Willsgrove native’s commentary on Free State to be published

‘I got off at Ballymoe station at half past twelve at night. The stationmaster knew me. I had two miles to walk home but the night was dry and bright and I met no person until I got to our own house. I could not describe how I felt and I was afraid it would be too much of a shock for my mother to come so unexpected.’ – George Thompson describing his unexpected arrival home to Willsgrove in 1886. The reflections of Ballintubber native George Thompson on the fledgling Irish Free State which he encountered during a return visit from America are to be documented in a new book being compiled by local historian Pat Watson.   George Thompson from Willsgrove, Ballintubber, was born in 1962 and died in 1934 in Newark, New Jersey. He emigrated to America in 1885 and three years later married Mary Freeman. The couple went on to have eight children and Mary Freeman died in 1922. In 1886 he returned to Ireland for a time, travelling by train and walking home to Willsgrove from Ballymoe station.   Two years after his wife’s death, in 1924, George returned to Ireland and conducted what was a review of the new Free State. He met Cosgrove and was to meet with De Valera, who was on the run at the time, but the meeting fell through. All of his observations on the new state, including all the locals he met in Castlerea, the experience of travelling to Ireland by boat and the conditions in the countryside, documented in his journal, which has now been passed on to Pat Watson, along with several letters sent to Ireland and America by George.   Historian Pat Watson is looking forward to compiling the story of George Thompson. ‘George served his time as a stonemason before sailing for the new world, America, in 1885. Coming from west Roscommon he would have known all about the great Michael Davitt, Parnell and the Fenian uprising of the forties, not to mention the famine, Daniel O’Connell, Catholic emancipation and Robert Emmett.   ‘He, like everybody else at the time, was looking forward to fair rent, fixed tenure, freedom to sell one’s holding and home rule for Ireland. His plan seems to have been to work a few years in America, gather up as much money as possible and return home to live. He was not to know that love would intervene and change his whole world.’   The following is an extract from a letter sent by George from Willsgrove after he returned home unexpectedly to see his mother in 1886. The letter was written to Mary Freeman whom he married two years later.   Willsgrove, December 14 th 1886.   Dearest Mary, It is after a long and weary journey, I, for first time find myself writing to you from dear old Ireland and I know it will be interesting for you to receive a full account of myself and my travels since parting with you at Mt Harrison St.   Well, to commence with, as I started away from there I felt very lonely though I tried to show manhood enough to keep from crying in your presence. It was about as much as I could do and it was a great relief to me when I turned around the corner and gave full vent at my grief at leaving you.   Our Steamer sailed from her port in New York at half past eleven in the morning of Saturday Dec 4 th . I stood on deck all evening and gave many a longing look back at New York, Brooklin and all the places we passed by. At four o’clock we were ploughing the broad Atlantic waves and could see nothing but angry water all around. She sailed very smoothly all Saturday night. Tuesday she began to rock a little and on Wednesday and Thursday it was very stormy. Almost all on board were sick only myself. All I got was a very bad cold and have it yet. There was an immense crowd of passengers on board, eleven hundred in all