The following is an Irish Story submitted by Des Dineen as part of our 2015 Reader Story competition. The winner of the competition will be announced on February 14, 2015. Please do feel free to leave your comments, questions – and encouragement! in the comment section at the end of the story. ~Mike Collins.
During my four trips to Ireland I have never been disappointed at the generosity and helpfulness of the locals I have encountered on my travels. This is particularly the case if you explain that you have “returned” to trace the footsteps of your ancestors
Here are some examples of what I have encountered……
During my second trip in 2008 I was travelling with my Dillon cousins who were also taking part in the four-yearly Egan Rally with my itinerary in sync with the rally mainly at night. Whilst based in Bunratty, I decided to visit the Kilmurry-McMahon Parish in southern Clare where the Dillon name was numerous in the Griffith Valuation in the 1850s. Enquiring at a local grocery store, I was directed to Tullycreen Townland where there are two neighboring dairy farms of Dillons apparently not related to each other. The first farm I visited I met Danny Dillon who said that his neighbors Eileen and Martin Dillon had traced their Dillon tree and should be able to help better than he. Eileen greeted me with open arms and had family trees to show me. We were not able to find a direct connection but were so pleased to meet such lovely hospitable people that we decided to “adopt” this family as honorary kindreds!
We have therefore maintained our links ever since and have caught up on the next two trips.
You can sometimes discover lasting friendships too and these lovely people don’t have to be blood related!
The following day we visited my cousin’s Egan roots in Ballycarridoge, Portroe, North Tipperary and knocked on the door of one Pat MacNamara whose little cottage was on the townland and he went to much detail in describing the land to us. He stood in the middle of the road speaking to us through my driver’s window with walking stick in hand and would waive his stick at approaching traffic directing them past us!
Pat definitely wasn’t going to be interrupted by traffic!
You haven’t been to Ireland if you haven’t approached enough locals for information!
During my third trip in 2012, I was able to have my wife and daughter travel with me in Ireland for the first time. We had a hire car and had spent a lovely day in Blarney Castle and grounds and stayed that night at my favourite B&B “Claragh” run by Cecelia Kiely. Next morning before we set off, Cecelia suggested a very special route inland from Blarney to our next destination Kenmare, driving via Gougane Barra, County Cork. This is the site of St Finbarr’s Oratory, a beautiful little chapel by the loch and next to the 6th century monastery.
We set off from Blarney and by the time we got to the small remote village of Inchigeela, County Cork, we had become rather lost, so…….we asked a man walking in the street for directions to St Finbarr’s holy place. The man asked if we were Catholics and we said yes (after all it is the South!) then he quickly asked us if we could follow him up the street where he could show us something very special, which we did to where he stopped in front of the church. However it was not the church but the refurbished building directly opposite where we were ushered into. Inside there were a few people in a small chapel on their knees saying the rosary and we were invited to join them!
So, from a simple asking of directions we had found ourselves in a prayer group off the beaten track praying!
We were to learn that this was the Immaculate Heart House of Prayer (as far as I am aware not particularly accepted by the established church across the street) which was set up as a result of an apparition of Our Lady, experienced by Fiona Tierney at Rossmore Grotto, Inchigeela on Easter Sunday 1987 and to which occurred daily for another seven years. Fiona wasn’t present during our visit but we met her husband during our brief visit.
Our “guide” was very friendly telling us were free to stay with him at his house in Tipperary if we wished and recommended that we drive out of town to visit the Rossmore Grotto, which we did. There we saw the lovely grotto with flowing waterfall and steps that each had a label and meaning for prayers.
This was indeed truly a day to remember!
So the moral of this story and my advice to all who are planning a trip
the “Auld Sod” is to never be afraid to ask for assistance or directions. You will find local Irish people only too willing to help and it can result in enriching your experience and leave you with wonderful memories …and you never know where you will end up!
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