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The Story of Mary White

Fáilte friends, Seán here with a story from many moons ago about a young Irish woman who left Ireland to go to America to find a new life for herself. One of my ancestors in fact!

Much like today many Irish people go to America as they see it as the land of opportunity.  The woman in this story, Mary White was one such person. This story begins in the 1900’s in Waterford, Ireland.

Mary was a young girl who dreamed of the land of opportunity in America and so when she was only 18 years old, she bought a one-way boat ticket to New York. Mary had a friend who lived there working as a housekeeper who said that if she could make it to America in one piece there would be a job for her.

Mary was given a talisman of a trinity knot by her mother to keep in her coin purse to keep her safe on her long and scary journey. Bear in mind that Mary was only a young girl who had never been away from home before. You can almost picture her holding onto this talisman while she stood on the deck of the boat saying goodbye to everything she had known but full of excitement for what was to come.

In those days very few people ever returned from such a trip so you can imagine the heartbreak her poor mother would have felt watching her young daughter leave.

While Mary travelled on the sea, she kept a journal of her travels and her hopes and dreams for the future. They journey was not always easy but on arrival at Ellis Island in New York Mary met up with her friend and as promised began working as a housekeeper for a well-off family. She worked hard and long hours, probably for only a few dollars a week and during the lonely nights when Mary felt a pain in her heart from home, she would hold her trinity and feel the love of her mother comfort her.

The owner of the house had a son who was around a similar age to Mary. He would see her day in and day out, probably helping to cook and serve his meals. Mary was a beautiful and kind girl and it was no surprise that the son of the homeowner fell head over heels for Mary.  You know what is coming next ! They eventually ended up falling in love, getting married and having two children of their own.

Mary never regretted her decision to travel to America as she had indeed found her true love and went on to have many grandchildren. It is not clear if she ever returned to her homeland, but she certainly wrote countless letters with news of her family and never forgot Ireland.

Many Irish people like Mary would leave their small Irish towns in search of a life like this and not only did Mary find this, but she also found her one true love. If you visit Ellis Island you can actually find Marys name on the wall, forever solidifying her journey, her new life and her dream that came true.

It is crazy to think about the fact that I have long lost family out there somewhere. Hopefully they are living a great life and all because Mary White followed her dreams. This is the case for many Irish and American people because so many of us Irish went to America.  

It is no wonder that Ireland and America have such a strong bond of friendship. In 2021 the figures show that there were 31.5 million people in the US who identified as Irish. It’s fascinating to read the stories of the how and when, but we are certainly happy especially on the 4th of July to embrace our heritage and connection to all our friends and family in the USA.

Sláinte for now and Happy 4th of July !


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