The mission of LowellIrish is to collect and preserve the history and cultural materials, which document the presence of the Irish community in Lowell. As the first immigrant group in a city that continues to celebrate its immigrant past, LowellIrish will serve as an advocate to support a better understanding of the historical, political, religious, and social function the Irish played in the formation of the city.
The road to Hugh Cummiskey's homestead,
Crossan, Co. Tyrone.
I had to be in my early 20s.I was at St Pat’s Rectory and the priest asked if I’d help out the St
Vincent de Paul guys.Sitting around
the table were John Donahue, Arthur Cryan, and Mr. Heafey.At this time each had to be in his late 70s
or so, still handing out food vouchers and practicing the corporal works of
mercy.If you were a parishioner a
generation ago you would know these gentlemen, a term that accurately described
the trio.Arthur had this shocking white
hair and eyes that focused in on you.John Donahue was a single man who lived with his sister all his
life.He was always in a suit and hat
and sat with back straight.Mr. Heafey
was always Mr. Heafey.He was small in
stature and voice as well.His presence
though just command respect.They were
amongst the last of the old guard.
I was anxious to get out of there, but as was their custom,
they weren’t.Time meant something
different to them.Taking a seat in the
circle I listened in on their conversation.“Oh yes, I remember Brother Finbar,” one would say.“My mother often brought the Brothers food
when they lived on Varney,” the other would reply.“I had the early Mass and the maid would slip
me some breakfast,” added the third.The others would nod in agreement.Watching them I didn’t see three old men recalling days gone by, they
were there speaking as if it was a generation or more ago.The experience happened many years past, but
has stayed with me.
The fates destined me to grow up when and where I did.It was folks like the Arthur, John, and Mr.
Heafey that got me into all this.My Dad
was not an educated man in the academic sense, but knew more about early Lowell
than I do now.His stories started my
passion.Jack Flood can recall facts
from 80+ years ago that I need days to research.Little did I know that decades later I would
be gathering these stories for the next generation.Now I’ve become the one waiting to tell about
life in the Acre way back when.
So, my bags are packed, and I’m off once again to Tyrone,
where our story all began.How great it
would be if I could have shared it with those who lead me to this path.There have been moments in this project when
I wonder about how this has all come about.Even this year looking down the well in the front yard of St. Pat’s
there was a moment when I wondered.Who
stood here?Was it the gossiping women
gathering their buckets to do the laundry?Was it the Acre kids dropping stones to hear them hit the water?Was it Hugh resting as he patrolled the Paddy
Camps in his role as constable?
In a couple of days I’ll be at Hugh’s house at Crossan, Co.
Tyrone.We know far, far more about Hugh
today than we did a year ago.In a
week’s time we’ll probably know more.It’s
been an unbelievable year when you think of the work that has progressed from
Colm, the teams from Queen’s University and UMass Lowell, and folks like Walter
and so many others who are committed to uncovering the story of Lowell’s Irish
from Tyrone to the Acre.Follow along as