• Mullingar

The 'Boss' is from Rathowen

Wednesday, 14th October, 2009 5:50pm

Story by Helen Sweeny
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Offaly may have staked its claim to Obama but Rathowen can now proudly declare that it is the home of the world's other Boss - or at least that of his great, great grandmother.

Authors of a new book on Bruce Springsteen have traced the legendary rocker's ancestor, Ann Garrity back to the Westmeath village of Rathowen where she was baptised in 1830.

Records show that she then lived in Mullingar, before emigrating to America during the famine years and made her home on the now famous Leopold Street in New Jersey where her super-star great, great grandson Bruce was born some 70 years later. Ann's sister Elizabeth also moved to New Jersey from Mullingar around the same.

Writers Moira Sharkey and Greg Lewis teamed up to produce the book on Springsteen which celebrates the 25th anniversary of his appearance at Slane - the gig which is widely credited with putting the venue on the world map.

While Springsteen was already well known on the America touring circuit, Slane marked his transition from one-time folk singer to international star as Born in the USA and Dancing in the Dark stormed music charts across the globe.

American records showed that Ann Garrity's occupation was given as 'washer woman' but is unknown what she did before she left Mullingar.

Moira Sharkey was able to trace Ann to Rathowen using parish records.

"The name Springsteen is a new addition to the family line," she explained. "During his Irish concerts in recent years Bruce has always said that he is an Irish man and that he loves Ireland so we decided to check it out. For the five generations before Springsteen came into the frame the family had all Irish names which included Farrell, McNichol, Sullivan and McCann. If you looked into it you would probably discover that he has relatives in every corner of Ireland but the Mullingar and Rathowen links were the strongest ones that we found," said the Derry author.

"Garrity was probably originally Geraghty but because so few people were able to read and write then names were often written down the way that they sounded.

"We focused a lot of the materia in the book about Ann, on what happened when she got to America because that is where Springsteen was born but certainly he was right when he said that he is an Irish man," she said.

Land of Hope and Dreams: Celebrating 25 Years of Bruce Springsteen in Ireland is available now priced €19.99.

€50 for 6 months (24 editions) of the Westmeath Examiners. Ideal gift for those who have everything. Subscribe for free here.

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