There was an emotional homecoming and family reunion for members of the Herlihy family of Killabraher, Newtown and Charleville when fourteen of their relatives from Minnesota, the 32nd American State, and from and all over North America, met for the first time at the Charleville Park Hotel recently.
The American contingent are descendants of Patrick and Elizabeth Herlihy and their family of six boys and one girl, who left Killabraher, Newtown-shandrum at the height of the Gorta Mór, the Great Famine in 1845 to settle in North America, thus escaping the hunger, famine fever and possible death, which was rife in the Ireland of the period.
“There were too many of the Herlihys for the farm to sustain the family, so Patrick and Elizabeth and their family of seven opted to leave the land of their birth, and were at the start of the exodus from Ireland and were among the 75,000 Irish emigrants who left that year, and part of the 2 million that left between 1845 and 1850, ending up in North America, Canada and Australia as well as another 750,000 in Britain to escape the pestilence and disease that stalked their homeland.
The Herlihy family would have either sailed from Queenstown (now Cobh) harbour in County Cork or from Limerick Port for America, on one of the many coffin ships that plied the Atlantic at the time. Many perished from malnourishment on the journey to the New World, but the Herlihys made it safely to disembark at Ellis Island in New York Harbour. The family stayed for a period in New York City and when the American Government offered land for farming to emigrants, Patrick and Elizabeth applied for it and were successful, and were allocated 150 acres in the state of Minnesota in the American mid-west. There they settled and eventually built a house, which is occupied to this day, some five generations later by a descendant of the original Herlihy family.
In the early days the Americans found it difficult to pronounce Herlihy, so they were forced to change their name to Hurley. However, later generations of the family opted to revert to their proper name of Herlihy and today there are one thousand Herlihys of the blood line of Patrick and Elizabeth Herlihy scattered throughout the United States. This fact has been authenticated through DNA testing, so there is no doubt that they are all descended from the seven sons and daughter of Patrick and Elizabeth Herlihy.
Fourteen of these Herlihys travelled to Ireland for their family reunion and many of them had never seen each other before until they gathered at the Charleville Park Hotel recently to meet their Irish cousins from the old family homestead in Killabraher and elsewhere in the locality. Tears were shed as they walked the land of their ancestors at Killabraher and visited the Herlihy burial grounds at Killabraher Cemetery and in the old cemetery in Newtownshandrum. They attended Mass and viewed the baptismal records at Newtownshandrum Parish Church of Patrick and Elizabeth and their seven children, that settled in far off Minnesota.
“They had a wonderful holiday here with the relatives in Killabraher, Newtownshandrum and Charleville, and generally throughout Ireland. They marvelled at the warmth and hospitality of the people they met everywhere they went. The Irish branch of the family were out in force to welcome the visitors and among them were Kevin and Eilish, Charleville, John, who still runs the home farm in Killabraher, Pat and Anne in New-townshandrum, Very Rev. David Canon Herlihy, P.P. Youghal, Co. Cork, Joseph and Donal, and Noreen Sheedy who is resident in Blarney.