The darkness of an Irish morning

March 17, 2013

John Patrick Shanley’s superb column in the New York Times about meeting his Irish relations (see below) reminded me of my grandfather, Bill Martin. A tradesman painter at Moera’s railway workshops, Bill was the son of a piano-playing Irishman from Co Tipperary, and an Irishwoman from Co Armagh.

He practised his storytelling skills in Lower Hutt’s Bellevue Hotel, a handy bike ride from the workshops. Today the pub is a smart establishment but back in the 1930s and 40s, its public bar had a sawdust floor and Bill would spin his yarns to the men standing about with their beer perched on wooden barrels.

Today is March 17 and people of Irish descent all over the world are celebrating their heritage. Shanley brilliantly captures a sense of that heritage and why we remember stories about our grandparents.

The Darkness of an Irish Morning

By JOHN PATRICK SHANLEY

MY father came from Ireland and he had the gift of the gab. Part of the reason the Irish developed the gift of the gab was simple. They lived on an island. They had to get along. Not that they did get along. But they had to try. So a style of speaking developed that allowed them to say awful things. With charm. Read more >

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Dave Gallaher: an outstanding Irishman and a great Kiwi

January 24, 2013

Dave Gallaher the-original-all-blacks-captainBook Review

by Emmett Devlin 

Dave Gallaher: The Original All Black Captain. Matt Elliott. HarperCollins 2012. 259pp.

Any Kiwi with an interest in rugby and connections with Ireland will enjoy this biography of one of New Zealand’s most famous sportsmen and one of the great – if not the all-time greatest – All Blacks.

The book begins with Gallaher’s birth in 1873 into a shop-owning middle class family in a tiny seaside village in Donegal called Ramelton. His father James was 62 and his mother Anna Maria Hardy McCloskie, James’ second wife, was just 29. Dave was James and Anna Maria’s seventh child, born seven years after they married. Three of their children had died in infancy. Three more were born in Ramelton after Dave. Read the rest of this entry »


Gathering of the clans

November 21, 2012

Throughout 2013, Ireland will call home hundreds of thousands of friends and family from all over the world to gatherings in villages, towns and cities.

Anyone with an Irish connection is being urged to visit and rediscover their history. ‘There will be clan gatherings, festivals, special sporting events, music and concerts taking place all across the country, all year long,’ says the official Gathering Ireland website.

Over 70 million people worldwide claim Irish ancestry and, for anyone who went to a Catholic school in New Zealand, reading through the list of Irish clans who are planning reunions (below) is like looking through the names on old school photos. Read the rest of this entry »


In search of a living wage

September 24, 2012

Record levels of inequality in New Zealand would shock Irish immigrants who came to this country to make a better life.

‘This is a good country for working men as some men have from ten to twelve shillings per day,’ wrote Manawatu farmer’s wife Catherine Sullivan in 1905. ‘It is not like home. The worst men here won’t come to work for less than 7/- per day, and only work from 8 to 5pm.’

Catherine, an Irish immigrant, was writing to her brother-in-law in Ballingarry, Co Limerick, describing what he might find should he decide to follow her(1).

Many Irish, Scots and English came here to create a better life and to escape the poverty of their homelands. In recent decades, Pacific migrants have been doing the same. Read the rest of this entry »


On the Martin trail

February 15, 2012

Six generations of Martins had worked in his Galway pub, he said, adding that his grandfather’s name was John, his father was Billy, and he had a son named Liam. ‘Well, Billy,’ I replied, ‘I don’t know if we’re related, but my grandfather was Billy, my father’s name was John, and I too have a son named Liam.’

‘Be prepared for setbacks’ is one of the first pieces of advice you’ll get from experienced family researchers. How true, I discovered, as I started to delve into my Martin family history.

In 2004, I went to Christchurch’s Linwood Cemetery where my Irish great-great-grandparents, Michael and Mary Martin (nee Boland), are buried. Thanks to the council’s excellent records, the plot was easy to find in the Catholic section where Michael had been buried in 1895 and Mary five years earlier.

A welcoming sign, but I was looking in the wrong place

I approached the grave site expecting at least a national monument in honour of my forebears. Instead, all I found was an unmarked patch of dry grass and weeds. It seems that on the voyage to New Zealand in 1864, Michael had carved himself a big wooden Celtic cross. His pride and joy had been placed as his headstone. The weather, or vandals, had long since destroyed it. Read the rest of this entry »


Irish fighting for New Zealand

November 10, 2011

Paul Kelly writes about his Irish great uncle, Robert Edward Kelly, an Irish immigrant who fought in World War 1. Family members back in Ireland couldn’t understand why their New Zealand kin were so keen to fight for the British in the Great War.

A recent O’Kiwi blog had some notes about my Kelly family from Boyle in Co. Roscommon. The story of my great-uncle, Robert Edward Kelly, provides some more insights into the fortunes of New Zealand’s Irish migrants.

Robert Edward Kelly

Robert Edward Kelly fought at Gallipoli

Robert was the third son of my great-grandparents, John Kelly and Elizabeth Catherine Kelly (nee McCann) from Boyle. They had their children in quick succession – my grandfather John William Kelly was born in January 1886 and Robert was born in December the same year.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Kelly clan from Boyle in Roscommon

October 18, 2011
The Kelly home in Boyle

The Kelly home in Green Street, Boyle

Researching family history can be a frustrating business, but Tawa resident Paul Kelly was delighted to come across a heritage site which is a goldmine for descendants of families from the town of Boyle in Co Roscommon.

Paul’s grandfather, John, grew up at No. 7 Green Street in Boyle. The site allowed people to click on a house number and add photographs of family members who had lived there. Paul added family photos which can be viewed under ‘People’ on the homepage. Read the rest of this entry »


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