creagh, then known

as St. Theresa’s Sanatorium. At their outset, many

sanatoriums in Ireland were dismal places, giving rise

to the description “coughin’ in, coffin out.” Mortality

remained high through the 1930s, but sanatoriums

eventually became more like hospitals that could

provide relative relief to the suffering. The constant

battle to defeat the disease eventually proved a

success, and by the 1970s, consumption had all but

vanished from Ireland.

In his few short years, Michael had lived up to

many of the expectations his family held for their first child

back in 1897. He was the godfather when his brother Jim

was born in 1911. When Michael’s Grandfather Peter

Gallagher died in 1912, it was up to Michael, then 15, and

his father to work the farm. Even if still a boy at heart, he

would now be engaged in a man’s work. Uncle Michael

would have been the first to help his father in the fields, the

first to help his father build or repair stone walls, and the

first to help cut turf in the bog. He would have been a great

aid and comfort.

Aunt Delia was the only one really close in age to

Michael. But there was three years difference between

them, and Delia would spend time as a child living with her

maternal grandfather. She did remember her brother as fair

and attractive, describing him as “comely.” Standing 6 feet

tall, Michael was looked up to – both literally and

figuratively – by his younger siblings. Everyone wanted to

be like Mike. Michael’s closest friends likely included his

cousins next door, Peter and Owen Gallagher. Michael and

Owen were the same age; Peter was seven years older.


Michael Gallagher’s grandparents would have proudly

pushed him around town in the family's pram.

Uncle Michael was given a pocket watch sent home to

Ireland after his father’s brother Michael died in

America. It was later given to Uncle John, Uncle Jim,

Uncle Owen and, finally, Uncle Jim’s son Pat.


It wasn’t until three years after Michael Gallagher

died that a sanatorium for the treatment of tuberculosis was

opened in Ballinrobe. A “cure” was still decades away. For

Michael, there would have been no reliable treatment. His

care likely would have been up to the family carrying out a

doctor’s advice, which typically involved having the patient

rest, eat well and exercise outdoors. Isolation would also be

important. Somehow, the Gallagher family of Cornaroya

avoided having the highly contagious disease spread to

other members.

Uncle Michael was probably born in 1897,

although his birth was not officially registered until Jan. 4,

1898. Uncle Jim said civil registrations would occur only

when the mother was well enough to travel into town. But

the Baptism couldn’t wait. In those times, it was the most

important task after a Catholic birth. Infant mortality rates

were very high, and Catholic cemeteries were consecrated

ground. In general, an unbaptized person could neither be

buried there, nor enter into Heaven.

Though never a matter of doctrine, the Catholic

Church had re-emphasized this traditional teaching through

strict reforms implemented during the 17th century's


A monument marks the area northwest of town where Felix Waitkus crash-landed in 1935 as he

attempted to fly from New York to Lithuania.

Counter-Reformation. The Cillín (pronounced Killeen), a

cemetery for unbaptized babies, was Ireland’s answer. But

it was an answer that a Catholic family would do its best to

avoid. It is difficult to imagine the depth of grief a bereaved

family underwent when an infant died. It would be made

worse by being denied the comfort of the normal funeral

rite and burial with family in consecrated ground. When

such situations were unavoidable, fathers would sometimes

take care of the burial themselves, often outlining the grave

with small, white quartz stones. Many such infants were

buried on the family farm to be close to the mother. By the

end of the 19th century, changes were happening with the

practice, though it continued into the 1950s in Ireland

before being discarded after The Second Vatican Council.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church from 1992 no longer

mentions Limbo. Rather, it teaches that infants who die

without Baptism are entrusted to the mercy of God.

The importance of having a baby baptized would

not have been theoretical for Michael Gallagher’s parents.

He would not have been 2 years old when the family’s next

child, Mary, died soon after she was born. Although there is

no civil record of Mary’s birth, the rectory at St. Mary’s in

Ballinrobe shows she was baptized in 1899. Mary was

buried in the Abbey Cemetery, along with her Great-

Grandparents Michael and Bridget Gallagher.


Mary’s death left Michael as an only child until

his sister Delia came along after three or four years. In the

meantime, Michael’s Grandmother Bridget (McCormick)

Gallagher, who would have been in her late 50s, was left to

dote on him. She would have been proud to show him off to

neighbors and others as she pushed her grandson around in

a pram, or perambulator, the Irish/British term for a baby

carriage. By the late Victorian era, more people could

afford such a carriage, and they were becoming very

popular. Still, it’s hard to imagine there were too many in

the town of Ballinrobe.

As he grew, Michael apparently showed the same

quick, dry sense of humor that was common to Uncle Tom,

Uncle Jim and the others. The story goes that one day

Michael was walking down the road when a person he met

offered him a penny. Michael declined the offer. “No

thanks,” he said. “I have one of those at home.”

At some point, Michael was the recipient of his

uncle’s pocket watch, a prized possession that was

presented to him by his grandparents. His father’s brother

Michael had immigrated to New York, probably around

1890. When that Michael died, his widow sent his watch

home to his parents, Peter and Bridget Gallagher, in

Ballinrobe. It was a very nice watch, with a silver case and

gold chain, made in the late 1800s in Lochel, Switzerland,


The settle bed was a

common item in

Irish homes. It

could be extended

into a bed or pulled

up to provide extra

seating. Uncle Tom

once speculated

that the dark, damp

location where the

settle bed was kept

might have

contributed to

Uncle Michael

contracting TB.

by Louis Jacot. The watch would eventually pass to the

next oldest son, Uncle John, then Uncle Jim (who promptly

lost the gold chain on a trip to Dublin), Uncle Owen and

eventually to Uncle Jim’s son Pat.

The family has no known pictures of Michael.

However, Uncle Owen said he could remember two

occasions when his brother’s photo appeared in a

newspaper. The first incident occurred when a biplane

crash-landed in a field close to Ballinrobe. Michael was

among a group who went to assist the pilot. The local

newspaper published a photo of the group, Uncle Owen

recalled. The specific incident is unclear, but there would

have been at least a few planes down in the area at the time,

often flying from temporary aerodromes, or airports, set up

by the British military. There was one such facility near

Castlebar. The second published picture involved the

Ballinrobe horse races. There was a photo of the stands,

with Michael among the crowd. Uncle Owen said he

remembered looking at the picture and trying to identify

Michael. He specifically remembered Uncle Pete bragging

that he could identify any Gallagher anywhere. That day's

races would have been at a different location than the

modern Ballinrobe Race Course, which didn’t hold its first

race meeting at Rathcarreen until 1921.

In addition to the downed plane Uncle Owen

remembered Michael seeing, there was an incident

involving a pilot crash-landing in 1935 that made both local

and international headlines. This crash occurred in

Cloongowla, just northwest of town, where Felix Waitkus’

planned flight from New York to Lithuania came up a little

short. An account on the front page of The New York Times

reported: “Country folk raced to the field where the

American aviator landed. He stepped from the plane

uninjured and was taken to the thatched cottage of a

resident named Paddy Walsh. There the cottagers prepared

breakfast for him; following which he borrowed a bicycle

on which he rode to the town of Ballinrobe, a mile away, to

report his arrival to local police authorities.” (The incident

was the first of only two times in the twentieth century

Ballinrobe was mentioned in a news story in the New York

Times archive. The other was a visit by U.S. First Lady Pat

Nixon in 1970. Landlord-tenant farmer clashes made the

paper a few times in the late 1800s.)

Another memory of Uncle Michael comes from

his brother Tom. “Michael used to love sleeping in the

settle bed,” Uncle Tom recalled, referring to the Irish

version of a modern sofa bed. They were common in Irish

cottages in the 1800s. A settle bed was typically a large,

heavy piece of wooden furniture that would extend to form

a bed. In the Gallagher cottage, it sat in a nook in the wall

next to the fireplace. “At Christmas and other occasions

when they would have several guests,” Aunt Nora said,

“the settle bed would be folded back into a bench for more

room and extra seating.”


A page from the 1901 Census of Ireland shows then-3-year-old Michael living with his newborn sister Delia, Parents

Patrick and Mary Gallagher, and Grandparents Peter and Bridget Gallagher in their Cornaroya home.

Uncle Tom was a deep thinker and well-read.

With better opportunities, he could have made a great

philosopher or fine doctor. So you cannot entirely dismiss

his wondering years later if the settle bed may have played

a part in Michael contracting TB. A visitor contagious with

the disease could have coughed on the bench where

Michael might have slept that evening. The poor ventilation

in the nook where the bed was kept wouldn’t have helped.

In general, ventilation issues contributed to

unhealthy environments in many rural Irish homes, if not

specifically the Gallagher cottage. The origins can be traced

to the late 18th century and taxes imposed based on the

number of windows in a home. The system came to be

referred to as the “typhus tax” for how it contributed to

epidemics of that and other diseases. It is also the origin of

the term “daylight robbery,” related to the number of

windows bricked or boarded up to avoid higher taxes. The

window tax was abolished in Ireland in 1851, but the 1911

Irish Census was still classifying homes based on, among

other factors, the number of windows.

In any case, how or when Uncle Michael

contracted TB is unknown. We also don’t know if Michael

was treated only at home, but there is no evidence to the


Uncle Tom, who would have been only 7 years

old at the time, was so affected by his brother’s death that

he never stopped thinking about the incident. Some 60 years

after the fact, he shared how his parents sacrificed and

saved just to afford a bit of lamb for their son. He wondered

if there was anything more nutritious his parents could have

bought with their limited money.

Consumption was the countryman’s descriptive

term for tuberculosis, which would “consume” its victims

by weight loss and breathlessness. It consumed the lives of

many thousands in Ireland. It is believed 12,000 young Irish

adults died of TB in 1904 alone. The number may have

been even higher. Tuberculosis was considered a poor

person’s disease, and some in Ireland would be reluctant to

list it as the cause of a death, fearing it would reflect poorly

on the family. Mortality rates remained high in the 1920s

and 1930s. Barely a family in the country remained

untouched. It was a disease that could kill in a few months

or ravage a victim for a number of years, slowly eating

away at the lungs from the inside. For many decades,

tuberculosis was often a death sentence. It was not until

1949 that the first human patient was cured with a treatment

involving the antibiotic streptomycin. Advancements have

continued since. We think Michael’s illness was not


Aunt Mary, Uncle Owen and their niece Mary Kathryn explore the

Abbey Cemetery, where Uncle Michael and others are buried.

prolonged, perhaps only a few months. Michael was not the

first in the family to succumb to the illness. On Jan. 2,

1874, our great-grandfather’s sister-in-law, Catherine

Hyland, died after a five-month fight with consumption. As

far as we know, no other members of either side of the

Gallagher family ever contracted the disease.

A force in the fight against TB was Dr. Noel

Browne, who lived for a while in Ballinrobe and had more

than a few family members die from the disease. He

himself survived TB as a child. In 1924, Dr. Browne had

the TB sanatorium built in Ballinrobe on the estate of

Creagh House, which was originally constructed in 1875 by

Col. Charles Knox. It was one in a series of sanatoriums

Browne inspired up and down the country. He would

eventually become Minister of Health for Ireland.

All that progress, however, came too late for

Uncle Michael. He died March 21, 1921. It was a great

blow to the family. Uncle John would then become the

oldest son, but he would die tragically nine years later. In

the meantime, Delia, Pat and Pete would all pursue their

futures in America, with each departure leaving another

void along the boreen in Cornaroya. But life had to go on,

and the remaining family turned to their affairs.

At the time of Michael’s funeral, his mother

would have had 2-month old Ann to care for. Mary, the

family’s final child, would be born 11 months later. The

family was changed utterly in 1921, but they would go on.

Hard times make strong people.


“There are four corners on my bed.

There are four angels at my head --

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Bless this bed that I lie on.

Keep us all safe over the night,

as you did through the day,

from all danger and harm.”

Aunt Delia's nightly prayer, which she must have

been taught by her mother in Ireland





In the early hours of that October morning,

brilliant moonlight brightened Cork Harbor. The sun

would rise a few hours later to a warm autumn day

with moderate winds from the southeast.

In 1924, most days were busy in the Irish port

city of Cobh, but this Sunday would be particularly

bustling. Within 16 hours, three of the newest ships

from the Cunard line would anchor in the harbor, the

point of departure for countless Irish heading for a

different life in America.

One of those steamers was the SS Aurania, an

impressive 14,000-ton vessel with accommodation for

400 to 500 passengers in Cabin Class and another

thousand in Third Class. She had made her maiden

voyage, from Liverpool to New York, the previous


The Irish Examiner reported that on this

Sunday, the Aurania arrived from Liverpool at 11:40

a.m. and dropped anchor close to the Spit Lighthouse,

from where she attracted the admiration of spectators

on shore.

Among those watching was young Delia

Gallagher from the boreen in Cornaroya. Just 24 years

old, she was now on her own. She apparently would

have arrived by train from Ballinrobe after a stop that

Friday in Dublin to obtain her visa. Along with her

luggage and papers, she would have brought what

remained from a basket of apples her best friend and

cousin Sarah (Gallagher) Connell had given her as she

left her hometown. In addition, she carried a gold

sovereign from her father, which she saved all her life.

Her son would eventually have it turned into a ring.

Also among her few possessions, Aunt Delia

carried her prayer book. It would have been a treasured

item for a young woman strong in her Catholic faith.

Because of that faith, she would have been looking to

attend Mass that Sunday morning before becoming the

first of her generation to sail for a new country she

longed to embrace. An obvious option would have

been the Cathedral Church of St. Colman, commonly

known as Cobh Cathedral. The Gothic Revival

Aunt Delia, who left Ballinrobe for America in 1924,

eventually found her way to Wilmington, Del., where she

raised a family with Uncle Mike O'Brien, who emigrated

from County Meath.



The Cunard ocean liner that brought Aunt Delia to

America made headlines as it readied for its maiden

voyage in 1924. News accounts touted the Aurania’s

size (538 feet long) and very latest engineering and

architectural designs. Staterooms were said to be

“furnished with careful thought for the passengers’

comfort and equipped with every modern convenience

found in the finest hotels and best regulated homes.”

Aunt Delia’s October voyage was apparently

uneventful. But that could not be said of an Atlantic

crossing by the vessel a month later. Despite the ship’s

size and accommodations, four passengers were hurt

(including two broken noses) during a cyclone that

lasted for 21 hours with winds up to 90 mph.

Passengers declared it was impossible to sleep during

the storm and its “confused and terrific sea.” The vessel

did not “ship a gallon of water,” the captain boasted.

From the Victoria Daily (British Columbia) Times,

Aug. 29, 1924.

structure and its 300-foot tower took a half-century to build

and has stood watch over the harbor since it was

consecrated in 1919. Finishing touches were still being

done when the Titanic sailed from Cobh, then known as

Queenstown, in April 1912. Survivors and the dead from

the Lusitania were brought to the harbor three years later.

In 1924, the cathedral loomed prominently as a

“tender” quickly ferried Delia and 250 other passengers

anxious to join those already aboard the anchored Aurania.

The liner was “full up” when she sailed soon after noon

past Roche’s Point at the entrance to the harbor and on for

New York City. They were not far behind the largest ship in

the Cunard fleet, the SS Adriatic, which had just sailed to

great fanfare, with the Lord Mayor of Cork among those

bidding adieu to friends returning to The States.

That week, seas were reported as “rather rough”

from the English Channel to Southwest Ireland, with strong

winds and some rain. Whatever the conditions, by that

Monday, Aunt Delia and the Aurania were reported 273

miles west of Fastnet Rock, a small islet in the Atlantic that

is the most southern point of Ireland.

The date of Aunt Delia’s departure was Oct. 12,

1924. She was leaving for the U.S. on the anniversary of

Christopher Columbus arriving in the Americas in 1492.

Columbus was at sea for 70 days. It took the Aurania nine.


Aunt Delia was a generous woman.

She was opinionated, as were the rest of her

brothers and sisters, and she was dedicated to her family,

maybe to a fault, if such a thing is possible.

Delia was born in Ballinrobe on Aug. 24, 1901.

By the time she left for America, she was the oldest

surviving child of Pat and Mary (Sheridan) Gallagher. Her

birth came a year or so after the couple’s first daughter,

Mary, had died in infancy. Their first-born son, Michael,

died of tuberculosis in 1921, at age 24.

Such sorrows were balanced by the closeness of

the family, which for Aunt Delia grew into a fierce loyalty

over the years.

Chores around the family home would have been

a large part of Aunt Delia’s life growing up – and not just

what might be thought of as women’s work, such as

cleaning, cooking, churning butter, etc. She was required to

work in the fields along with her father and brothers.

However, she was still a child of about 10 when, rather than

being at home, she was living with her maternal

grandfather, John Sheridan, after his wife died. John

Sheridan had only one grown daughter, Maggie, at home to

take care of him. Whatever the reason Aunt Delia ended up


St. Colman's Cathedral rises over Cobh Harbor in County Cork, Ireland, in this photo from a postcard. The

cathedral would have been standing sentinel when Aunt Delia boarded the Aurania on Oct. 12, 1924. Cobh was

known as Queenstown from 1849 to 1920.

at the nearby property, our grandmother’s very capable

young daughter was there to help her relatives with

household chores, maybe freeing Maggie to care for her

aging father. Delia's mother would have had three young

children at home in 1911 – Nora, 4, Peter, 3, and Pat, 2. But

she also had her husband and two oldest sons, Michael and

John. Delia's grandfather had only Maggie and a son, John,

at home. Her grandfather would die in 1917, and ”Uncle

Johnny” would take over the farm and marry two years

later. The hurt that our grandmother felt from Delia’s

absence would have been balanced by the comfort of

knowing that while her father lived, he had Delia to help

where she could.

Patsy DeAscanis said her mother always looked at

things positively and never gave a negative impression

about her time living away from home at such a young age.

She would only state a positive pleasure about the situation,

such as what a joy it was when her father would come to

visit on a Sunday. She would hang on the gate to watch for

him. Cornaroya, where both the Gallaghers and Sheridans

lived, is only a little more than a half square mile, so Delia

was only a fairly short walk from home.

Despite Aunt Delia’s willingness to work hard,

there was one chore she particularly dreaded from her time

with her relatives. That was when she had to go down to the

edge of the “dark water” to gather duck eggs among the

reeds in the mornings. She had an understandable fear of

the mother duck and would close her eyes and turn away as

she reached out to pick up the eggs. The water where the

eggs were found was likely a spring feeding into the

Bulkhaun River or the river itself, which runs along the

southern boundary of Cornaroya as it flows toward town

and into the Robe River.

In any case, Aunt Delia survived the ducks and

eventually returned to the family home on the boreen.

It was from there that another story has been

handed down. It involves Aunt Delia’s cousin and dear

friend Sarah Gallagher, later Sarah Connell. Sarah was a

sister of “Peter Gallagher Next Door,” two of the eight

children of Owen and Peggy (McCormick) Gallagher. On

this particular day, Delia and Sarah were leaving on a trip

to the Marian Shrine in nearby Knock. The friends wanted


to look their finest for the excursion. They took great care

to choose the best from their few simple outfits. Sarah

came to the cottage door and called in to Delia – to the

never-ending amusement of her brothers at home at the

time – “Is it your brown shoes you’d be wearing, Delia?”

She, of course, had no shoes other than her brown ones.

On another occasion, the two friends were

together behind a wall as they watched a group of soldiers

march by, likely on their way to the infantry barracks,

located across the Robe River along High Street. The

soldiers may have been among the usual British forces

stationed in the garrison town or possibly local recruits who

volunteered to fight at the beginning of World War I. By

March 1915, more than 100 men from Ballinrobe had

enlisted in the army, tempted maybe by the promise of

Home Rule for Ireland or a quick victory over the

aggression of the German kaiser. Enthusiasm faded as the

horrors of war dragged on. It was gone by the time of the

1916 Easter Rising in Dublin. Politics aside, Aunt Delia

and Sarah thought the boys quite handsome and swore to

tell no one of their escapade. Oh well.

In 1920, when Sarah married Richard Connell, a

farmer from Glebe Street in Ballinrobe, the two witnesses

listed on the marriage record were John Tierney and Delia


Sarah Connell’s daughter, herself named Delia,

wrote to Patsy DeAscanis when Aunt Delia died to make

sure she knew of their mothers’ friendship.


The early 1920s were an eventful time for the

Gallaghers in Ballinrobe and Ireland in general. With the

birth of Mary in 1922, less than a year after Michael’s

death, Patrick and Mary Gallagher had 10 children,

including four less than 10 years old. Young Mary was born

into a country about to plunge into a civil war that split the

country after the approval that January of the Treaty that

created the Irish Free State.

In reflecting on her mother’s motivation for

leaving Ireland, Patsy said it was clearly escape. Not that

Aunt Delia would ever have anything disparaging to say

about Ireland. But the lure of the land of opportunity in

America was overwhelming. The sentimental idea of

longing to return across the sea to the Emerald Isle was not

something Aunt Delia dwelt on. She never complained

about the hard work that was required to get by in Ireland,

either while living with her grandfather, aunt and uncle or

back at home. But Aunt Delia was ready to embrace a new

The Bulkaun River flows along the southern boundary

of Cornaroya before joining the Robe River. It was

likely somewhere along the Bulkaun, or a stream feeding

into it, where Aunt Delia had to overcome her fears of a

mother duck to collect eggs in the mornings while living

in the home of her maternal Grandfather John


life in a new land.

“She just put her arms around this country and

taught Johnny and I to love it,” Patsy said of her mother

and America. “Of all the people I’ve encountered in my

life, I never met someone who loved this country more than

my mother.”

Playing an important role in this longing for

change was Aunt Annie Sheridan, who had immigrated to

America years before. On an early return visit to

Ballinrobe, she brought along her two young nephews from

Philadelphia, John and Francis Sheridan. Aunt Annie made

the boys wear new, wide-brimmed sailor hats she had

bought them with blue ribbons hanging down the back.

“You can just imagine the Gallagher boys when


they saw those hats,” Patsy said in re-telling the story of the

visit, which also involved Annie Sheridan developing a

strong affection for Aunt Nora. After a number of years had

passed, Annie offered to sponsor Nora if she wanted to

come to America. But Nora apparently had other plans or

obligations and was reluctant to take the chance.

I’ll go, said Aunt Delia.


On Oct. 21, 1924, incumbent Republican U.S.

President Calvin Coolidge was headed toward an easy reelection,

with the American economy booming and no

visible crises abroad. Prohibition had begun three years

previous, but you can’t have everything.

On that Tuesday, the weather was cool with a

strong northwest wind as the SS Aurania entered New York

Harbor and approached the Statue of Liberty and Ellis

Island. Prodded by shipmates to rise early that day, Aunt

Delia was standing at the ship's railing when Lady Liberty

came into view out of the morning mist. She couldn't help

but proudly proclaim, “Give me liberty or give me death!”

as she slowly passed by the statue. The ship soon docked

around noon at Pier 56 on the west side of Manhattan.

For the ocean liner’s many immigrants aboard, this

was a life-changing moment. But at least they would have

spent their more than a week at sea in relative comfort.

Theirs was not one of the “coffin ships” that saw thousands

of Irish perish while trying to escape the Great Famine in

the nineteenth century. According to a brochure from the

Cunard line, even third-class passengers aboard the brandnew

Aurania were well catered for in their two- and fourberth

cabins. They had access to a lounge, smoking room

and dining room, which had 20 or so tables. Each was set

with a linen tablecloth and full service for six people.

But the voyage was now over, and the passengers,

rich and poor, soon began to disembark from the Aurania

and head into New York and beyond. All but a few got off

immediately. Among the 43 detained was Aunt Delia. But

only briefly.

Just a few months previous, immigrants detained

after crossing the Atlantic had many reasons to worry as

they awaited a decision on their fate at Ellis Island and

other entry points. But the U.S. Immigration Act of 1924

formalized dramatic changes. Instead of traveling to the

United States with uncertainty about being admitted,

hopeful immigrants now applied for permission at U.S.

consulate offices overseas. It was at that point officials

decided if a person was healthy enough to enter the U.S.

Aunt Delia relaxes in a photo from her early years in

America. She was with a friend that day, Peggy

Newell, with whom she lost touch over the years. It

was recently discovered that Peggy, as with her dear

friend, eventually moved to Delaware. They are buried

two rows apart in Cathedral Cemetery.

and if he or she fit into strict new quotas imposed on


So Aunt Delia’s problem upon arrival in New

York was not a visa or physical exam. The reason she was

detained at 1:50 p.m., according to a page of the Aurania’s

manifest titled “Record of Detained Aliens,” was “to call.”

That was apparently bureaucratic shorthand meaning no

one was there to greet her. By 4:10 p.m., Aunt Delia was

“discharged” with the arrival of cousin Katie Mellet. Katie

herself had arrived in New York only a month earlier,

aboard the SS Scythia. She was about two years younger

than Delia.

The Aurania’s manifest indicates: Aunt Delia had

$88 with her (more than most steerage passengers; her


At left is an older Katie Mellet,

who met Aunt Delia in America

in 1924. At right, Aunt Delia is

in the background at center

with a group of passengers

returning from Ireland in 1931.

She helped arrange a

monument for the grave of her

brothers John and Michael

during the trip.

sovereign was worth about $5.37); that her ticket was paid

for by her Aunt Annie Sheridan; and that she planned to stay

with her aunt in Bryn Mawr, just outside Philadelphia.

However, plans had apparently changed. When she arrived,

the first place Aunt Delia stayed was with Katie Mellet’s

Aunt Agnes (Gallagher) Stevens at 1453 Amsterdam Ave. in

New York. The five-story apartment building was in Upper

Manhattan near Grant’s Tomb and the Hudson River.

“Aunt Aggie” was born in Ireland, one of the

children of our great-grandfather's brother Owen and his

first wife, Catherine Hyland. By 1924 she was a widow in

New York with three children: Andrew (12), Evelyn (9) and

Alice (7). Her niece Katie, a first cousin of Eugene

Gallagher, had joined the family there that September. She

was the older daughter of Margaret Gallagher (Peter

Gallagher Next Door’s sister) and Thomas Mellet, of New

Street in Ballinrobe.

It’s not hard to imagine Aunt Delia and Katie

Mellet would have discussed their impending journeys that

late summer back in Ballinrobe. They likely would have

shared many of the same apprehensions and dreams as they

waited for their ships to sail. Now, as Aunt Delia awoke on

her first morning in America, a new adventure was about to

begin. She may well have opened her Sacred Heart prayer

book and turned to the morning prayer. It would have laid

out ambitious goals for that or any other day:

“Remember, O Christian soul, that you have this

day, and every day of your life, God to glorify, Jesus to

imitate, the angels and saints to invoke, a soul to save, a

body to mortify, sins to expiate, virtues to acquire, Hell to

avoid, Heaven to gain, Eternity to pray for, time to profit by,

your neighbor to edify, passions to subdue, devils to

combat, the world to despise, death, perhaps, to encounter,

judgment to undergo.”


The 1925 New York Census shows Agnes Stevens

still on Amsterdam Avenue, but not Aunt Delia or Katie

Mellet. Delia Gallagher, 25, is listed as a lodger/servant

with a Blake family on Saint James Place in Brooklyn. She

apparently was not there long. She soon got a job helping

take care of the children of a German family in upstate

New York.

But before Aunt Delia left the city, she apparently

had a memorable experience at Coney Island, which had

become more accessible to recent immigrants with the

completion of the New York City subway in 1920. She was

impressed with how her Aunt Aggie was able to afford

bringing her along for the excursion with the three children,

at some point ducking under a gate, probably at the subway,

to avoid the full adult fee. For the outing to the amusement

park, Aunt Delia bought herself a new bonnet. It survived

any gate-ducking, but fared less well on a roller coaster.

The year 1924 was the beginning of the golden age of

coasters at Coney Island. Luna's Mile Sky Chaser, with 80-

foot drops, debuted that year, followed soon by The Limit,

The Thunderbolt, The Tornado and The Cyclone. It's

unclear which one Aunt Delia rode that day. But as she was

settling into her seat, she noticed a big sign that warned:

"HOLD ON TO YOUR HAT!" No way, thought Aunt

Delia, who kept both hands tightly gripped to the car's rail.

Her new bonnet soon flew off into the Coney Island crowd.

As for working, Aunt Delia did not like the

negative connotation of “domestic work.” She was proud to

be able to earn a living by working in the big homes of

richer people. And she always felt that her employers

treated her very well. Times could be bad everywhere, she

knew, but she never felt she had a hard time being

responsible for herself. Or her family. As the first in her

immediate family to come to America, she made a point of


Uncle Mike O'Brien had a lifelong connection with horse racing. He is the trainer at right in the fedora in this

photo from his days in Ireland. He would tell his grandchildren the story of how he once finished third as a jockey

in the Grand National steeplechase race at Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool, England.

sending American-style clothes back to Ireland for Ann and

Mary. Their big sister wanted to make sure they looked upto-date

when going to school. Her dedication to family also

showed as she met her brother Pete at the train when he

emigrated in May 1927.

Aunt Delia worked for the German family in

upstate New York for a year or so and would always hold

onto photos of the children she cared for there. But she

eventually joined Sheridan family members in the

Philadelphia area and later moved to Delaware. A passbook

from The Berks Building and Loan Association of

Philadelphia indicates she was in the City of Brotherly

Love by February 1927 through at least December 1934.

Before moving to Wilmington, tragedy struck the

family back in Ballinrobe. On Sept. 15, 1930, Delia’s

brother John was killed while cycling home from a fair in

nearby Kilmaine. The family sent her a newspaper clipping

detailing the inquest into John's death.

It took almost a year, but Aunt Delia made a trip

back to Cornaroya to join the grieving family, probably

leaving on the journey in mid-August 1931. While in

Ballinrobe, she helped arrange for a monument to mark the

graves of John and Michael at the Gallagher burial plot in

the Abbey Cemetery. The monument, topped by a Celtic

Cross, would eventually include their parents’ names, and

in time those of Uncle Owen and Aunt Mary. Aunt Delia

returned to America on Sept. 20, 1931, aboard the Stuttgart,

which sailed from Galway. The ship’s manifest lists her as a

waitress with the last known address in America of 2105

Mount Vernon St., the Philadelphia home of her Aunt

Esther Sheridan and her sons Francis and John. Her

immigration visa, issued that May 19, lists her as 5 feet 9

inches tall with brown hair and gray eyes.


Michael O’Brien was born in the townland of

Simonstown, just north of Navan, County Meath, Ireland,

on Dec. 15, 1897. He was baptized that Dec. 20, with


Uncle Mike was born Dec. 15, 1897, in the townland of Simonstown, just north of Navan, County

Meath, Ireland. He was always working himself or helping friends and relatives find a job.

Michael and Margaret Brady as sponsors, according to a

copy of his Baptismal certificate from May 24, 1930. Uncle

Mike was a middle child in a family of 11 children born to

Owen (Eugene) and Anne (Flannigan) O’Brien. Just three

years later, the 1901 Census shows Uncle Mike, his parents

and his five older siblings living as boarders in the home of

a 70-year-old widow, Marie McLaughlin, and her son

Thomas, a soldier, on Flower Hill in Navan. This was a

temporary situation, as the family moved to their own home

in Milestown by 1904, at the latest. Milestown is another

townland just north of Simonstown. Navan, itself, sits at the

confluence of the Rivers Boyne and Blackwater, less than

30 miles northwest of Dublin.

Details of Uncle Mike’s young days are limited,

but he grew to be a friendly, affable and congenial young

man. He was quick with a joke and fond of a good story …

the bigger the better. Throughout his life he was always

willing to help someone in need. This virtue served him

well in both personal relationships and in the working

world. In its most sincere sense, Uncle Mike fit the greeting

of a “hail fellow well met.”

Whatever schooling Uncle Mike received, it

would have been enhanced by what he learned following

his passion for horse racing. It was a love that ran through

the family. His sister Bridget married a jockey, Joseph

Norris. Joseph’s son Paddy went on to become a renowned

horse trainer, whose winning entries included Kilballyowen

in the 1957 Jameson Irish Grand National. A column in the

Irish Press written on Paddy Norris’ death in 1990

described him in a way that could easily be said of his

Uncle Mike: “One of the great extroverts and one of the

true humorists in Irish racing.”

Uncle Mike had some racing success himself. He

was proud of telling his family how he once finished third

in the Grand National steeplechase race, which is held

annually at Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool, England.

The exact year could not be determined, but there was a

jockey named O’Brien (identified variously as M., Major

or John) who, technically, finished third on the horse

Amberwave in the 1928 Aintree running. He tied for the

distinction with 39 others. Only two mounts actually

finished that particularly crowded and rough race without

stumbling over a fence, hedge or other horse. A jockey

named J.C. O’Brien, identified in newspaper accounts as an

“amateur pilot,” rode Amberwave to a second-place finish

in the 1927 Irish Grand National steeplechase race, held

each Easter Monday at Fairyhouse Racecourse in County

Meath. Whenever it was that Uncle Mike made his ride at


His passport photo shows Mike O'Brien when he came

to America in September 1930.

Aintree, he told his family the trip across the choppy Irish

Sea was not a pleasant one. He was seasick the whole way.

His horse apparently fared much better.

Uncle Mike’s love of racing probably started

small as a way to earn a few extra pence for the family. He

would have quickly realized he had more talent than a

humble stable boy and became a jockey around the time he

finished school. Navan provided plenty of opportunity, with

its numerous stables and horse-breeding locations. The city

had its own racecourse, with a brand-new facility built in

1921 at Proudstown, the townland just to the east of


At some point, Uncle Mike and some of his

family moved to Swords, where he had even more

opportunity to work as a trainer and jockey, a calling he

gave up when he “got too big.” Swords is situated just

north of Dublin and the modern Dublin Airport. The town’s

origins date to 560 AD when legend says it was founded by

St. Colmcille (521–567). The story is that the saint (for

whom one of Uncle Mike’s grandchildren is named)

blessed a local well, giving the settlement its name, Sord,

meaning “clear” or “pure.” St. Colmcille’s Well is located

on Well Road off Main Street.

Eventually, as with many of his Irish

contemporaries, Uncle Mike decided to make his future in

America. The story of how he got there has a distinct

parallel with the experience of his future wife. Both got the

chance when a relative declined the opportunity. For Aunt

Delia, it was her sister Nora. In Uncle Mike’s case, it was

his cousin James. Around 1930, Uncle Thomas Byrne and

Aunt Mary (O’Brien) reached out to their nephew James in

Navan asking him to join them in Medford, Mass. James,

however, had other plans and very graciously offered the

ticket to his cousin. Much like Aunt Delia had done six

years earlier, Uncle Mike quickly agreed to take the ticket

and join his relatives across the ocean. Cousin James even

helped subsidize Uncle Mike's trip by selling a pig and

giving him the proceeds.

Uncle Mike obtained his visa in Dublin on Aug 7,

1930. He set sail from Cobh on Sept. 21, 1930, with the

ship manifest listing Uncle Mike as 5 feet 7 inches tall with

a fair complexion and gray hair and eyes. He was aboard

the Scythia, the same ship that would carry Uncle Tom

Gallagher to America a decade later. The ocean liner sailed

into Boston Harbor on Sunday, Sept. 28, 1930, before

heading on to Pier 54 in New York the following day.

If things had gone as planned, Uncle Mike was to

head to the home of his Uncle Thomas and Aunt Mary in

Medford. But the plan did not work out, at least

immediately. Uncle Mike somehow ended up not

disembarking in Boston, instead sailing on to New York.

Inconveniently, his luggage did disembark in Boston. The

situation left the new immigrant worried and confused in a

strange place. To the rescue came a friendly stranger who

helped Uncle Mike figure out exactly where he was and

calmed his nerves by offering him “some ice cream

wrapped in a bit of paper.” “Everything fell into place piece

by piece after that,” his daughter Patsy remembered when

retelling the story. Uncle Mike soon was able to join his

luggage and relatives in Massachusetts. The stranger who

helped Uncle Mike may have been one of the first African

American men he had ever come across. It would have

made for a great first impression.

Thomas Byrne and Mary O’Brien had each come

to America in the mid-1890s. By 1930, they had been

married for 33 years, with five children. Only John (who

was 25) was still living at 49 Mystic Ave. by that time.

Annie, Elizabeth and Thomas were all married, and Mary

had died as an infant. The house must have been sizable,

and the family was used to taking in boarders. When Uncle

Mike finally arrived, there was already one boarder. It

doesn’t appear Uncle Mike stayed long.


By 1943, Aunt Delia, Uncle Mike and their children, Patsy and John, had moved to 611 N. Van Buren St. in

Wilmington. Occasionally, a man would come around offering to take photos of children on his pony.

Shortly after arriving, he moved to Pennsylvania

to work on a farm with race horses and, as in Ireland,

became involved with the racing circuit, now up and down

the East Coast. Stops included Saratoga, N.Y., Maryland

and, of course, Delaware Park. His first two jobs – not

simple to find during the Depression – were as an assistant

horse trainer for Andrew Mellon in Latrobe, Pa., and James

Ryan in Wilmington, Del. He traveled to Sarasota, Fla. each

winter for the race season there.


When Aunt Delia moved from Philadelphia to

Wilmington, she got work taking care of a family's

children, through the help of a friend. In addition to

employment, Aunt Delia would have found at least one

friendly face in Wilmington. Her brother Pete had moved

there a year or so earlier for a job at the William Sellers’

Estate. Over the next two decades, Uncles Tom and Jim and

Aunt Ann would join their brother and sister to form a new

core of family in Wilmington. But first, Delia and Pete

would each find the person they would marry and raise

families with in Delaware.

In the early 1930s, Uncle Pete met and married

May Tierney, who grew up about two miles from the

Gallaghers in Ballinrobe. Through Irish friends, Aunt Delia

met recent County Meath emigre Mike O’Brien.

They were married on the evening of Dec. 4,

1937, at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Wilmington. Because

it was Advent, there was no Mass and the small ceremony

with Father Bolen was performed outside the altar rails.

The wedding happened in December because Uncle Mike

wanted the couple to take their vows before his work sent

him off on his next extended racing trip. He soon went to

Boston for work, bringing Aunt Delia along for their

honeymoon. They stayed with the family of Mary Byrne,

known to Uncle Mike simply as “Aunt.”

For a while after their marriage, Aunt Delia and

Uncle Mike would travel from racetrack to racetrack on the

schedule set by his employer. But the lifestyle became too

much once their first child arrived. Their daughter says a

scene involving diapers being hung on a clothes line in


Young John O'Brien served as an altar boy at St. Paul's Church. At right, he and Patsy are with their mother, sitting

on the ledge of the fountain at the Josephine Gardens in Wilmington's Brandywine Park.

Florida signaled the end of their travels. Soon after Patsy

was born in 1939, Aunt Delia had had enough of moving,

and the family settled briefly in Stanton, Del. Patsy was

baptized in the nearby Josephite mission church. A son

John was born on Christmas Eve in 1940, by which time

the young family had moved to an apartment in a house on

Fourth Street in Wilmington.

A very early memory from Patsy comes from

when she was walking home from Mass at St. Anthony's in

Wilmington with her father. As they passed a nursing home,

there were bells ringing and 3-year-old Patsy asked why.

“Oh, they're just angels ringing the bells in Heaven,” Uncle

Mike explained. When they got home, they found Aunt

Delia in tears. She told them she had just gotten word that

one of her parents had died back in Ireland. (Patsy is not

sure if it was her grandfather or grandmother, but both

passed in 1942.) Right away, Patsy says, she connected the

death with the angels' bells and shared that with Aunt Delia.

“I remember my mother picking me up and hugging me,”

she says. It was a comfort for Aunt Delia.

In 1943, the O’Brien family bought a splendid

three-story house at 610 N. Van Buren St. The home would

become at least a temporary residence for Uncle Tom, who

initially stayed with Uncle Pete after arriving from Ireland

in 1940, and Aunt Ann in 1949. It is possible Uncle Jim

lived across the street, at 611 N. Van Buren, in late 1949 or

early 1950. That was the home of Mary Mahan, another

native of County Mayo. She lived there with her brother

Thomas, a blacksmith’s helper, and rented rooms to

augment their income. Plenty of Irish immigrants settled in

the area.

In those early days of the Gallagher family

reuniting in Delaware, Aunt Delia eagerly welcomed each

new arrival at her home. Patsy can remember sharing a

room with Aunt Ann. She also recalls Uncle Jim visiting

frequently and often sitting on the porch with her father.

Uncle Jim was there that first Christmas looking on in

amused wonder as Patsy played with a rag-doll gift from

her mother that was as big as the 10-year-old recipient.

“I think my mother was so good,” Patsy

remembered about those days on Van Buren Street. “She

never got excited about things. She was steady at the helm.


Aunt Delia is surrounded by cousins at Uncle Pete's home in 1951 for Mary

Theresa's First Communion. They are Mary, with her Toni doll; Pete, at

top; Patsy, next to her mother; Mary Kathryn; and John, petting Lassie.

It was never a fuss about when everybody was living with

us. I never remember any angst or any ‘Aunt Ann’s coming

tomorrow’ or ‘Uncle Jim’s coming.’ … It was just we all

assimilated things in the natural order. That’s my

impression as a child. It was the right and proper thing to

do. … It was just very ordinary.”

Another ordinary thing for the family was the

intimacy of the neighborhood. It was a time when your

milk and cream would be delivered to a box on the

doorstep. A “huckster” would come down the street from

time to time selling fresh produce from his aging truck.

(The call of “STRAAAAW-bereezz” is still vivid.) The

neighborhood even had a man who would occasionally

come around with a pony, offering to take and then sell

photos of neighborhood children to their parents. There is a

picture of a very young Patsy O’Brien sitting happily in the


Patsy also remembers that a trip from Wilmington

to New Jersey when she was young had to be done by ferry,

which left the Delaware side of the river from New Castle.

Sandwiches were available for the travelers at a concession

stand. But Aunt Delia would not let her children buy them,

because “you never knew who made them,” she would

caution. Sometime later, Patsy remembers talking about the

sandwiches with a life-long friend from New Castle, Betsy

Klingmeyer. Betsy informed Patsy how her mother would


Uncle Pat's wife Aunt Catherine is with her daughter Mary Kathryn and niece and nephew Patsy and John O'Brien

as the family was about to head home from a trip to Riverview Park in New Jersey in the late 1940s. The O'Brien

children rode home on the ferry to New Castle. The Gallaghers took the train back to Philadelphia.

always wake her up early so Betsy and her brothers and

sisters could help make those very sandwiches. Turns out,

Patsy did, eventually, know who made the sandwiches.

Aunt Delia would do what she could to make sure

her growing children had the chance to experience the fun

of a trip down the shore to Wildwood, N.J. The ocean-pier

amusement rides must have reminded her of her own trip to

Coney Island. But that earlier experience with a roller

coaster left its mark. She would get Patsy and John on a

ride but would then walk away up the Boardwalk. Other

kids would get a wave from their watching parents when

the ride passed, but not the O'Briens. Patsy thinks her

mother was just a little too scared to see them flying by,

bonnet or no bonnet.

Catholic children from the O’Briens’

neighborhood attended St. Paul’s Elementary School at

Third and North Van Buren streets. Uncle Pete’s son Peter,

two years older than Patsy, was a student there. He would

often visit the O’Brien home with his dog Lassie. When

Patsy arrived for first grade, she went into the classroom of

a familiar nun, who had to tell Patsy she was in the wrong

first-grade room. When Patsy balked, the nun explained

there was no desk for her. Still not discouraged, Patsy told

the friendly teacher that was OK, she would stand. That

nun did end up teaching Johnny O’Brien in first grade, and

many years later recognized Patsy when she was working

the “white elephant” table at a Christmas bazaar. “That

can’t be you, Sister,” Patsy told her, based on her memory

from St. Paul’s. “You were much taller.”

When it came time for eighth grade, the O’Briens

moved to 508 W. 27th St. and Christ Our King Parish.

Patsy, however, convinced her mother and father to let her

finish grade school at St. Paul’s. That year, because home

was too far away, she would frequently go for lunch to her

Uncle Pete and Aunt May’s bar at Front and Franklin


For high school, Patsy passed on opportunities to

attend Ursuline Academy or St. Elizabeth’s in Wilmington.

Instead, she chose the newly opened St. Peter’s High

School in New Castle. She graduated in 1956 and entered

the school for nursing with the Franciscan Sisters at St.

Francis Hospital in Wilmington. She trained at St. Elizabeth

Hospital in Washington, D.C., and Children’s Hospital in

Philadelphia. From 1960 until 1967 she served at St.


Patsy O'Brien attended St. Peter's High School in New Castle after finishing grade school at St. Paul's despite the

family's move to Christ Our King Parish before eighth grade. At left she is with friends Judy Birnbaum, top left, and

Joan Cochran, seated next to Johnny. The porch is their neighbor's on Van Buren Street.

Francis in the emergency room for three years and

operating room for four years.

John O’Brien made friends for life at Christ Our

King, where he was known in the school yard as one of the

“Big People.” He graduated in the Class of 1958 from

Salesianum High School in Wilmington. Before college, he

enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed at Eglin

Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle. His sister

remembers family worries about John serving in Florida

when news would unfold about events such as the Bay of

Pigs invasion by Cuban exiles in April 1961 and the Cuban

Missile Crisis of October 1962. Patsy herself was working

in the Operating Room at St. Francis when news broke

about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

John once got into a discussion about his time in

the military with Uncle Jim’s son Pat and Eugene

Gallagher, who served in the U.S. Army during the Korean

War. The talk eventually turned to the military equipment

John had given to his younger cousins Pat and his brother,

Owen, including his gas mask and bag, canteen, utility belt

and blue, two-point dress hat.

“Back in my day, you weren’t allowed to take

U.S. military material home with you,” Eugene observed.

“Yeah, that’s my recollection, too,” John said.

After his honorable discharge from the Air Force,

John attended LaSalle University if Philadelphia (living for

the time with the Sheridans) and law school at Catholic

University in Washington. When someone would ask him

what sort of lawyer he was, his answer would invariably be

“a damn good one.”

As Patsy and John grew, it was not uncommon for

their mother to fix meals for visiting family members,

including Uncle Pat, his wife Catherine and the Sheridans

from Philadelphia. As always, Aunt Delia was the

welcoming matriarch of the extended Gallagher family in

America. As with so many married women of her time,

Aunt Delia’s days of employment came to an end when she

had her children. But her work never stopped. She was a

full-time mother, grandmother, friend and giver to the end.


While never abandoning his love of racing, Uncle

Mike found employment in the early 1940s at the Coca-

Cola bottling plant near the western edge of Wilmington, at

Lancaster and Gray avenues. He would walk the 20 or so

blocks to work every day from the family’s home on North

Van Buren. He then worked for the Krueger Brewery at

Fifth and Dupont streets in Wilmington until the brewery

moved to Newark, N.J., around 1951, the year the family


At left, Patsy, center, is with her cousins Mary Theresa, left, and Mary Kathryn in 1951. At right, Patsy and John

are at the beach as children, probably in Wildwood.

moved to 27th Street. Until retiring in 1968, Uncle Mike

worked for North Hill Cleaners on the Philadelphia Pike.

Uncle Mike registered for the U.S. Selective Service during

World War II but was not called to serve. He would have

been 45 when he registered in 1943, but possibly looking to

increase his chances of serving, he shaved two years off his

age on his draft application, giving his birthday as Dec. 15,

1899. When he became a naturalized citizen on March 19,

1945, his birth year was back to 1897.

During his years at Krueger, Uncle Mike would

have been familiar with a number of the staff at nearby St.

Francis Hospital. More than once, Krueger employees

would end up at the hospital’s ER after an accident on the

job. People Uncle Mike knew included ER nurse Cathy

Hoopes, the future wife of Uncle Jim, and the head of

maintenance, Jack Tierney, Aunt May's brother. Jack

Tierney was succeeded in the job by Pat Hannon, who was

married to Aunt May’s sister Delia. For the story of how

those characters fit together, see Chapter 9. Uncle Jim and

Uncle Tom both also worked at Krueger.

Uncle Mike did not let little things like brewery

closings or retirement slow him down. It was not in his

nature. What did come natural was a genuine talent for

making people feel at ease. He also had a reputation for

being able to find jobs for immigrants newly arrived from

Ireland. Whatever work he was doing, he was more than a

driver, a bartender, a valet or racetrack host. He so

impressed the family of Richard G. Elliott, for whom he

worked as a male companion, that when Uncle Mike passed

away, the family wrote a letter trying to express their

appreciation for what he meant to them. “He was always a

true gentleman,” Richard Elliott Jr. wrote. “He was

courteous and went out of his way to be helpful. When we

were trying to sell Dad’s house, Mike so impressed


Patsy worked for many years as a

nurse at St. Francis Hospital. John

was a lawyer in the Delaware

Attorney General's Office and in

private practice. He made the

front page of the Wilmington

paper in January 1979 when

things went wrong at his office.

potential buyers with his helpfulness that I was asked on a

number of occasions whether Mike came with the house.”

Patsy remembers her father getting a boost in his

varied career when St. Francis Hospital was planning an

August 1964 gathering to show off its new addition to

doctors and other important individuals before the official

opening. A supervising nun knew Patsy's father had some

experience tending bar and asked if he might be able to

help. She said they had a bottle of B&B liqueur and one of

Irish whiskey and wondered if that would be enough.

Hardly. The call for assistance came on Saturday afternoon,

with the event set for Sunday. In a Homeric effort, Uncle

Mike used all his ingenuity and charm to drive around town

gathering all that was needed, including cleaning out a

friendly local bar before closing time. He drafted his son

John, nephew Pete and soon-to-be son-in-law Leon to help.

St. Francis Administrator Sister St. Kevin was delighted

with the outcome. A doctor told Patsy that Monday that

despite Sister's pleading with the crowd to get on with the

tour, no one wanted to budge. “They all wanted to stay and

have a party,” he said. The party was a big hit with the

doctors, Duponts and future Mayor Hal Haskell “two

fingers at a time.”

Uncle Mike's employers would go on to include

prominent Delawareans Caesar Grasselli and Aaron

Handloff, as well as the Clubhouse at Delaware Park. He

worked as an independent agent for institutions including

the Ingleside retirement home on North Franklin Street in

Wilmington, The Mendenhall Inn, and the Vicmead and

University and Whist clubs. For those roles, Uncle Mike

would often be impeccably dressed in a tuxedo. He knew

that the apparel oft proclaims the man.

One occasion when Uncle Mike was in his tux

was when his wife and daughter visited him at Delaware

Park. Patsy remembers the exuberance her father showed

while rooting on the entry he had backed as the horses

came down the stretch in the day's final race. He was not

happy when his horse lost. He raged about how anyone

could have bet on the poor excuse for a racehorse that had

won the race. Aunt Delia, with a quiet smile and some

satisfaction, slowly held up her winning ticket for her

husband to see. A shoe may have been tossed.


Through the decades, Aunt Delia could rely on the

bonds with her brothers and sisters. They would have

shared the sorrow of the passing of both their parents in

1942, and worries about the safety of Tom and Pat as they

served in the military during World War II. But they also


Mary Juliana was the first grandchild for

Aunt Delia and Uncle Mike. There are

now eight grandchildren already raising

the next generation.

would have shared the joys as the Gallaghers of Ballinrobe

celebrated marriages, births and graduations in their

adopted homeland.

Simple things such as a favorite little tale from

Uncle Tom would always bring pleasure for Aunt Delia. It

was a story about an Irishman who, though he was only in

America for a short time, acts as though all things Irish are

but a distant memory. Everything in America is

exaggerated, and everything in Ireland is diminished. It was

Uncle Tom’s telling of the story that drew the laughs. “A

Yank came home to Ireland after visiting America for only

a few months,” Uncle Tom would recount, often at the

urging of Aunt Delia’s daughter. “He was in Ireland for the

planting and home again to help with the harvest. And as he

stepped into the house he said, ‘Well, Father, you look dang

old! Mother, is that the same old bonnet still?” (Even the

family cat was not spared.) “And who’s the long-tailed

bugger in the corner?” Things in America would be

exaggerated the other way, “Buildings in New York are so

tall, they have to lower the chimneys just to let the moon

pass by,” the story would continue. Each re-telling would

result in fits of laughter.

There would be plenty of shared family

experiences through the years. They ranged from Uncle

Jim getting into a precedent-setting legal predicament as a

juror due to his relationship with John O’Brien, then a

deputy attorney general in Delaware, to the unfortunate

demise of a duck named Gallagher in the driveway of the

DeAscanis home in New Castle.

A theme that is part of many a Gallagher story is

that no one in the family would tolerate being taken

advantage of. It violated their sense of justice, held

especially strong by Irish women. It’s a key part of a story

about a particular trip to Atlantic City. As part of the outing,

Aunt Ann, Aunt Delia and her daughter stopped at several

auction booths on the Boardwalk and noticed something

wasn’t quite right. Aunt Delia eventually was interested in

making an offer on an item. However, she noticed two

people had been bidding up prices but never actually

buying anything. Aunt Delia and Aunt Ann realized the pair

must be in cahoots with the auctioneer. The conspirators

unfortunately tried to bid up the price on the item Aunt


Uncle Mike knew how to

enjoy himself, whether

he was at work, resting

at home or finally

making a return trip to

Ireland in the late 1970s.

In the photo above he is

at the door of what

appears to be the former

home of 'Peter Gallagher

Next Door' in Ballinrobe.


Aunt Delia and Uncle Mike O'Brien join Uncle Jim and

Aunt Catherine at their 1958 wedding.

Delia had targeted. Big mistake. It was hard to cheat one

Gallagher, let alone two of them. They knew of

Shakespeare’s advice to beware of entrance to a quarrel.

But they also knew that “being in, bear it that the opposed

may beware of thee.” Aunt Delia jumped up and started

yelling and pointing at the culprits. As Aunt Ann egged her

on, Delia’s daughter may have been a little mortified, but a

little proud, too.

There are some other colorful stories of Uncle Jim

and other Gallaghers turning the tables on people trying to

take advantage of them. The trait may be traced to the

family having so little in the way of possessions growing

up along the boreen in Cornaroya. Patsy said her mother,

indeed, had a very strong idea of property, which she had to

get from Ballinrobe. “I think they all had it,” she said.

“They were all infused with an idea of ownership and ‘what

belongs to me’ that we don’t have today.”

The Gallaghers were also infused with their own

ideas on the best way to say goodbye. In a 1984 letter from

Aunt Ann to Patsy, she ends with a memory of Uncle

Johnny, our grandmother's brother. She fondly recalls her

uncle’s parting “God bless” “… while his hand was still on

the door latch and he not quite visible making one of his

old-fashioned visits.” The best kind, Aunt Ann adds.

A common understanding of the phrase “an Irish

goodbye” involves leaving a party or other gathering

without telling the host. In theory, it eliminates a potentially

awkward exchange halfway out the door. The Gallaghers

had slightly different takes. Many times Uncle Jim would

send off those heading home after a visit with the simple

expression “Safe home.” It is a common phrase of farewell

Uncle Mike holds his nephew Pat Gallagher in this

photo from 1959. With him are Aunt Delia and Pat's

mother, Aunt Catherine.

in Ireland – slán abhaile in the Irish. Aunt Delia, however,

had a different custom, perhaps born of a heart that wanted

to delay as long as possible the parting from someone close

to her. When a visitor would leave Aunt Delia’s home, she

would refrain from saying goodbye until the person was out

of sight. It is a practice her daughter has adopted.


When Aunt Delia passed away suddenly from a

heart attack in her home on June 19, 1975, she was the first

person on the Gallagher side of her immediate family to die

since her parents in 1942. It was a sad day for her brothers

and sisters with her in America and for those back in

Ireland and England. But Aunt Delia had lived a full life.

She had seen the first four of her grandchildren born after

her daughter’s July 10, 1965, marriage to Galileo Leon

DeAscanis: Mary Juliana, Michael, Galileo and Colmcille.

The DeAscanises would see two more children, Delia and

Antonio, grow up in the years to come. John O’Brien


Near right are

Aunt Delia and

Uncle Mike. At

far right,

newlyweds Patsy

and Leon

DeAscanis head

off on their

honeymoon from

the Hotel Dupont

in July 1965.

A 1970s gathering at Patsy's New Castle home includes, from left, Uncle Jim, Aunt May, Uncle Pete, Uncle Tom,

Margaret and Mary Juliana, Aunt Ann, Mary Theresa, John, Aunt Catherine and Leon. In the background at right

are two of Patsy's boys, Michael and Galileo.


Aunt Delia works in the garden at her home on West 27th

Street in Wilmington. The family moved there from Van

Buren Street in the early 1950s.

married Cindy McClafferty on Nov. 10, 1976, and they

raised two children of their own, Casey and Michael. Aunt

Nora wrote to Patsy once when she was expecting,

mentioning how Aunt Delia loved little girls. “God love

you,” she told Patsy. “I remember, every time you were

expecting a child when Mom was alive she used to always

write me and she would say, ‘I hope it’s a girl.’ … (But)

Patsy, if it’s a boy, love him. After all, they don’t grow on


Aunt Delia had been diagnosed with cancer about

eight years before she died. Uncle Jim remembered that

news as the impetus for his finally quitting smoking. At the

time, the prognosis for Aunt Delia was not good. Family

members were summoned to the hospital and she was given

the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, then known as

Extreme Unction. Uncle Jim joined Uncle Tom, Aunt Ann

and the family in the hospital room. There was naturally a

somber mood. But with others around him crying, Uncle

Jim found a way to brighten Aunt Delia’s day. As he was

leaving – with his hand still on the door latch – Uncle Jim

looked back at his sister and told her he expected to see that

John and Cindy McClafferty were married in November

1976. Cindy was a graduate of McKean High School in

Wilmington and worked as a legal secretary. John, at the

time, was a deputy attorney general for Delaware.

familiar twinkle in her eye when he saw her again at the

next race season at Delaware Park.

At the time, Patsy had made the decision not to

tell her mother how serious her illness was. She knew her

mother was a strong woman and could beat the cancer but

that the bad news would only make things harder. Patsy

turned out to be right, and five years later, the doctor was

able to tell Aunt Delia she was cancer-free.

When Aunt Delia eventually died in 1975, Aunt

Nora sent a letter from Ballinrobe to Uncle Mike and John.

She offered words of comfort – “She is gone home to a

better place with God” – and told her brother-in-law, whom

she had never met, that if he ever came to Ireland again,

“don’t forget to give us a call.” Nora’s letters to Patsy

would frequently ask about her father, praising him for

constantly working hard and as “one of the greatest.” She

said Uncle Mike gave her great hope because age seems no

bother to him. “Wherever he wants to go or whatever he

wants to do, he just does that.”

It took some time, but John O’Brien finally

convinced his widowed father to accompany him on a trip

to Ireland. It was a great time for both, with Uncle Mike

enjoying time spent with the O’Briens and the Gallaghers.

John also developed close relationships with the O’Brien


Aunt Delia's father gave

her a gold sovereign when

she left Ireland. After she

died, her son had it made

into the ring shown below.

Minted in 1893, the coin

features St. George slaying

the dragon. On the other

side is Queen Victoria.

A mixture of families gathers for John O'Brien's wedding in 1976. Clockwise from top

left are Uncle Pat and Aunt Catherine, Francis Sheridan, Uncle Tom, Uncle Jim,

Uncle Mike's niece Jane Kerrigan, Aunt Ann, Uncle Mike and his niece Beno Norris.

side of the family. The year before the 1977 trip, Irish

cousins on the O'Brien side Beno Norris and Jane Kerrigan

had come to America for John's wedding.

After Aunt Delia’s death, more grandchildren

would come, each a blessing for Uncle Mike. The children

used to love their visits with Pop-Pop, and not only because

they would get to watch TV (“Sanford and Son”) or eat

treats (Entenmann’s or a sort of raisin bread heated in the

microwave) they never had the chance to enjoy at home.

Uncle Mike was with Antonio when he took his first steps

and encouraged a talent for dancing in his young grandson.

Colm remembers his grandfather sitting him up

behind the wheel of his huge, old white car and letting him

steer along the road. Uncle Mike used to treat the family to

a meal at Denny’s after attending the Latin Mass on a

Sunday. Pigs in a blanket (sausage rolled in a pancake with

syrup and cinnamon) was a favorite. On one occasion, there

was an incident over a parking spot that caused some

concern. As Uncle Mike was preparing to pull into a spot,

another car jumped in ahead of him. Uncle Mike would

have none of it. He went up to that driver – an imposing

fellow with a big mustache and powder-blue suit, if

memory serves – and started giving him a piece of his

agitated Irish mind. The grandchildren were cringing in the

car, worried what might happen to their Pop-Pop. But he

prevailed unscathed and got the parking spot.

All but one of Uncle Mike and Aunt Delia’s

grandchildren were born by the time he passed away.

Michael John O’Brien came along not too long after Uncle

Mike died while summering with Richard Elliott in Mystic

Seaport, Conn., on July 16, 1984. The name of the town

sounds a symmetrical echo of the name of the

Massachusetts street where Uncle Mike lived when he

arrived in America. From Mystic Seaport, Uncle Mike was

preparing for a trip to England with Mr. Elliott. He died

while walking in the garden, after his usual attendance at

daily Mass. He had two tickets in one pocket and a Rosary

in the other. As was the case some 30 years later – as noted

in his son John’s obituary – the lilt of Irish laughter was

silenced a bit that day, the feast day of Our Lady of Mount

Carmel. Uncle Mike was buried alongside Aunt Delia in

Cathedral Cemetery in Wilmington. Delia, Pete, Jim, Tom

and Ann bought the plots years earlier when Pat Hannon

alerted them to a newspaper ad saying space in the Catholic

graveyard was disappearing fast.

After his mother's funeral, John got a surprise

when he went to clean up at her home. He called his sister

to say she'd never guess what he found under a rug. It was


Uncle Mike walks along the banks of the Delaware River in New Castle with his granddaughter Mary Juliana

DeAscanis in the late 1960s.

money – and a gold sovereign. The sovereign was, of

course, the coin Aunt Delia had kept since her father gave it

to her when she left Ireland in 1924. In her honor, John had

it fashioned into a ring, of significant size, he was often

seen wearing.

John O'Brien shared many traits with his father,

chief among them his love of a good story and a great joke.

One of those stories made the Wilmington newspaper,

when John recounted how he lost “about every important

paper I ever owned” when his boxed-up possessions were

mistakenly taken away as trash overnight when he was

switching offices with a colleague at his law firm. John

tracked down where the trash was dumped, had it taken to a

garage at a concrete factory, and spent hours sifting through

tons of paper to find what was his. Items eventually

recovered included his marriage license, a notary seal and

even a gold ring Cindy had given him. The News Journal

story included a picture of a smiling John in an Irish tweed

cap holding up a $100 savings bond that was among the

recovered “trash.”

John passed away in March 2015. His sister

remembers the funeral at St. Joseph’s on The Brandywine

as one she imagines would have been familiar to anyone

from Ballinrobe. She recalls a procession from the

Greenville church to the grave over ground lightly covered

in snow with flakes still falling softly. An Air Force Honor

Guard bag-piper, silhouetted in the mist, led the casket,

hauntingly playing the Mayo hymn “Our Lady of Knock.”

Patsy DeAscanis recalls her father as the more

outgoing of her parents, with her mother the one who

inspired a higher level of thought in her two children. She

remembers her brother asking her one time after he had

spent a night playing the game Trivial Pursuit, who was the

source of the quote “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.”

Hesitantly, Pat told her brother it was Shakespeare.

“Damn,” John answered. “I thought it was Mom!” You

shouldn’t be too hard on John for not knowing literature’s

most famous speech on parental advice came from

“Hamlet” and not straight from his mother’s lips. She, in

fact, did often quote the lines. And she was, above all else,

true to herself and her family.



Father Michael, Patsy DeAscanis' oldest son, visits his grandfather's family in County Meath, Ireland, in

2004. With Father, from left, are Beno's husband Phil Newport and Uncle Mike's nephew James Kerrigan.

County Meath is home to the Hill of Tara, the

seat of the legendary High Kings of Ireland. It is claimed

the view from the top of the hill offers views of half the

counties of Ireland. But you only need a range of seven

or eight miles to see the county town of Navan to the

northwest. Let your eyes follow the flow of the River


It is Navan and the surrounding townlands that

were home to the ancestors of our Uncle Mike O’Brien.

His paternal grandfather was John Brien, a

laborer from Newtown a few miles south of Navan, near

the town of Trim. In those times, the “O” prefix in front

of Brien was often omitted from official records. The

“O” generally stood for “son of,” while “Mac” or “Mc”

stood for “grandson of” or “descendent of.” Uncle

Mike’s maternal grandfather was Daniel Flannigan from

Athlumney, a townland just east of Navan. We don’t

know how Daniel Flannigan made a living, but unlike

the Gallaghers of County Mayo, neither of Uncle Mike’s

grandfathers nor his father were farmers.

The Boyne Valley is Ireland’s ancient capital

and has a sacred and mythical landscape. It also is one

of Ireland’s most renowned centers for equestrian sports

and horse breeding. The Irish Grand National is

regularly held at Fairyhouse, and Navan’s own

racecourse is one of the finest tests for National Hunt

horses. The two main rivers in County Meath, the

Boyne and the Blackwater, join at Navan, and continue

east to the Irish Sea. Both waterways are rich in

aquatic life, and the salmon and trout are recognized as

among the finest in Ireland.

According to the Navan Historical Society,

Navan in the 1840s was comparable to what we today

might call a Third World Town. Chief among the

causes for the local economic collapse was the end of

the Napoleonic Wars in 1815. Farmers once vital to the

war efforts fell into poverty. Young men no longer had

the (admittedly dangerous) option of going off to

battle. Then came the Great Famine. The population of

County Meath declined from 183,000 in 1841 to

67,000 by 1900. Royal Meath always had been a

center for Irish nationalism. The Battle of the Boyne

was fought there in 1690. Those anti-British

sentiments grew deeper as times grew harder. Daniel

“The Liberator” O’Connell had held a “monster” rally

on the Hill of Tara in August 1843 that was attended by

as many as a million people. And Charles Stewart

Parnell was first elected to the House of Commons as a

Home Rule League MP for County Meath in 1875.

It was in the midst of this 19th century life



that Uncle Mike’s grandparents raised their families.

They did their best. Uncle Mike’s parents were Owen

and Anne (Flannigan) Brien. (The spelling of

Flannigan, as well as many other names, varies from

source to source.) They were married May 19, 1887, in

the chapel at Johnstown. Anne was 17 at the time,

having been born in 1871. She worked at the local

Athlumney Flour Mill, which was originally built in

1808. It employed more than 250 locals well into the

last quarter of the 1800s. Like his own father, Owen

was a laborer.

Owen and Anne had 11 children: Anne

(1888), Mary “Molly” (1890), John (1891), Hugh

(1893), Rose Ann (1895), Michael (1897), Catherine

(1900), Bridget (1901), Julia (1904), Theresa “Tess”

(1906), and Elizabeth “Lilly” (1909). By the time the

younger children were born, the state of the local

economy had improved, with the vast majority of

citizens experiencing life as a more or less endurable

and pleasant thing, according to the Navan Historical


The O’Brien family moved a number of

times. Their first six children were born in the

townland of Simonstown. Catherine was born during a

short stay at rented accommodations in Navan itself,

with the last four children born in the townland of

Milestown. It was there that Uncle Mike’s father is

listed as living when his son left for America in 1930.

While he was still in Ireland, Uncle Mike moved at

some point to Swords outside Dublin. It’s unknown

how many family members joined him, but at least two

of his sisters were married there.

Troubled times for the family included

Catherine’s death at only five months old in 1900 and

the passing of her sister Lilly in her mid-20s in 1936.

Perhaps the hardest blow came when Uncle Mike’s

mother fell victim to the Spanish Influenza on March

23, 1919, at the age of only 48. She was one of an

estimated 23,000 victims in Ireland. Uncle Mike’s

father lived until Nov. 30, 1945. Anne and Owen are

both buried at the family plot in the Blackcastle


What we know of Uncle Mike’s other

brothers and sisters includes:

* Ann married James Kerrigan and had seven children:

James, Jane, Phyllis, Willy, Ann, Kathleen (died

young) and Noeline;

* Mary married Bernard McCabe; information about

any children is unclear;

* Hugh married twice, with his first wife dying young.

The O'Brien family burial plot in Blackcastle

includes the graves of Uncle Mike's parents, Owen

and Anne (Flannigan).

He and his second wife, Ann, had four children: Nan,

Brigid, Sean and Eugene;

* Rose married Thomas Stapleton and they had four

children: Patrick, Eugene, Frances and Thomas;

* Bridget married Joseph Norris and had six children:

Beno, Pauli, Nancy, Marion, Patrick and Melda. Her

son Paddy became a horse trainer, like his Uncle Mike;

* Julia married Peter O’Brien (no relation) and they

had four children: Lauri, Finbar, Albert and Theodora

or “Theo”;

* John and Tess never married; both are buried with

their parents in Blackcastle.

Likely the first time Uncle Mike saw


Father Michael

DeAscanis gets a

taste of very hot

Irish tea during his

2004 visit to

County Meath.

Sipping with him

is James Kerrigan,

a brother of Jane,

who hosted the

gathering in the

family home in


someone from the family he left behind in Ireland

came when his niece Beno, the daughter of Bridget and

Joe Norris, visited America in the late 1950s. She

would eventually attend both Patsy's and John's

weddings. Her cousin Jane, the daughter of Ann and

James Kerrigan, joined her for John's wedding in 1976.

In a letter the following March, Jane told Patsy she

wished she could visit again and regrets living so far

away. She jokes it is just as well she doesn't have a

Leprechaun's gold, or else she would be at the house so

often “you would get fed up with us.”

When Uncle Mike and John traveled to

Ireland after Aunt Delia's death, he rekindled many

more family relationships that had been constrained by

the years and distance. Those relationships have

continued with many subsequent visits from family

members on both sides of the Atlantic. Patsy

DeAscanis says she has always been grateful for the

hospitality her father, as well as his grandchildren,

enjoyed when they have visited County Meath. The

Kerrigan family and Lauri and Joe Ross have been

particularly welcoming. Lauri is the daughter of Uncle

Mike's sister Julia and her husband, Peter O'Brien.

Julia, Patsy says, may have been her father's favorite.

Tom Kerrigan, who worked for Aer Lingus, came to

the rescue of Patsy's son Colm when his party came

close to missing their return flight to America after a

visit to attend a college football game in Dublin

between Notre Dame and the U.S. Naval Academy.

The following letter from cousin Beno to

Patsy illustrates how close all the families grew. They

include O’Brien descendants in County Meath and

elsewhere in Ireland. The letter is dated Aug. 1, 1984,

but not finished and sent until the new year in the wake

of Uncle Mike’s death in July 1984:

“At last the long overdue letter. Pat, I don’t

have to tell you how sad I am for you and how sorry I

am for not being in touch. But I just could not put pen

to paper.

“It is true Uncle had a long and very fulfilling

life. But the longer you have them the harder it is to

part. As for me, I just always wanted to have a Mom

and Dad and never felt so lately out of as when Mike

left us, as he was my last link, the very last one I had,

and I know he understood that very well. He knew the

great love and need we had for him. Thank God we

had all got together for so many years. Pat, you see, in

Ireland family is, as all over the world, very close. But

here, I think, we tend to be very clannish and cling to

each other and hate to let go. But that is life. And as

your Dad would say, sure it is great.

“I spoke to Johnny on the phone last night. It


Father Michael is with Beno (Norris) Newport, a daughter of Uncle Mike's sister Bridget, and Jane Kerrigan, a

daughter of his sister Ann, at Jane's home in Swords.

was lovely to hear his voice. And he understood my lack of

letter writing. His little girl (Casey Storm) sounds (great)

and he is looking forward to the little baby so much. It

would be exciting if it was a boy, although a little girl will

be a nice pal for the little one they have already. You know

the O’Briens have come to an end, so Johnny will have to

keep trying for the boy to keep the name going.

“Pat, how is Leon and all the family? I am sure

they are all starting to grow into young men and women.

No doubt, sometime some of them will come to visit the

land of their Grand Pop – and won’t we be delighted to

have them. The day of Mike’s month’s mind was my 50th

birthday. So there was Mass … for himself and myself (as

the girls put it, the past and the present). I did not know if I

should laugh … and into the bargain I was a half century

old. I would say your Dad would have got a good laugh out

of that. The Kerrigans (Ann, Uncle Mike’s sister, and

family) are great. I would be lost without them. I see them

every week, but we are in touch most days. The Norris(es)

and Kerrigans are like one family.

“All my men are in great form, thank God, doing

all sorts of exciting things with their lives. Paul loves

his flying (as an Aer Lingus pilot) and Colm (was)

made Master of his (tall) ship in August. P.G. he will

be one of the youngest Masters on the high seas.

Kieran fixes boat engines and Garret is finished school

this year and setting out in the world. They’re all still

at home with Phil and myself. Sure, I love them all

around me. Paul built a beautiful old car. Uncle knew

he was building it from all the old parts he collected

from all over the world. I had a letter written to Mike

with the pictures enclosed in it, so I am sending it to


“… Well, Pat, it is the new year and it always

fills me full of hope and excitement: I traveled a lot in

October of ’84; I went with Phil to San Diego in

California. We had a lovely time. I am still in my little

shop (in Dublin) but I am expanding and making it

much bigger. I am eight years here now. Time flies. I

am writing this letter in the shop as I know you will

excuse the scribble. Please keep in touch, as we all

need each other and love you.”

Lots of love, Beno



John O'Brien and his wife, Cindy, had a daughter

and son, Casey and Michael. Above is the family

in 2006 with dog Duke. Below are John and Cindy

with Casey, and John with Michael.

Aunt Delia and Uncle Mike's two children gave them eight

grandchildren. Above, Patsy and husband Leon DeAscanis are

surrounded in 1985 by their six children, clockwise from top,

Michael, Mary Juliana, Galileo, Delia, Antonio and Colmcille.

Above, Patsy is with her

children and their spouses.

From left are Galileo and wife

Mary; Antonio and wife Kelly;

Father Michael; Maryjuliana

and husband Dan; Colm and

wife Stephanie; and Delia and

husband Kapil.

At left, Dan Lehane

and his brothers-inlaw

Colm, Antonio

and Father Michael

take a cigar break

outside Hendlers ice

cream shop in




John O'Brien's daughter, Casey, and her husband, John Melson, have two children, Luke

and Logan. They were married in 2008.

John O'Brien

holds his


Logan, while

daughter Casey

looks on.

Luke Melson

enjoys a meal with

his Uncle Michael

and grandmother




Then-Deacon Michael DeAscanis prepares to raise the chalice during the Christmas 2003 Midnight Mass at St.

Peter's in Rome. Mass was celebrated by Pope John Paul II, at Michael's left, and his successor, Pope Benedict XVI

(then Cardinal Ratzinger), to Michael's right. At right, Michael is in Rome with John Paul and in Ballinrobe with

cousin Eugene Gallagher. Michael, who studied for the priesthood in Rome, was ordained in Baltimore in 2004.

Aunt Delia's second-youngest child, Delia,

above and at right, married Kapil Tyagi in

2015. Above top, Delia and Father Michael

are with James and Margaret Kerrigan at

Dublin's St. Mary's Cathedral in 2012. James

is a nephew of their grandfather Uncle Mike.



Colm DeAscanis

married Stephanie

Flowers in 2004. They

have four daughters,

below, Teresina,

Alessandra, Lidia and


Antonio DeAscanis

married Kelly

Radulski in 2014. They

have three children,

below right, Leon,

Giuseppe and Felicity,

shown with her

brothers and mother.

Above are Colm

and Stephanie's

girls on the

family's 2020

Christmas card.

At right are

Patricia, Lidia,

Alessandra and

Teresina from a

few years earlier.

From left at Delia

and Kapil's

Virginia home:

Edwin, Teresina,



holding Lidia,

Grace holding

Leon, Patricia and


Kelly, holding Felicity, wears a

shirt promoting BlkOps Fitness,

the gym she and Antonio, a former

Marine, own in Wilmington.



Mary Juliana

DeAscanis married

Dan Lehane in

1998. They have

four children,

below left, Liam,

Finbar, Grace and


Galileo DeAscanis

married Mary

Gott in 2005. They

have three

children, below,

Edwin, Saveria

and Galileo.

From the top of the staircase at the home of Antonio

and Kelly on St. Stephen's Day: Liam, Finbar, Galileo,

Grace holding Felicity, Edwin, Alessandra with Lidia,

Saveria, Teresina with Leon (holding Elmers box),

Brendan, and, at bottom, Patricia with Giuseppe.

Galileo marches with his son

Edwin and brothers Antonio and

Colm in a St. Anthony's Feast Day

procession in old New Castle.


“Grief fills the room up of my absent child,

lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,

puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,

remembers me of all his gracious parts,

stuffs out his vacant garments with his form.”


Shakespeare's “King John”





John Gallagher was known as a fashionable dresser. At his midsection in this photo

you can see a bit of the watch chain that had belonged to his Uncle Michael, who

died in America. The photo is from outside the Moran house on the Convent Road.

John Gallagher was born Nov. 13, 1903, the third

surviving child of Patrick and Mary Gallagher. Not a lot is

known about John, with the sad exception of how he died in

his mid-twenties.

He was apparently a fashionable young man,

known to be a great dresser, probably not the easiest

reputation to earn as a member of a growing family

working a small farm on the outskirts of a town

unaccustomed to financial security. The lone surviving

photo of Uncle John shows a confident young man with a

broad smile, broad ears, hair neatly styled and parted. His

right hand is tucked into the pants pocket of his three-piece

suit. You can see the gold chain from the watch the family

was given by the widow of his Uncle Michael, who died in


Uncle John, as was the case with his brother

Michael, would have been close to the youngest of his

cousins next door, Peter and Owen Gallagher. He served as


A newspaper article from

Sept. 27, 1930, in The Western

People told the story of the

inquest into John Gallagher's

death earlier that month. It

reported the jury concluded

the cause of death was a head

injury as the result of the

victim's fall from his bicycle.

The headline

"Old man found dead in

bed" refers to a completely

different case the jury

handled the same day.

best man at Peter’s 1926 wedding to Maggie McDermott.

Uncle John became the oldest son in his family,

assuming all the related responsibilities, when brother

Michael died of tuberculosis in 1921. John would then see

three siblings leave for America, starting with Aunt Delia in

1924. Uncle Pete left in 1927, with Uncle Pat following a

few months before John’s death.

That sad day came in the late-night and earlymorning

hours of Sept. 18-19, 1930. During a 1993 visit by

Owen and Lynn, Uncle Jim's son and daughter-in-law,

Uncle Owen said he recalled the day as the last time he and

his brother "Jimmy" would work together in the bogs.

Uncle Owen said they had been working for

hours, with Jimmy carrying the dry turf along in a bag

slung over his shoulder, when he suddenly decided they

had done enough for the day. They dropped the turf they

were carrying and went home. Later, they heard the news

of John being killed while returning on his bike from

Kilmaine, which is about 6 miles from Ballinrobe. After

that day, Jimmy went to work in the neighboring Convent

of Mercy (where John had worked as a gardener) and never

returned to the bogs. He was now the oldest son at home.

During a walk to that convent in 1993, Uncle

Owen said he could remember the details about John’s

death as though they had just happened. He told how John

was found slumped against a wall on one side of the road

while his new bicycle was propped against the wall or

hedge on the opposite side. Owen was unsure whether what

happened that day was a simple accident or if something

more sinister may have happened. In any event, Owen said

there wasn’t much of an investigation and nothing was ever

really resolved.

Focusing on how the bike had been stood up,

Owen surmised a car came along at some point and

someone from the car either propped the bike up or that car

caused the accident. He said he had suspicions that a police

officer may have been in the car; he also wondered why

authorities did not spend more time questioning a witness

who was near John's body when another car came upon the


Owen said he remembered hearing that John had

been offered a ride home from Kilmaine by his friends. He

refused. Owen thought he may have been afraid his father

would suspect he had been drinking and left his bike

behind. The family rejected the possibility that alcohol was

a factor. Uncle Jim, the oldest brother still living at home,

served as the family spokesman at the time of the inquest

into John’s death by doctor C.O. Maguire, coroner in

Ballinrobe. An account in The Western People newspaper

from Sept. 27, 1930, quotes Uncle Jim as testifying:

“(John) was a strong, healthy boy. And he never had any

fits or weaknesses. He was well used to cycling, and was


not in the habit of getting drunk or taking too much drink.”

Uncle Jim testified that his brother had left for

Kilmaine on his bicycle with friend Willie Walsh. He told

the inquest he did not see John again until he was brought

home dead by the Civic Guards. He further testified John

was 25 years old.

Members of the jury at the inquest in Cornaroya

(identified as Michael Burke (foreman), Richard Burke,

senr.; Martin Flannery, Thos. King, James Kavanagh,

James Walsh, John J. Moran, and Richard Burke, junr.)

were reported to agree with the testimony of two doctors

who said the cause of death was a hemorrhage, or bleeding

into the brain, caused by a fall from the bike. One doctor

testified the injury was not the result of “great violence.”

Still, Uncle Owen and others would never dismiss the

possibility the full story was never told. Sixty years after

the incident, Uncle Owen would still become angry. He

insisted, “John was too good of a rider and knew the road

very well; someone hit him or got in his way.” He thought

because of skid marks the bicycle made in the road

someone may have unexpectedly stepped in front of the

bike. Cousins Eugene and Peter Gallagher would not


The following are excerpts from The Western

People account, which appeared on Page 10 of the

newspaper. The multi-deck headline reads:






“... Peter Paul Connell said he went to the show on

the bus, and arrived about 1 p.m. He stayed in Kilmaine till

about half 10 that night. He (Connell) had a cup of tea in

Murtagh Philbin's forge on the way home, and left about 11

o’clock. From that he went to Vean’s, and stayed about an

hour. When he was about one and a half miles from

Kilmaine on the Ballinrobe road a motor car came along.

As it came up, he was watching it to try and get a lift when

something tripped him. The car pulled up, and in the light

he saw a man lying in the road. A bicycle was on the road,

and he got into the car and told the driver. The driver said

he should get out and someone got out and looked at the

man. Then they drove back to Kilmaine, and he walked on

to Ballinrobe. At Ballynew boreen another car passed. He

stopped to rest for 15 minutes or so, and then went and

slept in a hayshed at the back of the house he lodged in.

(Superintendent Dunphy asked Connell:) Did any

Family friend and neighbor Willie Walsh is shown outside the

Gallaghers' Cornaroya home. In 1930, he traveled to

Kilmaine with John Gallagher. He told the inquest that when

he was leaving Kilmaine, he talked with John, who said to

head home without him. Walsh said his friend appeared quite

sober. He added John did not have a light on his bicycle.

bicycle or car pass you or meet you on the way home? -- No.

I don't remember anything (Connell responded).”


“William Walsh said that when he got to Kilmaine

on Thursday evening he parted with Gallagher, who went up

(to) the village to see some friends. He met Gallagher again

about 9 o’clock, when there was another young man with

him. When asking Gallagher if he would come home, he

replied that he would go in about 10 minutes. About 15

minutes later, he met Gallagher again, and (Gallagher) said,

“You can be going home; don't be waiting for me.” Then he

said to go quietly by (the Gallagher) house and not disturb

his parents. He was quite sober. (The Walsh house was a


hundred yards or so farther along the boreen from the


Witness said he left word with Paddy O’Donnell

that he had gone home at about 10 o’clock. He was home

before 11 o’clock. Gallagher, he said, had no lamp on his


Michael Garvey said he was going home from

Galway about 1 o’clock on Friday morning by motor car. He

was driving and in the back were Jack Connor and Willie

Hughes. About a mile on the Ballinrobe side of Kilmaine, he

saw a man lying on the road, with another man (Connell)

standing beside him. He, seeing that the man was injured,

decided to go back and report to the Guards. As he was

opening the door, Peter Connell (the story sometimes refers

to him as O'Connell) tried to get into the car, and witness

(Garvey) told him to wait until they saw who or what was on

the road. Connell said he thought it was something like an

old stick he tripped over.”


“Continuing, the witness said he saw that the man

lying on the road was injured, and he went back at once to

tell the Guards about it. When he had the car turned, Connell

tried to get in again, and he (Garvey ) told him to wait until

they came back. Returning with Sergeant Reynolds and

Guard Kiernan, Connell was not there. Connell had some

drink taken, and the witness thought he did not appreciate

the fact that Gallagher was injured. He (Garvey) brought the

injured man and the Guards to Dr. Hawkshaw, where they

were told he was dead. They then brought him home. Before

leaving Doctor Hawkshaw’s door, he got the priest. They did

not (see) Connell anymore that night.

(Quote from coroner to Garvey:) I must

compliment you on your promptness. You acted very well

towards the injured man, and I'm sure the jury appreciate it

very much.”


“Paddy O’Donnell, a hackney motor driver at

Ballinrobe, said he went to Kilmaine Thursday evening

about half nine. (Note: Uncle Jim referred to O’Donnell as

the “town chauffeur”; he was also the driver who ferried

John Ford back and forth from Ashford Castle to the site of

the filming of “The Quiet Man.” O’Donnell appears in

numerous scenes of the 1952 film. He plays a porter and is

the first actor to appear in the opening scene.) When he

(O’Donnell ) went to Murphy's house in Kilmaine, he saw

the deceased there with 10 or 12 young men. They had a

Mass cards for John Gallagher.


A headstone in the Abbey Cemetery in Ballinrobe

includes the names of six family members. (Aunt Mary

was added after she died in 2006.) It was erected after

John Gallagher died while bicycling home from a

show in Kilmaine in 1930. At left is the monument

after Uncle Owen had it cleaned in the 1990s.

drink -- he stood Gallagher a bottle of stout. And he had

another bottle of stout with him before he left. Altogether

they were about two hours in each other's company, and

left together about midnight. Gallagher seemed quite

sober, and he saw him get on his bicycle and cycle off in

the direction of Ballinrobe. There was no light on the

machine. He offered to carry him home. He said he would

come, but changed his mind on finding that the bicycle

could not be brought. A few minutes after he left, witness

followed and passed him about a half mile from Kilmaine.

(O’Donnell said Uncle John) was going quite steady and

straight. Witness added he did not stop until he reached



“Sergeant P. Reynolds, Kilmaine, said that on

receiving the report from Michael Garvey about half-past

one he went to the place and found Gallagher there, lying

on his back with his head towards the fence. He was

breathing heavily and was unconscious. About two yards

away the bicycle was lying against the ditch, and appeared

to have been placed there normally. He could not find any

track, but there was a small mark on the road as if the brake

of the bicycle was put on suddenly. Gallagher died on his

way to Dr. Hawkshaw.”


The Connaught Tribune features pictures of the horse-jumping competition at the Kilmaine Show in September

1929, a year before Uncle John died on the way home from attending that town's fair.


“Dr. M.J. Hawkshaw gave evidence that the

deceased was brought to his house at 2 a.m. on Friday

morning by Sergt. Reynolds and another Guard. He was

dead when he saw him. He was told he met with injuries

and was found on the road. Without making a post-mortem

examination he was unable to say the precise cause of

death. He could not make this examination by himself and

required another doctor.

When the taking of his evidence was resumed, he

said he had been assisted by Dr. George Mcguire. He found

that there was a large blood clot on the brain. There was no

fracture, and only one slight mark over the lower part of the

forehead and nose. He would say that this was not the result

of great violence. In his opinion, the cause of death was

hemorrhage, due to the fall from the bicycle. The body was

healthy and well-nourished.

He thought it quite possible that the youth was

conscious for about half an hour after the fall, and could

have moved about and placed his bicycle in the position in

which it was found. If the deceased had been struck by a

motor (car), he would expect to find marks.

Dr. George McGuire made a deposition agreeing

with Doctor Hawkshaw as to the injuries and the cause of



“This having concluded the evidence, the Coroner

addressed the jury, who decided to return a verdict in

accordance with the medical evidence.

The Coroner said he felt sure the jury would like

to record their commendation of Mr. Michael Garvey. He

had done everything he could for the deceased, and it was

no fault of his that the efforts were unavailing.

The foreman of the jury and Supt. Dunphy having

concurred, a vote of sympathy was passed with the family

of deceased in their loss. Those present associated

themselves with the coroner's sympathetic references.”

* * *

Uncle John was buried Sept. 20. A brief item in a

local newspaper noted he had been popular with the young

men of the town, “who paid their tribute to him at the

funeral on Saturday, when affecting scenes were witnessed

at the Old Abbey Cemetery.” A High Mass was celebrated

the following Monday, with five priests participating,

including St. Mary's Pastor Monsgr. E.A. D'Alton and the

Rev. Eaton as the main celebrant.

Within the year, Uncle John's sister Delia returned

home for a short time from America to be with the grieving

family. Using her own resources and those from her

brothers Pete and Pat in America, she helped pay for a

monument that was erected at the Gallagher burial plot in

the Abbey Cemetery. The granite memorial, topped with a

Celtic Cross, still stands, asking for The Lord to have

mercy on the souls of Michael and John Gallagher. Their

parents, brother Owen and sister Mary were added after

their deaths. John’s age on the monument and in his

brother’s testimony at the inquest was given as 25 years.

Judging from his known birth date and the date of the

accident, he would have been about to turn 27. It is just


Above is the registration from Ballinrobe of John Gallagher's birth on Nov. 13, 1903. It notes he was baptized on

Jan. 12, 1904. Below is the record of his death. It lists his occupation as a farmer.

another detail about his life that is probably beyond

knowing for sure.

In 1993, Uncle Owen became emotional as he

reflected on the death of his brother and their father 12 years

later. He slowly shook his head and said certain things will

change you forever. You can’t come back from them. He

said he felt John’s death deeply affected his brother Jimmy,

and he believed Jimmy took it with him to the grave.

Another who was undoubtedly impacted was their

mother. Within the decade, she had seen her two eldest sons

buried, three other children leave for America, and she was

already feeling the effects of Parkinson’s disease. Our

grandmother must have been worried about what the future

held for her family. Uncle Jim remembered how John’s

death affected his mother. For a short time after the

accident, the bike itself was stored in a shed behind the

house. However, his mother was in such grief she insisted it

be removed. She could not bear to know the bicycle was on

the property or the thought that one of her three remaining

sons might someday ride it.

Uncle Jim further remembered that for years, on

nights not unlike that horrible evening in September, his

mother would see her beloved John riding his bicycle down

the boreen from the Convent Road toward their cottage. It

is hoped that our grandmother found some peace knowing

her son had come home and was now safe in God's arms.

Included in Uncle

Jim's possessions was a

newspaper clipping

about the funeral for

his brother John. It

notes that John had

been a gardener at the

Convent of Mercy and

mentions the

'affecting' scenes

during the ceremony

at the Abbey



“A happy family is but an earlier heaven.”

George Bernard Shaw





Aunt Nora, left, with Aunt Ann around 1940, was defined by her dedication to her

family. During a trip to the 1932 Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, she brought home a

pin for her mother, below. It is still a treasured possession in the family.

Dublin is Ireland’s urban heart, but it remains a grand place

for pedestrians. The country’s capital offers ideal opportunities for “a

wander.” Within easy access on foot are St. Stephen’s Green, Trinity

College, O’Connell Bridge over the River Liffey, the shops of Grafton

Street and not a few pubs.

But for one long weekend in June 1932, foot traffic slowed to

a crawl.

Dublin’s population exploded that June 22-26, as people came

from the south and west, from England and Europe, and as far away as

Australia and the United States for what is still one of the largest

Eucharistic Congresses in the history of the Catholic Church. Ireland


The Catholic Church chose Dublin to host the 31st Eucharistic Congress to coincide with the 1,500th

anniversary of St. Patrick coming to Ireland. After the final High Mass, 500,000 people gathered at O'Connell

Bridge for the concluding Benediction. The Congress drew more than a million people and dominated

newspaper coverage at the time.

was chosen for the first time for that 31st international

gathering because of its people’s strong Catholic faith and

because it was the 1,500th anniversary of Saint Patrick’s

arrival on the island. There were an estimated 3.2 million

Catholics in Ireland at the time. More than a million people

attended the closing Mass of the Congress in Phoenix Park

that Sunday. A half million then gathered at O'Connell

Bridge for the concluding Benediction, given by Papal

Legate Cardinal Lorenzo Lauri.

Somewhere in that weekend’s crowd was 26-yearold

Nora Gallagher from Ballinrobe. We don’t know who

she was with (friends or other family members?). But we

do know Aunt Nora obtained a souvenir Mother pin for our


The city sidewalks were packed for the event with

wandering tourists, Boy Scouts providing first aid, multiple

processions, including marching Dutch girls singing hymns

… and, apparently, plenty of entrepreneurs selling


Aunt Nora would have been witness to ocean

liners serving as extra hotels in Dublin’s harbor, massive

individual Masses for men, women and children, and an

address from Pope Pius XI. He did not attend the Congress,

but he was heard from the Vatican during the concluding

High Mass via a PA system set up around the city.

It is likely Nora would have arrived by train, but

one newspaper account mentions a man from Ballinrobe

who rode his bike cross-country to Dublin. He was just

beginning his return trip when the reporter talked to his


In the West of Ireland, the port in Galway had

been bustling for more than a week with ships arriving with

passengers from America headed for the Congress. In

Ballinrobe, those who didn’t go to Dublin would have

taken part in local ceremonies marking the Congress, which

coincided with the Feast of Corpus Christi. The procession


In Ballinrobe, the 1932 Corpus Christi celebration

coincided with the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin. It

included a banner from the Pioneer Total Abstinence

Association of the Sacred Heart. The man is identified

as Martin Halloran.

from St. Mary’s included a huge banner created by the

Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart.

Our grandfather and Uncle Jim were supporters.

When Aunt Nora returned home, she presented the

souvenir pin to her mother. It’s uncertain what would have

happened to it when our grandmother died in 1942. Either

Nora took possession of it to keep until she died, or it

stayed in the Gallagher home in Cornaroya. In any event,

Uncle Owen had it after Aunt Nora passed and eventually

gave it to his nephew Pat Gallagher. He in turn gave it to

Aunt Delia’s daughter, Patsy, who wears it every Mother’s



Aunt Nora was born Sunday March 4, 1906. She

was the fifth child of Pat and Mary (Sheridan) Gallagher. In

addition to her parents, at home along the boreen in

Aunt Nora sits with her cousin Annie King, probably

around 1931. Annie was a niece of 'Peter Gallagher Next


Cornaroya at the time were her paternal grandparents Peter

and Bridget (McCormick) Gallagher, brothers Michael and

John, and sister Delia. A sister Mary had died as an infant.

The farm at the time was still leased by Nora’s grandfather.

It passed to her father when Peter Gallagher died in March

1912. Nora’s grandmother died in March 1909.

On the day before Aunt Nora was born, there was

a poem published in the Western People newspaper titled

“A Bunch of Shamrocks.” It was about a woman longing

for a far-away love. The poem fits nicely with the affection

the girl born the next day in Ballinrobe had for her family.

It included the lines:


“Once I culled a bunch of shamrocks

In the golden long ago

While my heart was throbbing wildly,

Struggling with itself to know

If it were right for me to send them

To a dear one far away,

Just to wear in loving token

Of a coming Patrick’s Day.”

A cherished memory of Aunt Nora for her nieces

and nephews in America were the shamrocks and small

medals and pins she would reliably send from Ireland when

St. Patrick’s Day came around each year. Those gifts, as

well as the many letters she would write to her brothers and

sisters and their families across the sea, were an indication

of Nora’s generous heart and love of family. She was

always willing to make personal sacrifices to help others.

If Aunt Delia was the matriarch of the family in

America, Aunt Nora served that role back in Ireland. She

stayed at home and did not marry until after her parents

died in 1942. She likely saw off each of her six brothers

and sisters when they left for America. More than anyone,

she reliably kept in touch with them about the latest

happenings in Ballinrobe. Six years after her parents died,

she married Pat Murphy, who became a great friend of

Uncle Owen, soon Nora’s lone brother remaining on the

family farm. She cared for Owen and her husband until she

passed away in 1980.

Pictures of Nora as a young woman attest to her

closeness to her brothers, sisters and cousins. By all

accounts, her younger sister Ann felt a strong bond. One

photo, which starts this chapter, shows the pair sitting on a

stone wall in a field, maybe around 1940. Aunt Ann would

not yet have been 20 years old. A broadly smiling Ann

looks very pleased, if a little chilly. She wears a fairly light

jacket, with her arms folded to keep herself warm. She

holds a card or letter in her right hand. To her right, is Aunt

Nora, looking cozy in a heavier woolen coat. She has a

patient smile on her face, seeming to enjoy whatever had

Aunt Ann in such a pleasant mood that day.

Nora, or Honor, or Honora -- the name just sounds

Irish -- had a way of charming people. When her Aunt

Annie Sheridan came home from America for a visit, she

developed a strong affection for young Nora and later

offered to pay for her ticket if she would come to America.

Nora declined the offer, with potential reasons ranging

from wanting to help her parents to having a boyfriend. The

decision allowed Aunt Delia to be the first of her generation

to emigrate, in 1924.

Aunt Nora’s communications with her family in

At top are some of the medals Aunt Nora would send to

her nieces and nephews in America. Above, Uncle Jim's

daughter Margaret wears one the pins on her uniform

for St. Thomas the Apostle School in 1971.

America usually focused on what was going on at the

moment. But she would occasionally grow nostalgic. She

once explained to niece Patsy DeAscanis that the Gallagher

children in Cornaroya would know Christmas was coming

when the piece of furniture called a settle bed would be

folded up to use for extra seating. Christmas dinner would

include lamb or duck garnished with slices of oranges.

Another tradition was helping set up the manger scene at

St. Mary’s Church. In a letter only months before she died,

Aunt Nora wrote to Patsy about the great happiness the

season could bring. It is typical of how family was always

her focus.


“I remember when I was a child,” Aunt Nora

wrote in 1979. “It was the few days before (Christmas) I

used to enjoy. Not that I ever got any gifts for Christmas. It

was just the fun I had with my sisters and brothers. And

believe me, Patsy, that was fun and happiness nothing like

it since.”


The Gallagher brothers of Ballinrobe had a talent

for teasing – of both the family and outsiders. Cousins from

America might be subjected to a few comments on the

fancy clothing an aunt made them wear. Their sister Delia

would never be allowed to forget her cousin Sarah once

asking her, “Is it your brown shoes you’d be wearing?”

Another target, who started as an outsider but would

become like another brother, was Patrick “Paddy” Murphy,

whose family came from near Lough Mask.

Pat Murphy, it seems, had somewhat of a

fascination for fiddle music, which led to the sobriquet

“Fiddlin’ Dan” being bestowed on him by some of Nora's

brothers, including Uncle Jim. Sometime in the years

before he married Aunt Nora, Pat was one of two men hired

to work for Jack Moran, a friend of the Gallaghers. Uncle

Tom said Pat and Jack were related, probably cousins. The

Moran house is only a short walk from the boreen in

Cornaroya. The two-story home on the Convent Road was

a place the Gallaghers, Jack Moran and Pat Murphy would

meet to play cards or take advantage of the home's

impressive library. The Morans also had a gramophone,

which held a particular attraction for Pat Murphy.

There is an often-recorded Irish song “The Stone

Outside Dan Murphy’s Door.” Though there are those who

question its authorship, it is generally acknowledged the

song was written in the nineteenth century by Johnny

Patterson about his young days being raised by his uncle in

the town of Ennis, County Clare. The song looks back

nostalgically on the stone bench outside the shop run by

one Dan Murphy. The town’s children would gather there

after a day’s work. The chorus goes: “Dan Murphy would

take down his fiddle/ While his daughter looked after the

store/ The music did ring and sweet songs we would sing/

On the stone outside Dan Murphy’s door.”

The Moran house included a record of the song,

which Pat Murphy enjoyed. The brothers Gallagher

apparently saw enough of a connection to start referring to

him as “Fiddlin’ Dan.”

There’s no one remaining who remembers if the

nickname came before or after Pat Murphy married Nora

on Jan. 31, 1948. But the nickname’s staying power was

Aunt Nora is with her young sisters Ann, left, and Mary

in the late 1920s or early '30s.

strong enough to cause a little confusion when Nora’s

widower of 12 years died in April 1992. When Uncle Jim’s

son Pat told his cousin Patsy the sad news, he apparently

referred to their uncle as Fiddlin’ Dan. Pasty had never

heard the nickname, which Uncle Jim had often used for

his brother-in-law. Uncle Jim’s wife, Aunt Catherine, would

identify him on the back of photos as “Dan Murphy.”

Intrigued, Patsy did some digging about the name and was

able to get Aunt Ann and Uncle Tom to tell the story of the

song “The Stone Outside Dan Murphy’s Door” and the

Gallagher brothers using it to coin their pet name for Pat


“Whatever the name he was known by (to) those

close to him,” Patsy wrote to Uncle Owen at the time, “the

regard for the man was warm and special so much so that

even those of us here across the ocean who never knew the


Uncle Owen and his brother-in-law Pat Murphy became great friends over the

years. Pat's fondness for fiddle music gave rise to his nickname 'Fiddlin' Dan.'

man share the sorrow of his passing.”

“I am praying for him and for you,” she told

Uncle Owen. “God bless you both.”


Pat Murphy was born April 12, 1909, in the

townland of Killour, about 4 miles southwest of Ballinrobe

in the area known as the Neale. His parents were Patrick, a

farmer, and Margaret (Joyce) Murphy.

The 1901 Irish Census shows his grandfather,

Michael, was the head of the household. He was 60 years

old, a farmer and a widower. There were two children at

home, Pat’s father-to-be, Patrick, then 22, and Bridget, 18.

All three spoke English and the Irish. There may have been

older children, but they were no longer living in their

father's home.

As with his future wife, Pat Murphy was from a

large family; there were at least 13 children. The 1911

Census shows he was the sixth to be born; brothers and

sisters in the Killour home then were: Michael, 8; Stephen,

7; Martin, 6; Mary, 5; Bridget, 4; and the younger

Margaret, 1. Still to come were Sarah (1912); Walter

(1914); Sean/John, the future Father Marcellus, (1915);

Catherine (1918); and Anne (1919). Another son, Anthony,

followed. Their grandfather was still the head of the home

in 1911.

Pat’s oldest brother was born in 1902. Named

after his grandfather, Michael immigrated to America and

lived on North 67th Street in Philadelphia after marrying

Anna Durkin. He died in December 1965 and Anna in

October 1988. They had five children: Margaret, Cecilia,

Joseph, Patricia and Joyce. Anna’s obituary says she had 16

grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

By whatever name, Pat, Paddy or Fiddlin’ Dan

Murphy was not Aunt Nora’s first boyfriend. He apparently

wasn’t yet a suitor when the first of Nora's family started

heading to America. In those years, Nora apparently was

“walking out with” a Ballinrobe man named Peter Gainey.

The story is Gainey was a sharp dresser and had a good job

at a shop in town. His standing was impressive enough that

he was a favorite of the Gallagher family. Except for Aunt

Nora. She eventually ended the courting because he may

have enjoyed a drink a little too much for Aunt Nora.


Aunt Nora works in the garden during a 1966 visit to Ballinrobe by Uncle Pat and his family. With her is Uncle Pat's

wife, Catherine. Visits from America were always a joy for Nora. In the background are the fields of Cornaroya.

Pat Murphy was a more humble dresser, but he

had a better heart. We don’t know when their relationship

started, but Matrimony did not come until Aunt Nora was

more than 40 years old. By that time, she had seen her

parents pass away and a number of her brothers and sisters

leave behind an Ireland constantly struggling with a poor

economy and other troubles. The 1940s were described by

the Irish Examiner as “a decade of war and want.” Ireland

was officially neutral in World War II, or “The Emergency,”

but the country could not escape its reach. Many Irish

fought with the Allied powers despite their country’s long,

bloody history with Britain. Privations that came with the

war continued for many years.

That was the era when Nora Gallagher and Pat

Murphy finally joined their lives. There was no elaborate

wedding that Saturday in January 1948. Aunt Ann

remembered herself and Nora going off to the church on a

cold, dark morning, meeting Pat and his brother Walter of

Lough Mask there, the quiet ceremony, and then going

home their separate ways. Nora's brothers Jim and Owen

likely would have been present, but her sister Mary may

have already immigrated to England.

Pat Murphy works the butter churn during the 1966 visit.


Pat Murphy's family was from Killour, about 4 miles southwest of

Ballinrobe. He was born in 1909.

Aunt Ann recalled that after the wedding, Nora

and Pat did not immediately live together. The Gallagher

cottage was apparently too crowded. But the situation was

soon resolved when Uncle Jim finally obtained his papers

to go to America. His leaving in early February 1949

opened up room for Pat Murphy. And Uncle Jim was soon

able to get his brothers and sisters in America to come up

with the funds to help Nora and Pat get their own home at

98 New St. Aunt Ann remembered that home, in an area

known as “the back cottages,” as not nearly as “cozy” as

Nora's old home. She said Nora and Pat would spend a lot

of their time visiting her and Owen at the old Gallagher

place. Ann, herself, left for America in April 1949.

When Uncle Jim emigrated, he was able to turn

over his job at the Convent of Mercy to Pat Murphy.

Eventually, Aunt Nora and Uncle Owen were the only two

of their immediate family remaining in Ballinrobe. There

were many other Murphy and Gallagher relatives nearby,

including Pat's younger brother Anthony, who lived at 79

New St. after marrying Kathleen Laffey in 1960. But Aunt

Nora particularly enjoyed the times through the years when

someone would visit from America. After her marriage,

there were trips by Aunt Ann in 1955, Uncle Tom in 1959

and the two together in 1970. Aunt Nora would see Uncle

Pat’s wife, Catherine, and daughter, Mary Kathryn, in 1966,

and Aunt Delia's widower Uncle Mike and son, John, in

1977. But Mary Kathryn and John were the only Gallagher

children from the next generation Aunt Nora would ever

meet in person. In her letters, she would often express the

wish for more visits. “Who knows, maybe I’ll see you all

someday, Please God” or similar sentiments were often

part of the letters she wrote.

Over the years, Owen and Pat Murphy became

best friends. They could often be found arguing about the

latest football match. You could set your clock by Pat

Murphy. Whatever he was involved in, he would be home

at 1 p.m. sharp and Aunt Nora would have the dinner on the


Ann Gallagher, the wife of cousin Eugene, says

her children were very fond of the Murphys. When they

went food shopping they would be sure to buy some Fry's

chocolate treats to give to Ann's children come Sunday. The

shopping was done at the store run by Nora's cousin

Margaret (Gallagher) Burke. “Nora and her husband Dan

would come into our shop on Glebe street every Saturday

evening for their weekly grocery shop and have a cup of tea


Photos from a 1970 trip to Ballinrobe by Uncle Tom and Aunt Ann show Aunt Nora with her husband and visiting

sister. Nora would often express hopes to see family from America travel back to Ireland.

and a chat in our kitchen,” Margaret's daughter Breege


Aunt Nora took care of both her own and Uncle

Owen's households until her death only days after suffering

a stroke in November 1980. The priest at her funeral was

Pat's brother Sean, known as Father Marcellus.

A Franciscan, Father Marcellus Murphy’s call to

the priesthood came relatively late. He was in his late 30s

when ordained at St. John Lateran Seminary in Rome in

1952. A Western People newspaper report said his mother

was among the happiest women in Ireland as she “sat by

her radio through which came the blessing of her son ... in

faraway Rome.” He died in Rome in 1990, with his body

brought back to Adam and Eve's Church in Dublin. He is

buried in Glasnevin Cemetery. A story in the Mayo News

on his silver jubilee mentioned he was popular all over

Ireland from his work on missions and retreats. He was

then serving as chaplain to the Dublin City Bus Services,

where he was well known to all busmen. Father Marcellus

played a role in a story involving Eugene Gallagher’s wife.

Ann once found herself in Dublin and thought it would be a

good time to go to Confession, being far away from all the

priests who knew her back in Ballinrobe. But, apparently,

God has a sense of humor. The priest behind the screen in

the confessional she chose was Father Marcellus, known all

too well to her from back home. Her sins must not have

been too bad. Father ended up giving her two tickets to the

All Ireland final, possibly between Kerry and Galway. Not

the harshest of penances.

Soon after Nora's death, Pat's sister Sarah moved

in to help him at the New Street home. Aunt Nora's passing

(Aunt Delia died five years earlier) added to a steady series

of funerals over the next two decades. Uncle Pete died in

1983, then Uncle Pat (1986), Uncle Jim (1992), Uncle Tom

(1994), Uncle Owen (1999), Aunt Ann (2003), and finally

Aunt Mary (2006).

In 1980, Aunt Mary wrote in a letter to Uncle Jim

that “Paddy and Owen are stunned” by Nora’s passing.

“They know they have lost a great friend and much more

than a friend, but they will have to make the most of things

now. Won’t we all miss her very much.”

She was buried in the New Cemetery in Ballinrobe

after what Aunt Mary said was “a wonderful funeral.”

Mary, who lived in Leeds, England, added: “Well Jim, that’s

the end of the letters from Cornaroya.”

The writing may have stopped, but the letters Aunt


Clockwise from top left, Uncle Owen, Pat and Aunt Nora Murphy,

Aunt Ann and Aunt Mary together in Ballinrobe in 1970.

Nora did compose help keep alive the memories of a

woman who devoted her life to her family. Her marriage

did not bring any children, but there were many nieces and

nephews who came to know they were embraced by their

Aunt Nora.


There may have been times when Aunt Nora’s

correspondences were not as big an event as Aunt Mary’s.

But that was only because Mary did not write nearly so

often. Nora would dutifully keep the family in America

informed about everything. Her letters, and truly the mere

mention of her name in conversation, then and now, had a

way of lighting up memories from the family’s times along

the boreen in Cornaroya. They offer a record of her heart.

Following are a few examples:

* A letter from Cornaroya dated April 14, 1958, to

Catherine Hoopes, shows Nora’s welcoming nature. It

includes the phrase “Please God,” a little prayer she often

sprinkled into her sentences.

“My Dear Catherine,

“This is from Jim’s brother Owen and his sister

Nora. We have heard the wonderful news that you and Jim

are engaged to be married in September, Please God. Well,

may you have the very best of good luck and many years

of happiness together. We at home here are delighted to

know that Jim met such a nice girl. Jim is thrilled with it. I

wish we could all meet. But who knows, maybe we will

meet each other someday P. God.

“Well now Catherine I won’t say much more for

this time. I hope to be writing often from now on. Write a

few lines when you can. So until then … God bless you all.

From Owen, Nora and my husband Pat”

* On Jan. 7, 1966, Nora writes to Patsy congratulating her

on her marriage to Leon DeAscanis and wishing both the

happiest New Year they ever had. “Your mother sent a

picture of you and Leon on your wedding day,” Nora says.

“And we thought you and Leon looked the nicest we have

ever seen. I wouldn’t part with that snap for a million.” She

asks whether Patsy’s brother Johnny was home for

Christmas and about how her Mom and Dad, Uncle Jim


and his family and Uncle Tom and Aunt Ann are doing.

* In March 1966, Aunt Nora writes thanking Patsy for a St.

Patrick’s Day card. “Hope you get that Irish flag outside

your window on St. Patrick’s Day,” she writes. “You will

make an Irishman of Leon yet.”

* At another time, a letter to Patsy told her for the first time

about the practice of Stations in Ireland. It was a holdover

from when celebrating the Catholic Mass in Ireland was

forbidden. A family hosting Stations in their home would

welcome the local priest for a Mass, followed by a festive

meal for family and neighbors. The white linen tablecloth

used for such occasions in the Gallagher home was sent to

Patsy by cousin Maureen Gallagher after Uncle Owen died.

* In her July 1975 letter in response to Aunt Delia’s death,

Aunt Nora extends an invitation to County Meath native

Uncle Mike that if he ever comes to Ireland again, “don’t

forget to give us a call. You are always welcome.” Uncle

Mike finally did make that trip back to Ireland with son

John in 1977.

* In 1976, Nora apologizes to Patsy for not sending

shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day but says they “completely

left my mind after your mother died.” Nine months or so

had passed, but her older sister’s death, and the welfare of

the rest of the family, were very much in Nora’s thoughts.

“How are the rest of the crew?” she asks about the other

Gallaghers in America. “None of them (are) coming home

this summer. I wish some of them come.”

In that letter, and a number of others, Nora

comments on how she is glad a long, hard winter has

passed. She seems to be growing weary in her eighth

decade, but still finds comfort with the coming of Easter.

* On a few occasions, Aunt Nora would mention politics,

both Irish and American, in her letters. When Jimmy Carter

was elected U.S. president in 1976, Nora writes, “I do hope

he will be a true and good man.” About four years later, she

notes Ted Kennedy was challenging the incumbent Carter.

In June 1977, she mentions Ireland was having an

election in a few days’ time, but she was apparently

unimpressed with any candidate. “It’s the same old story,”

she writes. “‘Vote for me! Vote for me!’ It doesn’t make

much difference to a lot of people who gets in. The rich get

richer and the poor get poorer all the time.” She does say

she would like to see the country doing well, adding, “I’d

be happy if England were kicked out of the North.”

Aunt Nora was realistic when it came to world

A recent photo shows Aunt Nora and Pat Murphy's

home, the right half of the duplex, with the walled yard.

It is in the 'back cottages' area of New Street.

leaders. And she had lived through enough hard times not

to expect too much. But she was not without hope. Pope

John Paul II was the first head of the Catholic Church ever

to come to Ireland when in 1979 he visited Dublin,

Drogheda, Clonmacnoise, Galway, Knock, Limerick and

Maynooth from Saturday, Sept. 29, to Monday, Oct. 1. The

visit marked the centenary of the apparitions at the Shrine

of Knock in August 1879.

“The pope’s visit … did a lot of good in a lot of

ways,” Aunt Nora writes that year. She is cautious,

however. “But trouble is still on in the North, and I’m

afraid it’s not going to stop until it does harm. May God

bless our country.” The latest Catholic-Protestant

“Troubles” in Northern Ireland, which began in the late

1960s, did in fact go on to do harm for almost two more

decades before the Good Friday Agreement of April 1998

brought a period of relative peace to the land.

* In November 1976, Nora writes to congratulate John

O’Brien on his marriage to Cindy McClafferty. “It’s grand

to know he is getting such a nice girl. May God bless them

for the rest of their lives.” In 1979, Nora is happy to hear

John and Cindy are doing well. “It would be nice to have a

house with a couple of acres of land,” she notes. “He

couldn’t have better than land; it’s always going up in


* The biggest regret that comes through in Aunt Nora’s

letters is she did not have the chance to meet her nieces and

nephews from America. Yet she never loses hope. In the

latest letter we have from Aunt Nora, from 1979, she tells

Patsy she is sure her children are growing up fast. “How I’d

love to see them,” she adds. “I never saw Jim’s children

either. May God bless them all. And, who knows, maybe

I’ll see you all someday, Please God.”


“There are no strangers,

only friends you have not met yet.”

William Butler Yeats





Uncle Pete was dapper, with an air of

sophistication. He also was an adventurer, never afraid of

something new. He left his native Ireland for a new home in

America while still a teenager, the youngest of his brothers

or sisters to do so. He exaggerated his driving experience

while on his first job. He left Philadelphia and the comfort

of his mother’s family, the Sheridans, when he heard of a

better job in Wilmington. Over the next two decades, four

siblings would follow him to Delaware. He opened his own

business. Worked as a chauffeur. Never wanted to borrow

money. Yet, after traveling over 3,000 miles from home, he

married a girl who grew up only two miles from where he

was born.

The week Uncle Pete was born, no less an

eminence than the Archbishop of Tuam, Thomas Gilmartin,

made comments at the Ballinrobe Bazaar that nicely

express Uncle Pete’s philosophy of life. “The people of

Ballinrobe are fond of having everything neat, and do not

like to be in debt!” he told those gathered for a fund-raiser

for improvements at St. Mary’s Church. Most people never

saw Uncle Pete when he was not impeccably dressed. As

for debt and borrowing to buy on credit – he would have

preferred adding milk to his Irish whiskey. He always lived

within his means, while constantly striving to upgrade his

family’s station in life. He worked hard and whenever

possible paid “cash on the barrelhead” for everything.

Uncle Pete was born Saturday April 17, 1908. He

was the sixth child of Patrick Gallagher and Mary Sheridan.

His godparents were his brother Michael and cousin Sarah

Gallagher, from next door. Three thousand miles away that

year in America, Theodore Roosevelt was president, the

first Ford Model T rolled off the assembly line, and

William C. Durant founded the company that eventually

became General Motors. The 20th century was ready to

take off, and Uncle Pete would be there for all of it.

But first, Uncle Pete would start his education at

the Christian Brother’s primary school near Ballinrobe’s

Cornmarket. His older brother John would just have been

finishing, but Pete would soon be joined by his brothers Pat

(one year behind) and Jim (three years).

In addition to schooling, Uncle Pete would have

Uncle Pete and Aunt May, shown in their engagement

photo, were married Sept. 26, 1934. They were both

from the Ballinrobe area but didn't become a couple

until they immigrated to America.

spent his time helping around the farm. There would have

been chores to do before school. The farm animals would

have to be looked in on. The cows milked and then the

milk strained. Eggs would need to be collected and

brought into the kitchen. (Uncle Jim remembered they had

to get the eggs early, or the chickens would stomp on

them.) The cows, chickens, horses, pigs and other animals

would all need to be fed. For the day’s use in the fireplace,

turf would have to be brought in from a pile outside. After


all this, the children could get their bowl of “stir-about,” a

sort of porridge, and then head off to school. God help you

if you were late.

Lunch would be bread and butter from home and a

bottle of milk. When the children got home there were

more chores. Aunt Ann remembered the boys would collect

barrels of water from the Bulkhaun River to bring back to

the farm. Some animals could be walked to the river for

watering. In October, the potatoes were dug up. No one was

excused from this assignment. Children would often be

kept home from school to help pick the spuds. The potatoes

were stored in a long heap and covered with straw to

protect them from frost and other elements. Homework

would often have to be finished by the light of a coal-oil

lamp. The next day, the process would start all over again.

Sometime during the 1920s, Uncle Pete joined his

brother John working at the close-by St. Joseph’s Convent,

also known as the Convent of Mercy. Uncle Pete growing

up had always had an affinity for “Convent” strawberries.

They were sweet and free to any lad who had the temerity

to hop the stone wall between the convent and Gallagher

properties and not be noticed by parents or nuns. Another

adventure at the convent occurred one Ash Wednesday.

Uncle Pete was given his list of daily jobs early in the

morning by Mother Superior, along with the admonition,

“Be sure and get your ashes.” He made the quick

calculation that God would be more forgiving for the ashes

than Sister would if he didn’t complete the jobs. He went to

the boiler room and got his own ashes.

Uncle Pete must have decided very early that his

future was in America. He probably resolved to make the

journey shortly after his sister Delia left Ireland in October

1924. He likely would have had to start the paperwork

when he was 17 or 18. He must have been terribly excited

as he traveled to Dublin to get his visa in January 1927.

After submitting the required paperwork and passing his

physical, his visa was awarded Jan. 27. Uncle Pete was

now ready for the start of the 1927 seasonal service for

various steamship lines between Ireland and America. The

Cunard Line had 79 trips scheduled for the ’27 season.

Uncle Pete booked passage on the first steamer Cunard had

scheduled, the RMS Laconia.

With the passage set, the waiting must have been

excruciating. He left for Cobh only a few days after his

19th birthday. Even the train ride was an adventure. There

was not a direct train from Ballinrobe to Cobh. Uncle Pete

first would have traveled on the line to Claremorris, 14

miles from Ballinrobe. From there, he needed to travel at

least 160 miles to Cobh in County Cork. It would have

Uncle Pete with his sister Nora, probably when he and

Aunt May made a 1933 visit back to Ballinrobe to

announce their upcoming wedding.

entailed at least 20 stops and maybe a connection or two.

The journey would have taken at least 12 hours.

On Sunday morning April 24, 1927, 250

passengers joined Uncle Pete in boarding the Laconia in

Cork Harbor. The weather was cloudy and threatening, with

a strong breeze. The seas were rough as they left port.

There had actually been two ships christened the

RMS Laconia. The first, built in 1911, was converted to a

troop ship in WWI. It was sunk by a German U-Boat on

Feb. 25, 1917, just off Fastnet, the southern tip of Ireland.

The attack increased outrage in America against the

Germans. Uncle Pete’s Laconia, built in 1921, was also

eventually turned into a troop ship for WWII. It also was

sunk by a German submarine, on Sep. 12, 1942. More than

1,600 died, many of them Italian prisoners of war. The

attempted rescue of the survivors in the second incident


later became known as the Laconia Incident. Uncle Pete’s

voyage, thankfully, was relatively uneventful.


Eight days after leaving Cobh, the Laconia sailed

into New York harbor on May 2 and docked on the west

side of Manhattan. On their way in, Uncle Pete and the

other passengers probably caught a view of the stranded

U.S. Navy Dreadnought Colorado, which was grounded for

at least 36 hours on a sandbar just off Governors Island.

Less than three weeks later, Charles Lindbergh

would take off from New York on his historic flight to

Paris. But the big headline this day in New York was in the

sports section. Babe Ruth had swatted two home runs and

Lou Gehrig one as the Yankees defeated the Philadelphia

A’s, taking over first place in the American League. The

“Murderers Row” Yankees would go down as one of the

greatest teams in baseball history, winning 110 games and

the World Series. Babe Ruth would hit a then-record 60

home runs; Lou Gehrig added 47. Unbeknownst to Uncle

Pete, his relatives the Sheridans of Philadelphia were big

Philadelphia A’s fans, especially Aunt Annie. She loved

“Mr. (Connie) Mac,” the team owner and manager. Uncle

Pete’s daughter Mary can remember Aunt Annie sitting in

her room on Green Street listening to A’s games on an old

radio sitting atop a marble-topped dresser.

Mary remembers her father saying his sister Delia

met him at the train station when he arrived in America.

The Laconia docked at the pier at 14th Street, so the train

was probably at Penn Station, at 34th Street. The walk of

20 or more blocks up Eighth or Ninth Avenue must have

been a surreal experience for someone who had spent his

previous 18 years living in a thatched cottage along an

unpaved road in rural Ireland. No skyscrapers there. He had

arrived in New York with only $25 in his wallet, probably

one suitcase and a wool suit. The weather was comfortably

warm that day, in the mid-60s, about 10 degrees above the

average daily high for the time.

Soon after meeting Aunt Delia, the brother and

sister boarded a train to Philadelphia. There, Uncle Pete

stayed with his Aunt Esther Sheridan and her two sons,

Francis and John, at 2105 Mount Vernon St. Francis and

John would have been in their early 20s, about four and

five years older than Pete. Also close in age nearby were

Tom, Ed and Joe Duffy. They were the children of Anna

(Larner) Duffy, Aunt Esther’s sister. The Mount Vernon

address was about four blocks from Aunt Catherine

(Sheridan) Mitchel’s home at 1740 Green St. She was

His 1933 U.S. passport photo shows Uncle Pete as he

looked heading to Ireland for a two-and-a-half-month


living there with two of her children, George and Anna, and

Aunt Hanna Sheridan. Aunt Catherine and Aunt Hanna

were sisters of Uncle Pete’s mother. Aunt Esther was the

wife of his mother’s brother Ed, who had passed away in

1921. The Roaring 20s would have been an exciting time

for young men such as Uncle Pete, the Sheridans and the

Duffys to come of age. Uncle Pete certainly embraced his

new country. He became a U.S. citizen as soon as he was

eligible – five years after becoming a resident. He was

naturalized Dec.12, 1932.

Uncle Pete soon found employment at the

Christian Brother’s Academy in Merion on the Main Line,

in suburban Philadelphia. Soon after starting, his supervisor

asked him if he was able to drive a tractor. This was a step

up from the typical ass-and-cart transportation in

Cornaroya. Nonetheless, Uncle Pete, always ready for an

adventure and never afraid to try something new, assured

his employers he could. His first time out, he promptly

crashed it into a tree. But he quickly got the hang of it. He

soon bought his first car, an Essex, and, naturally, paid

cash. Uncle Pete did not have any run-ins with trees in his

Essex, a relatively small, affordably priced car built by the


Uncle Pete is shown when he became a U.S. citizen. He was naturalized Dec. 12, 1932. The photo of Aunt May is

from her 1925 Irish passport. It took a number of decades before she became a citizen.

Hudson Motor Company in Detroit.

Within a few years, a salesman from a seed

company told Uncle Pete of a job at the William Sellers’

Estate in Wilmington, Del. He told Uncle Pete to go to a

certain address in Philadelphia and use his name as a

reference if he was interested. When Uncle Pete arrived, the

line of men seeking employment wrapped around the

block. It was the beginning of the Great Depression, which

was taking hold in Philadelphia even before the stock

market crash of Oct. 29, 1929. By that April, citywide

unemployment stood at 10 percent; 30 percent of the

jobless had been idle for six months or longer. Undeterred,

Uncle Pete approached the man at the entrance and

mentioned the seed salesman’s name. He was welcomed

immediately and got the job. Thinking back on it years

later, Uncle Pete thought about how he got the job, not

because of his qualifications, but only because he knew

someone. He already had a job; most of the men in line

probably did not.

As he had left the security of his family in Ireland

three years before to find his future in America, Uncle Pete

now left the community of Sheridans in Philadelphia for

the prospect of a brighter future in Wilmington.


Uncle Pete probably arrived in Wilmington when

he was about 22, in 1929 or 1930. His job was at the

Sellers’ Estate, in the eastern part of Brandywine Hundred,

where he worked as a gardener. Brandywine Hundred is the

area east of Brandywine Creek. It is usually synonymous

with North Wilmington. The Sellers’ Estate would have

been around Route 13 and Marsh Road. While there, Uncle

Pete boarded with his foreman and the foreman's wife in

Edgemoor. They were an older couple from Ireland, Patrick

and Catherine Daugherty.

In 1931, there was a huge fire at the estate. The

blaze nearly destroyed the home, which was reported to

have cost $100,000 to build. A newspaper account said the

fire started in the servants’ quarters. The most serious injury

was to a cook, Miss Sophia Thomas, who was burned on

the face, hands and arms when she ran to her room to save


some valuables. Despite her injuries, she returned to the

burning building again to make sure a pet cat was safely


While living in Edgemoor, Uncle Pete attended St.

Patrick’s Church, at North King and East 15th streets. St.

Patrick’s for years was the termination point of the annual

Wilmington St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The Ancient Order of

Hibernians would host a party in the church basement.

Many a Gallagher descendant would be seen over the years

between 14th and 15th streets enjoying the party and

parade in honor of the great saint. But first, it was in this

church, on a fine Sunday morning in 1932, Uncle Pete met

Aunt May.

Mary Tierney was born April 13, 1905, in

Carrowmore, Hollymount, only two miles out the Convent

Road from Cornaroya. Aunt May was the second of 11

children born to John Tierney and Mary Toher. In 1916, her

family was relocated about a mile closer to Cornaroya, to

Gallows Hill, under a British Government program that

possessed and re-allocated land from large estates. Many

tenants, whose holdings may have included non-adjacent

fields, were moved, some a mile or two, others across the

country. The Congested Districts Board program created

holdings of 20 contiguous acres for the tenants. The

Gallows Hill area is now known as Clover Hill and is in the

townland of Rathnaguppaun.

Aunt May attended the Cregduff National School,

just north of the Convent Road, between Gallows Hill and

Cornaroya. At a very early age, she realized the importance

of a good education. So, she was very disappointed when

she was pulled from school a few years early to help her

mother with the younger children and the farm. At some

point, Aunt May went to live with her grandmother (Biddy

McHugh Toher). She would tell the story of being so young

and small that in order to knead the bread she had to get on

a stool to reach the table.

Aunt May and Uncle Pete didn’t really know each

other in Ireland, but the families were familiar with one

another. Uncle Jim could remember walking down the

Convent Road as a young man and hearing May and her

sister Delia sing out from the rocks by Cregduff, “Hello,

Jim Gallagher!” He wouldn’t give any further details of the

encounter; he just laughed. The families probably would

have had interaction in town.

As was the case with her future husband, Aunt

May decided early her future was in America. She was not

the oldest, but she was the first in her family to leave home.

When her Uncle James Toher (Tucker) agreed to sponsor

her, she began making plans.

Like Uncle Pete, she left County Mayo on the

From the top are the Tierney home in Gallows Hill, the

family's barn there, and the Cregduff School, which Aunt

May attended as a girl. Gallows Hill, currently known as

Clover Hill, is located about a mile from Cornaroya along

the Convent Road.

Claremorris train. Unlike Uncle Pete, May still needed to

stop in Dublin to submit her paperwork and get her

physical. Her visa was awarded Oct. 12, 1925, less than a

week before she would sail from Cobh.

Aunt May’s parents and younger sister Una went

along to see her off to America. Una was about nine at the

time. The RMS Celtic was scheduled to leave Cobh on Oct.

18, 1925. Aunt May had a second-class cabin, and in the


Aunt May was 20 years old when she came to the U.S.

Her first job was with the Sexton family. She did domestic

work and lived with the family at 2000 Woodlawn Ave.,

Wilmington, at right.

hours before the ship sailed, she was allowed to give her

parents and sister a tour of the luxurious ocean liner. The

Celtic looked like a palace, and Aunt May and the others

had never seen anything like it. They were amazed at the

splendor; the tour could have gone on for hours and no one

would have complained. Except, perhaps, Aunt May, who

must have been anxious to start the biggest adventure of

her life. After waving goodbye to her family, Aunt May left

Cobh and Ireland for her life’s odyssey in America.

As the Celtic approached the U.S. Coast, it began

having mechanical problems. As a result, the ship had to

dock in Boston instead of New York. It landed in

Massachusetts on Wednesday, Oct. 28. Aunt May had to

catch a coastal steamer south.

Aunt May stayed with her Uncle James, at 110 N.

Franklin St. in Wilmington. At the time, James’ wife, Nora

Mahan, and daughters Mary (who would be the godmother

to Aunt May’s daughter) and Katherine would have been

living there. Nora may also have been expecting their next

child, Helen. Still, the Tucker family happily welcomed

their newly arrived relative.

Aunt May soon got a job with the Sexton family,

who lived at 2000 Woodlawn Ave., Wilmington, near

Rockford Park. She worked as a domestic and lived with

the family.

Aunt May’s older brother Jack arrived in America

in 1926 and her sister Delia in 1930. May and Delia usually

attended Mass at St. Ann’s in Wilmington. But one Sunday

in 1932 they had occasion to attend services at St. Patrick’s.

At the time, the average American male height was 5 feet 8

inches. So, it would have been easy to notice the 6-foot-tall

Pete Gallagher in the congregation. Aunt May and her

sister certainly noticed the tall Irishman and recognized

him from Ballinrobe. After Mass, they called out to Uncle

Pete. Pete and May quickly developed a friendship and

realized they had a lot in common.

By 1933, they were a couple, and talk of marriage

quickly ensued. A decision was made to return to Ireland to

announce their upcoming nuptials. They arrived in

Ballinrobe for a two-and-a-half-month visit on July 21,

1933. The visit would have given both Pete and May a

chance to reconnect with their families. All four of their

parents were still alive. But things would have been

significantly different, particularly for Uncle Pete. In the

six years since he had emigrated, Pete’s younger brothers

and sisters would have changed dramatically. Jim and Tom,


Uncle Pete and Aunt May returned from their 1933 trip to Ireland on Oct. 9. They are standing at the far right in

this photo with some of their shipmates on the S.S. Stuttgart, which sailed from Galway.

boys of 15 and 13 when they last saw Pete, were now

young men. Owen was 17. And Ann and Mary, young

children in 1927, were now 12 and 11 years old,

respectively. Nora, two years older than Pete, was still 15

years from her own marriage. Uncle Owen remembered his

older brother’s trip home. Uncle Pete bought him a new

bicycle. This was not a toy; a bike was serious

transportation in those days, and it was much appreciated.

Uncle Pete and Aunt May returned to the U.S. on Oct. 9,

1933, on the S.S. Stuttgart out of Galway.


Not long after returning from Ireland, Aunt May

and her brother Jack purchased a house at 704 N. Clayton

St. The settlement was for $4,200 on July 13, 1934. A

probable explanation for why Jack was involved is Aunt

May and Uncle Pete couldn't get a mortgage for the house

themselves because they weren’t yet married. Neither could

get the mortgage alone because their incomes weren't large

enough; and it was also rare at the time for a single woman

to be allowed to buy any property. To get around those

issues, Aunt May and Jack co-signed for the mortgage.

After the wedding, Uncle Pete bought out Jack. Such a

maneuver uses the credit history of a “straw buyer” to get a

loan for someone unable to qualify otherwise. This level of

financial acumen was impressive for a couple with limited

formal education and less than a decade in their new


Ten weeks after the purchase, on Sept. 26, 1934,

Uncle Pete and Aunt May were married.

The Rev. John J. Bolen led the 8 a.m. wedding

ceremony in the basement at St Ann’s School. Pete’s

brother Pat was best man, and May’s sister Delia the maid

of honor. Among their wedding gifts was a white linen

tablecloth from Ireland. The wedding was in the school

because of extensive renovations at St. Ann's Church,

located at Gilpen Avenue and North Union Street. From

1933 to 1935, the building’s 28 front steps were removed,

as was the upper church floor. The work left the basement

as the new floor of the church as well as the new entrance

level. New Gothic pews were added along with a new,

lower ceiling. The renovations were complete by the time

Aunt Delia and Uncle Mike were married there in 1937.

For that ceremony, changes to the building weren’t the only

difference. On the fine Indian Summer morning of Pete’s


wedding, Aunt Delia had to be rousted out of bed to get

ready for the early ceremony. Her comment was, “Who gets

married at 8 o’clock in the morning!” Her own wedding,

three years later, began at 8 o’clock – in the evening.

After their nuptials, Uncle Pete and Aunt May

hopped in their Essex and drove to Niagara Falls for their

honeymoon. Their daughter Mary can remember a painting

of Niagara Falls, on velvet, they always kept in the house

as a reminder of that trip.

Uncle Pete and Aunt May absorbed a great deal

about America from their employers. Both worked for a

time with the Sexton family in Delaware, Aunt May before

their marriage and Uncle Pete a little later.

The Sextons were originally from Virginia and

made their fortune building bridges in the South after the

Civil War. By the twentieth century, the Catholic family

had relocated to Delaware. Aunt May worked for a brother

(John) and two sisters (Isabel and Dora). They had the first

gas stove Aunt May had ever seen. John Sexton taught her

how to light the stove. More importantly, he shared his

knowledge of finances and the stock market. He always

advised them to invest in good companies for the long haul

and not to try and time the stock market. His most vigorous

counseling was against the practice of “buying on margin,”

which led to tragic losses for investors when the stock

market crashed in late October 1929. The market lost more

than 40 percent of its value in a few days. A concerned

John Sexton asked Aunt May if she was going to be OK.

She replied, “Oh, yes, Mr. John, I will be fine. I paid cash

for my stock.” Pretty calm for a 24-year-old single woman

in a new country, who may have seen half of her

investments wiped out.

Aunt May was in it for the long haul. She

continued to invest and heeded Mr. John’s advice against

borrowing from a broker to buy more stock than you could

otherwise afford. The conversations about finance with the

Sextons helped cement the notion to never buy on credit.

Her daughter Mary can remember Aunt May encouraging

her to invest in the stock market by opening a brokerage

account and setting aside a little money each month from

her paycheck. She was not to make a purchase until enough

money was set aside.

Aunt May was fond of the Sextons. Mary can

remember visiting the family into the 1940s and 1950s.

Dora married a dentist, J. Draper Brown, and they had a

daughter named Isabella. Eventually, the sister Bella

became wheelchair bound because of rheumatoid arthritis,

and the family installed an elevator in the house for her.

Aunt May only left their employment, when she and Uncle

Pete were expecting their first child.

The ship manifest from May Tierney's trip to Ireland

in 1933 lists her as 5 feet tall, with a fair complexion,

brown hair and blue eyes.

Sometime in the mid-1930s, probably through

Aunt May, Uncle Pete began working for the Sextons as a

chauffeur. He would travel as a companion with John

Sexton and other male friends of his employer to famous

horse-racing tracks, such as Aqueduct in New York or

Pimlico in Baltimore. They also visited the famous Palmer

House hotel in Chicago and the 1939 World’s Fair in New

York, where the theme was “The World of Tomorrow.”

Uncle Pete would be invited to eat with the group, and John

Sexton would often give him money to bet at the various

tracks. Uncle Pete was a stylish dresser on his own, but he

would have picked up even more fashion tips from being

exposed to these wealthy gentlemen. Along with all the

high life, Uncle Pete played an important role related to the

trust put in him by John and his sisters. Uncle Pete

apparently had the OK to take away John’s wallet if the

spending on gambling and drinking went a little too far.

Before his wedding, Uncle Pete had worked for

the Spruance family. They had a house on 17th Street in

Wilmington but were building a large home in Centerville.

Uncle Pete worked on the construction of the new home,

but unlike his brothers Pat and Jim, that was not his

preferred sort of work. At the time, Uncle Pete had a room

directly opposite the entrance to St. Anthony’s Church at


A wedding photo shows the couple with the maid of honor, Aunt May's sister

Delia, and best man, Uncle Pete's brother Pat. The ceremony was in the

basement of St. Ann's School in Wilmington. The church was being renovated.

Ninth and DuPont streets. The large, three-story brick

building he stayed in was eventually sold to the church to

use as a convent. But in Uncle Pete’s time, it had a bar on

the ground floor called Mullarkey’s. During the week, he

may have stayed at the construction site in Centerville.

Uncle Pete also worked for a time for Blue Hen

Dairy, on Union Street near Eleventh. He was a milkman,

with his route in Dobbinsville, just south of New Castle,

close to the Delaware River. He also was a night watchman

at the Brandywine Zoo along Brandywine Creek. The job

may have been a little eerie, with the noises from the

monkey cage, exotic birds, bears and alligators at the

bottom of Monkey Hill. Uncle Pete got a revolver when he

worked at the zoo. Apparently, all of the crazies in the park

weren’t behind bars. Uncle Pete worked there for only a

few nights; a better situation must have blossomed.

However, he kept the gun almost his entire life. Mary

remembers finally getting rid of it in the early 1980s.


After their marriage, Uncle Pete and Aunt May

lived at the two-story Clayton Street home she had

purchased with her brother. Jack Tierney lived there until


he married Loretta Slavin. (“Lovie” was a nurse at St.

Francis Hospital.) The Gallaghers also had one boarder, a

Mr. McSorly. It’s unclear how long he stayed, but he was

certainly gone by 1940. Aunt May sometimes wondered if

the extra income from one boarder was worth the extra

laundry and cleaning.

In 1937, Peter John, the first of the next

generation of Gallaghers, was born. An early memory for

his parents was the expression of wonder in his eyes as he

was carried downstairs and saw the lights on the family

Christmas tree in 1939. Mary Theresa came along in 1943.

Both Pete and Mary were born at 704 N. Clayton. The

family collie, Lassie, was added a few years later. In the

meantime, Uncle Pete sponsored Uncle Tom to come to the

United States in 1940. Uncle Tom would live briefly with

the family on Clayton Street.

In May 1944, Uncle Pete and Aunt May bought a

bar for $13,000. It was located at 100 N. Franklin St., just

down the block from where Aunt May had stayed with the

Tuckers when she first arrived in the country.

Mary remembers that before they made the

decision to purchase the business, her mother and her sister

Delia Tierney went to inspect the beer garden. Uncle Pete

may have been working. In any event, Aunt May and Delia

liked what they saw, because shortly after the visit, the

purchase was made. In Wilmington City Directories from

the time, the name of the bar is listed as “Gallagher’s

Café,” although Mary cannot remember anyone using that

name. The family lived in the two stories above the bar. It

was a neighborhood gathering place, and their customers

were their neighbors – men working at the shipyards,

Pullman (train) shops, leather tanning factories and other

small businesses. Saturday nights brought out couples, as

well. The jukebox would be going with big-band sounds.

(Top hits from those years included “Sentimental Journey”

by Les Brown and His Orchestra with Doris Day; Bing

Crosby’s “Swinging on a Star”; and Perry Como’s “Some

Enchanted Evening.”) A shuffleboard table and pinball

machine were there for additional entertainment.

Uncle Pete also provided a banking service for his

customers. Mary remembers going with him to the

Wilmington Trust Bank at 10th and Market streets on

Friday mornings to withdraw enough money to cash

paychecks of friends and neighbors who came to the bar on

Friday evenings. Uncle Pete would then deposit the checks

on Monday morning. He never charged for this service,

which was a clever business strategy in addition to an act

of kindness. It was very convenient for hard-working

customers, who might find it difficult to get to a downtown

bank. It also ensured they would show up every Friday and

Top, Uncle Pete with son Pete on the steps at 704 N.

Clayton St. in Wilmington. Above, Aunt May with young

Pete in Rockford Park.


Uncle Pete and Aunt May bought a bar at

Front and North Franklin Streets in

Wilmington in 1944. They handled most of

the work themselves, but the business was

closed on Sundays, a day reserved for

family outings. At right is the family dog

Lassie outside the bar. Above, are Aunt

May, Pete and Mary on Front Street

(Lancaster Avenue); they lived on the floors

above the business until it was sold in 1953.


Clockwise from above right are Uncle Pete with his son and daughter, a school photo of son Pete from

St. Paul's Elementary School, and two photos of Pete from the early years on North Clayton Street.

At right is Uncle Pete's

daughter Mary Theresa

at her First

Communion in 1951,

St. Paul's May

Procession in 1953 and

her school photo from

1954 at St. Ann's.


Above is Mary during a 1952 visit to see Uncle Pat. The

car is a 1950 Buick Special Deluxe. At right are

portraits of the young family. The top photo is from

Mary's First Communion in 1951.

spend some of their pay on a few beers.

A major move to grow their small business was

the addition of a television set, around 1948-49. Milton

Berle, Red Skelton, Ed Sullivan, The Voice of Firestone

and boxing matches were a real draw. These weren’t easy

years, with just Uncle Pete and Aunt May, and occasional

part-time help, doing all the work. Uncle Tom would fill in

from time to time. Aunt May worked the kitchen, making

sandwiches for the lunchtime crowd. Both husband and

wife tended bar, alternating to let each other grab a nap.

They worked six days a week, with Sunday the day the

family could go to Gettysburg, Lancaster County’s Amish

country, Valley Forge, Crystal Cave in Reading, Pa., or

Atlantic City, where they loved eating at Captain Starn’s in

the Inlet. Philadelphia trips would have the family visit

cousin Francis Sheridan, his mother and aunts, along with

Pete’s brother Pat and family. In summer, there were

picnics at Valley Gardens and Rockford Park.

Young Pete had started school at St. Thomas the

Apostle at Fourth Street and Bayard Avenue. But after the

move to the bar, both he and Mary attended St. Paul’s

Elementary School at Third and North Van Buren.

Patsy (O’Brien) DeAscanis can remember her

cousin Pete, along with Lassie, making his way up the hill

to their house on Van Buren Street after school. He enjoyed

playing with Patsy and her brother Johnny. Patsy also

remembers when she was about to start eighth grade her

family moved from Van Buren to 27th Street. Patsy did not

want to leave school in eighth grade and was allowed to

finish elementary school at St. Paul’s. That year, she would

go over to the bar many days at noon to eat her lunch. She


Gallagher family visits to Atlantic City would include stops at the Boardwalk, the Chalfonte Hotel and

meals at Captain Starn's restaurant in the Inlet section.

From left are another outing to Atlantic City; Uncle Pete, Aunt May and Mary in Annapolis, Md.; and the family's

first Christmas, in 1953, at 1608 Woodlawn Ave. in Wilmington.


Uncle Pete shows off his roses in the driveway on Woodlawn Avenue. He trained

the bushes to grow up a chicken-wire fence, originally installed to keep Mary's

stray basketballs from destroying the flowers.

would watch Aunt May and her sister fix the sandwiches

for the customers. After school, young Pete would stand at

the end of the bar and wait for his chips and soda. It didn’t

matter how busy his father was, Pete wasn’t moving until

he got his treat.

On one wall at the bar was a pay phone, which

rang with welcome news one particular night in February

1949. Mary remembers her father’s disposition

immediately became cheerful when he answered the phone.

She quickly realized her dad’s brother, Uncle Jim, had

arrived in America. Uncle Pete had sponsored Jim, as well

as Tom and Pat. Jim would stay with the family above the

bar for a few months as he got acclimated to the new


In August 1953, Uncle Pete and Aunt May sold

the bar and liquor license and used the proceeds (about

$35,000) to pay cash for their new home at 1608 Woodlawn

Ave. The yard at the new house gave Uncle Pete the chance

to indulge in his love of gardening. He got the chance to

grow his own plants, flowers and trees. Something was

blooming from the snowdrops in late winter, through the

summer and into fall, when the scarlet sage died back.

Uncle Pete’s roses would benefit from his

ingenuity. When Mary began playing basketball in fifth

grade, the roses were put at risk from stray shots at the

hoop installed on a pole in the shared driveway beside the

house. Mary can remember having to retrieve the ball more

than once with thorns in it. Her father’s solution was to

install a chicken-wire barrier between the hoop and his

flowers. When basketball was no longer played in the

driveway, Uncle Pete trained his roses to grow up the

chicken wire.

Uncle Pete eventually passed on his love of

gardening to his daughter, daughter-in-law and, in turn, to

the next generation.


Around the time they moved to Woodlawn, Uncle

Pete and Aunt May took the family on vacation to Niagara

Falls and Canada. Mary can remember Aunt Delia hitching

a ride to Niagara Falls, where her daughter, Patsy, was

babysitting for a couple for two summers when she was a

freshman and sophomore in high school. The couple had

two daughters, then about 3 and 4 years old. Their father

had originally worked for the DuPont Company in Niagara.

He had been relocated to Wilmington but would return to

Niagara to vacation for three or four weeks each summer.


Pete and Mary in their senior pictures from high school. At

bottom are their college graduation photos.

They would bring Patsy along.

After the stop in Niagra, the family continued on

to Canada, where they ran into a snag at the border. Unlike

Uncle Pete, who was quick to get his citizenship, Aunt May

had seen no reason to rush her application. The border

agent said there was no problem letting her out of the U.S.,

however, he didn’t think she would be allowed back. Uncle

Pete and Aunt May did some fast negotiating, and

eventually were able to proceed to Quebec, to the Shrine of

St. Anne de Beaupre, then on to Montreal and Ottawa. The

entire family was able to make it back into the country.

About 1954, Uncle Pete settled into the job he

would keep the rest of his working days. He began as a

chauffeur for the George Edmonds family. Mr. Edmonds’

wife, the former Natalie duPont, was a niece of P.S. duPont,

who created Longwood Gardens. She was the daughter of

Lammot duPont and cousin of future Delaware Gov. Pete

duPont. They had a home in the upscale neighborhood of

Westover Hills. George P. Edmonds was originally from

Massachusetts and went to MIT. He later became president

of Wilmington Trust Bank. The home had a four-car garage

and at least four live-in servants. Uncle Pete worked there

for almost 30 years. At some point in the mid-1960s, the

Edmonds estate was rearranging some landscaping and had

a few young red maples that were not needed. Uncle Pete

was asked if he would like them. He gave one to Uncle Jim

and one to Uncle Tom. The tree in Uncle Jim’s backyard,

50 years later, is still doing well. Jim’s daughter, Margaret,

now owns the house on Sycamore Street. Uncle Jim’s son

Owen actually has two offshoots of the tree at his home in

South Jersey. When Aunt Ann died, the tree given to her

and Uncle Tom also was still doing well on Champlain


1960s, 1970s

Mary can remember an occasion in the early

1960s that further amplified her mother’s aversion to credit.

On a return from Atlantic City, Uncle Pete’s new Impala

was rear-ended. Even though it was repaired, it never again

ran properly. Another car had to be purchased. The second

vehicle was bought on credit because it came so soon after


The family is together for Pete's graduation from Georgetown Law School. Pete went on to work for the Federal

Trade Commission, several law firms, the U.S. Railroad Administration and finally the D.C. Metro System.

The engagement

announcement of Pete

Gallagher and Judith

Ann Markey was made

in July 1963. It

mentioned she was a

nursing school graduate

on the staff at

Providence Hospital in

Washington, D.C.

the previous purchase. Around that time, Mary had a few

girlfriends at the house. Unknown to Mary, on the table was

the payment book for the car. After the girlfriends left, Aunt

May let Mary know she was horrified the girls would have

seen/known they had to buy the car on credit. There needn’t

have been such worry. Aunt May’s financial sense would

have protected the family from most money problems. To

her, though, it was important to be certain to live within

their means. To that end, Aunt May would even keep cash

hidden under the dining room rug to pay for the periodic

delivery of oil to heat the house.

Uncle Pete and Aunt May’s son attended

Archmere Academy for high school, Mount St. Mary’s for

college, and then Georgetown Law School. In 1963, Pete

married Judy Markey, and a reception was held at the

prestigious Congressional Country Club in the Washington,

Mary and Pete in the garden at Woodlawn Avenue when

she graduated from A.I. duPont High School. Mary

went on to a career with the Dupont Company.


At left, Pete and Judy share a toast at their Dec. 28,

1963, wedding. The ceremony was at the Church of the

Annunciation in Washington. Above, the bride and

groom are with best man Jim Goff and maid of honor

Joan Markey, Judy's sister.

D.C., area. Aunt May’s first cousins – her Uncle James

Tucker’s children Katherine Wirt, Mary Cross, Jimmy

Tucker and Helen Campbell – were all invited. Terry Wirt

(Katherine’s son) described the occasion as follows to Mary

Gallagher: “All four families caravanned down I-95

together. The Wirt children, Mark, Terry and Marilisa, did

not wear their dress clothes down. Instead, they stopped

and changed at Maryland House. Mom and Dad wanted the

kids to look their best at the wedding.” Terry added there

wasn’t a time when the Tucker cousins would get together

that the wedding wouldn’t come up as one of their most

memorable childhood experiences.

When applying for government jobs in

Washington in the early 1960s, Pete was asked why his

mother was not a U.S. citizen. He finally asked his mother

to take the step, and she complied in 1965. During the

celebratory dinner at Columbus Inn, Aunt May’s

granddaughter Kathleen was not as happy as the rest of the

family. She would not stop crying. Her mom and dad took

turns taking her out to the car to pacify her. Soon, Colleen

and Peter were added to the growing family.

Pete’s first job was for the U.S. Government’s

General Accounting Office. After law school, he worked

for the Federal Trade Commission and several law firms,

Uncle Pete and Aunt May take to the dance floor at

their son's wedding reception at the Congressional

Country Club near Washington D.C.


At left, 'Grampy' plays with Pete and Judy's daughter Kathleen. At right, young Pete carves the Christmas turkey

under his father's approving eye.

including one he opened with his father-in-law. Pete also

worked during the Ford Administration for a presidential

commission on statehood for Puerto Rico. He then worked

for the United States Railroad Administration and finally,

until retirement, at the D.C. Metro System. Pete died from

lymphoma in August 2009 at his home in Lewes, Del.

Mary Theresa attended A.I. duPont High School

and Goldey Beacom College. As a summer job out of high

school, she worked for Wilmington Trust, in the mailroom,

then moved to DuPont after college. She worked for the

DuPont Company for 40 years, starting in secretarial work,

then moving to Facilities. She managed the office space at a

time the company was getting smaller with changes in

business direction. Her work group moved 5,000 people a

year for 10 years in New Castle County. At the time,

DuPont was condensing space, reducing leased space and

moving into its own properties. She worked on renovation

projects, and fitted out various offices with furniture,

artwork, and decorative finishes. Mary was fortunate to be

able to walk to work. She was the third member of the

Gallagher family to be employed by the DuPont Company,

following Uncles Jim and Pat.

At some point around 1970, Uncle Pete won a

prize from ACME grocery stores of two gallons of milk a

week for a year. Not having anyone at home to consume

that much milk, he gave the prize to his brother Jim for his

children. Pat, Owen and Margaret thought it was the coolest

thing and very much enjoyed it. Another time, Uncle Jim’s

son Pat had received a pen knife as a present. Soon after,

the family was visiting Uncle Pete’s house on Woodlawn

Avenue when Pat proudly showed off his new knife. Uncle

Pete must have noticed Owen looking slightly deprived. He

went down to the basement and retrieved another penknife

for Owen. Almost 50 years later, the Gallagher boys still

have the pen knives. Mary remembers her mother saying

her father was sensitive to how others felt. Clearly with his

nephew Owen, he was sensitive enough to empathize with

him being left out. Pat, on the other hand, bragging about

the knife, may have required slightly more sensitivity



As they aged, Uncle Pete and Aunt May moved in

1982 to Ingleside, an apartment building for senior citizens

on North Franklin Street in Wilmington. Uncle Jim’s son

Pat worked there as a cook while he was finishing high

school and going to college. He got the job through Uncle

Mike O’Brien, who brought the place a touch of class when

he worked there as the maître d'. He always wore a tuxedo.


Uncle Pete hikes along Brandywine Creek in Wilmington with

granddaughters Colleen and Kathleen.

From top, 'Granny' with grandson Peter in

1976; 'Grampy' with Kathleen in 1965; and

both grandparents with Kathleen on her

first birthday.

Ingleside’s reputation may have slipped a little with Pat at the ovens.

About the same time, Uncle Pete began complaining of fatigue

and general pain. That December, his daughter took him to his

neurologist, who noticed a growth on his chest. A couple days later,

Uncle Pete asked Mary to take him to the hospital. At St. Francis, the

lump was diagnosed as lung cancer. By late January, he was transferred

to the Wilmington General Division to undergo radiation treatment. A

few weeks later, John and a very pregnant Cindy O’Brien arrived at the

same hospital to have Cindy admitted to the maternity ward. During a

huge snowstorm, Cindy gave birth to their daughter, Casey “Storm”

O’Brien. Mary can remember visiting the nursery with Aunt Ann to see

baby Casey.

A few days later, Aunt May received a call from Uncle Jim who

was visiting his brother at the hospital. He informed her officials were

having trouble contacting Mary and asked Aunt May to get hold of their

daughter. Mary soon arrived and saw her father’s condition was serious

enough to call her brother. Pete immediately left Washington and quickly

got to Wilmington. Fearing it would be a long night and not having eaten

all afternoon, Pete and Mary slipped out to find a bite to eat. While they

were gone – never fearing to try anything new on his own – Uncle Pete

quietly slipped away. Mary said she could tell something was wrong as

she and Pete were walking down the hall back to her father’s room.

When they walked in and her fears were confirmed, Mary could feel her


knees buckle. Pete was by her side to support her.

Uncle Pete died Feb. 14, 1983. He was laid to rest

in Cathedral Cemetery next to his sister Delia. Mary recalls

Mr. Edmonds, his long-time employer, stopping by her

office at DuPont to express his condolences and sympathy.

Aunt May then lived by herself at Ingleside for

about three years. When she needed more help, she moved

to Foulk Manor South, an assisted living/nursing home on

Foulk Road. Aunt May lived there for three years. She was

in the assisted-living section the majority of the time but

was feisty until the very end. On the morning of her death,

she reprimanded the nurse’s aide for watching over her too

closely. She quietly passed away in her bed later that day,

Feb. 15, 1990.

Uncle Pete and Aunt May’s grandchildren, now

have children of their own:

Kathleen married Tim Jeffery, and they have two

children, Patrick and Erin;

Colleen married Thad Ward, and they also have

two children, Taylor and Connor;

Peter married Heather Nienhuis, and they have

three children, Ben, Emma and Ally.



As far back as anyone can

remember or document, the Tierneys came

from Carrowmore off the Convent Road near

Ballinrobe. The Tohers came from

Ballynalty, a few miles to the south, just over

the Mayo County line in County Galway.

Martin Tierney had about 9 acres in

Carrowmore at the time of the 1850

Griffith’s Land Valuation. Michael Toher had

about 50 acres at the same time in Ballynalty.

As was the case with the Gallaghers, they

leased their land from a landlord.

Aunt May’s paternal grandparents

were William Tierney and Mary Kelly, both

born in the 1830s. Mary lived until 1902 and

William until 1924. Her maternal

grandparents were Denis Toher and Biddy

McHugh. They were a little younger, both

born in the 1850s. Denis died in 1931, Biddy

in 1919.


In the 1800s, Ireland was a very

different place. The country was still under

British rule, and in rural areas, the majority

of people worked for their landlords for a

pittance. They were not even permitted to

speak their own language. The houses were

often little more than small stone shacks with

thatched roofs.

Aunt May's mother, Mary (Toher), and father, John Tierney,

married April 17, 1902. They met when Mary's bike got a flat

tire and John came to the rescue.



This photo shows Aunt May's parents, John and Mary Tierney, and three of her siblings: from left, Joe, Una

and Kitty.

Bernadette Cafferky, Aunt May’s niece who

still lives near Hollymount out the Convent Road,

offers the following portrait of her ancestors from

those times:

They had no running water. The fireplace

provided the heat for the house and was the area for all

the cooking. The doors to the bedrooms would be left

open to allow heat to pass through. A crane was set in

the fireplace, and all cooking and baking was done

over an open fire, which was usually made from turf.

(Turf, or peat, is a fossil fuel made of the partially

decomposed remains of dead plants and trees. It

accumulates in waterlogged bogs and is compacted

over thousands of years.) The houses had no

electricity, so people used candles and, later, oil lamps

attached to the walls. The lamps would cast strange

shadows. Combine that with obligatory ghost stories,

and you might be afraid to ever venture outside at


Bread was baked in an iron box/oven. Coals

were pulled from the fire and the oven placed on a

trivet-like stand over the coals. More coals were then

placed on the lid. This continued until the bread was

fully baked. Brown bread was made every day. White

flour was bought by the sackful. Not to be wasteful,

when sacks were empty, they were washed, and when

a family had four empty sacks they were opened up

and stitched together to make a sheet.

Neighbors visited regularly. The door was

always open, and the visitor would say Beannacht Dia

do gach duine an seo (God bless all here). When the

visitor was leaving, the family would say Beannacht

Leat Agus (God be with you) or Slán abhaile (Safe


Even into the 1900s, family members

generally had two sets of clothes: their Sunday best

and their working clothes. When they returned from

Mass, good clothes were taken off. Occasionally they

were shared with a brother or sister for the next Mass.

Old clothes were patched numerous times. When the


Aunt May, at right, and her brother Jack Tierney enjoy the beach in Atlantic City in 1937. The other

woman's identity is not known. At right, is a more formal photo of May and Jack.

knees could be patched no more, the legs were cut off,

flipped around and sewn back on with the patches to

the rear.

Women had two shawls – a heavy black one

for every-day wear and a lighter one for Sunday. They

wore heavy knitted socks and sensible, laced shoes or

ankle boots. Their hair was long and usually tied in a

bun. The women were adept at sewing; they would

down-size clothes for younger children and knit into

the night. They had a spinning wheel for turning wool

fiber into yarn. All socks and jumpers (sweaters) were


Babies were born at home. An experienced

local woman would attend to the safe arrival of a baby,

as well as provide after care. A woman also assisted

when an elderly person died.

The donkey was an essential part of a home.

The ass and cart were the main mode of transport,

including going into town for supplies. Bags of wheat

were brought to the mill to have it ground into flour.

Cribs/baskets were put on the cart when bringing home

turf from the bog to prevent it from spilling. The carts

were useful in the bog because they were light and did

not sink in the soft ground.

To deal with cold temperatures, lids from iron

pots were heated in the fire and wrapped in old

blankets and put in the beds. The iron for the clothes

was heated in the same way; coals had to be red hot or

the bottom of the iron would get black and stain the


“American Wakes” were held when a family

member would emigrate. It was often a sad occasion,

sending off a loved one to a country he or she knew

little about except that a relation would meet the

person on arrival and arrange a job. Many of these

emigrants never returned home. At a typical American

Wake, all families in the village would attend to say

what they expected to be their last farewell. Once a

person was gone, the family still at home would await

the arrival of a post with a few dollars or a parcel of


Common items on an Irish farm at the turn of the twentieth century would have been a pot and tongs for cooking

(with the lid often heated and wrapped in a blanket to warm a bed) and the multi-purpose donkey. At right, Mary

Theresa is with Helen and Mary Murray, who lived around the corner from Aunt Delia and Uncle Mike O'Brien.

Their mother was the former Delia Toher, Aunt May's aunt.

clothes from America.

Three of the Toher children immigrated to

America: James, Winnie (Cunningham), and Delia

(Murray). James had his name formally changed to

Tucker after he arrived in America.

By the early 1900s, the Tohers were a

considerably well-off family. They had close to 100

acres and a big orchard in Ballynalty. They owned

their own sire bull.



Around 1900, Mary Toher lived with her

parents Denis Toher and Biddy McHugh along with

her siblings in Ballynalty, County Galway, about nine

miles south of Ballinrobe. She was not much more

than 20 at the time. She had an aunt, Ellen (McHugh)

Coleman, who lived in Carrowmore just outside

Ballinrobe. Mary used to bicycle after Mass on

Sundays to visit her aunt. Unbeknownst to Mary, a

young man in Carrowmore had taken notice of her

comings and goings. He was John Tierney, who lived

there with his family. John was not much more than 20

himself. With her honey blond hair and blue eyes, he

thought Mary the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.

John would watch every week as Mary came and went

from her aunt’s home. But, alas, he couldn’t think of a

way to get her attention without being too obvious.

Then luck, or Providence, intervened. One Sunday,

Mary’s bicycle tire went flat while visiting her aunt.

Mary thought for a moment she would have to walk

the nine miles home to Ballynalty. But quickly, the

kindest man she had ever met was by her side. Not

only did John fix the tire, but he would go on to marry

her on April 17, 1902. Mary received a gold sovereign

coin from her mother on her wedding day.

John and Mary Tierney had 11 children: Jack

(1903), Mary, aka Aunt May (1905), Delia (1906),

Pake, or Patrick, (1908), Michael (1910), James


Aunt May's brother Joe remained

in Ireland and inherited the

family farm. He and his wife, Sally

(Ferrick), raised six children.

Her brother Jack married Loretta

'Lovie' (Slavin) Tierney. They

lived in Wilmington and had two

children, Loretta and Mary.

Aunt May's sister Una stayed with

her parents in Ireland. She

married Michael Mohan in 1941.

They had eight children, including

Bernadette Cafferky.

(1912), Thomas (1915), Una (1916), Eileen (1918),

Joseph (1920) and Kathleen (1923).

Bernadette is Una’s daughter. She

remembers that her “mam” often referred to her

own father and mother as “Ma and Da.” The Irish

use an “a” for mam, ma or mammy. Somehow, they

have managed to ignore the “mum” world to the

east and the “mom” world to the west. Bernadette’s

“mam” would say how her own father, John

Tierney, worked very hard to support the family. But

even after a hard day on the farm, when he would sit

down to eat his dinner he would lift the younger

children onto his knee and feed them from his own

plate. He would always bless himself before and

after eating and thank God for the food. He would

ask God to bless his wife who prepared it and to

keep his family safe. John was a talented thatcher

and so good at stonework, so neat and particular, he

built all his own stone barns. He took delight in his

vegetable garden and apple orchard. Most evenings

he could be seen in the garden pruning branches or

white-washing the apple trees to prevent any fungus

from developing.

According to Bernadette, the Tierney home

Aunt May's sisters Delia, left, and Eileen (Tierney)

Browne, center, are with Delia's husband, Pat Hannon,

in Wilmington. Pat was a native of County Galway who

came to Wilmington by way of New Zealand. At right

are Lovie Tierney, the wife of Aunt May's brother Jack,

and her daughter Mary.



Cafferky stands

in front of the

old Toher home

in Ballynalty,



was one of music, song and dance. All could sing.

Some played the tin whistle, and Uncle Pake played

the melodeon, which is similar to an accordion.

Grandad, she says, would dance the “Broom Stick

Dance,” which involved jumping back and forth over

the handle; it was also called Sean nos (old-style).

Neighbors would attend these barn dances in great

numbers. Bernadette’s mam would say that just when

it was going well, the younger children were called in

to go to bed. Earlier in the evening, the Rosary would

be recited so as not to interfere with the evening’s


When not playing music – and when they

were – all the Irish hated the Black and Tans, English

soldiers sent to Ballinrobe and other areas to fight the

rebellious local population. Some would go as far as to

say the soldiers had been released from a psychiatric

hospital. The older generation didn’t speak much of the

heavy-handed tactics and atrocities of the Black and

Tans they were all-too-familiar with. “They were bad

times,” was a common, understated refrain.

As for schooling, Bernadette’s mother would

tell her of a teacher who would cycle out to meet

children if they were late. They had to run ahead of

him on the rough surface or be caned across the legs.

She said Grandad Tierney met with the teacher to

resolve the situation. However, it had the effect that the

children were ignored in class most of the time. It was

the way children were treated if their parents

complained. Bernadette says her uncles and aunts went

to school bare-foot in the warmer months. With all

this, there is little wonder many left school early and

many emigrated.

Jack, Aunt May and Delia Tierney all

immigrated to America. Years later, their sister Kitty

(Kathleen) joined them, and Delia, who married Pat

Hannon, helped her find work. Kitty eventually

returned to County Mayo and was employed locally.

Patrick, Tom and Michael emigrated to England and

later returned and married locally.

Una stayed at her home in Clover Hill and

helped her parents on the family farm at a time when

her mother had heart problems. In 1941, she married

Michael Mohan, a local farmer, and raised four boys

and four girls, including Bernadette. The Mohans had a

family store in Lecarrow that Michael's father started

in the late 1800s.

When Michael Tierney returned to Mayo, he

married and raised two boys and two girls. Michael, or

Mick, and his brother Jim owned a garage and repair

shop on Glebe Street in the 1930s and ’40s. In the

early morning of Jan. 24, 1947, a fire destroyed the

garage and several cars. It was never rebuilt. Jim, who

had seven children, died in 1958. Three years later,

Mick suffered fatal injuries in a road accident. Joe

inherited the family farm and raised six children.

As various members of the family were

leaving home, Bernadette can remember being told her

grandmother Mary (Toher) Tierney would say, amid

tears, “It’s far away they are going.”



Uncle Pete and Aunt

May's granddaughter

Kathleen married Tim

Jeffery. They have two

children, Erin and


Granddaughter Colleen

married Thad Ward.

They have two children,

Connor and Taylor.

Grandson Peter

married Heather

Nienhuis. They have

three children, Ben,

Emma and Allyson.



Uncle Pete and

Aunt May


children Mary

and Pete, his wife,

Judy, and their

three children,

Kathleen, Peter

and Colleen,

found a


Dublin pub on

their trip to

Ireland in 1992.

Clockwise from left: the cousins take a

ride on the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk;

high school graduation photos of Taylor

and Erin, who both now attend the

University of Delaware; two generations

gather for the wedding in Florida of a

nephew of Judy's in the 1990s.


“Mothers hold their children's hand for just

a little while ... and their hearts forever.”

Irish proverb





Uncle Pat, at far left, rests in a foxhole on Iwo Jima with fellow members of the 95th U.S. Navy Construction

Battalion, or Seabees, in late February or March 1945. The Seabees built airfields and other facilities throughout the

Pacific Theater during World War II.

He was the strongest man in Ballinrobe, fought the Japanese

on the beaches and in the jungles of the South Pacific, built two homes

with his bare hands, battled malaria and Parkinson’s disease – yet he

would tear up at the very thought of his mother. Pat Gallagher was the

seventh child of Pat and Mary Gallagher. He was born Oct. 20, 1909.

He was baptized by the Rev. Martin Healy at St. Mary’s in Ballinrobe.

His godparents were his mother’s brother John Sheridan and father’s

cousin Margaret Mellet.

Like his brothers, Uncle Pat worked both on the farm and at

the nearby Convent of Mercy.

With his brothers, he attended the Christian Brothers School.

Uncle Pat remembered how the nuns at the convent, when they needed

Uncle Pat,

shown in his

wedding photo,

was the fourth

son of Pat and





At left is Uncle Pat's passport photo from 1930. Above

is a letter from Canon E.A. D'Alton, a beloved priest/

historian for 30 years at St. Mary's in Ballinrobe, that

Pat carried to America. It helped him gain employment

in Philadelphia.

help in the fields for harvesting or planting, would collect

boys from the school to assist. Unfortunately, the Christian

Brothers would not give the boys a pass on their

schoolwork. They would then suffer the consequences of

falling behind in their lessons. Corporal punishment was

alive and well.

“Pat was my closest brother growing up,” Uncle

Jim recalled about his slightly older sibling. “We were very

tight and often palled around together. Pat’s nickname was

Cop and mine was Jep.” They shared the same group of

friends: Willie Walsh, Jack Moran and Paddy O’Donnell.

Uncle Owen always said Uncle Pat was “the

strongest man in Ballinrobe. He would lift stones by

himself that would take two other men to lift. Pat and

Jimmy made an impressive pair walking down the street

together; you would not want to tangle with the pair of


Both Uncle Pat and Uncle Jim inherited their

father’s skill for construction and working with their hands.

They could both build or fix anything.

Not yet 21 years old, Uncle Pat sailed for America

on April 13, 1930, Palm Sunday. According to the Cork

Examiner, Masses at the Cathedral Church of St. Colman in

Cobh were well attended that morning. Clocks had been

moved ahead the evening before in anticipation of summer.

But with the change of season came the rains. A storm was

rough that Sunday, with drenching rain and whirling winds

as the Cunard liner Carmania arrived from Liverpool,

loaded its Irish passengers and embarked toward New York.

Uncle Pat sailed third class (steerage), with a

ticket furnished by his brother Pete and at least $50 in his

pocket. Capacity for the Carmania in 1930 would have

been about 1,400 – with around 300 in first-class cabins,

300 in second class and 800 in third class.


Pat Gallagher sailed into New York Harbor a week

later. He was welcomed by much-improved weather, with

sunshine and temperatures above 60. And Easter Sunday


Celebrations aside, he landed in New York City as

the Great Depression was taking hold. The economic

collapse had renewed fears of Irish Catholic immigrants

taking jobs from American-born workers.

It’s difficult to imagine today, with New York and

Boston being so Irish, but at the height of the Great Hunger,


Uncle Pat, back right, and Aunt Nora, second from left, sit in a Cornaroya field with friends in 1928. The second

girl may be Bridie Mellet (or Mellett), the daughter of Margaret (Gallagher). The others are not identified.

around 1850, many Irish immigrants were not received

with open arms in the two cities. Instead, they were seen as

competition for already scarce jobs. It was at that time the

warning “No Irish Need Apply” started popping up in job

advertisements. To his surprise, Uncle Pat found the

sentiment and signs still prevalent in 1930 New York. It

was impossible to find employment. Uncle Pat was

surviving on one donut a day. It was all he could afford.

Fortunately, Uncle Pete, who had arrived in

America a few years earlier and was living in Philadelphia,

knew of a job at a convent there. Uncle Pat relocated to the

City of Brotherly Love and was hired at that convent.

Working in his favor was a letter of recommendation he

brought from Ireland written by Canon E.A. D’Alton, the

parish priest at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Ballinrobe

from 1911 until his death in 1941. In the letter dated Feb. 5,

1930, the distinguished prelate says he has known Uncle

Pat since his childhood and cites his excellent character.

“He is a quiet, steady, well-behaved young fellow, always

obedient to his parents and always doing his work honestly.

I am quite confident that he will always be faithful to his

employer,” the letter says. It then helpfully adds: “Needless

to add, he has never been in prison or deserved to be.”

(D’Alton also found time to write a three-volume “History

of Ireland” as well as a history of his parish.)

By the late 1930s, Uncle Pat was working at Mt.

Sinai Hospital at South Fifth and Read streets in

Philadelphia. He was living then at 212 Greenwich St., just

a few blocks away. Interestingly, Mount Sinai, which

started accepting patients in March 1905, was originally a

tuberculosis hospital. It was the disease that had taken

Uncle Pat’s oldest brother, Michael, nine years before Pat

sailed for America.

In Philadelphia, Uncle Pat apparently made a

lasting impression on at least one nun. When Aunt Delia's

daughter Patsy O'Brien was working years later at St.

Francis Hospital in Wilmington, Del., she knew a Sister

Beatrix, who was in charge of medical supplies. Patsy

recalled she ran a tight ship with a fierce, never-smiling

demeanor. Sister once unexpectedly asked if Patsy knew

Pat Gallagher. “Yes,” Patsy said, assuming she meant Uncle

Jim's first son. “I'm his Godmother.” “No you're not,”

Sister corrected her. She meant the Pat Gallagher she knew

from working in Philadelphia in the ’30s. The no-nonsense

sister may not have been very friendly with everyone at

St.Francis, but she had a soft spot for Uncle Pat.


Uncle Pat and Aunt Catherine were

introduced by mutual friends. They were

married Jan. 4, 1941.

At left, Uncle Pat and his brother Pete

pose together on the Atlantic City

Boardwalk. The photo was probably

taken not too long after Pat arrived in

America in April 1930. Pete had

emigrated three years earlier.



Aunt Catherine's mother, Kate Heraty, was born

near Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, Ireland, in 1879.

After immigrating to America, she married William E.

Oliver on Nov. 24, 1909, at the Church of the Nativity in

Media, Pa. William had been born in Mount Vernon, N.Y.,

on June 23, 1871. He was a barber and Kate a seamstress at

the time of the wedding. Both were living in Elwyn,

Delaware County, Pa., before the marriage.

Their third child, Aunt Catherine, was born April

29, 1913. Her early years were hard ones for the family.

Her father took sick a few years after she was born and

would eventually be hospitalized with paralysis for several

years before he died April 22, 1921. Catherine and her

older brother and sister, William and Patricia, lived with

nearby relatives for a time before their mother was remarried,

to Angel Rodriquez, who had emigrated from

Santander, Spain, in 1916. The new marriage helped

stabilize the family, and Patricia and Catherine were able to

return home. But by that time William had gone to stay

with the family of Kate’s mother, Mary (Connor), near

Westport, Ireland. Kate and Ange would have two children

together, Edward and Joseph. The family would soon move

into the City of Philadelphia, living on Perk Street by 1930.

The standard of living for Aunt Catherine and her

family gradually improved during the 1920s and 1930s, and

by 1935, the family moved to 1011 47th St. As a young

woman, Aunt Catherine enjoyed spending time with her

girlfriends. She especially enjoyed taking trips with them to

Atlantic City, N.J., which was among the most popular

resorts in the country. Around 1940, mutual friends

introduced her to Pat Gallagher of Cornaroya.

Uncle Pat and Aunt Catherine married Jan. 4,

1941. Uncle Tom was the best man. The wedding party

included Aunt Catherine’s sister Patricia, her brother

William and her favorite cousin, Marie Heraty. After the

wedding, Aunt Catherine’s mother threw a party for the

newly married couple. Their daughter, Mary Kathryn, can

remember being told it snowed that night and that most of

the party-goers had to spend the night at her grandmother’s


The couple would move to Aunt Catherine’s

mother’s 47th Street home soon after the marriage. The

plan was for Uncle Pat to fix up the large house, while his

mother-in-law and Ange moved to 515 Van Kirk St. in

Philadelphia. It was during that time that Uncle Pat would

have had to register for the military draft. The Selective

Service card lists his address as 212 Greenwich St. in

Philadelphia, but that was crossed out and 47th Street

inserted. The card shows he could always be reached at the

nearest pay phone, at the northwest corner of Second and


Uncle Pat became a U.S. citizen on April 17,

1942, the day after he joined the military.


Uncle Pat, at left in

his official U.S.

Navy photo and

above having some

fun while deployed

in the South Pacific,

served overseas

from Oct. 20, 1943,

until July 30, 1945.

In March 1942, as America was ramping up for

war in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack, the Navy

formed an outfit called the Seabees. The construction

battalions consisted of tradesmen who could be deployed

individually or in units as the specific project’s scope and

scale dictated. The Seabees received their basic training

with the U.S. Marine Corps, and some Seabees would often

accompany landing forces. Uncle Pat liked to tell his nieces

and nephews the Seabees were the ones who would have

the coffee and donuts waiting for the marines when they


Uncle Pat would have cut an impressive figure in



The motto of the Seabees was “We Build. We

Fight.” The logo printed in the "The Cruise Record of

95th Naval Construction Battalion" in World War II

adds: “We must. We shall. We will.”

A more personal description comes from an

account in the Atlantic Monthly magazine reporting on

three Australian nuns who were freed when the U.S.

military took control of Apamama Island. Edgar L.

Jones reported the nuns said grateful prayers each day

for the U.S. Navy Seabees who were quickly building

an air base on the forgotten corner of the Gilbert

Islands. “To these three sisters, isolated for many years

in a native mission, the Seabees,” Jones wrote, “are

gum-chewing galahads, saints on bulldozers, laughing,

souvenir-crazy, benevolent Yanks who brought them

the twentieth century, complete with refrigeration.”

The Seabees and their bulldozers went on to

the Marshall Islands, Iwo Jima and finally played a

part in the final act of the war on Tinian Island. They

were groups of construction workers, skilled in making

the impossible happen … it just took a little longer

than the difficult. They were not so skilled at military

discipline. Their history comments that whether on

land or sea, they “are probably the despair of the other

more stringently regulated GI branches of the armed

forces, particularly the regulation-loving Army.”

Members of the 95th were often in harm’s

way, but their history lists only one member killed

during World War II. F.R. Jaramilo, SF3C, died April

25, 1945, when the bulldozer he was operating hit an

enemy mine on Iwo Jima. Fifteen others were

wounded on Iwo, with nine awarded the Purple Heart.

The Cruise Record booklet published for

members, family and friends concludes with an

Nearly 29,000 men

served in Seabee

battalions during

World War II.

Almost 300 were

killed in action and

another 500 in jobsite


anonymous poem titled “Have You Ever.” The stanzas


Have you ever sat sat through a a picture show

While the rain seeped into your trouser, Joe?

Have you ever labored in in mildewed clothes

Or stepped on a lizard with naked toes?

Have you ever stood ’till you thought you’d choke

In In line for ice cream or a glass of of coke

Only to to hear the familiar shout,

“We’re sorry, mates, but we’ve just run out.”

To be just a little more specific,

Have you ever been to to the South Pacific?”

Have your ever wakened in in chilling fright

To the awesome sounds of of the tropic night?

Has your skin ever turned a yellow-green

From the daily dose of of atabrine?

Has sweat ever dripped on your writing pad

While you penned a letter to to Mom or Dad?

Have you ever been tempted to to moan or sob

At the fate of of a lonely, land-based gob?

Have you ever wished you could strip down bare

And roll in in the snow way back there?

If If you don’t think THAT would be terrific

You’ve never been to to the South Pacific.

Uncle Pat, at far right in second

row, was in 6th Platoon,

C Company of the 95th Navy

Construction Battalion.


Above, a photo from the history of the Seabees' 95th

Battalion identifies Uncle Pat as one of those digging up

confiscated enemy paint on Roi-Namur in the Marshall

Islands. At right, Uncle Pat, in the foreground, takes a

seat on a captured Japanese gun in the Marshall Islands.

his Navy uniform as part of 6th Platoon, Company C, 95th

Naval Construction Battalion. When he entered the service

April 16, 1942, he was a 6-foot, 175-pound man of muscle

with gray eyes and black hair.

He was 32 years old when he joined the Seabees,

who were initially made up of skilled laborers who

volunteered to serve. Men were given advanced rank and

pay based upon experience, making the Seabees among the

highest-paid in the U.S. military. The average age was 37.

When some men as old as 60 were able to join despite an

age limit of 50, a presidential order ended voluntary

enlistments. The new Selective Service process resulted in

younger recruits with only basic skills.

Uncle Pat’s foreign service in the Pacific Theater

lasted from Oct. 20, 1943, to July 30, 1945. As he was

preparing to embark, maybe from California or Hawaii, he

received the news he had become a father. Uncle Pat and

Aunt Catherine were blessed with their daughter, Mary

Kathryn, in 1943. Uncle Pat had to be informed by

telegram, simply addressed to the Fleet Post Office (FPO)

in San Francisco, as the family did not know exactly where

he was stationed at the time. Mary Kathryn was born in

what came to be known as Albert Einstein Hospital in

North Philadelphia, even though her mom was living in

West Philly. In 1943, the hospital was simply known as the

Jewish Hospital.

One of Uncle Pat’s first stops overseas was Roi-

Namur in the Marshall Islands. The Marshall Islands

campaign included a series of battles fought from

November 1943 through February 1944. As the Marshalls

were taken, the Seabees built naval bases, fortifications and

airfields on the various islands to prepare for an assault on

the Marianas. One picture from those times shows Uncle

Pat sitting playfully with two others on a captured Japanese

gun. Another shows him unearthing a cache of Japanese

paint as part of a group that includes the 95th’s commander,

William L. Johnson.

His next stop was Iwo Jima. That battle raged

from Feb. 19 until March 26, 1945. Though ultimately

victorious, the American victory came at a terrible price.

According to the official Navy Department Library website,

“The 36-day assault resulted in more than 26,000 American

casualties, including 6,800 dead.” Again, the Seabees

worked alongside the marines clearing jungle and building


A series of photos

show Uncle Pat with

other members of the

Seabees. They were

an outfit with a

reputation for getting

things done ... while

not necessarily

observing strict

military discipline.

fortifications, airfields and naval bases. “The Japanese

defending the island could not retreat and would not

surrender. Marines would have to fight them cave by cave;

the flamethrower was the most effective weapon on Iwo

Jima. The last two Japanese defenders finally surrendered

Jan. 6, 1949, almost four years after the war ended.”

As the war progressed, with a deadly invasion of

Japan looming, Uncle Pat was sent to Tinian Island in the

Northern Marianas. He and other Seabees began bulldozing

just days after the island was secured. Six runways were

completed within two months, and Tinian soon became the

biggest airbase in the world. This time, the runways were

much longer than what the Seabees were accustomed to.

No one initially would say why, but the reason soon

became apparent. At the same time, the Seabees built docks

to accommodate ships such as the USS Indianapolis, which

was steaming to Tinian to deliver components for “Little

Boy.” The atomic bomb was the focus of the top-secret

mission, with Hiroshima as its target. The extended

runways were designed for the long-range bombers that

would carry the payload to Japan. The Enola Gay would

take off from Tinian on its infamous journey Aug. 6, 1945.

The Japanese unconditionally surrendered after a second

atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later.


Uncle Pat, second from left, joins other Seabees in front of the 95th CB Sign Shop, probably on Iwo Jima.

In the meantime, after the Indianapolis had completed her mission, she

sailed for the Philippines. But shortly after midnight on July 30, 1945, she was

torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and sank quickly. Because of the secrecy of the

mission, a rescue attempt was not immediately launched. Nearly 800 of her 1,200

crew lost their lives, many to sharks. That July 30 was the same day Uncle Pat’s

foreign service ended. The same rules on secrecy would have applied to the ship that

carried him toward home.

Sometime near the end of his service, Uncle Pat contracted malaria. After

he was discharged on Oct. 7, 1945, he had to spend six months in the Naval Hospital

in Philadelphia. For the rest of his life, Uncle Pat would suffer from the dreadful,

mosquito-borne disease. He would sometimes wake in the middle of the night,

shouting and in such a heavy sweat that Aunt Catherine would have to change the



Aunt Catherine originally took in boarders in the house on 47th Street. One

of them was a photographer, who used to practice his craft with Mary Kathryn when

Uncle Pat came home from the

service to see his daughter, Mary

Kathryn, for the first time. She is

shown at 9.5 months.


Mary Kathryn, shown with her mother in August 1944 and father in 1948, was her parents' only child. She was born

when Uncle Pat was shipping out for his service during World War II. Below, she is 4 years old.

she was an infant. Eventually, with Uncle Pat off to war, the

house became too much for Aunt Catherine to handle with

a young child. She sold it and moved in with her mother on

Van Kirk Street.

After the war, Uncle Pat and Aunt Catherine spent

the late 1940s and early ’50s raising both Mary Kathryn

and the family’s economic status. As the family’s situation

improved, they would move to more affluent

neighborhoods. But they would stay in close proximity to

Kate Heraty and Ange, as well as the families of Ange’s

two sons, Ed and Joe. Ed Rodriquez even purchased Uncle

Pat and Aunt Catherine’s house on Colgate Street.

Extended family would regularly gather at Kate’s

for Sunday dinner. Mary Kathryn remembers those meals

always included her Uncle Ed’s family. Uncle Joe was

living in Buffalo by then. “We were always encouraged to

include boyfriends and any other friend to join us,” Mary

Kathryn says. “(Her grandmother) would make tons of

roast chicken. It was the most missed tradition when she

died. It was always loud and fun and, of course, time for

adults to indulge in their ‘high balls.’” She says her cousins


Uncle Pat and Father-in-Law Ange Rodriguez built 'a beautiful summer cottage' in Ortley Beach, N.J. It was the first

of two houses they built together. The photos are from 1967 of a house they moved to across from the original cottage.

still talk about those times with wonderful memories.

“After I got married, I carried the Sunday ritual to my home

and all were welcomed,” she says.

Uncle Pat and his father-in-law built two houses

together from the ground up – the first at the New Jersey

shore and the second in the Bustleton section of Northeast


They would work in their spare time after their

jobs and on weekends. Uncle Pat bought an old bread truck

that they would drive to the lumber yard, brickyard or

plumbing-supply store, load it up and trundle back to the

job site. They would do everything, except for the finish

work on the masonry. Uncle Pat and Ange would dig and

set the cinderblock for the foundation. They were skilled

carpenters and would do the framing. Likewise, they would

put in all the plumbing and electric lines. They would even

install the cabinetry and fixtures, as well as take care of the


At some point, Aunt Catherine’s mother and

stepfather had purchased a house in Ortley Beach, a barrier

island at the Jersey Shore near Toms River. The house had a

vacant lot next to it that Uncle Pat bought as the site for his

first housing project. Much of the inside was knotty pine.

Mary Kathryn remembers the house as gorgeous. “A

beautiful summer cottage,” she called it. Ange later bought

a larger house across the street, and both he and Uncle Pat

sold their smaller cottages. In his daughter’s eyes, the new

house may have had more room, but it wasn’t half as cute

or charming as the one her father built. In 1962, the “Ash

Wednesday” storm ravaged the Atlantic Coast, including

Ortley Beach. By this time Uncle Pat’s family was in the

Pat and Ange pause for a moment while building his

family's home in Bustleton in the early to mid-1950s.

larger house across the street from the old cottage. It did

not sustain any damage, but the rest of the community was

not so lucky that March. The beach was a total disaster in

the wake of the three-day nor’easter, one of the largest of

the century. Pieces of houses were everywhere; roofs were

completely ripped off. Mary Kathryn’s most vivid memory

of the storm is of a toilet sitting in the sand in the middle of

the beach.

The second house Uncle Pat and Ange built

together was on Foster Street in Bustleton. Mary Kathryn

thinks the family lived there from her days in seventh to

11th grade, probably 1955 until 1959. They moved to

Glendale Street in 1960, when she was a senior in high

school. She attended St. Hubert’s High School for girls on

Torresdale Avenue. Her cousin Owen Gallagher would


Photos from the Bustleton construction site show Uncle Pat at work in May 1953; with Mary Kathryn; and with

Aunt May, Ange Rodriguez and Uncle Pete.

A 1955 DeSoto Fireflite sits outside the Bustleton home

in April 1955.

marry another St. Hubert’s graduate, Lynn Keough, in


Uncle Pat and Aunt Catherine were very friendly

and helpful toward their neighbors. However, social

activities would almost exclusively have been with family,

including Uncle Ed and Uncle Joe. Mary Kathryn

remembers times spent with cousins Connie, Mary, Rita,

Steven and Janice were always fun. Trips to Riverside Park

in New Jersey with Aunt Delia’s family, the O’Briens, also

are well remembered.


Uncle Pat and Aunt Catherine came to love world

travel. And Uncle Pat took a liking to first class. When

Mary Kathryn first started working for Allegheny Airlines

(later US Air) she had the benefit of earning free air miles.

She and her roommate Kathy liked to vacation in San Juan.

One time, they asked her parents to join them. Aunt

Catherine was a little hesitant. But Uncle Pat kind of liked

the idea and was eventually able to convince his wife to

come. Since it was a special trip, Mary Kathryn arranged

for them to fly first class. The airlines had male first-class

stewards who wore white jackets and served champagne.

They treated the family royally. Uncle Pat couldn’t get

enough of the special treatment and exquisite service. Both

he and Aunt Catherine had a terrific time.

In 1966, Mary Kathryn was able to get her parents

tickets for a trip to Ireland on TWA out of JFK Airport in

New York. At first, Uncle Pat was reluctant to go. He felt

things would have changed too much in the old country. He

wouldn’t have that many people to see who would

remember him. And most important, his mother had

passed away. But as the time for the trip grew closer, he

warmed to the idea. Everything about the experience turned

out great. Uncle Pat very much enjoyed his time in

Cornaroya, where a brief notice in the June 30 Connaught

Telegraph noted that “Mr. and Mrs. Paddy Gallagher” were

staying with his brother Owen. The paper noted it was

Uncle Pat’s first trip home in 25 years and his wife’s first

ever visit to Ireland.

At the time of the visit, there turned out to be

plenty of old acquaintances for Uncle Pat to see, especially

Willie Walsh. Willie and his brothers and sisters lived just

down the boreen from the old Gallagher home. Peter

Gallagher (Next Door) was just to the left of the old

cottage, with the Walshes the closest house on the right.

When Mary Kathryn arrived a few days after her parents,


Uncle Pat is in the yard outside the old Gallagher home, right, and shed, background, in Cornaroya during his trip

home to Ballinrobe in 1966. It was the first time he had gone home since emigrating in 1930.

Above, Uncle Pat is outside St. Mary's in Ballinrobe

in 1966. The photo at right is from the family's visit

to Italy that same year. At left, Uncle Pat is with

childhood friend Willie Walsh in Galway. Uncle Pat

had the nickname 'Cop' growing up. His brother

Jim was 'Jep' and Willie was 'Web.'


Mary Kathryn, third from left, is surrounded by her cousins at

a 1951 party celebrating Mary Theresa's First Communion.

From left are Mary Theresa, with her Toni Home Permanent

Doll; Patsy; Mary Kathryn; an unidentified friend; John; and

Pete, with his dog Lassie. In the back at the photo at right from

the same party are Uncle Pete, Aunt Delia and Uncle Pat. In

front are Aunt May and Aunt Catherine, seated next to Mary

Theresa's doll. On the mantle is a photo of Aunt May's sister

Delia (Tierney) Hannon. Below, Mary Kathryn celebrates her

First Communion.


Above is Mary Kathryn

in 1960 and at right

graduating from St.

Hubert's High School in

Philadelphia. Far right,

Uncle Pat and Aunt

Catherine are with

Uncle Jim, Uncle Tom

and Aunt Ann at their

nephew John O'Brien's

1967 graduation from

La Salle in Philadelphia.

Willie Walsh picked her up at the airport. In 1930, Willie

had been one of the last people to see Uncle John in

Kilmaine the night he was killed on his bike. Willie would

have been about a year younger than Uncle Pat and a year

older than Uncle Jim. All in all, the trip was fantastic, and

Uncle Pat and Aunt Catherine could not wait for their next

excursion. Soon they were using Mary Kathryn’s air miles

again and again. They flew to Copenhagen, Rome, Spain

and Mexico.

They couldn’t get enough of it.

On a visit to Rome, a naïve Mary Kathryn saw a

few boys fishing coins out of the Trevi Fountain. She

thought they looked like they were having fun, talked with

them for a few moments, and decided to try it herself. The

next thing she knew, she heard sirens and noticed the

Polizia heading in her direction. An older man grabbed her

arm and told her to quickly come with him. A moment later,

the officers stopped them and questioned the gentleman. He

replied, with an unusual air of confidence, “Sir, you have

insulted me. This is my wife and we are out for our evening

stroll.” The police apologized and allowed the pair to go on

their way. The gentleman then reprimanded Mary Kathryn,

stating, “It is illegal to take coins from the fountain; you

will get yourself arrested!”

It turned out the man was the famous Italian

movie director Franco Zeffirelli. At the time, he was

directing Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in 1967’s

“The Taming of the Shrew.” Zeffirelli gave Mary Kathryn

his card and told her, “If you can be at this studio on this

date, I will give you a spot as an extra in my movie.” Of

course, Mary Kathryn was thrilled and rushed back to tell

her mother. But Aunt Catherine was having none of it. She

did not want her daughter to work with some Italian movie

director. Aunt Catherine decided they had seen enough of

Rome and should be moving on to Spain. So Mary

Kathryn, her acting career shattered, had to be satisfied

with the knowledge that Franco Zeffirelli had saved her

from la prigione.

In another story from Italy, a friend of Mary

Kathryn’s, Rose Mary, was dating an Italian count. This

count was going to the Italian academy awards and wanted

Mary Kathryn and a friend of his, Gustoff, to double date.

Mary Kathryn, however, did not like Gustoff. So, Rose

Mary convinced the count to arrange a different date. He


Above are sisters-in-law Aunt May and Aunt Catherine

in the 1970s. At right are Uncle Pat visiting Florida in

1967. With him in the bottom photo is Father-in-Law

Ange Rodriguez. The middle photo is at Cypress

Gardens, which was replaced by a Legoland in 2011.

found a French actor who was a friend of his and much

more acceptable to Mary Kathryn. It turned out that actor

won the award for the best male actor. That evening they

went to several banquets and had their pictures taken and

were interviewed by several magazines. Rose Mary and

Mary Kathryn didn’t want to let on that they were flight

attendants on leave from the airlines, so they pretended to

be sisters touring Europe with their parents. Mary Kathryn

never saw the actor again. The next morning, Uncle Pat and

Aunt Catherine had tickets to a Mass with the Pope. Rose

Mary and Mary Kathryn overslept.


When he wasn’t globetrotting, Uncle Pat worked

as a machinist at the DuPont Company’s Grays Ferry

Avenue Plant in South Philadelphia, which made consumer

paints. Uncle Pat used to take the “El” (elevated train) to

work every day. Mary Kathryn can remember her father

working all three shifts.

He was also the neighborhood handyman,

wherever they were. He would help neighbors with

anything – carpentry, plumbing, roofing and painting. If

anyone had a problem, he was there.


Uncle Pat and Aunt

Catherine share a

birthday cake with their

grandson Shawn.

Mary Kathryn remembers the family owning only

one car. When they would visit family in Wilmington, they

would take the train or cousin Francis Sheridan would drive.

For a family with a penchant for world travel, the

Gallaghers of Philadelphia did not travel to Wilmington all

that often. But that rarity made the times when they did

come to visit all the more important. Among the visits were

the marriages of Uncle Jim and Aunt Catherine in 1958 and

Pat O’Brien and Leon DeAscanis in 1965, and Uncle Pete’s

son’s college graduation. Pictures and video from the events

show the brothers and sisters interacting as if they were still

living together along the boreen in Cornaroya.


By 1982, Mary Kathryn began noticing a decline in

her father’s health. When she would inquire of her mother

about what was wrong, Aunt Catherine would assure her

everything was fine. Several injuries, including a fall from a

ladder and an accident with a lawnmower, sent Mary

Kathryn to the library researching her father’s symptoms. It

didn’t take long for her to realize he had Parkinson’s


When she went to her mother to inform her, she

discovered Aunt Catherine had known the diagnosis for

some time but had not shared the information because she

didn’t want her daughter to worry. Mary Kathryn almost

immediately brought her parents to Florida, where she could

spend more time with them.

A few years after arriving in Florida, Aunt

Catherine fell ill. She was in the hospital sick for seven

weeks, with Mary Kathryn visiting daily. The day came

when Mary Kathryn had an interview scheduled with U.S.

Air. She initially decided to cancel the interview, but her

mother, as always more concerned about her daughter than

herself, convinced Mary Kathryn she would be fine and

insisted she go to the interview. Aunt Catherine died Aug.

18, 1985. Her obituary notes that her survivors included her

stepfather, Ange, then living in Port Charlotte, Fla.; her

three brothers, William Oliver in Tempe, Ariz., Ed

Rodriguez in Clearwater, Fla., and Joe Rodriguez in

Buffalo, N.Y.; and her sister Patricia Oliver, still in


Uncle Pat’s health had gradually worsened, but

when Aunt Catherine passed away the decline accelerated.

She was his whole world. It was as though he lost the will

to live.

A few months after Aunt Catherine passed away,

her memorial stone was delivered and set in place in Sylvan

Abbey Cemetery in Clearwater. Mary Kathryn remembers

that as her father stood over the grave, he said, “Catherine,

I’ll be with you shortly.” That was the last day Uncle Pat

walked. He passed away a few months later, on June 4,

1986, in Pittsburgh. Pa., where he was living with his

daughter. When writing Aunt Mary to inform her of her

brother’s passing, Uncle Jim simply said, “He died from the

same thing mother had.”


Mary Kathryn has two sons, Shawn and Patrick.

Both were adopted and both were adored by Uncle Pat and

Aunt Catherine. Like any grandparents, they would have

spoiled them as young children and watched proudly as

they grew up. When their health was failing, Uncle Pat and

Aunt Catherine would have been blessed by spending time

with the then-teenage boys and Mary Kathryn in Florida.

Their mother remembers Uncle Pat telling her he

was sorry he once opposed Aunt Catherine’s desire to adopt

because he feared he couldn’t love that child. Mary

Kathryn said he confessed to her he had made a huge

mistake. He said he couldn’t have loved her two boys more.




Uncle Pat and Aunt Catherine were married in January 1941. From left are Aunt Catherine's brother

William Oliver, her cousin Marie Heraty, an unidentified man, Aunt Catherine's sister Patricia, the groom

and bride, an unidentified woman, and Best Man Uncle Tom.

When she was born in 1914, Aunt Catherine

was the youngest of three children of William and Kate

(Heraty) Oliver. Her brother William was the firstborn,

on Sept. 14, 1910. Patricia was second, born in

1912. While Catherine was still a young child, her

father became ill with paralysis and died April 22,

1921. Kate Oliver did her best to keep the family

together, working as a seamstress and taking in

boarders. But eventually, doctor bills and other

expenses became too much.

In February 1920, William went to live

briefly with his Aunt Mary (Heraty) Corbitt in

Philadelphia. Patricia and Catherine soon went to stay

in Williamsport, Pa., with their Aunt Sarah (Heraty)

Sullivan, who had two young children of her own at

the time. The moves allowed Kate more time to work

and more room for boarders at their home on Carre

Avenue in Essington, Tinicum Township,

Pennsylvania. One of those boarders was a helpful

young man of about 18, who had emigrated from

Santander, Spain, in 1916. Angel Rodriquez would

quickly notice Kate needed help and began to assist in

whatever ways he could. Angel was called Ange by

family and friends.

When William Oliver passed away in 1921,

Kate began to rely more and more on Ange. The two

became very fond of each other and married that same

year, even though Kate was 20 years his senior. The

marriage helped stabilize the family, and Patricia and

Kate were able to return home. But their brother went

to Ireland and stayed for about seven years. He initially

stayed with Kate’s mother and other Connor family

members near Westport, Ireland. While attending

school until sixth grade, he was registered as Liam

O'Connor. He then went to work, eventually living

with his Aunt Nora and Uncle Peter Gavin near the

Mayo, Galway border before returning to America in


Kate and Ange Rodriguez would have two

children together, Edward and Joseph. The family

would soon move into Philadelphia, living on Perk

Street by 1930.

By then, Ange was working as a motorman

for the Electric Company and later for the Philadelphia


At left is Catherine Oliver on what appears to be the Atlantic City Boardwalk in the 1930s. At right is her

Uncle Ed Heraty. He immigrated to America from Ireland in 1906.

Transportation Company. In the early 1920s, rubbertired

technology improved to a point where trolley-car

manufacturers had developed a flexible vehicle that

could avoid motorists and other obstacles. This mode

of transportation carried fewer passengers than a

streetcar but offered more frequent service without the

capital outlay for tracks and equipment. In 1923, the

Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company purchased 10

“Rail-Less” vehicles to test their effectiveness. The

first generation of the vehicles, also known as Trolley

Coaches or Trackless Trolleys, resembled a trolley car

more than an electric bus. The Philadelphia Rapid

Transit Company would merge with several smaller

companies to form the Philadelphia Transportation

Company in 1941. This job allowed Ange to be a good

provider for his family. In 1940, Ange made $1,976,

more than twice the median income for a man that

year, which was only $956.

That was also the year Ange and Kate’s

daughter Catherine married Pat Gallagher, who had

arrived from Ireland 10 years earlier. Being born around

1902, Ange was younger than several of Uncle Pat’s

siblings. Uncle Pat would become very fond of his



We know very little of William E. Oliver’s

parents. His father, from Virginia, was also named

William; his mother was Rebecca Frame, originally

from Delaware. Among the scant information is that

William Sr. probably fought in the Civil War and that the

family was fairly wealthy. William E. Oliver was born in

Mount Vernon, Westchester County, New York, on June

23, 1871. William and Rebecca were Protestant and were

not pleased when their son converted to Catholicism and


The Heraty homestead is located near Westport and Crough Patrick in County Mayo, Ireland.

married Kate Heraty, then about 30 years old. They

were upset enough to disown their son.


Aunt Catherine’s mother’s family was born,

raised, married and buried in the shadow of Crough

Patrick. As a young girl, Aunt Catherine’s mother, Kate

Heraty, could walk out the front door of her family’s

small cottage and see the holiest mountain in Ireland.

Croagh Patrick (or The Reek, as it is locally

known) is renowned for its pilgrimages in honor of

Saint Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint. It was on the

summit of the mountain where Saint Patrick fasted for

40 days in 441 AD, and the custom of fasting there has

been faithfully handed down from generation to

generation. The Black Bell of Saint Patrick was a

highly venerated relic on Croagh Patrick for many

years. As late as 1840, you could still pass the bell

around your body three times (for the Father, Son and

Holy Spirit) to cure different diseases. Reek Sunday is

the last Sunday in July. The name “Croagh Patrick”

comes from the Irish Cruach Phádraig, meaning

“Patrick’s Stack.” In the Irish countryside, turf and hay

are traditionally stacked in open-air ricks similar to the

mountain’s shape.

Aunt Catherine’s maternal great-grandfathers

were both from the West of Ireland. John Heraty was

Aunt Catherine's ancestors were from the townland

of Owenwee.

born in Owenwee, a townland of Wesport. Peter

Connor may have been born near Galway and moved

to Laghloon, the townland adjacent to Owenwee. Peter

Connor married a local girl named Kitty Coyne. They

would have at least 10 children, including Aunt

Catherine’s grandmother, Mary Connor, who was born

in 1852.

Patrick Heraty and Mary Connor had eight

children: Bridget (1872); twins Patrick and Mary

(1874); Sarah (1877); another set of twins, John and

Kate, Aunt Catherine’s mother, (1874); Edward

(1882); and Nora (1891). Kate’s twin John died of

bronchitis at only one month old. There was no


medical attendant available.

Aunt Catherine’s Aunts Bridget and Nora and

Uncle Patrick would remain in Ireland all their lives.

* Bridget Heraty, born April 17, 1872, married Tommy

McLaughlin in 1900. They had at least seven children:

Joseph (1903), Thomas (1905), Catherine (1906), Bridget,

Mary, Sarah (birth years unknown) and John (1914).

* Patrick Heraty, born Feb. 23, 1874, married Mary

O’Malley in 1916. The couple had at least three children:

Mary (1916), Edward (1918) and Catherine (1919).

Patrick’s daughter Catherine married Austin Joyce of

Owenwee in 1944. She served as Uncle Pat, Aunt

Catherine and Mary Kathryn’s tour guide around Westport

in 1966. Patrick Heraty passed away in 1933.

* Nora, born Dec. 22, 1891, married Peter Gavin in 1913.

They had at least four children: Patrick (1915), John

(1916), Peter (1917) and Catherine (1919). They lived in

County Galway near the Mayo border.

Aunt Catherine’s mother, Aunts Mary and Sarah,

and Uncle Edward all immigrated to the United States in

the Philadelphia area.

* Mary Heraty was born Feb. 23, 1874. She immigrated to

America in 1894 and married John Corbitt in Philadelphia

in 1897. They had one son, James, in 1903. The family

temporarily took in Aunt Catherine’s brother, William,

when his father was in the hospital. Ed and Antoinette

Heraty, along with their daughter Antoinette, also lived

there at the time. She would also sponsor and house Aunt

Catherine’s mother Kate when she immigrated in 1902.

Mary (Heraty) Corbitt died July 25, 1930.

* Sarah Heraty was born Sep. 27, 1877, and emigrated in

1893. She married William Sullivan in 1915. They had

two children, Elizabeth (1917) and Howard (1919), and

lived in Johnstown, Pa. Sarah and William took care of

Aunt Catherine and her sister, Patricia, while their father

was in the hospital. Sarah (Heraty) Sullivan died July 29,


* Edward Heraty was born July 11, 1882, and emigrated

in 1906. He married Antoinette Flinn in Philadelphia in

1919, and they had three daughters: Antoinette (1920),

Marie (1922) and Eddy (1929). Marie was in Aunt

Catherine’s wedding.

Aunt Catherine’s mother was born at 10:30 a.m.

on Dec. 15, 1879. Kate Heraty’s twin brother, John, was

born three and a half hours earlier. John would only

survive five weeks, dying of bronchitis on Jan. 16, 1880.

Kate had about six years of schooling and could read and

write. She sailed for America out of Queenstown, Cork,

on Thursday morning, May 1, 1902.

On that day, Irish papers were optimistic about

Above, Mary Kathryn is at center with, from left,

Rita Rodriguez, Grandmother Kate, Mary Carol

Rodriguez and Grandfather Ange Rodriguez in a

photo from 1957. Below, she is with her

grandmother in 1966 at Ortley Beach, N.J.

peace talks in the Boer War, which would end later that

month. The Belgian steamer S.S. Rhynland, part of the

American Line, sailed from Liverpool, to Queenstown,

and on to Philadelphia. Captain Rogers reported

spotting the wreckage of a tug about 30 feet long on

May 4 at 8:05 a.m. about three days out of port. The

Rhynland brought 53 cabin passengers and 381

steerage passengers, including Kate, on this voyage. It

arrived at the pier at Philadelphia’s Washington

Avenue on Monday, May 12, after a stormy voyage.

Headlines in the Philadelphia Inquirer that day were of

efforts to help victims of a volcano on the Caribbean

island of Martinique; nearly 30,000 people died. In

Philadelphia, Kate stayed with her sister, Mary

(Heraty) Corbitt, who had sponsored her. Kate arrived

in her new country with $5 in her pocketbook.



Mary Kathryn has two sons, Shawn and Patrick Sullivan. Uncle Pat said it could not have been possible to love his

adopted grandchildren any more than he did.

Mary Kathryn has been with Dave Richardson for 26 years.

Shawn and Christena, above in

California, and below at their wedding.

Mary Kathryn, third from right, was part of the first scheduled US

Airways flight to Dublin. At left is the mayor of Dublin. At right is a

sculpture of a flying pig, created to support victims of conflict in Kosovo.


“The Irish are the greatest people in the world.

Direct descendants of God Almighty.

They are blessed with exceptional intelligence,

courage, good looks and all other qualities

which make for success in America.”

Anonymous, from a confident note about the Irish

found with family pictures kept by Uncle Jim





Uncle Jim with his sons Pat and Owen at the fountain at Josephine Gardens in Wilmington's

Brandywine Park at Easter 1963. Below is Uncle Jim in 1931.

When he arrived in America in 1949, Uncle Jim’s first priority

was to find a job. He told the story of how he was walking past a gravel

yard in Wilmington and thought that was work he could do.

“I can shovel gravel as well as any man,” he recalled. “I went

to inquire and was hired and told to start work on Monday. Monday

came and I went to work, but it was raining and no one else showed up.

In Ireland, if you didn’t work every time it rained a little bit, you would

never accomplish anything. So I had the day free; I figured I better go

find another job.”

He did find another job, at Krueger Brewery behind St. Francis

Hospital. Uncle Jim never went back for Day Two at the gravel yard.

The story is an example of several key aspects of who Uncle

Jim was. He was a person who understood the virtue and dignity of hard

work. And, above all, his showing up in the rain shows the sense of


Uncle Jim with his sister Nora and his friend Jack Moran in front of

Jack's Ballinrobe home, probably in 1931.

responsibility he carried with him from his time in

Ballinrobe to his days raising a family in Delaware.

Uncle Jim was born a middle child, the eighth of

twelve, and the fifth of seven boys. He could have been

overlooked in a large family, but by the time he turned 19,

he would be called on to take a lead role in the home. He

would choose to remain in Ireland to help provide and care

for his mother and father until they died in 1942. Within a

few years of their passing, Uncle Jim would turn over his

job at the nearby Convent of Mercy to his sister’s husband,

leave the family farm to his brother, say goodbye to Ireland

forever and make his way to America. Within a decade of

his arrival, the man whose own family arose out of the

despair of 19th century Ireland would marry a pretty nurse

from Hockessin whose ancestry touched William Penn, the

American Revolution and the U.S. Civil War.


Uncle Jim was born Aug. 8, 1911, although he

would always say he had two birthdays: the one in August

when he was actually born and a second Oct. 11 when he

was officially registered with the civil authorities.

Whichever, he would remember the year as the one when

Britain’s House of Lords lost the veto power over the

House of Commons, which among other consequences

made Home Rule in Ireland all but inevitable. Also in 1911,

the population of the Civil Parish of Ballinrobe had

continued a dramatic decline that began with the Great

Famine. In 1841, the population had been 10,115. By 1851

it was 9,326; in 1911, Uncle Jim became one of only 4,651.

Uncle Jim was baptized at St. Mary's Catholic

Church the day after he was born. The sponsors were his


Uncle Jim sits outside the family home in Cornaroya in 1931. Aunt Delia

was visiting from America at the time.

oldest brother, Michael, and cousin Sarah Gallagher, his

sister Delia's best friend. Like his brothers, Uncle Jim went

to the School of Christian Brothers in Ballinrobe (up until

he was 12 years old, when he finished Primary School,

Sixth Class). He and his brother Pat were very close

growing up. His best friend was Willie Walsh, who lived

just down the “boreen” in Cornaroya. When they were

young, Uncle Jim’s nickname was Jep and Uncle Pat’s was

Cop. Eugene Gallagher’s brother Tommy was about a

dozen years younger than his cousin Jim. He looked up to

him with a feeling of pride and security. “When I walked

through town with Jimmy, I felt as if I were walking with

God,” Tommy recalled.

Uncle Jim never missed Sunday Mass, with one

exception. He told his son Pat the one time occurred back

in Ireland, when a tinker’s donkey got stuck in the river and

was going to drown. Uncle Jim and his brother Owen were

on their way to Mass when they came upon the unfortunate

situation. They stopped to help save the donkey, but by the

time they freed the animal it was too late for church. The

brothers apparently did give a tinker’s damn.

Uncle Owen had many stories to tell about his

brother when Jim’s son Owen visited Ballinrobe during his

1993 honeymoon with his wife, Lynn. One was of losing a

foot race to his much stronger older brother “Jimmy.”

Another was of Uncle Jim and a second man bringing a

load of books to the convent. The sisters told Jim he and his

coworker should hurry back and they would get dinner at

the convent. But the other man decided to eat his meal

where they picked up the books for delivery. Uncle Jim

patiently sat in the vehicle and read one of the books for

about an hour while the other man satisfied his appetite.


When they finally got to the convent, the other man was

ready to unload the books right away, but Uncle Jim made

him wait until after he had a chance to eat his own dinner.

Uncle Jim, like others in the family, lived by the rule that

he would never take advantage of anyone and would not

tolerate anyone trying to take advantage of him.

During their 1993 visit, Uncle Owen showed

Owen and Lynn the nuns’ cemetery around the back of the

Convent of Mercy. There they got a surprise greeting from

Sister Carmel, who Uncle Owen thought had gone away

for the day. She said she saw the threesome walking around

the grounds and recognized young Owen because of how

tall he was. She shared a humorous story of Uncle Jim once

digging a grave after one of the nuns had passed away. He

was using the rocks dug up clearing the plot to build a

nearby wall. As the sweaty work proceeded, a small group

of nuns gathered around to watch Uncle Jim dig through

the difficult soil. More sisters continued to gather as he

toiled under the hot sun. At one point, Sister Carmel

recalled, Uncle Jim paused and looked up at the sisters. He

asked kindly who would be “the next to oblige us” with an

opportunity to dig up more rocks. Sister Carmel chuckled at

the memory.

The nuns said they wondered how they ever got

along without the Gallagher men and Aunt Nora’s husband,

Pat Murphy. They remembered when Uncle Jim had once

noticed lights moving inside the convent’s school as he was

heading home from town about midnight. They said Jim

knew something was wrong, waited for the kids to come

out the door, then chased after and caught one of them. He

was taken to the priest, but the police were never called.

Uncle Jim’s rule about others trying to take advantage

extended to friends, family and employers.


By 1930, Uncle Michael had died of tuberculosis

and Uncles Pete and Pat had gone to America. When Uncle

John was killed in a fall from his bicycle that September,

Uncle Jim would leave working in the bogs forever and

take Uncle John’s place at the convent. At the time, our

grandfather was 65 years old and our grandmother would

have been dealing with Parkinson’s disease, leaving it to

Uncle Jim to assume more responsibilities as the oldest son

still living at home. Aunt Nora would have helped with the

running of the house. Uncle Tom would have been only 16,

Uncle Owen 14, and Aunt Ann and Aunt Mary under age

10. This is where another rule came into play –


Uncle Jim remained with the family in Ballinrobe

Uncle Jim was 37 years old when he left Ballinrobe for

America in 1949.

until after his parents died, Aunt Nora had married Pat

Murphy and his younger sisters were grown. He had come

to the conclusion Ballinrobe economy and the family farm

could best support fewer people and reasoned it would be

easier for him than others to find work in America. So he

gave his job at the convent to Pat Murphy, left the farm for

Uncle Owen and finally headed for a new country in 1949.

He always joked he was a “Forty-Niner,” just 100 years too

late to strike gold. He did not come by ship, as his brothers

and sisters had. Instead, he flew TWA.

Emigrating was not a quick decision … nor an

easy process. By early 1947, Uncle Jim was trying to get

approval for the move. He received a letter that March from

the American Consulate General in Dublin informing him

that because of the thousands of applicants for visas, the

process was facing months of delays. The letter pointed out

that “immigration laws require an alien to prove that he

would have adequate assurance of support for an indefinite

period in the United States, aside from any employment that

might be obtained.” The letter advised him to submit one or

more affidavits from people already in America “who are

willing and able to establish that you are not likely to

become a public charge if admitted (into the country.)”

On July 19, 1948, Uncle Jim was informed all his


Uncle Jim's ticket receipt and baggage claim show he

was aboard TWA Flight 903 from Shannon to New

York in February 1949 with possessions totaling 18

pounds. After his arrival, he stayed on the third floor

of his brother Pete's bar in Wilmington. Shown

sitting on the steps is his nephew Pete, who nine

years later would be in Uncle Jim's wedding party.

paperwork was in order – so far – and his application for a

visa to become a permanent resident of the U.S. was

“satisfactory.” But he still had to wait to be scheduled for

an appointment to make his formal, in-person application in

Dublin. “No advance assurance can be given that your visa

will be issued, even if all your documents are complete, as

it is not possible to determine whether you are qualified in

all respects until you have been formally examined.” Uncle

Jim had those words of warning to worry him until his visa

was formally approved months later after he was “fully

examined” during his consular appointment at 15 Merrion

Square in Dublin.

It was the following February that he boarded

Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc. Flight 903 from

Shannon to New York. The air fare was $317.50. His

baggage tag indicates he brought only 18 pounds of

possessions with him as he headed for his new life. He was

greeted in America on Thursday, Feb. 3, 1949, by his

brother Tom.


In the U.S., Uncle Jim first stayed with Uncle Pete

in Wilmington, briefly living above the family’s bar,

Gallagher’s Pub, at Front and Franklin streets. It was at that

address where he received mail from the U.S. Immigration

and Naturalization Service. Patsy (O’Brien) DeAscanis

remembers Uncle Jim bringing her an Irish Rosary in a

white leather case with “From Cobh” stamped on it and a

lanyard stitched round with orange. It was a gift he

purchased for her before leaving Ireland. She gave it to

Uncle Jim’s daughter, Margaret, when Uncle Jim died.

Along with finding a job, one of Uncle Jim's first priorities

in America was to organize his brothers and sisters there to


help Aunt Nora and her new husband buy their own home

back in Ballinrobe.

Later in 1949, Aunt Ann arrived in America and

moved in with Aunt Delia's family at 610 N. Van Buren St.

in Wilmington. In November, Uncle Tom purchased a home

at nearby 611 N. Broom Street, where Jim and Ann would

eventually join him. That Christmas must have been a

grand time, with five of the siblings reunited at the holidays

for the first time in decades. Patsy remembered Uncle Jim’s

reaction to the gift she received that year. She said that by

that time – she was 10 – she was growing out of wanting to

receive a doll from Santa. But this one was unique. “My

mother was the best gift-giver,” Patsy recalled. “It was as

tall as I was. A great big rag doll, with big yarn braids. And

Uncle Jim … I can still see him standing in the hallway to

the living room and laughing at that doll and commenting

on the size.”

Another memory of Patsy’s from the time was of

her Uncle Jim intervening when she and brother Johnny

were asking their father to take them to see a cowboy

movie. To their surprise, Uncle Jim offered to take them, so

off they went on the No. 8 bus to Market Street and The

Grand Theater. Once there, Uncle Jim changed the plan a

bit. He bought only two tickets to the cowboy movie and

explained he would be next door at Loew’s Aldine Theater

watching a different movie. Patsy remembered him walking

her and Johnny into The Grand to see where they would be

sitting, then he told them he would come back when their

movie was over. And so he did. On the way back to the

corner bus stop, Patsy said she looked at the Loew’s

marquee to see what was playing, and there was a poster

for the movie “The Asphalt Jungle” featuring an alluring

young Marilyn Monroe. That led Patsy to think that she had

a very modern uncle, to be sure.

By the early 1950s, Uncle Jim, Uncle Tom and

Aunt Ann were living on Broom Street, and Aunt Delia and

Uncle Mike had moved to 27th Street. As a distraction

from the multiple jobs they worked, Jim, Tom and Ann,

who all had an affection for horse racing, would often

travel to various racetracks before Uncle Jim was married.

One of their favorites was Saratoga in New York. In later

years, Uncle Jim would always watch the Triple Crown

races with his sons. They can also remember going to

Delaware Park and Brandywine racetrack as a family.

On Nov. 11, 1954, Uncle Jim made the front page

of the Evening Journal newspaper, along with 75 others

who took part in a large naturalization ceremony that

Veterans Day in U.S. District Court in Wilmington. “We

welcome you,” Chief Justice Sutherland told the new

citizens, “because you have shown the will and the courage

When Uncle Jim first met Aunt Catherine in the 1950s

he was a brew master at Diamond State Brewery.

to seek in America the thing for which America has always

stood – equality of opportunity – the right to go as far as

your character and abilities will take you, in a land whose

idea is that the great and the small will be equal before the

law. No matter how far we fall short of reaching it, it is still

our ideal and we will strive to attain it.” Uncle Jim’s

certificate of naturalization lists his complexion as light, his

eyes blue, his hair dark brown, his height 6 feet and his

weight 166 pounds.

Uncle Jim’s first job in his new country was at the

Krueger Brewery, where his brother Tom and sister Delia’s

husband, Mike O’Brien, also worked for a time. From there

he moved on, at least by 1955, to Diamond State Brewery

at Fourth and Adams streets in Wilmington. He was a brew

master at Diamond State, which was eventually closed to

make way for the construction of I-95. From there, Uncle

Jim moved on to the DuPont Experimental Station, where

he was a millwright. His son Pat remembered his father

telling him that soon after starting at DuPont, he


for the four garage-door windows repeatedly shattered by

street-hockey balls; and a removable picket on a wroughtiron

fence to provide access from the backyard to the

cemetery behind the home to retrieve so many basketballs.

The last was in response to a friend of Pat and Owen's who

impaled his hand on the spiked top of one such picket while

climbing over the 6-foot fence.


Aunt Catherine worked in the Emergency Room at St.

Francis Hospital as a young nurse in the 1940s and '50s.

encountered a “back slapper.” The guy liked to go around

and smack people hard on the back and say, “How ya

doin’?” Uncle Jim didn’t much care for it and several times

asked the man to stop. But he didn’t. The back-slapping

went on for about a week, until Uncle Jim finally decided

he’d had enough. The next time the guy slapped him, Uncle

Jim kicked him in the “rear end” as hard as he could and

sent the man flying across the room. The guy never slapped

Uncle Jim’s back again.

Along with taking several secondary jobs in the

evenings, Uncle Jim worked at the Experimental Station

until he retired, perfecting many skills along the way, from

plumbing and electrical work to pipe-fitting and masonry.

At home he would fix anything that went wrong. He also

had a talent for engineering his way around many problems

created by his growing children. They included: attaching

protective metal guards around often-broken light bulbs in

the basement; a chicken-wire net to protect a neighbor's

flower bed from errant basketballs; Plexiglass replacements

It so happens that Pat Hannon was married to

Delia Tierney, the sister of Uncle Pete’s wife, Aunt May. In

the mid-1950s, Pat Hannon worked at St. Francis Hospital,

where Cathy Hoopes was the head nurse in the Emergency

Room. Fancying himself somewhat of a matchmaker, Mr.

Hannon saw the opportunity one March 17 to bring

together Miss Hoopes and Jim Gallagher, whom he knew

through Aunt May. He had informed Uncle Jim of his plan

in advance of a St. Patrick’s Day gathering, and once there

he danced Aunt Catherine over to meet her future husband.

As their relationship blossomed, it came time for

Uncle Jim to have Miss Hoopes meet his family. Aunt Delia

was the family matriarch, so Uncle Jim made arrangements

to bring his girlfriend to his sister’s house, where the

family, who did not yet know the woman’s name, waited

that Sunday with great anticipation. Aunt Delia’s daughter

Patsy had some trouble getting off work at the St. Francis

Hospital Emergency Room for the big event because,

predictably, the beloved head nurse there had already taken

the day off – for reasons unknown to Patsy. Patsy

eventually did find another nurse to take her place and was

home when the big surprise happened. Now, Patsy’s father

knew Cathy Hoopes as well. He had worked at the Krueger

Brewery, which was located behind St. Francis, and would

often bring injured employees of the brewery to the ER.

Uncle Mike was just as much in the dark as his daughter

about the girl Uncle Jim was bringing to meet the family.

When Uncle Jim and his friend finally arrived at the

O’Briens’ and the door was opened, Aunt Delia was startled

by her husband's and daughter's excited shouts of “Cathy!”

before Miss Hoopes was even introduced.


Aunt Catherine was born Nov. 26, 1920, to

Margaret (May) and Bayard Hoopes in Yorklyn, Del. The

family moved around, going to Deepwater, N.J., and

Wilmington before settling in Hockessin by 1930. She had

a younger sister, Ann, and two younger brothers, Francis

and George.


In 1934, Aunt Catherine, in hat at left, was among the last class to graduate from St. John's

School in Hockessin. To her left is her Aunt Elva's youngest sister, Dot Barto. At center is

Monsignor Grant, who had founded the school nine years earlier.

When Aunt Catherine made her First

Communion, the family lived at 1720

Hancock St. in Wilmington.


School pictures show Aunt Catherine in

1933 at St. John's in Hockessin, above,

and at left, at St. Ann's in Wilmington

in third and fourth grades.

Aunt Catherine, front row left, with her graduating class from

nursing school at St. Francis Hospital on Sept. 1, 1942.

A young Aunt Catherine relaxes with an unidentified friend.

Aunt Catherine spent time at the beach in Wildwood with friends

she knew from working at St. Francis Hospital in the 1940s. At

right she is with Dr. Bob Boyd and Denis O'Flynn, who may also

have been a doctor.

When living on Hancock Street in

Wilmington, Aunt Catherine attended St. Ann’s

school and church and made her First

Communion. After returning to Hockessin, she

went to St. John the Evangelist Elementary

School, which Monsignor Grant started in the

basement of the church on Valley Road. Father

insisted the students be taught by the Ursuline

nuns. There were only nine children in Aunt

Catherine’s graduating class, five boys and four

girls. Aunt Elva’s sister Dot Barto went to

school with Aunt Catherine. They were in the

graduating class in 1934, the same year the

school closed.

Aunt Catherine attended Ursuline

Academy for one year, 1934-35. When Conrad

opened in 1935, for seventh through twelfth

grade, she and most of Hockessin’s youths went

there. She went with her sister, Ann, who was a

grade behind. Their brother Franny would soon

follow. Dot Barto and her brother Roy also

attended. Aunt Catherine, who graduated in

1938, and her sister were members of the Oreads

Club, while Catherine also joined the

Commercial Club. Her yearbook said: “Katie

doesn’t like coca-colas and homework,

especially over the weekend. She also seems to

look forward to lunch period and bookkeeping

class. The piano furnishes an outlet for her

emotions. Katie professes a dislike for baseball

and expresses a wish that some people would

learn not to take such a long time to say so

little.” She let one person sign her yearbook, her

cousin Joe Halloran (Class of 1939).

During her high school years, Aunt

Catherine was also a member of the St. John's

Girls Athletic Association in Hockessin. In

addition to Catherine and her sister, the group

included Letty Gormley, Kathleen and Jeanne

McGovern, and Grace and Eleanor Touhey.

They would put on plays, hold fund-raisers and

sing at midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. A

brief story in the Wilmington Morning News

from July 1938 noted the group was having a

house party in Rehoboth, chaperoned by Miss

Cecilia Touhey.

After high school, Aunt Catherine

entered St. Francis School of Nursing. She

graduated Sept. 1, 1942, second in her class and

third in the state. She worked in the Emergency


Aunt Catherine's wedding party begins the short walk down Valley Road to St. John the Evangelist Church

for her marriage ceremony in 1958. From left are nurse and friend Lena Marinelli, ring-bearer Bart Gilson,

Bayard Hoopes, Ann Gallagher, Ann (Hoopes) Gilson and Dot (Hartman) Conticello.

Room at St. Francis Hospital in Wilmington, and at the start

of World War II was declared essential personnel by the

hospital. Aunt Catherine boarded at the nursing school

residence and continued living there after graduating. It’s

unclear why she and one other girl did so. It could have

been because of the distance from Hockessin to

Wilmington, the lack of a car, no bus service or the war.

Aunt Catherine kept a newspaper clipping from

her time as a nurse showing her working a blood drive in

1956. She also was mentioned in the News Journal in a

brief item in 1952. She was the driver of a car that struck a

girl walking at Ninth and Market streets in Wilmington.

Just to be safe, she took Barbara Silver, 11, of 3017 Van

Buren St., to St. Francis, but the girl was uninjured.

Aunt Catherine said nothing ever bothered her in

the ER except the one time her Grandfather George May

was hurt in a fall on the railroad tracks and brought in while

she was on duty. At the hospital, everyone called her Cathy.

Cathy Hoopes had a reputation for being kind to

younger nurses and for keeping her composure when events

got hectic. Once, a fellow nurse, Mrs. Francis DeJulius,

was brought into the ER on a stretcher with blood all over

the sheets after putting her hand through a barber shop

window. She had fallen while holding her young son and

was trying to protect him. Aunt Catherine was able to calm

the patient and those around her by asking her friend, in her

kindest of voices, “DeJulius, what did you do to yourself?”

Patsy remembers Aunt Catherine as totally

devoted to what she was doing but with the ability to

switch seamlessly from the professional to the personal. At

St. Francis, Patsy remembered, she was a hundred percent

Cathy Hoopes; when she left to get married, she was a

hundred percent Mrs. Gallagher. But even three or four

years after she left St. Francis, Patsy remembers a doctor,

frustrated because he couldn’t find a medicine he needed,

lamenting, “Where’s Miss Hoopes?”


After their St. Patrick’s Day blind date and

subsequent meeting of the family, Uncle Jim married Aunt

Catherine on a beautiful, sunny Sept. 6, 1958, in Hockessin.

The wedding party marched out of the Hoopes’ farmhouse

and made the short walk down Valley Road to St. John the

Evangelist Church.

In addition to Bayard and Margaret Hoopes, the

parents of the bride, the wedding party included

groomsmen Uncle Tom, Aunt Catherine’s oldest brother

Francis and Uncle Pete’s son, Pete. The bridesmaids were

Aunt Ann Gallagher, Catherine’s sister Ann Gilson and Dot


The wedding party included, from left, Dot Conticello, Ann Gallagher, Ann Gilson, flower girl Mary Hoopes,

ring-bearer Bart Gilson, Uncle Tom, nephew Pete Gallagher and Franny Hoopes. Performing the ceremony

was St. John's Pastor the Rev. Anthony DiMichele. (See another wedding photo on Page 257.)

(Hartman) Conticello, a friend of Aunt Catherine’s from St.

Francis. The flower girl was Francis Hoopes’ daughter

Mary. (As an adult, Mary would always send her Uncle Jim

a St. Patrick's Day card.) The ring bearer was Ann Gilson's

son Bart. Among the guests were Eugene and Tommy

Gallagher, sons of “Peter Gallagher Next Door”; they had

recently come to the U.S. Of course, news of the

engagement had made its way back to Ballinrobe, where

Aunt Nora had written to Aunt Catherine saying how happy

everyone was “to know that Jim met such a nice girl.” A

video from their wedding day carefully captures the guests

lined up outside the reception at the Powder Mill and

includes the happy couple heading off for their honeymoon

at Niagara Falls.

For Uncle Jim and Aunt Catherine, children soon

started arriving: Pat in 1959, Owen in 1960 and Margaret in

1963. Aunt Catherine had retired from nursing to start the

family, but she was not forgotten at St. Francis. In 1963,

her Grandmother Jane McGovern passed away from an

illness while she was a patient there. The bill went to Aunt

Catherine’s father, who was unable to pay it and there was

fear the family could lose the farm in Hockessin. This

naturally had Aunt Catherine greatly upset. When the nuns

running the hospital learned of her distress, they tore up the

bill. It was never heard of again.

Pat was born while Uncle Jim and Aunt Catherine

lived in the Parklyn Apartments in Elsmere. But they

bought their own home at 43 S. Sycamore St. from Robert

and Eleanor Chambers on June 20, 1960. It was four

months before Owen was born. Uncle Tom ($5,000) and

Aunt Ann ($2,500) both gave their brother interest-free

loans, payable over seven years. Uncle Jim also borrowed

$1,300 from the DuPont Experimental Station Employee

Credit Union.

Their new neighborhood, Union Park Gardens,

was built in 1918 with the backing of the federal

government by the Liberty Land Co. The development at

the western edge of the city provided housing for

Wilmington shipyard workers during World War I. It was

modeled after homes in the English Garden Suburb

Movement. One example was Bournville, which the

Cadbury chocolate manufacturer built for its employees

around Birmingham, England, in 1900. The suburb was

designed like a village, with houses built of different sizes,

styles and materials. The Gardens were located in an area

previously known as Union Park, a shady area with a

merry-go-round, ice cream parlors, bandstand, baseball

diamonds and a football field. In 1916, Buffalo Bill’s “Wild

West Show” appeared there. Over the years, Union Park

Gardens became a desirable section of the city. In the 1960s


Owen and Pat join Pop-Pop Bayard Hoopes with his new dog in

Hockessin in 1963. Taffy was a gift from Uncle Jim's sister Aunt Delia.

From top, Aunt Catherine on the roof

of the St. Francis Nursing School; Pat,

Owen and Margaret in 1965; Dad with

the boys at White Crystal Beach,

Maryland, in 1963; and Owen's fourthbirthday


Above, Pat and Owen

with favorite toys while

Mom holds Margaret.

At left are a couple

cowboys in 1964.

Margaret seems a little

unsure of their ability

with their guns.


Uncle Jim reads the Sunday comics with his boys in 1962 in the

living room at Sycamore Street. At left are St. Thomas school

pictures of Pat, Owen and Margaret from 1970. At right are

their high school graduation photos from 1977, 1978 and 1981.

and 1970s, Wilmington required city firefighters and police

to live within city limits, resulting in many public servants

finding a home in Union Park Gardens, which was as far

away from downtown as city residents could get.

As children, Pat, Owen and Margaret played with

the neighborhood kids, went to the neighborhood Catholic

school (St. Thomas the Apostle) and made their sacraments

at the neighborhood church (also St. Thomas). Pat and

Owen were altar boys and knew every inch of the church,

including the maintenance crawl spaces below the stainedglass

windows and behind the radiators. Aunt Catherine ran

the library at St. Thomas Elementary School while her

children were there. And she was good friends with all the

Franciscan nuns, especially Principal Sr. Angela Patrice.

Those ties made sure her kids were on their best behavior.

They would walk to and from school every day ... up hill

both ways, of course. Union Park Gardens and the

surrounding areas were filled with children. The family

would picnic at Brandywine Springs and Lums Pond and

sometimes take day trips to Gettysburg or Fort Delaware.

But the trip looked forward to the most every year was to

Wildwood-By-The-Sea at the New Jersey shore.

The family would ride over the Delaware

Memorial Bridge to the beach the week before the Fourth

of July; the weather would be warm by then and the hotel

rates would not go up until the holiday week when the

crowds grew.

You always knew you were getting close to the

entrance to Wildwood on Rio Grande Avenue when you

could smell the ocean. It was the greatest smell in the

world. Uncle Jim and Aunt Catherine were always frugal.

In the early years, they would not rent a hotel in advance.

Rather, Uncle Jim would park the car and walk around until

he found a suite at a price he liked. Later, the family

became fond of the Charles Apartments, and Aunt

Catherine started renting a place there in advance.

Whatever the accommodations, they were always on the

south side of Fun Pier. The family would be on the beach

early and stay most of the day. Aunt Catherine would pack

a lunch and snacks. Uncle Jim's experience carrying sacks

of turf back in the bogs of Ireland must have helped him as

his job turned to lugging toys, chairs, towels and umbrellas

back and forth each day. Uncle Jim, who always kept well

covered from the sun, did get to listen on the beach to Jim


Left, Aunt Catherine with Pat and Owen, along the Brandywine River in summer 1962. At right, Uncle Jim sits

with Margaret and Pat at a party for Pat's eighth-grade graduation from St. Thomas the Apostle School.

Clockwise from above left: Uncle Jim rakes leaves

in the driveway of the Sycamore Street home with

1-year-old son Owen helping in 1961; a family

outing in the mid-1960s; Stockings bring surprises

for Pat and Owen on Christmas morning 1962.


Aunt Catherine with the children at the Charles Apartments in Wildwood.

Clockwise from top left: Uncle Jim and the kids build a backyard snowman; the family visits Uncle Tom and Aunt

Ann at Christmas 1967; and Aunt Catherine holds Pat at his first Christmas, in 1959, at the Parklyn Apartments in

Elsmere, Del. Uncle Jim signed a one-year lease for Apt. 2 in the Kansas building on Aug. 1, 1958. The rent was $80

per month; rents for Parklyn units today start at $800 per month.


Aunt Catherine with Pat and Owen dressed for Easter

Sunday 1963.

Bunning’s 1964 Father’s Day perfect game for the Phillies.

It was playing on a radio brought by someone sitting near

him. At the time, it was only the seventh perfect game in

Major League Baseball history. The Phillies defeated the

New York Mets 6-0 in the first game of a doubleheader at

Shea Stadium that June 21.

Two incidents still resonate from those years in

Wildwood. The first is a story Aunt Catherine fondly

remembered. Uncle Jim had just opened the back door of

the car and his kids had come pouring out onto the

sidewalk when an approving stranger stopped and told him,

“God bless the Irish.” It may have been Uncle Jim's accent

that inspired the blessing. The second incident occurred

with Uncle Jim’s purchase of two boxes of saltwater taffy

from a Boardwalk shop. The store had numerous boxes of

taffy on display outside, which the kids saw and of course

had to have. Uncle Jim picked up two boxes and purchased

them. What the cashier did not disclose was the boxes

outside were filled with sand to keep them from blowing

away. This was discovered only after returning to the

apartment. Uncle Jim never cheated anyone in his life and

would not tolerate anyone cheating him. He didn’t say

anything, just picked up the boxes and walked the 10

blocks back to the shop. There, he emptied the two boxes

of sand on the counter in front of the clerk and asked,

“Does that look like saltwater taffy to you?” When the clerk

said no, Uncle Jim asked, “Why did you charge me like it

was, then?” He returned with boxes that actually contained


Uncle Jim, Aunt Catherine, Pat and Owen stand outside

the O’Brien home at 508 W. 27th St. in Wilmington in

1963. In the background at right is Christ Our King



Back in Wilmington, Patsy DeAscanis

remembered the story of when Pat and Owen got their

tonsils out at St. Francis Hospital. Everything went smooth

for Owen, but Pat had a bad reaction. Patsy said it was the

only time she ever saw Aunt Catherine flustered. Pat does

not remember having a difficult time in the hospital. What

he does remember is when he and Owen returned home, the

family’s first pet was waiting for them. Uncle George

Hoopes and Aunt Marie had brought over a cat named


Aunt Catherine made life easy for her family in

many ways. She would make most of her own dresses on a

pedal-powered Singer sowing machine and kept a dress

form in the bedroom. Her children never went to the

hospital growing up, because Aunt Catherine, using her

training as a nurse, was always there to bandage wounds.

When neighbor Harry Farrell had a heart attack, his wife,

Mary, came running to the back door to get Aunt Catherine

that early morning.

The home on Sycamore Street had a Lester upright

grand piano in the living room. It was a huge family effort

relocating it from Hockessin to Wilmington. Uncle Franny

borrowed a truck, and many an uncle (both Gallagher and

Hoopes) helped lug it up the several levels of steps into the

house. Among other things, the piano proved a great hiding


Uncle Jim and Aunt Catherine together at their Sycamore Street home into the 1980s.

place for Christmas presents for many years.

In the evenings when Aunt Catherine might settle

in to watch TV or work on a puzzle, Uncle Jim could often

be found relaxing in the kitchen with his tea and toast,

usually covered in orange marmalade. He also enjoyed

watching Notre Dame football with his sons. If the team

was doing poorly, however, he would retreat to the kitchen

for more toast, marmalade and tea.

Uncle Jim would again make the newspaper on

May 12, 1977, this time with his nephew John O’Brien.

Uncle Jim had served on a jury the year before at a trial for

two men arrested on robbery and weapons charges in the

1975 holdup of the A&P market in the Miller Road

Shopping Center. John O’Brien was a deputy attorney

general for the state of Delaware at the time. The jury

found the defendants guilty. But several months after the

trial, John was talking with one of the defense attorneys

and mentioned that his uncle had served on that particular

jury. The attorney for the defense immediately generated an

inquiry with the Delaware Supreme Court. In the interest

of maintaining impartiality, the court overturned the

conviction. As a result, there is a statute on the books

specifically prohibiting family members of anyone working

in the Attorney General’s Office from serving on a jury. It

took four trials, including a hung jury and mistrial, before a

conviction of the pair of criminals finally stuck.

When the issue was being contested, a reporter

from the News Journal gave Uncle Jim a call asking for a

comment. Uncle Jim declined. But during the short call, the

reporter apparently noticed Uncle Jim’s Irish brogue and

asked if he detected an accent. Yes, Uncle Jim said, “I’m

from Texas.”

Uncle Jim’s accent was clear to the reporter, but

apparently not to Uncle Jim himself. One Christmas,

among the gifts under the tree was a tape-recorder. It was

used to record the banter as the family opened their gifts,

and the replay came as a revelation. As he met his relatives

that Christmas season, Uncle Jim was sure to tell them how

he was stunned to hear himself talk with such a still

obvious brogue. It really shouldn’t have been such a

surprise. He was among the few people you would meet

who would use a phrase such as “amn’t I” – as in, “Amn’t I

surprised by how I sound.” The contraction was a clear hint

that the speaker had spent a good deal of time in Ireland.


Above left, a photo from a sales brochure shows the home at 43 S. Sycamore St. when it was purchased in 1960. At

right, Uncle Jim works with Pat Boyle in March 1974 at the Dupont Experimental Station.

Another giveaway was the word “brogan” – as in

reminding his children again and again, “Get your brogans

off the stairs.” It's an Irish term for shoes.

One of Uncle Jim’s favorite Christmas presents

was the book “All the Olympians” by Ulick O’Connor. It is

about the Irish Literary Renaissance of the late 19th and

early 20th centuries, including works of poetry, music, art

and literature. The movement, which included a revival of

the Irish language, fostered talents such as William Butler

Yeats, John Millington Synge, Sean O’Casey, George

Bernard Shaw, James Joyce and Lady Gregory. Although

Uncle Jim had to leave school at 12 years old, he loved

reading, especially Irish literature and history, which he, his

parents and grandparents lived through so much of.

One of his least favorite presents was a book on

Winston Churchill, because of Churchill’s negative policies

toward Ireland. However, the book did serve as a teaching

exercise for Uncle Jim with his children. Uncle Jim would

talk about Churchill’s opposition to Home Rule and his

support for the partitioning of Ireland. Pat and Owen shared

their father’s interest and took a course in Irish History at

the University of Delaware. Not to imply living with Uncle

Jim gave them an unfair advantage, but they both got A’s in

the course.

After retiring from DuPont’s, Uncle Jim worked

for Richard and Stacey DuPont as a night watchman at

their estate on Old Barley Mill Road, near Hagley Museum.

As a present once, Richard DuPont gave Uncle Jim a very

nice, thick Irish blackthorn walking stick. It is one of two

Pat still keeps in his home. The other is a thinner

blackthorn stick that Uncle Tom brought home from

Ballinrobe in 1970.

Aunt Catherine eventually returned to her

profession. She worked as a private-duty nurse for Marie

Louise McHugh at her estate on the Kennett Pike. Miss

McHugh was sole heir to the Laffey-McHugh fortune, a

director of the family foundation, a philanthropist and a

germophobe. She would buy cases of Lysol, dish detergent,

tissues, paper towels and other cleaning products but use

only a little bit and discard the rest of the case. The

remainder was distributed among her aides. The Gallaghers

did not have to buy Lysol for many years.

Aunt Catherine passed away in St. Francis

Hospital on Aug. 12, 1991. She died of apparent heart

failure while awaiting surgery on her back. Patsy

DeAscanis was at the Sycamore Street home the next

morning and remembers Uncle Jim taking a moment from

his quiet grief to describe the former Cathy Hoopes as “a

woman without guile.” He also asked Patsy if her son Colm

would serve as a pall bearer. He had always given his aunt

a kiss when she visited. Aunt Catherine was buried in

Cathedral Cemetery, Wilmington, two days after she died,

on her son Pat’s birthday.

Less than a year later, on March 14, 1992, Uncle

Jim passed away at home from leukemia. He was buried

next to his wife, on St. Patrick’s Day.



Uncle Jim and Aunt Catherine had three children:

Pat Gallagher would work 30 years for the Postal

Service, most of the time in the Engineering Unit of the

Delaware Mail Processing plant, where he worked as

manager. He married Veronica (Ronnie) Roehsler on Oct.

20, 2000, at St. Thomas Church in Wilmington. They have

one son, James.

Owen Gallagher would work for 33 years at The

Press of Atlantic City in South Jersey as a writer and editor.

He married Lynn Keough, of Philadelphia, on April 23,

1993, at St. Thomas Church in Wilmington. They have one

daughter, Catherine, adopted from China.

Margaret Gallagher would work at Macy’s in the

Christiana Mall, managing the Housewares and Jewelry

departments. She married Richard Burkholder on Sept. 14,

1985, at St. Thomas Church. They had three daughters:

Jessica, Angela and Catherine. Angie married Jason

Chandler and they have one daughter, Poppy. Catie married

Drew Bergstresser. Margaret and Rick divorced in the late

1990s and she has been with Curt Robinson since.


Aunt Catherine’s parents were Bayard

Aloysius Hoopes and Margaret May. Her grandparents

on her father’s side were Jefferson Hoopes and Jane

Eastburn. On her mother’s side, they were George May

and Catherine “Katie” Gormley. Each family had a

unique and interesting history, some English, some

Irish, but all were from the British Isles. Some arrived

in America much sooner than others.

The first relatives to immigrate were the

Hoopes family, who came to the Delaware area in

1683 with William Penn and other Quakers. The

Eastburns, also of the Society of Friends in England,

arrived in Philadelphia from Yorkshire England in

1713. On Aunt Catherine’s mother’s side, the

Gormleys came to the Hockessin area from County

Tyrone, Ireland, about 1882, while the Mays arrived

from Wales around 1890.

Bayard Hoopes was born Aug. 7, 1896, in

Kaimensi, Del., near Stanton. His father, Jefferson

Hoopes, passed away when Bayard was only 8 years

old. Bayard graduated from high school in 1918,

possibly Salesianum. Aunt Catherine always said the

clergy in school called her father Aloysius. To our

generation of Aunt Catherine’s family, he was known

as Pop-Pop and his wife as Mom-Mom.

Immediately after high school graduation,

when Pop-Pop was 21, he had to register for the army

as World War I dragged on in Europe. In August 1918,

he reported to Camp Meade in Maryland. Three of

Pop-Pop’s future wife Margaret May’s cousins

(Charles, Francis and Joe Gormley) also served. All

four Hockessin residents were awarded the Victory

Medal on July 9, 1920.

Pop-Pop held many jobs during his life. One

of his first was at an ice station in Wilmington, around

Aunt Catherine’s family soon after the end of World

War II: her parents Bayard and Margaret (May)

Hoopes, with their other children George, left, Ann

and Franny, who had been a POW during the war.

Lancaster Avenue and Union Street. By the time he

married Mom-Mom, he worked for the Marshall

Brothers in their paper mill in the village of Yorklyn,

where the mills had such a tight grip on the town that

they owned two-thirds of the homes. Yorklyn’s tiny



country store was practically a company store, where

mill workers would do most of their shopping because

they could buy things on credit.

Mom-Mom was born May 11, 1897, in

Hockessin. She lived next to her grandmother Margaret

(Bigley) and Peter Lafferty when she was first born and

moved to the farm on Valley Road in 1905.

During the influenza outbreak of 1918,

children were dying so quickly that doctors would often

give their names to the undertaker when they got sick.

Hockessin’s undertaker, Alexander Guthrie, lived just up

the street from the May family on Valley Road. When

Mom-Mom was a girl, she would bring flowers to the

undertaker’s, and on one such visit she saw one of her

brother’s name listed. It’s unclear whether it was John

or George May who was ill, but thankfully the brother

did not pass away.

Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop were married Dec.

30, 1919, at St. John’s Church in Hockessin. They raised

four children: Catherine, Ann, Francis and George.

When first married, they moved to Yorklyn, to a house

on Benge Road, below Auburn Heights. Pop-Pop

worked at the mills. Their first two children were born

there -- Aunt Catherine on Nov. 26, 1920, and Ann (later

Gilson) on July 8, 1922. The family briefly moved to

Deepwater, N.J., where Franny was born May 31, 1925.

They then relocated to 1720 Hancock St. in Wilmington,

close to Brandywine Park. By 1930, with the Great

Depression under way, the family was back in

Hockessin, where Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop’s fourth and

final child, George, was born Aug. 26, 1932.

They rented a home on Valley Road for $18 a

month, and Pop-Pop was working as a bus driver.

Sometime in the 1930s, Pop-Pop started working in the

Marshall Brothers fiber mill, which soon became

National Vulcanized Fiber. NVF soon replaced the

snuff, grain and paper mills as the main industry in

Yorklyn. In 1940, Pop-Pop’s income was $1,007; the

median family income for that year was $956. He retired

from NVF as a machinist in 1961. By the late 1970s, the

cost of medical insurance had risen so much that his

pension no longer covered the bill and he had to write a

check to the fund rather than receive one, he told his

grandson Pat Gallagher.

After Mom-Mom’s mother, Katie (Gormley)

May, died in 1941, the family moved in with her

husband in her house on Valley Road. When George

May died in 1950, the house was left to their daughter,

Mary. However, Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop would live

out the rest of their lives there. The house was adjacent

Aunt Catherine, left, at her First Communion at St.

Ann’s in Wilmington. With her are brother Franny

and sister Ann.

to St. John the Evangelist's rectory, and Mom-Mom

took care of the pastor, the Rev. DiMichele, and the

church. She was a member of the Altar Society of both

St. John’s and later its replacement, St. Mary of the

Assumption, in Hockessin.

In December 1944, Franny Hoopes was taken

prisoner by the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge in

World War II. He was initially listed as missing in

action. When Mom-Mom first received the news, her

hair turned white almost overnight. Franny was freed

as the Americans eventually advanced into Germany.

Sometime around 1970, Pop-Pop’s talented

grandson Bart Gilson drew a sketch of the weatherworn

barn at the Valley Road farm. At the time, there

was an old saw-horse in front of the rustic building.

Pop-Pop didn’t want it to interfere with Bart’s

drawing, so he laid it on its side so it would be out of

the way. Bart must not have realized Pop-Pop’s intent,

or thought the saw-horse added too much artistic

value, because the saw-horse (on its side) made it into

the drawing.

Later in the 1970s, a man named Gerald

Fuller came to the Hoopes’ home. He said he was

writing a book on the Hoopes family and wanted to


The Hoopes family children in about 1933. Clockwise from

left: Ann, Catherine, Franny and George.

Aunt Catherine’s parents Pop-Pop and Mom-

Mom are dressed for their wedding on Dec. 30,


Above, Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop in about 1950; at

far left, Mom-Mom in the late 1910s; left, Pop-

Pop in his World War I Army uniform, possibly at

Camp Meade, and in about 1950.


Left, Aunt Catherine’s brother Franny around 1945; at right, Aunt Catherine with her brother George in front of

their Hockessin home.

interview Aunt Catherine’s father, who was living alone by

then. Bayard Hoopes invited him to spend the night, which

frightened Aunt Catherine and her sister when they heard

about it. They had visions of an ax murderer spending the

night with their father, but there was no such drama. Fuller

did eventually publish his book in Texas in 1979 … actually a

three-volume set titled “The Hoopes Family Record for Nine


The books make no mention of the rhubarb the

Hoopes family grew in a patch close to their barn. Aunt

Catherine’s son Pat, however, does remember it tasting very

tart. He liked it very much when he was young, but doesn’t

recall having rhubarb again until visiting Ireland in the 1990s.

In Ballinrobe, every cousin seemed to be serving rhubarb pie

and tea. It must be an Irish treat.

Mom-Mom died Feb. 9, 1968, and is buried along

with many other family members in St. Patrick’s Cemetery in

Ashland. After her death, a holy water font in her name was

installed at St. Mary’s in Hockessin in recognition of her

service over the years. St. Mary’s was dedicated in 1965 after

the closing of St. John’s. The font was the only one in St.

Mary’s dedicated to a specific person and remained for many

years just inside the left door as you entered the back of the

church. When it was removed during a recent renovation,

Pastor Charles Dillingham gave the font as a gift to Mom-

Mom’s grandson Pat Gallagher.

Pop-Pop died Sept. 19, 1983, and was buried next to

his wife in St. Patrick’s.



sister Ann

(Gilson) on the


beach near

Hunt’s Pier in

the 1950s; left,

her brother

George when he

graduated from


High School.


Aunt Catherine, seated, with her siblings Ann and George in the

field next to their Valley Road home in Hockessin.

Aunt Catherine with her mother in

Atlantic City in the early 1940s.

Above, the Hoopes family is together for Christmas

1957 in Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop's dining room in

Hockessin. From left are Aunt Mary, Ann Gilson,

Grandmother McGovern, Aunt Catherine (with dog

Curly), Pop-Pop, Mom-Mom and George Hoopes. At

right, are Aunt Catherine's parents outside the back

of their Valley Road home in the 1930s.


The family gathers in 1959 for Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop’s 40th wedding anniversary. From

left are Aunt Mary May, George Hoopes and his wife, Marie (Matlusky), Uncle Jim and Aunt

Catherine holding their newborn son Pat.

Aunt Catherine's sister, Ann, married Joseph

Gilson in May 1950. They had four boys,

Bart, Mike, Joe and Phil.

Aunt Catherine climbs a tree with a

friend in the mid-1930s.




William Penn, Revolutionary War and a Gun Shot

The Hoopes’ ancestral home was the village

of Great Moorshol, Yorkshire, England. Because of

religious persecution by the British Crown, Joshua

Hoopes (Aunt Catherine’s six-times great-grandfather)

and his family set sail for the New World on The

Providence of Scarborough, the 13th and last of

William Penn’s ships. After weeks at sea, they arrived

at the mouth of the Delaware River on Nov. 9, 1683.

The family settled in Bucks County, Pennsylvania,

where Joshua obtained 100 acres of prime farmland.

He went on to serve in the Pennsylvania General

Assembly, which, along with the House of Burgesses

in Virginia, was one of the first attempts in America to

form a representative government.

Despite being Quakers, Aunt Catherine’s

Great-great-great-Grandfather Nathan Hoopes (Joshua

Hoopes’ great-grandson) and his brother Thomas

fought in the American Revolution. Thomas was the

second and Nathan the third of eight brothers. They

both served as privates in the Chester County Militia,

which included 16 battalions and 130 companies

organized by community, with brothers and neighbors

fighting in the same company. Nathan and Thomas

were in the 4th Battalion, Goshen Township 3rd


Aunt Catherine’s paternal grandfather,

Jefferson Hoopes, was the second-youngest of nine

children. By age 16, he was already working as a

weaver in the Kiamensi Wool Mill in Newport, Del.,

with his older brother John and sister Margaret. We

have a copy of a letter of recommendation written for

Jefferson Hoopes by the president of the Kiamensi

mill, Thomas Pilling. It calls him a “sober, honest and

industrious man” and “cheerfully recommends him to

anyone needing his services.”

Jefferson Hoopes was first married at age 22

on Feb. 13, 1879, to Miriam “Mame” Baldwin. The

family lived in Kiamensi, where the wool mill was one

of the largest employers in the Mill Creek Hundred.

Jefferson and Miriam had one son, Roy, born

in 1880. He was killed by an accidental gun shot on

Sept. 13, 1893. The accident occurred while he was

playing with a friend, William Briggs, outside the

Hoopes’ home. They had an old revolver, which was in

Aunt Catherine’s paternal grandparents Jefferson

Hoopes and Jane Clementine Eastburn at their

wedding in 1894 at St. Ann’s in Wilmington.

disrepair. Roy was resetting the target when Briggs’

hand slipped on the hammer and the gun discharged.

The bullet struck Roy in his right side, passed along

the breast and entered his heart. He died immediately.

The Evening Journal reported he had the largest

funeral the area had ever seen, with all of the public

school children attending. His mother died that Dec.

20, after being stricken with paralysis five days earlier.

Jefferson Hoopes was re-married, to Jane Eastburn, the

following year.


Continental Congress, Civil War and Bible Riots

The Eastburns also came from Yorkshire.

Robert Eastburn (Aunt Catherine’s seventh greatgrandfather)

married Sarah Presto, on March 10, 1693.

The couple had nine children -- including their third

son, Samuel, on Feb. 20, 1702 -- and immigrated to

America in 1713. They settled in Montgomery County,

Pennsylvania. Samuel traveled widely in Pennsylvania


and New Jersey in the ministry of the Society of Friends

and also served in the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

He wrote an anti-slavery letter to the Continental


“All mind the wisdom of God that by it you may

be ordered and order all things under your hand to

God’s Glory. He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling

in the Fear of God, and he shall be like the clear shining

of sun after rain. Set the Negroes at Liberty. – The

ground of all Laws is Reason. Impose no Law or Test

upon any. Tax Pride and Luxury, Embrace all

opportunity to make Peace. Blessed are the Peace

Makers, they shall be called the Children of God.



7th Month, 1778

Samuel Eastburn

Samuel Eastburn died Christmas Day 1785.

Bayard Eastburn, Aunt Catherine’s greatgrandfather,

married Mary Mulrine. The Mulrine family

provides Aunt Catherine with part of her own Irish

heritage. Mary Mulrine was an Irish girl whose father,

Patrick Sarsfield Mulrine, was born in Donegal around

1828. He is Aunt Catherine's great-great-grandfather. He

immigrated to Philadelphia in 1847 at age 18, at the

height of the Irish famine. A tailor by trade, he served in

Company B of the 199th Pennsylvania Infantry

Regiment during the American Civil War. He died in

1882. He was named after Patrick Sarsfield, a lieutenantgeneral

in the Jacobite Irish Army with Catholic King

James II. That Patrick Sarsfield was a hero of the Battle

of the Boyne (1690) and later the Siege of Limerick

(1691). King James made him the first Earl of Lucan.

It’s unknown if he was any relation to Patrick Sarsfield


Patrick’s wife was Anna Love, who was born in

County Tyrone, Ireland, about 1827. She immigrated to

Philadelphia in 1843 at age 16. In 1844, she saw a mob

burn St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in

Philadelphia during the Nativist (Bible) Riots. She

watched until the cross fell. The riots were a result of

rising anti-Catholic sentiment spurred by the growing

number of Irish Catholic immigrants. Anna passed away

in 1909.

Bayard and Mary (Mulrine) Eastburn's

daughter Genevieve Clementine Eastburn (Jane or Jenny,

for short) was the first of five children. She became Aunt

Catherine’s grandmother.

A photo from the 1950s shows Aunt Catherine’s

father and his mother, Jane (Eastburn) Hoopes,

affectionately known as Grandmother McGovern.

To their right is the St. John’s rectory. To their left

is the pine tree that was cut down and used for a

Christmas tree at Aunt Catherine's home in the


Aunt Catherine’s six-times Great-Grandfather

Samuel Eastburn, a Quaker from Pennsylvania, wrote

this anti-slavery letter to the Continental Congress.


Grandparents Jefferson Hoopes & Jane Eastburn

By then a widower, Jefferson Hoopes

converted to Catholicism on April 1, 1894, at St. Ann’s

Church in Wilmington. He was 36 years old when he

married Jane Eastburn at St. Ann's four days after his

conversion. They had three children: Bayard (Aunt

Catherine’s father), William and Viola Marie. Viola

Marie was born Christmas Day 1903 but died less than

a year later, on Oct. 11, 1904, of spinal meningitis.

Jefferson Hoopes died July 26, 1904, at age 48 of

consumption, the same disease that would claim 21-

year-old Michael Gallagher 16 years later in

Ballinrobe. He was buried in St. James Cemetery in

Newport, Del. Adding to the family’s losses, Jane’s

father, Bayard Eastburn, who was living with the

Hoopes family at 829 W. Sixth St. in Wilmington, died

Dec. 4 1904. Jane had seen her father, husband and

daughter all pass away within six months.

After Jefferson Hoopes died, Jane’s brother

James came to stay with the family. Her sister Anna

and her daughter Mae soon followed. On May 3, 1916,

Jane married Louis P. McGovern, who had a child

from his previous marriage, Sarah Jane. Louis was 43

and Jane 41 when they were married but were together

for only three years when Louis McGovern died Jan. 3,

1919. Aunt Catherine always referred to her as

Grandmother McGovern. She raised Sarah Jane along

with her own two sons, Pop-Pop and Bill.

Aunt Catherine’s son Pat remembers

Grandmother McGovern living at the Little Sisters of

the Poor Home at Fourth Street and Bancroft Parkway

in Wilmington, across from St. Thomas Church. She

died in 1964 at age 88 and was buried in St. James

Cemetery in Newport. Pat can remember Uncle Tom

and Aunt Ann Gallagher staying with their young

nephews and niece while Uncle Jim and Aunt

Catherine attended the funeral.

At top is St. John's Church in Hockessin. The

rectory was next to the Hoopes home on Valley

Road. At right are Aunt Catherine's

Grandmother McGovern and Aunt Nana

Garvey, who were sisters. Grandmother Jane

McGovern was Jane Eastburn when she

married Jefferson Hoopes in 1894. After he died,

she married Louis McGovern in 1916.


From left, Pop-Pop, Mom-Mom, Grandmother McGovern, Aunt Nana (Eastburn) Garvey, Aunt Mary May

and George Hoopes pose on the couch of the family's Hockessin home.

Aunt Catherine with her Grandmother McGovern at

Christmas, above, and, at right, in front of the Valley

Road home in July 1952.




Sheep, Coal Mines and Emigration

Aunt Catherine’s maternal grandfather was George May. Like

his parents, grandparents and great-grandparents before him, he was born

in Fairford, Gloucestershire, England. Gloucestershire was sheep country

in southwest England, very close to Wales. It is likely George May’s

ancestors found some work as shepherds. The western valleys of nearby

Monmouthshire, Wales, had rich mineral resources that led to a mining

boom in the nineteenth century. This would have been very attractive to

young men in nearby Gloucestershire seeking a better situation for

themselves and their families. From 1801 through 1901 the population of

Wales went from 500,000 to more than 2 million. George May’s father,

Thomas, sought to take advantage of this and moved his family (wife

Mary Osmond and children Eliza, Sarah, George, William and Thomas) to

Wales. George May eventually tired of life in the coal mines and

immigrated to America around 1890.

George May married Katie Gormley

Sept. 25, 1894, at St. John the

Evangelist Church in Hockessin.

George May, Aunt Catherine's maternal grandfather,

and his brothers and sisters were baptized at St. Mary's

Church of England in Fairford, Gloucestershire. His

parents and grandparents were married there.

Aunt Catherine's sister

Ann Gilson sits with

Grandfather George

May in the family's

Hockessin home in the




A Large Irish Family, Wild West and Philadelphia A’s

The Mulrines provided Aunt Catherine with

the first part of her Irish heritage. The Gormleys

provided the second. Like the Gallaghers (12), the

O’Briens (11), the Tierneys (11), and the Heratys (8),

the Gormleys were a large Irish-Catholic family. There

were 12 Gormley children, nine of whom immigrated

to the Hockessin/Philadelphia area in America.

Cornelius “Neil” Gormley was born around

1813, probably in Drumlister, near SixMileCross,

County Tyrone. The Griffith’s Land Valuation in the

1850s showed Neil, a farmer, and three other

Gormleys, possibly brothers (Terence, Thomas and

Roger), with about 106 acres among them. The village

of SixMileCross gets its name from a stone cross that

stood on a hill northeast of the village. The cross was

six miles from the town of Omagh, the county seat.

Neil Gormley married Margaret Bigley on

Aug. 8, 1853. Neil was about 40 years old and

Margaret about 18. She was the daughter of Patrick

Bigley and Margaret Slain. The famine in Ireland did

not affect County Tyrone as much as some other areas,

but the population did fall by more than 15 percent. So

it would have been a significant presence in the early

life of Margaret Bigley and those around her.

All of Neil and Margaret Gormley’s children

were born in Drumlister. The eleven we know were:

Michael (1854), John (1856), Bernard (1858), Jane

(1860), Margaret (1862), Catherine (1864), Mary Ann

(1866), Agnes (Baptized as Bridget) (1868), Rose

(1870), Elizabeth (1871), and Neil (1873).

After her husband and two youngest children,

Elizabeth and Neil, passed away, Margaret immigrated

to Hockessin. She and her son Michael and daughters

Agnes and Rose came aboard the ship The City of

New York, arriving in New York on April 13, 1878.

Margaret was then about 45 years old. In all, nine of

her children came to Hockessin or southeastern

Pennsylvania in the 1870s and 80s. Catherine, or

Katie, who had been born in 1864 was Aunt

Catherine’s grandmother. She likely arrived in New

York with her sister Mary Ann on June 15, 1882,

aboard the ship Ethiopia.

By 1879, Katie’s mother remarried in

Hockessin, to Peter Lafferty, who had eight children of

his own. Peter Lafferty was a shoemaker by trade,

working at times in Wilmington and Hockessin. Aunt

Aunt Catherine’s maternal great-grandparents were

Neil and Margaret (Bigley) Gormley, from

SixMileCross, County Tyrone, Ireland. After Neil's

1874 death and Margaret's immigration to America,

she married Peter Lafferty, of Hockessin.


Sisters Ann and Catherine

Hoopes in the 1930s with their

maternal Grandmother Katie

(Gormley) May, also shown

below in 1894.

Catherine’s son Pat has an old cast-iron cobbler set

from around 1890 that may originate with Peter

Lafferty. Aunt Catherine’s father gave the set to Uncle

Jim, who regularly used it to repair his shoes.

Neil Gormley’s children and grandchildren

quickly established themselves in America. His son,

Bernard, certainly was blessed or cursed, depending on

your point of view, with the wanderlust. Bernard, then

16, emigrated from Ireland with his sister Jane aboard

the ship the State of Indiana. They arrived in New York

on Sept. 18, 1874. Bernard traveled west from Chester,

Pa., soon after arriving in the country, making it as far

as Utah. The West was still wild then. Custer’s Last

Stand was in 1876 and the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

in 1881. In an effort to locate him, his mother began

placing ads in newspapers around 1883. When Bernard

did finally return to Hockessin, he would help his

brother John build a store. But Bernard quickly

realized he didn’t like being a store clerk, and left

again. Ironically, his wife would eventually open a

family grocery. John and his descendants would turn

his store into a Hockessin fixture for almost 100 years.

Two of Neil Gormley’s grandchildren, James

(Bernard’s son) and Charles (John’s son), were talented

baseball players. They were invited by Connie Mac to

join the Philadelphia A’s American League baseball

team. Both declined the positions because their fathers

had died and they had to help in the family stores.

Baseball did not pay enough in the 1920s. Another

grandchild became a priest and two more became


Grandparents George May & Katie Gormley

George May converted to Catholicism on

Sept. 16, 1894, nine days before marrying Catherine

“Katie” Gormley at St. John’s Church in Hockessin.

His future sister in-law and her husband, Jane Gormley

and Frederick Gunn, were his Baptismal sponsors.

Katie’s maid of honor was her soon-to-be sister-in-law

Delia Guthrie, who would marry Bernard Gormley a

year later. George May’s best man was Katie’s

stepbrother Francis Lafferty.

George and Katie May initially lived next to

her mother and mother’s second husband Peter

Lafferty. They had four children: Mary, Margaret,

George and John. In 1905, the family bought the

property on Valley Road directly adjacent to St. John’s

rectory and church, paying $1,600 for the house, barn

and land. George borrowed the money from a

neighbor, John Mitchell.

Katie May remained very close to her

brothers and sisters. She took care of her older brother,

Michael, after his wife, Anna, passed away. By the late

1920s, Uncle Mickey was living with the family on

Valley Road. By then only John and George May were

living at home. Their sister Mary was with Father

Grant at his rectory and Margaret was married with a

family of her own, including young Aunt Catherine.

When they were first married, George May

worked in the clay yards along with Peter Lafferty. He

then worked as a snuff maker at the Garrett Snuff Mill

in Yorklyn, Del., for 20 to 30 years. The Garrett family


Mom-Mom’s sister Aunt Mary May, at left around 1910, was Monsignor Grant’s housekeeper from his time

as pastor at St. John’s in 1925 until his death. She then lived with her sister and Pop-Pop in their Valley

Road home, below. Mom-Mom is shown above right around 1910.

had constructed a water-powered snuff mill on the

banks of the Red Clay Creek in the late 1700s and the

village of Yorklyn sprang up around it and other mills.

George retired sometime in the 1930s, by which time

the Garrett fortune was over $30 million. Too bad they

didn’t have a profit-sharing plan. The Garrett Snuff

Mill closed in 1954.

Aunt Catherine remembered that her family

would receive letters from May relatives in Wales when

she was young, but the letters stopped coming around

1920. Attempts at further communication failed, and

the family in Hockessin felt that all of the family in

Wales might have passed away due to the influenza

outbreak. Pat remembers seeing three of the letters in

1983, when Aunt Catherine’s father died. The topic of

one letter was the sinking of the Lusitania.

Katie May died of heart disease Dec. 15,

1941, at age 76. George May died on June 8, 1950, due

to a stroke at age 85. They are buried in St. Patrick’s

Cemetery in Ashland, Del.

When Katie died, her nephew the Rev. John

McElvenny said the funeral Mass. There were nine

other priests present, including two future monsignors,

the Revs. James Grant and Charles Conway. It was at

that time the family bought the gravesites in St.

Patrick’s Cemetery, just a few feet from her mother and

brother John.

In the early 1900s, Aunt Catherine's maternal

grandparents, George and Katie May, lived in the

house on Valley Road that would eventually become

her home. When Aunt Catherine's grandparents

died, the house was left to her Aunt Mary. It

eventually belonged to Aunt Catherine's father,

Bayard Hoopes.

Margaret Lafferty had died in 1907. Her grave

does not have a marker, but it is located in the John

Gormley plot.



Pat and Ronnie Gallagher, left, and Owen and Lynn Gallagher vacationing in Lewes, Del.

Pat and Ronnie's son James

at Salesianum High School

and, at right, as a young


Owen and Lynn's daughter

Catherine's eighth-grade

graduation; at right is her

adoption photo and her

softball stance.

James and

Catherine get a

rare moment to

relax during a

trip to Disney

World in

Orlando in

August 2016.



Maggie and Rick Burkholder's daughters Jessie, Angie and Catie.

Above, Catie's wedding in April 2018, with her father,

Rick Burkholder, at left. The photo at right is Maggie

and Curt Robinson.

Angie, husband Jason

Chandler and daughter

Poppy, Uncle Jim's first


Above left, Catie and Jessie at the Wilmington St. Patrick's

Day Parade; at right are Catie and husband Drew



“What grace is meant to do is to help good people,

not to escape their sufferings,

but to bear them with a stout heart,

with a fortitude that finds

its strength in faith.”

St. Augustine's “City of God,”

a copy of which Uncle Tom kept at his bedside





Pictures from when he was a boy in Ballinrobe and from his brother Jim’s wedding in America show Uncle Tom in a

familiar pose – with his arms crossed. At the wedding, he is between his sister Delia and nephew John O'Brien.

There is a grainy picture from the 1920s of four

young children sitting on a wall somewhere in Ballinrobe.

Three are identified on the back of the photo as cousin

Tommy King, Aunt Mary and cousin Delia Connell. The

fourth, a boy between Mary and Delia, is listed as Tommy

Gallagher. In discussions of the photo, an initial thought was

the boy might be Eugene Gallagher’s brother Tommy, the

son of “Peter Gallagher Next Door.”

But it soon became clear that Tommy was our

Uncle Tom. Patsy DeAscanis was the first to recognize him

– “That shock of hair is how I remember him,” she said. The

other telltale sign was how the boy had his arms crossed in

front of him. It was a favorite pose recognizable from other

times and photos. It is the same one he strikes in a video

from his brother Jim’s wedding in 1958. Shortly after that

ceremony, Uncle Jim had the person with the video camera

pan across a lineup of his family attending the wedding,

apparently recognizing the opportunity to record a slice of

family history. There was Uncle Tom, stylishly dressed in

his tuxedo, with his arms crossed, a cigarette in one hand

and a confident, charming smile on his face. Patsy described

the look as “almost as if he is holding strong feelings inside

while appearing debonair from the shoulders up.”

That was Uncle Tom.

We don’t really want to call any one of the brothers

and sisters from his generation of Gallaghers a favorite, but

Uncle Tom would have to be in the running.

Uncle Tom arrived in America on

May 28, 1940. The following

January, he served as best man for

his brother Pat's wedding.



A ticket stub among Uncle Tom’s possessions

indicates that, less than six months after his arrival in

the U.S., he was present for what was called at the time

an “all-time classic” college football clash.

On Nov. 9, 1940, the U.S. Naval Academy

hosted the University of Notre Dame at Baltimore

Stadium. A crowd of 63,000, reported as the largest

since Army-Navy in 1924, packed the stadium at 33rd

Street. Another thousand people tried in vain to gain

admittance, offering as much as $15 for a ticket, which

was five times the face value.

Those fortunate enough to get in saw Notre

Dame run its record to 6-0 by defeating the

Midshipmen 13-7. However, the Irish would be shut

out the next two weekends, by Iowa and Northwestern,

before wrapping up the season with a 10-6 win over

rival USC in Los Angeles.

The game in Baltimore came down to the

final minute, with Notre Dame trailing by a point. The

game “held everyone spellbound to the final play at

sunset,” according to legendary sportswriter Grantland