From Doohoma to Dublin and Belfast
Jim Henry was born in 1918 in Doohoma in Erris in the Mayo Gaeltacht, the eldest of seven children of Phelim Henry and Margaret Keane. The house in which he was born is still there, called the Sea Rod Inn. His father Phelim Henry was a strong man who had worked in coal mines in England and saved enough money to buy the building and a hotel licence. He was not afraid to fight for what he believed in and, among other things succeeded in establishing a cemetery in Doohoma to save the people from having to walk to Kiltane, several miles away, to bury their dead. The council proposed one in neighbouring village Geesala but Henry argued it was unsuitable, “a shaking bog that you wouldn’t bury a dog in,” called on the men of the village and two days later 300 volunteers dug an acre of land, fenced it and got the bishop of Killala to consecrate it. These same men made a road into it.
English author Adrian Tinniswood writes:
Perhaps the community action that made the new cemetery at Doohoma back in the 1920s was an act of resistance. Phelim Henry’s graveyard was created around the children’s burial ground. It deliberately embraced the generations of stillborns, the suicides and the drowned strangers within its sod walls, bringing them into consecrated ground, as though Doohoma was reclaiming its dead from limbo.
Margaret his mother was a strong, generous woman. They had a shop attached to the pub and were the undertakers for the village. She had come to Doohoma from the Mullet peninsula to marry Phelim when she was only 16. Her sister Sarah came with her at the time to keep her company and went on to marry Phelim’s brother. This family was known as Henrys of the Ferry while Jim’s family were the Henrys of Doohoma.
Phelim died in 1946 and Margaret carried on the business till she died in 1962. She was helped in this by her son Phelim who predeceased her.
After her death, several people told the family how she had given them credit while their menfolk were away working in England or Scotland, and how generally helpful she was.