Today, January 11, is auspicious, I hear. I intend to be meditating when 1:11 p.m. comes ’round. Wishing health, love, safety, wisdom, and kindness to all in this turbulent time. May positive change come this year.
It has been an extremely long time since my last post, and for that I apologize. After the intensity of completing my second book while working full time and trying to still keep my artist self alive, I needed a big break from this type of research. Thank you to those who, meanwhile, have been subscribing and posting comments (which I recently answered).
Thinking that I was “finished”, I had arrived at a point where it seemed that nothing more could be found, and I had no more energy to keep trying. Hypotheses needed to remain as they were. While I had unearthed so much material about and for other people, my own direct connections remained where they lay. That my mother had a “junk man” haul off the materials of our basement in 1967, which accidentally included my father’s personal boxes in storage (even containing their letters back and forth across the ocean while he was in two wars), has always meant that I would not have the evidence and mementos he once had about our Mahers. Her telling me that I would never be able to learn more, that there was no information available (having tried to find some herself) only made me want to prove that one day I would, in fact, find it. She left a handwritten list of names and dates and references to Saint Francis Cemetery and to northern Tipperary on papers I found after her death. This is where I began, with breadcrumbs and mostly unlabeled photographs.
I have snippets of memories, stories my father told me, small details he shared, and the memory of reading typed information about the Mahers of New Haven, this having been given to him due to his familial relationship. It was there that I first learned of a “sleeping porch”– a question about which I recall asking with the strange clarity of learning other odd facts in grammar school having to do with the relative temperature of water in a bathtub, for example, or washing the backs of plates when doing the dishes. My father was a quiet man, so conversations with him, precious as they were, have remained permanently seared into my memory. He had thought this Maher story that seemed to have come from out of the blue was something I would want to read.
While my Maher research remains on hold, it has suddenly become possible to learn more about others within the many Irish surnames in my lineage. In the past few months individuals have gotten in touch with me who have used my first book in the way I had intended — to fill in gaps or help begin their own personal research. This time, however, lines have cycled back to my own family! Hallelujah! I appreciate that the acts of paying forward through the years of sharing research that was so time consuming, labor intensive (and expensive) to gather, making some kind of sense of it and putting it out for the world to receive, has cycled back bringing gifts in kind to me.
Recently I met someone who has not only validated aspects of our information, but has given me a treasure — a handmade 1934 graduation album in tribute to my great great aunt, Josephine, principal of Salem School, Naugatuck, Connecticut, in the year she retired. (Some day I intend to publish a book primarily about her, including all the articles and clippings found in scrapbooks my cousins have shared with me.) Quoting from my introduction to her in relation to early Catholic schools in Waterbury, Connecticut in From the Old Sod to the Naugatuck Valley, page 107:
Patrick and Anne Maher’s daughter, Josephine Agnes Maher, born in 1861, graduated from Notre Dame Convent in 1878, after which she became a teacher herself, in Naugatuck. She was principal of Union City School, the first school in Naugatuck to give grades, and of Salem School. She had a fifty-six year long career in education, and an academic scholarship is still awarded annually in her name. (More information and photographs appear on pages 247-254.)
With gratitude to my new friend, I share some Naugatuck history through details from this beautiful artifact, typed with handmade covers, a two-hole string-tied binding with an actual photograph of Josephine included in the beginning, secured with photo corners. This same image was in one of our family’s photo albums. Enlarging the detail of “Josie” standing on the balcony of Salem School, I included it in From the Old Sod on page 252. Now I know the photo was made on June 20 of that year. Then she was waving to whomever took the picture, yet in less than two months, her beloved nephew who had lived with her most of his life died. Her wave, instead, now seems prescient of good-byes that would be said to her students and colleagues only a few weeks after that. Josephine resigned from her long-held position on September 5 and entered retirement with the weight of Joseph Martin’s loss upon her.
Josephine signed both that page and a page at the end, underneath which were signatures of all the teachers, followed by another page of signatures from all the graduating eighth grade students.
Honor Roll student Franklin E. Bristol, Editor-in-Chief of the publication, one of the Josephine A. Maher awardees and speaker at the graduation ceremony upon which this album was likely presented, included an eloquent editorial in the album, a portion of which I include here:
In our first eight years of training, Salem School has…provided us with spacious classrooms, an excellent library and numerous other advantages. Our teachers have cooperated with us in such a way that our studies have been most interesting. Our associations here have taught us to have a sense of security among people and a confidence in ourselves … it matters not what [profession] we choose, providing that it be done sincerely and honestly. Then, undoubtedly, we shall have reached our ultimate goal and our footprints…will be left on the sands of time.
Josephine continuously stressed to all her nieces and nephews how important education and toeing the line was. She certainly left her footprints on the sands of time in our family, famous even to those of us who never actually knew her. A few people with whom I have corresponded regarding our mutual research, however, were proud recipients of her prestigious grade-based award themselves. It is thrilling to meet someone who has memories of or ties to any deceased relatives, akin to walking along the same ground that earlier ancestors might have also stepped upon in Ireland.
When I began to do research about Josephine Maher I naively presumed I could simply walk into Tuttle House or the Naugatuck Historical Society and find a wealth of materials already in place about her. There were some, but not nearly the amount I already had within our scrapbooks. Little did I know it would be up to me to definitively and formally reintroduce her as an historic figure to the town in which she deeply left her mark and influence. That’s a project for another time, but this album will be a very important component of it. For now it will serve to remind me of the generous good spirit in others and of further work that needs doing.
©2018 Janet Maher / Sinéad Ni Mheachair
Two exciting Irish History events are around the corner in Tipperary, Ireland and in Hamden, Connecticut. First, for those lucky enough to be within driving distance of the ancient home of Clan O’Meachair, be sure not to miss National Heritage Week events in Tipperary – particularly on its last day, Sunday, August 28 in Roscrea!
The Sean Ross Heritage Group has organized a series of events that will take place from from 14:00 p.m. to 16:30 p.m., focused upon the importance of Sean Ross Abbey, once the inauguration site of the O’Meachair chieftains. Guest speakers, guided walks, and music will accompany family picnics.
The illustrious historian and author, George Cunningham, will speak about the O’Meachairs as having been priors of Sean Ross Abbey, Monaincha, and of the significance of this site in Roscrea’s ancient history. See his lovely images and text about the Monastery of the Island of the Living HERE.
I’ve sent on my own contribution and hope it makes its way across the pond in time! It’s an interpretation of the chieftain hat illustrated in Joseph Casimir O’Meagher’s Some Historical Notices of the O’Meaghers of Ikerrin. The original, found in a bog in 1692, was “a gold cap or morion, which may have served as a crown, and been used at the inauguration of the O’Meagher…Its ornamentation was undoubtedly Irish, and was identical with some earlier golden articles—lunnulae and fibulae—found in Ireland, and consisted of embossed circles, some parallel and others arranged in angles of the chevron pattern.” (pg. 13) It may be that this cloth version of a crown will be placed upon the head of this year’s chosen O’Meagher/Maher at the event, passed to another in 2017. I only wish I could be there for all the fun! Hoping that folks will share their memories of the day to post here.
For more information email mdobbin at eircom dot net. Download a pdf guide for all the Tipperary Heritage events.
NEXT: Coming September 8 to New Haven County, Connecticut—William J. Duffney Lecture at Quinnipiac University!
On September 8 at 4 p.m. Bill Duffney will speak about The Quakers and Irish Famine Relief at Quinnipiac University Mount Carmel Campus, in the Student Center, Room 225. Registration is required, and a link for that is included on the Quinnipiac Calendar.
“Using original correspondence, The Quakers and Irish Famine Relief outlines the selfless efforts made by the Society of Friends (Quakers) on behalf of the starving Irish during the Great Hunger. The personal vignettes found within their letters bring us closer to the perspective of the people in their place and time. Political and social history, and maritime and postal history collide in unexpected ways.
Bill Duffney is a retired musician, educator and postal historian, who has travelled extensively in Ireland. Bill served for several years as the editor of the Connecticut Postal History Society Journal. Today, he maintains the website, Connecticut Philatelic Projects, and is a member of the American Philatelic Society, U.S. Postal Classics Society, and the Boston Philatelic Group, among others.”
Sure to be a great lecture! Good luck Bill!
©2016 Janet Maher / Sinéad Ni Mheachair
This year has been one of gratitude for so many experiences that have validated the path I have chosen in life. An artist residency at the Burren College of Art is about to occur, as much as I feel it is merely a dream. Over the last decade I have come to know Ireland as a deeper ancestral home than I ever could have imagined. It is the land of my parents through their parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and thus my own great-great grandparents and theirs before them. Apart from my one Parisian great grandmother, I’ve learned that literally everyone else tied back to the midlands, south and west in the Old Sod – Tipperary, Laois, Kilkenny, Kerry, Cork, Limerick. No wonder I fell to pieces when the plane lifted to take me back to America after my first visit. It was as if I was being ripped away (as I also have felt arriving and leaving my American soul-home of New Mexico).
Over the past year I have been become familiar with sharing images to Instagram and, although with reticency at first, Facebook has become a “normal” way for me now to relax, find out about things going on in the big world, and weigh in with my own blips and shares. For this next month, however, I think I’ll be doing any sharing from this blog that has been so good to me since 2011. It is through MaherMatters that I found so many likeminded individuals, some of whom have become (if still virtual) friends. It is also through here that I discovered recent ancestral connections for my cousins, circuitously provided through a clue I tucked into my book, Waterbury Irish. Thank you to all who have subscribed and engaged here over all this time!
While I will be in Ireland to work, to produce with an end result in mind, I will also have the opportunity to visit with dear Irish friends made through many years of research. It remains to be seen what I will post here, but I am imagining a series of photographs that I take during the month. Most of what I will be doing in Ireland is truly for me as I treasure the enormous gift of solitary time with a plan in place (and room for serendipity), a studio in which to work, no routines, obligations or known people (as much as I love my loves and friends and wish for more “quality time” with them!) except those whom I encounter in relation to the Burren or otherwise seek out in this majestic place.
My first share must be this, as I anticipate what has been promised, Ireland’s soul merged with my own along the Wild Atlantic Way. Thanks be!
©2016 Janet Maher / Sinéad Ni Mheachair
Merry Christmas! Thank you to every person who purchased Waterbury Irish: From the Emerald Isle to the Brass City (especially for presents!), has come to the various events and has supported this work!
Wishing happiness to all over the holidays and in the coming year!
©2015 Janet Maher / Sinéad Ni Mheachair
PRESS RELEASE – For Immediate Attention
Further Info, Contact Bilal Tajildean, 203-757-2279
JOHN BALE BOOK COMPANY HOSTS WATERBURY IRISH BOOK DISCUSSION
On Saturday, November 14, 2015 John Bale Book Company will host author, Janet Maher, and the director of Prospect Library, John Wiehn, for a discussion about her recent History Press publication, Waterbury Irish: From the Emerald Isle to the Brass City from 2:00 to 3:30 pm. This is part of the Bale Lyceum Series, designed to provide interesting conversation after a High Tea lunch. The Lyceum and the lunch both take place in Bale’s second floor rare book room at 158 Grand Street, Waterbury, CT. It is a cozy and comfortable atmosphere, great for enjoying a lunch with a friend or for bringing several friends. There is a $10 charge for the High Tea Lunch (noon to 1:30), and a $10 charge for the book discussion.
Waterbury Irish is the second scholarly book that Waterbury native, Janet Maher, has obsessively researched and written about the history of the Irish immigrations into New Haven County, Connecticut. Exhaustive reading about Ireland and Irish-Americans and two research trips to Ireland have also informed her work, as has friendships she developed with others interested in exchanging information about Irish genealogy since 2006. She has produced and/or restored massive numbers of her own original photographs and historic photographs from her and others’ collections, and completely transcribed and re-mapped a Naugatuck cemetery. Throughout her long project her quest has been to find bridges between the early New Haven county Irish settlers and their specific origins in the “Old Sod,” then following their progress through generations. She has attempted to recreate a sense of the former communities on both sides of “the pond” such that all who share common ancestral origins may glean a beginning point for their own further research forwards, backwards and sideways.
Primarily an artist, Maher directs the Studio Arts program at Loyola University Maryland, where she is an associate professor. For Waterbury Irish she enlisted the help of John Wiehn to work with her in expanding her research with stories about local Waterbury residents into the modern era. Past state president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Wiehn has served in all elected offices and been involved with the AOH for more than 20 years. He reached out to his AOH friends to share some living knowledge of Waterbury Irish individuals and shared some information gleaned from newspaper clippings he saved through the years. He also created the index for the book.
As the two Irish-interested friends grew up in different eras and different parts of Waterbury–one having remained all his life there, the other having left Connecticut at 25 years old–each had a different base of contacts and family to bring into this part of the project. Maher also “cold called” the current mayor and city clerk for their stories and continued to research the included families and their times, weaving all into her text that came to include politics, sports, the famous (and infamous), enlivened with myriad family memories.
Come to John Bale Book Company with your own stories and photographs to share with all in attendance. Waterbury Irish may be purchased at this event. Start your Christmas shopping for ancestral Irish friends and family here!
Waterbury Irish, and Maher’s first book, From the Old Sod to the Naugatuck Valley, may also be purchased from her shop on Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/shop/ConnecticutIrish/
I immediately gifted my first copy of Gabrielle Ní Mheachair’s at-long-last book, Ó Meachair, The Story of a Clan, but have just received two more copies–one of them also about to become a gift. Now, my belated but hearty cheer to Gabrielle, whom I have had the pleasure to converse with a few times over the years as we were both doing research and I asked her advice. For a while I subscribed to the newspaper, Midwest Irish Focus, published by Pete Maher, of Missouri, especially to read her installments of “Tipperary Tales.” As a native Irish woman she knows of what she speaks and has captured the history of our clan perfectly. Those interested in things Maher will find this book to be a “must own.” Congratulations to Gabrielle Ní Mheachair Woeltje on this fine book, available from Amazon.com!
P.S. (August 7) – Having finished reading her book, I’ve sent a review to Amazon, now waiting approval. I would add here that it is an excellent, easy to read, book about very complex events that affected all the ancient clans. The Ó Meachairs (O’Meagher, Maher, etc.) served as perfect examples for her in-depth history, since, “it was one of the few clans in Ireland that had the good fortune to live under the ancient Celtic system until the middle of the seventeenth century.” Their history spanned, remarkably, to 1922 when those who had remained in the old barony of Ikerrin (the original seat of the Mahers in the northeast area of Tipperary) “were among the last to regain proprietorship of their ancient lands.”
©2015 Janet Maher / Sinéad Ni Mheachair
All Rights Reserved
Waterbury Irish: From the Emerald Isle to the Brass City is scheduled to be published by the History Press in the first week of September! More details will appear, as well as a link to a Facebook page, in upcoming weeks. For those who are within driving distance to New Haven, Connecticut, please come to my talk-with-images on Tuesday night, June 16 for the Irish History Round Table at 7:30 p.m., Knights of Saint Patrick Hall, 1533 State Street, New Haven.
©2015 Janet Maher / Sinéad Ni Mheachair
All Rights Reserved
During the first days before my clothes arrived I learned to drive on the left side of the road and navigate with increasing ease through the country. My second AirBNB hosts proved to be the ideal support system. Margaret O’Farrell and Alfie McCaffrey were very helpful in following up on my lost luggage and with my puzzling through various technology issues—getting my phone to transition properly, figuring out if my throw-away phone from three years ago might work with a new chip, trying in vain for my GPS to kick back in (which it never did) and even helping me arrange visits with people I was trying to meet while my phone was in limbo. After three days I felt that I was leaving new friends. In Lorrha, Northern Tipperary, this couple has been renovating a large, stately home with their own tender loving care. Like so many a place in which good personally-grown food and fascinating, friendly conversation is a staple, Margaret and Alfie’s kitchen is at its heart. (Pay the extra to have dinner with them at night, which became extend visits in our case, lasting until 11:30 or so.)
Outside, chickens and roosters wandered as they will among the grass, flowers and trees, joined by their two dogs, with additional sound effects from a drove of pigs in the back. Frisky fellows, the pigs sometimes rule the roost, getting out from their pen and requiring hours of tracking and coaxing back to their own digs. From the kitchen porch, which runs the entire width of the house, it is possible to see the *Devil’s Bit section of the Slieve Bloom Mountains—the landmark for things Maher/Meagher. We had the most enjoyable breakfast looking in its direction on my last day, shared with a friend of Margaret and Alfie who had volunteered to help repair the woodshed roof. Pure bliss to eat outside amid so much beauty and such excellent company!
While navigating the way back and forth to their home in the woods (follow the signs for Birr and Portunma), I was able to venture north into Offaly County and into and around Roscrea, my primary destination on the first part of this Maher-related journey. Alfie had recommended also seeing Birr Castle, with its impressive Science Center, including a 72-inch long reflecting telescope built in 1845, and its note-worthy gardens. I came into Birr too late on the day I was venturing in those parts to do more than a drive-by, so this is now on my list for a hoped-for Next Time. At the end of my journey the following week I learned that the castle, owned by the Earls of Rosse, had once been owned by Meaghers. (More research needs to go into verifying that.)
* The Small Gap of Ely, in the parish of Barnane-Ely was written about by Joseph Casimir O’Meagher in 1890. (The O’Carrolls ruled over Ely, with close ties to the O’Meaghers of neighboring Ikerrin Barony.) He explained the nickname for the dip in the mountains with the following tale: “The Devil, driven to frenzy by his want of success among the inhabitants of Ikerrin, took a bit of their mountain in revenge, but finding it too heavy was obliged to drop it in the ‘Golden Vale,’ where it became the Rock of Cashel, afterwards famous as the residence of the Kings of Munster, and the site of one of the finest cathedrals in the west of Europe. The rock would about fill the gap in the mountain. Another story is that he dropped the bit in Queen’s County, and that the Rock of DunaMase was thus formed.” (Some Historical Notices of the O’Meaghers of Ikerrin, pg. 127.) (That there is a large cross at the top of this mountain was a surprising parallel, I thought, to that of the locally famous one in my hometown in Connecticut, of the same vintage, recently restored to great success and celebration. Had I more time I would have taken a hike to the top of the Devil’s Bit—#2 on my Next Time list.)
Another place that was closed during my visit, but seems worth a tour if staying so nearby was Redwood Castle, especially for those with Egan or Kennedy roots. (With that in mind, I include here an image of a place I passed on the way out of Limerick. For those with Killduff roots, here is a photo of a former Killduff Castle, now on the grounds of St. Anthony’s Nursing Home, Pallasgreen, Limerick.)
Clonmacnoise (Cluain Mhic Nóis) was part of my reason for staying in North Tipperary, as we had not ventured into that area on my last trip to Ireland with my husband. I wanted to see the place that had been mentioned so often in my studies about Ireland’s ancient history. This settlement, which dates to just before the death of its mid-6th century founder, St. Ciarán, grew to be the most desirable conquest for invaders over the centuries. Wealthy monasteries throughout Ireland were targets for their valuable ceremonial objects, and Clonmacnoise was also known as the primary site of achievements in literary and artistic high craft production during the centuries of religious rivalry in the country and in relation to Rome. Its location on a high ridge overlooking the Shannon River made it a major intersection of trade and travel.
There had been distinct roles with which Gaelic families were associated. Those that included members of high-ranking religious status had their own ecclesiastical settlements, centered upon a family church around which an extended community worked and lived. The once vast settlement of Clonmacoise contained not only a cathedral and a round tower, but a nuns’ church, and ones associated with St. Ciarán and the surnames Kelly, McLaughlin, Dowling, McLaffey, Connor, and Finghin. There are also remains of several other kinds of buildings, a castle, a sacred well, four high crosses, and other many other artifacts, including a section of an ogham stone and more than 600 portions of ancient grave slabs.
Three of the high crosses have been removed for their protection from their original location to an on-site museum. Replica ones have been in their places to weather outside since 1992-93. Portions of three additional high crosses from the site are preserved in the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin, along with such masterful art objects as the Crozier of the Abbots and the Shrine of the Stowe Missal. The Cross of the Scriptures (replica shown here) is considered to be one of the best of Ireland’s historic crosses of this extensively decorated kind. It honors the King of Meath and King of Tara, thus High King of Ireland (879 to 916), Flann Sinna mac Maelshechnaill. At the turn of the 14th century the Gaelic clans regained control of Clonmacnoise from the Anglo-Normans, and power shifted to the MacCoghlans until the 17th century—a time of devastation in Ireland as the formerly Catholic England and Ireland were re-envisioned by King Henry VIII and Oliver Cromwell.
On the day I visited Clonmacnoise I was met with a powerful silence and stillness. Although there were far more people wandering the site with me than I expected, we all seemed to be held in a trancelike quiet as we individually absorbed an awe-full sense of the former importance and immensity of this place, now a relic of itself. Ireland’s Office of Public Works has done an exceptional job in stabilizing this and many other irreplaceable sites, touchstones to the country’s stature and nobility in the ancient world.
©2014 Janet Maher / Sinéad Ni Mheachair
All Rights Reserved