The Moran Clan Reunites in Brooklyn
By Marian Betancourt, ContributorDecember / January 2010
They came from as far as Luxembourg and as near as a few blocks for a reunion and bus tour of the Brooklyn neighborhoods where their ancestors had lived, beginning with 107 Pioneer Street (now Warren Street) in Red Hook where Michael Moran (1834-1906) lived when he founded Moran Towing in New York harbor more than 150 years ago. Everyone received a lapel sticker with the family crest, three golden stars under the word Moran, and a printout of more than a dozen homes of Morans past provided by Diana Moran Charbier, a great-granddaughter of Michael. Her husband William served as tour guide.
Several of the 17 Morans present this fine September day were descended from Michael’s third son, Eugene (1873-1961), a maritime oracle who became known as The Dean of the Harbor during his long career running the company and apparently New York City as well. (He prevented Robert Moses from putting a bridge between Manhattan and Brooklyn rather than the tunnel we now have.)
Some cousins have kept in touch over the years, but a few were meeting for the first time. Edmund “Ned” Moran, a grandson of Eugene’s brother Thomas, said of his Luxembourg cousin W. Dirk Warren, “I never saw him before today.” Ned, by the way, is the only Moran who still works for Moran Towing, which was sold out of the family in the 1990s.
The lone tug man, Captain John Cray, sporting a handlebar mustache, flew down from Portland, Maine for the day. Cray’s grandmother was Eugene’s sister Agnes Moran (1874-1939). Cray began working for Moran’s East Coast operations and later left to become a pilot on his own and a consultant on tug or piloting operations. Ned told the others how Cray helped settle the tug strikes of the 1980s. “If he had not done that the company would have been very different in the last 40 years.” Another grandson of Agnes, Mike Bellford from Long Island, was also present.
Eugene Dwyer from Virginia handed out a printed Moran genealogy, while his brother Tom from Connecticut offered a map of south Brooklyn with Moran homes noted. Their sister Doris, a Daughter of Charity, has lived in Texas for 38 years. When the Dwyers’ father Thomas married Eugenia Moran in 1930, it connected two Irish families that had been in the maritime trade since the days of the Erie Canal.
Peter Moran, another grandson of Eugene, moved to Maine after a career in finance and service on the board of Moran Towing before it was sold. His siblings, Mike and Marie, were also on hand with their MBMs (Morans by Marriage).
There was much reminiscing on the bus tour. Tom pointed out the house on Third Street where he was born, while his brother Gene got up to photograph each house. Passing Methodist Hospital, Nick Moran, a great-grandson of Eugene’s brother Thomas, said his son, now 8 and a sixth-generation Moran, was born there. Ned, of the third generation, said he was born there, too, but many years earlier.
Passing the entrance to 47 Plaza Street near Prospect Park, Dirk recalled his boyhood visits with his grandfather Eugene. As sponsor of the day’s event, Dirk was nattily dressed in a gray suit with a blue and pink brocade vest and striped tie, perhaps a sartorial inheritance from his grandfather, who was described as “The Elegant Tugman” by a New Yorker magazine writer. Dirk served in Europe during World War II and fell in love with Elz, which is why he lives in Luxembourg. Now he is Luxembourg’s consul to the principality of Lichtenstein. Elz and their daughter Beryl joined him for the reunion.
The mystery of where in Ireland Michael Moran came from is still unsolved. His children understood him to say Killara, but there is no such place. Assuming his brogue was to blame, they investigated Killare in Westmeath, but no stone masons came from there and Michael’s father was a stone mason. Several of the Morans have been to Ireland and believe their ancestor came from somewhere in Westmeath. Perhaps one day there will be a reunion over there.
Most of the Morans had left Brooklyn behind by 1945, but composer and guitarist Nick Moran moved into the Prospect Park area by chance. He did not realize until Diana contacted him about the reunion how many of his ancestors had lived in the neighborhood. The bus dropped the Morans at the 1888 landmark Montauk Club in Park Slope, where all posed for a group photograph before sitting down to lunch.They also peered at a large 1939 framed photo in the club of the duck pins bowling club reunion with Eugene and his brothers’ front and center.
“Seventy years ago,” someone pointed out, “earlier Morans were upstairs having Bloody Marys.”