An Emigrants Tale – Patrick Lalley

Irish families love their stories and none is more poignant than tale of people who left their home for a new life overseas. Ireland of Welcomes wants to hear these stories.


When Patrick Lalley (73) arrived in County Mayo with his son John (44) to research their family history, even they were surprised at how quickly they tracked down a relative. John went down to bar of Ballina hotel they were staying in and had simply asked a group of men drinking there if they knew any Lalleys. It turned out someone did and could even provide a cell phone number. Almost unbelievably this Lally was a distant cousin. Patrick’s great grandfather, also called Patrick, left Mayo in 1865 with his wife Mary and four young children. Unusually at time they arrived by steamship, Calhoun, traveling from Liverpool to Castle Garden in New York. But dramatic events in Washington meant their landing was delayed. President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Patrick’s grandfather Dennis was just seven when family finally made it ashore. They went straight to Scranton, Pennsylvania where Mary had some relatives. They started work in mines and just three years later, at age of 10, Dennis earned his first wage as a slate picker.

Patrick Lalley

Patrick Lalley

His weekly pay was 35 cent. Dennis went on to work for rail road who owned mines. He was a member of rail road union; Patrick still has his union card from 1920. He was also a member of Ancient Order of Hiberninans. There was a large Mayo community in Scranton at time. Dennis met and married Winifred Langan, who could see shrine of Knock from window of house where she was born in 1864. Like Dennis she had travelled to America to begin a new life. Patrick’s father, John Lalley, was seventh son of Dennis and Winifred. Patrick is seventh son of John. Despite mythology surrounding such a lineage he claims no special powers. Sadly Dennis suffered a tragic accident on train tracks. He lost a leg and died a month later. He was a life-long baseball fan and Patrick’s older brother remembers reading him out box scores from newspaper.

On that visit to Ireland with his son, Patrick filled in a lot of details of his family history with help of North Mayo Heritage Centre. One mystery he has never been able to solve is addition of an ‘e’ to family name. The original name is definitely Lally – all Patrick’s siblings are named Lally on their birth certificate. However somewhere along way mysterious ‘e’ was added to name. “I have no idea how that happened,” admits Patrick. His grandparents remained proudly Irish to end of their days, a tradition that Patrick and his son John are determined to keep alive. Patrick has produced a book of family’s history for his nieces and nephews. His son has created an Irish wall in his house, complete with pictures, his grandfather’s sash and a whole host of memorabilia. John is now keen to return again to Ireland with his dad.


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