Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Headed for Devine country in Mitchelstown

October 13th, 2007 · No Comments

From Kilworth To The Galtees

Originally uploaded by Kman999

On April 21, 1851, young Patrick Devine (he was 9) set sail with his auntie Elizabeth (she was 27) from Liverpool to New York City. (How they got from their birthplace–Mitchelstown, in County Cork–I do not know.)

I also don’t know much about how, some forty years later, Patrick was established in Manchester, NH, as “the” Roman Catholic undertaker. (Patrick and his dad started off as carpenters, making little pine coffins.) Patrick’s second son, Maurice, annoyed both parents by leaving the family business to go to law school. My father J. Murray Devine was the son of Maurice.

So that’s why Frank Wilczek and I are in Cork tonight, headed north to Mitchelstown once we sleep off the minor stress of flying here from Stockholm. I’m told Mitchelstown is most famous for “boring cheese” and that earlier family visits failed to turn up the name Devine, even in graveyards.

Piffle. So what. I want to see for myself.

I’m also carrying with me a small talisman from the other side of my family of origin. My mother kept a journal (on onionskin paper) of her 1963 visit to Ireland, including Mitchelstown, which I am hoping to follow if that is possible. My father organized the trip but my mother recorded it for them.

My mother–who had not one drop of Irishness in her and didn’t like Guiness–considered that the worst scolding insult to one of her children was “You’re a disgrace to the name Devine.” My mother, who was adopted, wrote her own obituary and carefully omitted from said obituary her maiden name.

I’m planning to share more of her stuff with you as we go on.

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