viernes, 14 de abril de 2017

From Buenos Aires to Santa Fe


Through fiction extracted from reality, we try to recreate the life of the first settlers who inhabited Venado Tuerto, a city founded by Don Eduardo Casey O'Neill on April 26, 1884, and located to the south of the Province of Santa Fe.
The present version in English, was translated from Spanish by automatic translator google, therefore the level of translation is very elementary.


'Norah, dear Norah, I can’t live without you,
What made you leave me to cross the wide sea?
Norah, dear Norah, oh! Why did you doubt me?
The world seems so dark and dreary to me?
Why have you been to Ireland?
Why have you chosen the world to roam?
Why did you go to the land of the stranger?
And leave your own Barney alone, all alone? '

James O'Dwyer was born in Morristown, Co. Westmeath in 1820. He arrived to Argentina in 1845 with his mother and four younger siblings, who he took over after his father's death on the high seas. In 1860, he married Elisa Nolan from Suipacha. They had three daughters: Clare, Rose and Josephine.

James had forged a good run, and although he managed to get about 500 hectares (1.235,53 acres) between his own and his wife's inheritance, he worked as a butler in one of the larger Estancias of the Gaynor family in the Province of Buenos Aires, while his brothers worked the family property under Mother O'Dwyers tutelage. He become an expert in cattle breeding, whose quality he improved considerably in a few years, a skill recognized by livestock producers.

Able and hardworking man; he was of great vitality, although the serenity was his main adversary. Restless and enterprising, kind and helpful, but of a revolting temperament. It was enough with a nut twist so he quickly goes on fire. Perhaps that roar was the cause of some frictions that complicated his life.

His three daughters entered the Congregation of Irish nuns "Sisters of Marcy", but only Rose, the middle one, had renewed her vows. Clare, the eldest, left the cloisters when nightmares disturbed her dreaminess and became more severe, forcing Mother Honoria, the Superior, take her time for reflect on her true vocation. Therefore her parents sent her to rest for a while at her aunts Bess and Molly Brett in San Antonio de Areco, where she would surely calm her spirit. It was the Superior Sister who imposed the reasons for the measure on the parents of the novice. The doubts that assailed Clare about her religious vocation dampened the mother's pride, which could not assimilate the desertion. Instead on the fathers side seemed to have another point of view on the matter, although he did not show it off. He was proud of his three beautiful daughters, and later he was delighted when they told him that Clare had befriended Tommy Ryan, the only heir of some 600 acres in the Arrecifes area.

Although Clare's courtship with Tommy Ryan had been formalized, everything was not going as James wished. In the process of making inquiries, he learned that the father of his pretended son-in-law -old Thomas Ryan, in his seventy-odd years- was in poor health and that his wife Norah (who claimed to be fifty but actually fifty-five) looked beautiful and healthy as ever. This led him not to distract himself and prevent the inheritance of his daughter's candidate from being decimated. One of the causes that could alter the situation, and which began to disturb him, was the swarm of suitors ("a junk of fools" James called them) that prowled the Ryan's residence, before the irreversible widowhood of lady Norah. This fact, if it comes true, would considerably reduce the inheritance, if the virtual widow formalized remarriage. And although he knew that nothing could be done about it, he was determined to force the woman's isolation from all those hot guys

With his imagination full of ghosts; he used to get furious seeing the Kehoe’s, the Furlong’s, the Helliff’s and even Pat Murray, that stingy bachelor owner of 300-acre, were busy courting Mrs. Ryan. In every gesture, in every action of those scoundrels, he saw petty interests, not realizing that it was his own greed that nourished his imagination. The numbers that James kept secretly in his head, and which he dared not let know, were not unreasonable, were mere mathematical calculations that reflected the reality and predicted that if he followed this path, his daughter would end up being the wife of a laborer.

God, who had not given him sons, had compensated him with three lovely daughters, whom he would not exchange for all the gold in the world. "I want the best for my Queens," he would say, as if seeking justification for his obsessions that purred his crazy head.

James visits Thomas Ryan

The day James visited the future father-in-law of his daughter Clair, he was greeted by Jacinta, the young housekeeper, who led him into the living room and settled him in a large armchair next the fireplace.

James was surprised see so many people chatting quietly in groups, some of them having a cup of tea and others drinking some strong stuff to cushion July’s cold. At that moment the first thing crossed his mind was that old Thomas had died; but these doubts dissipated as soon as Mrs. Ryan appeared to greet and thank him for his interest in the health of her husband. Immediately she, who was not dressed in mourning but stylishly, invited him to enter the bed room with a polite gesture, as usually.

As soon James came in he felt a cold shiver. In the dimly lit ambience and the stove sparkling fire, he saw the old man wrapped in a sea of sheets (which looked rather like shrouds) and sniff out a penetrating, indefinite scent, which might have been from the syrups of different colors on the night table. At that he heard the old man's voice: "Come on James! St. Peter does not want me in heaven!" He snapped. "This is my passport ..." he said, showing a Holy Rosary held in his hands.

The affectionate reception helped James to relax and exchange some words with the old man, who did not abandon his cordiality. Despite the gentle action of the patient, James continued to hide the terrible anguish that enveloped him. It was not for less.      He was in presence of his daughter's future parent’s in-law, who in those days were the gossip of neighborhood who foresaw the impending Mrs. Ryan widowhood, now besieged by a band of hawks expecting to grab her goods.

At that moment he urgently needed to appease those nerves that threatened to unleash uncontrollable diarrhea. He longed so much for a drink to calm her nerves! It was useless wait for a drop of whiskey. Other times he was invited with an Irish Mist, the liquor they imported from Ireland, so strong as to knock down the most inveterate drinker. But now the oven was not for buns. "Maybe not to tempt the old man"

James stayed in the residence for a short time. Perhaps his stay was too brief, but the sick wasn't able to endure long conversation, so he said goodbye and Mrs. Ryan accompanied him to the door. At that moment Willy Kehoe, well known for his petticoat raids and amorous flirtations, was coming in. At that the lady pretended surprise and quickly dismissed James, as Willy was received effusionelly. Willy extended gently his left arm and she took it elegantly to enter the house.

James turned back and looked the scene. He felt jealous of the tramp.

- Soon other winds will blow in the Estancia! -He predicted himself, and left for the bar of Basque Benito Arzúa, where he would enjoy a good drink of strong stuff.

A month later "The Southern Cross" published the obituary of Thomas Ryan Wade, and consequently the marriage was postponed for next year. It was never know what gadgets James used for avoiding any nuptial attempt of Mrs. Ryan, who shortly returned to Ireland, although, for a long time no one noticed her absence, until late after the "Cross" published the news.


In the bar James met the unspeakable Alfy Kelly, his lifelong friend. It wasn't Alfy's best day. For two hours he was carrying a flow of drinks that exceeded all alcoholic culture. When he saw James enter, he rushed to give him an effusive hug that everyone celebrated. It had been a long time since they had seen each other, so Alfy made a rather heavy joke over his wife, who, as everyone knew, she controlled James life in every sense.  So James returned the gentleness trying not to hurt Alfy; he knew better than anyone the sour character of each ones wife and chose to talk about lost oxen.

     The friendship between James and Alfy could be traced back to childhood, from when they lived in the same village in Ireland. Alfy and his two brothers were orphaned and were housed in various orphanages in Co. Westmeath. Since then friends never met again, until John Murphy, who had immigrated to Argentina a few years earlier, hired a group of Irish rural labors for work in one of his estancias, among which was Alfy Kelly.

Alfy landed in Buenos Aires on September 15, 1850, and met James in 1853. When the census of the Province of Buenos Aires was published, James discovered the name of Alfred Kelly among a corridor of Kelly’s registered in the estancia "El Eucalyptus" that he administered.

Since then and while they were single, they met in the bar to spend hours and hours talking trash, (as the locals say “hablando al pedo”). This custom comes to an end when Alfy married Maggie Hearn, cousin of Elisa Nolan, James O'Dwyer wife.

No one ever knew why both women hated each other so much. Some said because the Nolan's considered them in higher social level (“they had high notions”, said sharp tongues). Although other versions alleged that Maggie’s marriage dishonoured the family "because her premature intimate relations with Alfy". The pot uncovered when baby girl was born at six months. A plump and redheaded baby who clearly denied the scam. The untimely arrival of the stork was enough to scandalize the family environment. But in reality, what most affected the whole community was to make it clear that the Irish were vulnerable to worldly pleasures and amusements, which was considered exclusive of natives. That's why Elisa Nolan wanted her cousin Maggie be as far away as possible.

For this and other similar reasons, James and Alfy had distanced themselves and decided in common agreement, avoid meeting- and if necessary, no greeting - especially if there were relatives in the area. But they had not taken this absurd agreement very seriously, which was rather a truce to calm the feminine moods. They disguised their anger so well that their friends believed for a long time that they were really disgusted! And like two mischievous children, enjoyed the childish deception that they subjected to their Irish friends, especially to the snitches, who rejoiced in other people's woes and pimp the women of their furtive meetings.

The only ritual that did not change in those meetings was the end. They always retired when the barman considered that the account was on the verge of collapse. He knew how much he could carry the bill if he intended to collect it; although sometimes the pencil used to make very thick strokes, a felony of the Basque that the boys never questioned. Generally when the Basque gave the order to evacuate, Alfy wanted to sing some ballad that brought back memories of the Irish hills. Perhaps the song was cheerful, but Alfy and James became very melancholy and started to cry as babies; then the Basque, with other parishioners, used to help them to assemble the chariots, urge the horses, and set off each one to their houses.

Because I take care of you

And it was in one of those long gatherings that Alfy, completely drunk held that the belching of the Turkish Nahir Eljasa was offensive and challenged him to fight. The Ottoman, who already had several dead in his box, looked at him patiently from the end of the counter, while James tried to calm the environment with persuasive gestures so that the Turk would not give his partner a ball. But Alfy, stubborn as an old donkey, increasingly grumbled at the man who was losing his temper. ("Yevátelo al gringo borque te lo vuá achurar”) “Take away the gringo because I'll sting him” he said showing the knife at his waist. James did not have enough strength to hold Alfy for when he tried to get to his feet he fell on his face, causing a scattering of chairs. With a slight painful groan, James was able to sit him down again. But the very stubborn man regained his strength, stood up and lunged at the Turk, who pushed him back at the end of the room. When Alfy tried again to face the Turk, James punched him and sent him to the floor. Alfy bleeding copiously from the mouth had lost two teeth. With the help of other parishioners they loaded him in the car and James took him back home. "I'm sorry, Maggie, it was the only way to stop him!" said James to justified himself. Maggie did not even thank him, on the contrary, she harshly rebuked: "I always thought you were his best friend" she said in disgust, as she entered the house with the help of one of the children. James in retreat walked a few steps, stopped and looked back. He felt a deep pain in his chest. He had ruined the most beautiful friendship of all his lifetime. Distressed and lonely he cried with sadness. The next day he went to confess with Father Alfonso, and in truth he came out comforted: "Because he’s your best friend you preferred he lose two teeth and not his life" said the priest in his acquittal.

Family storms

To be honest, Maggie never accepted James as her husband's best friend. She argued he was who lead him astray and blamed him for Alfiys delay in propose marriage. A nonsense that had no relation with the origin deep friendship that united them from childhood.

Perhaps poor Alfy's life has played a trick on him. His excessive addiction to alcohol was increasing along with his years and could not overcome. Every time he went to town he got on spree and wanted to fight everybody. That mania took his life away during a run, when he mixed himself up in a struggle with a countryman who stuck him his knife until the handle. The unfortunate Alfy went in blood amid the silence of those around. Maggie, who didn’t want to enter police records, also choose mutes and the kill was accidentally tagged.

James could not overcome the violent death of his dear friend and as an outlet of such misfortune; he felt a disguised rejection towards his wife and children. That rejection was so strong in him, that he even thought not to attend Sundays Mass just to avoid meeting them. Needless to say, the battalion of women around him prevented this to happen. His wife, his daughters and his sisters-in-law, could not conceive have a husband, a father, and a brother-in-law who dared to offend the Lord in his day. Then James realized that it was unfair deprive these women to have their Sunday departure for the simple fact to avoid meeting the Kellys.

Another headache for old James

It was not easy for Josephine O'Dwyer to adjust to the monastic cloisters. The stir in the family after Clare's abandonment had not yet calmed when the decision of Josephine, who did not dare to confess that she also had no religious vocation, broke out. But she had more luck than her sister Clare, because in this case Sister Anne intervened, who had noticed that the girl had no religious vocation, but rather wanted to be closer to her sisters. Then, when she learned that she was still as far from them as at home, she manifested her sadness with weeping and abstinence, which alarmed the nuns. Then again Mother Honoria took care of the matter and the first thing she did was put Mrs. O'Dwyer in box, who could not resigned herself that another of her daughters ignore God's call.

When Josephine left the convent, she went to Eliza Brady's boarding school and met several girls who helped her to get over the moment, until she joined an English bank. According to Miss Braddy, Josephine had a suitor ("a very good match!" she said), but the matter was very complicated. Her “Romeo” had a high position in the bank and was an American, son of English and to say "a Protestant!”  So the storm to come was predicted to be capital. Or perhaps not so much if one took into account the permanent mathematical calculations that James did and that in this case they paid up a lot of dividends. But the thorniest path would come from the Spiritual Advisor of the pensioner, Father Francis O'Leary, recently arrived to Argentina and loaded with adverse resentments to Protestants. But that's another story.

Tommy and Clare

A year after Thomas Ryan past away, Tommy and Clare decided to marry, but Norah, who was still in Ireland, asked her son to postpone the wedding until her return to Argentina.

The great surprise was a letter received a month later, where Norah announced her marriage to John Murtagh, the boy  she give up in fulfillment of a mandate of her parents when she embarked to Argentina to marry Thomas Ryan, her mother’s cousin who had widowed without descendants and good fortune.

Back in Argentina, Norah settled in the fields of Arrecifes, leaving the village residence for her son. The events happened so quickly, that James did not hold so much hustle and a very early Monday morning while he had breakfast, he felt that a cold sweat invaded his body. His heart played against him, and again the wedding had to be postponed. In the obituaries of that week "The Southern Cross" announced the sad news: " James O'Dwyer passed away last Monday..."

The great Willy

Willy was an inveterate gambler who did not hesitate to beg money to bet on horse races, or to take refuge in some underground club until very early morning. However, in spite of his "non-sancta’s" wanderings, he possessed a great virtue: when he won, he returned every penny.

He enjoyed an enviable manly figure that all the youths admired. Some described him as a shameless joker fond of the bottle, but at the same time during social gatherings, he hoarded the attention of the matchmaker’s ladies who went wild looking for husbands. “They stumble each other just to be with him!” the town boys cried as they felt themselves displaced by this exotic gallant, of whom it was said his father had cracked out of home for wandering all the time and not working, which was not strange, although the ladies  did seem not  to care about it.

From another perspective, men admired him for his way of facing life. He never submitted to third parties to get ahead. In his own words, he had begun to work as a postilion at age 11, and now, at age 25, he was mayoral of a passenger company that sailed solitary roads, avoiding the dangers hidden in the wild pampas plains. For this work it was necessary to be cunning and bizarre, qualities that surely Willy possessed.

That's why James O'Dwyer idolized his manners and felt a special affection for him. "How I would have liked to be as Willy!" he thought to himself. If it wasn't for the stumbles of life he would surely have done the same: Go out to work on his own, to forge a way without other aid than the strength of his arms and the blow of his fists. No doubt today he would be a daring merrymaker like him, whom he considered the only qualified to win the heart of Mrs. Ryan, even knowing that Willy was able to waste on one night of gamble the little or nothing fortune he had, though he preferred hem to the rest. How many times did he picture himself next to the "great Willy" betting on the horses or sharing endless nights of stinking dump until the consummation of the candles! All an entelechy, as if his age allowed him such daring!

One day, while Willy was playing cards in the town bar, a big shootout was set in the square. The street became so virulent, that the whole neighborhood was locked in their houses. Driven by his adventurous instinct, Willy went out to the street ready to take action and ran into a group of stevedores, known as “The Corners”, huddled behind a carriage. Quickly and in leaps, like dodging puddles, he went toward them. "The Corners" knew everything that was going on in town, but now they were confused. They only noticed the numerical disparity of the antagonistic sides where one doubled the other. Not knowing why-or when, Willy ran to the group that was dug behind the old wall of general store and folded to them making shots in the air, as if seeking to drive away ghost. At the time the bullets were finished the police arrested all the rowdy fellows. Very early in the morning the rebels were released one by one every five minutes. When Willy’s turn comes up, Commissioner Severo Espindola conditioned his freedom. He had to vanish out as smoke and not return to town until after elections took place. The environment was getting heavy, and Willy, who spent most of his time traveling, was unaware of the town codes and complied with the order without a chirp. He had made a mistake: At the party, he had bowed against the political chief of the district.

Since that day, Willy was sent to ride other roads. His employers, who knew his follies, destined him to cover the road Pergamino-Venado Tuerto, a town lost in the Province of Santa Fe where the population was mostly Irish settlers. There, on the Pampas desert plain, surely Willy would find a new challenge for his adventurous tendencies.

The Kenny Family

Nicholas Kenny was 34 when he arrived to Buenos Aires and his wife Anne Casey 31. A few days after they landed from Liverpool in the William Peele ship, they come in to  work through an Irish missionary in a estancia of Guardia del Monte, where his children were born: Bernardo in 1848; May in 1850; James in 1852 and John in 1855.

Bernardo never married. May married Cristóbal Ryan (Allegedly in 1878) and had five children. He was followed by James, who married Elena Healion around 1879 and they had eight children. Finally John, the youngest, whose life story I’ll tell you, married Kathleen Heavy and had seven children.  John is the prototype of those who came out to settle down in lands on south of Santa Fe Province, back in the 1880s.

Young Jack

Jack was a very quiet and gentle boy, whom the elders cataloged as "a shy boy". But he was not exactly shy; he was just getting out of his teens and finding no one to share the concerns of his age. He had a strong inclination for reading; he used to up early in the morning to read the Gospels before he got to work, which made his mother, think that he might have a religious vocation, although he never showed inclination for priestly life. It's just that Jack was the youngest of the family and in his youth he found all the roads paved. Excellent rider and better muleteer, he was characterized by his calm temperament, with some that another outburst that deservedly had right to express.

In August of 1873 Irish Missionaries recently arrived to the country, organized a mission in the stay of James Gaynor in the Partido of Luján. At that time Bernardo and May, the elders of the family, were between 25 and 23 years old and were still single. James, the third, was 21 and was engaged with Elena Healion; and Jack 18, showed no signs of compromise.

In order not to neglect the land work, their father arranged that Jack would take mother and sister to the religious services  during the week, while the whole family would participate in the mission on the closing day. All that week the house seemed to be partying, because Jack got up very early and dressed up on the best; he had trimmed his beard and combed his hair carefully. Standing before the wardrobe mirror, he looked straight ahead and in profile. Touched by a natural youthful vanity, he approached his face to the glass and found that in his budding beard some gray hairs appeared. Unconvinced, he watched again more closely. Here was the reason why his father advised him on the need to build a home! Then he thought to himself as he smoothed his beard: "Certainly, the old man knows why ..."

First missionary day

Minutes before seven, Jack began arrangements. That night he locked up "Spark," one of the best draft horses, and assured the ladies they would arrive in time for first Mass.

Before the trip, May adjusted his tie and flipped a shamrock with small green ribbons on his lapel. Jack felt the affection of his sister, for whom he had great respect. The badges were traditional and everyone took advantage of these events to show them off with pride. Some had the St. Patrick's stamp, others a shamrock, a harp, or the family coat of arms.

In a few seconds they were on the way and Jack felt himself a master driving the car. However he felt very scared! It was the first time he had assumed the responsibility delegated by his father. Have a mother and sister in charge, wasn’t easy, and as well as a commitment to respond the trust everyone had placed in him. But for all that drive and daring, Jack was still a young boy. This was how his older brothers saw him and pulled his leg for his personal care, without neglecting the slightest detail.

Shortly after beginning the journey, the August sun wasn’t enough warmth; a cold wind blew through the thick coats, while the women with their faces covered recited the rosary beads. Yet Jack seemed not to feel cold; he was exultant. The frozen puddles and the frost that sprung slowly and unkindly among the dry pastures, announced the "black frost", as described those climatic phenomena that are not visible for eyes but were there in all their magnitude.

In front of the chapel there were several carriages and some peons took the horses to the stable. Mother and daughter entered the chapel and Jack took care of "Spark".

On the way to the stable, Jack noticed that behind his bushes were his friends Sammy Clancy, Pat Murray, Jonnie Moore and Philip Wade. The group made rhythmic movements to warm their feet while still talking animatedly. Pat Murray, poked his head out of the woods and beckoned to come closer, not knowing that it was easy to place them in the midst puffs of smoke that betrayed by sun's rays. They were in the midst of a smoke of "chala" cigarettes as they secretly passed each other a small bottle of "strong stuff", surely supplied by Sammy. As their bodies were cold they required warmth before entering the church, so they didn't notice that the tone of their voices increased too much. As soon as Jack joined them, Philip handed him the bottle, which he took with discretion, sipping a shot of a single serve.

- Ajj!!! - He shrieked.

- Strong as a donkey's kick! - Said Pat Murray as he burst out laughing at Jack's sour face.

-"Wow! It's strong, indeed!"

The laughter spontaneously loosened alerted widow Moore, whose sight of the lynx detected the rush of smoke behind the bushes, taking her skirts to avoid getting wet with the dew, She was on her way to the hiding place, ready to dissolve the spree and give a rebuke to the impertinent sheaf, who dared to break the fast before Holy Communion. The boys startled in surprise, when Mrs. Moore bellowed in horror behind them.

-"Oh, my God, I cannot believe it!" She exclaimed indignant and astounded at the surprise of seeing her innocent Johnnie in the group. Without waiting his mother's order, Johnnie started his withdrawal to the chapel. This humiliation was sufficient for the others to follow him and also enter for Mass, while Mrs. Moore, entangled in nerves, followed her son whining:

-"I never suspected that my poor little Gossoon would be evolved with such insolents, shameless, loafer crowd!”

- Thank God she didn't see the bottle! -Sammy muttered relieved - it's empty! - He lamented and flung it into the bushes.

At church

 It was 8:00 o’clock, August 12, 1873, Santa Clara’s Day. As soon as pilgrims entered the Chapel, Father Lynch began Holy Mass.

-Introíbo ad altáre Dei.

-Ad Deum qui laetícat juventútem meam.

The boys stayed together except Johnnie who was on the first bench. Slowly they relaxed and hoped each one of them that on the way out, nobody would remember the mess. Jack didn’t dare look at women's side. He was scared for meeting his mother or his sister’s sight, wondering if they heard about the incident. In self-conscience, he thought to himself: (No! How could they known if they were in chapel! But walls hear cruelty rumors and have no borders) in those thoughts he was when he turned his gaze to the female sector. Luckily he did not see his mother or sister, but he spotted two young girls, who whispered trying to restrain a fit of laughter as they glanced furtively at the men's side. Jack stretched his neck, and there, just where his eyes were pointing, two large ears of Johnnie Moore peered out. They were like two big red screens that stood out in contrast to his blond hair and long white skin. He looked like a statue submerged in meditation. Surely, Jack felt distressed for his friend; he was embarrassed after the paperwork he had played with his mother. "What a hateful woman!" Jack wriggled, and then wondered "What would Mammy have done if she had hooked me?" Surely she would have lectured him, but not like Mrs. Moore. Or maybe worse? No, it was not possible! His mother was not capable of such a commotion. She was very cautious, though extremely severe. Just thinking about it, Jack was running cold sweat from his armpits, imagining what might happen at the exit. If his father had been in this moment, he would surely be laughing at the awful mess and his mother berating him for not taking the matter with due seriousness.

The sound of the bell turned it to reality and they all stood up for the reading of the Holy Gospel.

-Sequéntia santi Evangélii secúndum Sanctus Joánnis

After the Gospel, Father Lynch went to the congregation and stood before the faithful to begin their fervent preaching. The priest emphasized the need to feed spiritually, repeating one, two and even three times vehemently: Let no one remain hungry! Each time he repeated it, Sammy whispered, "Not thirsty!" And the others, not to be less, followed the current with forced giggles. Jack was silent and gave them some attention, trying to make them feel composed, but he did not succeed. The playful continued throughout the Mass, and from time to time an old man turned with an inquisitive glance trying to put order.

Then came the prayer of the creed and they all stood up. When Jack looked up, he again encountered Johnnie's huge red ears. Every time I saw them he was choking! But she was relieved to see that the two girls on the other side were now serious and contemplative. When one of them turned around Jack could recognize Josie O'Dwyer, but who was his partner?

After the elevation followed the prayers and then the Our Father:

"Deliver us, O Lord, from all past evils, present and future ..."

The moment of communion was coming, and Jack could not commune, aware that he had broken his fast and kept a strong grudge against Mrs. Moore. In addition, it would be a serious offense and it was preferable that his mother reproached him for not having communicated, than for having done so in sin. So he chose to stay on his knees and ask forgiveness for his faults.

-Agnus Dei, qui tóllis peccáta mundi, miserére nobis.

He turned his gaze slyly to the opposite side, and saw Josie and friend still on their knees, covering their faces in a pious manner.

-Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccáta mundi

At communion, Father Byrne accompanied with harmonica the canticles as the faithful approached the communion.

"Soul of my Savior, sanctify my breast;
Body of Christ, be Thou my saving guest ...”

The Mass was about to end and Jack kept his eyes on the girls on the other side. Seeing that they had returned to their giggles, he thought that, after all, the Moore scandal should not have been as serious as it looked. But the mystery was: Which was the reason of the girl’s laughter?

Father Lynch bent over the Altar, entrusting to the Holy Trinity the sacrifice that had just been celebrated:

-Pláceat Tibi, Saint Trinitas, obséquium servitútis meae, et praesta: ut sacrifíciu,

Then he turned and faced the congregation, raised his right hand and made the sign of the cross:

-Benedícat Vos omnípotens Deus, Pater, et Fílius, et Spíritus Sanctus


After Mass, Tommy, Jack, Pat, and Philip began to search busily for Johnnie who had slipped out the sacristy doorway. They wanted to cheer him up after the mess, but they could not find him. Outside, Mrs. Moore was still "very upset" making gestures and weeping, as she was assisted by several ladies, including Jack’s mother and sister. One of the boys suggested that Johnnie may have gone up the forest, so all together left in long strides, leaving their footprints on the wet grass.

"My feet are freezing" Sammy grunted. "And we haven’t a drop of whiskey left"

Jack looked back and asked seriously:

“Sammy, was it not enough for today?”

"But my toes are numb! I need to get something hot!" Complained Sammy

 "Let's find Johnnie first, and then we'll go to the sheds." Said Jack “There we’ll have a good cup of tea with milk” 

"Ah!” Sammy moaned. "Tea with milk!"

Jack pretended not to hear it, because he knew he was emulating his father with those expressions. Suddenly they met Jonnie as they shouted his name and ran to meet him.

There he was, behind the sheds with hands in his pockets and facing the sun. As soon he saw them he was startled and could not stand the emotion. Extremely sensitized he burst into tears.

Johnnie was very upset, but crying let off the steam. He felt ridiculous and was embarrassed for this, so his friends did the impossible to forget the trouble, but it was in vain. He did not want to return where the rest of the people were and refused to participate in the activities of the day. Then he begged them not to tell anyone over his hiding place, because he wanted to be alone.

So that’s what the boys done, but they agreed meeting again at lunch time. Jack was distressed by Johnnie. It was not fair for a teen boy to suffer that way, he thought to himself. It was only three years since his father had passed away when his mother remarried Terence Crowley, a low-born subject who was bringing the Moore family to ruin. They all knew that Johnnie's relationship with his stepfather was not the best and that the only thing the guy interested was the Moore’s property, which he was liquefying fast.

Maybe that's why, and despite the promise for not reveal Johnnie's hiding place, Jack felt it was no use keeping quiet if they wanted help him.

When the four of them arrived at the shed where the rest were, each one joined their families, except Jack who went where Father Lynch.

The priest listened to him and promised that he would do everything possible for helping Johnnie, but "you are the eldest of the group, and you should not neglect it from now on," he charged him; then he drew his attention to what had happened. "Although today is a prank, tomorrow can be a tragedy, Jack," said the priest in alluding alcohol intake among the young. Jack felt the impact; it was as if he had been given a fierce blow by leaving him K.O. There was no doubt, the priest was right

Afterwards Jack joined his mother and sister, whom wanted to know where he had been. Seeking a logical answer, he said he had been helping Father Lynch to cure Willie Kehoe, who had fallen down and Brocken his arm.

-"He probably stumbled upon some bottle ..." said Mrs. Kenny wryly. Jack did not like the opinion of his mother, but he kept silent.

Willy was an elder character whom the young people admired for his extravagance and unprejudiced personality. But the female curiosity pointed to something else.

-"Did you happen to see Johnnie Moore anywhere?" May asked, in a tone that Jack did not like it either. Johnnie was his friend, the youngest and most vulnerable of the group, so he was protected by them.

-"No May, I did not see him. What's your question?” Asked Jack pretending not gives it importance.

-"His mother is very worried because she doesn’t know where he is ..." Said May.

-" You know, Johnnie loves horses, and he's probably in the barn waiting for someone to lend him one to ride” answered Jack.

Then Mrs. Mary Flynn come over and leaned over to Jack to pour his a cup of tea as she said loudly that her daughter Lucy was about to arrive for second Mass. "Lucy lives talking about you Jackie, so I hope they meet later" said the woman. "I hope so, Mrs. Flynn" answered Jack, turning red as a tomato as his mother and sister were grinning, then the three of them laughed and enjoyed breakfast.

Beyond were Jack’s friends, and at the other end he saw Mrs. Moore still wrapped in her own plot. But his anxious for searching, he couldn’t find Josie and her friend. It was as if earth had swallowed them.

Later on Father Lynch came out of the chapel with Johnnie. Apparently the priest had convinced him to join the rest of the pilgrims. His friends watched the scene and were glad for Johnnie, because he seemed to have recovered from such mess. Later on it was known that the missionary had advised Mrs. Moore not turn around further with her son over the incident, much less with her husband.

Jack hurried up to meet Johnnie, but suddenly he heard a familiar voice calling him. He turned back and there was Lucy Flynn. "I'll be right back," he said to her. "Johnnie is waiting for me!" And he ran to his friend. "Hey Johnnie, wait for me!" He yelled, but Johnnie continued nonchalantly. "Johnnie! What's the matter with you?" Are you mad with me?”

Jonnie did not answer and walked apathetically. But Jack did not give up, and he continued to his side in silence. Abruptly Johnnie stopped and looked at him not very friendly.

“We made a deal Jack, and you didn’t keep it!” He said angrily as he stroked his chest with his index finger.

"You're right, Johnnie. I did not keep my word, but you must believe me, I did it for your own good, because I appreciate you and I love you as what you are: my best friend”.

Jack hold up his attitude, hoping convince Johnnie that his words were sincere, but Johnnie sticked to his own gun. It was difficult to know if he was really offended, or pretending a tragedy over all this nonsense. They kept on walking in silence. As soon as they reached the barn, "Spark" whinnied at the proximity of his master, and Johnnie smiled.

"He's greeting at you," he said as he stroked Spark's snout. "Someday I'll have my own horse..."

"Of course you will," said Jack gladly because he had regained his dialogue with his friend. "All you have to do is propose yourself and it will come true"

"But it's not that easy, Jack"

"I know, Johnnie, I know ..."

They spent hours talking trivialities, but meanwhile they confessed each other personal matters. That was the day the friendship between Jack and Jonnie was sealed forever.

It was late afternoon when everyone started their back home. Jack returned happy because he had succeeded in reestablishing his friendship with Johnnie; but on the other hand he was sorry for not having met Josie's friend who had stunned him.

The mission comes to an end

This was the last missionary day, the Kenny family landed up very early and Jack looked splendid in his new suit; also it was the last chance he had to meet Josie O'Dwyer's friend. Meanwhile he joined his friends; this time without any extravagance.

Later on he met by themselves with Johnnie Moore, whom he found in good form and eager to enjoy the day with the rest of the boys; the quarrel with Mrs. Moore seemed to have been forgotten.

Jack felt that the religious service lasted an eternity; his eagerness for meeting Josie overflowed him. As soon as the priest gives the last blessing, he hurried out. From a distance he saw each one of the girls coming out of chapel, until at length the O'Dwyer clan appeared. Immediately he went until Josie and with a bunch of tangled words, he took courage and asked about her friend, whose name he did not even know. Josie did not quite understand what he meant, but when he reminded her Mrs. Moore's upset, she immediately deduced it was Kathleen. Surprised, she could not conceive that her cute friend had kept so much secrecy over her Romeo. So she felt glad for that.

"Oh! You mean Kathleen Heavy?” Josie broke in, believing he knew her name. Jack was silent because he had just heard for the first time the name of the girl in his care. He felt euphoric and eager to tell her about his feelings, but he didn’t dare let them known. At long last he knew the name of the girl of his dreams!


Oh! I will take you back, Kathleen,
To where your heart will feel no pain,
And when the fields are fresh and green,
I'II take you to your home again!

Michael Heavy was born in Ballymore 1817, and Bridget Rourke, in Miltown 1827. They married in Ireland and came out to Argentina on February 19, 1849. Through Irish missioners, they worked at William Mooney's estancia in Lujan.  Their first son Michael was born in 1851 affected by a congenital blindness; then came on Katheen 1856, John 1858, Julia 1863 and Anne 1866.

Kathleen taught Michael how to care on his own because of his blindness, which allowed him to lead a normal life. As a child she always drove him to every corner of the space where he moved, and for surprise of everybody, Michael did his usual activities without depending on others. For that Kathleen felt capable for running any business that was entrusted to her. Encouraged by her brother's progress, she believed that this achievement was God's call to religious life.

Maybe that was why Kathleen confessed to her mother that after turning 20 she would enter the Sister of Mercy convent, where her friends, the O'Dwyer girls, were. Her mother, surprised, just managed to say, "And what about Michael?" Kathleen received those words as a reproach for abandon her brother. But immediately the mother realized her mistake and wanted to amend it: "It's all right, Kathleen, do not feel bad, if your vocation is to be a nun, you'll enter the convent as soon as you can." But Kathleen felt hurt. So she sadly turned off and retired to her bedroom silently. Both, mother and daughter did not realize that Michael was huddled by the fire place making leather braids. He also felt sad for been a family trouble.

The Mission at the Gaynor Estancia

The mission at James Gaynor estancia was developed during a whole week. In those days the mass was celebrated early in the morning and afternoon the rosary was recited and afterwards Father Byrne preached "in English" as his assistant, Rev. Patrick Lynch directed the chants. Later on, the people gathered in one of the large sheds where they had tea with scones and some plum pudding prepared during the last Christmas. If the weather was warm, they used to settle themselves under the leafy grove park.

These meetings were proper for ladies who commented about late social news that were transmitted from person to person. The Southern Cross had not yet been founded, a newspaper that would only be published two years later by Father Patrick Dillon. That's why they had to catch up news of the community members from large distance, such as births, marriages and deaths that took place in distant places through missioners, as Father Leahy, who rode a wide Province of Buenos Aires, and who was nicknamed "The priest of the spade". They usually did it, on one side the women and on the other one men. They did not miss the opportunity to talk about their affairs as they sipped a cup of tea or a good drink of whiskey, clandestinely brought by Tom Clancy in his saddlebags. It was never known where he got it from, but there were those who supposed that he made it by himself with a rudimentary alembic that had been made by his cousin Albert Clancy, based in the United States. This was not very credible, but fantasies also had charms by those times. The liquor was so strong, that it was not necessary drink in abundance to lose the stirrups, what rose up the theory of homemade "poteen".

Curiously, Tom's mother, Angela Clancy, an invalid eighty-odd woman, was disturbing the meetings as soon as her finest sense of smell sniffed the liquor floating in the air.

- "The liqueur is the devils curse! Get rid of it now! God save the Irish race! "- she proclaimed angrily sitting in her prostration chair.

When the boys noticed that grandmother was getting heavy, some of them came to her trying to appeasing her anger. But the old woman was not foolish, and some of them had to empty the "cup of tea" before her nose because she had discovered the trick. There was no way to fool her; she was very familiar with that scent of distilled alcohol.

The priests occasionally accompanied men with a drink; it was an easer way for hearing their confession that’s hard hearts were easily broken when alcohol removed the flourished memories of distant Ireland. The younger priests had facilitated their mission, because men, who were generally elusive to confess their most intimate miseries, were not always opened to themselves. Relieved of their sins, they would sing ancestral songs that the religious performed with a small accordion. Finally they would end up dancing some jigs and reels that would sound with joyous rhythm of small instrument.

One of the most prominent dancers was Scotsman Jimmy Browne when he started dancing "The Dance of Sword," a traditional Scottish dance that encouraged to other men who were eager to dance.

Kathleen's encounter with Jack

That day the Heavy family arrived mid-morning. Soon Kathleen and Josie met and talked for a long time over their matters. Josie hoped her close friend would tell her about Jack, but the very elusive Kathleen looked like a tomb.  But Josie didn’t realize that also Kathleen didn’t aware Jack’s pretensions, which she did not even know him.
Later, after the rosary prayer, preaches and baptism of a group of children, they all gathered for tea and to listen to music.

On this occasion little Patrick Murray, who had a privileged voice, encouraged by his father Mick who played the violin, went up to an impromptu stage and began to sing "I love my love in the morning", an old romantic melody. At that moment there was silence and everyone turned their attention to the little tenor. Kathleen looked up as well and met the gaze of a young man elegantly dressed, with blue eyes, light brown hair, and a youthful beard. Instinctively she looked down and felt her cheeks colored. Buzzed by that look, she tried to concentrate on Paddy's song, but it was not possible. For a moment she felt ashamed and kept her gaze down. He wanted to make up; taking a sip of tea, but his hands trembled like leaves. He raised his eyes again and met again the sight of the boy who was still watching insistently at her. Who was this young boy who disturbed her so much? With sly dissent, she turned back to Josie.

- "Who's the young fellow with the clover on the lapel?"
- "Ah! There you have it to Jack Kenny. Do not tell me Kathleen you did not know him! His James's younger brother, Ellen Healion boy friend”.

Kathleen pretended not to pay any attention to Josie's detailed comment, and less shows her interest in the boy of the clover. But it wasn't easy to fool Josie.

"Do you care for Jack?" Josie asked her.
"Please, Josie. It's the first time I've seen him. I even don't know him. Besides, Mom knows I'm going to enter the convent next year," Kathleen replied, pretending disinterest. Josie, who knew her friend too well as that Jack was crazy for her, took Cathy by the hand and led her to her anxious suitor.

"Oh! Nonsense, Kathleen," she said. "You're not fit to be a nun! Come on, let's go meet Jack” And carried her until Jack, who was stiff as a stake and staring at her in the distance. When Josie introduced them, he tried to say something, but his paralyzed tongue could not articulate a single word. For Josie's surprise, Kathleen, determined, broke the silence and introduced her to Jack: "Hello Jack. I'm Kathleen Heavy. "John Kenny," he replied politely, holding out his hand. Josie discreetly walked away and left them alone. But they were not so for themselves, because Mrs. Kenny followed her son's behavior from a distance.
To be continued

jueves, 13 de abril de 2017



It was a Sunday morning after Mass, when the bell rang at Bridget Kenny's home, while friends and familiars  were having breakfast. The hostess opened the door, and come across "two handsome boys". The visitors introduced themselves as "Missionaries of the Jesus Christ Church of Latter-day Saints" in a tongue-twister that amused Bridget who was very prone for confusing names and words.

-Oh! "You'r Mormons!" - She cried out suddenly

- Oh, yes, that's it mam! - One of them answered enthusiastically.

From the kitchen, Minnie, Bridget's elder sister, asked out loud,

- Who's there Briddy?

- The Mormons ... - Briddy replied with a mischievous smile.

- Fling Holy Water at them! - Minnie snapped.

The suggestion seemed funny to visitors who understood the joke that came from the deepest and tried to spy and see who  was to exorcise them.

So Minnie strode to the front door and without words he questioned them with acrimony:

- What's your name ?!

- Mine? -Asked the most timidly, trying to keep himself cordial.

- Yes, yours! - She insisted

- Peter Maguire ...

- And yours?

- James O'Hara, mam ... -He replied.

- Oh my Holy God! Praised be Jesus Christ our Lord! Both Irish names! .. You should be ashamed to yourselves! .. Go to Church and beg Gods forgiven for your disobedience! The Catholic Church is the only truth one ... Give up sinning and come back to the Holy Catholic Church if you want to save your souls ...- Minnie cried

- But! - Maguire stammered.

- But nothing! Save your souls now before it's late! And it's not a joke, I command you to do it!

-Okay, mam… - O'Hara said with angelic face.

- And do you not forget what I have told you!

- Will do so mam ... Have a good day! – Said one fellow and continued their way, although surely they laughed at the show they had just starred in.
- Good bye! May God and the Virgin Mary have mercy of you! Said Minnie and closed the door, serious and agitated as if she had just fought with the devil himself.

When they returned, the guests were wiping their tears. They looked at each other with amazement, until someone asked with sarcasm where had they left the decapitated heads of the Mormons, so they realized at the moment that the tears were of irrepressible laughter because of the "act of daring" they had just executed. But Minnie felt it was no laughing matter. Very serious and without blinking, she sat down at the table satisfied for have fulfilled the designs of the Lord.

Minnie's tough temper was famous in the community, and if there are souls in grief prowling her grave, surely among them are those of the Mormons.

Maria "Minnie" Kehoe Doyle was born in Salto, Province of Buenos Aires in 1877 and died in Venado Tuerto on October 4, 1959. She married Patricio Rourke Kenny, who was born in 1870 and died on October 6, 1920. They had no descendants and their remains rest in the Venado Tuerto Cemetery.

My cousin Luis, a very hard case

My cousin Luis had many skills; the most prominent was his persuasive conviction gift. As a youngster, he was always hanging around the cafes, clubs and cinemas, which allowed him aware all political and social news.

At that time the parish magazine "La Cruz Del Sur" used to publish a list of billboard movies with corresponding moral qualification. The ratings ranged from Recommended, Good, Regular, Bad, and very bad and: SCABROUS! Written in capital letters and admiration sign. Parents took the page as reference control of their children, regarding their amusements. One day Luis mother asked him where had he been that night, and he -suspecting how the game was coming on- forward replied very candidly: "Do you know mom that the nuns took their pupils to the cinema last night?" It was the night that the local theatre exhibited a film qualified as scabrous, but Luis convinced his mother it was the entire contrary. So the old woman asked to herself: “How could the nuns take their students to see a forbidden movie? It wasn't possible!”

On some occasions, and according to the movie shown, the sisters took the internal students to the cinema, as to distract them during those weekends of imprisonment. Don Manuel Vicente Manzano, Director of a Private School of Male Internships, did it also with his pupils, who usually arrived late and in droves, putting a hellish ball. When the curtain ran to let them in as the function already started, someone would always say aloud: "Shit, Manzano arrived!” which generated a great laugh throughout the room, followed by other very original occurrences. Of course, Manzano’s pupils were not angels and made their roguery. 

In other ways, Don Manzano had a little crow on his right index finger, and when he ordered them to line up, he used to say: "Form a straight row as this finger", and of course, the daring ones did it following exactly what was ordered, what caused the anger of the old teacher.

Luis had very religious feelings. So he believed that his vocation was the priesthood; so he entered the Monastery of the Passionate Fathers. Things were going fine, until the “cleansing day” came up, what’s known as 'closed order'. That day the watchman noticed that the new student had a bunch of papers carefully wrapped in a corner of his wardrobe, so instinctively he opened his eyes, pick it up the bunch of papers and untied the ribbon.  What he found was a varied content of perfumed epistolary collection. Luis tried to babble an explanation, but the rigorous monastic discipline gives no chance for excuses. How was it possible that a celibacy aspirant received so many letters in a place jealously guarded of all contact with the outside world? Besides, who could write so many letters to a seminarian? An unanswered question, but with undoubted external complicity. It was never known who was this accomplice, but surely was among those who, for different reasons, entered the cloisters for supplies, repairs, or just collect the waste. That way Luis managed to keep in touch with the outside world.

Next day, early in the morning the inquiry began and lasted as long as a "fart" in a basket, because Luis could not answer the inquisitor's questions: "Who were Susana, Marta, María Isabel?”

That midday, carrying all his belongings, Luis left off to the station with a school guard and boarded a train to Venado Tuerto. Was his vocation was vanished, or was it a merely teenager adventure?

As a young boy he always came to our home and was very close to my sisters Maria and Moira, who were then 10 and 6 years old, he was already 13. 

The 9th May 1946 President Edelmiro Farrell opened up National College, so the people flooded the town streets. As my father worked in the railroad he was bound to means of presidential transport, therefore that day he was at service. At that time my brothers were pupils in San Pablo College in Carmen de Areco and my elder sister at Santa Maria in San Antonio de Areco. The only ones at home were Maria, Moira and I. 

The Presidential train arrived past noon and the three of us went with my mother to the railroad square where there were mounted grenadiers on both sides of the parking lot. It’s very little I can remember -as I was only 4 years old- but the image of the grenadiers engraved on me deeply, and the attitude of Doña Julia Raczcowski, our neighbor, who climbed me up the pergola wall so that I could see better. Meanwhile my sisters met Luis and convinced him to take them until the school that was to be inaugurated. After the ceremony at the train station, we returned home, while authorities and people went up to the opening ceremony of the school located in San Martín Street. 

The girls had not yet returned home when we got there, so while the hours passed on, the bewilderment increased. At long last the three of them appeared, Luis, Maria and Moira, so the mess bursted out. My father kicked hell and devil, but who got the worst scolding was Luis, who’s only fault was satisfying the girls wish. Of course, this version was known a long time later, when remorse began to dent the consciousness of my sisters. Meanwhile, all the responsibility fell on Luis who, as a good knight, endured the reproach without screaming. 

When he got a job as motorcars spare parts seller, he became the best friend of his employer, whose lover was the wife of a prestigious lawyer. One day, when his boss was on his way home from long distance, his car broke down, so he phoned Luis for him to go and inform the lady personally, that he would see her at the next day. So did Luis, but with one difference, that night he slept with the lady and overthrew his boss. Since that day the woman choose a younger lover.

According gossips that go around in abundance, the professional - a fellow entered in years - confessed during large  meal table with abundance of ethylic load, that his wife no longer demanded him much sex as before; he ionized: "May be she’s getting old or I’m more vigorous".

Luis must have had his charms, for I have often heard ladies of the Irish community say, "He's a fine man!" I did not see him as such, but of course, ladies have their own tastes and you never get to understand their masculine preferences, but apparently Luis met lady’s required conditions, otherwise he would be a loser, and Luis was not so. What I can say is that he was very supportive. If anyone felt cold, he would give up his coat; he wasn't stingy at all, he would pay for a drink, a coffee, or even a dinner if he had money and if he didn’t, it was because he was cut off. Otherwise, everything ran on its own. If he had to take care of a sick person, keep up a wake, Luis was there, ready for what was asked to be done. Of course, this positive side had its counterpart. He borrowed money and forgot to return it. Some of his lenders are still waiting for the retirement while others are playing the harp. 

Luis committed many follies, but one of them deserves everyone’s applause. And not because it was a heroic act, on contrary, because he fucked one of the biggest and feared town usurers. This situation become catastrophic for his family, as this guy did not fear killing who cheated him. That’s why he was much feared, and although he never was imputed in any crime, it was said that he had some deaths in his account. Even that in his daily life he was as normal as any other citizen, but he gained dangerous fame, which was enough for not to play dirty with him.

Years later I was told by a friend from Buenos Aires that Luis did not go home in them times, because a creditor had "sentenced" him to death. One day this friend accompanied Luis until San Antonio de Areco, where he was to meet a relative that was on his way from Venado Tuerto. In those days my friend was processing the return of some savings he had lent Luis several years ago and he hoped to recover them. I think he never did, because he got in great trouble with his wife, who warned him over the risk of the issue.  

Much more I could say of my cousin Luis, but it makes no sense to dwell on details. Just remembering him as he was, without considering matters that would not enrich the text of the story or the personality of this boy that still today I consider ineffable.

Luis passed away on January 8, 1992. RIP