The Mc Greal Family
These quite unassuming family members were well known in the Carrabawn area of Westport Town as landowners and business people.
The Mac Grail Sept of Ireland was a branch of the Mac Neill Clans of the Western Isles of Scotland. These peoples settled during the 15th century in Ireland. The name subsequently changed further to O’Neill then on to Mac Neill on arrival in Mayo. The Mc Greal family ancestors came from Ulster to Westport as part of the Linen workers during the 1700’s. They lived at the original town of Cathair na Mart in Westport Demesne at the East end of Westport House Estate among the 700 inhabitants that were evicted when The Browne’s wished to extend their gardens! There is a stone tablet on the gable of the small chapel across the road from Aughavale Cemetery on the road to Louisburgh that says “In loving memory of Patrick McGreal Newforest Carnalurgan Husband of Anne, Father of Dr. Patrick, John, Catherine, Domnick and Michael. He died in 1799 age 47 years.” John Mc Greal of Newforest was Herd’s man for Lord Sligo. His lands in Newforest included the former Carrabawn site of Mc Greal’s home and land.
Patrick was born in 1856 at Newforest. He first married Bridget Mc Greal, Murrisk who died at a young age, they had one son Domnic (12th July 1890 – 24/11/1957). His second marriage was to Margaret (Mater) Collins (Glenmask) (1866 – 28 /1 /1955) their family included a set of twin girls Margaret and May, Anne, John then Catherine plus baby Bridget who died January 1st 1894. Patrick’s family lived on the old narrow road from Leenane Road to Aughaval graveyard. His second family is buried in Aughavale Cemetery Westport. Their Gravestone reads; Margaret Relict of P. (Pat) Mc Greal and son John died January 10th 1964. Daughter Annie died March 20th 1973. Daughter Margaret died March 3rd 1982. Unfortunately the headstone was damaged in a winter storm some years ago.
Patrick and Margaret’s family was cousins of the Beckett family, Davitt Terrace, Westport (from Bridget and John Lavelle’s Line) in the town along with Barbara (1872- 1 /8/ 1932) and Katie Mc Greal (1868-23/12/1922) also Fr. John McGreal (1845-1906), Bridget (1864 – 1921) and Margaret (Domnic and Mary Sheridan’s Line). Barbara and Katie were proprietors of a licensed premises at the Octagon (now Hoban’s) also Fr. John Mc Greal was curate at Mayo Abbey plus he served on The Aran Islands. There is the sad family story of Katie who was pushed into a fire by a drunken man in the pub one night; although she survived she was left with physical and psychological injuries throughout the rest of her life. Her sister Barbara nursed her along with running the family business.
Sonny (John), born in 1902/3? worked on the farm he also assisted with the heavy manual work. He sowed the Orchard with Gretta. He collected turf from their bog then stocked it at the large shed. Sonny died Jan 10th 1964 he is buried with his parents at Aughavale.
Annie was born in 1899/1901? She later spent over twenty years in the U.S. She was employed in Cleveland by a very wealthy family during the Spring and Fall. They spent the Winter in Hope Sound, Florida plus the Summer in Northern Michigan. During the 1940’s she was employed by Richard Rogers of the Musical team of Rogers and Hammerstein fame. She returned to live her life at Carrabawn where she died following a long illness in the Sacred Heart Hospital, Castlebar on May 20th 1973. Annie is buried in the family grave at Aughavale.
May (Gretta’s twin) (May 1895 – September 1991) married Percy Hughes in England they had one son John he married Josephine Dahdale, who in turn have a son John!
Gretta was May’s twin she was born during 1895. She worked on the family farm. She ran the house, milked the cows, looked after the Orchard plus had a business in milk production and wholesale among Westport customers. Gretta was once injured in an accident at the end of the road as a car knocked her off her bicycle. Gretta died on May 3rd 1982 she is buried at Aughaval in the family plot.
During the late forties Gretta took in a lodger, her cousin Mrs. Minnie Lynch (1883 – 12 /04/1973) after Minnie’s husband Con Lynch died in 1948. Minnie had been adopted by her Aunt Margaret and her husband Michael Keating from Tipperary an R.I.C. man, they lived on Altamount Street.
Katie (Catherine) was born on 04 / 01/ 1901 – 17 /05 /1987). She emigrated to Cleveland, Ohio where she married James Collins, employed as a Barber during the Depression, he later was employed by Cleveland Transit Co. (31 /10 /1900 – 02 /05 /1972) from Drummin. They had a son James who died shortly after birth plus a daughter Margaret (Rita.) During the harsh winters of 1929 / 1903 Katie opened her house to many Mayo People. She kept a stove in her large basement constantly fueled plus coffee on the boil supplied throughout the day. She died on the May 17th 1987. Their daughter Rita married Thomas Fitzmaurice, a Policeman they lived in Euclid, Ohio. Rita died on 11th November 2014. They have four boys; Michael, James, Thomas and John also two girls Catherine and Theresa.
Have recollections of Sonny that included him as he worked in the barn or when he stacked turf from his bog in the shed or again as he swept the large yard. There were days Gretta walked the roads with her milk cans, or collected water from the well on Leenane Road. The sight of the aged Gretta sitting in her very dark kitchen at the extremely smoky fire lingers to this day. This was in sharp contrast with the dainty bright sitting room of Minnie Lynch at the front of Gretta’s house! Also remember that when Gretta was in ill health later in her life she kept the turf for her fire in the bath! We often enjoyed lovely fresh fruit from the large Orchard!
Information from Family Folklore including Rita and John Fitzmaurice plus Personal Memorabilia.
Mayo in the Twentieth Century, Mayo News. Mulloy John. Pages 26 / 27 December 1999.
Johnny Mee in his weekly column on an article on Carrabawn in The Connaught Telegraph stated that ‘in recent times Sonny & Gretta Mc Greal were the salt of the earth, whose home was a popular meeting place for local people.’