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Castlerea Calling ………

by Áine Ní Shionnaigh

There’s just something about Castlerea, a town where I spent most weekends as a child that continually draws me back in. An authentic Irish town, located in the West of Co. Roscommon, it has remained untouched by both the rise and fall of the Celtic Tiger. Economically, this is challenging, but the town retains an untouched quality which is most appealing. During my childhood, I spent almost every Sunday in Castlerea. My two grandaunts, Aunt Sis and Aunt Win, had immigrated to Chicago in the twenties and had returned to Castlerea armed with more than a flavor of the Midwest. They lived right on the Main Street in the middle of the town and I got to know the town and its people through their eyes. I was lucky in that I got to spend time with them most weekends, time that I only appreciate fully now. If I could have time back with them, I would do one thing differently, I would ask more questions and wait for the answers.

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When my grandaunts finished primary school in the tiny townland of Monasteraden, Co Sligo, there were no options: no secondary school, no third level college, no jobs, so they stayed in that small schoolroom in the back row concentrating on needlework, art and handwriting at which they excelled. Not surprisingly when an elderly aunt in Chicago offered an opportunity, they were quickly propelled across the Atlantic Ocean to Chicago. They went with hope in their hearts that this new city in a country they knew nothing about would grip their imagination, provide them with lifelong friendships and love, and forever alter their ideas about what life could potentially be at its fullest.
It was the roaring 20’s. Life in Chicago was pretty fast. I like to imagine that they drove automobiles, went to movies, listened to jazz, danced in chiffon gowns at palatial parties. Aunt Sis (Mary McHugh) and Aunt Win (Winifred McHugh) spent many years working at Sears Roebuck in Chicago but eventually returned and settled in Castlerea next door to each other and remained there until they passed away in the 80’s.
Just last week, my cousin found a diary which my third Grandaunt, Aunt Katherine or Kit as she was known, started when she arrived in Chicago. It read ‘Today is the first day of the rest of my life’. The rest of the diary was blank, I would love to fill in some of her blank pages but my imagination will only bring me so far. Aunt Kit (Katherine McHugh) was born in 1892 in Monasteraden and immigrated to Chicago with Sis and Win. However, she didn’t make it back and she was never spoken about. There are two stories told: that she died in childbirth, she died when her child was 2 years old. She died in Chicago. I have never heard who she married, when she married, who her child is, where her child is. I have never even seen a photograph of her. Also my grand-uncle Peter McHugh left Monasteraden for Canada. He was born in 1896 and passed away in 1949 in Canada and those are the only two facts that are known about my granduncle.
So hopefully if I get to travel to the Windy City this spring, I may find some long lost cousins. I’ll keep you all updated.


Dear Editor, I live in Shipley a small town in West Yorkshire England. My grandfather Wille Ryan moved to Shipley with his elder brother Richard (born 1896) in the 1920's. Both came from Wilsbrook near Castlerea in County Roscommon Ireland. Richard left for New York in 1924 on the SS Cedric with his wife Ellen and son William. My mother and aunt are keen to trace their uncle Richards children. The passenger register indicates they were going to stay with Ellen's brother a Joseph Cassidy who lived at 856 53rd street Brooklyn. I have contacted various organizations in New York. I have a bit more information from the 1940 census but appreciate your very busy and given the scale of immigration to the USA. I would appreciate any information to be sent to the editor. Kind regards David.


Ta rud éigin faoi Caisleáin an Riabhaigh, baile áit ar chaith mé an chuid is mó do mo shaol nuair a bhi me og. Tarraingíonn mé ar ais I gconai. An baile barántúla na hÉireann, atá lonnaithe in Iarthar Chontae Ros Comáin, nil tionchar ar bith on ardú agus titim dá cheann de na Ceilteach Tiger. Go heacnamaíoch, tá sé seo dúshlánach, ach coinníonn an baile ar chaighdeán nadurtha atá is tarraingtí. Le linn mo óige, chaith mé beagnach gach Domhnach sa Chaisleán Riabhach. Mo dhá seanaintini, Aintín Sis agus Aintín Win, a chuaigh thar lear go Chicago sna fichidí agus a thainig ar ais chuig An Caisleán Riabhach armtha le níos mó ná blas an Midwest. Chónaigh siad ar dheis ar an phríomhshráid i lár an bhaile agus fuair mé an eolais faoin mbaile agus a muintir trína súile. Bhí an tádh orm sa mhéid is go bhfuair mé am a chaitheamh leo an chuid is mó ag an deireadh seachtaine, am a meas mé ach go hiomlán anois. Má raibh an am ar ais agam, ba mhaith liom a dhéanamh rud amháin éagsúil, ba mhaith liom a iarraidh níos mó ceisteanna agus fanacht ar na freagraí.

Nuair a chríochnaigh mo seanaintini an mbunscoil i mbaile beag bídeach Monasteraden, Contae an Shligigh, ní raibh aon rogha acu, ni raibh aon mheánscoil, aon coláiste tríú leibhéal, aon postanna agus mar sin d'fhan siad sa seomra rangaa beag i ndiaidh a chéile ar ais ag díriú ar ‘needlework’, ealaín agus peannaireacht ag a barr feabhais. Ní nach ionadh nuair a thairg aintín scothaosta i Chicago deis, bhí siad inneallghluaiste go tapa ar fud an Aigéan Atlantach go Chicago. Chuaigh siad le áthas ina gcroí go dti an chathair nua seo i dtír a fhios acu aon rud faoi a bheadh greim a gcuid samhlaíochta, a chur ar fáil dóibh le cairdeas ar feadh an tsaoil agus grá, agus go deo a gcuid smaointe faoi na rudaí a saol d'fhéadfadh a bheith d'fhéadfadh a bheith ag a iomláine a athrú.
Ba iad na fichidi. Bhí an saol i Chicago go leor go tapaidh. Is maith liom a shamhlú go thiomáin siad glusteain, chuaigh said go dtí scannáin, d’éist said le snagcheol, chuaigh said go rince i gunai ag na páirtithe palatial. Chaith Aintín Sis (Mary McHugh) agus Aintín Win (Winifred McHugh) blianta fada caite ag obair ag Roebuck Sear i Chicago, ach sa deireadh thainig said ar ais agus socru iad i Chaisleán Riabhach, comharsana beal doras agus d'fhan said ann go dtí na hochtaidi nuair a fuair said bas.

An tseachtain seo caite, fuair mo chol ceathrair dialann i dtaobh mo thríú Grandaunt, Aintín Katherine nó Kit mar raibh aithne uirthi, thosaigh nuair a tháinig sí i Chicago. Léigh sé 'Is é lá atá inniu ann an chéad lá den chuid eile de mo shaol'. Ba é an chuid eile den dialann bán, ba mhaith liom grá a líonadh i roinnt de na h leathanaigh bán, ach beidh mo shamhlaíocht a thabhairt dom ach go dtí seo. Aintín Kit (Katherine McHugh) Rugadh i 1892 i Monasteraden agus immigrated go Chicago le SIS agus Win. Mar sin féin, ní raibh sí é a dhéanamh ar ais agus ní raibh sí á labhairt faoi. Tá dhá scéalta a dúirt: go fuair sí bás i luí seoil, fuair sí bás nuair a bhí a leanbh 2 bhliain d'aois. Fuair sí bás i Chicago. Ní raibh mé riamh chuala a phós sí, nuair a phós sí, a bhfuil a leanbh, áit a bhfuil a leanbh. Ní fhaca mé fiú grianghraf de di. Chomh maith leis sin mo mhór-uncail Peter McHugh fhág Monasteraden do Cheanada. Rugadh é i 1896 agus fuair bás i 1949 i gCeanada agus iad siúd dá ach fíricí go bhfuil ar eolas faoi mo granduncle.