Sculpture by the Sea at Cottesloe Beach, Western Australia

On March 17 last I was delighted to be introduced to the famous annual Cottesloe Sculpture by the Sea event in Western Australia. Not only was it my first trip to Western Australia’s most iconic beach, it was fascinating to see some 70 pieces of Artwork on display in the open (and no vandalism!) Appreciation of   modern art installations can sometimes be something of a challenge for me, but these modern sculptures were right on my plane and I loved them. I hope you like them too!

I do not have a name for each work, but they are good to look at anyhow!

Loved this spinning flower

Flower in  the wind

Flower in the wind

Bulk Carrier

Bare feet often seen at a beach!

Bottle top Monsters

And what about some Bottle Bottoms?

Bottle Bottoms!

Bottle Bottoms!

Stuff from the seashore

More Monsters!

Surfboard Graveyard?

SurfingSharks

SurfingSharks

Killer Wave…..

Of course it is hard to improve on nature –  this is my own piece of artwork –  people enjoying beautiful Cottesloe Beach!

Cottesloe Art - by Me ! Enjoying the beach!

Cottesloe Art – by Me ! Enjoying the beach!

Thanks to my friend Leith, for a great afternoon!

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Filed under Emigration from Ireland, My Travels

Shamrock and Celtic Crosses

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A typical Celtic Cross Memorial at Karrakatta Cemetery

I recently enjoyed an extended trip to Australia. During my time there, I was struck by the strong connection to Ireland expressed by Irish ex-pats, the great pride they have in their Irishness, and the esteem in which many of these Irish emigrants are held by Australians.I hope to share some of my great and unexpected experiences in the coming weeks. Towards the end of my visit, I had to visit Karrakatta Cemetery, just outside Perth, in Western Australia in search of a particular grave.

This is a vast cemetery, covering some 98 hectares, with a mausoleum, a Crematorium, a Commonwealth Graves Commission Section , and a  Dutch War Graves section, in which the victims of the WW2 Japanese bombings in Broome are buried. (I have written about these latter two in an earlier  post here.) Since it opened in April 1899, Karrakatta Cemetery has been the last resting place for over 201,000 people,  and 189,000 cremations have been carried out here. On this visit I was looking for the  grave of an Irishman.The cemetery is divided into denominational areas  representing 37 different religions and ethnic groups. Prior to my visit I had identified the grave I wished to see online,and made my way to it along the well laid out paths, with the help of a map.

I returned by a different route and was surprised  to see so many Celtic Cross monuments close together, in an older part of the cemetery, I was in the Roman Catholic section, yet I was struck by the sheer number of these very Irish headstones. There are many different styles of  Celtic Cross  here, yet all embellished with Shamrock. There are no more Irish symbols than the iconic Shamrock and the Celtic Cross.

Gaynor Family Grave

Gaynor Family Grave

The majority of the crosses bear the IHS Monogram at the intersection of the arms and the upright sections, yet  it appears to be absent on  this very fine example in Gaynor Family monument, above

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Grave of the Cullity Family from County Kerry

My friend Chris Goopy, has a blog entitled Irish Graves – They who sleep in Foreign Lands where she accepts images of Irish graves for publication. She has published a number of images I sent from Karrakatta, on which an Irish origin  - town or County – was clearly stated. The Cullity’s from County Kerry memorial above is included on her website.

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A broken Celtic Cross lies abandoned

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One of my favourite Celtic Crosses on the McCarthy grave

The majority of these  Celtic Cross headstones did not have any mention of Ireland, but they surely are strong testament to the Irishness of the people who lie beneath them. There is  quite a variety of  Celtic Crosses but all have Shamrock entwined on or carved into them, requiring a certain amount of skill by the monumental masons.DSCF5357Even on plain headstones, the family names are resoundingly Irish. The sheer number of them is quite remarkable. In this photo above 7 Celtic Cross headstones can be seen. DSCF5359 As with the O’Dea headstone above, this image has a representation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a Catholic symbol included in the design , with the image surrounded by Shamrock on the O’Callaghan memorial.DSCF5355 The Hon Timothy Quinlan was born in Borrisokane Co Tipperary in 1861 and emigrated to Australia with his family at the age of 2 years. His very Irish memorial records his rise to the top of Western Australian political life.DSCF5348Three different Celtic Crosses. DSCF5347 This memorial towers above the others, and exceptionally shows a harp, another iconic Irish symbol. (The one depicted here is the reverse of the official Irish symbol).  John Hardy was a native of County Antrim and a veteran of the Crimean War. He emigrated to Australia in 1866, at the age of 42,and ended up as a Pensioner Guard at Fremantle prison. His full (and colourful) military record can be seen here.

DSCF5351 These headstones with their Celtic Crosses date from the very early 20th Century. As such they would either be Irish-born or children of Irish-born emigrants who went here in search of a new life. The Daly monument here shows the link to Cork Ireland, in contrast to the image below of  a tragic pair of young men, possibly brothers and young  emigrants, or sons of Irish  emigrants , who lost their lives in accidents. Their headstone is a simple one yet included the Celtic Cross and Shamrock as testament to their origins.

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Emigration was no protection from grief and heartbreak. This Cantwell headstone is as sad as the monument to a 26-year-old wife below.

Julia Prendiville, a young wife who died at the age of 26

Julia Prendiville, a young wife who died at the age of 26

Julia sadly appears to lie alone in her grave. Inscribed at the  base  is this verse that provides an insight into the choice of a  Celtic Cross emblazoned with Shamrock as a permanent memorial for graves of Irish in this sandy place, 10.000 miles from home. It reads:

”A Celtic Cross raise o’er me,

and the Shamrock round it twine;

‘Twill tell the land that bore me

that the dear old faith was mine”

 

Further Information:

The IHS symbol

Hon. Timothy Quinlan Biographical Note

John Hardy Military Record 

Irish High Crosses 

Karrakatta Cemetery

 

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Filed under Emigration from Ireland, Ireland, Ireland and the World, Irish Australian, Irish Diaspora, Social History Ireland

Flying Boats and River Boats at Foynes

Flying Boat. Full scale replica of Boeing 314

Flying Boat. Full scale replica of Boeing 314

On a beautiful sunny day, too hot to sit out, I headed 10 miles north to the cooling waters of the River Shannon and pulled in to the Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum. What a serendipitous decision that was, with the Museum  about to celebrate 75 years of commercial transatlantic flight. Imagine!  ONLY  75 years since those flights began, and haven’t they come a long way as we now criss-cross the Atlantic without giving it a second thought!

imageAt Foynes, just 15 minutes  off the Wild Atlantic Way from Tarbert, Co Kerry,the only Flying Boat Museum in the world is in the original terminal building right on the main street on the N69 Tralee to Limerick road.

Rineanna had been selected as the location for an airport as the wide River Shannon estuary on Ireland’s west coast  made identification easy for pilots who had crossed the 2,000+ miles  of Atlantic Ocean. While the new airport at Rineanna – now Shannon Airport – was being built, it was decided that Foynes, further down the estuary,would be a good interim location for the European Terminal.  After some test flights in either direction, on 9 July 1939 the first commercial flight, the Yankee Clipper arrived.

The Museum is full of treasures for aviation enthusiasts as well for the non-expert like me. It is a techy-kids paradise as there are several interactive pieces of equipment on which they can have fun.

The Museum is in three main sections. The Aviation section  is devoted to the history of trans Atlantic flight, the focal point of which is a full-scale replica of the Yankee Clipper. This can be explored at leisure. Upstairs is the very spacious flight deck, relatively devoid of any high-tech banks of dials and gauges.

The B.314 could carry thirty-five passengers in relative luxury. The dining room could seat fourteen at a time for a seven-course meal, freshly prepared by cabin crew. The seats converted to bunk beds for sleeping. and there was even a honeymoon suite on board! There certainly were no leg-room issues here!

With tickets costing up to $600, only the very wealthy could afford to travel on these early flights. Posters advertising exotic destinations adorn the walls of the recreated waiting room

There is a good display of old radio and morse code equipment as well as flight simulators that can be tried out!

There were security issues back in those days too as can be on this notice.

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The new trans Atlantic service attracted a number of wealthy and high profile travellers.

imageAmong the high flyers on these first flights from  New York to Foynes, were Ernest Hemingway, Anthony Eden, John F. Kennedy, Lord Mountbatten, Yehudi Menuhin, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bob Hope, Gracie Fields, Douglas Fairbanks Snr and Humphrey Bogart, and Marilyn Monroe.

Irish Coffee to warm up the frozen passengers

Irish Coffee to warm up the frozen passengers

Irish coffee was invented by chef Joe Sheridan at Foynes in 1943. A Hologram presentation tells the story of the first glass served in the B O’Regan Bar to cold and wet passengers!

On a more sober note, here too is part of the wreck of a BOAC Sunderland that was travelling from Lisbon to Foynes  and crashed into Mount Brandon in Kerry in foggy conditions. 10 crew and passengers, mostly military personnel, lost their lives on July 28 1943

More details of this tragedy can be seen here

Foynes was the centre of European Aviation for a brief time only and ended in 1945 when Shannon Airport opened. Passenger flights ceased at the onset of WW 2 in September 1939, although military traffic continued to use the facility throughout the war. In the 1940s style cinema the story of the ‘Atlantic Conquest’ is fascinating and will be enjoyed by all!

The recently extended Museum now includes a Maritime Section. The River Shannon on which Foynes is located has an impressive history, from Limerick City to Loop Head right at the end of the Estuary.

US Civil War  Confederate uniforms manufactured in Limerick at the Tait factory, were shipped from Foynes, breaking the Union Blockade.

Tate Confederate Uniforms shipped to USA during  Civil war

Tait Confederate Uniforms shipped to USA during Civil war

Not only goods, but people too were exported from the Shannon region. Many emigrants’ had their last glimpses of Ireland here. I was particularly taken with this poster from 1842 advertising passage to USA.

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A poster from 1842 – no fewer than 5 ships would be sailing to American within a few days of one another

Here at the Museum the hand-made weather charts drawn up at Shannon have been preserved in the Archives (miraculously saved from a skip!) Their Archive includes letters, diaries, postcards newspapers relating to Foynes as an air hub and about 200 years of records relating to Foynes as an important harbour, including bills of lading and correspondence between ship owners and others. In addition they hold an extensive collection of papers on Local History as there were a number of prominent and influential families living in this area.

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D-day Weather Chart

The original Control Tower has recently opened and provides great views across the river and is truly the pinnacle of the tour around this wonderful place. Foynes Harbour is Ireland’s premier deepwater bulk carrier port. On the day of my visit, there was no merchant shipping berthed, but the gantries used to load and unload the giant ships up to 250,000 tonnes, can be seen here.

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Sadly the rail station closed in the 1960s, but hopefully some project may be found to utilize this beautiful cut stone building

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Foynes railway station- now closed with Alumina plant in the background

The Celtic Cross peeping out from the trees on the hill was used as a marker by pilots flying into Foynes. This is a memorial to Edmund Spring Rice, a local landlord  and politician who was held in high esteem in the area

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The Spring Rice Cross from the Control Tower

Some nice original feautures have been retained in the old terminal building

There is so much to see at this excellent little museum – surely one of the mid -west’s best kept secrets! It is so well worth a visit and has something for everyone.  It also boasts a coffee shop and restaurant serving up some delicious food and homemade cakes.

To celebrate the 75th Birthday, there will be a spectacular air display tomorrow, out over the wide River Shannon –  it should be a wonderful sight!  Happy Birthday to them!

My thanks to Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum for permission to take photographs  and for the guided tour of their extensive archive during Heritage week in 2013. The archive is accessible to researchers – see website for details.

Further reading:

Foynes Flying Boat Museum

Sunderland G-AGES Crash

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Filed under Ireland, Irish Heritage, Living in Ireland, Transportation

American Independence Day: Remembering How Ireland Forgets

The Silver Voice:

A thought-provoking post for July 4th., highlighting that the Irish contribution to the American Civil War by many Famine emigrants is largely ignored in Ireland. These men had to flee the hunger and sickness in this famine stricken country, but did we forget them as soon as they sailed away? At a recent Conference in Ballinasloe Co. Galway on ‘Understanding Ireland’s Great famine: New Perspectives’, a contributor made a strong point to the effect that it was not only Kennedy’s who left these shores and helped shape the USA, but that untold numbers Irish men and women played a pivotal role in shaping that nation, yet they have disappeared from Irish memory.

Originally posted on Irish in the American Civil War:

Today is the 4th July, Independence Day in the United States. Throughout the day there will undoubtedly be a number of Irish-American themed stories and soundbytes in Ireland, as is appropriate given our historic links with the United States. From my own perspective, it is also a day to reflect on just how much Ireland as a nation chooses to neglect that relationship with her diaspora in America. This neglect in memory is becoming starker and starker when remembrance of the American Civil War is measured against the efforts being poured into our only other comparable experience of conflict- World War One. A mere 49 years separate these two events, the only in Irish history where 200,000 + Irishmen marched off to war.

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny with President Barack Obama in The White House (Wikipedia)

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny with President Barack Obama in The White House (Wikipedia)

With the 100th anniversary of the Great War on the horizon in August, many impressive new…

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God, she struck me till she tired of it

“God, she struck me till she tired of it”  These were the words of Hannah Herrity, describing one of the many beatings administered by her father’s second wife.

The story of Hannah Herrity, produced by Dunfanaghy Workhouse

The story of Hannah Herrity, produced by Dunfanaghy Workhouse

Hannah Herrity lived through the hunger and deprivations of the Famine in Ireland. She told  her life story to a Mrs Law who befriended her and who wrote her story exactly as Hannah recounted it. These oral history manuscripts recording  the life of  “Wee” Hannah as she is known, now form the basis of a  permanent exhibition in the Dunfanaghy Heritage Centre, located in the old Dunfanaghy Workhouse, County Donegal.

Dunfanaghy Workhouse, Co. Donegal

Dunfanaghy Workhouse, Co. Donegal

Hannah Herrity was born in Derryreel, just outside Falcarragh, County Donegal, Ireland in 1835 or 1836. She was the eldest child of a local travelling tailorman and his wife Susy. In the early years of the Famine (probably 1847 or 1848) Susy died in childbirth with her 5th child. Hannah describes how her poor mother suffered and tells of her being laid out with the newborn baby beside her and how she felt her father’s tears of sorrow falling on her hair and face…Hannah would have been about 9 or 10  years of age.

Hannah’s father married a neighbour girl to care for the four surviving children, but as Wee Hannah recounted,”God help us, it was the black day for us he took her”. She was subjected to many beatings – neighbours would rescue her and allow her to stay at their home, safe from the enraged stepmother.

The soup pot at Dunfanaghy Workhouse

The soup pot at Dunfanaghy Workhouse

At the height of the Famine, Hannah sometimes had  to go to get the ‘broth’ in the village, each family having a ticket depending on the number in the household. She staggered and crawled home with it, too weak with hunger to walk properly, and so ravenous that she was tempted to help herself to the contents.  There were four houses that had land to grow oats in Hannah’s locality, otherwise people like the Herrity’s went hungry. Hannah did not seem to get her fair share of rations at home and often the neighbours would give her food, knowing that she was being starved by her stepmother. Two of her younger brothers died during this time.

Following a particularly severe beating and fearful that she might be killed while he was away, Hannah’s father arranged for her to go into service with a kind old lady in Doe who fed her and kept her happily for three years. After the old lady passed away, Hannah went to work for an unkind man who paid her badly and worked her hard and did not give her sufficient food and here her health began to fail. Eventually poor Hannah had to leave employment and had to walk over 60 miles (100km) to the hospital in Lifford where she remained for a year, and where, even though she was sick, she had to work.

Eventually Hannah ended up in Dunfanaghy Workhouse. She  described the horrors of life there with a particularly cruel matron ..”well there’d be maybe seven or eight dead in the morning..And god help us, she would strip the bed clothes down off them, and they’d be pulled out on the floor..the weemen said you’d hear the head of the corpse cracking down the steps till it was put in the dead house below”

A Seven Body Coffin as used at the Workhouse. The bottom slid open so it could be reused

A Seven Body Coffin as used at the Workhouse. The bottom slid open so it could be reused

Hannah survived the awful experience and spent many years afterwards travelling about from farm to farm taking work where she could get it,wandering the roads around Sheephaven Bay,finding kindness in some houses, and none in others. Eventually she could no longer work and took to begging.

Engraved glass on the door to the Dunfanaghy Workhouse Heritage Centre

Engraved glass on the door to the Dunfanaghy Workhouse Heritage Centre

She came to the attention of  Mrs  Law, wife of the local member of Parliament, who arranged for a one- room cottage to be built for Wee Hannah in Parkmore, and here she lived out the remainder of her life in relative comfort. The neighbours were good to her and saw that she did not want for anything. Mrs Law  interviewed Hannah and recorded the story of her eventful life exactly as Hannah told it.

Hannah (Heraghty) Herrity appears on the 1911 census, as the head of her little household in Parkmore. Here we can see where she applied her mark to the census record as she was unable to read or write. She died in 1926 at about 90 years of age. Thanks to Mrs Law, Wee Hannah’s story  is heard by hundreds of visitors to the Dunfanaghy Workhouse, a real reminder of the brutality of life for  the poor in 19th Century Ireland.

Sheephaven Bay and Dunfanaghy from Horn Head. Image Wikimedia Commons

Sheephaven Bay and Dunfanaghy from Horn Head. Image Wikimedia Commons

Outside Dunfanaghy there are three graveyards – the Catholic one and the Protestant one and  between the two is the Paupers Graveyard where victims of the Famine are buried.  Wee Hannah Herrity lies beside her friend Mrs Law in the Catholic part.

 

I am truly grateful to Dungfanaghy Workhouse for sending me the beautiful image below of the marker in the Famine Graveyard. It is a very fitting tribute to those who are interred here in a ‘no-man’s land’ between the two other graveyards. Basic, stark and rugged – such was their lives and deaths.

imageWee Hannah’s story played out in the general area where I grew up. I lived  some 14 miles from her home and at one time my great uncle was a catholic priest in Falcarragh and my grandmother was his housekeeper. I wonder did they know her?  Hannah worked out at Horn Head at one time, a beautiful headland that I saw every day from my bedroom window. At one point she told of being out in the snow and falling into a drain in my own Rosguill area. Growing up, we never heard of a person like  Hannah, making her way alone through life in such deprivation and hardship.

On the day of our visit to Dunfanaghy Workhouse last year torrential rain made photography difficult.  A future project will be to take photographs of Hannah’s Places for this blog.

Dunfanaghy Workhouse is well worth a visit. Here you will hear Hannah’s story in her own words. The exceptionally friendly and helpful staff are very knowledgeable about the area and they have an excellent coffee shop!  ‘The story of Wee Hannah as told to Mrs Law’ is available in their shop. Visit their website at http://www.dunfanaghyworkhouse.ie

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Filed under Ireland, Irish Heritage, Irish History, Oral History, Social History Ireland

So..where are the bodies buried?

A  few weeks ago a good friend Chris Goopy, shared a post on Facebook that immediately caught my attention.

Roscrea Castle. Image Wikimedia Commons

Roscrea Castle. Image Wikimedia Commons

It was a story that epitomized all that is  spoken of and celebrated in the Irish character – helpfulness, friendliness and hospitality. The story is set in Roscrea Co Tipperary.

Very few towns in Ireland can boast a castle, friary ruins, a round tower and a high cross, but Roscrea can. Roscrea is a small  pretty town in County Tipperary, that not only has these fantastic links back to her history, but also has very active and obliging members of Ireland Reaching Out.

Ireland Reaching Out  was a government backed concept that captured the imagination as it was genealogy in reverse. The idea was to train local volunteers  at parish level who would make contact with their diaspora with a view to getting them to reconnect with their roots. It was  very succesful in some parishes. Ireland Reaching Out has now teamed up with Ancestry to facilitate training at local level under the title of Reaching Out Together and it is to be hoped that this new partnership will put give a new lease of life to the original concept.

Ireland Reaching Out is however alive and well and thriving in Roscrea - This story was written by Eamon Horan who is  involved with the very active Roscrea Reaching Out and tells  of a search for relatives of a lady from New Mexico and is reproduced here:

Round Tower. Image Wikimedia Commons

Eamon wrote:

”So where are the bodies buried?

This story of graveyard searching all started with a letter I received posted from of all places Albuquerque, New Mexico. And yes, it’s along long long way from here to there but the subject matter of the letter was Intriguing and the challange it offered was just what was needed in March morning of 2014. All the training which I had taken over the previous two years with Ireland Reaching Out http://www.irelandxo.com could now be put to good use. Here was a challenge worth the chase.

The letter writer Mary Leonard ( retired nurse ) was coming to Ireland in April with the hope of reuniting with her long lost Irish family specifically her Great Grandmother whose family named Dwane (misspelled on entry to the U.S. as Duane) had lived and worked in the Roscrea region but like millions of others had emigrated to the U.S. in 1846 fleeing, as they were, from the beginning of the worst tragedy in Irish history the Great Hunger (An Gorta Mor). Mary had gathered a lot of information from earlier family stories and writings and was able to lay a good foundation to a potential search and of great help was info that her brother had recorded of his findings on a trip to Roscrea in 1950. He had found two headstones of the family in the Catholic cemetery of Roscrea with the correct family names and dates.

So my search seemed on the face of it to be very simple find those two headstones in the local cemetery and bingo another satisfied customer. Wrong. There is nothing simple about searching for families in the Roscrea group of parishes. Roscrea is divided into two provinces, Munster and Leinster, three Counties,Tipperary, Offaly (King’s) and Laoise (Queen’s) and numerous rural Parishes surrounding the town for many many miles all with their own graveyards. Many many graveyards. However, the notations on the headstones were recorded in 1950 as follows. Erected in memory of Hugh Dwane, born 1826, died 1869 by Mr & Mrs Henry Trench and their son Henry Bloomfield Trench in gratefully remembrances of faithful services from boyhood until death. And beside it the other stone reading erected by Hugh Dwane in memory of his beloved father William Dwane 1848 age 57.

Roscrea the town boasts of 1000 years of history and its cemetery reflect that longevity but I was satisfied by our local undertaker who has a database of local graves was the first point of contact. He assured me that he was not familiar with the name Dwane and to his knowledge there were no Dwanes buried in his domaine. I had a little root around myself but in vain. But as I am Roscrea born and of an advancing age I remembered the name Trench (headstone) was from a bye gone era of Landlords who occupied three large houses, Sopwell (Ballingarry, N.Tipp), Cangort(Shinrone)and Redwood (Lorrha) with large tracts of lands attached. http://www.grantonline.com/grant-family-individuals/places/trench-houses.htm

Further research of the headstone with reference to ‘Bloomfield’ confirmed that the mostly likely big House where Hugh Dwane worked through his lifetime was ” Cangort” in the historic village of Shinrone, Offaly. So my first graveyard search then took me and my brother (search helper) to the old Church of Ireland in which the Barack Obama ancestors are to be found. But no luck. So next step was to call on the local historian Noel McMahon who lives in the village and has two books published on Shinrone. Noel and his wife Margaret are avid gardeners and I was delighted to get a tour of their quite outstanding garden a haven of tranquility. He pointed out that there were pictures of a Dwane Priest and Sister in his books who were most likely related to my search family and he suggested that the ancestors were most likely buried in the ancient Kilcomin Church grounds two miles from the village. http://www.grantonline.com/grant-family-genealogy/Tipperary/Shinrone/shinrone-history.htm a place set apart, home to St.Cuimin who founded his Abbey here in 630 AD.

So a search of the graves followed with great expectations of a find but, alas, no luck. Next day I met Mary Leonard in her Roscrea B&B http://www.slidala.com/ owned and operated by another Shinrone person Marie Warren who was keenly interested in a successful outcome to her guests search. We could not have this guest coming all the way from New Mexico going back home without finding her beloved ancestors. I should add that Mary on arrival immediately set to search the archives of St.Cronan’s Church, Roscrea and the surrounding graveyard herself but here again to no avail.

Next day Mary & I drove to the next most likely Graveyard C of I in the village of Ballingarry, N.Tipperary, burial place of the ‘Trench’ families. Here we diligently searched and searched but hear again no Dwane’s. And so back into the car and off to see the ‘big house’ of Sopwell home to one of Irelands largest Landlord families up until the 1960′ies. On our way I passed a bungalow and noticed two people working on their very beautiful front garden. I stopped reversed and sought advice as to the whereabouts of our elusive Dwane family. What a delightful surprise, it could only happen in beautiful Ireland. Yes, he (John Ryan) was familiar with that surname and seeing as the day was nice and sunny they dropped the gardening put on the wellies and joined us in our search.

John and his very jovial partner joined us in my car and directed us to a very hidden graveyard, Uskane near Borrisokane. But ,alas, no further joy. No Dwans. I was beginning to dispair but Mary was loving the whole Irishness of our tour. But John had an ace card to play and he led us to the house of Michael Delahunt ( Sopwell) whom I now know to be the foremost authority on names of families, burial places and graveyard recordings in N.Tipp. Without his wonderful help given friendly & freely I am afraid our day would have been a failure. Michael evidently has spent his life’s work in researching and recording the graveyards of North Tipp and this all long before the invention of the modern computer. His ‘front room’ is his library of all that has been forgotten in N.Tipp. Michael actually knew the recent family of Dwans and had a detailed knowledge in his memory of where the ancestors were buried he then went on to sketch out on the ground with his walking stick the last known house of the Dwane family in the district just a mile or so from his front gate (now bulldozed). Things were looking up, Mary was getting excited. But wonder of all wonders Michael referred back to his countless journals of grave recordings in his front room and was able to come up with the exact location of the two elusive Headstones of the older Dwane burials. Surprise, surprise. He said, with conviction that we would find those stones where? Back inside the front entrance to ROSCREA’s cemetery 100 yards to the right from the Franciscan Archway.

It was getting late when we arrived back in Roscrea and the search was now in a delicate state of anxiety, would we find the elusive headstones or not. Would Mary go back to Albuquerque, New Mexico empty handed with stories of half crazy Irish people leading Tourists on make believe headstone tours. Well the finale to any good story is, of course, the one with the happy ending and so it was for this search. There within feet of where Michael Delahunt said they would be were the headstones much to Mary Leonard’s delight and to my great relief. And so we adjourned to the local Alehouse to celebrate our good fortune of reuniting Mary with her long lost family. Mary flew home to New Mexico a very happy Lady with stories to tell.

But the story didn’t finish there. A few days after her departure a fellow IROxo enthusiest, Ann DeRoe who lives in Shinrone called to say that she had discovered the modern burial place of the family in Shinrone R.C. graveyard and has a connection to living relatives who possibly live in Portumna. Mary Leonard’s Brother & family are now planning on visiting Ireland and hope to make the connection with living relations after 150 years of seperation. And the lesson to be learned from this story is that Ireland Reaching Out is a really worthwhile concept connecting the Diaspora (all 60 million)back to their roots and hopefully Tourism Ireland will be a major winner in the process. All this in keeping with my earlier career working then in Canada for Air Canada but my heart was always ‘home in old Ireland’ land of wanderers dreamers of exiles but ‘not forgotten people’.”

Roscrea_Friary_Choir_2010_09_03

The Franciscan Friary Roscrea. Image Wikimedia Commons

What a heart-warming tale this is and surely one that will inspire many of our diaspora to have a go at tracing their ancestors. Not only that, but a few days earlier I had heard first hand from Janet Maher (mahermatters.com) of  a very similar experience she had in tracing her ancestors in the same general area in recent weeks.

I am grateful to Eamon Horan for giving his permission to reproduce his story here, and to Joe of ‘Roscrea through the ages’, who facilitated contact with him. Thank you both!

 

Useful links

Roscrea through the ages on Facebook

Ireland Reaching Out

Irish Genealogy Toolkit is a free site run by Claire Santry and is an absolute must for anyone tracing Irish Ancestry.

Irish Genealogy News   is a blog run by Claire giving all the latest news on Irish Genealogy.

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Postcards from Bunratty, Co. Clare

This week I enjoyed  a stroll around Bunratty where I had gone to meet an internet blog friend from the USA who had been in Ireland doing some research for a book. (What a fascinating and interesting  woman Janet Maher is –  she blogs at Mahermatters.com).  It was a warm,sunny afternoon – just perfect for an amble in this world-famous tiny village. Bunratty  lies between Limerick City and Shannon Airport on the Limerick to Galway road, and is one of Ireland’s premier tourist attractions. It is particularly pleasant now that the heavy traffic has been diverted to a bypass, making it a great place for pedestrians and for those who wish to stop a while.

Bunratty  Castle

Bunratty Castle

Dating from 1425, Bunratty Castle was restored in the 1960s. It is now Ireland’s most complete medieval fortress,open to the public and hosting the daily world-famous medieval banquets. Bunratty Castle is part of the Bunratty Folk Park complex – with its 19th century village street, that includes a school-house, post office and pub as well as many more attractions.  A captivating place that takes us back to see how our ancestors lived in their thatched houses  - a gateway to our past! I did not have time to take in the Folk Park this time, but it is indeed well worth a visit!

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There are some birds in the area who enjoy their distinguished address…who would have a nest in a draughty old tree when there is 1st class accommodation available at  the castle?

 

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Bunratty not only has a wonderful castle and folk park, it is also home to Durty Nelly’s, probably the most famous pub in Ireland.

imageNelly was a character who collected a toll from those crossing the bridge. She supposedly provided travellers with Poitín as well as other comforts! It is said that her Poitín  increased virility and helped childless couples to have large families!

The bridge that led to Durty Nelly’s and Bunratty Castle crosses the Ratty river that flows into the River Shannon.

Caislean Oir by Fred Conlon

Caislean Oir by Fred Conlon

Just opposite the Castle is a sculpture entitled Caiseal Oir  by Fred Conlon. This imposing piece was inspired by the artefacts found in the Mooghaun Gold Hoarddiscovered during the construction of the Limerick to Ennis railway line in the 1850s.

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An old green telephone box is located near Blarney Woollen Mills. Every village used to have one of these green phone boxes, and nearby there is a post box that dates from the reign of Edward VII. These ‘British’ letter boxes, remnants of our history have thankfully been retained. They are protected structures, now in green livery and not the original pre-independence red colour.

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Edward VII Letter box (1902 – 1910) opposite Bunratty Castle

The banks of the river provide safe berths for many small boats.

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A look at the distant Clare hills…

 

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Bunratty is truly at the heart of the mid west region and well worth a visit  by tourists from home and abroad …you will not be disappointed!

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