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A Personal Reflection on this St. Patrick’s Day

by Bill Dooling
March 17, 2019

Publishers' Note: Thanks to Bill for sharing his story with all of us.

St. Patrick’s Day has always been a special celebratory day, certainly in my own life but also in the life of my family; perhaps more meaningful as we grow older and develop a better appreciation for the struggles and sacrifices and that our parents endured raising 6 children in a cold-water flat in our working class Mission Hill neighborhood.

Tom and Ellen Dooling fell deeply in love during strife torn 1920s Ireland. Both had been forced to leave school at age 14 and so became courageously determined to leave family and friends in order to emigrate from beautiful Ireland to pursue a better life for themselves and educational opportunities for their future children. This of course is an enduring immigrant story that is as true today as it and was then and has been throughout America’s history.

Fortunately I have only a faint memory of the material benefits my brothers and sisters lacked growing up; however, I always have permanent, pleasant recollections of the deep love my Irish parents showed to one another and to us: those very children they left their own families for in order to come to America for a better life. The non-material values Tom and Ellen instilled in my siblings were honesty, generosity, tolerance for all peoples and of course pride in our Irish heritage; plus they passed on a dab of self deprecating humor to help us navigate the vicissitudes of life’s inevitable trials and tribulations.

I first visited and fell in love with Ireland’s people, hills and valleys in 1965 as a 22 year old who wanted to see where his parents grew up.  My next visit came in 1971 after I had served in the Army in Vietnam.  At that time I had the opportunity to live for a year with my wife Carol and oldest daughter Shannon while I attended University College Dublin. What I vividly remember from my 1971 entrance through Irish Customs was the officer, after checking out my passport saying “Welcome Home”. This has stayed indelibly imprinted in my memory because as a Vietnam Vet at that time, aside from my family I couldn’t recall anyone saying Welcome Home; turbulent times in America but the country got through them just as we will, as a nation weather our present turbulence.

Since 1972 we have had the good fortune to visit cousins and friends in Ireland over a couple dozen times by myself or with my Holliston family. Whenever I land at Shannon, now with my Irish passport in hand, it always feels like coming home and reminds me of the kind 1971 Customs Officer’s generous welcome.

During the many times that I have visited Ireland my 83 year old first cousin Maureen McCarthy never fails to enthusiastically retell the story of  how during WWII, around Christmas time, my parents would generously and self-sacrificingly send some hard to get “rationed tea”, clothes and of course a few dollars to her family. Although this personal well told story is part of our family’s history; Maureen’s personal tale certainly exemplifies an acknowledged national Irish characteristic; concern for family and generosity.

When my cousin Maureen tells me this touching tale, her aging-young girl’s face never fails to light up with a broad smile as she recalls those yearly Christmas packages to her Shean cottage family.

A few years ago I was reminded of Cousin Maureen and her girlhood story:

I was stuck in downtown Framingham traffic across from the Western Union office as a young, perhaps Brazilian man came out of the of the office with both a receipt in his hand and that same kind of broad Maureen smile on his face. In my mind I was wondering if he, like my struggling parents during WWII was sending a few dollars back to his family in Brazil.

Like my parents he was replaying my own immigrant parents' story. A replay that makes me Proud to be an American, especially an Irish-American because it reinforces in me a pride regarding the lessons of generosity of spirit and purse that my own immigrant Irish parents lived and taught.

Happy St. Patrick’s to all our Holliston neighbors.

Bill Dooling 37 Spring St 508 429 1571  doolingbill@gmail.com

 

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Comments (2)

Thanks Bill for sharing this very personal story. It is so important we all seek to remember and record what we know of the immigration experiences of our forebears. No matter what the country of origin, the continent, the generation, even the century, our ancestors' stories are so instructional. We are all children and descendants of immigrants - immigrants who faced extraordinary hardships. It is well to remember how blessed we are that these folks took the journey that brought them here. We owe them thanks and respect and remembrance.

Walter McClennen

- Walter McClennen | 3/20/19 9:13 AM

Bill

Thank you for sharing such a beautiful, heartfelt family story .

All grandparents were from Ireland . The pride I have always felt in being Irish and of the legacy I received from all of my grandparents and mom is a wonderful thing. Hoping I have passed it along to my children as you have.

Your recollections epitomize beautiful memories and pride.

Thank you again for sharing .

Melissa Malloy Ford

- Melissa Malloy Ford | 3/17/19 5:08 PM

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