The Rafferty Family.

A brief autobiography by James Francis Rafferty (Raftery)

I was born on March 30, 1902 on a small farm, (36 acres) in County Roscommon 2-1/2 miles from Williamstown Co. Galway. Went to school, when not needed at home, until I was 13. (Compulsory Education came in, in 1914-1915). At age 13 & 14 I spread turf for neighbors, at 8 shillings per week, also helped with our own crops & turf.

In 1917 at age 15, after the big Snow of that year, I got a job on "Direct Labor" County employment, at 15 shillings per week, as a snow shoveler, after the Snow I worked on the County Roads & in Sand Pits, & Quarries. In 1918 I got a job with a contractor who was building a flour mill in the town, our part of it was digging a "tailrace" a Waterway. I joined the Irish Transport & General Workers Union. The Union at that time was establishing a wage scale of 36 shillings per week. We had a few strikes and we were losing a lot of time because of bad weather. I took a job on a dairy farm, 28 shillings per week, rain or shine. This place was an education in farming, all modern tractors & machinery, it had its own electric power, years before the town got it, about 100 cows, a few bulls, eleven horses, 50 rows of oats, 1- acres of turnips & marigolds, five acres of potatoes, 60 acres of meadow land, a two acre garden with hot house & gardener, a manager, a land steward (graduate of Agricultural College of Cork), a butler, a footman, cook, about 10 girls in the Big House, a groom, an electrician, a plumber & three chauffers. There were about 40 men working the farm & gardens. We worked hard, there was nobody poking you and the work was done on a competitive spirit, with a line of 15 or more men across a field hoeing turnips or marigolds or smigging turnips or wringing marigolds (you were not allowed to use a knife on a margold) you kept your place in line.

My brother and I joined the IRA in 1918, South Roscommon Brigade. In the fall of 1920, together with many others I was laid off at the dairy farm, it is now a show place. Home of the O'Connor Don, Clonalis Castlerea. Direct decendent of the last King of Ireland. In Jan. 1921 because of the absence of employment I went to Birmingham, England, looked for work for weeks. If you went to a Public Utility the first thing they asked you for, was your Army Discharge paper. (Veterans Preference). On construction jobs, they would tell you that they would let you on if you would bring a bricklayer with you. (they were scarce.) Before going to England I had resigned from the IRA and turned in my equipment. In February I got a wire from home informing me that our steamship tickets had arrived from the U.S.A. I immediatley returned home, with my brother, we had to go to the much-hated RIC Barracks to apply for passports, my brother at this time had also quit the IRA. The Passports arrived within a few weeks & were shown to our friends, After a week or so I got some feeling, which caused me to take the Passports & tickets out of the house and insert them in the turf-rick.

About a week before our scheduled departure date, about 6:30 pm a raid by a party claiming to be from the IRA. The purpose, to pick up the passports. A thorough search was made of the house without result. We were then escorted to a field a short distance from the house and while two covered us with guns the third interrogated us. After much of this I kind of broke down & told my brother, I'll tell him. He must have heard this, because when I told him that the tickets & passports were in the hand of a well known steamship agent in the town, that I would go with him right then to pick them up, he seemed satisfied, expecting that I would pick them up and give them to him. I knew he would not take a chance on going into the town at that time of night. The raid was not pulled by our Company and though we had a strong suspicion that the originator of it came from the Company we never established it.

Later in the evening we went out to visit with our usual crowd and took evasive action, (crossed the fields on our way home.) After we got home, we packed up our slight gear, went to the turf rick, removed a sod took out the tickets & Passports put them in my pocket and headed for the nearest town. Our father & mother came with us about a half mile, where we said good-bye. Our older brother came with us to the town. We got a train for Dublin and a night boat to Holyhead. We stayed at a hotel overnight & next day contacted a friend in Holyhead who took us to his house for the rest of the week before going to Liverpool. We sailed from Liverpool on the Wite-Star Line, R.M.S Cedric on March 30th 1921, my birthday. Those 30's followed me around, married on June 3rd 1930 etc. My wife's birthday is January 30th.

We had a rough trip across, because the Cedric, which had been used as a troop transport was not fully converted. We slept in three tiered bunks as the soldiers had, in steerage. On arrival in New York, we saluted Miss Liberty but still did not know our status, we were unloaded and taken to Ellis Island for fumigation, you had to surrender all your clothing & they were processed, but I had an overcoat which I prized very much, when the clothes came back from the fumigation process, it looked like the Biblical coat of Jacob. "Many Colors"

Leaving Ellis Island, we began to understand rackets. The S.S. agent booked us on the Fall River Line, which then ran so we were back on a steamer of sorts again, To the best of my memory, we debarked at Mansfield Mass. and picked up the Boston & Maine for Manchester N.H. Not being too green, as soon as we got off we took a taxi to 234 Bell St. greeted by our brothers & sisters.

My first job in Manchester was for the Manchester Street Railway, We were assigned to cleaning parks, owned by the Company, Pine Island, Massahesic Lake Park & others.

I had overlooked one very important occasion in my life. In 1912 arrived home from Galveston Texas, two cousins Ellen and Agnes, Beautiful girls, for me at 10 years of age, the chief attraction, they were on the first ship ("The Carpathia") to reach the scene of the wreck of the Titanic, after reversing their route & searching through fields of ice, over 100 miles, 3-1/2 hours under full steam. The Titanic was long since gone down, but the Carpathia picked up several hundred survivors, and brought them back to Queenstown or Liverpool.

Tom Coyne & his sisters from a family close by, were in Chicago & they always mailed the Chicago papers to their father, in this way although, only ten, I was fully up on all events, I was fully informed of the wreck of the Titanic, I would say, Better than the average, The girls could give little information because I presume that during rescue operations they were kept below-decks. Living up to the law of the sea, a German ship 100 miles east turned back to aid in the rescue. It had been claimed that the Titanic was unsinkable. But who knows?

 

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