Inspirations from the Past

I recently finished writing a historical inspired, in part, by my family’s immigration story. Maybe it was because I was an Air Force brat, raised in isolation from my extended family which made me long for connection, or maybe it’s just cause, but long before ancestry.com came along, I accumulated as many photographs and stories as I could get my hands on.

One lineage that intrigued me was that of my grandfather, Edward A. Gannon, an only child of Irish immigrant Michael Gannon, from whom I inherited my naturally curly hair. He grew up in Adams, Massachusetts. After joining ancestry.com, I met cousins from that line and in 2015, and I had the chance to visit. One of my questions was why when so many Irish ended up in Canada, or Boston, or New York City, did this family end up in the Berkshires? 

I have a theory. When I first looked up Mount Greylock towering over Adams, I was struck by how similar its profile was to the mountain my ancestors left behind in Co. Mayo, Nephin. Adams. Standing the shadow of Greylock must have felt like home.

Life was hard in the early years. The majority of the first and second generations worked in the Berkshire cotton mills made famous by Lewis Hine in his gripping photographs of child labor. Tuberculosis was rampant. The Spanish Flu tore through Adams twice. In subsequent generations, there were teachers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, dressmakers, farmers, a bar owner, and a hotelier. As I stood on Commercial Street in front of the apartment building that had at one time been filled with my family, the comings and goings of these folks was vivid to me.

And then a book came to me.

Writers: how has the past inspired your writing?

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8 thoughts on “Inspirations from the Past

  1. What a great story! I live up in the Hudson Valley and in 2019 we visited Ireland, flying from Stewart airport in Newburgh. It was amazing how much the scenery looked alike between upstate New York and Ireland. Even the names on the billboards were the same ;-).

  2. I’m living in Newport, RI right now, where the past is literally a few steps outside my door. Newport is one of two cities (the other being Williamsburg, VA) with the highest density of Colonial-era buildings. It also has the oldest, marked African American cemetery. You can’t help being inspired by the past here.

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