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
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
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
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
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