Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Irish Immigrant Martha O'Flanagan

"You have to be Irish to have dark hair.  This notion that Irish people have red hair is not true.  We got the red hair from the Danes when they invaded Ireland in 1014, and they married Irish girls." 
(Martha O'Flanagan)


Irish history

Emerald Isle courtesy 




Martha O'Flanagan grew up in Roscommon Country, Ireland where there is a "colour of green [emerald] that you cannot find in this country or any other country".  Martha grew up on a potato farm in a thatched cottage with stone walls.  One of six children, she had three brothers much older than her.  She and her brothers helped their father plant the potatoes, a task which involved a steeve to make the holes.  For entertainment, Martha attended dances where fiddlers provided the music. Every house in Ireland had a fiddle.  

When she grew up, one of her brothers left for England and one, named Thomas, for America.  Martha longed to follow Thomas, a wish which he made possible when he sent her $200.  Martha rode her bike to Dublin to have her passport stamped, said goodbye to her parents and third brother, and boarded a ship bound for America. 



"One thousand single women looking for a spouse" on the SS Baltic as it arrives at Ellis Island 


In 1925, the ship set sail from County Cork. "The S.S. Baltic was beautiful.  I didn't want to get off," reminisced Martha, referring to the blue waters of the Atlantic.  Many of the Irish passengers embarked to Boston where they had family waiting for them.  However, Martha chose to stay in New York City where she met up with Thomas.  

Martha, who reached the ripe old age of 94, reminisced:  "I remember my first St. Patrick's Day here.  It was the parade, and my cousins gave me a green dress to wear and I said, 'I'm not going to wear that ren.  I'm not going to wear green in the United States.'  They laughed at me."  






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