(A series of posts leading up to/including The Nocturnes Photo Tour in the West of Ireland, July 15-25, 2013; with a personal Genealogical Research Extension, in and around Ballina, up in County Mayo, July 25-29)
Here we have - along the lines of "Kilkelly" (the letter that became a heart-wrenching song of emigration, blogged here) - a document that's a little bit "closer to home" and my own ancestors - a transcript of a letter from Michael Meers (son of Michael, senior) to Agnes Meers Reddington, from Ballina, County Mayo. All the life-events so matter-of-factly listed, and the language - and the honesty and emotion contained therein, I find moving, connected in some way . . .
9th March 1931
"My first letter to you in all my life and I am sorry to say it's not good news. Daddy died the 1st [of] February after 10 days illness but he was not keeping good for the last year. (May the Lord have mercy on him.) He died on Sunday [at] 12:30; he was waked in the house Sunday night and he was taken to the cathedral Monday evening [at] 4:30. There was high mass Tuesday morning 10 o'clock and the funeral left the cathedral [at] 11:30 for Leigue. There was two good funerals, the one from the house and the one from the cathedral. He was buried over Mother's grave and side by side of Catherine's and my little son Patrick, so it's a nice plot now, I must try and put a wall round it sometime as there are a great many of the graves walled in. It keeps other people from keeping too near and it's often the cause of making graves too narrow. I got the very best coffin I could Clem [? sic] and it was paneled and the best silver mounting I could. It cost £22 including the hearse, the high mass cost £7*10 and the rest of the burial cost me £17*20, so you can see I done everything I could, in fact more than I could, but I would not like to hear at any time that I did not bury him decent. I must say he died grand, no pain for the 10 days but always a kind of a sleep. He was annointed Tuesday before he died; he was annointed three times within the year. So he got a grand chance. The priest said that he was quite happy we were all at home when he died. He had no talk since Friday night, he just looked up at us just before he died as if to try and speak and then he passed quietly away. I would like if you would come home sometime so you would see the grave. Leigue is a nice cemetery, it's not like Kilgarvin, there are no stones? - it's very nice soil.
"Well, Sister, I suppose Daddy told you all about us. I have six in family and I buried two boys. One was only a baby but the other was a fine little boy?seven years?he died after an operation. I was very lonely after him but I suppose it's the best time he could die. He does not see all the trouble of this world and he has a better chance before God. Never the less, people are very selfish and they would sooner keep a child from God and risk the world. I suppose Daddy told you I got a room built since I came out here I did. As you know, the little room we had was very small and it was very hard to bring up a family. I got it slated, it's kind of big, it's 10 feet square inside. I might be able to get the kitchen and the other room slated sometime, so then the house would not be so bad. But things are not so good in Ireland, we had better times when England was looking out for us. I hope you do not think I am Pro-English when I say this, but I am saying what I think. It was easier to get money when England was in charge than it is now.
"It's more the big man's government now than ever and the working man is not as well paid. I see by the papers America is not very good. I hope that it will soon improve. Some parts of America must be all right, as there was a great lot of money came to Ireland last Christmas, just as much as when America was good. I would nearly know as I am [a] postman or what you call them over there: mail carriers.
"Well, Sister, no more to say this time and I am very sorry my first letter is not better news, but I think he got a nice age and I am sure he died a happy death, so we should be very thankful to God for the fine chance he got.
Your fond brother