by Martin Emmet Quinn (January 1919)
A ship there sailed my dreams return
To the days of yesteryear;
To the night of bliss, the parting kiss,
To the ship that brought me here.
A ship will sail my visions torn
Once more to the bounding main;
To loves sweet charms, the waiting arms,
To the ship that brings me home.
My grandfather loved poetry. Although he never finished the 8th grade in formal education, he loved to read and write poems, maybe inspired by the famous Icelandic poet, Stephan Stephansson, who lived near his boy-hood home close to Markerville, Alberta. He had boarded with that family in order to attend school for a short time. Grandpa wrote “Ships” while he was stationed in France. The previous fall, he survived the Spanish Flue with the dead and dying all around him as he lay in a military hospital. However, this delayed his deployment to the front. He was on his way there by train when the Armistice was signed on November 11. By January, he was waiting for a ship home when he penned these few lines anticipating a happy reunion with his sweetheart who would become my grandmother. We read it also at his funeral. He was 97 and outlived his beloved wife, Alice, of 65 years by nearly 6 winters. This solemn occasion was also filled with emotion and the tender thoughts of the happy reunions then taking place beyond the veil.
The draw of family has always been strong with me and as a youngster I loved hearing the stories of the way things used to be; the joys, hardships and triumphs of generations gone by. Grandpa Quinn would sometimes tell me about the visit of his Grandpa Quinn to their homestead near the Rocky Mountains west of Red Deer, Alberta. His Grandpa came from Ireland in the late 1850’s to Halifax, Nova Scotia where he married and raised his family. On his first trip out West, he brought a fruit that my Grandfather had never seen, the banana. Although no stories of life in the “Old Country” came down to my generation, I was able, through family history research of old documents in Halifax, to learn that the Quinn family lived in hamlet of Killagoola near the small town of Moycullen north of Galway City in Country Galway in Ireland. I was surprised to later learn this was one of the counties worst hit by the Irish Potato Famine. Maybe, as often happens with those who come home from war, the stories of that time were just too horrendous to be passed down.
This week I have had the chance to return to the land of my ancestors with my son, Adam, my wife, Ann, and my sister, Debby. We visited the medieval l ruins of a small castle built by the Quinn clan in nearby country Clare. We had to rent a small row boat to cross the small lake of Inchiquin to visit the ruins. They are located on private property and have no roads leading to them. We next visited ruins of pre-famine peasant homes, cemeteries and old buildings of County Galway, around Moycullen and Killagoola. Traces of my line of Quinns from this area from nearly two centuries ago have vanished but a possible link to a distinct cousin running Hurley’s Pub east of Moycullen provided us some connection with past.
I think it is good for us to consider the sacrifices of the past which in many cases help provide the blessings we enjoy today. I love the beautiful green hills overlooking Louch Corrib. The fields are divided by countless stone fences crisscrossing the land where my ancestors toiled, probably as peasant farmers. I could feel their hopes for a better life for their children and descendants. This appreciation and hope I would like to pass on to my posterity.