Monday 30 January 2012

Bere Island plans emigration exhibition

Bere Island Heritage Centre is planning a major exhibition about emigration from the island.

The exhibition will look at the reasons behind the momentous decision to leave the island, how the emigrants settled into their new homes and how their descendants still maintain a strong allegiance to their island roots.

Bere islanders emigrated to England, mainland Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. Some also travelled to Africa to work with religious orders, while a considerable number went to Argentina. Indeed, a descendant of a Bere Island man set up the First Cattleman's Bank of Argentina.

Many curious and interesting stories have been uncovered, and the organisers of the exhibition are hoping more will pour in. Bere Island Heritage Centre's Helen Riddell told IGN: "We are asking that anyone with stories of their families who have emigrated get in touch with us at or on 00353 277 5956."

A number of events will run alongside the exhibition, which will open in June. These include talks from historians and lecturers on the subject of emigration, and workshops for children; dramatisations of emigration stories involving local theatre groups; an American Wake party; music/poetry sessions; a 'food night', where everyone will be invited to bring a traditional dish from a country where they have family.

Here's a taste of some of the stories uncovered so far:

  • Jack 'The Slasher' from Bere Island was well-known for being the fastest and most efficient mine-shaft sinking contractor in the USA.
  • Senator John H O'Sullivan of Ballinakilla ran for Mayor of Boston against JFK's grandfather 'Honey Fitz'.
  • A Bere Island woman working as a stewardess on a liner is reputed to have brought late President De Valera back from the States as a baby.
  • Another Bere Island woman worked as a maid next door to Lizzie Borden and her family. Lizzie Borden subsequently murdered her parents.

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