U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Kevin F. O’Malley recalled his emigrant grandparents during an emotional visit to his ancestral home town of Westport in Mayo.

“It says a lot about the Irish DNA and the opportunities in America that the grandson of two penniless emigrants could return to Ireland in two generations as the American Ambassador,” said the ambassador, who visited the museum with his wife Dena and Irish prime minister Enda Kenny.

Elizabeth and Michael O’Malley emigrated out of Westport to Chicago nearly 100 years ago.

“My grandparents never talked about Ireland. I think now, knowing what we know, it was too painful for them. They had left everything they knew and loved behind. They had to concentrate on making a new life in America.”

At the Irish County Life Museum curator Tony Candon gave the ambassador an official tour of the museum which celebrates Ireland’s folk history and the daily way of life in old Ireland, the Advertiser.ie reports.

Among the artifacts on display, a simple tin teapot known as an ‘emigrants teapot’ made the biggest impression on O’Malley. The teapot was made by renowned Tuam tinsmith Mike Maughan in the late 19th or early 20th century and is an example of the teapots fashioned at that time for parents to give their emigrating children, who they would most likely never see again once they boarded the ship to America.

“The emigrants’ pot reminds me of my grandparents,” said Ambassador O’Malley. “I know they left Ireland with only a few possessions and they cherished the things they did have until the day they died.”

At the museum, Maurice O’Malley, guardian chieftain of the O’Malley clan, presented the ambassador with a certificate outlining his O’Malley clan membership.

While this was not the first time Ambassador O’Malley had been to Mayo, last week marked his first visit to the county in an official capacity.

In addition to the museum, the ambassador visited the American-owned Baxter factory in Castlebar and Mayo Peace Park, where he laid a wreath on a memorial stone recognizing the Mayo combatants who died while fighting with American armed forces. 

On Monday evening, the Mayo County Council honored Ambassador O’Malley with a civic reception at Áras an Chontae.