Everyone in this world has a cross of some kind to bear. It may be one lying unseen in the silence of the heart’s most profound depths, or it may be one that is painfully visible to all. To some, God gives but one cross to bear; upon others he showers what seems like a multitude of smaller ones. It was a similar cross that came to a Westmeath Man forty odd years ago that was responsible for the organizing of the Westmeath Men’s Social and Benevolent Association.
This man, whose name we shall not mention, was very prominent in business and was considered in fairly good circumstance. Conditions changed however, he met with business reverses. In addition to this, sickness entered his home and one by one carried his little family to eternal rest in Calvary Cemetery. Finally, discouraged and heartbroken, he gave up the fight and he, himself, in a very short while joined the other members of his family in death.
It was then discovered that all his financial resources were expended in a brave but futile attempt to save the lives of the members of his family. Rather than see the remains of this heroic father interred in a public burial ground forever unnamed, a number of his friends and acquaintances subscribed enough money to cover expenses of placing his remains with those of the other members of his family in Calvary Cemetery.
The few men who took part in the noble work wished soon afterwards to form a society for the purpose of aiding the sick and in general to do and perform all such care-taking as might be necessary for the relief and advancement of its members. To continue this laudable undertaking it was found necessary to seek members from among their own acquaintances, and in a short time results seemed to manifest themselves so thoroughly that the membership increased beyond the fondest hopes of the organizers. In the meantime contributions to the — of a fund continued and enough was now in hand for all needs. Followed by the remarkable success of their venture they decided to incorporate under the law of the State of New York. Consequently an application for incorporation was forwarded to the Secretary of State in Albany, and on July 16, 1892, Abraham R. Lawrence, then a Justice of the Supreme Court, issued a certificate of incorporation to the “Westmeath Men’s Society and Benevolent Association of New York.” The announced objects as set forth in the certificate of incorporation, are as follows:
- The intellectual and social improvement of its members
- The cultivation and encouragement of mutual friendship and good will
- To aid and assist members in sickness and distress
- To provide burial for deceased members when no ability exists
- To encourage all persons, native or descendants of natives of the County Westmeath in union, as representatives of our fatherland and also to assist at all times possible each other’s welfare, in this, our adopted country
- To promote a spirit of brotherly love and sociability among its members and help to encourage a spark of true friendship and benevolence towards one another
The first President was James Quest, a native of Killucan;
Thomas Murtagh, Secretary
Maurice Fay, Multy, Treasurer
Other charter members were Lawrence McGrath, James O’Neill, Michael Godfrey, William Crosby, James Keenan, Frank Tighe, Edward and James Cahill, Patrick J. Coughlan, John J. Cunningham.
The praiseworthy provenance of the founders has been signally fulfilled in the practical workings of the association. Its benevolence and sympathy have been particularly extended to assist ever undertaking for the welfare of its members. While performing these duties, perhaps the grandest opportunity was yet to come. Our people as a race, at that time had no unified method of recreation. Irish societies were few and far between in the City of New York and our own Westmeath people had to look for diversion elsewhere.
In order to give them that social intercourse for which they craved the organization planned to bring them unlimited joy and happiness. Excursions were then very much in vogue and once or twice each year the Westmeath Men chartered pleasure boats and the sail up the sound with the gay laughter of hundreds of men, women, and children laughing with the — drum band and the younger element tripping the light fantastic to the rollicking music of a ten piece orchestra are epics in the Association that can never be forgotten by those who participated.
Later years came more modern methods of entertainment and the organization developed along the lines of serial activities and the various functions held under the auspices of the Association have come to be established social features of the social life in the Metropolis. The high standard of excellence which has characterized the many social affairs has been consistently maintained and it brings together our boys and girls, men and women from every village, hamlet, and town in Westmeath. If it was organized for no other purpose than this, it would repay the promoters a thousandfold but let us see what a very prominent official of the City of New York has to say about our organization.
“It is due to the organization in a large — we that— many of have met, to our —-, which after all is one of the pleasures of this life to meet and greet your fellow man. Especially is the affection all the more real when you know that he is from your own home, from your own county, from your own fireside.
I feel that there is no man here that will not be coveted by his association with the Westmeath Men. The past history of your association speaks for itself. During the many years of your existence you have done nobly.
When the shadow of death came within your parish you have gone into the homes of the widows and orphans and with kind, counseling words you have eased the pain that the pangs of death and suffered had left in its trail; your weekly cheque has helped to pay the doctor’s bill, the butcher and the grocer. Your sick committee has always an encouraging word for those in ——– on account of illness, where in the hospital or in the home.
On each recurring Thanksgiving Day you have Mass, offered for the repose of the souls of your deceased members you gather in large numbers to assist in the Holy Sacrifice.
You have erected a monument in Calvary Cemetery where those of your needy members may find a last resting place, so that they may be always remembered by you. If it had not been for your keen observation many of your countrymen would have been buried in a nameless grave in a public field, among the outcasts of a large City like New York.”
Extract from an address delivered at the the —- of officers by Hon. Thomas Kelly, Deputy Sheriff, City of New York.
The outstanding principles that have — the promoters and which have — the officers to instill into the hearts of his members the love of motherland have withstood all during its long and creditable career. The history of their County could be one of the most interesting. To many it does with the most unsullied praise of their ancestors in the most trying circumstances of their devotion to God and country, their love for justice and right and their fidelity to the principle should give her people immeasurable cause for being proud of their race and of the grandeur and nobility of their character.
We feel that the heart of every Irishman who loves his country or wishes for the success of those of his neighbors should be deeply impressed by the necessity for peace and more concentrated unified efforts of our people because by this alone we can take advantage of the grandest opportunity to do something special and beneficial alike to ourselves and our race.
The Association has made splendid progress in membership, financial resources and — until to-day it occupies a special place in the domain of Irish organizations in America. That it has been of the greatest benefit to our members is testified by the thousands of dollars paid in sick and help benefits in addition to the hundreds of dollars it has paid to the bedside of sick —-.
The financial obligations of the members are being compared with the generous benefit derived. The work of the officers and members of the various committees is voluntary and not a cent is expended for salary of any kind whatsoever.
The — then, shall be our justification for preserving for the first time this brief history of the Westmeath Men’s Association of New York City, showing our people at home the activities of friends and kin in another land.
The officers who have recently elected to carry on the work for 1932, are as follows:
- John Kelly, Terrycrew, re-elected as President
- Bernard J. Troy, Ballynacargy, Vice-President
- Andrew Coyne, Hightown, Secretary
- John Flanagan, Moate, Recording Secretary
- Christopher J. Casserly, Killucan, Financial Secretary
- John McCormack, Sonna, Treasurer
Board of Trustees:
- Dr. Joseph P. Brennan, Cloney
- Michael McCormack, Sonna
- James W—-, Streamstown
- Frank Tighe, Mullingar
- Patrick Macken, Castlepollard
Seargeant-at-arms, Frank Shanley, Clonlost