Morrissey, McCarthy are Irish blessings to community

By Helen Boyle
Citizen Chronicle Contributor

SOUTHBRIDGE — A young couple from the southeastern coast of Ireland came to the United States with plans to experience American life for a short time. It’s been 32 years.

Margaret Morrissey and husband Gabriel McCarthy are natives of Youghal, a seaside town in County Cork, Ireland, about 3,000 miles away. Today, Youghal is a small resort town that, according to Irish Census data, is home to nearly 8,000 people. Morrissey said the town is a major port and is perhaps best known for its carpets and Youghal lace.

In 1986, the couple decided to cross the Atlantic Ocean to come to America. They were in their late 20’s at the time, and the plan was to stay in the United States for a short time. Upon arrival, they saw that America was a bit more modern than their native homeland in County Cork. Subsequent trips back to Ireland have shown that Youghal has modernized quite a bit over the last few decades.

Worcester County became an easy draw for the Morrissey and McCarthy, noting that the area’s diversity was appealing, as was the familiarity of having a number of Irish Americans and descendants of the Emerald Isle living in the area.

Morrissey said the couple’s Irish accents have proven to be “a great conversation starter” as people become curious about where they come from and their story. She said they typically receive a very positive and warm reception from people who learn they’re Irish immigrants.

While many Americans have a handful of stereotypes they’ve affixed to the Irish, Morrissey said while she isn’t generally bothered by these erroneous beliefs, that she does wish people got to know one another before applying any generalizations. She noted that the symbol of Ireland is not a shamrock, but rather a harp. Morrissey also noted the Irish are “first class people” and that “education is highly valued.” She is proud to talk about the rich history of Irish culture, including its language, music, and art.

Morrissey and McCarthy don’t spend their Saint Patrick’s Day sporting shamrocks, drinking green beer, and consuming corned beef and cabbage. Instead, they will gather together with family and friends, like most do back in Ireland. Morrissey noted that Saint Patrick’s Day is a celebration of the island nation’s patron saint, a man shrouded in myth and legend dating back to the fifth century. Born in Roman Britannia, the teenager that would one day become known as Saint Patrick was kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave. After six years in servitude, a vision helped him escape and return home, only to later believe God was now telling him to go back to Ireland and spread Christianity.

For Morrissey and McCarthy, Saint Patrick’s Day was traditionally a feast day in which people would gather together, they would get the day off from school, and perhaps attend a small local parade. That was not the Saint Patrick’s Day they found here in America, and, she noted, it is not necessarily the Saint Patrick’s Day celebrated in Ireland now. Morrissey said the holiday has become more “international.”

Ultimately, it is that international spirit that helped draw Morrissey and McCarthy to the United States, and to Worcester County. “Yes, I’m Irish, but very much a part of America, which I embrace in all things and traditions,” Morrissey said.

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