A Letter from Ireland:
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The Amazing Story of Denis Donovan.

Céad Míle Fáilte from County Cork – and I trust you are doing well wherever you are in the world as you read this. We seem to be in the middle of “four seasons in one day” type of weather here at the moment – hard to get out without getting wet but too nice to be staying in. Well, at least the slugs are enjoying the weather!

I’m sitting down with a nice pick-me-up cup of coffee this morning (I was at a 50th birthday last night), so why don’t you have a cup of whatever you fancy and join me for today’s letter?

A River and An Irish Surname. 

I was watching the telly the other night and a lovely programme called “Abhainn” came on. It features a different Irish river (Abhainn is the Irish for river) each week and brings us on a trip from it’s source to sea over a half hour. This week it was the turn of the River Bandon in County Cork.

DeCourcey Castle

The River Bandon gets it’s name from the Celtic goddess for water – Bann – and rises near the town of Drimoleague. Through the many aerial shots used in the programme we see all the towns, bridges and castles along the way. And we meet many of the local characters. During its first few miles it flows through country associated with the O’Donovan family name.

A few months back I travelled around this area and came across one of the Castles shown in the programme – Togher Castle – a stronghold of the McCarthys. As I stood there taking pictures from a distance on a cloudy day, a man came out of a nearby farmhouse (you can see one of the pictures and more on the O’Donovans here).

Togher Castle

Togher Castle, County Cork

We nodded and stood beside each other looking at the castle in the distance. It turned out that he bought the castle with the farm a few years back. He was a Donovan who had been on the road all his life while running a transport company. He decided to settle down twenty years ago and bought the farm – and now he told me that “the only way I’ll be out of here is in the foxy box”.

We talked a while about the castle and it’s history – and how we might be related (I’m part Donovan also) – and after a while we parted. It stayed with me since how this man had made his decision about the place he wanted to stay and see out his days. I suppose for a lot of us it is a privilege to be able to choose our final resting place.

Then, a few days later I saw a mail from one of our readers, Melinda Stahl. A story about another Donovan and how he got to choose his final resting place.

A Lake and an Irish Surname. 

Melinda’s story was about the Big Rideau Lake in Ontario, Canada – and one of her ancestors:

“My great great great grandfather is Denis Donovan who was born in 1795 in County Cork. By the 1820s he had moved to New York, USA and then on to Ontario, Canada. In 1842, he bought 50 acres of land in the area near Donovans Point on the Big Rideau Lake. He and his family operated an apple orchard and market garden in this location. He died on December 18, 1851 and was buried on his property. When his widow and son sold the property in 1860, it was for the entire 50 acres with the exception of a small parcel, 9 feet long by 6 feet wide, the burial place of Dennis Donovan.

One story (not verified) goes that the deed for this 9 foot by 6 foot wide plot was given to the City of Cork in Ireland. These are the roots of the fictional “Rideau Canal worker buried in Irish soil” story that appeared in local newspapers. Donovan’s headstone was found in 1970, it read “DENIS DONOVAN departed this life Dec. 18, 1851 aged 56 years, a native of the County Cork, Ireland.”

Thank you very much Melinda for sharing. What a great story! A man who was determined to be buried on Irish-owned soil – and he somehow got his wish. My next step is to head into the archives department in the City Library here in Cork and see if there is any chance of finding such a document that was given by the Donovan family all those years ago. If I find anything – I will let you know.

Do you have any stories about the ancestors in your family?

If you have a question, do let me know in the comments section below.

That’s it for now!

Slán, Mike…  : )

 

  • Lynn says:

    Beautiful newsletter. So well written. I don’t always get a chance to read the weekly newsletter but it’s rainy and quiet and relaxed here on cape cod today….I love Yeats too!

  • What an interesting story.

  • Linda Pestes says:

    My grandfather was apparently “kidnapped” by a couple of cousins when he was 8 years old, taken to Canada and basically “sold” to be a laborer on a farm in Manitoba. David Cupples, born 1865. Ballymena, county Antrim…interesting story! Made a life in Canada NDP we are just now reuniting with our Irish family still over there! On my way there in 6 weeks to meet them!

  • Linda Pestes says:

    My grandfather was apparently “kidnapped” by a couple of cousins when he was 8 years old, taken to Canada and basically “sold” to be a laborer on a farm in Manitoba. David Cupples, born 1865. Ballymena, county Antrim…interesting story! Made a life in Canada And we are just now reuniting with our Irish family still over there! On my way there in 6 weeks to meet them!

  • […] Click here to read the story of Denis O’Donovan – laid to rest on Irish soil. […]

  • Lynn Gill says:

    Three daughters of Denis Donovan and Elizabeth Morris removed to Leelanau County, Michigan during the 1860-1870’s. Mary Ann b. 1826 married Rinaldo Demelville Evits Putnam (my ancestor), Jane b. 1837 married William McMachan, and Sarah b.1840 married Charles Layng Joynt. Daughters Harriet “Hattie” b.1844 and Caroline “Carrie” b. 1846 moved to Saginaw, Michigan.

    • Mike Collins says:

      Thanks for sharing with us Lynn. Looks like you have made a great start in researching your ancestral story.

      • Rachel O'Brien nee Hynes says:

        Hi Mike great story!! My GG Grandmother was Honora Donovan born around 1831 & I know she came from Cork to New Orleans, La. late 1840’s – there was a Michael Donovan listed on her marriage record in 1857 (not sure what relation). I will be coming to Ireland this September and will be in Cork 6th & 7th where would you suggest I visit to research? Your assistance is greatly appreciated!! : ) Thank You!! Rachel

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