The Man Who Disappeared For Over 158 Years!

 This story comes from the June newsletter of “Ireland Reaching Out”:

A wonderful story from Sr. DeLourdes, Ireland XO volunteer:

Garret Egan, born towards the end  of the eighteenth century, had been an active member of his parish community, that of Kiltartan, Gort, Co. Galway. His name appears in the Tithe Applotment Books, 1826. His brother, Denis, supplied information to the Ordnance Survey personnel in the years 1837 to 1840. Garret farmed the Glebe Land of Kiltartan  in 1839. He was a member of the Kiltartan Famine Relief Committee in 1846. That same year, as part of the Famine Relief Works, he and Andrew Kelly were given the contract of improving the road between Kiltartan Cross and what is now known as Fahy’s Cross on the Gort-Loughrea road. For the sum of € 20.00  they were contracted to build a wall around the burial ground of Kiltartan. After that – total silence. No mention of Garret in Griffith’s Valuation 1855 or in subsequent rental accounts of the Gregorys of Coole Park who were the local landlords. No trace of the Egan family in the 1901 or 1911 census forms. Not to be found in the Church or Civil Records. 

Fast forward to 2007. The present Egan family,  who have been living in Kiltartan townland  for almost fifty years , received a letter in August 2007. The sender was Ed O’Connor with an address in Hudson, Massachusetts, USA. He was curious to know were they related to his wife, Marge, who was great-great-granddaughter of Garret Egan who emigrated from Kiltartan in 1849! Mystery solved!  We didn’t succeed in establishing a connection between Joe, Eileen and family, Kiltartan and their American namesakes in Massachusetts but we knew for certain that Garret and his descendants were part of the Kiltartan diaspora. I quickly replied to Ed and Marge and so began a long friendship which has been mutually beneficial. They told me the story of how Garret Egan, his wife Margaret McNamara, his seven children and his brother Denis emigrated to Deerfield, MA. One can only imagine what they endured on the coffin ship. Garret died ten years later and Margaret  outlived him by almost thirty years, dying in  Northampton, MA in 1888.  Subsequent generations saw the family branching out in all directions. Marge and her husband Ed were born in Holyoke, MA which at one time in its history was known as “Ireland’s Parish”. They were the first to sign up for The Week of Welcomes which was initiated by Ireland Reaching Out in 2011. It was quite moving to see Marge stroking the walls of Kiltartan Cemetery. They returned the following year for the Week of Welcomes in North Kerry where Ed has close relatives. Since then he has worked generously as a volunteer for Ireland Reaching Out in Massachusetts. I suppose the lesson of the story is: never despair of finding lost-long relatives. Any day at all they could turn up on your doorstep!

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