Tag Archives: queenstown

U.S. Navy steamed into Ireland 100 years ago

With vital sea lanes to protect from German U-boats, the U.S. Navy arrived in Ireland 100 years ago as America entered World War I. The first ships reached the harbour at Queenstown (now Cobh) on 4 May 1917, and included six destroyers from the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, Division Eight, led by Commander Joseph K Taussig on board the USS Wadsworth.

“They braved rough waters, gale-force winds, and German U-boats to protect commercial ships around Great Britain and France,” Tim Forsyth, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ireland said during a centennial  commemoration. “Unrestricted submarine warfare by the Germans was a huge threat and the sinking of the Lusitania and several other U.S. merchant ships was on everyone’s minds.”

Other conferences, exhibits and articles about the American naval presence in Ireland include:

The U.S. Navy arrived in Queenstown in May 1917. Story and more photos at Visit Cobh. The church in left background is St. Colman’s Cathedral.

Willie’s emigration centennial: Day 6 of 12


Willie Diggin was hardly the first to leave Ireland.

From the mid-19th century potato famine to his May 1913 departure more than 4.5 million Irish sailed from their homeland to America, Canada, Australia and other parts of the world. The population of County Kerry plunged from 294,000 in 1841, four years before the famine, to 165,000 in 1901. Kerry had one of the highest rates of emigration in Ireland.

Willie’s older sister Annie emigrated in October 1910, six months before the census enumerator returned to the family house in Lahardane. Kerry’s population declined to 159,000 in the April 1911 census.

Annie journeyed to Pittsburgh, some 370 miles west of New York. Her trip was sponsored by her uncle Michael Diggin, who immigrated to the city in 1891. At least three male cousins also landed in Pittsburgh between 1902 and 1910.

As it turned out, the woman Willie would marry in 1924 emigrated from near Ballylongford in September 1912, arriving in Pittsburgh eight months before his departure from Ireland.

A few weeks before he left, the April 16, 1913, issue of The Kerry News published an editorial under the headline, “Still Going.” It referenced an annual report showing that nearly 30,000 people left Ireland the previous year, most of them sailing to the United States. It said:

The emigration returns prove very clearly that our young people cannot find work and most go to places where they will get work and decent wages. They must face risks and hardships, but it is better to face them than remain in slavery and poverty all their lives.

Willie traveled to Pittsburgh with a neighbor from Lahardane, John Stack, whose brother lived in the city. The Baltic’s manifest shows several passengers destined for Pittsburgh,though most were bound for Irish hubs such New York, Boston and Chicago.

On the manifest, Willie’s occupation is listed as “laborer,” the same as recorded in the 1911 census. He surely worked on the family farm, but it is unclear what other employment he may have had around Ballybunion.

In America, his ability to read and write English,learned at the small school in Rahavanig townland, would give him and other Irish an advantage over many European immigrants.


The Baltic at sea.

Like Willie, most of the Baltic’s Irish passengers were in their late teens and twenties. Many were from Ireland’s rural western counties such as Kerry, Clare, Galway and Mayo. Their last view of Ireland was the Cork coast as the Baltic slipped from the Queenstown harbor and steamed toward the open sea. They were unsure whether to focus off the stern or the bow, to look back or to face ahead.

It took eight days for the Baltic to cross the Atlantic.

Tomorrow: AMERICA


Her emigration, 100 years ago

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.