From Cregganbaun, Co Mayo to Kiltoom, Co Westmeath- Lecture in Mullingar February 2024

Cregganbaun to Kiltoom
Mary O'Malley
Large crowd gathered in Greville Arms Hotel Mullingar
Mary O'Malley
John Burke presenting
Mary O'Malley
Mary Burke Presenting
Mary O'Malley
Burke Family Crucifix- USA to Creggans to Kiltoom
Mary O'Malley
Kettle-Burke Family
Mary O'Malley
Large Clay Pot brought from Cregganbaun to Kiltoom
Mary O'Malley
large Cooking Pot and iron- Burke Family
Mary O'Malley
Oil lamp-Burke Family
Mary O'Malley
Tobacco Pipe-Burke family
Mary O'Malley
Michael O'Grady singing
Mary O'Malley
L-R Padraic Needham, Dympna Coyne, Marion McNamara, Joe McNamara, Imelda & Michael O'Grady
Mary O'Malley
Brothers Johnny & Austin Davitt travelled to Mullingar
Mary O'Malley

A case study of a Land Commission group migration scheme.

John Burke and his sister in law Mary Burke were invited by Westmeath Archaeological and Historical Society, to give a lecture on the Land Commission Migration Scheme in 1950s Ireland.

A huge crowd attended this presentation, which took place in Grenville Arms Hotel in Mullingar, (28th February 2024,) including descendants of the ten families from Cregganbaun and descendants of the McNicholas family from Bohola, (all of whom had settled in Kiltoom in 1955) along with neighbours and friends and also many people who had travelled from County Mayo for the presentation.

John Burke was very young when his father and mother decided to make the life changing move from Cregganbaun to Westmeath. They along with nine other families from Cregganbaun, and the McNicholas family from Bohola, all moved together to settle in Kiltoom in Westmeath in 1955.

Mary Burke explained the context behind the migration, the chance of a better life with better land and more opportunities. The government scheme designed to re populate the midlands which were devasted by mass emigration, and the division of the huge farms of land that were now largely unoccupied. This migration from the West to East would allow the families left behind in Mayo the opportunity to progress too, the land vacated could be divided between others. This land in Mayo that was full of bog and rush, stones and heather, was a much poorer land to farm than that of the green plains of Westmeath and Meath.

Stories of the heart-breaking decision to move and the fact that half the children in Cregganbaun school were now absent, the loneliness of the neighbours left behind, the sad scene of a convey of matadors loaded with every item they owned, driving towards Louisburgh from the Creggans.

But also stories of the warm welcome these families received on settling into Kiltoom. A village of newly built houses, a water pump in each yard, sheds for the animals, a haggard, and land, lots of workable land. A new school had to be built to accommodate the arrival of children. These western neighbours were soon settled into their new life in Kiltoom, contributing to the economical and social life of their adopted county.

Heroic tales of 1980s and a big win for Ringtown as a senior Hurling title came with half of the team made up of Mayo men!

Of course there was opportunity to point out that perhaps the G.A.A. gain in the midlands could be an explanation as to the lack of any significant silverware in Mayo since 1951!

There was a fantastic display of beautiful artefacts. Everyday items that had been brought from Mayo to Westmeath by the families and are still treasured to this day.

On display was a very special crucifix, gifted from the U.S.A to the family home in Cregganbaun and then in 1955, brought to Kiltoom, to keep safe all who gathered under their roof.

Travelling from Mayo, we were delighted to participate in the evening, reading a poem by Michael John Coyne, ” The Homes They Left Behind”, a memory from William Davitt, taken from An Coinneal and Michael O’Grady sang his self penned song ” From the Creggans to Kiltoom”.

 

Of all the stories on the night, all the contributions from Mayo and Westmeath people through poetry, prose and song, the lasting legacy is the story of friendship and connections. Next year will be the seventieth anniversary of the migration eastwards, and yet the connection to place is a strong as it ever was. The friendships of old and new are bound by this tale of hope.

Of course it is not the first time a gathering of West and East has occurred, nor will it be the last! In 1987 around fifty people travelled from Mayo to Westmeath. In the early 1990s people from Westmeath travelled West to Mayo. In 1995 a reunion to mark forty years anniversary, took place in Westmeath. In 2015 forty people from Westmeath travelled to Mayo to remember, reminisce and keep alive that deep rooted connection to place and people.

While some details of the migration have been captured over the years, like in An Coinneal, through short paragraphs, this is the first time a comprehensive account of the back-story and the reasons behind it, have been published.

In 2022, John and his sister-in-law, Mary Burke published an essay in the –

Westmeath: History and Society: Interdisciplinary essays on the history of an Irish county – (ed.) Seamus O’Brien

We are hopeful that both John and Mary will come West soon and grace us with their presentation. We are also looking forward to planning next years celebrations to mark seventy years since the move eastwards.

If you have any memories or photographs from the reunions over the years or would like to add anything to this important part of our heritage, please get in Touch

To find out more about Westmeath Archaeological and Historical Society HERE

To read further on this topic click HERE

Westmeath: History and Society: Interdisciplinary Essays on the History of an Irish County – Edited Seamus O’Brien is available to purchase online or in many libraries. It is the twenty-ninth volume in the acclaimed county History and Society series

Essay No 33. From Cregganbaun, Co. Mayo to Kiltoom, Co. Westmeath: a case-study of a Land Commission group migration scheme, Mary Burke and John Burke.

 

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