His Last Trip: An Irish-American Story, is a biography of my maternal grandfather, Willie Diggin, a 1913 County Kerry emigrant who died in Pittsburgh 10 days after the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack. The book evolved from this January 2009 story I wrote for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The 213-page book, self-published in December 2013, also explores Kerry’s Lartigue monorail; Ireland’s struggle for independence; the streetcar system and social conditions of Pittsburgh before World War II; and Catholic culture and religious practices in Ireland and the U.S. during the late 19th & early 20th century.
The book “provides a fascinating snapshot of one family’s Irish-American experience and how their lives were shaped by circumstances here and in Ireland,” Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh said in a 2018 blog post.
Copies of His Last Trip are available at several libraries and archives, including the Ballybunion and Tralee branches of the County Kerry Library in Ireland; the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Washington, Pa.; the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh; Carnegie Library; and the Archives of Irish America at New York University.
In May 2013, while developing the Post-Gazette story into the book, I posted a 12-part blog serial to recognize the centennial of Willie’s emigration. It is linked here in its original format.
Day 1: An Introduction
Day 2: Queenstown
Day 3: His Kerry Roots
Day 4: Majesty and Misery
Day 5: His Catholic Faith
Day 6: Emigrants Before Him
Day 7: America
Day 8: Streetcar Motorman and Citizen
Day 9: Husband
Day 10: House and Family
Day 11: Great Depression
Day 12: His Last Trip