Happy St Patrick’s Day!! This young lady is the reason I have Irish blood. She’s my Grandma on my Dad’s side, one Mary Elizabeth Eddis from Belfast, Northern Ireland.
She left Ireland in 1920 when she was not quite as old as the century, with a group of girls heading to Canada to work in the mills at Galt, Ontario, Canada. She left behind her parents and several brothers and sisters. On the day she departed the only home she had ever known, she was wearing this locket containing photographs of her mother and father.
I don’t know how frightened she must have been, or how excited. I don’t know what the journey by sea was like either. All I know is that not that long after she arrived in Canada, she met a young soldier, just returned from World War One. His name was Joseph Edward Killingback. He told me that she “roller skated right into him” one afternoon – and he was besotted.
They were married on 1st June 1922 and later had four children – Irene, Dorothy, Joseph William and Edward. Joseph William was my Dad.
When I think about my life today, I stand in awe of this woman and others like her. While my Grandpa went off to join the Canadian Home Guard during World War Two, she raised the children on her own. To contribute to the war effort she worked in a munitions factory making shells, and she also billeted soldiers for the army before they were shipped off to the front. It must have been pretty crowded with four kids and two or three young soldiers at any given time in the house! Plus she did the normal stuff that most women do like cooking, cleaning, washing and ironing – without any of the modern conveniences we have today. It’s pretty humbling when you think about it. Sadly, I never knew my Grandma because she died pretty much exactly nine months before I was born, but I would have loved the chance to get to know her. I bet she had some stories to tell and I know she was an amazing lady. I wear her locket sometimes, and always on St Patrick’s Day, and I think of her, and how much I owe to her, as well as to her courage and spirit.
Sixty-nine years after my Grandma travelled to Canada, I immigrated to England. I arrived on 16th March 1989, so my first full day on English soil as a new immigrant was St Patrick’s Day. The luck of the Irish was definitely with me because less than two weeks after that I met the man who was to become my husband – and the rest is history. So I have lots to celebrate today – the love and memory of so many wonderful family members who have gone before, the gift of the presence in my life of those who are still here, my anniversary of coming to England to live and of course the fact that although “everyone is Irish on St Patrick’s Day”, I really truly am just a little bit Irish all year round – and in my opinion, that’s a very great blessing indeed!
Happy St Patrick’s Day everyone –
“May the blessings of each day be the blessings you need most.”