Monday, October 8, 2012

This one's for Father Joe

   If you're a Goodreads member, I need your help. A Goodreads member recently gave Connell Maguire's book "Follies of a Navy Chaplain" a one-star review. Short but very negative. It brought the average review down to three stars. If anybody reading this blog has read "Follies of a Navy Chaplain," like it or not -- and I'm betting you enjoyed it -- puh-LEEZE post a comment or a brief review at Goodreads. Father Joe passed away at age 93 earlier this year and I'm sure if he were still here, he'd have kind words for the person who posted the negative review.
   If you haven't read it and have a Kindle, or have downloaded the free Kindle reading app to your computer or tablet, I'll make "Follies of a Navy Chaplain" available for a one-day free download tomorrow, Oct. 10.
   If you have neither, but would be willing to read a copy and post a review at goodreads, email me your address at, and I'll send a free print copy to the first ten readers who request one.
   Following is a brief excerpt from "Follies of a Navy Chaplain" in which Connell Maguire describes his last day in Ireland, which he left with his family to emigrate to the United States at age 11.
   My own book "Tanks for the Memories" recently got a very short one-star review of its own at, c'est la vie, that doesn't bother me. But Father Joe deserves way better.


(Excerpted from "Follies of a Navy Chaplain," by Connell J. Maguire, (c) 2012 Chi Chi Press
   My parents had a shop and a good business in Glenties town at the time of the Irish war for independence from England. However, there was not much opportunity for young people. My mother had witnessed her four brothers leave for America, never to return to their grieving parents. She dreaded that fate. She saw boys, fresh from school, sitting on the corner smoking. Something had to be done and soon. There were four children then and taking us to America would be a chore and expensive. They had relatives in Scotland so there we went to Greenock, the Brooklyn of Scotland. I was just a year and a half so I do not remember the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond. The expedition to Scotland did not work out so back we came to Mam’s grandparents. Dad left for America to make a living for us. He went back and forth over a period of nine years. In 1923, he built a house in Ireland and tried to find work there. Kathleen was born in December in that house. We went to Yeats County where Dad had some friends but no luck. Dad had to leave again. Finally in 1928, Mam took Kathleen and went to check out the possibility of taking the whole family to America. She left Barney, Pat, and me with Aunt Bridget in the new house. Anne was in boarding school in County Monaghan.

   Mam returned in 1929. Teresa was born in June and varicose veins laid Mam up for days. Later she sold the house for the fare to America, and hired a car and driver to take the six children to Dublin to the American Embassy for physical exams and processing. I remember a stenographer asking another should she describe my hair as black or brown. What’s left is neither now. We sailed from Belfast. The ship was a day late so they put us up in a hotel. I don’t recall street cars in Dublin. I do remember being stunned to think how expensive concrete roads and streets must be as we approached Dublin. In Belfast we watched the trolleys together until I was scornfully excluded when I remarked I hadn’t yet seen any trolleys on the middle two tracks. We landed in New York just after the ominous stock market crash, soon to affect us. My father was on the pier to meet us. Then and for many years, I took for granted all my parents did for us.

   Almost all the news about the United States that made the Irish, English and Scottish papers was about gangsters and kidnapping. I had the impression that other than the Irish and the rich Americans who hired the Irish, all Americans were gangsters and kidnappers. I promptly received a scare. I had lagged behind the others carrying a suitcase. A man grabbed me by the arm. My God, I didn’t last five minutes in this country. I shouted “Mam! Mam!” I still wonder why he stopped me.

   So much had happened in a short time. That independent recorder within me was at work all the while, clicking some moments into memory’s file and erasing others.

   For our last months in Ireland, we had moved from my grandmother’s house to a house on a rise in a field in Meenahalla. Perhaps there was friction with five children, my mother expecting, my uncle and grandmother all in one house. We had a grand time in the rented house, kicking a football around the field and exploring the huge stone remains of a rath, a prehistoric burial mound. A row house in Philadelphia would be quite different. So would plumbing and electricity and an instant gas “fire” in the morning that saved so much time.

   My mother did not go down to Mullantboyle that morning of our departure to say goodbye to her mother. She was busy with a five-month-old baby, luggage and checking on the  other four of us. Besides, the Irish do not like to say goodbye.

   The night before many neighbors came to say farewell, to try to enliven the traditional “American wake” the night before emigrants departed forever. How different all this is now!

   Of that morning, a few things are etched clearly in memory. I was delegated to take a hammer back to Uncle Barney at my grandmother’s. I don’t remember whether I saw either one of them. I never saw Grandma again. I had to walk the equivalent of a block on the main road on my way with the hammer. I met the McNamees going into town to our school, this time without us. We didn’t hug or say goodbye. We took the meeting in stride as just another happening. But that something in me wrote it down indelibly. Our worlds were separating. We would never see each other again. I did not feel it then.

   I remember combing my hair in front of a little brown framed mirror. I forget how we got to the station. Rose Kennedy in a khaki raincoat was the only one to see us off. She said she too would emigrate. She never did. My mother and sister were crying as the train pulled out. My brothers were sad. I wasn’t. To me it was an adventure.
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P.S.: Here's a link to the Goodreads page, although you may have to log in:

Follies of a Navy Chaplain
Visit the Oral History Audiobooks campaign


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