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KILROY (the family of Patrick McDonnell of Letrermahera, near Newport, brother of my grandfather Thomas MCDONNELL


It was in March 1992, just after St. Patrick's Day that I received a letter from Tom Dyra in London where he enclosed a newspaper cutting from the Mayo News which had a story about the 100th Birthday of a lady in Las Vegas in the U.S.A. It was as the result of this newspaper cutting which was instrumental in my finding over 100 of the second, third and fourth McDonnell cousins I had never known existed.

Briefly, the newspaper cutting, gave details of the 100th birthday celebrations in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A. of a lady named Nora Kilroy (nee McDonnell) who was a native of Lettermoghera (Lettermaghera), Newport, Co. Mayo in Ireland.

In his covering letter Tom Dyra stated that this Nora Kilroy nee. McDonnell was a first cousin of my father - John McDonnell and his mother (Tom Dyra) - Anne McDonnell (Dyra), my aunt.

NORA KILROY (nee McDonnell), a native of Lettermoghera, Newport, who emigrated to the U.S.A. 77 years ago, has just celebrated her 100th birthday. Over 200 guests attended the party in Christ the King Church Hall, Las Vegas, Nevada.

Her son, Jim, organizer of the party and a regular visitor to Newport, said the event served as a long-planned reunion of the Kilroy Clan. Some 60 great-grandchildren were in attendance as were several great-great-grand-children.

Nora enjoyed authentic music and entertainment from her homeland. Michael Breen, a native of Derradda: Mary Geraghty-Cox, Carrabawn, Westport; Nora Masterson and friends traveled from Los Angeles and danced the Derradda Set, which Nora danced many and many a time in the thatched cottage kitchens around her native Newport.

Nora herself entertained the guests with ghost stories of Mayo - in her Irish brogue and ever-present laughter. She told of how she was born and raised in the tiny village of Lettermaghera, looking at Croagh Patrick; how she sailed to New York on the famed "Lusitania" - sunk by a German U-BOAT on its return journey; how she lived and worked for some time in Chicago, marrying James Kilroy, a friend and neighbour from Lettermaghera. After moving to Akron, Ohio, they raised five children - Kathleen, Rita, Tom, James and Jack. She was also housekeeper for the Franciscan Order of priests.

Nora visited her old homestead in her 64th year, accompanied by her daughter, Kathleen. She is aunt of Bridie Tighe, Carratighe, Ballina; great-grand -aunt of Patsy King, Mary Keane and Paddy Hester and also a first cousin of Bridgie Holmes, Tiernaur, Newport. She attributes her long life to "staying away from doctors", and is looking towards many more happy years.

Using the details of where the 100th birthday celebrations were held in the Christ the King Church hall in Las Vegas, I wrote to the parish priest, asking him it he would pass on my letter to the family of Nora Kilroy, which explained who I was and why I was interested.

On May 20th. 1992 I received a letter from my cousin Kathleen Carroll nee Kilroy who was Nora's daughter and who helped look after Nora now that she could not live on her own.

Her letter was full of welcome and interest and she also sent me a family tree detailing all the descendant of Nora and a lot of other information about the McDonnell family, which included some other direct members I had not known about.

In December 1992 Kathleen wrote and told me that her mother had died peacefully in her sleep on July 3rd. 1992.

I continued to correspond with both her and her brother Jim Kilroy who lived in Los Angeles were very interested to such a degree that when I decided to have my long trip back home to England I decided it was too good an opportunity to miss and to fly across the Pacific to the U.S.A. and to call in and see them. When I wrote and told them this we received an overwhelming invitation to stay with Jim in Los Angeles and Kathleen in Las Vegas and I arranged my trip to do this and to also call in and see Frank Dyra in Chicago.

From writing to and later talking with Kathleen Carroll (Kilroy) and other members of her family, we have been able to expand our knowledge of the McDonnell family.

Firstly, I was able to establish that the original Johnny McDonnell was married to a Bridget Casey, something which Tom Dyra was not aware. Apparently Johnny also had a sister named Nellie and still has some descendants living in the Newport area.

As far as we can establish Johnny McDonnell had at least three sons - Thomas (our line), Patrick, who was Nora McDonnell's father. There was also a Dominick, which confirms what Tom Dyra told me and there was also a Mary who married a Willie O'Malley and a Bridget who married a John Kelly who was the mother of Bridie Holmes. Bridie the first cousin of Nora Kilroy and also of my father. We met Bridie Holmes at her home on the Mulrany Road in 1995 and we were later advised that Bridie had died in 1996.

Rona and I stayed with Jim Kilroy and his wife Mary in Los Angeles and then with his sister Kathleen Carroll and her husband Jerry Carroll in Las Vegas. Their other brother Jack and his wife Jo Ann from Ohio, were also staying with the Carroll's at the same time so we met three of Noras children.