Nana’s claddagh brooch
My Nana was Julia Murphy, born in Spiddal, near Galway on 17th July 1905, one of many children. When her mother died, two of her sisters and Nana decided to emigrate to America to help the family by leaving.
At the Galway dock, as they were getting on the ship, her dad gave her a claddagh brooch, that had been her mother’s.
The sisters sailed to America, and her two sisters passed through the immigration process, into their new lives. Officials decided Nana’s eyesight was too poor, and wouldn’t let her in, she had to get back on the ship, which then sailed to New Zealand.
As Nana could barely read and write, she almost lost touch with her family, but had photos and her mother’s brooch.
Julia married, had three boys and after only about 7 years, her husband died of tuberculosis at Clyde Quarantine Hospital, leaving her alone. She never remarried.
Nana set up in Cromwell, doing what she knew best, cooking and cleaning and looking after her boys.
Only a few years later, her house caught fire and was burnt to the ground, leaving her with only the clothes she was wearing. My dad ran home from school to find her sifting through the charred remains. She’d seen something glinting, and pulled out her mother’s brooch. That’s all she walked away with, everything else gone.
Years later, after her boys were grown and had children of their own, she was living in Dunedin. Our little family would visit her most Sundays for a few hours. On one of those visits, no special occasion when I was about 12, when we were leaving, she said ‘come with me’, and took me to the forbidden place in her house - her bedroom. Out of a box on her dressing table she took something out and put it in my hand, just saying ‘here, have this’, and walked out the room.
I got in the car, and my dad asked me what happened. I told him Nana had given me something and opened my hand to show him the brooch. He said ‘have you any idea what that is? She has three sons, 13 grandchildren and she’s given that to you. Did she say why?’
Nana never did say why, she never spoke about it. I have kept it very safe.
Many years later I went to Spiddal and found her family - the only Murphy family who weren’t ‘blow-ins’, who were able to tell me the story, show me family photos and I was able to tell them what had happened to their grandmother’s brooch.
Cead mile failte