Annie O’Loughlin reunion at the family farm in Montana.

Special greetings to the descendants of Annie O’Loughlin who are gathering this weekend at the family farm Sweetgrass, Montana.

Annie was born Annie McKenty. She and Neil’s dad, Arthur McKenty, were two out of five children who were orphaned at an early age during the flu epidemic of the 1920’s (correct me if my facts are a bit skewered). The children were farmed out to separate families and not encouraged to keep in touch with each other.

Annie especially was not-treated by her adopted mother. At a young age, she got herself a ticket on the railway from a cousin and migrated to Montana where she earned her living as a teacher. She then married an O’Loughlin, and she and her husband farmed at Sweetgrass, where the reunion is taking place next Saturday.

Imagine Neil’s delight when he was able to establish contact with Annie’s descendants, I believe with the help of Gerry McKenty. We had always hoped to go out to Montana to meet the family.

And imagine my delight when I was invited to go this year to the O’Loughlin reunion. I bought my plane ticket and was all set to go but circumstances intervened and I had to cancel.

My heart will be there anyway this coming Saturday at 12 noon Montana time when the family from far and near gather on that farm set high on the hillside.

Neil’s dad, Arthur, was lucky enough to be apprenticed to the Shea family, who had a farm on what is still called the Shea line, not far from Peterborough, Ontario. After his return from the First World War, he married the daughter of that family, Irene Shea. Neil later found some of his dad’s letters to Irene when he was overseas. Because of censorship he could say almost nothing about his war experience, but we know he carried a wounded man to safety on his back during that terrible battle of Ypres when so many young Canadian and German lives were lost.

Later, on a visit to Ireland, Neil discovered some of the history of the Sheas, known in Ireland as O’Shea. You can find his article in Montreal’s Irish newspaper Nuacht  on this blog How the Sheas and Neil came to Canada.

Interestingly Peterborough Ontario where Irene Shea gave birth to Neil in the hospital, is named after Peter Robinson, who organised the six ships that brought the Sheas and many other irish families from Cork harbour safely to Canada.

Neil grew up in Hastings, Ontario – a lovely small village at the time, where his dad owned the hardware store. The McKentys, we discovered, came from the Glens of Antrim, in the far north of Ireland.

Greetings to all the descendants of Annie McKenty O’Loughlin.

Catharine McKenty

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