A Tribute to Ellen Finnegan nee Thornton
My name is Paul Finnegan and I am Ellen’s Finnegan’s son. She was born in Oughterard and her maiden name was Thornton. I had many happy times when I was a teenager visiting Oughterard with mum and staying in Claremount with her parents Mary and Edward Thornton and her 2 brothers Tommy and Matt.
Mum recently passed away on 2nd July 2015. In the days before her death she spoke fondly of the many happy memories she had in Oughterard as a child with her family. To Mum Oughterard was “home” and she never forgot this…and we will never forget mum…we loved her very much and miss her each day.
Mum’s father Edward worked as a stone mason
Mum’s childhood and upbringing shaped the person she was…she was born in Oughterard in County Galway on 7th August 1930… Mum was one of 12 children. Mum was born in a small 2 roomed cottage in a place known as the “Factory”. The cottage was home to her parents Edward and Mary Thornton and 8 of their children (they later had 12 chidren in total). One of the rooms was the bedroom with 3 beds; 1 for her parents; 1 for the boys; 1 for the girls and a cradle for the baby…the other room was the kitchen. The cottage sat next to the Owenriff River that flows through Oughterard…the family would collect water for drinking and washing and close by was the Waterfall known as the Falls of Faugh. Mum’s father Edward worked as a stone mason…mum said her mother never worked as she had “too much to do”.
Potatoes and vegetables were grown in the field
When mum was 6 the family moved to a larger house in Claremount, Oughterard. This had 2 rooms downstairs and 2 bedrooms upstairs. The open turf fire in the kitchen provided warmth and was where the family cooked using iron pots. The oil lamps gave light downstairs and candles lit the bedrooms…this was a hard, rural life…water was collected from a local spring well…potatoes and vegetables were grown in the field…her mother kept chickens, they had a cow and the donkey would bring the turf back home from the bog. As mum got older she would also help looking after the younger children and spoke about knitting socks for the family.
Mum started school when she was 3 and a half years old. She would leave the family home after her breakfast of porridge and tea and walk without shoes about a mile to the convent school next to the church where she was taught by nuns. Mum said very few children had shoes and those that did kept them as best for church on a Sunday. New shoes were only bought for your 1st Holy Communion and Confirmation.
Working 7 days a week from 7:00 in the morning until 10:00 at night
Mum loved going to school…she spoke of many happy memories of school and what it meant to her throughout her life. It was with great sadness mum had to leave school when she was 14. With a large family the children had to find work. Mum. She moved out of the family home and started work in a grocery store in Oughterard owned by a cousin working 7 days a week from 7:00 in the morning until 10:00 at night cooking, cleaning and washing. She would only have Sunday afternoons off and would go home to visit her parents.
At 16 years of age mum was found a job in Dublin working for a family and looking after their 5 children. With little money return visits to Oughterard were not possible so she would write letters back home to her mother. A very special person from mum’s time in Dublin was Helen who mum never forgot and loved dearly.
In Dublin mum met my dad Michael Finnegan. Work was hard to find in Ireland and they made the decision as many other Irish people did at this time to leave the country and seek work abroad. They arrived in Birmingham in January 1954. Mum and dad worked incredibly hard over the years and made a home together for me and my 2 sisters Gerry and Val.
She was so proud of each of them
Mum was a really important part of her grandchildren lives and thought the world of Paul, Mark, David, Aaron, Frances, Ella and Rosie. She helped look after them when they were younger…she also took a great interest in their homework and would try and help them. She enjoyed learning new things and would always tell them how much she loved school in Oughterard. Mum knew the importance of an education and what opportunities this provided as she had never had these chances in her own life. She was so proud of each of them in what they achieved and always encouraged them to “do their best”.
I know that myself, Gerry and Val and our children have mum and dad to thank for the life we have today as they worked so hard for all of us. I will never forget mum and the many happy times I spent with her in Oughterard.
We loved you mum very much and miss you each day xxx