Monday, February 5, 2018

Leaving Donegal, Ireland

Brightscapes: The Way To Beauty
Leaving Donegal, Ireland
acrylic paint on canvas board
8" x 10" (20.3 cm x 25.4 cm)
© copyright Michael Kraus

This is the last time Frank Duff will see his home. A vanishing glimpse of Donegal, Ireland aboard the ship Eliza slowly heading for America.  While he loves his home, he and his wife, Anna, know there is no future for them there.  For generations, Frank and his family farmed the land.  Their hard labor put food on the table, clothes on their backs, and maybe a little extra to barter when times were difficult.

That all changed when the English exiled the Gaelic leaders from Ireland.  The British made it illegal for Catholics to worship, vote, speak their language, and own property.  With their farm stolen from them, English absentee landlords demanded high rents that they could never afford.  The debt became so large that they were forced off their farm to become migrant farmers traveling through Ulster and Scotland.  Their days consisted of walking barefoot to work and fighting wild dogs for food.  And they'd watch each other die from malnutrition only to be buried in mass graves.

This group of religious/political refugees on the ship Eliza were not welcomed to America.  They practiced the "foreign religion" of Catholicism that "pledged allegiance to the Pope."  Fear was purposely spread that these Irish would bring crime to their cities and they were rapists.  These Irish were coming to take away jobs and their many children would drain the welfare budgets with their diseases and laziness.  So, when the boat docked in New Castle, Delaware, Frank and Anna were now afraid of their new home too.

Frank and Anna Duff were my 5th great-grandparents.  They left the east coast to established a farm in the distant wilderness of Butler, Pennsylvania.  Several generations worked the land and eventually became machinists in factories, firefighters, bridge builders, and soldiers in war and peace.
They only wanted a chance at a better life and I remember their story.

Michael Kraus was born on the industrial shoreline of Muskegon, Michigan. After earning his Fine Arts Degree from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he attended Grand Valley State University for his graduate degree. From there, he gained varied experiences from the Chicago Architecture Foundation, Art Institute of Chicago, Hauenstein Center For Presidential Studies, Lollypop Farm Humane Society, and the Children's Memorial Foundation. And every place he worked, he had his sketchbook with him and found ways to be actively creative. In 2014, Kraus became a full-time artist by establishing Mike Kraus Art. Since then, he has sold hundreds of paintings that are displayed in nearly every state and dozens of countries. Currently, Kraus lives in Rochester, New York with his beautiful wife and goofy dog.

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