That left me quite emotional. I didn’t expect to read that.
Setting aside my emotions, what came through in those few words was and is the story of this island then and now.
My father and thousands of other fathers in the Fifties/Sixties ‘took the boat’ for England in search of work on the motorways, building sites or in foundries.
I recall my father talking, when I was a child, about ‘Leamington Spa’ and a foundry in which he worked. It didn’t sound too edifying. It took me back even further in time because my dad also recounted many times how his grandfather was killed in a foundry accident in Liverpool.
Reportedly, a friend accidentally pulled open the door of a boiler loaded up with hot molten ore. He was engulfed and died instantly.
Later I learned from David Copperfield that my grandfather was born ‘posthumously,’ after the death of his father.
My great grandfather, in search of work had left behind him, near Newtownhamilton his pregnant wife. She did not see him alive again.
Fast forward to 2012 and homes right across this island are again emptying of young men forced across the water and further afield in search of employment.
Reports are reaching me of dozens of young men from places like Downpatrick in County Down congregating at the week-end in certain cities across Australia, Canada, England, America etc.
GAA clubs in parts of the island of Ireland are being denuded again due to emigration.
Ireland’s ambassador to Canada Ray Bassett has been telling me about a recently established Gaeltacht in that country.
Gaeltacht Bhaile na hÉireann or the Permanent North American Gaeltacht (Irish: Gaeltacht Bhuan Mheiriceá Thuaidh) is a designated Irish speaking area in the town of Tamworth, Ontario, along the Salmon River.
GAA football clubs are again starting to flourish in foreign parts, clubs which withered over fifteen years, during the Celtic Tiger era.
Emigration is no respecter of colour class or creed. Bricklayers, joiners, electricians, quantity surveyors, chartered surveyors, doctors, engineers, you name them, and you will find them from every parish now, in all parts of the world.
So many young couples are saddled right now with big mortgages taken out in the boom times when banks removed the safety catch on lending.
The chickens are coming home to roost. There is no work but the overheads refuse to go away. Many husbands in so many instances have no choice. They have to go, lonely or not, to save the house.
Today we don’t speak about ‘heading for the boat’ as in the era of Eddie Finnegan and my late Dad but what difference does that make? The physical gap obtains.
Many wives today in Ireland, like the women folk before them, are left at home to rear the children. This took its toll historically. I saw it in my own family.
Worryingly it will take its toll in this generation too.
The wheel has turned full circle with all that dark mystery obtaining in the spokes.