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Mary "Hopkins" Power, Unlimited

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Excerpt from the "Writings of Brother E"

Mary “Hopkins” Power, Unlimited (1848-1912) Having earned the reputation of being the family historian, I have been coaxed and cajoled for years by cousins of mine to commit to paper for posterity my knowledge, garnered over many years, of the ramifications of the offspring of our maternal grandmother, Mary “Hopkins” Power. (There is no relation to Mary Hopkins, the Pop Singer, who topped the music charts at one time with the hit-song, “Those Were The Days.”). By a strange quirk of fate, our grandmother was known outside the family circle as Mary Hopkins. An explanation for this misnomer can be found in the second marriage of her mother, another Mary Power. This great-grandmother of ours, on her first venture into the marriage market, married a namesake, Robert Power of Killoteran, a townsland a few miles from Waterford City. He died at the early age of twenty-two, leaving behind a widow and a daughter, the future Mary “Hopkins” Power. The teenaged widow, Mary Power, after a respectable lapse of time, decided to marry a young man named Hopkins, about whom I missed the opportunity of obtaining information from relatives, long since deceased, who could have supplied the needed data. Mr. Hopkins died, leaving his wife two additional daughters, Ann & Kate, who alone were entitled to bear his family name. With the passage of time, however, the friends of the family lost cognizance of the first marriage of Mary Power and assumed that her three daughters were all surnamed Hopkins. The misnomer, in the case of the first daughter, Mary Power, was continued up through my boyhood days. A certain dissolute old crone, Mary the Rake, who was wont to harass the Pedestrians in Barrack Street for alms, used to take grave umbrage at my unflattering remarks as I went by her; she always retorted with opprobrium on the dubious origin of Mary “Hopkins’s” grandson – yours truly!! Many times I had people say to me that they knew my grand-mother, Mary “Hopkins”. In later years, her innumerable descendants used to refer to her jocosely as Mary “Hopkins”, Unlimited. Something that often caused me to wonder was the silent attitude adopted by the Power family regarding their early years in the bakery in Patrick Street. This has proved to be a stumbling block for me since I have been prevailed upon to piece together, chronologically, the information which would re-create the family story. The Powers rarely mentioned their two brothers, Michael (Mick) and Thomas (Tom), who emigrated to Boston; there was a complete wall of silence surrounding their sister, Bridget, who made her permanent abode in that same Massachusetts, USA City. Furthermore, there is absolutely no information concerning the husband of our grandmother, Maurice Power, after whom quite a number of his grandsons are named. From one source, the Reas, I learned that he worked at one time in Denny’s Cellar. Aunt Ellie Rea recalled that her father was being rewarded for his efficiency at work and requested that his fellow workers get an increase in pay in preference to him receiving extra remuneration. This noble, altruistic act upset a conjecture that I was inclined to put forward that he was a baker by trade and that this would explain the existence of the bakery in Patrick Street. However, it was not unusual in those times for the wife to have a business of her own while the husband worked elsewhere. That was the case in my own family, in Aunt Nan’s and in Aunt Statia’s as well. The fact that Mary “Hopkins” Power’s daughters, Ellie and Catherine, married two bakers, Martin Rea and Michael Griffin, respectively, who worked for their mother. Sometime in the early part of the twentieth century, Mary “Hopkins” Power changed residence and her form of business. She established a very flourishing meat market in Peter Street. Here she sold meat from Denny’s Cellar, the first bacon factory established in Ireland. Alas it is now closed, as are so many of the various types and varieties of factories throughout the whole island. Mary “Hopkins” Power was an exceptional type of woman and ruled the family, if not also the husband, with a heavy hand. Even after the marriage of her daughters, she considered it her prerogative to direct their affairs also. At least that was her policy in the initial stages of the marriages. She was so shrewd a businesswoman that, in a very short time, she had the leading meat shop in Waterford and was thus able to subsidize her married daughters with their week-to-week expenses. In my tender years, I can recollect the grandmother and an old Miss Fitzgerald (no relation) of Arundel Square hiring Chalk’s pony and trap in William Street to travel to some woolen factory in Faithlegg to purchase material for the making of children’s clothes. I might add that she also helped to establish her married daughters in businesses similar to her own but on a lesser scale of operation. Before I attempt to trace the history of Mary “Hopkins” Power’s very large family, I will endeavor to give brief outlines of the subsequent histories of her half-sisters, Ann and Kate.

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