Mary Lonergan – Character in Divide the Dawn
“That biddy ol’ flab? She comes here all the time askin’ for favors. She wants her eldest son to open a bike shop, but of course she don’t have the money for it. So she wants Dinny’s help.”
Mary Lonergan (b. 1876), also known as Mourning Mother Mary, is a tragic, abused and defeated Irish mother of fifteen. Known for a facial disfigurement from when she was scalded by her husband who threw hot grease at her, she is an Irishtown curiosity. Mary is religious, impulsive, comically boisterous, strongly opinionated and defensive of her many children, although her old-world superstitions actually led to the death of a son. She is the mother of White Hand gang member Richie “Pegleg” Lonergan and the nubile Anna Lonergan. Her dream is to be a business woman and leave the slums for a better neighborhood and schools so her children don’t depend on gangs when they grow up.
Light of the Diddicoy
In 1916, she showed up at the Dock Loaders’ Club demanding word with White Hand gang leader Dinny Meehan. A deal was struck that if her eldest son Richie worked for the gang, Meehan would pay rent for a Lonergan family bike shop that she would run.
Exile on Bridge Street
In 1917 her six year-old son Tiny Thomas died of an infection because she believed that if she took him to the hospital, they’d give him “the black box,” (poison him to give the bed to a Protestant). In 1918 a second child died of the Spanish Influenza. Wild Bill Lovett has also abused her since she wants her son Richie to stick with whoever is the current king of Irishtown, not an upstart. She consented to her eldest daughter Anna’s betrothal to Meehan follower Liam Garrity to ensure the Lonergan family connection to the gang, though Anna vehemently refused.