Hear Susan's Irish relatives.
Happy Reunion! (See footnote at the bottom of this page.)
First published April 1999.
A great family reunion has been taking place in Lismore, County Waterford, Ireland this week, which has taken more than eighty years to happen.
Last October 1998 Pat Kiely saw a message on a Waterford Internet noticeboard written by Susan Finlayson from Canada, who was trying to trace her distant Crowley relatives who had once lived in a place called Ballyanchor near Lismore, Co.Waterford.
Susan had never been able to trace her Irish roots, because her grandmother Mary, had been disowned by her Irish Catholic parents, Michael and Kate Crowley, for marrying outside of the Catholic church.
The Crowley's oldest daughter Margaret had married and immigrated to Canada some years before, but was not in good health with kidney problems, so Mary the next daughter was sent out to look after her older sister's children.
While there, she met, fell in love with and married Sydney 'Bert' Leach, an English Protestant, on the 3rd of December 1913 and from this date was and forever cut off from her Irish family, who from then on treated her as dead.
This was at a time of intolerance, when Catholics were told by the clergy that it was a mortal sin even to enter a Protestant church, and to marry outside the faith was forbidden.
Because of this very soon all links with Ireland were lost. All that Susan, from Bowser, Vancouver Island, had to go on to trace her Irish roots, was a story that her 84 year old mother 'Bertie' had told her about her great aunt, Kate Crowley, who travelled out to Canada on her own in 1913 to help with her sisters children, now that Susan's grandmother Mary had left to marry.
As Kate's train neared its destination, the conductor said the next stop was Kingston, Ontario her destination, but failed to say that the train would stop first at an outer station to let another train through. The seventeen year old from tiny Lismore mistakenly thought they had arrived when the train stopped, and got off, as she started to walk she was struck and killed instantly by the Toronto express which was travelling at high speed towards her.
Within a short time Margaret also died from her kidney disease, which meant that Susan's great- grandparents Michael and Kathleen Crowley, had effectively lost their three daughters in just a couple of years.
Only two days after seeing the Susan's original message Pat was contacted by a Mrs Kathleen Hogan (nee' Crowley) who thought she might be a relative. She had heard about his enquiry about the Crowley connection from her cousin, who had heard about it on the 'Lismore grapevine.' which is, the small town equivalent of the Internet, where hot news can sometimes travel even faster than on the world wide web.
Mrs Hogan, (whose husband Billy is a well known musician, who has been playing in a band since the 1930s) said, she remembered hearing a story from her late father, who used to talk about his sister Kate, her aunt, getting killed by a train in Canada. and was told she was named after her.
Kathleen then produced a battered photo of Susan's Finlayson's great grandparents that she had discovered in an old shoe box, and within the hour, it was scanned it into Pat's his computer and e- mailed off to Canada.
At first Susan was not sure if the news and photo was genuine!
Could she trust a stranger half way across the world with this information after so many years of unsuccessful searching?
She said later, after she had got some conclusive proof that when she heard Pat Kiely worked in the Heritage Centre, that perhaps she might be able trust the news after all..
Last Christmas Susan presented her mother with a book filled with information about the Irish Crowley connection, the old photo, and the names of eight great uncles her mother 'Bertie' never knew existed.
'I could not believe I was seeing a picture of my grandparents for the first time in my life.' said the sprightly 84 year old,' whose own mother had said that if her parents considered her dead, she would consider them dead also.
'She would never give us any information about them, names or anything even though she lived to be 84 herself.,' said Susan's mother. .
Sadly the last of 'Berties,'Irish uncles died some years ago before they could be traced .
The 'Canadian' Crowleys return home via London next Wednesday 'We have had a most exciting and wonderful time here, meeting long lost cousins and unknown relatives, who had travelled to Lismore from all over Ireland and England for the reunion. We would like to thank very much all those who have helped to make this week possible,' Susan said...
Sadly, Mrs Bertie Finlayson passed peacefully away on Tuesday 8th May at 12.30am.Her daughter Susan was at her bedside telling the nurse about this amazing story above and as she finished she looked at her mum to see that she gently passed away...
May She Rest in Peace...Amen.
Hear Susan's Irish relatives.
Copyright 1999/2002 Story / pics Pat Kiely...Lismore
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