Mom and the Girls' Trip to Ireland - 2016

Beyond the Pale


Agnes Swift

Agnes SwiftAgnes Swift was born in1880, the 10th child born to John C. Swift and Mary Cecily Rimmer.

During her short life, she traveled to Europe twice -- once in 1911 with Dr. Sala, his family and another nurse from Washington, IA. They visited medical installations in many European cities. During this trip, she wrote dispatches which were published in her local newspaper, the Washington Democrat, published by Alex Miller.

In 1917, Agnes joined the American war effort as part of Unit R, organized in southeastern Iowa by a couple of doctors, and attached to Base Hospital 32 at Contrexeville, France. The hospital treated thousands of wounded and sick of all nationalities. Agnes remained in France until early 1919, arriving in New York on March 22, 1919. She took a train back to Washington, Iowa. During the trip, her sisters Julia and Martina met her on the train, with the tragic news that their father had died in her absence (John C. Swift died 15 Feb. 1919.)

Agnes's health was seriously affected during her war service, and though she returned to nursing duties in Iowa, she fell ill and succumbed to her ailments in 1923. She was buried with full military honors on her 43rd birthday. Her cousin, Harry Swift, who was himself wounded in battle near Chateau-Thierry, was one of her pallbearers.

During her 1911 trip, Agnes made a short visit to Gort, Ireland, where she found first cousins of her father, John C. Swift, and wrote home to tell him about her visit. Sister Joan Bailey preserved the letter and shared the contents with me.

letter from Agnes

Letter from Agnes to her father, July 1911

The Commercial Hotel - Gort
Mrs. J. H. Glynn, Proprietress

Saturday [July 8, 1911]

Well, Dad I don't suppose this hotel was here when you were. I don't seem to find any of our relation. There are many Fahys and Nolans here. I see a shop with Quinn above it. There are Cusacks about three miles in the country. Have a notion to drive out there in a jaunting cart, but Jack Glynn tells me "they'll likely be in today." Got here last night about 7 p.m. I walked over the town. They claim a 1000 population. Went to the church. [A portion of ] it was built in 1892. There are two convents -- one sort of a home and hospital combined. The sister took me thro. The building is quite good. The grounds are prettier; flower beds, potted plants, lobelias, geraniums, ferns and all kinds of greenery, back in the corner of the garden beneath a pretty holly tree is a statue of the B. Virgin. I never knew that holly grew here. It was plentiful on the trip through Killarney -- green berries now, will turn red in Oct., so the guide told us. I also thot it was shrubbery, but they are very pretty trees with good contour.

Mrs. Glynn said she would call me if there was Mass. But Father Fahy is away so no Mass and I didn't get up until 10 o'clock. You know it isn't dark here in the evening until after 10 and I always forget to go to bed untill midnight. Am going out and take in the rest of Gort.

Agnes and John C. Swift, 1906

Agnes Swift and her father,
John C. Swift, 1906

Saturday night, 10 p.m. - Back to Limmerick where I left the Salas and Miss M. while I went to Gort. Well, after dinner I went over to the Mercy Convent next door to hotel. A Sister told me one Mrs. Michael Hynes used to be Hanorah Swift so I "hurried up Nancy." Suppose she is a cousin of yours. Her father was Bartholomew Swift. He had brothers David, Thomas, Patrick, and James, and she had two -- Margaret who married a Pilsworth went to the States and died in Boston a few years ago. Mary married a Boyd and lives in the States. Mrs. Hynes looks much like Aunt Bridget. She told me of a cousin of hers living at Kiltartan who was Mary Swift now McDonnell. I got a jaunting cart adn went looking to Kiltartan. The woman was glad to see me at least she had an awful frog in her throat when I left.

She said James Swift was her father and his brothers were David, Bartholomew, Patrick and Thomas. She remembered you and also John D. and Kate Tracy. Now neighbor of them mentioned an Uncle John. So where does Omaha Swift father come in? Wasn't his name John and wasn't he a brother of your father Thomas? Your uncles David, Paddy, etc.?

Dublin, Sunday, 7 a.m. - Have been here since 4:30 a.m. There is no place hardly to stay here. The King and Queen are here. Every hotel is full to overflowing. This degree of class on trains and cars is a nuisance. And I don't see much difference in them, only the price. Then there is much more difference in the same class in different trains than there is in any of the 3 classes on one train. If I weren't quite so "lard" [tired] I could make myself more explicit.

Be sure and everybody go to Mass today. Have plenty of mail for me in London. Expect to be there a week from today and stay two wks. Father Fahy I didn't see in Gort as he was in Dublin in the hospital.


4 p.m. - will soon be leaving Dublin. Saw the King & Queen this a.m. going to church but stood in line two hrs to get to see them. For particulars, you'll have to read the newspapers. Am very anxious to know if people send the letters. So keep your ears open for remarks in same.

Last December, after I read Agnes's letter once again, I tried as I have many times before to understand who were these cousins she mentioned -- Hanorah Swift and Mary McDonnell. I tried searching the internet and for their names, but I just did not have enough information. Then I tried searching for "Mary McDonnell" and "Kiltartan" and came across a similar inquiry from a person named DeLourdes Fahy, whose post read, "I am a native of Kiltartan and would like to make contact with their descendants/relatives to share information."

And that is how I found Sister DeLourdes Fahy.


Other stuff and 2023 trip

This page was last edited on 25-Apr-2023

back to the top