Anna (Brennan) Gray's Recollections of her grandparents Martin Brennan and Catherine Corcoran: Their departure from Ireland to England and on to the United States as Told by Barbara (Gray) Cutter
Anna Brennan's recollections of Martin Brennan and Catherine Corcoran in the following story describe an Irish family that left Ireland during the famine, traveled to England to make passage money before immigrating to the United States. Like any other lore passed on from generation to generation, the story has to be proven with concrete facts. Many emigrants came to England during that period but the majority of them that came from County Mayo tended to gravitate to Counties like Yorkshire (like Huddersfield where we believe they were married), Lancashire and points north rather than London. Many Irish were documented as hawkers in the census records and hawking delft pottery was very plausible as was their departure from Liverpool in the spring. Only time and our research will tell how the facts will pan out.
When I was in grade school and we started to study History, I hated it because I could never memorize the dates and names and places. There was nothing significant to hang it onto and I was horrible at memorizing.
My father, Thomas Gray, sat down with me one day to help with History homework. He said that History was exciting, it tells us where we have been as a nation and a people. He would tell the stories behind the dates and people in such a way that it became exciting. From then on, we studied History together, Indiana history and war history, everything. When we got to WWII, he had first hand information that was not in any history book and I couldn't stop the questions.
During that time, I began to ask questions about our family and where we came from. Who are we, what am I? That sent me on a life long journey for my ancestors. My mother's side was already completed and published. My father's side of the family was another story.
I would visit my grandmother often and she used to care for us when my mother and father were at work. Her name was Ann Eleanor (Brennan) Gray, my father's mom.
It started out with me sitting down with her and asking her a million questions. These are the stories I wrote as she told them to me.
I asked Grandma where did our family come from? "Why child from Ireland." "Why?" I told her that I wanted to know where I was from so that I could tell my children and grandchildren. She laughed really hard and told me "You will find out that they were all probably a bunch of horse thieves and murderers."
I was told that we were from County Mayo, Ireland. Now that explained a lot- why my grandma and father were so full of blarney and where the tempers came from. So I asked her "where in County Mayo?" She didn't know. Grandma was 8 years old when her grandmother died. Her grandmother was Catherine Brennan who immigrated here. Grandma said that Catherine used to wistfully say "Oh Donnegal Oh Donnegal I miss Ireland." Grandma didn't know where they were born. Martin Brennan, her grandfather, married Catherine Corcoran before they came to America. Martin was catholic, poor and uneducated. He had dark hair, dark eyes and was very good looking. Catherine was very tiny, petite, very pretty and a "spitfire." Her nickname was "Kitty." Grandma also said that they had a daughter named Mary and another named Margaret or Bridget (she wasn't sure) and thought that they both died in Ireland or before they ever came here. Here was South Bend, Indiana. Grandma remembers Catherine telling others of leaving Ireland and how her mother cried when she left. Grandma said that they left Ireland sometime during the potato famine and went to England where they sold delft pottery on the streets of London to gain passage to America and money to live on. Martin was going to come on alone, get settled and then send for his wife, but she wouldn't have any part of such nonsense. One can imagine the discussion and who won that one- Catherine came with him. They left in the spring she thought. They came in a sailing ship, in steerage, below decks. The voyage took three months and three times they were locked in below deck because of the severe storms and they thought they were going to die...
part 2 of Anna Brennan Gray's recollections are continued on the next page.