Opening Speech

James Sharkey
Irish Ambssador to Denmark

2 of 7

Americans and Australians, coming from new societies, with a relatively short history are very interested in genealogy - much more so than the modern Irish - and they go to great lengths to trace their family tree. Our national gift to the Australians in 1988 during their bicentennial celebrations - a gift which I had the privilege to present as Ambassador - was the "Irish Convict Transportation Records". Australians take great pride in their convict ancestry and if they were transported from Ireland, this is a special badge of honour. I have to say - notwithstanding references in "The Last of the Name" - that I could trace no Clonmany people in the convict records - whether this is a good thing or a bad thing I do not know. Family history was, of course, an art form for our recent ancestors, and for us, their descendants, to look back just a few generations brings us to a world quite different from our own.

There is no one with the name Boyle left in Urris today. Indeed, in my mothers childhood there were only two Boyle households and although they were neighbours in Dunaff the curious thing was that they were unrelated - or at least they did not admit to beng related. My great grandmother was Mary Doherty - all of her family had emigrated to Pennsylvania and in my own family there was always a hint of connections with the Molly Maguires. To protect her holding, presumably about the time of the consolidation, Mary Doherty , in middle age, married Paul Boyle and the family lore is that he or his people were from the other side of the Swilly. They had only one son; his name was Daniel; Dinní Phóil Rua. My great grandmother was renowned for her beauty, her singing, for her cures and her charms. She loved the old ways and she spoke not a word of English. When her son was five, she took him to the national school but only as far as the door, for when she heard them speaking a strange language inside, she took him home again. He eventually acquired some English and could certainly sing songs in English. When he married, he sought out and married an Irish speaker, Bridget Doherty, Biddy Joe, who was educated, bilingual, a great singer and musician and a strong 'devotional' catholic. Daniel Boyle was a farmer-fisherman who died of pneumonia after a boating accident at the time of the First World War.

He left behind eight young children. The eldest two kids could speak Irish but the younger ones English for the most part. One boy died in early youth. Another, the eldest girl, died of the great (Spanish) flu at the age of 18 in 1919, the most devastating and widespread disaster to hit rural Ireland since the Famine. The three boys emigrated to England and Scotland in the period 1920 - 1946. They were well known to the men of the parish who made the same journey after them in hard times. Two of them never returned and were part of the lost generation of this parish and other similar parishes throughout Ireland. One sister married in Urris whose hospitality I benefited from as a boy. Two sisters migrated to Derry to work in the shirt industry and one of these was my mother, Mary Anne Boyle. Though my mother lived in Derry, in many ways she never left Urris for all her dreams were here, all her summers were spent here and she knew every family and every genealogy back for a hundred years.




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