Jim Harrington

Young Jim Harrington
John Finbarr O'Sullivan
Jim Harrington in Canada
John Finbarr O'Sullivan
Jim Harrington
John Finbarr O'Sullivan

Early Life

James (Jim) Harrington (Jackell) was the eldest of 7 children born to John (Jack J) Harrington (Caobach) (Derrycreeveen, Bere Island) and Julia Harrington (also Caobach) (Kilcatherine, Eyeries) on 2nd  December 1890 on Cnocán Rua, Derrycreeveen, Bere Island.

He went to Ballinakilla National School (now the Heritage Centre) and later worked as a Monitor there before attending the De La Salle Teacher Training College in Waterford. He was known to be extremely clever and was one of two students (the other being his contemporary John Sullivan Barrule from Ballinakilla) about whom that famous Teacher Master Charlie McCarthy said: “They were the finest characters I ever put through my hands”.

Emigration to Canada

Jim emigrated to Canada in 1913 with his younger brother Tim, who was also a National Teacher. He was living in Strathcona, Alberta when he was conscripted into the Canadian army on 16th Jan 1918 as a member of Military District 13, 1st Depot Battalion Alberta Regiment. His Regiment left Calgary on 10th February 1918, travelling across Canada by train,embarked on the S.S. Melita on 19th  February from Halifax and arrived in Liverpool on 21st  March 1918. They began training in Bramshott on 4th  March 1918. In England, they became the 21st Reserve Battalion. The 21st absorbed the 9th Reserve battalion and they subsequently distributed troops to the 10th, 31st, 49th and 50th Infantry Battalions.

Military Life

An extract from the Calgary Daily Herald on Monday 11th February 1918 reads: “The men received a rousing send off and among those that witnessed the departure was General R A Helmer, who expressed himself particularly well pleased with their appearance. “I have never seen men of better physique,” he said, with much enthusiasm; “or such fine, proud looking young men. Personally, I am eminently satisfied with the men, and I am sure that they will be a credit to the city and the whole of Canada.”

During the First World War, Jim, like other soldiers, got shore leave and used it to come back to Bere Island. On one particular occasion, dressed in his uniform and travelling from Bantry on the “SS. Princess Beara” he met Annie Harrington (sister of Donal Harrington) who fell for this tall handsome soldier. They would have known each other prior to that from meeting in Donal Harrington’s shop in Castletownbere.

When the war was over he returned to Canada. As noted in the Edmonton Bulletin in 1919: Private J Harrington left London on the SS Minekahda on the 6thSeptember to return to Canada, arriving in Halifax on 14th September before leaving on a special train for the west. He and his fellow soldiers finally arrived in Edmonton on 16th September 1919.

Family Life

Annie followed him out to Alberta, where they married and had five children. One of his daughters was a singer and actress in California known as Maureen Leeds and entertained the troops during WW2. His son Jim flew Bombers during WW2 and was later in charge of Indian Affairs in the Northern Territories of Canada but died a young man.

Jim himself returned to Beara on a few occasions and kept up very regular contact with his sisters Julia, Katie and Lizzie and brother John (Jackell) in Bere Island. Katie and Lizzie kept many of his letters and they were recently passed on to his family in Edmonton. He took a keen interest in the religious and political affairs of Ireland and as he was very knowledgeable in this regard, his letters are a wonderful read.

He has a son Kevin and a daughter Nancy still living in Edmonton and two of his Grandchildren have visited Beara, one of whom, Diane came  as recently as 2010. A couple of the Bere Island cousins have also been to visit them in Edmonton.

Having left the Army and following his marriage to Annie, James taught at Wetaskiwin School in Alberta and he also bought a farm in Ellersie. In 1939 the family moved from the farm in Ellerslie to Edmonton, which is also in Alberta.

He left again for Army duty in 1940 for the town of Red Deer and was then stationed at Currie Barracks in Calgary, Alberta. James left the Army in 1949 to teach in Athabasca, Alberta. In 1952 he worked for the Edmonton School Board as a
teacher and later at CIL (chemical company) as a night watchman. In later years he worked at the University of Alberta Hospital tutoring disabled Veterans. He retired in 1965 and died in May of 1976 aged 86 years. He had 5 children, 7grandchildren and now has 14 Great Grandchildren and 2 Great Great Grandchildren who can all trace their ancestry back to a little cnocán on Bere Island!

Submitted by: His nephew John Finbarr O’Sullivan, April 2012.

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