My grandmother, Kitty Kelly, (nee Mulligan) was born in Carey’s Row, Dundalk in 1882. At around the age of fourteen she was parcelled off to Chicago.
She hadn’t a clue where she was going and all she had with her was a suitcase and the name and address, on a piece of string around her neck, of the people who were to meet her and take care of her.
Whatever she imagined was going to happen to her – and what actually happened – were two different stories. She believed she was sent off to better herself and to learn to read and write, but she ended up as a servant to these people.
In 1902 she headed back to Dundalk. On the boat back she met a young man from Belfast who befriended her and told her that he would call on her. There was an early romantic attachment.
When she arrived in Dundalk she found that the house was empty and her family had moved off. She was informed by the neighbours that they had moved to Newry. She stayed the night in the house of a neighbour and next day she was driven by horse and trap to Newry.
She asked people if they knew any Mulligans from Dundalk and after some hours she was directed to Edward Street and there, eventually, she was re-united with her family.
Before long she joined her mother and sisters, working in Bessbrook Mill.
After some time she came under the eye of a spinning master in the mill, Matthew Kelly, who decided she was the girl for him.
One Friday after she had finished her shift she entered her own home to find Matthew Kelly, all dressed up, sitting there. Her mother did the formal introductions and informed Kitty that Matthew was to be her husband.
That was that. They were married on 24th April 1906.
My mother told us that years later my grandmother answered a knock on her door. My mother could hear her talking to some man.
When she closed the door she was crying. We often imagined that he was the man she had met on the boat home.
She would not confirm this.
Now, we’ll never know.
… tossed out of the Independent Club …