Mulrooney Family // Toronto, Ogoki & Cat Lake

Contributed by Deirdre Mulrooney

My mother and father met in Kilkee’s Atlantic Hotel on the August weekend in 1966. Mum was home on holidays from her first teaching job in England, after training as an elementary teacher in Mount Pleasant, Liverpool (now Hope University). After two years at Trinity (pre-med, followed by Arts), Dad was already feeling the Call of the Wild to Canada. An adventurous spirit, as a youngster Dad had hitch-hiked and camped with his primus stove all over Ireland, and was a keen hunter and fisherman. So, soon after Paud and Mary married in St. Joseph’s, Limerick in May 1967, they moved to Toronto for a two-year stay, arriving into the fanfare of EXPO 67, and leading to a lifetime. I was born, followed by Darragh and Patrick who arrived during summer holidays in Kilkee, County Clare.

Mary was snapped up as a teacher with Toronto’s Metropolitan Separate Schoolboard. Paud relished learning the streets of Toronto as a taxi driver, before he too qualified as a teacher at Toronto Teaching College (later completing two Masters in Education at OISE and Brock). Toronto was only the beginning however, as this family felt the pull to experience ‘True North’, to move where the people of the land lived. So in 1974 Mary and Paud accepted jobs teaching with the Federal Government in schools on isolated fly-in fly-out First Nations reserves near James Bay.

The family adventure began with an 800 mile drive north to Geraldton, Ontario where Mum and Dad had their teacher orientation. A few days later, the family boarded a Beaver float plane at Nakina, and flew to Ogoki, Marten Falls Indian Reserve. Here we were met by many of the less than 200 residents at the dock and life in Ogoki began. This was during a crucial transition from the Residential School system toward native-run on-reserve education. Mum and Dad ran the school (which we also attended) for one year, followed by Cat Lake for two, and then back to Ogoki, where they spent another six years. Meanwhile Paud delighted in expert tuition from the native people in hunting and fishing. In March 1982 Mary gave birth to Richard in Geraldton. It was a privilege to live with the Cree and Ojibway people of North Ontario, who felt an affinity with the Irish in general and with the Mulrooney family in particular.

By the mid-1980s, Mary and Paud moved back to their home in Toronto’s Beaches, where they continued teaching up to retirement. Roll on 30 years and I made a BCI-funded radio documentary “Ogoki – Call of the Wild” about a return trip with Mum in 2008. We cherish our connection with the Ogoki community, and Mary in particular still keeps up her close friendships. Sadly, Paud died of cancer in Toronto in March 2017, after which I made a short documentary film in tribute to him, from his own footage and self-developed photographs “True North: Paud Mulrooney’s Irish- Canadian Adventures in Super 8”. Paud learned the art of photography and Super 8 film from American draft dodgers he met when he arrived in Toronto, and acquired their photographic equipment when they left for Vancouver. Mary is a treasured member of the local community in Toronto’s Beaches and Emerald Isle Seniors to this day.

Mary was the second child born to Fred and Kitty O’Brien in Limerick city in August 1940. City dwellers born and bred, her Dad had a Specialist Tailor and Draper’s shop on Roches Street, and Kitty (Clancy) O’Brien had her own clothing label, “Loufatock”. The O’Brien family, which expanded to 14 children, lived at 59 Catherine Street.

Paud (Patrick), born in Pallasgreen, County Limerick in February 1941, was the second of Paddy and Nell Mulrooney’s three children. Both from farming backgrounds, Paddy grew up in Thomastown, County Kilkenny, and Nell (Murphy) Mulrooney in Mountcollins, Abbeyfeale, County Limerick. When Paddy, who was a member of the Garda Siochána, was transferred into Limerick City in the early 1950s the family moved to Marian Avenue, Roxboro Road, and my Dad went to the Christian Brothers school on nearby Sexton Street where he did his Leaving Certificate. Mum attended Presentation Convent around the corner. After a short spell in Rosary Priory Convent, Hertfordshire, England, where she had signed up to join the Dominican order at the age of 14, Mum worked for a while in Lloyds of London, before teacher training college. During his school holidays, Dad worked in London at Walls Ice Cream and Sausage factory, as well later as a labourer on London’s underground system, saving for University.

Patrick Junior is a courier in Toronto; Richard is training to be a Jesuit, currently teaching in St. John’s, Newfoundland; Darragh is a dentist in Dublin; and Deirdre is a Dublin- based filmmaker, radio documentarian and writer.

Deirdre Mulrooney