The O'Donoghue Society

For all those interested in history and genealogy and whose names are derived from the Gaelic


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January's subject was 'Emigrant ancestors who returned to Ireland'.  Could be for a visit or permanently.  Tell us the story.

Here is Cleve's Watson's story

From Ireland to the USA and back

I did not know what research journey I would undertake when I asked my wife a simple question. What do you know about your mother's father?The answer was that he was Irish and died before she was born.

With the help of this site and others in Ireland we have at last put together a picture of his family life.

His father Patrick Donoghue and mother Mary Mcdarby married in Carlow October 1888 and within days were on the ship Berlin which arrived in New York on 26th October.
Patrick set up in New Jersey as a Bar Tender and had 6 children.  The first did not survive but the second was James the grandfather born December 1890.
For an unknown reason they all to returned to Carlow on ship Germanic in February 1898.  Unfortunately Patrick died soon after and Mary remarried. As was so typical in those days
Mary also died young soon after and the smaller children ended up in a Dublin children’s home.  James and his brother John did not go to the home but Mary’s sister took them in to the McDarby
family home.

During the First World War James requested from the USA a copy of his birth record. This probably saved his life. So he was not called up. His brother John did not bother and was killed
in France in 1916. The other brother Christopher managed to survive but did not marry.  The two sisters became nuns. So the family only continued with James.  Later James ended up in England and married Florence, her family also came from Ireland but a few generations before. James and Florence had two children: James F and Florence P.  This time James F could not avoid the call up for World War Two and survived the hostilities but was killed after the European war ended during the peace in June 1945, while guarding Nazi suspects. His father James did not take this news very well and passed away only 5 years later. His daughter Florence P married and had my wife Frances but Florence P contracted a form of cancer and died when my wife Frances was only two years old.  Her grandmother Florence raised Frances with the help of Frances' father.

A few years ago my wife Frances and I visited James F's grave in Germany and noticed there was no personal family inscription on the headstone.  We contacted the War Graves Commission and although unusual have given us permission for a new headstone with our family inscription to be added.

A happy ending for James and his family after all the years of turbulence.

We sometimes wonder what would have happened if James had not returned to Ireland.

Cleve Watson

January 2019.


Michael O'Donohue's story

If you will allow me, I would like to reply in a indirect way to this snippet. My story is all about a family returning 'home' (as the Irish say) two generations later.

My father was a Wexfordman, born in Dunmain. He left Ireland twice. First, on a short trial run in England, then second for good. Like many Irishmen in the late 1940s, he started off as a labourer, helping to rebuild London after the Blitz. Afterwards, he moved around building sites until he finished by settling in the Midlands in the early 1950s with his newly wed, English mother.

My childhood was gently influenced by Irishness, but the family wasn't an active part of the emigrant Irish community. Nevertheless, trips back 'home' to Wexford were moments of excitement, mixed with an impression of slighly exotic, otherwordly place. Strange road signs, car number plates, Aunties and Uncles that I couldn't understand, life on the farm and so forth. Back in England, we were brought up to support Ireland's football and rugby teams and went to a Roman Catholic school with a whole bunch of kids 'like us' (i.e. children of Irish parents).

I finished up leaving England at the age of 25, with lots of expectations and no regrets. As a second generation emigrant, I settled in France and had children of my own, with my French wife. Now and again we have travelled to Ireland over the years and discovered all those places (Counties Cork, Clare, Donegal, Dublin etc) that I never visited when I was a child. As a child, Ireland was strictly limited to Wexford and never ending family visits.

As my eldest son grew up, I realized with a shock that his ambition as an adult was to return 'home'. Studies in Trinity College Dublin and a contract with a company was all that was required for him to go back to his roots. He has now lived in Ireland for nearly 4 years, speaks English with a nice Irish accent and gives the impression that the wanderings of his father and grandfather are simply a parenthesis in a long family history of Irishness


John Donahue's story

Two of my friends, born in Ireland, returned there for good and died there.  I was told my grandfather may have returned for a brief visit but can't prove that.  Other friends born there have visited and come back to America.  One told me that those people talk funny.  I said "they talk like you Pat".  He answered "I always thought I talked like you fellows"." One friend born in America but raised in Ireland had a thick Irish accent.  His younger brother born in Ireland but raised in America had no accent at all.


Marcia Anne Donahue's story

I can tell you how it 'affected' my father, although it isn't the type of response you would expect - You see, when WWII broke out, my father was serving in the Canadian Army and was susequently sent overseas in 1940, where his first post was in Liverpool, just a mere hop on the ferry boat to Dublin; however, the British Authorities, perceiving my father as too much of a security risk (He was politically active.), issued an edict that officially BANNED HIM FROM EVEN SETTING FOOT ON IRISH SOIL, so, although he was a mere stone's throw away, he never had the chance to make the journey. My uncle (my MOTHER'S brother), on the other hand, made multiple trips to Ireland during his tour of duty in the U.S. Army and even met and fell in love with an Irish girl, but his mother interfered and broke them up, as she had already selected someone for him to marry; he didn't marry the 'selected' one, either, although he did eventually marry but never really forgot the Irish girl.



This was obviously not my greatest choice of subject as I only received two responses!  But these are good ones

Tim Donohue input
“Recently we were looking at the history of my wife's Grandfather Everett McMichael of Imperial, Pennsylvania. He served bravely in WW1 and returned after Armistice Day in 1918. While talking with my first cousin her husband mentioned his Father, Joseph McNamara of Sacramento, California also served in WW1. He shared an archival roster of his Father’s unit with me. Upon examining it I amazingly found both men listed and serving in the same unit of the 116th Engineers over a hundred years ago.  What a coincidence when you consider that over 4 million American men served. What a small world it is that two people a century ago would be reconnected through many generations and the marriage of two totally unrelated families.”

And Michael Bolger

“My Gt Grandfather was home from the frontline due to an illness and this allowed him the opportunity to celebrate the birth of his 3rd child and first daughter.  Whilst on his return he became seriously unwell with what was then known as Spanish flu, sadly he died, along with his wife and new daughter.... all before the armistice was announced. His two sons aged just 2 and my granddad aged 1 went on to live with their grandmother and both served in the second war.”
  Submitted by Diane Donohue
   Submitted by Diane Donohue
Basil David O'Donoghue   1914 – 1942
Basil O'Donoghue, (Lieutenant RANVR,) died on 7 December 1942 when the ship he was travelling on, the S.S. Ceramic, was torpedoed off the Azores by the German U-boat U-515.
He was 28 years of age, and the only son of David Flynn and Florence Mary O'Donoghue, of Malvern, Victoria, Australia.  He was also the brother of Kathleen O'Donoghue (Sr. Mary Angela), whose obituary appeared in the July 2018 issue of the O'Donoghue Society journal.
The Ceramic had been built as a passenger liner for the England – Australia run and launched in1912.  During WW1 it was used as a troop ship, and at the end of the war it became a passenger ship again,
After WW2  broke out, some ships had to be used to carry people with a legitimate reason for travelling between England and Australia, and the Ceramic was chosen.
She made several successful trips. It was a calculated risk but okay so long as it succeeded. She almost always carried some women and children.
On 3 November 1942, Ceramic left Liverpool  bound once more for Australia via the Cape of Good Hope. On board were 656 passengers and crew, including military and naval personnel, British Army nursing sisters and more than 100 civilians, including 12 children. Also on board were 16 men from the Royal Australian Navy: three were gunners attached to the Ceramic and the remaining were travelling home to Australia as passengers. Basil O'Donoghue was one of these.
On the night of December 7, 1942, a torpedo hit the ship but didn't sink it. The ensuing story of what happened is tragic. The U-boat Commander, Werner Henke, failed to help the survivors already in lifeboats. 350  people were still alive when the U-boat left the scene.  In fact he actually gave orders for  his sub to submerge even though crew members alerted him to the fact that there were people clinging to it.
He picked up one survivor, sapper Eric Munday, who was taken to a POW camp in Germany, and for ten months relatives of passengers and crew knew nothing of the tragedy.  The sinking of SS Ceramic remains one of the worst shipping disasters of all time.
In an interesting footnote to the tragedy, Henke, was captured by the Americans when they sank U-515 in April 1944  north of Madeira. Believing he was wanted by British authorities on charges of war crimes relating to SS Ceramic, Henke tried to escape, and was shot by guards as he attempted to climb the fence of the POW interrogation centre in Fort Hunt, Virginia, where he was being held.
Submitted by Helen O'Donoghue