Dressmaker and Landlady
My aunt is Maggie Moran of Carrowsallagh Newport or Maggie Frank as she was known. Moran was the most common name in Newport parish and every Moran family had a nickname. The family had a long weaving tradition in Carrowsallagh. She watched her own mother Mary a seamstress decorating the edges of blankets with fancy stitching and sewing pieces of woven material together, by hand, to make up blankets for her brother John Moran, a well-known weaver of the village. As she grew up she helped her mother to cut and stitch up “breidin” trousers, and waistcoats, coats and jackets from frieze woven by her uncle. Sometimes linen material was used for blouses and dresses.
The Necessity of Immigration
It surprised me when I found out that Maggie was listed in the Tiernaur Company of Cumann na mBan, she was on the republican side in the civil war. No wonder she disappeared in 1924 with her sister Nora to the United States to forget the troubled times and to make a living for herself. She was described as a dressmaker on the ship’s list. They went to Cleveland Ohio to her mother’s sister Margaret, wife of Ambrose O’Boyle who got her set up as a seamstress in a sewing factory soon afterwards. Within two years her sister Nora had married Jim O’Donnell, Shanvalleyhue, Newport- a fellow traveller of the Civil War. After their second child was born Jim and Nora returned to Shanvallyhue.
Nostalgia for Home
Maggie came home in 1928 as she missed her family especially her twin sister, Annie. Shortly after returning she met her future husband Thomas Moran Shoemaker, Knockmanus – a townland about two miles away. He was bereaved since 1923 due to the death from consumption of his young wife Mary Moran Callowbrack. She was an assistant teacher in Knockloughra NS where her brother Padraic O’Morain M.A. the distinguished scholar and author also taught. His outstanding gift to the Burishoole parish is his 6,000 hand-written pages of local folklore. My aunt took on the big task of filling Mary’s shoes when she married Thomas in 1929.
Between her young step-son Andy and an aging mother-in-law, along with the farm Maggie had to forget her dressmaking skills for some time. As she organised herself, her Singer Sewing Machine was installed inside the kitchen window. She started remodelling clothes for relations, friends and neighbours and when word got out, she was taking fittings for coats and dresses on a seasonal basis.
Tiernaur Hotel of its Time
As was the custom in those times if somebody died of consumption the family moved house. With the help of his family, Thomas had a large two-storey house with a parlour, built on the farm. Maggie saw the significance of this to supplement the family income. Soon she played host to a series of young professionals -primary teachers, Board of Work Engineers, gangers on temporary building projects and road making, coming in and out of the parish. Indeed, Padraic O’ Morain kept her busy with his group of folklore colleagues. He held meetings with them in the parlour and arranged lodgings for them there. Maggie played no small part in that collection contributing local customs, piseogs and traditions as well as being land-lady to professor Delargy who spent several weeks there every summer for over twenty years.
Even-though Maggie had no children of her own, she loved her young nieces and nephews to visit. So much so, that her niece Mary lived with her all through her primary school years. She was the envy of her classmates and relatives cycling to school on an English tricycle bought from a cousin returning to London from the safety of Tiernaur after World War ll. This calls to mind an occasion when Maggie and Mary came to visit on a Sunday evening. My brother and I were sent out to play. Maggie’s new shiny bicycle and Mary’s tricycle were parked at the side of the house and we busied ourselves painting the two bikes with a mixture of yellow ashes and water. When they were leaving my parents came out to admire the new bicycle. Maggie was very cross and the painters thought it better to keep a safe distance. It took nearly the whole bath of water under the downpipe to clean the ashes off. The next time we met Maggie thankfully she did not mention the bicycle.
I, myself had first-class knowledge of her kindness and generous nature. She lived near Tiernaur Church. On Sodality Sunday, if I didn’t get a lift on John Patrick Caine’s side-car, I had to walk the three miles to the church fasting from midnight. Maggie was always there to invite me to breakfast before the return journey. Sitting around the kitchen table was a daunting experience as you could encounter dignitaries like Professor Delargy from Dublin, or a teacher from our school and you had to eat up all your porridge before the next course. Good wholesome food from the farm came next or a piece of “poached” salmon if you were in luck! I have fond memories of twiddling with the brass stair-rods and mooching among her vast wardrobe of coats exuding that unique American perfume or fitting on her hats while she was tending to her fowl.
Call to Prayer
One occasion my brother and I were invited on a holiday. Kneeling down to say the Rosary after supper while the fire burned low was a fitting end to a summer evening. Her husband had a peculiar way of slithering his words at the end of the Holy Mary and we got a fit of the giggles. To our innocent ears we knew better! The Rosary was stopped and before the lodgers present we were reprimanded. That Hail Mary had to be repeated. Needless to say we buried our faces deep in the cushion the next time around. That same brother spent a year with them both when my mother developed consumption after giving birth to twins in 1950 and had to go to a Sanatorium. Maggie was the first to come to our aid.
When Maggy’s husband died suddenly in 1960, she could no longer farm and the era of the country lodging house was over. She brought her twin sister Annie to live with her. Anne had spent some time in St. Mary’s Mental Hospital due to health problems in middle age. Maggie did not abandon her but took her out and cared for her until she died in 1977 and is buried with her sister Nora in Burrishoole cemetery.
Maggie was a strong and independent person who held out at home till her final illness. The last thing to go was her Singer sewing machine. Finally she used to thread it with the aid of a magnifying glass. Towards the end of her life she moved to Westport where she was lovingly cared for by her step-son, his wife and family until her death in 1978. She is buried in Killeen Cemetery, Newport with her husband Thomas. May she rest in peace.
Maggie was one of twelve children born to Francis Moran and Mary Moran, Carrowsallagh, Newport. Their respective parents were Mickie Moran and Mary Chambers Derrycooldrim; and Thomas Moran and Biddie Heveran Tawnyoogaun. Mickie Moran’s parents were Michael Moran and Bridget O’Boyle from Ballycroy-whose mother was a Calvey and Mary Chamber’s parents were Patrick Chamber and Dolly Sweeney from Swinford and her grand-parents were a Protestant Minister called Chambers from England who married a lady from Westport called Gibbons. Those Morans were known locally as the Frank Mickie Michaels and the Chambers were known as the Dollies.