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Tag: Orphan Train Riders

Listowel Races 2019, Graveyard Prayer and Orphan Train

Raceweek  2019

It was a great week with Listowel bathed in glorious sunshine, huge crowds, great racing, fashion, glorious expectation of another All Ireland Football victory; it was roses roses all the way for race week 2019.

Here are the first of my photos. from Wednesday.  I am slowly sorting myself out after the hectic week.


What I’m Reading

I’m reading this book, Orphan Train and I’m learning about something that I, and I’m sure many American and Irish people didn’t know about.

“The Orphan Train Movement was a supervised welfare program that transported orphaned and homeless children from crowded Eastern cities of the United States to foster homes located largely in rural areas of the Midwest. The orphan trains operated between 1854 and 1929, relocating about 200,000 orphaned, abandoned, abused, or homeless children.

Three charitable institutions, Children’s Village (founded 1851 by 24 philanthropists),[1] the Children’s Aid Society (established 1853 by Charles Loring Brace) and later, the New York Foundling Hospital, endeavored to help these children. The institutions were supported by wealthy donors and operated by professional staff. The three institutions developed a program that placed homeless, orphaned, and abandoned city children, who numbered an estimated 30,000 in New York City alone in the 1850’s, in foster homes throughout the country. The children were transported to their new homes on trains that were labeled “orphan trains” or “baby trains”. This relocation of children ended in the 1920’s with the beginning of organized foster care in America.” (Wikipedia)

Some of these children were Irish. Their families had come to the U.S. seeking a better life or fleeing famine and sometimes they fell on hard times and couldn’t support their children or some of them died and there was no one to care for the children.

The scheme was well intentioned and many children found happy homes but many did not. Some became no better than slaves or indentured servants in their new homes. 

Some who came through this system told of how the train would stop in a town on its journey and prospective “parents” would come out to see what children were on offer. Babies were easy enough to rehome, but older children were often separated from their siblings. There are tales of towns where the children were put up on a stage and a kind of auction held for them. Apparently this is where the term “up for adoption” comes from. If they didn’t find a home in the town they were put back on the train and they tried again in the next town.

Most of the children who were relocated were white. Most had no birth certificate and poor enough knowledge of who they were or where they were from.

The Orphan Train Heritage Society was founded in 1986 to preserve the history of this scheme.



The old people used to have a prayer for every occasion. Some prayers were called urnaí, a kind of charm as well as a prayer. This is one of those. It was said passing a graveyard. The gist of it is; You were once like us. We will one day be like you. May we all flourish in God’s kingdom

Ag dul thar Reilige

Go mbeannaí dhíobh, a fhoireann,

Go mbeannaí dhíobh is Muire,

Bhí sibhse tráth mar sinne,

Beimidne fós mar sibhse,

Go rabhamar uile faoi mhaise ag Rí mhór and Cruinne

Whiteboys in Moyvane

Ah, happy days! This one from the National Archives shows haymaking in an Irish meadow, probably 1950s or 60s


Whiteboys in Moyvane

Hanging at the cross where the streets meet in Newtownsands.

Told by Con Shine (carpenter).

Written by J.B. Connell (NT Moyvane)

My father remembers the White boys. There was a landlord in Kilbaha called Wall. There was another in Moyvane named Sandes. Sandes knew the names of all the white boys in the district. So did Wall. The white boys trusted Sandes. But they were afraid that Wall would tell all the names. So they decided to do away with Wall. Wall was afraid of them. He made up his mind to take a house in Glin and went the Kerry line to Glin . But he came back by Newtownsands way. The white boys watched him they attacked his house that night and the firing went on till morning.

 In the morning they set fire to the house and Wall was burned to death. 200 soldiers came from Limerick the following day. They were to kill everybody they met. But Sands met them over on the Tarbert road near Johnny Nash’s and told them not touch anybody that he would have all the white boys arrested that he knew them all. The soldiers did no harm then.

 They went to Kilbaha and the first they met were my father and my uncle Johnny, threshing in the haggard. Sands said they are two honest boys, they’re a widow’s sons they never did harm to anybody. And so they did nothing to them. My father was about 18 at the time. 

Sands gave the names of all the white boys and they were arrested and tried in Tralee. Three of them were sentenced to be hanged one of them was ordered to be brought to Newtown to be hanged. His name was Neill (Nayle). He was the ringleader he was hanged in Newtown by the soldiers. They drove 2 poles in the ground below at the cross and put another pole across. They then put him standing in a horses car, put a rope around his neck then pulled away the car and left him hanging there. He was hanging there all day. The soldiers use to come often and give him a swing for sport and leave him swing away for himself. All the doors were shut that day. You would not see a head out the door.

In the evening they took him down and carried him to Tralee in a car. But they lost him above at Shea`s height Clountubrid. They turned back and found him again and carried him to Tralee.

The other two were hanged in Tralee. one of them was Mulvihill. I do not know who the other man was. Wall lived in Kilbaha where the road turns up to Kennelly`s house.

Note Michael Mulvihill was tried in Tralee 3rd March 1809. He set fire to Walls House. He was executed on 29th July 1809 .

Danny McMahon claimed that Wall was not at home when his house was attacked.

(The Whiteboys (Irish: Buachaillí Bána) were a secret Irish agrarian organisation in 18th-century Ireland which used violent tactics to defend tenant farmer land rights for subsistence farming. Their name derives from the white smocks the members wore in their nightly raids, They sought to address rack-rents, tithe collection, excessive priests’ dues, evictions and other oppressive acts. As a result they targeted landlords and tithe collectors. Over time, Whiteboyism became a general term for rural violence connected to secret societies. Because of this generalisation, the historical record for the Whiteboys as a specific organisation is unclear. There were three major outbreaks of Whiteboyism: 1761–64; 1770–76; and 1784–86…..Wikipedia)


Jer. Kennelly found this story tin the Catholic Press of Nov. 1896

Michael Prendergast, one of the Fedamore jockeys, recently received serious injuries while riding Castlequarter in the Island Plate at Listowel meeting, and died the next day. Prendergast was removed to the residence of Mr. Michael O’Connor, where he was attended by Drs. O’Connor and Clancy, but he never regained consciousness. In addition to his wife, Fathers Courtney, Eric and Finlay, and a Sister of Mercy were in constant attendance on deceased. He had only been married about two months ago, and was but 21 years of age. He had ridden many winners for the Fedamore stable.

What a sad story!


The following story comes from a great website called, Irish Central

The Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum of Hamden, CT will present a program on the Orphan Train Riders, a group of an estimated 273,000 children, many of whom were Irish, who were transported from New York City to live with families in rural America during the 19th century.

Writer and photographer Tom Riley, who has been speaking publicly about the topic for 20 years and has written two books on the subject, will discuss the history of the Orphan Trains at the event, which is to be held at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan 30.

Riley told the Connecticut Post-Chronicle that while few records were kept regarding the trains, some estimate that between 400,000 and 600,00 were relocated between 1854 and 1929.

“Life in the 19th century in New York City could be a brutal for a child,” he said. “New York City was a magnet to immigrants in search of a job, but it was also a haven for alcoholics, drug addicts, thieves and murderers. The loss of a job, addiction, injury or death of a parent on the job and the absence of a social safety net often meant it was children who suffered the most.”

He said that on any given day 12,000 to 15,000 orphaned and homeless children were sleeping in alleyways, cardboard boxes, or sewer pipes throughout the city.

In 1832, a group of women concerned that young girls were being forced into prostitution formed the American Female Guardian Society. The group soon started taking in both boys and girls and later established 12 industrial schools where children were taught a trade and skills to support themselves.

“They did this work for 21 years before Charles Loring Brace came to New York City and was appalled at what he saw,” Riley said.

Riley came upon the history of the Orphan Trains by accident while researching a book on the home for children where he grew up. In a hayloft, he discovered 26 boxes of records dating back as far as 1832.

Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, which is home to the world’s largest collection of visual art, artifacts and printed materials relating to the Irish Famine, is located at Quinnipiac University, 3011 Whitney Ave in Hamden, CT.  

The free presentation is open to the public, but registration is required.To register, call 203-582-6500 or visit

Read more: 
Follow us: @IrishCentral on Twitter | IrishCentral on Facebook


Something light to finish with

Sign outside The Star and Garter in Church St. yesterday,  Jan 29 2014

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