Patrick Langan (1875 - 1966) Biography

Patrick was born near Ballycastle in Ross, Doonfeeny, County Mayo in April 1875.  He was named after his grandfather, Patrick Langan, in line with Irish naming traditions.  His father, John Langan
(c1820-1903), was born and raised in Ross and his mother Mary McDonnell came from nearby Doughlough, Doonfeeny.  Patrick was the fourth of five children and grew up on the family farm in Ross.  He grew to be about 6 feet tall with a lean build, dark hair, and a ruddy complexion from working in the fields.  He spoke some Gaelic, but had to leave school at the age of 13.  As was common for the Irish farmers he wore a flat cap and smoked a wooden pipe.  When attending Mass and on other special occasions he would also sport a pocket watch.

Patrick loved (Gaelic) football and played for the local Ballycastle team.  He was also an active member of Sinn Fein and so football and politics were his main topics of conversation.  The local medical officer, Doctor John Crowley, was also an active  Sinn Fein member and a good friend of Patrick.  Dr Crowley was elected as the Sinn Fein T.D. (member of Irish Parliament) for  North Mayo and when he died in 1934, Patrick made a generous donation towards a momument for his friend which still stands in front of the Medical Centre on the road into Ballycastle.         
Patrick collecting Carrageenan
(edible seaweed) aided by
his daughter Tess (c1940)
Patrick was enamoured with the new world and emigrated to the USA in 1905.  He sailed from Queenstown, County Cork on 11th May on the S.S. Baltic and arrived in New York on 19th May 1905. According to the Ellis Island records, he initially stayed with a McDonnell cousin who lived at 762 3rd Avenue, New York (Patrick's maternal grandfather was a McDonnell).

Patrick's future wife, Ellen Connor who was born in Ballymacue, a couple of miles from Patrick's birthplace, had already emigrated to New York on 12 October 1904.  The Ellis Island records show that Ellen had gone to stay with her sister, Mrs Nora McDonnell (apparently married to Patrick's cousin) at the same address, so this is perhaps where they met and decided to marry.  However, Ellen was homesick for Ireland, so after they bought their wedding ring at Tiffany's in New York, they returned home to County Mayo to get married.  They were married in the local Ballycastle Catholic church on 28th February 1911.  Upon marriage, Patrick acquired hs father-in-law's farm in Ballymacue, which is where he and Ellen settled to raise their family.

Farm life
Life on the farm would start at about 9am for Patrick and work would usually continue until night-fall.  After taking a bowl of water outside to wash (there was no indoor plumbing) he would stoke up on a breakfast of boiled eggs and home-made bread, before starting the ploughing or hay-making.

The farm was fairly diverse with both arable and livestock to cater for most of their needs.  Patrick grew potatoes, wheat, barley, oats, cabbage and swede, with mangle beets (a type of turnip) for the cattle. His livestock included cows, sheep, pigs, hens, ducks and geese.  Patrick also enjoyed occasional fishing trips to catch pollock, mackerel, herring and sometimes salmon.   Some produce was for family consumption and the rest would be sold at the Ballycastle fair to pay for the family's other needs.

Patrick would return home at about 1.30pm for lunch, which was usually the main meal of the day.  Lunch might consist of boiled bacon and cabbage, or a mutton and vegetable stew.  On school days his children would take sandwiches and eat them at school.  Their evening meal would be bread, cheese and tea


Patrick and Ellen had nine children in all of which seven were girls.  Two of his girls, Ellen and Sheila, died in infancy.  Patrick's second son, Tom, later became the famous Gaelic footballer who scored the goals that gave victory to Mayo in the All Ireland finals of 1950 and 1951.

After a hard day's work, Patrick would read the newspaper or help the children with their sums and reading.  Without electricity the family relied on paraffin lamps for lighting after sunset.  Sometimes the children would gather around Patrick to hear his stories about the fairies and leprechauns, and the neighbours' children (Dohertys and Connors) would often come over to join them.  At other times they would play hide and seek, which was quite a challenge in the small farmhouse with few places to hide.

His youngest child, Tess, remembers that her father would often scold her brother Tom for wasting his time kicking stones and balls around, and not helping on the farm. However, Patrick's frustration with his son soon turned to admiration and pride as Tom rapidly progressed to become one of the most famous Gaelic footballers of all time.

Patrick was an intelligent man who regretted his limited schooling, and so he always impressed upon his children the importance of education.  He worked hard all his life to support his family, even in the coldest weather, and would quote to others "Don't stick to the fire, or the fire will stick to you". 
Patrick Langan's headstone
in Ballycastle cemetery
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Patrick the Grandfather
One of Patrick's granddaughters, Maureen, remembers him as a happy jolly man who was always pleased to see his grandchildren and chat with them.  She recalls him in his later years as tall, white-haired, walking with a stoop and a walking-stick while humming to himself.  Even though Patrick's son Johnny had taken over running the farm, Maureen would see her grandfather still pottering about the farm and keeping busy.

Patrick liked to tell the grandchildren about his time in America and what a wonderful place it was.  He talked about attending mass at New York's St Patrick's Cathedral and watching boxing matches at Madison Square Garden in New York.  He would ask his grandchildren about which route they had walked to reach his farm, and warned then not to go back across Ballycastle Strand (beach) if the tide was in, because of the dangerous river crossing.

Patrick's youngest granddaughter, Carmel, remembers salivating over some chocolate that she spotted in the pocket of her grandfather's Tweed jacket one day, and then she stealthily pick-pocketed him!

Patrick passed away in 1966 at the age of 91 and is buried with his wife Ellen in Ballycastle Cemetery.

by Tess Golden, January 2013

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