On this St. Patrick’s Day, I remember the Irish of Bradford County
By a daughter, Carol Brennan King
Susan, wife of Patrick Boyle, John Doherty, Timothy Hurley, Owen Carr, Patrick Hurley, Mary Lackey, wife of Jas. Mc Kanna, John Brinnin, Bernard Donahue, Johannah, wife of John Brinnin, and Margaret, wife of Michale Kirk buried one after the other in the State Road Catholic Cemetery.
I see the names and now the dates: 1848, 1851, 1854, and April 15, 1855, age 57 and Sept. 5, 1855, age 43, the last two my great-great-grandfather and great-great-grandmother. The years, days of a life lived, here and there, across the sea, in the homeland lettered down the sides of an obelisk, across the flat of a tombstone, Tipperary, County Clare, Meath, all in Ireland, the homeland where accents lilt as softly as the summer breeze.
Their words, once almost a song, turned of late into sad dirges dripping heartache, the heartache of immediate loss and more then, the agony of anticipated loss…never more to touch the soil that birthed them and those like them.
Quiet, they lie there at rest now – in the memories fading of those who followed them, those still wrapped in the names carried from Ireland. But there are other names, other relatives who died in the holds of what they hoped would be the ship carrying them to a new life. But too many died in the holds of those famine ships, the ships some christened “coffin ships.” There those who died on were wrapped in a tattered sail and slipped overboard in what the captain called a “sea burial” but what the mothers and fathers, the children, the lovers, called a night mare of the fiercest composition.
These here lying beneath Pennsylvania soil bore it all – the farewells, the American wakes where the living were remembered while they yet lived because they would never have any other proper Irish wake. No gathering of family and friends would while the night away, telling stories and singing songs of the good times shared with the Brennans and the Lynches and the Hurleys in Tipperary. Those sons and daughters of the Irish land would be mourned and buried in the quiet Pennsylvania way where the air is colder and thinner so…
I promise to remember you today John Brinnin, Johannah Brinnin, (my great-greatgrandparents and their infant son) wee Michael Brinnin and all your cousins and friends and neighbors who lie there at the edge of the Pennsylvania forest. I may not sing the songs you sang long ago in the heart of your homeland, but I will write you back into the land of the living so my children, your great-great-great grandchildren will know your name, will know you once laughed into the blue eyes of your child, once drank fresh buttermilk and ate tatie cakes baked on hot stones in the hearth. They will know you held onto your God knowing you could have had meat in your soup if you had walked away from your faith, had signed your name on the list of members in the Anglican Church.
I want them to remember your courage, your faith, your love all so rich and real and thick and deep you walked away, sailed away, worked away so your child would have better, would be free to have a future with no limits,
And they did,
Even if you never saw it.
a daughter of the Emerald Isle
Carol Brennan King
famine ship photo borrowed from https://www.dunbrody.com/visitor-info/irish-emigrant-experience/the-voyage/