A little slice of Ireland, hidden among trees, shrubs, blossoming flowers and vegetables, can be found tucked deep into a corner of New York’s Botanical Garden in the Bronx.
The Ireland Garden, part of the Global Garden, is tended to with much of love and care by an Irish-American woman who spent seven years of her youth running her fingers through Irish soil on a daily basis and now more than 60 years later is doing it again, this time from the other side of the Atlantic.
Ann Creaney -- Bergin is her family name -- has been tending to the Irish Garden for the past nine years, twice a week, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday and Friday.
Creaney, who has worked elsewhere throughout the garden in the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, and in the Howell Family Garden, home of the Global Gardens, rested her green fingers last Friday to speak to the Irish Voice/IrishCentral.
“It’s funny really how it has come full circle. Back in Ireland I had no choice but to work on the land when I was a child because that was our food, but now I do work here because I love to educate and teach people about Ireland and all it’s good stuff,” said Creaney, 71, who is a member of the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, Division 9 in the Bronx.
“I’ve always loved it here and I thoroughly enjoy showing people around the Irish Garden and educating them on the various plant life and vegetables from Ireland.”
It was in fact in Ireland that Creaney was first introduced to the land. Creaney traveled to Ireland in 1940 with her mother and older brother, John, to visit her grandmother in Ballyhaise, County Cavan. They planned to stay a few weeks, but they ended up living in Cavan for seven years.
“The waters were full of mines because of the war so we were told there was no more travel by water. We had to stay put in Ireland for seven years,” recalls Creaney.
Her father, a motorman on the subway, remained in New York.
“We lived with no running water or electricity and had to grow all our own food on the farm we lived,” said Creaney.
Creaney and her family had to tend to the farm on a regular basis. It was necessary to help their mother out so they could survive.
“We had a farm with a cow, and we all helped out with the work to grow the plants when we weren’t in school,” she remembers.
Creaney attended school in Ireland up to fourth grade. There she became fluent in Gaelic, prompting her later in life to become a fully-fledged member of the Gaelic League in New York.
When the war ended and the waters were once again safe to travel on, Creaney, her brother and her mother bid adieu to the land they had grown to love and returned to New York aboard the SS Washington, a U.S. ship.
For years, Creaney didn’t need to pick up a shovel or tend to a garden. Life in New York was much more graceful.
She married her husband Anthony, a Belfast native, and together they had three children. It wasn’t until the children were older that Creaney decided to go back to her roots.
“I firstly volunteered at the Wave Hill garden and cultural center in Riverdale and I really enjoyed it there,” shared Creaney.