Thursday was St. Patrick’s Day and I thought I would blog today about my mother’s side of the family which was pure Irish - or as pure as you can get, I guess.   

My Mother, Margaret Elizabeth, was born on the first of November, the 5th child of James and Mary Laughnan. Those of you who are Catholic know that November 1st is All Saints Day - and trust me, my mother had to be a saint living with my Dad. 

Her mother’s maiden name (my Grandmother)  was Mary McPartland. 

Mom never new her mother, because according to my crazy Aunt Helen when my mom was just three months old, her mom died of pneumonia.  

Details are sketchy… but apparently my Grandfather James (who I never knew) kept his four oldest children, Florence, Jimmy, Tommy, and Louie - but didn’t feel he could raise an infant alone, so he gave my 3-month old Mother to his deceased wife’s sister, Kate, who raised her.

Still with me?  Don’t feel bad if you’re confused - I am too.  

Growing up, I remember my Mother looking at a small snapshot of a very pretty, dark haired woman that someone in the family had told her was her mother.  There was no name or date on the photo so she could never be sure.

Though my mom didn’t grow up with her siblings (she lived in Buffalo and her brothers and sister lived in Batavia, about 40 miles away) they reconnected as adults.   

I know this, because I remember my uncles coming to visit us at our house in Kenmore (a suburb of Buffalo where I grew up). Jimmy was the one I knew best.  He was a bartender at “The East End Hotel” in Batavia, a tiny one-floor establishment owned by his brother, my uncle, Louie.  Louie was the entrepeneur of the family - owning not only the hotel/bar but “Louie’s Meat Market” as well.  Tommy was a pig farmer.  (I guess that’s where Louie got some of his meat - at least the pork chops).  I have a vague recollection of visiting Tommy at the farm one time and watching him put a ring in a pigs nose.  I think the reason the memory is so vague is that I tried very hard to erase it!  The only one I don’t remember meeting is Aunt Florence.  

But back to Uncle Jimmy… During one of his visits to our house, he handed me a five dollar bill and said, “Here Dick… do what you want.” Five bucks!  I immediately ran out of the house and headed to Sutherland’s Music Store where I purchased an album of classical music by Rachmananoff.  When I got back, let’s just say Uncle Jimmy was pretty impressed with my purchase. I still have the album.  

Jimmy also had season tickets to the Buffalo Bisons in the American Hockey League and he would occassionally give me tickets to the games.   (That’s where I first saw Terry Sawchuk play.  He, of course, went on to become one of the greatest Goalies of all time with the Red Wings.)  

Years later, after I was married and had kids of my own, Gail and I happened to be driving through Batavia and stopped for lunch.  I asked an old-timer at the restaurant if he remembered the East End Hotel or Louie’s Meat Market.  “Oh, sure!” he said.  “The meat market was right down the street from here”.  When I asked if he’d known Louie (who was long gone) he said he had.  Then I asked about Uncle Louie’s wife, Buelah, (what a name!) and whether she was still alive.  “Oh yeah!” he said.  “She’s 88 now.  And as a matter of fact she just got arrested for drunk driving last week!”

I’m guessing maybe Buelah was at least a little bit Irish too.  

I wish I knew more details, but my Mother died suddenly when she was just 60 - and unfortunately we’d never really talked about her childhood.  And my dad (called either Paul or Joe depending on who you asked) who made it to the ripe old age of 96, wasn’t known for being entirely accurate when it came to family history… or anything else!  (He once told me he’d been on a Delta airlines flight with so much turbulence that the plane actually flew upside down for half an hour!) 

So there you have it.  My Irish roots.  I hope you have a great weekend and I’ll see you back here on Monday!

-Dick (O’Purtan)




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