Barney McGeehan
My Dad
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Dad & Charlie, October 1999.
the text
Barney McGeehan (1914-2000)
My dad lived a long and full life. He used to say
he'd been around the world 3 times. Travel was his
passion. He enjoyed seeing new places and people.
He was born in Donegal in February, 1914. When he was
born, Ireland was a part of the British Empire, and
had a long and bloody history with England that
continues. World War One had not begun when he was
born ( & my mother was born 4 days prior to the war's
end ).
Donegal was extremely rural in that time, probably on
a par with places like rural China today; that is, a
few towns, but mostly peasant/farmers. The farm where
he was born is in an area called Glenkeeragh, ( Irish
for the Glen of the Sheep ). It remains in the family
still.
He left home at 14, to work as a farm laborer on the
wealthier farms of Derry. He spent many years there,
and he had a wonderful touch with animals of all
sorts. Horses loved him especially, and I think he
would have loved to have worked at a race course, but
events dictated otherwise.
World War Two came early to the UK, and they were in
desperate need for labor of all sorts. Dad joined the
Merchant Marine services, and made many runs on the
convoys from South Africa to England. He had two boats
shot out from under him, courtesy of the German
Kreigsmarine, but seemed almost casual about it.
After the war, he went to Australia and New Zealand,
and worked there during the boom of the 1950's. He
spent almost 10 years there, working a lot of
construction and road building in the almost virginal
territories. I've often wondered why he didn't stay,
but I think the wanderlust took him again.
He returned to Ireland for a few years, then visited
the United States in 1956. He was impressed, and his
brother James sponsored him in 1957. I often joked
that he was not "off the boat" Irish, but "off the
plane". His was the first generation to take advantage
of fast cheap air service between Ireland and North
America, harbinger of millions to come.
He landed a job at Harvard University in 1960, as a
laborer for the Buildings and Grounds department,
assigned to the Medical School. Always one with an eye
for turning an easy dollar (or shilling, or lira, or
whatever) he began supplying the need for coffee and
soft drinks to the workers and technicians of the
Harvard Medical School, as well as their need for
Irish Sweepstakes Tickets. This was a time of few
state lotteries. I believe New Hampshire started the
first legal lottery in the US in over fifty years. The
Irish Sweepstakes was used to generate money for the
Irish Hospitals charities, and did build quite a few.
It is now gone, due to the efforts of New Hampshire,
and later all the other Hyperbux and Mucho-Loot-Oh
games.
He met my mother while he was selling the tickets in
the Medical School Museum. My mother was a histologist
there, happily slicing tissue for wildly different
projects and studies. He asked her out to dinner and
dancing, and the rest followed naturally. They were
married September, 1961, and I followed suit at the
end of July, 1962.
We moved to the house in Dorchester in 1965, after my
mother's father passed away (age 92), and used it as
our base of operations ever since. My mother caught
the travel bug from my father, though she had shown
symptoms earlier in her life. I travelled to Ireland
with them at age 9 months, and have been back at least
a dozen more times. We used Ireland as a springboard
for travel to the UK (aside from Ulster) and the
European mainland. We also traveled North America,
from coast to coast. They loved it, and I think a
highlight of their travels was the trip they took to
Australia and New Zealand in 1984. My father was so
very happy to return ther after so many years.
The year of my mother's passing, we went to Ireland
for what would turn out to be his last time. He
enjoyed the 2 weeks there, seeing many old friends
again. I am always amazed at ther numbers of that
generation the survived to their 80's and 90's.
We also made two trips to the midwest, both for
weddings, the last one in October of 1999. I know dad
enjoyed seeing his family again. He talked about when
we returned for weeks.
I hope this does some justice to his memory. It is
just the bare highlights of his life, but I think it
frames the man.
Pax,
Bernie McGeehan

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