– By Micheál De Paor –
As the end of the Nineteenth Century approached, a headstrong teenager, Maggie Leyden, from Newport Co Mayo sailed to the US to join up with and marry her love Stephen Gibbons.
Maggie’s parents strongly disapproved of her actions and missed her greatly.
Within a few years a Telegram arrived for Maggie and Stephen to inform them to return home as a small farm had become available for them. They packed their bags and returned to Mayo.
Alas, the promised farm never materialised and Stephen and Maggie ended up in a small cottage a few miles outside Castlebar.
Soon there was strange goings on in the cottage as objects moved about the house by themselves. This interference became so bad that one night, in the middle of winter they were forced to leave the cottage. Along with their small children they walked the 4 miles to Castlebar without any belongings, in a storm to seek shelter.
No one ever lived in the cottage after that and it is said that a few years later a man with the same surname was decapitated as he rode by the Cottage on his horse.
Things did not improve much for them after this and Stephen had to emigrate to Liverpool to seek work as a labourer. Maggie meanwhile set up a small shop in Castle St, in Castlebar where she eked out a living.
After this Stephen only got home at Christmas and for a short while each summer, yet his money arrived each week to support his beloved Maggie and their growing family. Between them they managed to provide a good education for their children and Maggie was always very proud of their achievements.
Stephen died a young man in the 1940’s so I never had the opportunity to meet him. I only got to meet my grandmother Maggie once and remember that she gave me a toy pistol, so that I could play Cowboys and Indians.
I wonder what would have happened to them if the promise had never been made. Of course, if they had stayed in the States, I wouldn’t be here now.