An Emigrant’s Tale

Tim Lyons was searching for his great grandparents’ marriage records when he heard touching tale of how far his great grandfather was willing to go for true love. 

Winter in Vermont is a harsh time of year when snow lies thick on ground into May and temperatures descend to well below freezing. In winter of 1884 there would have been parts of landscape that were impassable. We can only imagine Ellen Sullivan must have thought she was dreaming when she heard her aunt say, “there’s Larry Lyons coming up lane”.

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Ellen Sullivan and Lawrence Lyons both hailed from Brosna in County Kerry where they were neighbours. “If you stand on top of hill that Lyons’ farm is on you can see Sullivan farm,” says great grandson Tim, “it’s within walking distance”. At some stage around 1883 two fell in love but 22 year old Ellen’s family didn’t approve of Lawrence and she was sent off to Vermont in 1884 to live with an aunt. Presumably she was miserable, believing she would never again be with man she loved. But Lawrence had different ideas.

Tim hasn’t uncovered how Lawrence found Ellen; in late 1800s it seems an almost impossible feat of perseverance and dedication to track her down. And today it’s still a romantic mystery. Tim isn’t sure either why Ellen’s family didn’t approve of Lawrence, but he has a few theories. “It’s up to imagination,” he says, “maybe Lyons drank too much, maybe their farm wasn’t as good as Sullivan farm”. However, once two lovers had been reunited on that snowy day, they were married within month in Vermont at St. Peter’s Church in Vergennes. They went to live in Passaic,  New Jersey to raise their family. “It’s obvious both sides were very interested in each other,” says Tim, “She was probably very relieved when he showed up”.

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It was only 18 months ago that a cousin first told Tim Lyons tale of his great grandparents’ love story. “One thing that had always dumbfounded me was that I thought all our relatives had settled in Passaic, New Jersey and I was unable to find my great grandparents’ marriage information.” “When I heard this story and went looking in Vermont and found their marriage details it gave credence to this story.”

Tim has been many times to old Lyons and Sullivan farm houses which still stand in Brosna, an experience which he says gave him feeling that he had somehow been there before. If those old walls could talk we can only wonder at what secrets they would reveal about this great romance which took a Kerry farmer across Atlantic Ocean, through snowy wilds of Vermont and to front door of woman he adored.

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