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A time when we were the ones waiting for the cash from abroad

Francis Farragher

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Irish immigrants arriving on Ellis Island in the early 1900s for a new life in the United States. Photo: Courtesy Irish Times and Library of Congress.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

Through all the hullabaloo of recent weeks about the amount of money that being sent out of Ireland to the home countries of so-called ‘foreign nationals’ working here, I just thought to myself that some of us have very short memories.

We’ve had a troubled history here in Ireland from colonisations to wars and famines but despite a number of recessions and the infamous collapse of the Celtic Tiger back around 2018, we are in general a wealthy country.

That is not to say that we don’t have our ongoing problems, the most pressing of which is probably the homelessness issue, but the vast majority of our people are now highly educated; they are working in decent jobs; and they all have a reasonable chance of getting onto the housing ladder, even if that latter aspiration can be difficult near the bigger urban centres.

There was always a great tradition . . . nay, probably more of a necessity . . . back the generations of money and goods coming back from countries where often the main breadwinner had to move to foreign soils to earn the money that kept his family above the breadline.

The Great Famine or Gorta Mór, that peaked from about 1845 to 1851, is estimated to have claimed the lives of about one million people but it also set in train one of the great movements of people from a small country to different places around the world.

Somewhere in the region of two million people are estimated to have left Ireland during The Famine, the vast majority of them travelling across the Atlantic for new lives in the United States and Canada.

There was work there and consequently money, a significant amount of which had to be sent home, to keep the family they left behind in some kind of a position to maintain even a half-dignified lifestyle.

During a little trawl through some very informative data available from the Mayo County Library, historians estimated that during the latter half of the 19th century, the Irish in America sent $260 million back to Ireland, which one Dennis Clarke described as ‘the greatest transatlantic philanthropy of the nineteenth century’.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

Country Living

The strangest of summers takes another curious twist

Francis Farragher

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The late James Last’s Jagerlatein . . . the anthem of an Irish Summer.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

It’s stranger that things seem to be getting this year. There I was on a June Wednesday evening last week having a bit of grub after work when the TV was flicked on and amidst great contrived excitement the first English Premier League match for months was unveiled on Sky.

The feeling was more than a little unusual, something akin to listening to White Christmas or Frosty the Snowman on Midsummer’s Day, but for want of something better to do while the food was being consumed, an eye was thrown on the TV.

The rival combatants were Aston Villa and Sheffield United but for the best part of an hour this was the match where nothing happened . . . well apart that is from the Villa keeper carrying the ball over his own line only for Hawkeye to miss out on the goal because the post and a couple of bodies got in the way.

Playing in front of an empty stadium is probably not easy but on one of the channels, there was the option of adding in sound effects which were plyed with great gusto if the ball came even remotely close to either six-yard box. Here and there though, the producer didn’t get it right, with a massive ‘roar’ from the crowd as the ball trickled harmlessly wide.

I’ve nothing against soccer and for many years soldiered valiantly for my local club St. Bernard’s United but I do have lingering memories of how long – and at times how dreadfully boring – a bad game could be, a cause not helped by playing in goal and especially if your team was on top.

Those damn matches used to seem to go on forever. There was always a half-hour in getting ready when invariably a bootlace would break or a glove would be missing . . . each half always lasted 50 minutes with added-on time . . . while the interval breaks, especially on a cold winter’s day seemed to go for about 10 minutes too long.

But that was us. Junior journeymen in the great world of soccer and no one really expected us to be a Gordon Banks, a Bobby Charlton, a George Best or a Johan Cruyff. We pedalled our wares, did our best, and enjoyed a few scoops after the match.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Country Living

A time when many of us just miss saying that last goodbye

Francis Farragher

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

Maybe it’s an age thing, but for want of a better expression, I’m more into funerals than weddings.

We mightn’t do everything right in Ireland but in terms of giving a send-off to our loved ones, I think we tick a lot of the boxes.

Only in the last couple of months has this really hit home to me when the great Irish funeral tradition also fell victim to the coronavirus.

Friends and neighbours who I had known back the years just slipped away from us almost silently and without a hand being shook or a graveyard visited.

Once or twice, I’ve attended funerals in places like England where I always thought there was a coldness and lack of feeling about the final goodbye that was just . . . well pretty bleak.

There is of course no way of dressing up the Grim Reaper in bright clothes but yet there is something consoling for family and friends when a loved one gets a tender and loving send-off.

We all have to stop for death and even if we don’t, as Emily Dickinson put it, he will ‘kindly stop for you’.

Back the years, at the death beds of elderly relatives, I’ve been one of the group that recited Hail Mary after Hail Mary, and it’s a little prayer – even in my less than fertile spiritual periods – that does bring its own solace.

Maybe it goes back to that infant and early childhood link we all had with our mothers but there always seems to be just a little feeling of warmth and consolation in the second half of the prayer: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.”

There’s a sincerity of spirit and solidarity at Irish funerals with a poignant oscillation between joy and utter sadness as the event runs its course.

The playing of a favourite song at the church or graveyard can ignite an explosion of memories, and while the human finality of the occasion can never be overcome, the droplets of consolation from the fountains of friendship most of us can draw from, can be a help.

Over recent weeks – and indeed months now – there have been funerals of neighbours and friends that I (like everyone else) have missed because of the health restrictions.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Country Living

A country where dreams and nightmares invariably collide

Francis Farragher

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A different era maybe . . . but the spectre of racism is still part of American life.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

It’s been a strange few days in terms of the ways of the world. So, what’s new about that, one might ask, as we all begin to appreciate the little joys of greater personal freedoms, and hopefully, we at last begin to emerge from the worst part of the coronavirus curve.

May 25 is one of those dates that holds out a bit of special meaning for me, but this year it was one that produced a horrible piece of TV-video footage of a 46-years-old black man, George Floyd, being choked to death as a white police officer pressed his knee into the neck of the man he had arrested.

Five days later along the Salthill Prom, about 40 teenagers, whose behaviour had spiralled out of control, dished out horrendous abuse to Gardaí trying to break up a row that had started between two of them.

Both incidents, while differing greatly in terms of their conclusions, told a tale of massive cultural differences that exist between countries like Ireland and the United States. One based on courtesy and community co-operation; and the other with dangerous undercurrents of racism and violent behaviour.

The United States has to be one of the strangest countries on this planet. On the one hand, it is the land of creativity, hope, glory and dreams . . . on the other, a cesspit of intolerance, vicious racism, bullying and at times raw hatred.

Of course, it would be grossly unfair to tar all Americans with the one brush. There are large swathes of their population who are open-minded, fair, kind and charitable, but without doubt there is also a sizeable minority (well maybe even more) who are aligned to the notions of white supremacy.

The case might be made that some Americans are still prisoners to the culture of black slavery that can be traced back to 1619, when a Dutchman arrived with the first batch of captives on Virginia’s shores.

Slavery remained the status quo in America until the Civil War of 1861 to 1865 when President Abraham Lincoln officially proclaimed the end of slavery when he declared that slaves in rebel areas “are, and henceforward shall be free”.

Lincoln, though, paid the ultimate price for his campaign against slavery when he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth as part of a plot to try and revive the cause of the Confederate states in the South.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

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