Clogher Historical Society
Clogher Historical Society presents two events on the theme ‘The Irish in America’
Ireland has long been a holiday destination for the descendants of Irish emigrants, who visit in search of their roots. Interest is also growing amongst Irish people to connect with their far-flung relatives in America and other countries. The government’s new initiative, The Gathering 2013, will showcase all that is good about Ireland and inspire anyone with a connection to visit the country in 2013. It is therefore apt that Clogher Historical Society/Cumann Seanchais Chlochair will co-operate with County Monaghan Arts Office to host two events on the theme ‘The Irish in America’ in the coming weeks. Both of these will take place at the Market House, Monaghan. They are free to anyone who would like to attend and there is no charge.
In the 19th century, advertisements in the Boston Pilot and other US newspapers were placed by ordinary people in the hope of tracing their missing friends. How many of us have tried in vain to find lost relatives in the USA, or perhaps have had no idea where to start? Well, help is at hand in the form of Judith Wight, who will give a talk on ‘Finding Irish ancestors in America’ on Thursday 8 March at 8pm. Judith is an accredited genealogist living in America, who has specialised in the genealogy of Irish families for over thirty years. She writes extensively for genealogical periodicals and is a popular teacher and lecturer at genealogical events. She worked for 10 years as a reference consultant at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah and has vast research experience in the British Isles, USA, Canada, and Australia.
‘Writing home to Monaghan, 1849-1863’, is an evening of readings given by Christopher Fitz-Simon at the Market House, Monaghan, on 7 June 2012 at 8pm. Christopher’s talk is based on a collection of over fifty long letters written by Ben Elliott, who emigrated to America by sailing ship at the age of 17 when famine was at its worst in Ireland. Ben was born into a farming family at Smithborough and his letters to his parents, brothers and sisters show a remarkable resilience and an extraordinary sense of solidarity with other Monaghan emigrants who stuck together in New York, Pennsylvania, California and Nevada Territory. The names of his fellow workers who laboured in the gold mines and on newly-cleared farms who Ben describes in his letters are still well known in the county: Carrolls, Gordons, Grahams, Halls, Martins, Swans, Toals, Waddells, Welshs, etc. Many did well, many did not, most never returned and all had fascinating experiences which Ben passed on to their relatives in his letters home. The only way to reach California from New York was by sea round Cape Horn, a journey taking four months when many died of exposure. Working conditions in the mines were harsh and Ben also suffered from fire and tempest but he rarely complains. He constantly looks forward to the day when he will return to Smithborough ‘to sweet Eldron cottage’ – but why did he not? That is one of the mysteries of these fascinating letters. Christopher Fitz-Simon, a former director in RTE television and Artistic Director of the Abbey Theatre, is a great great nephew of the writer of these letters. Christopher was raised in the same house by his grandmother’s family, Elliotts, in Smithborough. He is the author of a number of books, among them Eleven Houses, about his childhood in the 1940s – four of these houses are in County Monaghan.
Clogher Historical Society membership is open to everyone. The society runs a series of talks and outings throughout the year and publishes an annual historical journal, the Clogher Record. The society’s area of interest is the diocese of Clogher, which includes, Monaghan, Fermanagh and parts of Tyrone, Donegal and Louth. Members benefit from online access to all editions of the Clogher Record since its first publication in 1953 and to 50 other Irish history journals, a great resource for enthusiasts and for history students at second and third level. We also give guidance on local history queries and some pointers to those researching the families of the area. Further information is available on www.clogherhistory.ie or by telephone, (047) 71984.<- Back to the news list