Mary Stack (1889-1987)

Kathleen Banks, USA

Mary Stack
Mary Stack

My father’s mother, Mary Stack, was born and raised in Cobh, County Cork. She was born on December 6, 1889 and passed away in Hyde Park Massachusetts in February 1987. Mary was one of several children of Bernard and Mary Stack. Bernard was born in 1860 in Cobh and Mary Murray his wife was born in County Wicklow. Bernard, along with his sons and many of his brothers were stone masons and had worked on building St. Coleman’s, the cathedral there, in Cobh. In the 1901 Census they (Bernard and Mary) had nine children living together at the Harbour View location.

My grandmother, who was nicknamed Mollie, had left Ireland for several years to work in England from 1914 until her return in 1918. She told my brother that while she was there she was terrified by the bombing raids conducted by Germany that used dirigibles to drop bombs. On her return to Cobh, during WWI, the US Navy had established a submarine base in the Cobh harbor. That is where she met my grandfather John Denis Quigley who was a chief in the US Navy. They were married at St. Coleman’s on December 17, 1918 and on December 19 applied to the US Consulate for entry to the USA. John Denis left Ireland on December 26th and Mary followed several months later. As a Navy wife Mary moved many times. She and her growing family lived in the Philadelphia area, Groton, CT and finally in the Boston area. They would have six children, five sons and one daughter. Four of her sons served in the military during WWll. During the war Mary received at least three telegrams indicating that her sons had been killed in action. Fortunately, all three were in error.

John Denis went on to serve his country for many years and was injured on the USN Reuben James about 10 months prior to it being sunk by a German U-Boat. His son, my father, Edward Quigley, crashed in Ireland on his way to England during WWll. Where they crashed is now the Dublin airport. Although he should have been interned, local people helped them depart, even dismantling a stone wall so their plane could take off. Edward went on to be awarded the Silver Star and have a long military career in the U S Air Force. Having survived two World Wars while serving in the US Navy John Denis died in an accident in 1950. Mary and John were married for 32 years and Mary was a widow for 37 years.

Mary would bake bread every day and often made soda bread. She had a very pronounced Irish accent. She spoke Gaelic and she taught one of my sisters to say “a thabhairt dom buachaill póg deas”. I guess she was also a bit of a jokester as well.

When she first came to America she would not speak in public so as not to reveal her origins for fear of being taken advantage of. This often led to several erroneous purchases from butchers and other vendors that kept their goods in glass cases as she would point to items rather than ask for what she wanted.

Mary Stack, my grandmother, never returned to Ireland. She did, however, always keep a post card picture of St. Coleman’s on her refrigerator. I believe that you can also see in the postcard the house she lived in. My grandmother did tell my brother about how she liked to walk along the high road and cliff areas of Cobh and look down at the harbor because it was such a beautiful site.

Postcard of Cobh
Postcard of Cobh
Message on postcard
Message on postcard

She did have one sister come to Boston to live. We called the sister Aunt Nonie and she was a widow the entire time we knew her. Her husband had been killed while working at the railroad yard. The foreman gave her a dollar even though he had only worked half a day.

The Stack Family lived on Harbour View in Cobh and would most likely would have seen the Titanic sail in and out of the harbor. They would have also been there for assisting with the survivors from the Lusitania. A few years ago my husband and I stood on the doorsteps of that house and enjoyed that view of the harbor.

 Harbour View in Cobh 2015
Harbour View in Cobh 2015
 Harbour View in Cobh circa 1950
Harbour View in Cobh circa 1950

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