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Five Mc Grath brothers
100 years and four generations of a family from the Tuam area
Painintg of the five McGrath brothers
My great grandfather Michael Mc Grath was from a town-land called Lehid in Kilconly, Tuam Co Galway. He had five brothers William, John, James, Thomas and Patrick and one sister Mary and they all lived in a thatch cottage on a small plot of land. Life was very tough and every year all the brothers and their father William travelled over to Manchester for seasonal work in the Lancashire area. While working on a farm in Bingham near Nottingham in 1907, William the father was killed by a train at Saxondale railway crossing as he made his way to work in the fields. He was 58 and a widower. William was actually married twice, first to Mary Turner from Musicfield in Milltown and then to Bridget Mc Grath from Cloonagh Co Galway. At the time of Williams death his eldest son Michael had returned to Ireland to work as a coach driver delivering mail around Tuam. The other five brothers stayed in the Oldham area working on farms, building sites or down the mines. When war broke out in 1915 the five Mc Grath brothers in Manchester joined the British army. William, John, James, Thomas and Patrick were all sent to Europe. All five brothers survived the war and came back to live in the Oldham area of Manchester. After the war a painting was commissioned in Manchester showing the five Mc Grath brothers together. It is interesting to see that in the background of battle scenes in the painting that there are four flags. As well as the British, a Belgian and French flag there is also the green ‘Redmond flag’. By including this in the painting the Galway brothers are indicating that they supported home rule for Ireland. After the war William married Elizabeth Ingram and they had eleven children. Amazingly seven of their sons joined the forces in the Second World War and they all survived. James married Maggie Moran and had six children. Thomas married Elizabeth Rodgers and had two daughters. Neither John nor Patrick married. These Mc Graths and their descendants are known as ‘The Manchester Mc Graths’. Mary Mc Grath the only sister married Thomas Rafferty and their descendants still live in Lehid, Kilconly where the brothers originally emigrated from. Michael Mc Grath, the only brother not to join the army married Bridget Mullowney from Lehid and they reared eight children, first in a thatch cottage in Old (Ballygaddy) road before moving to the Demesne cottages Tuam in the 1930’s. Their eldest son Martin was very active in the old IRA and while he was on the run from British forces around Tuam during the war of independence his five uncles were fighting for Britain in the Great War. One of the five, Patrick who was a member of the Connaught Rangers was stationed at Charles fort in Kinsale during the Easter rising of 1916. Michaels grandson (also Michael Mc Grath), my father still lives at 15 Demesne cottages. Like his forbearers’ my father Michael and his ten brothers and sisters also had to emigrate to England in the 1950’s to seek work. Ironically like his grandfather, Michael was the only one of the eleven to return to Tuam. He married Sheila and they have two daughters and five sons. This brief history is a snap shot of 100 years and four generations of a family from the Tuam area encompassing poverty, emigration, war and rebellion but ultimately peace and reconciliation. The Tuam Mc Graths and the Manchester Mc Graths are still in regular contact. Dermot Mc Grath.