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Book reflects on emigration route for Bantry family

December 16th, 2022 5:10 PM

By Brian Moore

Con has researched his family’s story, and their US travels.

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EMIGRATION has always been a deep-rooted part of West Cork society and in his new book Gone to America, Con Hurley takes a look at his family’s experiences and their lives that changed for ever.

In this, his latest book, Con, a former farmer and journalist with the Farmer’s Journal, tells the story of 12 sisters and brothers, his Kearney relatives, who left their home in Bantry between 1913 and 1947.

‘I could have written a history about the time and the places, but I soon discovered that this is all about the people and their experiences, which are just incredible,’ Con told The Southern Star. 

‘It all began when I set up a research group, if you like, with my family here and my many relatives in America.’

Con, who lived and farmed in West Cork for many years, spent some of his formative years as an emigrant himself when his father took the family to Dagenham in East London in the 1950s.

‘While researching the book, I was struck by the reliance shown by the women who packed up and headed off to a distant unknown future,’ Con said.

‘They were part of the flood of Irish emigrants to North America and other parts of the world that began with the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s and continued for more than a century later.’

Gone to America also contains some unique and original material, including accounts of what it was like to travel as a third-class passenger across the Atlantic, and the hard life endured by a young Kearney during the Great Depression and the war in the Pacific.

‘No matter what part of Ireland you come from or what part of the world your ancestors came to, you will find the story of your family here,’ Con said.

As another West Cork author, Alice Taylor, said in her introduction to Con’s book: ‘This is a record of Irish emigration as told by master storytellers who were part of that story. A magical combination of people, place, and portrayer.’ 

Gone to America is available at the Bandon Book Shop and online from Amazon. 

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