It’s a small world after all: Ireland town has ties to Bayonne

Posted: Updated:
DUNGLOE, Ireland -

It seems that anywhere a New Jersey resident goes, they run into another person from New Jersey.

The state has the highest percentage of United States passport holders than any other state, so it may not be surprising to run into a fellow Garden Stater.

News 12’s Brian Donohue found this out during his recent trip to Ireland. Donohue visited a town in the rugged northwest corner of the country known as Dungloe. He was there in time for the annual Mary from Dungloe Festival – a competition to see which of the contestants from far and wide will be crowned this year's Mary. There was a London Mary, Miami Mary, Dublin Mary, and even India Mary.

But what Donohue says he did not expect to run into was “Bayonne Mary,” also known as Colleen Mernar

“Of course I'm in the northwest corner of Ireland and I run into someone from Bayonne,” Donohue said.

“Of course, as one does,” Mernar said.

Mernar, of Bayonne, has family roots in Dungloe. Her family still has a house owned by her grandmother and they come back to visit often.

“It's great because I have family here in Dungloe and we're able to come back and enjoy everything with them. It’s fantastic,” she says.

Bayonne and Dungloe has a deep tie among the two towns – two ends of an immigration pipeline in the early 20th century. The Bayonne Donegal Association was formed in 1932 and they've sent a contestant to the festival ever since.

Mernar, who works as a nurse in Manhattan, struggled a bit with the Irish language component of the competition. But she embraced the chance to keep these old ties between two small corners of the globe strong.

“I was walking down the street earlier this week and somebody came over to me and said, ‘Oh, I lived in Bayonne 30 years and I came and moved back. But do you know this person and this person and this person and this person?’ and I knew all of them…It’s crazy how small a world it is,” Mernar says.

Unfortunately, News 12 has learned that Mernar did not win the Mary from Dungloe crown. It went to a contestant from New York.

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