Coming soon, The tale of the Hunchback of Rochfortbridge
as told by Mr Alford from Wales, yet another Rochfortbridge Exile.
Many Rochfortbridge Exiles have contacted this site and require information on families or friends still living in the area.
no personal information will be given to the requesters without the permission of the families involved.
please help the exiles by co-operating with their derth of knowledge and allow us to give them back the family their fore Fathers reluctantly left behind.
I was delighted to make contact with someone from the beautiful country of Lebanon, a country that holds many fervent memories and has a special place in my heart. This unspoiled land has its beauty and majesty mentioned in the Bible and the cedars of Lebanon and spectacular views of Mount Lebanon and the Golan Heights are indeed breathtaking. This Biblical and beautiful land even though it has had it share of troubles is the home of a Rochfortbridge girl who has shared her memories with us.
With special thanks to Bríd

"Memories of a 70's Bridge Girl"

30+ years later and from 3,000+ miles away.

The world's a small place after all! Although I grew up in Rochfortbridge, Derrygreenagh Park to be exact, I live to the north east of Beirut and would like to share with you some of my childhood memories from my life in the Bridge. Poor old Ms Molloy R.I.P. tucked away in her little huckster shop on the corner of the main road and the "Bog" road, she never really converted to decimal and used L.S.D. (pounds, shillings and pence of course - not any counter band version of the acronym) We used to call in to her shop for "Lucky Bags" where every bag would be ruffled to the point of opening and held up against the light to ensure we got the desired gift inside. Handing over our prized "thrupenny bit" for our purchase, even though the same lucky bag was probably twice the price in Mullingar, poor old Ms. Molloy would probably throw in a few 'Bulls eyes' into the bargain.
My school days were innocent to say the least, life in the Bridge was humble and what was considered "danger on the street" was roller-skating down "Swans Hill" across the main road and back up the other side, all the more exciting if one made the trip without grazing the skin of one’s knees on the pavement. I entered the Convent of Mercy School at "Baby Infants" and in those days it was a convent school with the Sisters in charge. The nuns who taught me were Sr. Marie-Therese (infants), Sr. Concepta (1st class), Sr. Assumpta (2nd, 3rd, 4th class) and Sr. Stanislaus (5th class). After that I left Rochfortbridge. Teaching attitudes and techniques were quite different in the 70’s! The wooden ruler was used in some classes as a deterrent and disciplinary tool and the big green metric ruler was used now and again to keep older classes in order. The latter was actually less painful than the former because of its width but the sheer size of it would strike fear into Gulliver, of Lilliputian fame. On one occasion, I remember a boy about to receive a slap on the hand. Each time he would quickly pull back his hand and the third time he took off like a flying bullet over chairs and tables with the Sister in flight behind him. In the end it was so hilarious, we were all in stitches laughing and thankfully the lad got away with it, a rare event in those days. He was the funny guy of the class.
There were some good times too with volleyball tournaments at lunchtime. Sr. Assumpta was a calm and patient soul in spite of having three grades to teach. We always had a nature table in her class where peas and beans grew in jars of soaked blotting paper. Sr. Acquin was very old (to us anyway) and she was the best arts and crafts teacher I ever had. When we changed schools we were one grade ahead of the rest of the new class, so I guess that says a lot for the dedication of the Sisters and teachers in Rochfortbridge. Remember Fr. Mac Manus bringing the shiny cans of boiled sweets into the classroom? We'd make a cone out of a sheet of paper and fit it into the inkwell holder and the teacher would give each student 5 or 6 sweets. It made our day! Anything for a change of routine! He asked us one day to spell the word “February” and whoever got it right, would get a prize. None of us could figure out that there was an extra ‘r’ after the ‘b’ but I never forgot the lesson! Fr. Mac Manus would sometimes call by the houses in Derrygreenagh Pk. and with about 10 kids crammed into his car, off we'd go to see the rabbits in the countryside and he'd point out to us the blind ones stricken with myxamatosis ... and comment on how unfair it was to have introduced this disease to the rabbits in Ireland. A couple of times he brought us to Mullingar and gave us a few pence to spend. He was always very kind to us, although such outings would scarcely happen today I think. There was a Miss Alford, a pretty teacher with blonde hair. She took us for band practice (tin whistle, melodica, accordion and so on) and then each year we'd take off to Athlone for a competition...a 'battle of the bands' to speak! That was a great day out, a day to spend money, not that we had much either. We never knew if we came first or last, but that didn't seem to matter. Another event in school was the queue for the yearly photograph. Sr. Concepta would comb through everyone's hair to make sure they were looking presentable for the 'big flash'. The photographer would call out 'sausage' and we thought this was hilarious and so we looked reasonably happy in the school picture! "Tons" of sandwiches were tossed over the school wall each day and the frenzied birds had a party. My sister used to bring home her sandwiches and throw them in the coal room. When the coal or briquettes were depleted, we'd find loads of moldy sandwiches everywhere. In the evening after homework we might get to watch black and white TV. We were compelled to watch "Buntus Cainte" on TV, following it on the school book for extra homework before An Nuacht with Charles Mitchell at 8 O’clock. Then there was Daithi Lacha and Wanderly Wagon every Saturday. Some of the more grown-up TV programmes I recall were Mannix, Doctor Welby MD, Ironside, Barnaby Jones , Hawaii Five-O (with Jack Lord)! Those were the days.
I remember too how as children, we used to love scouting around the dry river-bed for lizards in the summer time. On hot days we'd head off in the car for Loch Ennell or Loch Owel with its green-tinged water. We thought our Dad was the 'bees-knees' diving from the diving board into the water. Once we went to Loch Ennell and there was a sign saying it was off limits for swimmers due to pollution. It was disappointing but the good news was that there was ice-cream at the shop. That was a great pick-me-up... the answer to just about every problem and frustration! Dad was an electrician and wired the newly built St Josephs Hall, Mom was a nurse so all our cuts and bruises were dealt with, together with some of the casualties from neighboring kids escapades, too many to mention here or maybe too embarrassing to spill the beans on some of my peers! Although I left Rochfortbridge 30 odd years ago, the Bridge and its inhabitants has never left my mind, I really enjoyed my childhood and have very many treasured memories of my early years in the cosmopolitan metropolis (as we thought it was) and the wilderness and wonderful hinterland that surrounded Derrygreenagh Park.
Bríd Gemayel.

The Wild Geese

One night as Festus Conroy of Murvey, Galway, lay dying, he called out to his son for water. After a brief exchange about nothing in particular, the dying man abruptly asked that he be buried in Gorteen Cemetery, Galway. The last thoughts of Festus Conroy, like those of many of the Wild Geese of Ireland, were of going home.

ROCHFORTBRIDGE EXILES - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

The term "Wild Geese" to many brings to mind the flight of Canadian Geese, their long necks extended, flying in a V formation at the close of an autumn day. But to the Irish, "Wild Geese" are the young men of Ireland who left their native land for service in the armies of Europe and America and, by extension, the Wild Geese are all of the men and women who have left and will leave Ireland for that which they cannot achieve at home.
The first of the Wild Geese took flight after the Battle of the Boyne. In the late 1600's the Irish supported King James II, Catholic King of England, in his losing struggle with William of Orange. Allied with James and the Irish was the Catholic King of France, Louis XIV, who had promised to send aid to Ireland to help James stave off the powerful Orangemen. Before the aid arrived, James was defeated at the Battle of the Boyne on July 12, 1690. James fled to France.
The Irish forces under Patrick Sarsfield continued the Jacobite war for another year, but after losing their stronghold at Limerick on October 3, 1691, the Irish forces surrendered. The rules of warfare being different in those days, the victorious William gave Sarsfield the choice of returning-to his lands in Ulster and swearing allegiance to Parliament and the new king, or taking his army and leaving Ireland forever. He departed Ireland with 10,000 soldiers for service in France. The flight of the Wild Geese had begun. For the next hundred years, until the French Revolution, the Wild Geese and their descendants served France as the Irish Brigade. Fighting on a foreign battle field, Sarsfield was killed two years after his flight, his dying words setting the theme of the Wild Geese, "Oh, that this were for Ireland."
The Wild Geese served not only in the French army but also in the Spanish, Austrian, English, and even Russian armies. The O'Rourkes are a case in point. After the defeat of James, Owen O'Rourke emigrated to France to rise to the rank of Viscount and Baron of Breffny. Count John O'Rourke was created a peer of France by Louis XV. Cornelius settled in Russia where his son General Count Joseph Kornilievitch O'Rourke distinguished himself as one of the generals who defeated Napoleon. Other Irishmen thrived in exile. Maria Theresa of Austria appointed Ulrich Maximilian Count Brown (b. Limerick 1705) as Generalissimo of all Austrian forces in 1752. In our own War for Independence, Marquis de Lafayette brought at least one Irish regiment, commanded by Lt. Col. Barthelemy Dillon (b. Ireland 1729). These troops were part of the force which defeated Lord Cornwallis at the Battle of Yorktown Heights.
Another of the Wild Geese gave his name to Jones Beach. Major Thomas Jones, who fought with King James at the Battle of the Boyne, received what is now Jones Beach as part of a grant from his father- in-law Thomas Townsend in 1696. Major Jones is buried in Grace Church graveyard on Merrick Road in Massapequa.
Although the Wild Geese left their native land to serve in foreign armies, they never forgot they were Irish. As Gaelic began to decline in Ireland, it survived as the language of the Irish brigades with orders, pass words, and the speech of officers being in Gaelic. For many of these soldiers their fondest dream was to return to Ireland with a large army to drive out the English invader. As an 18th century poet put it: The Wild Geese shall return
and we'll welcome them home
So active, so armed, so flighty a flock
was never known to this land to come
Since the days of Prince Fionn the Mighty.
Although the English have now departed from part of Ireland, the Wild Geese continue to fly. As Thomas O'Hanlon said in his book The Irish (1975): "The Irish are citizens of the world. When the time is propitious, they migrate with the natural instincts of wild geese, travelling ancient routes to Boston, London, Vancouver or Sydney." But wherever they travel, and no matter how long they have been away, whenever a few gather together, like Festus Conroy, the talk always turns to talk of home.

With special thanks to Sheila Perino-Sapienza, New York, USA. and J.J. O'Neill, Melbourne, Australia.


In times of strife and dearth of wealth they sailed across the foam

With little more than what they held they sailed to the unknown

But as they docked in far off lands a vow they did declare

That even though now far away to Ireland they would swear


Unfortunately many exiles never returned, here are a few clips sent to me by Shelia Perino-Sapienza, New York USA, who is seeking answers to questions that only those that caused the exile can answer. Why is there such a lack of records on this side of the water. we all know that the PRO burned down but surely all our records weren't held there...were we that un-important that we didn't warrant recording???. Bit by bit and with every little help possible we will fill in the Penal years void and post famine Exodus and regain our Family History.






A glimpse of the life of a Rochfortbridge Exile


Irishmen in the Firehouse, NewYork
Many Irish found employment as Firemen or Cops. this Photo shows Sheilas Grandfather in the Firehouse, trying to "supplement his income" Pictured 3rd from left (smoking a dúgín) Joseph North from the High Park.

ROCHFORTBRIDGE EXILES - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath
Joseph North and his wife Julia nee Collins, New York, USA.

Joseph was a lovely poet and loved his mother dearly, he was so saddened by the loss of his mother that he wrote one of the most beautiful poems that I have ever read.
Before you read it - just think of what you might write on the death of your own mother.
take a moment

In loving memory of
my mother, Elizabeth North (nee Keogh)
Who departed this life October 22, 1918
Aged 80 years
By her loving Son, Joseph North, New York City, N.Y.

*** *** *** ***

She sleeps the sleep of all that’s grand and great,

Full ripe in years, and to her God has turned,

‘tis fitting now she’d claim the grand estate,

Who to my infant lips my prayers has learned;

Before the throne angelic choirs sing,

They bear a soul all safe in God her King.


Oh saintly soul, all free from earthly guile,

Triumphant borne before the throne of God,

Chastened by years of hard and honest toil,

There but remains thy casement ‘neath the sod;

Thy body pure that must be glorified,

Oh God! For this thy loving son hath died.


When youth was mine, I well remember now,

You watched beside the seething bed of pain,

With loving hand you smoothed the fevered brow,

And never once accepted proffered gain;

And when the time grew ripe for parting breath

You softly closed those tired eyes in death.


Oh! Were I now to number all thy deeds

For others done, by always willing hand,

How faithfully you followed him who leads,

And now before you looms the promised land;

Thy time has come, go forth for which you’re born,

Thy soul enraptured greets the blissful morn.


In old Kilbride, where golden oaks and pine,

Their leaflets blend above the holy mound,

And ivied walls date back to Bridget’s time,

And Patrick blessed the sanctuary and ground;

’Twas here they brought thee loving mother mine,

And placed thee low beside thy kindred line.


And now the chimes of eve peal out the hour,

The call to prayer, our duty to our God,

I bare my head beneath the stately tower,

And kneel in supplication on the sod;

That Christ in mercy now dost make thee whole,

With crown of bliss, a halo round thy soul.


Requiescant in pace. Amen.

Letter to Mrs North from N.J Neary, Nashville, Tennessee, USA in reply to hearing of the death of Joseph North

Letter to Mrs North

ROCHFORTBRIDGE EXILES - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath
ROCHFORTBRIDGE EXILES - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath
ROCHFORTBRIDGE EXILES - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

Joseph North also wrote some cryptic poetry in his day and it might take a little understanding of the heart of the man before you can fully understand the meaning of his poetry, unlike the poem on the death of his mother, which has an almost musical ring to it and seem to be influenced by Welsh religious type gospel hymns, this next poem is only for those that know the history of Rochfortbridge to fully understand.

ROCHFORTBRIDGE EXILES - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

Many families emigrated "en mass" and although many miles away from home they had the comfort of family and neighbours around them - the great Australian song "If we only had old Ireland over here" rang out in many a bar from Perth to Melbourne - pictured below are three North Sisters and their brother, all from the Parish of Rochfortbridge.
picture taken in 1938, not at a wedding or wake in Ireland but in Brisbane Australia.

Isaac North three of and his sisters - Brisbane, Australia - 1938
Left to Right

Isaac North and Elizabeth Caffery (nee North) wife of Paddy Caffery Coachman, Gaulstown estate,
seated: Margaret McGrath (nee North) and Ann O'Neill (nee North) Ann was the wife of William O'Neill - son of Charles O'Neill and Catherine Gowran, The Park, Rochfortbridge. This Little gathering in Brisbane, 1938, was a typical gathering in far off lands - the Irish found refuge in USA, Australia, the Argentine, the West Indies, England and by choice as not before, Van Demons land - AKA New Zealand



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