Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tyrone Dig - Day 2

Why did Hugh leave?  What was his experience like?  When you're standing at his homestead you have to ask yourself why would anyone leave here?  The countryside is like Paradise.  Why did my great grandfather leave Donegal?  The place too is awesomely beautiful?  What would drive someone to leave HOME?  In Hugh's case we don't know, but after today's visit to the Ulster American Folk Park, we have some informed ideas. 
We were met by Brian Lambkin and members of his staff who gave us some new perspectives on answering some questions we still have unanswered about Hugh.  Why Boston?  How was he funded?  Who was here to meet him?  When we return home,  we can put Walter to work on researching some unexplored territory.  By the way Brian has a great book on Irish immigration and emigration.  It's called Migration in Irish History, 1607 - 2007.
The Ulster American Folk Park is similar to Old Sturbridge Village, but with a unique twist.  You visit a number of homes which would be typical of Ulster in the 18th and 19th century.  Single room
house where cattle stayed right with the family were the norm for farmers in this area during this period.  The village also contains a Mass house where priest would gather people during penal times.  To be able to walk through an entire area of cottages like this, gives one a small sense of what Hugh (and our own ancestors experienced). 

Then you enter the booking office to get your ticket to board the ship.  The ticket could cost several weeks' wages.  Some landowners bought tickets for their renters just to get them off of their land.  For the next 6 weeks or up to 12 weeks, this would be your home.
Once you disembark you are in America.  The park has replicated or actually brought over examples of housing such as log cabins, early American barns, and a stone house.  What did Hugh experience?  Walter researched his Naturalization record showing him to be living in Charlestown running a brewery.  Very quickly he has jobs doing light engineering work.  What was his life like in Crossan to prepare him for this role in Boston, and within 5 years of his arrival, Lowell?
The more answers we get, the more questions arise.  Don't forget Hugh's story is our story.  What he experienced thousands of others also experienced.  Maybe your own?  I've reflected on this a bit.  We have no real certainty of my own Irish ancestors, just stories.  (Have you written them down?  Don't wait for your kids to ask you to do it.  Make it a unique Christmas gift.)  Since I don't know about my family, I am using Hugh's experience to help fill in the blanks in my family's story.

Working with the group I am in is an unbelievable pleasure.  I cannot tell you the wonderful bonding the folks have for each other.  BUT stress happens as it does in all families.  And this is where Colm finally has it out with Stewart.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for the wonderful description of your trip!