Earlier this week, I was doing some research for a future Cullybackey post, when I stumbled upon this beautiful song by Canadian lady Anne Walker.
It’s not often a new voice immediately hits a nerve. The clarity and truth in Anne’s voice, wow. It immediately reminded me of the great Mary Chapin Carpenter.
The song is about Walker’s maternal grandmother who was from Cullybackey. It is about her emigration from Ireland in 1919 and her subsequent life in Montreal, Canada.
“We said our goodbyes to Cullybackey
And made our lives far far away
And though the heart might yearn
I never could return
To the humble home
That held my girlhood dreams
And all that I had learned”
The song is obviously very personal and heartfelt – the yearning, the hopes and dreams, the apprehension, and the no going back aspects are all there. I listened to it on repeat for the rest of the evening. There were a few folk who left Innisrush for the new world around the same time.
For me, the song conjours up similar images and emotions to those of Mary Black’s superb Ellis Island.
Ten Pound Contract
No-one in our family left for North America. However my mum’s three sisters left for Australia and New Zealand. The first emigrated in 1958, the other two followed her out later, in 1965. The initial years were spent living and working in Australia. They ultimately ended up living in New Zealand. I cannot begin to imagine the sadness of the parting with family and leaving everything you have known and loved behind.
They left on the the Ten Pound Contract which meant that migrants had to stay for at least two years or pay back the full fare. The full fare would have been close to 100 pounds – half a year’s salary. Thus these were effectively one-way tickets.
I hope that you enjoy the song as much as me. Here is a link to Anne’s music.