Detroit man Frank Sands was in Newry recently on a trip from America for his 80th Birthday celebrations, taking time out at the Canal Court Hotel to tell a little bit of his family's story to Frank now retired spent most of his working life with Chrysler in his hometown of Detroit "I was hired in at Chrysler in 1957 at their missile plant. They built Jupiters and Redstone missiles." The first American in space, Alan Shepard went into space 5th of May 1961 in a Redstone rocket.

Franks father Michael J Sands, born 1905, was raised at Number 3 Moor Hill Road and in 1926 took the long boat trip to America. A year or so earlier he had been shot by the B Specials! As Frank reflects "My kids were over at my parents house - 'Grandpa where'd you get those marks up here' - 'I was shot" That's all that he said." He was shot 3 times by the B Specials in Newry, probably 1924/25. The Newry native worked as a Trolly driver when first he went over and then for Kennedy Dairy in Detroit.

Frank Sands with nephew Keven Sands and cousin Bernie Trainor. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/
Frank Sands with nephew Keven Sands and cousin Bernie Trainor. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/

Franks mother Mary Toner from Rathfriland also travelled to the USA a few years later with her sister, aged 15 and 16 respectively. As Frank adds "They were being sponsored by a couple in Detroit and at the last minute that couple backed out. So now they're in a panic and my Aunt arranged for two persons in Windsor (Canada) to take them in and hire them as housekeepers. So they tried sneaking across the border once and that didn't work and they told them if they tried it again they'd be waiting in line for four or five years." Luckily they waited a year and them got across to the USA.

Frank Sands. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/
Frank Sands. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/

The pair met in East Detroit and got married in 1932, coming back to Newry for their Honeymoon, quite an achievement at the time. They had three sons, two of whom have since passed away. Frank's wife also passed away seven years ago after over 50 years of marriage. He has 4 children, 14 grand children and 2 great grandchildren.

Born in 1938 Frank came over to Newry for the first time in 2005 with his cousin Mike and he has been back quite a few times since.

"My mother said Frank if there had been a bridge to Ireland you would have been there ten times. I said probably because I drove to Florida every year to see family, that's 1200 miles!"

Comparing Newry to Detroit he adds "It's a lot more laid back" before getting ready to continue the birthday celebrations.

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