All the Marys: Marian Stanley

BURED TROUBLES COVER.2Breaking News: Lisa Q. Matthews is the winner of Buried Troubles! Congratulations, Lisa. Watch your email for one from Marian.

Edith here, on my older son’s 32nd birthday (and the day I become a mother for reals) – happy day, Allan! I’m always delighted to welcome good friend Marian Stanley to the blog. I read the manuscript of her new book, Buried Troubles, and you’re going to love it! And she’s going to send a copy of Buried Troubles to a selected commentator.

In the book, Rosaria O’Reilly finds herself in grave danger from those who won’t let go of the past in this thrilling sequel to The Immaculate.

Still recovering from injuries sustained during her last effort in solving a murder, Rosaria is dragged into a new case with ties to the Irish community on both sides of the Atlantic. The victim is an Irish journalism student working on a research paper in Boston. His aunt, a friend of Rosaria’s, reaches out to her for help in solving the case. This does not go over well with Rosaria’s significant other, Boston Police Detective Solly Belkin, who wants Rosaria to leave the case in his capable hands. Instead, Rosaria travels to Ireland and is caught up in a dark web of ancient grievances, old crimes, and secrets that powerful people are determined to keep hidden forever.

Can Rosaria unearth these buried troubles and solve the murder before the killer buries her instead?

Take it away, Marian!

BURIED TROUBLES.COTTAGEMaybe someday I’ll write in a cottage in Western Ireland like Sheila Connolly’s. Like this one in Ballyconneely, Connemara—my grandmother’s home village, and that of the murder victim in Buried Troubles, a Rosaria O’Reilly mystery set in Boston and Western Ireland.

NANAEarly in the last century, my Gaelic-speaking grandmother, Mary Agnes Burke, left this remote village as a teenager—coming to a tightknit Irish enclave in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston. She got a job as a housekeeper in the rectory of (what else?) Saint Mary’s church, married James O’Leary, and moved to Malden where they raised six children. Not an uncommon immigrant story.

Charlestown, like some other Boston neighborhoods, was a waystation for many of these young people. It wasn’t Ireland, but almost—the customs, the music, the Church, the insular prejudices. And the history. Old memories and grievances from a small, poor island with one great and powerful oppressor never really went away. Buried Troubles is the story of some caught in the long reach of that history.

Old Charlestown

A successful rebellion created an independent republic in the south of Ireland, but the British kept six northern counties as part of the deal. That part of the deal and longstanding Catholic civil rights issues in the north resulted in a decades-long, savage war in Northern Ireland given the curiously genteel name of The Troubles. Stubborn pockets of Irish republican support for the insurgency flourished in certain American cities, including Boston. For some, the fervor for a unified Ireland excused much more than it should have.

Over time, most of the immigrants of my grandmother’s generation were too busy working and raising children to go to the hall for the ceili or dance. No one spoke Gaelic here. When homesick immigrants went home to Ireland for visits, they found it poor. They missed the comforts of their new country. (“Imagine,” my grandmother said, “We still had to start the fire for a little pot of tea.”) So, gradually, most of them moved on to new lives, a new history.

But some couldn’t. My paternal grandfather, Patrick McMahon, never spoke again to his youngest daughter (another Mary, of course) when she married a Charlestown man from a family said to have informed for the British. This was the worst sin—to be a “tout”, a snitch, an informer. Sadly, this particular Mary died in childbirth and we know little about her.

BURIED TROUBLES.CHARLESTOWNToday, Charlestown is a hip neighborhood, home to many young professionals with small children and dogs. Our own daughter Mary (what else?) lives not too far from old Saint Mary’s church where her great-grandmother was a housekeeper. Every day, she travels the same streets where Mary Agnes, James O’Leary, and my ill-fated Aunt Mary lived as young immigrants.

Our Mary is too young, too sensible, and far too busy to feel the presence of ghosts in this old neighborhood. For my part, I feel the spirits. I see the two Marys—my grandmother and the aunt I never knew—everywhere. I see new versions of them in young Hispanic immigrants in Chelsea and Everett. All in a new home, but carrying so much history.

Readers: If your family had a coming-to-America experience (not everyone’s was voluntary and some people were already here), what memories did they bring with them to America? What’s your own story of traveling to a distant land? I’m happy to send a copy of Buried Troubles to a selected commentator.

author photo

Marian McMahon Stanley is the author of two Rosaria O’Reilly mysteries from Barking Rain Press – The Immaculate (May 2016) and Buried Troubles (June 2018) as well as a recent short story “Career Transitions” in the Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine.  Marian enjoyed a long international corporate career and, most recently, a senior position at an urban university. A dual citizen of the United States and Ireland, she writes in a small town outside Boston, where she lives with her husband Bill and a Westie named Archie. She is now working on the next in the Rosaria series The Mariposa Circle.


54 Thoughts

  1. Marian, I loved this post! And I know what you mean about feeling those Irish ghosts (my maiden name is Quinn). My great-grandmother Mary Ann (of course) left her tiny village alone at age 14 for New York to marry an older man she didn’t know from the same village. She raised 5 children but sadly I don’t have any stories. Apparently she never spoke of Ireland again.

    1. So glad the post resonated with you, Lisa. Wow – your great-grandmother at 14 years old. I think about these (very) young people immigrating, then and now, and it blows my mind. When my children were those ages, I struggled with whether they should be allowed to take the train to Boston for a concert!

      1. I remember when I was around the same age being very concerned about Mary Ann being 14 when she married. So an aunt told me, Well now, maybe they waited a year or two. But I don’t think so. The town was very poor and she was very brave. (Good news: the marriage worked out well.)

  2. What a great story! I am going to get the first book of this series and then I will get this one. I love stories that span generations and countries. My grandfather, his brother and their family came to this country from England, in the early 1900’s. My grandfather and his brother were 15. While my grandfather loved it here, his brother despised it. He told his family he would not stay in this country. He left to go back to England shortly after they arrived here. No one ever heard from him again. My grandfather grew up in Illinois, married and had 9 children! He never had the chance to go back to England to visit any of his family. It has always been my dream to go there for him.
    Thank you for giving away a copy of your book.

    1. Oh Deb. Yes, it’s hard for us to realize just how final these leave-takings were for people – which is why, in rural Ireland, they used to have “wakes” for young men and women going to America. But the good news is that your grandfather had nine children here! I hope you do get a chance to go to England for him. Lifetime goal?

  3. My mother was only 6 months old when she came here from Belfast and of course remembered nothing about Ireland.

    1. Well, yes, it would be a little hard to remember except through her parents, Gram! Perhaps they told her something of their backgrounds, or maybe they were too busy making a life for themselves in a new country.

  4. My paternal grandfather immigrated to the United States as a young man from a country that no longer exist. When he reached US soil, he worked hard and married a woman that we have been told was “given” to him. He changed his name to his wife’s mother’s maiden name and the story of his past life – relatives, events, everything was buried with his old name. He refused to talk about the past. My Dad was a young boy when he saw a piece of wood in the barn hidden away when he asked his Dad what it was. He learned then about the name change and the sign disappeared. My Grandfather died with I was 10 and all his past information went to the grave with him. As an adult, my Dad tried to find out more about the family history on his Dad side to no avail. I do know my Grandfather’s proudest moments were of his sons joining the military. Since his homeland was at the time of his leaving under communistic control, we can only assume that his flight was for freedom.

    The picture of the cottage reminds me of the Coast Guard cottage at West Quoddy that we stayed in on our trip to Maine at the extreme eastern part of the US.

    “Buried Troubles” sounds amazing and I’d love the opportunity to read it. Thank you for the chance to win a copy.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Fascinating story, Kay. So mysterious – your grandfather’s history begs for a book to be written about it! We have to wonder if he was relieved to be safe in a new country under a new name or if he had some sense of loss. But, we hope and assume that he made a good and fulfilling life for himself here – even if his early years are a mystery! Thanks for telling us about him.
      I love the picture of this cottage – for sale somewhere in Ballyconneely, Connemara. Almost certainly more luxurious than my grandmother’s cottage!

  5. What a great post. My maternal grandfather emigrated from Croatia with his parents as a child. I’m sure he had stories, but he never told my mother and he died when I was not quite two, so I never really knew him.

    1. Yes, Liz – it would have been nice to be old enough to ask a few questions, hear a few stories, wouldn’t it? There are immigrants, of course, who prefer not to talk about where they came from. “Now, why would you want to know about all that old stuff for?” (Because it’s really interesting to me, Grandpa.”)

  6. I was lucky enough to read an early copy of this book, and Marian hit all the right notes. I haven’t yet seen the west coast of Ireland, but it’s definitely on my to-do list. Funny how much it sounds like West Cork, where one side of my father’s family came from (and I still have second cousins there). As the family story went, my Connolly grandfather met his wife (a Lawless from Carlow) in New York in 1911, when he was delivering milk (in a horsedrawn vehicle) to the back door of the house where my grandmother was a servant.

    1. Oh, I love that picture of your grandfather delivering milk to a house and meeting your grandmother, Sheila. Sweet. Connemara would remind you in many ways of West Cork. But more mountains, rocks and bogs. And – I doubt we have any Connemara readers to be offended – but I would say more clannish and shy than Cork people. (My maternal grandfather came from Bear Island in Cork, my paternal grandmother from Cork City – by way of Liverpool where her Irish family worked the docks.) Even now, there are pockets of Gaelic speakers in Connemara.

  7. This book sounds very interesting and I’ve added it to my to be read list. The only story I have about immigration was my grandmother coming from England and going through Ellis Island.
    She came through on her own and of course went to New York and then on to Cleveland, Ohio where there was family. Thank you for sharing the information. My fingers are crossed.

  8. I loved this post, Marian. My mother’s father’s side are Flahertys from Galway who went to San Francisco in the nineteenth century sometime. Must get details from my mother’s cousin while he’s still alive! Scots and Brits on the other side, but I only know details about our line of Maxwells.

    I have lots of stories of living for a year or more in places like Brazil, Japan, Mali, and Burkina Faso, and they are only beginning to get into my fiction!

    1. Ah, the Flahertys of Galway. As I recall from some history of Galway, they were a dominant clan family with a number of subject clans under them. You will never have the time, but it would be interesting for you to research the Flahertys. You would not be disappointed in your ancestors! Yes, get some background from your mother’s cousin – once that backstory is gone, it’s gone. How just plain gutsy of your grandfather’s family to go the San Francisco in the nineteenth century!
      Glad you are gradually bring some of your international experiences into your fiction. So rich.

  9. What a fascinating story. I love the deep connections of family roots and stories of them. One of the reasons is because I never heard stories of people coming from the old country. And barely heard about people coming from Pennsylvania to Missouri. I’m lucky people left records of arriving from England to Hingham and from Germany to Pennsylvania.

    1. You know, Sherry, I found many immigrants of my grandmother’s generation just didn’t want to talk about the past. They were always looking forward. They didn’t want to “waste time” talking about the past. They had too much to do in the here and now and too many plans for the future. I guess it’s that energy that brought them here in the first place!

  10. Marian, thank you for sharing your family’s history. Of course you feel the spirits!
    My mother’s French Catholic ancestors were expelled from what is now Nova Scotia by the English governor, who demanded the French take an oath of loyalty to the English king. Refusing to do so meant the Acadians were put on ships and sent away–lands stolen, homes destroyed, families broken apart. Some ended up in Louisiana, where they were welcomed and prospered–and will never leave, no matter how many hurricanes try to push them out. My father’s family immigrant story is colorful. A DeFelice came from the Venice area to South Louisiana and became a boat captain, but was jailed for stealing life preservers. Every family has a black sheep!

    1. Well, Ramona, in some New England schools, we had to read the story of Evangeline by the local poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in school. So, we got to know the story of the young Evangeline and Gabriel. As a family, we also traveled to Nova Scotia a few times and heard the Acadian story. And, of course, we all know it was never about any old oath of loyalty – it was about all those rich Arcadian farmlands which were there for the taking. That being said, the culture seems rooted pretty strongly in Louisiana now – doubt you could get anyone to go back to chilly Nova Scotia!
      As to family’s black sheep, it’s said that my maternal grandfather James O’Leary jumped shipped from the British Navy and disappeared into the immigrant Irish tenements of Boston. One person’s black sheep is another person’s opportunist!

      1. A good point, Marian! Longfellow’s Evangeline is much beloved in Louisiana Acadiana’s region, and of course it was about those farmlands. Isn’t it always?

  11. What an interesting family history. And I loved reading all the commenters’ histories too. So many of these stories are lost as time passes.

  12. Welcome back. Marian. Buried Troubles looks amazing and a brilliant follow-up to The Immaculate.

    My Irish ancestor Bernard or Barney Hickey arrived in 1829. Parish records would seem to indicate he was christened Catholic, but he seems to have lost his religion after that, as the family intermarried with descendants of the Dutch protestant settlers they found in New York.

    My Irish forebearers on the other side, the Armstrongs, may have arrived around 1845, but that one is currently even murkier.

  13. Thanks, Barbara. I think I would know much less if my grandparents had emigrated in the 1800’s! Coming at the turn of the last century as they did, the record-keeping system here was much more reliable. Even in Ireland, I was stunned when a parish priest took down a large black ledger for me with the names and birth/marriage/death dates of parishioners from that time – all in the most beautiful penmanship.
    I think this country in the 1800s must have been a swirl of immigration and movement, intermarriage etc. Hard to keep track of!

  14. My family has been here for several generations and any coming to America stories have been lost to time.

  15. Welcome back to the blog, and thanks for your great post! I live in Boston, and lived in Charlestown for a while in the early 90’s. The influence of the Irish cannot be understated in either place. Much of my family is Irish. We’re about to do a multi generation DNA test to figure that out more precisely. There is much glorious, but a lot of “forget everything but the grudge” in that lineage. What a rich history for a story.

  16. My father was Peter Brian McMahon and his father was Peter James McMahon. My grandfather was one of 11 children born to Patrick and Bridget in Moveen, Kilkee in County Clare. Some of the 11 came to Buffalo, NY in the early 1900’s, some moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina, some moved to San Francisco, CA and the rest stayed in Ireland. My father and mother had 7 kids … most of us 7 still live in Buffalo, NY.

  17. Depending on which maternal line I trace, the oldest member that I could find was Rabbi Seixas. He was the Rabbi of the Sephardic Temple in Newport R.I.. There is also the Sachs family tree (my maternal side) I’ve found my Great-Great Grandfather Rabbi Nachum Sachs who is buried in the Washington Cemetery here in Brooklyn along with my Great Granfather Abraham Goldstein. So my history is a very mixed bag. I know we had cousins who lived in either North or South Carolina who died out for lack of “trying”.

  18. This was a wonderful story and I look forward to reading your book. I’m always fascinated by immigration stories. In many ways that is the real American story. Have you ever been to the Ellis Island museum in NY? Among all the famous museums here, it is the most uniquely a New York, story. And the Tenement Museum tells some of what happened after and is both informative and very moving. All my grandparents came from various corners of what was then the Russian Empire. Jews who were mistreated in their “homeland”, they gladly left he Old World behind and never wanted to talk about it. I know only a little; I wish I knew more. And the ones who stayed behind perished later under the Nazis.

    1. I do want to go to Ellis Island, Triss – never been. I will also put the Tenement Museum on the list. This is the first I have heard of it. And, on another subject, I so understand your relatives not wanting to discuss hard times left behind. They wouldn’t want to relive those dark memories. And the Nazi memories – awful. Thanks for commenting. Appreciate your thoughts.

  19. My uncle was able to trace our family history in the U.S. back to the 1600s. This was before all the trace your ancestry websites existed. Maybe he used birth, marriage, & death records? I’m not sure. I just know that there are not any stories passed down thru the generations.

    1. Wow, Jana very impressive! I suppose one could recreate some stories from that wealth of data – but it would require lots of time and another dedicated soul like your uncle!

  20. My great-great Grandfather immigrated from Holland with just the clothes on his back and a note that said he had a job working for a rancher. He became a successful rancher in Colorado.

    1. Nice story, Joyce. There is a concept known as “the immigrant advantage” that you probably know about. The idea is that the ones who are willing to take the risk to emigrate to a new country are the ones who have the spunk to succeed – like your great-great grandfather!

  21. Love the story of the Mary’s! My dad’s parents and dad’s great uncle came to New York. from Positano Italy, Great uncle was a cobbler (shoe maker). Most of our people who came from Positano, changed their last name..some to Positan, some to Postan, Poston, Posten. Peterson, etc. My maiden name is Positano. My mother’s side is French.

    1. Oh, Positano – that heavenly place, Sheryl! I think I would have kept the full name too. So nice to hear you have cobblers in your family – I was just at our cobbler’s in West Concord Ma – she’s fixing my sandals. Feel blessed to have that shop in town. It’s a rarity these days.

  22. My paternal grandmother brought her daughter here from Austro-Hungary in the early 1900s. Never did get a clear history as my dad was born in 1926(?) and his American father disappeared in a shipyard explosion around the time of his birth. Rumor has it my paternal grandfather HAD to marry my maternal grandmother but I never had any chance of clarifying this, all parties involved now long gone.

    1. Oh, but such a story in there. So many tantalizing bits and pieces of our history are hard to put together. Sometimes, I think that maybe the only way to touch on it is fiction!

    1. Wonderful – I’ll be sending you an email re: logistics of getting the book!

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