EXHIBITION: Mission Agents

Patrick McCoole (1842-1906) and
Patrick McDonough (1870-1959)
In 1886, Patrick McCoole, an Irish speaker from Donegal, joined the Mission as its agent at Castle Garden and later at Ellis Island. His responsibilities were to interview arriving Irish girls, to provide information about how to reach their final destinations and, at the end of the day, to escort those girls not met by family or friends to the Mission Home. He estimated that he saw over 615,000 Irish girls during his years of Mission service. McCoole also wrote to the Irish hierarchy and to provincial Irish papers giving them advice about how best to protect immigrant Irish girls. After McCoole’s death in 1906, Patrick McDonough, a Sligo immigrant became the Mission agent where he worked for fifty years. He met his wife, Ellen Healey, when she arrived at Ellis Island from Donoughmore, Co. Cork.

A graduate of Notre Dame, McDonough was a friend of New York’s Irish and Irish-American literati. During the decade 1930 to 1940, the Mission published a quarterly journal called Old Castle Garden which McDonough edited. He also published pamphlet titled Seven State Street, New York. A House with a History. Owners Past and Present. Letters from Archbishop Ireland and Charlotte Grace O’Brien. The Mission and its Record (1947) [2005].

The cover of Old Castle Garden featured a reproduction of a 1850 engraving of Castle Garden framed by an interlacing border with motifs of the four Irish provinces in each corner. A stanza from one of McDonough’s poems, “A Hosting at Castle Garden” links Irish national aspirations and Irish Catholicism with newly arrived immigrants. Old Castle Garden functioned as an agent of acculturation in its effort to provide readers with practical information about citizenship, with essays about American history and culture, as well as with stories and poems that spoke to the Irish immigrant experience: its promises, its silences and its losses.