FAMILY REUNION Kathleen Morgan returned to Keelcuil, near Liscarney, Westport after a gap of nearly seventy years. She is pictured with family and friends celebrating her 70th birthday at Ann Humphreys’ Cottage in Carramore, Liscarney. Back, from left: Lennie Grimes, Seán Staunton, Ann Humphreys, Rose Willette, Joe Grimes, Carmel Grimes, Les Willette, Michael Fitzgerald, Tony O’Brien, Pauline Fitzgerald, Val Grimes, Julie O’Brien. Front: Veronica Morgan, Kathleen Morgan, Margaret McDonnell.
Family reunited in Liscarney after 70 years
THERE were emotional scenes in the small townland of Keelcuil, near Liscarney, Westport, last week when a woman celebrated her 70th birthday by meeting up with many of her siblings for the very first time.
Kathleen Morgan was born at a now-derelict site in Keelcuil on October 17, 1941, during the war years. She was put up for adoption by her mother, Bridget, and as a result, she had never met her three sisters and two brothers – until a few weeks ago. After a determined effort by her close friends in Dublin and some local cousins here in Mayo, the family were once again united.
Tracing a sister
Kathleen was brought up in the Good Shepherd Orphanage in Limerick and spent much of her young adult life working in Galway and Limerick before she settled in Dublin, working as an orderly in Mount Carmel Hospital in Dublin. The rest of the Morgan family lived most of their lives in Liverpool.
In 2009, Kathleen’s sister Veronica decided to look for her, although she feared Kathleen may have passed on.
Veronica first contacted Barnardos for help in tracing Kathleen. Because of privacy laws, Barnardos are not allowed to released private address details, but they were able to confirm, through the social services, that Kathleen was alive. The organisation was also able to forward correspondence from Veronica to Kathleen. However, months passed without any reply.
Veronica had almost given up hope of ever meeting her sister until a cousin, Joe Grimes from Coventry and Liscarney, heard of her plight. He decided to make contact with his brother, Lennie, who still lives close to the Keelcuil homestead in Liscarney.
Speaking to The Mayo News, Lennie Grimes explained how he took up the reins. “With Veronica’s consent, I tried to follow up the story with Barnardos, as it was easier to do it from this side of the Irish Sea. I was eventually allowed to write a personal letter that would be delivered to Kathleen via Social Services.”
Another long wait ensued, but then a breakthrough came. “A fortnight passed until one morning my phone rang,” Lennie said. “I talked to a Dublin couple, Michael and Pauline Fitzgerald, who said they were friends of Kathleen Morgan. They said that while visiting Kathleen, they became aware of the letter sent by myself, and they encouraged Kathleen to make contact.” Kathleen had been reluctant to make contact, as such a long period of time had elapsed. She was afraid that the correspondence from Veronica could be a case of mistaken identity. However, everything came together when Lennie travelled to Dublin to meet the Fitzgeralds and Kathleen.
“It was amazing to be able to fill Kathleen in on her family history, as I was the first relative she had ever met. After the meeting, we arranged for Veronica and some of her family to visit Kathleen.”
After the initial meetings, everyone felt it would only be right and proper for Kathleen to visit the ruins of the Keelcuil homestead where she was born. Last week, that dream became a reality, when Kathleen celebrated her 70th birthday in Liscarney with a large gathering of family and friends.
“It truly was a memorable day for everyone involved,” said Lennie, who noted that even the sun came out to welcome Kathleen. “With the good weather, she was able to see fully the beautiful area in which she was born.”
Some weeks earlier Veronica had arranged for Kathleen to travel to Liverpool to meet her sisters and brother Kevin.
After visiting the Keelcuil site, the group all retired to Ann Humphreys’ Cottage in Carramore, Liscarney where Kathleen celebrated her birthday with a special birthday cake, and, for the first time, her family.