Camino Rambling

Camino Rambling

This section of short stories started by accident when my old school-friend, Dr Danny McAllister, practicing in England, reneged on an anticipated visit to our shared ancestral parish home in September 2012. His excuse was that a long-planned 500 mile stroll was to take precedence over yet another visit to the homestead to poach a few tasty wild salmon from the River Moy. Each to their own, I thought to myself, until Danny later explained that his walking expedition was actually a re-enactment of a historical pilgrimage across northern Spain. Danny was sufficiently daft / possessed / fit / brainwashed (delete as per reader’s choice) to attempt to walk alone and uninterrupted from the French side of the border near to Pamplona all the way west to Santiago de Compostela. I was educated to learn that this countryside / countrywide walk is known as El Camino de Santiago to the ancient ramblers.

Danny’s walk along well-worn pathways was scheduled to take a little over a month, allowing for permissible overnight rests. I decided to accompany Danny (not in person!) by relaying the news from his South Sligo ancestral farm parish at regular intervals by way of a diary report. I was wary of this undertaking; maybe more-so than Danny’s physical challenge – because nothing much ever happens in a quiet outback in the West of Ireland, far off the beaten tracks which Dr McAllister was attempting to conquer, does it?

It was only when Danny reached the holy grail of the Atlantic Ocean, and I read back my diary notes, that I too had a “religious” experience and appreciated that a helluva lot happened in our isolated Irish community in the space of one month. My epiphany moment made me realize that the more distance there is between houses (typically 200-500 metres here), the closer the community. Every birth, courtship, wedding, illness or death is verbally communicated around the parish within a matter of hours of any formal announcement or insider knowledge being proclaimed. The well-being of the occupants of every secluded home is monitored from the village meeting points, namely the shops and pubs (some of which are shops and pubs). Help is always at hand.

I have lived in apartments and terraced streets in other parts of the world, and I never even knew the names of some next-door neighbours despite being more than familiar with their raised voices through seemingly paper-thin walls.

And so … I simply relayed the parish news to Danny, as it happened, and how I interpreted it. Danny told me he welcomed the light relief provided by my missives, and so did his fellow walkers when he shared the regular updates at his overnight hostels. In fact, Danny’s fellow-Camino pilgrims from around the world now want the GPS co-ordinates of our little corner of the world. Danny warns that there could be an invasion of lost souls looking for enlightenment. Whoever they are, they will be welcomed and cared for. That’s just the way of life here.

Click on Camino Rambling below to catch up on what’s been happening in the parish ….

Start at 26th September 2012 in order to follow the Camino trail, then:

28th September 2012

30th September 2012

1st October 2012

4th October 2012

6th October 2012

9th October 2012

16th October 2012

20th October 2012

22nd October 2012

26th October 2012

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A bizarre and mysterious 1906 NY immigration sailing arrival record

Upon first inspection of the Ellis Island immigration record dating from September 1906 (shown below), the Ship’s Officer of the popular Transatlantic steamer, the SS Baltic, seems to have gotten bored with logging the nationality of dozens of Irish immigrants. It appears that this man had other things on his mind. Naughty thoughts.

Take a look at the curious entries written downwards in Chinese style under column headings 9 & 10 – following a curious mathematical equation I have yet to decipher.

The writer of these words creates what appears to be an advert for a raunchy naked revue show titled “In A Bath Tub.” We are told that this theatre production “will make the women jealous of the men” and that “your heart will beat faster, your nerves will tingle with rapturous delight.” The advertised show seems to be rather obscene for the Edwardian era, even by New York City’s standards …. and it is. The unexpected words added to the 1906 record were not added in 1906!

No ordinary sailing record

My research indicates that the bizarre extra words were probably added in 1926. The anonymous writer, perhaps a disgruntled Immigration Inspector, has created a witty and sarcastic revue advert telling the scandalous tale about a large party thrown by Earl Carroll, a seedy NYC Theater Impresario in February 1926. At this gathering, reportedly attended by 500 invited guests in the Prohibition Era, Mr Carroll sought notoriety by paying a 17 year-old girl to sit naked in a bath tub full of champagne. The party guests were encouraged to fill their glasses from the tub. This sordid story hit the headlines when a reporter from the NY Mirror decided to break the oath of secrecy sworn by the other 499 guests. I can only guess that the cheeky Immigration Official at Ellis Island was fascinated by this tabloid journalism, and decided to record his creative composition for an unwitting Irish genealogist to discover in 2019.

For the [true] record, Earl Carroll was subsequently arrested and sent for trial over the affair. He was acquitted of having committed any serious crime, such as serving alcohol when it was banned, or exploiting a girl barely out of high school. However, the jury convicted Mr Carroll of committing perjury in court when a lie in his version of events was exposed. He was sentenced to one year and one day in prison, in 1927, but only served around 6 months behind bars after being paroled early. Upon release, Earl Carroll immediately returned to his role of producing lewd shows to make your nerves tingle, etc.

Earl Carroll during his trial in 1927

Questions remain, of course. Exactly why did the immigration officer defile this particular record, and did his superiors ever detect the adulteration? And can anyone solve the cryptic mathematical equation?

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