American Visitor in Dungannon

After her retirement from Television in 1954 Beulah moved to Carmel Valley, California. There she and Bill built a lovely home in the hills where she was able to have horses and pursue her dream to write novels. Three novels were published by John Day in the early 1960s, two based on the life of her father (Keepers of the Bell and Wild Imp). Later she wrote about the California Missions in The Listening One (also published by John Day) and Old Father’s Long Journey (Published by CLC Press).

Two additional works are available online through CLC Press. They are Papa’s Story, the story of her father from about the time he married Beulah’s mother and Mary of Agreda, a story of a nun from Spain whose visits to the American Southwest are the basis of native American legends of the “Lady in Blue.” Mary of Agreda never actually left Spain, but was able to describe in great detail the peoples of the Southwest and communications with them.

But i digress…this story appeared in a local Irish newspaper on the occasion of Beulah’s first trip abroad.

from the Dungannon (Ireland) Observer, June 26, 1954

Staying at present in the Northland Arms Hotel is Mrs. William J. Powers, of Chicago, U.S.A. Exactly half of her two weeks stay in this country has been spent in Dungannon. The modest people in this town will be inclined to raise their eyebrows in unaffected astonishment at this phenomenon.

The explanation is simple. Mrs. Powers has reason to believe that her father, Mr. William Mullen came from around these parts and is assiduously tracing his ancestry — so far with little success. He left this country about 1867 at an early age to work in the coalmines in Newcastle. From there he entered the shipping business in Edinburgh and hence emigrated to San Francisco where he made a great name for himself, but more of that later. He was a great horseman. Mrs Powers is certain that he came from Co. Tyrone, but her only other clue as to hes whereabouts is his occasional mention of Moy. His mother’s name was Henry. Combining his interest in mining and horses and his mention of Moy, Mrs. Powers has deduced, and rightly so, I think that he probably came from somewhere within a ten mile radius of Dunagannon. He seemed to have had some previous experience of mining and where else woud he get this in the country other than in Coalisland where the canal, which latterly was used to bring coal from Belfast to the town was originally built to transport it from Coalisland to that city.

Visit Curtailed
Mrs. Powers has unfortunately had to curtail her stay here and to cancel her projected tour of Europe owing to the sudden illness of her aunt who accompanied her, and who is now in the South Tyrone Hospital. They plan to fly back to America as soon as she is fit to travel.

Smart well-dressed and youthful, Mrs. Powers combines the vitality of the New World with a warmth and friendliness which betrays her Irish ancestry. Intelligent, gifted and energetic, she has evidently inherited many qualities from her father who must have been a remarkable man.

The San Francisco Earthquake
He rose to a position of importance in San Francisco and after the great quake of 1906 was appointed by the Governor of the city to organise relief camps for the destitute. His work in this sphere was so remarkable as to catch the eye of Hollywood, who some years ago made a film of it. Mrs. Powers, who has appeared on television in America and has all her life been engaged in newspaper work, is at last realising her ambition to write a novel. This, her first book, is based to a certain extent upon the character of her father, and for this reason she is very anxious to catch the spirit and atmosphere of Ireland between the years 1855-65, which was his background. She spent a busy week in Dublin listing the willing aid of the Folklore Commission and Au Bord Failte. She told our reporter that she was very satisfied with the results and only regrets that her time here is so short.

A Contrast
Her father was responsible for initiating a great irrigation scheme in San Joaquin, California, which gave much needed water to a parched but fertile soil. Perhaps Mr. Mullen was urged onto his invention by his boyhood memories of our soft Irish rain. If only we could we could export this commodity, what a rich nation we would be. There would be none of the customary outcry against free trade in this commodity.

Asked about her impressions of Ireland and its people, Mrs. Powers said that the thing which stood out most clearly to her were the firm spiritual values which this nation held. She said that on the whole, such values were not met with in materialistic America and when they were, as sometimes especially with American-Irish, they stood out impressively. She thought that we in Ireland did not appreciate our good fortune in this respect being as it were all the same sea-worthy boat. She said that the Irish in America were liked everywhere. ” Indeed, I venture to say that they are THE most popular nation. They are more loving and affectionate and more ready to give time and friendship to others than their more self-centered American neighbours.” She had no explanation for the query as to why Irishmen abroad work so much harder and get on better materially than they do at home. Possibly a knowledge of history and economics plus a psychological analyses of Irish temperament would explain this characteristic.

Of Dungannon itself, Mrs. Powers had several flattering things to say, though naturally she was chary of criticism before a “native.” She thought the girls pretty and the young men fine and upstanding and was only puzzled at the slow and low marriage rate. Here again a little background knowledge would assist, but since the topic has been flogged to death in newspapers around the country, it is better left without comment. Sufficient to say that Mrs. Powers failed to detect any signs of the Vanishing Irish. To her we seem very much alive and kicking.

Well, there you have it. Mrs Powers or Beulah Karney on stage and television, a charming and unaffected American Lady, slow to critise or make rash judgments, who frankly admits that she likes us but for the complacent spirits let us emphasise she didn’t add “as we are” coming to Ireland for research on her book and to trace her forbears and we hope to enjoy herself. We think that Irish people would be as readily disposed to like Mrs. Powers and hope that she has enjoyed her short stay in Dungannon and that she will meet with some success in her search for Henrys and Mullens. Perhaps readers of this column could help her in this task.

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