One hundred years ago, in mid-September 1912, Honorah Ware boarded the passenger ship S.S. Baltic at Queenstown, Ireland. The 20-year-old farm girl from rural Kilelton townland in northwest Kerry was bound for the American city of Pittsburgh.
Her journey began with a seven-mile trip to the railway station at Listowel. She probably was joined by an 18-year-old girl from nearby Ballylongford who also was bound for relatives in Pittsburgh. The 65-mile trip to Queenstown, now called Cobh, included stops in Tralee, Killarney, Mallow and Cork city.
The young women likely spent a night or two in a boarding house before taking a lighter out to the Baltic anchored in the harbor. Remember, this was five months after the Titanic sank in the icy waters of the north Atlantic. Imagine what must have going through their minds.
The crossing took eight days. Nora and the other passengers were processed at Ellis Island on Sept. 21, 1912. From there she took a 300-mile train trip to Pittsburgh.
Like many young Irish women of the period, Nora spent her early years in America working as a household servant, or domestic. She married a Kerry man in 1924, at age 33, and they had six children, including my mother. In 1959, I became the seventh of Nora’s 12 grandchildren.
Nora died in 1983, shortly after her 93rd birthday. She never lost her Kerry brogue, but she never got back to Ireland, either. I have had the pleasure of walking the north Kerry headlands and Shannon estuary of her birthplace.
At this centennial of her emigration, I honor her memory. God love her.