Tag Archives: Ireland Reaching Out

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’.”


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.


Filed under Emigration from Ireland, Family History, Ireland, Irish Diaspora

Philanthropist Wants to Be Rid of His Last $1.5 Billion

From the New York Times:

Across from a television set with the obsolete girth of a model bought 20 years ago, beneath the grandchildren’s crayon artwork taped to the wall, to the left of an abandoned hula hoop, Charles F. Feeney sits in an armchair and explains how he will get rid of his last $1.5 billion, give or take, by 2016.

Brad Vest/The New York Times

Charles F. Feeney, 81, has already given away $6 billion through his foundations.Just as he did with his first $6 billion, it will all be awarded through Atlantic Philanthropies, the group of private foundations he created in 1982 and managed to run anonymously for its first 15 years, even though it was one of the largest sources of grants in the United States, Ireland, South Africa and Vietnam.

Why shut it down? Mr. Feeney, 81, a man with no romantic attachment to wealth or its trappings, said the world had enough urgent problems that required attention now, before they became even more expensive to solve.

“When you’ve got the money, you spend it,” Mr. Feeney said. “When you’ve spent it all, let someone else get going and spend theirs.”

When the last of its money has been spent and it closes its doors sometime around 2020, Atlantic Philanthropies will be by far the largest such organization to have voluntarily shut itself down, according to Steven Lawrence, director of research for the Foundation Center. (The much bigger Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation plans to shut down 50 years after its founders die.)

By its end, Atlantic will have invested about $7.5 billion in direct medical care,immigration reform, education, criminal justice advocacy and peace-building initiatives. It was an invisible hand at the end of armed conflicts in South Africa and in Northern Ireland, providing funds to buttress constitutional politics over paramilitary action. It has supported marriage-equality campaigns, death penalty opponents and contributed $25 million to push health care reform.

Last fall, Mr. Feeney gave his alma mater, Cornell University, $350 million to seal its bid to build a new campus for advanced engineering that New York City has commissioned for Roosevelt Island. The day the gift was announced, Stanford University dropped out of the competition. He has also given $270 million for a new medical campus in San Francisco. “If only I could remember who hooked me up with it,” Mr. Feeney said. “He said, ‘You’re out here a lot anyway, it won’t take much of your time.’ ” That was in 2004.

With grand philanthropy often comes public glory for wealthy donors, as buildings and institutes are dedicated to benefactors, their names embedded above doorways like graffiti tags chiseled in marble. No building anywhere bears Mr. Feeney’s name. Among tycoons, he has been a countercultural figure of rare force, clinging to his privacy far more fiercely than to his money.

He set up the philanthropies in Bermuda, in large part because that would allow him to escape United States disclosure requirements. That also meant he could not take tax deductions when he contributed his holdings.

Mr. Feeney, who grew up in a working-class family in Elizabeth, N.J., served as a radio operator in the United States Air Force and attended Cornell on the G.I. Bill. He sold liquor to sailors in ports, then formed a company that ran airport duty-free shops around the world. He secretly turned over the duty-free business to the philanthropies in 1984 and continued to invest.

In 1997, he disclosed his role in Atlantic when the business was being sold, but stayed out of public sight. In the last 10 years, he decided that enlarging his profile might inspire rich people to share their fortunes. One result was “The Billionaire Who Wasn’t,” a sparkling, unblinking biography by Conor O’Clery, a leading Irish journalist.

Another was that Warren Buffett called Mr. Feeney the “spiritual leader” of a campaign urging extremely wealthy people to donate their money.

He buys clothes off the rack — “I’m a shabby dresser,” he said — and until recently, flew coach as he traveled among four or five continents. “They decided as part of my 75th-birthday celebrations that I would be entitled to fly first class,” Mr. Feeney said, sounding a bit embarrassed. “I’ll be honest, I’m not good at flying anymore. To my credit, I can stretch out on two coach seats.”

When in New York, Mr. Feeney lives in a building on a side street in Midtown Manhattan, preferring to bob in the anonymous streams of a crowded sidewalk to being swaddled in the liveried privacy he could easily have bought on Park or Fifth Avenue.

He has given away essentially everything he has made, apart from decent, though not extravagant, provisions for his four daughters and one son. They all worked through college as waiters, maids and cashiers.

“I want the last check I write to bounce,” Mr. Feeney said.

My previous post on this remarkable man who has done so much for Ireland and other communities who are disenfranchised, is as follows:

Celebrating Irishness: Charles ‘Chuck’ Feeney – March 2-011 

Charles Feeney was born to a working class family in New Jersey, USA in the early 1930′s. His father’s mother hailed from near Kinawley, in Co Fermanagh, from where she emigrated to the USA.

Charles ‘Chuck ‘ Feeney

In the 1960′s he co-founded Duty Free Shoppers, which sold luxury goods ‘duty free’ in Honolulu and Hong Kong and which eventually became hugely successful, making the partners very wealthy. DFS was to become one of the largest liquor retailers in the world and in 1997, Feeney sold his interest to Louis Vuitton  Moët Hennessy (LVMH).

In 1988, the Forbes Rich List ranked Feeney in the top 20 richest people, with estimated wealth of €1.3billion.  But, in reality his wealth was much less as he had in 1982 transferred much of it – reportedly between $500 million and $800 million –  to a charitable foundation, The Atlantic Foundation. Based in Bermuda to avoid disclosure requirements in the USA and to give Charles Feeney the anonymity he craved, The Atlantic Foundation was the first of The Atlantic Philanthropies.  A very private and modest man, the story of Charles (Chuck) Feeney was not well known until the 1990s when in an interview with The New York Times he revealed that he was the benefactor of one of the top 5 philanthropic foundations in the world.

In 1987, the Enniskillen Bombing had a profound impact on Feeney.  His grandmother having emigrated from the same county, meant he had family roots here and he became determined to try to effect change  in Northern Ireland.  He  joined with other Irish Americans liaising between the White House and various parties in Northern Ireland to try to broker a peace agreement.  He had as a particular and personal  agenda the aim of encouraging the Republicans to join in mainstream politics and he personally funded the Sinn Fein Office in Washington D.C.  for some years.  (Atlantic Philanthropies is precluded from funding political parties.)

It was not until 2007 when Conor O’ Cleary, a  well respected correspondent of The Irish Times, published a book : The Billionaire Who Wasn’t: How Chuck Feeney Secretly  Made and Gave Away a Fortune, that the truth about Feeney became known.  (Feeney had decided to cooperate with the author to promote ‘Giving While Living’ and inspire wealthy people to donate their wealth during their lifetime). Also in 1997  RTE, the Irish television service,  aired a TV documentary, ‘The Secret Billionaire’  looking at the life of this  extraordinary man.

Universities in Ireland, notably University of Limerick, Dublin City University and Trinity College, Dublin have benefited from donations from the fund of over $1billion.  Many philanthropists will endow projects in return for recognition, but this has never been the case with Chuck Feeney who has shunned public recognition such as honorary degrees, and having buildings named in his honour.  One of my favourite stories that exemplifies what Chuck Feeney  is all about, relates to  Queens University, in Belfast, who in 2007 were building a new library, costing  £44 million. It was to have been called the Sir Anthony O’Reilly Library.  Tony O’Reilly had contributed £4 million in return for ‘naming rights’. Chuck Feeney on the other hand had anonymously provided £10 million  and it was his wish that this should not be made public. (Tony O’Reilly later withdrew his wish to have the library named after him in 1999!)

Charles ‘Chuck’ Feeney does not own on a house, he does not own a car and his $15 plastic watch is now famous!  He lives modestly, having said that a man can only wear one pair of shoes at a time.  He has never strayed far from the sense of community he was born into –  one of helping his neighbour, and he has the ability to empathize with people less fortunate than himself who lead difficult lives and who may not have enough to eat.  And so this week, the week of St Patrick’s Day, will see Charles ‘Chuck’ Feeney, extraordinary Irish American,  inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame.  There is no doubt but that his benevolence has had a huge impact on life and society in Ireland, and continues to do so through funding for social issues from The Atlantic Philanthropies, including fighting ageism, of particular interest to this blogger.

The website of The  Atlantic Philanthropies can be viewed here.

For more on the Irish American Hall of Fame click here.

To see more about Conor O’Cleary’s book on Charles Feeney, click here


Filed under Ageism, Irish American, Irish Diaspora

Welcome Home!

Today I received an email from the Ireland Reaching Out project asking if I would publicize their efforts on my blog.

I am very pleased to do that as I have an earnest belief in the objectives of the organization –  to make contact with the diaspora of each parish in Ireland to invite them to visit the land of their ancestors. This is a bottom up initiative, that arose from the Global Irish Economic Forum that met in Dublin some years ago.  The project, initially rolled out on a pilot basis in some Galway parishes has been supported by a grant from the Atlantic Philanthropies, who have been good friends of Ireland since Chuck Feeney made that first  investment in 3rd level education in this country.

Now in its second year, the project has already been rolled out in many parishes with the ultimate goal of having a branch in each of 2,500 parishes across the length and breath of this island,  connecting with the Irish diaspora and helping them trace their ancestors.

Discovering the ancestral home – part of the service from Ireland Reaching Out . Photo from Ireland Reaching Out

Today, this wonderful picture was posted on Facebook. It shows a family of 18 people standing in front of their ancestral family home in the County Cork village of Kildorrery. This house was the home of a great-grandfather and had been located by the local Reaching Out Group .

If you don’t know your parish of origin, knowing the county of origin will help.  Ireland Reaching Out (Ireland XO) aims to work parish-by-parish around the country to connect parishes here with Ireland’s global diaspora and help people of Irish ancestry trace their descendants. The organisation is also working with the Gathering 2013 initiative to boost the number of people visiting Ireland next year, and it was one of this year’s Arthur Guinness Fundwinners, receiving a €100,000 prize and business mentoring over the coming two years.

Here is the letter from Dolores :

Ireland Reaching Out – Unlock your past in Ireland!

Dear Reader,

If you are reading this, it could mean that either you or your ancestors are from Ireland. Have you ever wondered exactly where your people came from and what has made you who you are? Typically the Irish across the world try at some time in their lives to reconnect with their home land. The Ireland Reaching Out Programme is here to help in that discovery.

 Ireland Reaching Out is a new voluntary initiative seeking to identify those who left Ireland, in order to trace them and their descendants worldwide. A team of volunteers is involved in the Irish Government-sponsored project, researching the names of Irish emigrants, contacting them or their descendants and inviting them to (re)connect with their ancestral parish.

Above all, Ireland XO builds on the paper trail of the records that may only get you so far, by providing that final link of local knowledge. We link you directly to people from the communities of your ancestors and use their knowledge to perhaps finally discover that elusive headstone, or the spot where the ancestral home once stood, or to even seek out some long-lost cousins.

 By joining any parish community online you can seek direct genealogical research assistance from local people in the area who also volunteer to meet you should you make a return visit. You can join your parish on our website www.irelandxo.com or contact us by email: info@irelandxo.com or ‘phone: +353 (0)91 842013.

 Yours sincerely

 Dolores O’Shea

Ireland Reaching Out | 25 Dunkellin Street | Loughrea | Co Galway | Ireland
Tel: +353 (0) 85 1925466 | Email: doshea@irelandxo.com | Web: www.irelandxo.com


Atlantic Philanthropies 

Ireland Reaching  Out 

Recent Irish Television Programme 


Filed under Emigration from Ireland, Family History, Genealogy, Ireland, Irish Diaspora, Irish Heritage