This is the story of how the Great Irish Famine tore apart one branch of the Halloran family as it faced starvation in the parish of Aghamore in Mayo. Part of the family was forced to emigrate and set up a new life in Birstall in Industrial England amidst the mills and mines of South Yorkshire. The other stayed behind in Aghamore, struggling in poverty and hunger to possess the land on which their lives depended. We have established that the Hallorans of Aghamore are mainly the descendants of James Halloran, probably Thomas' eldest brother.
The entire family were the remnants of the once proud clann Ó hAllmhuráin that had been reduced to servitude and poverty by the Elizabethan and Cromwellian 'settlements' of Connaught. Their ancient lands had been confiscated and, in defeat, their leaders had been driven to France and Spain. The less fortunate were slaughtered or driven to the West Indies, and the bogs and forests of the West of Ireland. One hundred and fifty years later we find the first evidence in a desolate parish in Eastern Mayo of a scattering of our Ó hAllmhuráin ancestors. There they were living as impoverished tenants of landlords who exercised total control over their impoverished lives.
They had lived on the edge of starvation for generations, but it was the Great Irish Famine that drove some of the family to walk across Ireland to Dublin and from there to the mills and coal mines of Birstall in West Yorkshire. It was not just the Halloran family - for this is what they were now called - who were thus divided, but virtually every family in the parish of Aghamore.
A family strongly associated with them was the Stensons. There were also families of Frains, Brennans, Feenys, Giraughtys, Henrys, Higganses, Kilkennys, Kellys, Linskeys, McCues, McNamaras, Swifts, Prendergasts and Waldrons who fled with them. In a way this is the story of all of them. Indeed, there was hardly a family in some of the townlands of Aghamore that did not have a branch in Birstall. Of course, many went on to other parts of England, some to the United States and others returned home to Ireland, but for at least three generations, families which made up the townlands in Aghamore also made up the Irish community of Birstall.
This book attempts to tell the stories of both these communities and the strong, though now largely forgotten, bonds that existed between them. We have tried to place these people in their times and build up a picture of where they lived and how they worked, exploring the political and social events which impinged upon their lives. These people were survivors. We have attempted to describe, but hardly comprehend, the terrible events and hardships they survived.
The Hallorans of Birstall and Aghamore
- Product Code: Sean O'Halloran and Mary Hudson
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