Muiris Bric, a native of Na Gorta Dubha, Ballyferriter, is now a long-term resident of New Rochelle, New York. Maurice has a great memory for the significant events of his childhood at home in the Dingle Peninsula as in this memory of An American Wake. Muiris says  ‘This is the story of Múraí, real name Séamus Martin and his immigration to Chicago back around 1950’:

I was about six [years old] and I liked to hang around the cowshed when Mam and Dad were milking. I liked the rhythm of the pings when the spray of the milk would hit the bottom of an empty bucket. I told Dad one time & he raised his eyes skyward for some reason.

One evening I heard Mam saying, “Fuair Múraí na páipéir inniu.” (Moorie got the papers today) and then she said, “Beidh sé ag imeacht go B’leá Cliath saras fada.” (He’ll be going to Dublin shortly.) I didn’t understand any of it. I thought he had picked up The Kerryman newspaper but why would he have to go to Dublin then? Mam explained it, he got papers from America certifying that whoever sent them would sponsor him to go there and he would have to go to Dublin for a medical and other certifications. Múraí was going to America.

He was called Múraí due to his strapping height, a fine-looking man. His name was Séamus Martin. I remember him on a donkey coming down the middle road of Gorta Dubha and a few of us had a great laugh because his feet were scraping the ground as he went.

He left for Dublin and about a month later he was due to go [to the U.S.]. Since he was a next-door neighbour, I was there on the night before he left. I was there mostly for a chance of a slice of currant cake with jam and maybe a cup of lemonade. There was an air of celebration about but it wasn’t [a celebration]. That evening all the village visited to say goodbye. I noticed some bottles of porter in a bag and any man who came in was offered one and he drank to the health of Múraí. The women had tea and sweet cake with butter and jam and some biscuits as well. They all sat around talking and reminiscing and  Múraí would nod his head from time to time but he didn’t say much.

Irish Fireside. Maggie Blanck

I noticed his mother up by the fire very deliberately smoking her pipe and just barely acknowledging anyone who spoke to her. Múraí’s sisters Úna and Mág were packing his suitcases with great care, I could see. An elderly lady arrived about nine o’clock,  after walking from Tír Amháin and asked if Múraí would bring a pair of socks she had knitted to her son, Margain in Chicago because he was working on the Railway and it got very cold in the winter there. Úna said there wasn’t any room left in the suitcase but her mother turned from the fire and told her to find room because she was a relative.

Paddy Fitz said to Múraí, “Beadsa ag fágaint leis. Tabharfad fé Chicago.” (I’ll be leaving too. I’ll give it to Chicago.) There wasn’t much merriment for such a gathering. At times it seemed like a wake and his mother just sat by the fire reddening her pipe now and then but far from her usual welcoming self.

I was up early next morning as I knew a car was coming for Múraí and I loved the sight of a car. Tommy the Taylor was the driver and sometimes he’d let Pat Sé, my best friend, and me sit in for a few minutes and that was heaven. Múraí’s brother, Steevin brought out the suitcases and loaded them in. My Dad and some men gathered by the car to say goodbye and he shook hands with them all. Then he turned up the steps where his mother was standing and went to shake her hand but she turned in towards the door and I saw her body tremble and she went in.

Irish Emigrants 1950s

The car sped off and didn’t the dog speed after it back the road barking and nipping at the rear bumper. The dog returned after an hour or so and sulked for the rest of the day in a corner of the barnyard. No, Múraí never returned but in about six months he sent his mother a beautiful pair of boots lined in fur and for years she showed them in the box to whoever came to the house.