Ardmore man Jim McGrotty has stumbled across a poignant old ‘Journal’ clipping of his late brother Benny with a group of young cohorts about to seek their fortunes on the goldfields of Canada 60 years ago this winter.
Benny, pictured standing behind and between two of his peers on the third step of the passenger stair, was heading off to Quebec to work in the gold mines in October 1956.
The man in white on the left in front of Benny is the late Mickey Hampsey from Primrose Street. A Mr J. Drury from Broadway is also pictured among the party of 70 young men from the North who flew off on a specially chartered BOAC Stratocruiser from London to take up their new lives in Montreal.
They were following in a tradition of labour emigration from the North West that began in earnest in the 18th century, continued through the Klondike gold rush, which was immortalised by Cloughaneely-native Micí Mac Gabhann’s ‘Rotha Mór an tSaoil,’ and which continues to this day.
Benny ultimately settled in Hamilton, Ontario, where he spent a life-time working as a steeplejack.
Jim said that earlier this year he and other members of the McGrotty clan eventually persuaded Benny to come home to Ardmore after more than half a century in his new home in North America. Sadly, he was back on the old sod just a day, when tragedy struck.
“After 60 years we found out that the brother wasn’t well. He was living on his own and after a couple of visits to Canada we finally got him to come back,” said Jim.
“He landed on a Saturday afternoon. He came up from Dublin after the flight, and at 11 o’clock on Sunday morning he was out in the garden and he took a massive stroke. He died in the Royal. There was nothing more they could do for him,” Jim added.
Following Benny’s passing Jim was looking through old mementoes and clippings of his late brother and it got him thinking.
“It just got me wondering, how many of them are still living? Did they stay in Canada or did they come back from Canada?”
He explained: “They went to Canada for ten pounds. It was assisted passage, I went to Canada myself in April the following year and made my own way over. I didn’t get assisted passage. It didn’t work out for me so I went back to England. I wonder whatever happened to them?”