Nancy Power recently shared on social media this emotional poem that her late grandmother Nancy Lichtenberg, aka Annie Carroll, penned about her experience coming to the US from Ireland.
Carroll was only 17 years old when she left her native Co Mayo, an experience she detailed in this unnamed poem she wrote in the 1980s.
“She was an amazing woman and had a great life until she died at the age of 86,” Power said while sharing her grandmother's poem, “but she always held some sorrow as to being separated from her family and Ireland in the way she had.”
Power told IrishCentral that her grandmother was born Anne Caroll on February 27, 1912, and was known as Annie before coming to the US.
While Power's mother believes Annie came from Cairn, a few miles from Charlestown in Co Mayo, Power was never able to locate a town with that name. She does know, however, the family's property was on the way to Knock and the home place became part of Knock airport.
Power says her grandmother was sent to the US at the age of 17 in 1929. After arriving in New York, Annie went straight to Philadelphia.
Power explained that when her grandmother came to the US, people started calling her Nancy, saying it was the nickname for Ann, so Anne Carroll (Annie) became Nancy Carroll, and then upon marriage, Nancy Lichtenberg.
Power's grandmother later moved to Atlantic City in New Jersey and then back to New York, where she would live for the rest of her life, moving from the Bronx, to Brooklyn, to Queens, and finally to Long Island.
"She married my grandfather on December 9, 1939 and remained married to him until her death on June 24, 1998," Power said. "She had four children and eight grandchildren who adored her."
Power added: "She only managed to visit Ireland once, 47 years after she left.
"Her parents and her youngest sister had passed away while she was gone."
Power says her Nana would have been "delighted" to have her poem published.
Shared here, with kind permission of Nancy Power, is Nancy Lichtenberg’s poem about leaving Ireland:
Why did I have to leave home this way?
That question has been bothering me till this very day
I was so happy there as happy as can be
Because everyone I loved was all around me.
I guess there were no jobs for me in sight
And I wasn't the only one who suffered such a plight
As you grow up you come to understand
The only place to find work is in some foreign land.
So naturally, it came my time you see--
And the night before I left home
They gave a farewell party for me
It eases the grief for both my family and me
My relatives and friends came from far and wide
I really don't know how they all fit inside
The band was playing over by the wall
They were singing and dancing and having a ball...
But you know this happiness will soon end
And now my ordeal starts-- saying goodbye to your friends
You know these people all your life through
To each one you say goodbye, it takes a part of you.
And people are leaving all night long
The first thing you know-It's the breaking of dawn
But the worst part was still ahead of me
I had two sisters and brothers younger than me.
I could not stand the sad look on their faces
So I turned away to look for my suitcases
My mother said "Annie, the car is waiting outside"
At any other time, it would be a joy and a fun ride.
But this was a car hired to take me to Charlestown
That was where the train arrived in our town.
I can still see that train as it came around the bend
And the expression on Mother's face seemed to say
.............I'll never see her again..............
And she held me so tight, tears fell like rain
Dad said "Bea, she's got to get on the train."
It was a difficult period with so much emotion and strain.
I stood on that train as it started to go.
And as usual, the train started up slow
I had time to wave more goodbyes
Though it was hard with tears blinding my eyes.
All of a sudden they disappeared from my view
Down inside my heart was breaking in two
I sat on the train and threw my head back
The rhythm of the wheels as they hit the track
Say--Let's face it Annie, there is no turning back......
As I was traveling, this girl came up to say
I am leaving home for the USA
I am feeling bad and so blue
Do you mind if I sit here with you?
I said I don't mind, please stay
Because I am going the exact same way
We said very little as we travelled on the train
Deep inside we were emotionally drained
We finally landed in Queenstown
I went to my room just to settle down
All of a sudden there was a knock on my door
It was the girl I met on the train just before
She said I can't be alone this night through---
Would you mind if I stayed here with you
It was a large room with an extra bed
I'd be happy to have you with me I said
And after awhile, she said let's get some tea
And that is when I remembered the whiskey Dad gave me
He said, I traveled by boat a lot--People get very sea sick
So before you go aboard tomorrow just take a little sip
I asked her if she would try the whiskey
She said that is alright with me
So I opened it up--it was the worst stuff I ever tasted
I asked her if she wanted more-She said "yes, it would be a shame to waste it"
So we sipped that stuff constantly
After awhile we got as silly as can be
We weren't even speaking coherently
Regardless of what she said-it made no sense to me
So we cried and laughed all through the night
And all of a sudden, it's broad daylight
The first thing I saw as I gazed towards the sea
Was this huge ocean liner--just waiting for me
I remembered that day as I got aboard deck
Two nights without sleep, I was a physical wreck
My legs were so tired I could barely stand
So I leaned on the ship's rail--stared back at Ireland
As the ship picked up speed and headed out to sea
Ireland started to disappear from me
All of a sudden it became such sacred ground
I wanted to scream to the Captain--please turn this ship around
I said to myself you might as well face up to your fate
The next stop for you is the United States
So I wandered around deck sort of aimlessly
All I could hear was the roar of the engines, the sound of the sea
I finally landed in the U.S.
If you think I was thrilled take another guess
No, I am not putting the U.S. down
It just wasn't my little friendly hometown
I landed in New York but I did not stay
I had to take a train to Philadelphia
Nora met me at Broad Street Station
And that was the end of my destination
But I know God had a hand in my destiny
Because now I have my own fine family
From Ray, Jean, Ann, Richard and Joan
I now have a family like the one I left home
So it's been worth all the sorrow and grief I've been through
To wind up with such a terrific family as you
That's the end of my story--the end of my poem
I just wanted you to know how it was---the day I left home.