She came from a gold-obsessed family, so perhaps it wasn’t so surprising when the treasure bag was found in Hannah’s water closet, but what was this Galway girl even doing in San Francisco?
Anyone who’s ever dabbled in genealogy knows that certain forebears call louder than others – even when they’re not your own. While researching Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson – better known as musical megastar, philanthropist, and activist Katy Perry – I climbed all the branches of her family tree, but became enchanted with Hannah Mulhare, one of her Irish immigrant ancestors.
Perry describes herself as a “singer-songwriter masquerading as a pop star.” As one of the best-selling artists of all time (more than 100 million records to date) with sold-out world tours, she’s nailing that charade, but Hannah’s story makes it clear that Katy’s not the first in the family to pull off such a convincing deception.
Born in Eyrecourt, Ireland in the 1830s to Patrick Mulhare and Sarah Stanton, Anna “Hannah” Maria Mulhare was one of at least ten children. Her mother’s brother had married her father’s sister, producing a tight family cluster that was shattered when her uncle, a Ribbonman who defended the rights of tenants against absentee landlords, was convicted of sedition and transported to Australia in the 1820s. Around the time Hannah was born, her uncle was pardoned and assorted family members – including four of her oldest siblings – began drifting to Australia to join him.
The 1840s ushered in the Great Famine as well as the early days of both the Californian and Australian gold rushes, and it soon became a last-one-to-leave-Galway-turn-out-the-lights situation. While the older contingent of her siblings had opted for Australia and New Zealand, her parents and the younger ones set their sights on America.