Of all of the many hundreds of treasures and interesting artefacts on display in the Museum of Country Life, Turlough, it was a simple, scuffed, tin teapot that most enthralled the United States Ambassador to Ireland, Kevin F O’Malley, when he visited the museum on Monday.
It was not surprising that the little pot, known as an ‘emigrants teapot’ struck such a chord with the Ambassador; his own grandparents, Elizabeth and Michael O’Malley, trod the well worn emigrant path out of Westport, Chicago bound, some 100 years ago.
The Ambassador remarked on the impressive chain of events that his grandparents’ journey started all those years ago.
“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.”
The emigrant teapot is an excellent example of its kind and was made by renowned Tuam tinsmith Mike Maughan in the late 19th or early 20th century.
It was one of thousands fashioned at that time for heartbroken parents to gift to their son or daughter, who they were never likely to see again once they boarded the ship to America.
“My grandparents never talked about Ireland,” said Ambassador O’Malley, who visited the museum with his wife Dena, and An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny.
“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.”
Museum curator Tony Candon gave the Ambassador his official tour of the museum which celebrates Ireland’s folk history and which tells the story of the Ireland Mr O’Malley’s grandparents inhabited, and of their daily way of life in Westport a century ago.
“The emigrants’ pot reminds me of my grandparents,” said Ambassador O’Malley. “I know they left Ireland with only a few possessions and they cherised the things they did have until the day they died.”
Ambassador O’Malley smiled when asked if he makes a pot of tea himself. “It is becoming a custom,” he answered.
While this was not Ambassador O’Malley’s first visit to Mayo, it was his first visit to the county in an official capacity.
In the Museum of Country Life, Maurice O’Malley, guardian chieftain of the O’Malley clan, made a presentation to the Ambassador, which included a certificate outlining his O’Malley clan membership.
The Ambassador also visited the American owned Baxter factory in Castlebar, which is one of the biggest employers in the region.
Later that day, Ambassador O’Malley visited Mayo Peace Park, a monument which pays tribute to the Mayo men and women who died in conflicts around the world.
He laid a wreath on a memorial stone recognising the Mayo combatants who died while fighting with the US armed forces in World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War.
Mayo County Council also honoured Ambassador O’Malley with a civic reception at Áras an Chontae on Monday evening.