Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Tuke Fund

Growing up, I always knew that my great-grandparents emigrated to America with their six children, one of them my grandmother, after the famine and came back to Belmullet, Co. Mayo a short time later. We had no other information about them until a chance meeting of my sister, Bernadette, with Mary Kyne of Oughterard Heritage, Co Galway, informed us about the Assisted Emigration Scheme spearheaded by James 'Hack' Tuke in the 1880s. This scheme saw ship after ship leave the western seaboard with families searching out a kinder existence. We discovered that our ancestors were on one of those ships, the S.S. Waldensian that left from Black Sod in 1883. Miraculously, Mary Kyne was able to give us a copy of the ship's manifest that showed the names of everyone who travelled. An emotional moment to see our family's names, the Heverons, there.


Then in the serendipitous way of life, a Facebook request came, wondering if  we knew anything of the Heverons and suddenly we had a second cousin-once removed, Diane Heveran Rotharr, living in America who was doing in-depth research on our families. The information she had gathered is hugely important in piecing together their history for the generations to come for which I am immensely grateful.  

In order to verify some details for my forthcoming poetry collection. I recently contacted Ionad Deirbhile, the Heritage Centre in EachlĂ©im, Co Mayo, to organise a suitable time to visit them. Tina very kindly arranged for us to meet their researcher, Rosemarie Geraghty. Rosemarie is passionate about her subject and  through the website Blacksod Bay Emigration has spent years trying to connect with over three thousand people who emigrated from Elly Bay in that time as part of the Tuke Fund. She was even able to show me a copy of the original handwritten manifest which confirmed that our family went to Rhode Island. 

Rosemarie showing me information on Mr Tuke

Rosemarie also brought us to see the memorial garden dedicated to all those who emigrated. The centre piece is a granite boat sculpture divided into fifteen sections, each a reminder of all the sailings that left Elly Bay. The manifest of each sailing has been carefully inscribed on the appropriate plaque and scrolling down I found my family there, five rows from the bottom.

As 2019 is the bicentenary of Tuke's birth, his philanthropy will be remembered with conferences and exhibitions on the western seaboard of Ireland and in the United States where so many descendants of these ancestors have made their home.  

All photos courtesy of Peter Moore


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