THE CHILDREN OF MASTER O'ROURKE: The Saga of an Irish Family by John Chabot Smith

THE CHILDREN OF MASTER O'ROURKE: The Saga of an Irish Family

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They were Fifteen in number and scattered to London and Leeds and Nigeria when Smith first came across the O'Rourke family in the person of Father Bill, a suburban Connecticut parish priest. Casual introductions to relatives across the water led Smith to piece together this bountiful family history from the marriage of Maire and Eoin O'Rourke, schoolmaster in Ballycarrick, Co. Sligo, to his death and the astounding vitality and perseverance of his children--each leaving home to make room for the younger ones, each striking out in the world with no prospects and no patrimony. It is a story made poignant by the depopulation of rural Ireland and by emigration--for a hundred years an unshakable fact of Irish life. When Smith caught up with them, the O'Rourkes, with one or two exceptions, were prospering; their story is one of upward mobility toward middle-class comfort. Among the children of Eoin O'Rourke are three priests, two policemen, an insurance salesman. Patrick, the youngest, is a successful airline executive in the US, while the five daughters are all rearing families--three of them in England. Only two daughters married local farmers and the family home, Toberpatrick, is used now solely for summer vacations. Though Smith is captivated by all Ireland and especially by the hospitality and kindliness of the O'Rourkes--none of whom complains about his lot in life--there is a strong undertow of hardship. The opportunities for the ten O'Rourke sons were few, their education and jobs hard-won, family life deferred until it was affordable. Smith tries not to romanticize excessively, and for the most part he succeeds in telling his simple saga of lives dispersed and paths diverging from the quiet harmonies of the Irish countryside and its many inherited burdens.

Pub Date: Sept. 19th, 1977
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston