Sunday 17 January 2016

The Kiwi Connection

The following is a note I received from New Zealand that  Jeremy Taylor would like to share with you. It is very self explanatory and quite sad really but the power of the Family overcomes everything. If anyone can relate to this  or any relative, we would love to hear from you..

My name is Jeremy and I'm writing to you from Christchurch, New Zealand.
I write to you as I wanted to share a brief story regarding our branch of the Corridan's.
My grandparents, Jim and Johanna Lanigan (nee CORRIDAN), arrived in New Zealand in 1951 with the intention of staying here for a couple of years. 65 years later Jim has sadly passed away but Grandma is alive and well having turned 86 this last September (2015).
Starting afresh in a new country without family isn't an easy thing to do. Fortunately where they settled, a small town called Greymouth on the West Coast of New Zealand,  there was a large Irish community and the gradual transition of becoming a 'Kiwi' begun.
Their daughter, my mother Mary, from a very early age expressed an interest in her Irish heritage and her extended family 'back home'. This keen interest lead Mum into researching our family's history. When Mum started gathering the necessary date and names it seemed to be only by pen and paper and was a very slow and tedious process.
With Mum passing away in 2001 the family tree research stopped. It wasn't till early last year when a conversation with Grandma reignited the families interest in finding out where they originated.
My grandmother is the 8th and youngest child to Peter and Bridget Corridan (nee WALSH) from a little rural area just outside of Listowel called Drombeg.
Life on the small dairy farm was a simple one but a very challenging one. Even though Grandma was the youngest and wasn't necessarily involved in all the farm tasks she realised that a lot of hard work was put into providing food for all.
Grandma was only 7 years old when her mother Bridget passed away. She recalls it being a tough time for all but with her older siblings all contributing more around the house they continued life on the farm.
Grandma recalls school quite vividly. She attended Tullamore National school and Presentation Convent with her sister Catherine and to this day still slips into Gaelic if she is counting up card scores.
TB struck the family twice taking their father Peter and sister Bridie. The family now parentless initially spent some time with relatives but soon returned home where their brother John took over the running of the farm.
Peter's brothers Michael and Martin helped the family out as best they could. As the story goes 'Martin was living in London working for the BBC' and helped by taking in the oldest of the girls Maureen. Grandma recalls being lined up as a family when uncle Michael visited them on a Sunday. In addition to being asked how they were and what they'd been doing, they were also asked if they were behaving themselves.
With Maureen now living in Manchester post World War 2 and the limited prospects they had in rural Ireland they all gradually moved across to Manchester, England.
Life in Manchester was very different to what they'd experienced back home. Understandably they stuck together and mingled with the many Irish that populated  Manchester back then.
For some of Grandma's siblings travelling as far as Manchester was far enough. Grandma however wanted to follow her sister Elisabeth to the USA but was unable to secure sponsorship….lucky for me.
During a live-in nanny job Grandma met an apprentice tailor called James Lanigan. Jim wasn't initially to my grandmother's liking but with his Mayo determination and 'twinkle toe' dance steps he eventually won her over.
The young couple married in 1950 and were soon heading to New Zealand after encouragement from Jim's sisters and extended family already living in NZ. Even though they planned to return to the UK after 2 years they still felt incredibly emotional. That being said they joined in with the crew and passengers of the 'Atlantis' in singing 'Now is the hour' as they departed Southampton.
Their voyage took them through the Mediterranean Sea, Suez canal, Red Sea and across the Indian Ocean to Perth, Australia. After a brief stop they sailed south of Australia and landed in Wellington and to the middle of a waterfront strike.
With the arrival of my mother in 1952 and with a bright future ahead Grandma and Jim decided to stay in New Zealand.
The last 12 months has been a mixed bag of emotions for Grandma. She has recounted many stories during our conversations over numerous cups of tea - more happy than sad. Even though she only spent her earlier years in Ireland she considers herself to be Irish and a Corridan and is fiercely proud of both - something I'm pleased that has been passed on to subsequent generations.
One memory of my own though will be with me forever. The author of this website, Paul, forwarded me a photocopy of a picture of an old farmhouse and wondered if she might have any information about it. Watching her face when she first saw it was amazing. There was instant recognition as it was the farmhouse her and her family lived in all those years ago. To whomever forwarded it on - Thank you!!
Of Grandma's family there remains just the two. Her older sister Elisabeth is alive and well in New York. They speak weekly and would love to be together but sadly the demands of travel would be too great.
That being said, from that one farmhouse in Drombeg, there are Corridan's scattered around the world - New Zealand, Australia, USA and England.
From a personal perspective I'll carry on digging into the family tree. Grandma recalls stories of family moving to the USA. Some even moving 'out west' never to be heard of again. Sounds very exciting.  I have no idea where this journey of discovery will go and how far I'll get back but if you're somehow related or relate to this story I'd love to hear from you.
Best wishes to you and your loved ones.
Jeremy (aka Kiwi Corridan)