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Monday, July 12, 2010

Michael Flanagan Part 3

I found a book advertised online entitled, "Irish Migrants in New Zealand, 1840-1937, 'The Desired Haven.'" It is authored by Angela McCarthy, c2005, indicated as Irish Historical Monographs. In this book, Patrick’s and Michael's letters along with "Uncle Priest", Fr. Richard Flanagan, and Pat’s and Michael's brother living in England, Richard Flanagan, are quoted for this research. What a surprise to find this book. I do have copies of several of the letters that have been quoted in the book. The excerpts from the book focus on the portability of the immigrant’s community. In other words, family members and neighbors followed each other to their new location. The next part of Michael Flanagan’s letter home should be of no surprise. Michael talks about immigrant friends who were from a neighboring area of Ireland now participating in the digs in Australia.

The letter continues with Michael finding Patrick:

“There were two Clogher men along with him (Patrick) when I met him who were his mates. One of these was the young man who came out along with Dick Sheridan – Pat Kirk. Dick Sheridan left the diggings some time before I got there he having got the fever and ague which was bad enough there for some time. I cannot tell where Dick is at present. I believe he went to New Zealand after leaving Queensland. We did not stop very long at the diggings as the scarcity of water there, and the prospect of none coming for some months left the place a very poor one. The want of water drove nearly all the diggers off from there. In fact, there could be nothing done until the water did come and of course it was useless to remain."

The remainder of this letter talks about the brothers being in Brisbane and that a few years earlier had been in Victoria. I do admire the following part of the letter:

“The friendship of any true friend and especially one who had influence would certainly be a great benefit to any young man in a strange country but to the friendless and the lowly and to those who do not possess the natural gift of being bold and shameless and the colony is called “cheek” it is hard – very hard to obtain a footing amongst a class who make money by means which I would live a poor man all my life rather than descend to."

Michael appears to be the person who wrote most of the letters home. I have a short stack of Flanagan letters that include letters to and from Michael. It almost sounds like Michael was the family member most willing to communicate with his family. Maybe it’s because people owed Michael money. He must have been a generous person and a saver.

He wrote to his uncle, Rev. Richard Flanagan, to his brother, Richard Flanagan, in England, and to his family on the farm in County Louth. He would also write to his brother Patrick when they were separated at various diggings throughout Australia and New Zealand. He had other friends he wrote to regularly back in Ireland also.

A few of the letters indicate that Michael assisted various people financially including his brother Patrick and other friends in Australia. At different times, he may have sent money to the family in Ireland. While Michael appears to have saved the day on several occasions financially for family and friends, his greatest deed was yet to come.

To be continued……

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