Dromore West woman's visit from the U.S. for 100th birthday

A woman who came from the United States to celebrate her 100th birthday, stayed at the house where she booked her ticket for a White Star Steamer passage to the States in 1925.

For Marie Collins Dunford it was a nostalgic, happy and sometimes sad visit to the Gleneaskey and Dromore West area of West Sligo where she was born and reared and went to school.

She followed three of her six sisters to the United States even though her father - sad at seeing his daughters going so far away - tried to make a match for her with a local man.

Marie came from Boston to Dromore West for the birthday celebration with her son, Bob daughter-in-law, Dottie, granddaughters, Molly, Sara and Sara's husband, Dimetrous.

The day after they arrived they all enjoyed a surprise celebration, organised by her niece Mary Ellen Dowd. Friends and relations travelled from all over the country. Grandniece, Elizabeth Dowd and nephew Kevin Lenehan came from England as did Elizabeth's brother, Martin Dowd and his family
Senator Geraldine Feeney was present to present Marie with a letter from the President Mary McAleese and a huge bouquet of flowers.

Memories of years gone by and of families in the area were all brought back when she met Edward John Keane who was once a neighbour and is now in his late eighties. Marie said she remembered the day when Edward John was born.

Her first visit was to her parents grave and then to her sisters and other relatives' graves. Although it is many years since they died they are all still in Marie's thoughts and prayers. It was understandable that the cemetery would have been the first on her list of visits.

Her second trip was to visit her home in Gleneasky. When the party arrived at the gate to the path leading to the house it was wet and in poor condition due to disuse. The house had been unoccupied for some time.

Marie's son, Bob said they had brought their mother thousands of miles and a few hundred yards more were not going to stop them. So they sat Marie into her wheelchair and carried her, like royalty of old in a sedan chair, over the track until they reached the front door.

No doubt the centenarian had moments of great sadness and joy when she looked around the house. It was there she played as a child with her sisters almost a hundred years ago. She is now the last of the Collins family from Gleneasky.

Marie started school in Pat Tiernan's barn in Gleneaskey. This was at the rear of the old school in Gleneasky. She remembered when it was built in 1915. It has now been closed for many years. She attended this school for a short time.

On previous visits to the area Marie, and her husband, Mike always stayed with her niece, Mary Ellen. Even after Mike's death in 1989 she continued to stay with Mary Ellen. On this occasion however, with Bob and family she stayed with John, Mary and Ellie May Culkin, Cannaghanally Culkin's was no strange place to her as she remembered coming to Culkin's shop a a child and in 1925 she booked her ticket for a White Star Steamer from Louis J. Culkin who was the Emigration Agent for the Dromore West area at that time.

Marie Collins left her home in Gleneasky on September 16 1925 and went to Dublin to have medical examinations. She travelled from Dublin to Cobh, by train and sailed from Cobh on September 20, 1925. She joined her sisters and started work doing stitching. She eventually took a course to learn how to use industrial sewing machines. This course cost eleven dollars and she did it because she never wanted to do domestic work.

Marie met Waterford man, Mike Dunford whom she married. They had a wonderful life together. They had three in family, one daughter, Peggy and two sons, Frank and Bob. Marie's official birthday is on September 9. All her friends in Dromore west have wished her well.

"She has made us proud to know she made the tremendous effort to come here for her l00th. We wish her health and happiness and God willing another visit back," said all her family and friends.

Courtesy of The Western People 2002