From Corleone to West Cork

Posted on: 9th June, 2017

Category: A West Cork Life

Contributor: Tina Pisco

I have spent the last week in a 19th century farm, high in the hills above the town of Corleone in Sicily. The landscape is incredible: rolling fields of wheat and barley, olive groves and vineyards; a lush and fertile land dotted with spectacular bare rocks that jut out of the green fields like the menacing jaws and broken teeth of some mythical beast. Just like when I discovered the forty shades of green that have become my home, my first thought was: Why would anyone want to leave such a beautiful place? And yet, like the Irish before them, the Sicilians left in droves, hoping for a better life in America. Between the 1880s and 1906, 100,000 Sicilians immigrated to the United States.

One of those was my grandfather Francesco Pisco. He arrived in Ellis Island on October 12, 1905. He was 18-years-old, and was accompanied by his 16-year-old brother Vito. He was lucky to have left when he did. The 1924 Immigration Act, ended immigration from Southern Europe, but by that time, Francesco and his brother Vito had managed to bring over their family, including their mother and father. Like the Fords of Ballinascarty (who left in 1847), the entire family left everything behind to start a new life in a very different country. There are no Piscos left in Sicily.

I had found the ship manifest that listed Francesco and Vito, but was still unsure if they had really come from Corleone. It was a bit of a family joke. The movie ‘The Godfather’ has made Corleone infamous around the world. When my father asked me to accompany him on a trip to search for his father, it was an offer I could not refuse.

Once we got into the town hall archives, the search only took about thirty seconds. The birth registry for 1887 list child #45 as Francesco Pisco; born on the 15th of January; son of Antonio Pisco and Margerita Lecata, who lived in the quarter of town still known as La Grazia.

Immigration is often analysed as being a combination of Push and Pull forces. Some events like famine or war, or few prospects for making a living locally are described as a push. The lure of a new world filled with opportunities in modern cities where the streets are paved with gold is the pull. The recent immigration crisis has sharpened these two forces, giving them a different moral value. We welcome refugees who have been pushed out of their homeland, but feel that those who leave because of the pull of a better life are somehow less worthy. Life is never that simple. What was it that made Francesco leave? Was there a push? Perhaps, though he most certainly was not running away – leaving his family behind would have been too dangerous. We often think of immigrants as impoverished and starving, but that is rarely the case. The poor and starving have no way out. They stay and often die. Those who leave have the means to do so. Francesco had the money to buy a passage and $12 in his pocket, a trade (he was a barber), and a plan to unite his family once he had settled in the new country. He may have had a push, but certainly felt the pull of America.

The history of the human race is one of departures and arrivals, of push and pull. I myself uprooted my family twenty-five years ago to settle in West Cork. The push was disaffection with city life in the fast lane. The pull was the beauty and slower pace of the countryside. The hope was to make a better life for me and my daughters. Like my grandfather before me, I was lucky to have the option to leave, and was welcomed in my new home which offered new opportunities and a better lifestyle. I like to think that our family, spread out as it is on both sides of the Atlantic have contributed to the communities where we settled. ..

If you get a chance , go and see the new exhibition at the Glucksman in UCC, hosted by the Clonakilty Friends of Asylum Seekers: MARKING TIME: The Glucksman UCC June 2 – June 12.

Marking Time is an exhibition of textile, tattoo and photography by and with women currently residing in a Direct Provision centre in Clonakilty. There will be an open reception on Wednesday June 7 at 11am. All welcome.

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This year Wild Atlantic Tag sponsored by Marine Harvest will take place in Adrigole on Saturday August 5th. All are welcome, whether you are a team entry or an individual looking to join a team. The teams will be divided into two sections, Social & Seriously Social! Please contact Sean (0879568363) or Joey (0879865827) to register. It promises to be great craic with plenty of refreshments available pre and post-match! Fantastic local musician Eoghan McEllhenny will entertain the rugby masses from 4.30pm followed by Peadar O’Callaghan and renowned Natural Gas will round off the night from 9.30pm! ... See MoreSee Less

14th July, 2017  ·  

A woodland walk will take place on the 22nd June at 7pm in Glengarriff Nature Reserve. This is a great opportunity to learn about woodlands, their plants and wildlife and is an opportunity not to be missed. Glengarriff Nature Reserve was designated as a Nature reserve in 1991, and covers over 300 acres in size. It is a beautiful and unique woodlands containing many different habitats and is owned and managed by NPWS primarily for conservation and amenity purposes. The event is led by National Parks Ranger Clare Heardman and has been organised by Cork Nature Network For further information please contact ... See MoreSee Less

19th June, 2017  ·  

Union Hall lifeboat Station are looking for a volunteer lifeboat training coordinator. See poster for details. ... See MoreSee Less

13th June, 2017  ·  

Michael Collins House presents ‘Revolutionaries’ - an exhibition by renowned artist Jim Fitzpatrick at Emmet Square, Clonakilty.
Official opening on Fri 16th June at 7.30pm as part of the Clonakilty Organic Arts Festival. All welcome and note that the exhibition runs up until Sunday 30th July.
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9th June, 2017  ·  

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