Today there will be millions of people getting drunk. Most won’t be Irish. I debated going out tonight for the first time on St. Patrick’s Day then I realised, not only will a lot not be Irish, but a lot will be college students. That settled it. I have my Murphy’s here at home. I’ll be having a lovely meal with my husband at home.
The notion of getting drunk like the Irish has always bothered me. Aside from the fact that is a weird reason to get drunk, it’s a horrible stereotype. Oh sure, Ireland has it’s fair share of drunks but so do most countries where historically hardship has been the norm. I have found two drunks in my Irish tree. That’s it. And many more in the rest of the family tree. And no my family history isn’t full of drunks but you get the idea.
No, what I like to remember on St Patrick’s day is the journey many of my Irish ancestors took. The main thing is, if you have any Irish in you, you have some strong stock. There is a definite survival of the fittest in play. Though my dad, my sister, and I are from England my mum is American. My sister and I joined the many generations of my mum crossing the Atlantic. We had it easy though, the plane ride was hardly roughing it. There is a term to describe the ships that brought millions across the Atlantic in the mid to late 1800′s. Coffin ships. They were packed with people with all their meager possessions looking for a better life. Many didn’t make it. My great grandparents, Margaret Mary McGee and John Joseph Morgan did it when they were young. Not sure how old John was but from what I can gather from the genealogy Margaret was around 10. It looks like she was an orphan when she landed. There isn’t any record of her parents in the US. They were married in 1892 in Massachusetts and had four daughters and a son. Sadly John didn’t make it out of infancy. Their youngest Elizabeth became St. Dolerine. To be honest I’m not sure it was because she had a calling or it was expected of her. She was elderly when I met her and a tiny little thing who loved her Dunkin Donuts coffee.
I forget the date when Elizabeth became St. Dolerine but this picture was taken on that day. Margaret and John very proud of their daughter.
My great, great Aunt Margaret was someone I’d have liked to meet. My mum has a wonderful mind for finances and figures and I think she got a healthy dose from Aunt Margaret. She was one of 4 secretaries for John D Rockerfeller. Can you imagine the tips she would get! He would dash out and say buy this and that, sell this and that. Alas, she fell in love with someone who wasn’t Catholic. These days it isn’t such a big deal but back then it just wasn’t done. Her parents decided it was time for the three of them to leave Manhattan and head back to Massachusetts. I can’t imagine how hard it was for her but she did it with grace and went back to take care of her aging parents. In all the photos I have of her though she has a great smile. Like there there is a private joke.
My great grandmother was the eldest and I never got to meet her as she passed away 11 months after I was born and we were in England. We all call her Mary B as her middle name changed from Agnes to Bernadette after confirmation. She had a lot to contend with in life. Her eldest, my great Aunt Myrtle, was very sick as a child. She survived the scarlet fever and polio but it disabled her. So Mary B’s family eventually headed to Florida where the doctors said Aunt Myrtle would do better. By this time she was divorced and had to figure out how to make her way. Back in the day when the “little woman” needed a man to make the money decisions she was able to get a $10K mortgage to start a hotel. It ran for several decades. She was tough as nails but she is thought of fondly as she loved her children.
This picture is of Mary B and Aunt Myrtle.
Aunt Myrtle was full of vinegar! What a character she was. She gave the impression she would outlive us all. We think because of the scarlet fever she lost the ability to feel pain. Not very handy when you get old and you fall and break things. Mum brought her flowers once and asked where she kept the aspirin so she could put some in the water. She didn’t have any. No pain killers. Though that was dangerous as she never felt the cancer. She survived that as well. She loved to flirt with the husbands in the family and thought my dad was the bee’s knees. She took over the motel when Mary B passed away and kept it going until she couldn’t care for herself any longer. She lived until she was 92. She was the perfect example of not staying down when live knocks you down.
My Grammy, whom I am named after, was a spitfire. Her nickname growing up was Gingersnap. A very fitting name for her. Like her mother she was pretty tough. Once, kidding around, I had my arm around her and wouldn’t let go. I think I was 10 or 12. I got a charlie horse for my troubles. But she doted on me and my sister. She felt that my mum had lots of promise, that she didn’t need to view college as a place to find a husband and settle down. Grammy saw that mum hit the books after school. And she was right. Mum got into Cornell for nursing. Grammy was also an amazing cook. We have a lot of handwritten recipes from her which is so wonderful to have. She was a classy lady who knew how to have fun. For me she started the tradition of dancing in the kitchen while cooking. I’d like to think that tradition went back further to the previous generations.
This is my Grammy in High School.
My mum has carried on the tradition of these wonderful Irish women in fighting fiercely for their families and making sure we have all the opportunities to succeed ourselves. My mum has succeeded in life in a way that would make these women proud. It means their fight and journey to make a life for themselves and their families was worth it. My mum has shown my sister and me how to be strong, that is it is ok to be strong minded (as all the women have that in spades), and how to make our own way in life. From Margaret and John, who truly survived the unimaginable at times and forged a life together, we have a family tree with multiple cousins who all work hard and carry forward with the various successes but never forget the journey that brought us to this point. This is why I’m proud of my Irish ancestry.