SIR –The story of Duffy’s Cut in the State of Pennsylvania USA is nearing conclusion. In 2009 some of the fragment remains of men and one woman were found at a site off a railroad called Duffy’s Cut. They arrived there from some of the northern counties of Ireland in the summer of 1832 to lay a railroad and in six weeks they were dead. Some from cholera, and the others, it is believed, were killed. The railroad company and community would have had a huge fear of the disease spreading. Steps were taken to ensure it didn’t and the bodies were buried and covered with quick lime. For years it was reported small white lights were seen in the area at night and a feeling of unease about it prevailed.
Two brothers – Reverend Frank Watson and Professor William Watson – and colleagues from nearby Immaculata University began their work about 15 years ago to find the site based on old railroad documents kept by a relative of the Watsons and passed onto them. They believe strongly they were urged on by the dead at Duffy’s Cut to try and put a wrong to right.
In 2013 the remains of John Ruddy, aged 18, were buried in Co Donegal. Last week the tiny remains of Catherine Burns aged 29 were buried in Co Tyrone where 400 people attended. She emigrated, widowed at 29, had no children, it is believed, and joined the camp to help make the meals. An autopsy showed her skull had an impact from a heavy implement prior to death. Professor William Watson accompanied her remains and said how he found her funeral in her native county a miracle.
A moving eulogy was given on how she knew suffering before she emigrated and hoped to catch the tail end of the American dream and also on the number of hate crimes here at the moment, and although it is not known how many are directed at migrants, it would be sad if Irish people were to forget how we were impoverished economic migrants in our history like Catherine Burns was. This story of discovery of a group of over 50 Irish people who emigrated to the US in 1832 is due to the two Watson men, Immaculata University which has an exhibition on Duffy’s Cut, and the help of others and the media, in what took time to search, find and identify who they could of the remains. It is a sad, but great story. In 2004 a historical marker by the state of Pennsylvania was placed near Duffy’s Cut.