A family embarked on a journey away from their homeland of Ireland in 1922
COMING TO AMERICA
“Aon Sceal?” — Got a story to tell?
Most Irish people love to tell stories, and I bet the O’Mahony clan is no different.
Arriving in the United States
The first of the O’Mahony family to arrive was Bridget Mahony arriving aboard the SS Baltic into the Port of NY. She sailed from Queenstown, on Oct. 22, 1922. Her hometown was Cork City. She came to see her friend Michael Mahoney, who was working at Holy Cross Seminary in Dunkirk. She would later marry Michael and become the first woman to live at the seminary. She would bake cookies and treats for the young seminarians.
Bridget, or Pidge as she was known, was the 10th of 15 children that her mother Catherine and father Simon O’Mahony had. Simon was a butter merchant and town councilman in the City of Cork. She encouraged other family members to join her in America, saying how much living on Lake Erie reminded her of her home country. She was soon followed in 1923 by her brother Richard Mahoney, and in 1929 by her mother Catherine, sister Lill (who joined her husband John Barry in Chicago, IL), sister Essie, sister Kitty, and sister Helena (Nellie) O’Connell (with her children Bridget, Jeff, and infant Helena).
Helena O’Connell had come here as a widow. Her husband Michael O’Connell was a fireman who died while fighting a fire in Ireland. Once in America, she got married for a second time to Mike Mahoney’s friend Phillip Kenney and had two more children, James and Mary. Helena’s son Jeff O’Connell would become a fireman in Dunkirk, NY and marry Rhona Cirrito and they would have six children: Kitty, Jeff, Michael,Mary, Timothy, and Tricia.
Helena’s daughter Bridget O’Connell married Donald Stoyle and they would have five children: Ann Marie, James (Jidge) who became a Dunkirk fireman, Timothy, Patrick, and Donald.
Helena’s daughter Nellie O’Connell would marry Harry Falco and they would have four children: Jerry, Michelle, Janice, and Jackie.
The John and Lill Barry family eventually moved to Dunkirk from Chicago with their family: Maura, Liam, Catherine, and John. The Barry’s eventually moved to Delaware, and Pidge and Mike Mahoney and four of their five children Noel, Kathleen, William, Marie Mahoney Hayes and Bridge would move to Arizona. Their son Michael remained in Dunkirk with his wife Maureen and their three children, Michael, Denise and Patrick.
Essie and her family would remain in New York City and marry Dennis O’Connell with their two children Catherine and Elizabeth. Kitty would marry Timothy Mahoney and would remain in Dunkirk with their two children, Mary and Simon. Mary married William Walawender and remain in Dunkirk with their four children William Jr., Daniel, Timothy and Mary. Simon would remain a bachelor.
The five ponies (Kitty, Lill, Pidge, Essie, and Helena), as the sisters were referred to, stayed close friends and traveled and spent time together as their families grew. The name of the five ponies was given to them by a relative that once said, “would you look at them now, trotting up the hill like five ponies!” Our Irish family was always known for their quick wit and humor. As young women in Ireland, they along with their brothers grew resistant to the change that the English were imposing on them. They would go down to the jail cell and sing Irish uprising songs to the boys that were imprisoned there. Their dedication and belief in their Catholic faith saw them through their many hardships in their lives.
Two of their brothers had joined the IRA. After the Easter Rising of 1916 in Ireland, the British government sent over a force called the Black and Tans to keep order. Their word was law and they were brutal. One day, they raided Tower Street. looking for IRA suspects. Two of them came into the O’Mahony house, accompanied by a regular policeman, who knew the family. In the house were Katie, Simon’s wife, and some of her children, including Mikey (our cousin Helen Mangan’s grandfather), and at least three of his sisters. They began to search the house. When they got to Simon Jr.’s room, they saw three long wooden boxes under his bed. One of the soldiers asked Mikey what was in the boxes. He replied, “My brother is a carpenter, and those are his tools.”
The soldier told him to drag the first box out and open it. Mikey did, and sure enough, it contained tools. Then the soldier pointed to the second box and said, “And, what’s in that box?”
Mikey replied, “They are his tools.”
The soldier told him to open it. Mikey pulled the box out and opened it. It was also full of tools. The soldier then said, “And what’s in the third box?”
Mikey said, “I told you they are his tools!”
Then he got a belt of a rifle butt into the side from the policeman, who said, “Shut your mouth, Mikey, this lot would think nothing of taking all of you out to the backyard right now, and just shooting you!” The soldier glared at him and said, “Alright, we’re finished here.” They left the house and went next door. As soon as they were gone, everyone rushed back to Simon’s room. Mikey pulled out the third box – they ALL knew that Simon only had two toolboxes.
He opened it, and it was full of guns, gun parts and ammunition!
When Simon Jr. came home he just laughed and said, “Sure, you could have just picked up one of the guns and shot the lot of them!” I never heard what Simon Sr. (respectable town counsellor that he was) had to say, but, as they say, “sin sceal eile” — that’s another story…
A Friend of Michael Collins
Michael (Mikey) O’Mahony was a friend of Michael Collins. They worked together in London in the post office. They were part of an Irish community there. They used to walk in Hyde Park, speaking in Irish to “confound the natives” as Collins put it. Mikey did not speak Irish as well as some of the others, so Collins said “Sure, just say a couple of the lines of the Our Father every now and then — they won’t know the difference!” When they both returned home to Cork, Mikey O’Mahony got a job in Cork Corporation and Michael Collins became a politician.
One day Michael Collins was going through Cork City in a parade in his honor when he spotted Mikey in a crowd. He stopped the carriage and told Mikey to come up with him. Collins said, “Just wave every now and then and they will think you’re someone important and we can have a chat.” When Mikey said he was getting married on the second of September of that year, 1922, Michael said he would like to meet his bride to be. Mikey asked if he would like to go to the wedding and he said he would be delighted to attend. Unfortunately, Michael Collins was assassinated in County Cork on the 22nd of August. Mikey and his wife had received a large, personally signed photograph of Michael Collins as a wedding present, which always hung proudly in their home.
The O’Mahony family reunion is being held this weekend in Dunkirk with 140 descendants attending from Delaware, Texas, Washington, Arizona, Virginia Beach, Massachusetts, Vermont, Ohio, North Carolina, Florida and Ireland.
The family reunion committee members include: William O’Connell, John O’Connell, Peggy O’Connell Wright, Donald Stoyle, Ann Hayes, Janice Falco and Michelle Falco Twichell.