Mam Garrity – Character in Divide the Dawn
“May trouble always be a stranger to ye. Take this Saint Christopher. Put it in yer pocket and touch it when ye please. Ye’ll be grand with it.”
Mam Garrity (b. 1878, County Clare, Ireland) is a mother caught between Ireland and New York who has lost so much of what she created: Two of her children died young, another was beaten by British soldiers and yet another seemingly lost to the streets of Brooklyn. She is closest to her two daughters, Abby and Brigid. Her husband is an Irish rebel who disappeared after the 1916 Easter Rising. Beforehand, she watched her son Liam off to New York to secure passage for America. But with British retribution for the Irish rebellion and World War I creating a blockade, she and her two daughters could not go until 1918. Leaving her eldest son Timothy on the farm, they moved into a humble but clean tenement. Now though, she sees that the gang violence of Brooklyn has changed her teenage son Liam for the worst and fears what price the family must pay for what he had to do to bring them to New York.
Light of the Diddicoy
In 1915, Mrs. Garrity is crying in the doorway of the family farm in Ireland and gives Liam a Saint Christopher for safe travel. Liam describes the moment as his mother giving him an “American Wake,” believing it quite possible that they would never see each other again.
Exile on Bridge Street
After sending letters back and forth from Ireland to New York, she and her two daughters finally make the trip in steerage class. They are met at Ellis Island by Liam, who she has not seen in over three years. Liam and Harry Reynolds take them to Brooklyn in a tugboat. She is proud that Liam and Harry renovated a room in anticipation of their arrival. Noticing that Liam is in danger, she fears for what he has had to do to survive on the streets. She overhears The Bard of Irishtown tell the story of Dinny Meehan, who murdered a man to become a gang leader, and knows that her son is mixed up with the killer in the story.