"To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake it is necessary to stand out in the cold."
"What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness."
- John Steinbeck
What do the following families have in common? The Ryans, O'Phelans, Caughlins, Mulhalls, Connollys, Murphys, Sheas and Picketts. They all came from southern lreland to settle what would become known as Proton Township's lrish Settlement. The stories of these early lrish families are colourful so let's meet some of them. Pierce O'Phelan and his family came from County Tipperary. Settling for a time in Thorold to work on the railroad, they arrived in Proton in 1856. There, on a series of adjacent lots, the Phelans farmed for many decades, raising large families. Over forty children were born to the four Phelan families. Like many other Grey County residents, the majority of them would move west to the Canadian prairies or onto ranches south of the border. William Pickett from County Cork arrived in Canada in 1840, landing in New York. Making his way north, he was taken in by Jesuit missionaries who educated and trained him as a stable boy. William made many trips on horseback with the Jesuit fathers, going as far north as Owen Sound and stopping at small lrish settlements along the way. lt was there that he discovered the lrish Settlement in Proton. Marrying Ann Kelly, he raised a family until retiring from farming. And then there was John Mulhall. Born in County Wicklow, he married Elizabeth Buckley in lreland, immigrating to Canada in the 1850s. Acquiring land in the lrish Settlement, John slept under a tree all one summer while he built a house for his wife and children. Some members of the family went west to Alberta but today, you will find many a mailbox around the lrish Settlement with the name Mulhall on it.