independent

Wednesday 17 October 2018

Family links between New Ross, USA and Enniscorthy are reunited

Celebrating USA and Irish heritage on July 4 were, from left, Kitty Cleary, from Ballyanne with her brother-in-law and family from California, from left, Ashleigh Vandenbrink, Diana and Jack Hayes and Barbara Hayes-Vandenbrink
Celebrating USA and Irish heritage on July 4 were, from left, Kitty Cleary, from Ballyanne with her brother-in-law and family from California, from left, Ashleigh Vandenbrink, Diana and Jack Hayes and Barbara Hayes-Vandenbrink

Brendan Keane

For one American visiting County Wexford for a family reunion the current heatwave reminded him of home.

Jack Hayes, from California, spoke to this newspaper about his trip to Wexford and about how his late mother, who was from Ballyanne, received a medal from the Irish government for her work 'moving guns' in America.

Mr Hayes' mother, Gertrude (Gerdy) Cleary emigrated to America in 1929 to be with the love of her life, George Hayes, who emigrated from his family home in Court Street, Enniscorthy, the year before.

'My mother emigrated just after her father died,' said Mr Hayes.

'She went to San Francisco to meet with her fiance, my father, and they got married 10 days later,' he added.

'They had known each other for years but he went over the year before.'

Mr Hayes father was originally from a farm in the Tomnalossett area of Enniscorthy.

He said the two met after his father stopped to help his mother who got a flat tyre on her bicycle while on the way to a dance.

'She had a flat tyre and he stopped to fix it for her,' said Mr Hayes.

'My mother was a very, quiet, smart and dignified lady and she was an authority on all things Irish in San Francisco,' he added.

Mr Hayes met with this newspaper in New Ross where he was visiting his sister-in-law, Kitty Cleary, from Ballyanne.

It wasn't the first time he was 'home', however, having first come to Ireland in the 1960s with his brother.

'After myself and Diana were married we came back every couple of years,' he said.

'In 1980 we came back with our six children, aged between 16 and 6 at the time, so that was an adventure,' he added.

After Gerdy Cleary emigrated it was 27 years before she set foot on Irish soil again.

'It was a different time back then and it wasn't until 1956 that she returned home to Ireland for the first time since leaving,' said Mr Hayes.

'She never thought she would see Ireland again after she went over [to the States],' he added.

At the time Mr Hayes' brother was in the American army, stationed in Germany, and so Ireland was an ideal place for his mother to meet him.

'She got to come back two more times but was in regular touch with relatives and friends by mail,' said Mr Hayes.

'She always knew what was going on with family.'

He said the Hayes home was a veritable meeting place for a lot of Irish people in San Francisco.

As a woman who was very proud of her roots Gerdy Hayes was acknowledged by the Irish Government for her work in 'moving guns' in America.

'She received a medal of commendation from the Irish Government for her work shifting guns around, among other things,' said Mr Hayes.

'She was a proud Wexford woman and Irish woman,' he added.

Mr Hayes' trip to Ireland coincided with the 4th of July festival in New Ross and he said the weather was similar to what he regularly experienced at his home in California.

He travelled over with his wife, Diane, their daughter, Barbara Hayes-Vandenbrink and her daughter, Ashleigh.

'It's very similar to what we get back home so yeah, it's been really great.'

Wexford People

Most Read

News