Newfoundland, A Transatlantic Tipperary

March 14th, 2013

Lillian Ducey Walsh, wife of the legendary Capt. Paddy Walsh of Marystown

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I will be posting excerpts from August Gale: A Father and Daughter’s Journey into the Storm. Many of my Irish ancestors crossed the Atlantic to seek their fortune in a place the Irish called Talamh an Éisc, “Land of the Fish.” During the mid-1800s, Newfoundland was considered a “Transatlantic Tipperary,” the second most Irish place next to Ireland.

~Excerpted from Chapter 5 “Tis Nothing But Worry and Waiting”~

The superstitions and folklore traveled across the Atlantic with the Irish immigrants who made their homes in Newfoundland. They believed in the old ways, and the Marystown Irish heeded the omens and superstitions that had passed from one generation to the next. A fisherman’s wife dared not conjure bad luck by calling her husband back once he departed out the door on his journey; she did not wave good-bye for fear a wave would sweep her man to his watery grave.
And while their husbands fished the sea, wives took care not to overturn a bread or cake pan, lest they overturn or upset their man’s dory or vessel. And never did a whistle pass their lips, for the sound would surely summon a storm at sea. ’Twas understood by all that “a whistling woman and a crowing hen, bring the devil out of his den.”
Lillian Walsh and the ladies of Marystown guarded against a great many misfortunes, and they kept careful watch for omens of death. A picture or calendar falling off the wall, a moaning dog or a banshee wind, a broken clock that suddenly counted the hour portended a sudden passing of family or friend. Women and children quickly crossed themselves when a single crow flew overhead, warding off the blackbird’s bad luck. Few of the young would venture out after dark or into the woods without a bit of bread in their pockets for the fairies or spirits that might cross their path. And how many wives had tokens, dreams of their husbands drowning at sea before they were lost?

SAMMY IN THE SKY. Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Jamie Wyeth. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.