Heroine of US traced to Cork

The family of a US heroine who is set to be commemorated for her extraordinary courage in sacrificing her life to save fellow workers in a factory inferno have traced her roots to West Cork.

The city of Binghamton in New York this month commemorates the 100th anniversary of the tragedy in which 31 people lost their lives and mark the heroism of factory forewoman, Nellie Connor, whose parents emigrated from the Dunmanway area during the Great Famine.

Panicked workers jumped from windows several storeys up as flames raged through the overall factory on a hot July afternoon in 1913 as Nellie attempted to guide others to safety.

The story of her heroism is recalled in ‘Mother Connor’, a poem written shortly after her death.

It’s believed that throughout the blaze, Nellie stood at the top of the stairs calling to the fleeing women and pointing the way out before perishing in the flames which consumed the building on Jul 22. Her body was never identified.

A memorial service is being held at the site of the Binghamptom Clothing Company on the anniversary.

In advance of the ceremony, her descendants contacted Dunmanway Community Council, which traced her family’s roots to the townlands of Kilbarry and Milane.

Tommy Collins, treasurer of Dunmanway Community Council, the council had been working on the project with the family for two years.

“I have been in touch with Nellie’s grand-nephew Kevin O’Connor, who has given me a lot of information on the fire and on the Connor family in America,” Mr Collins said, adding that preparations were being made for a visit by Nellie’s descendants to Dunmanway next year.


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