The following is an Irish Story submitted by Chuck Real 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.
I had been researching my family origins in County Limerick for some 25 years prior to 1993. And after exhausting the records from the Heritage Centers of Limerick and Tipperary along with causing the probable burn-out of more than one parish priest, I decided that my Irish family research could not be completed without a “tromp” through the Irish cemeteries related to my ancestors. Keep in mind that those 25 years of research had taken place before the use of the internet and web sites.
In planning a trip to Ireland, I decided to go a step further and plan the trip for not only myself, but also as part of my daughter’s 8th Grade graduation. My daughter, Myla Michelle, had already accompanied me several times on various genealogy ventures that had taken us to Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee as well as Los Angeles, California. So how could she turn down a trip to Ireland?
Now, however, we were about to embark on an even bigger venture that would take us from Omaha, Nebraska to Ireland. Before leaving Omaha, I had been in contact for several years with a Thomas and Noreen Real who lived in the small southeast Limerick village of Hospital. Interesting enough they lived only a few miles from Oola, the small village from which my Real family had migrated in 1850. Their name had been given to me from one of the California cousins who had met them on a trip to Ireland in the late 1970s.
With school out and Myla’s 8th graduation over, we were ready to set out for Ireland. From the Omaha airport, we waved goodbye to her grandparents and mother. After a flight that had first taken us to Boston and a side-trip along the Liberty Trail, we were soon on an Aer Lingus plane headed to Shannon International Airport. Arriving at Shannon and after clearing Customs, we had our first real surprise of the trip. Waiting to greet us were Thomas and Noreen Real, along with their youngest son and oldest daughter, Paul and Christine.
Now keep in mind that except for sharing a family name, I knew of no other relationship with Thomas and his Hospital Reals even though their Townland of Coolalough was only a few miles to the east of my family’s Townland of Gurtakilleen. (However, just as an aside, it would be about 20 years after that first trip to Ireland that one of their sons and I did DNA testing together. We learned that we were indeed related and likely had the same paternal ancestor sometime in the last 100 years before my family left Ireland.)
After picking up our hire car at Shannon and receiving a few directions from Paul and Christine as to how to reach our hotel along with some pointed tips about not driving on the wrong side of the motorway, we made arrangements with the Reals to meet them later that afternoon at their home for a late lunch. And with that Myla and I were off for a few hours of sleep and freshening up before having our first meal in an Irish country home.
While Myla and I drove to the hotel and then while we were discussing the directions to the Real’s Coolalough home on the edge of Hospital, she kept up an incessant barrage of questions about what we could expect for our first Irish meal. Without more information myself, I advised Myla that she could expect almost anything, but not to expect anything that she might be familiar with while eating at home in Omaha. I did explain that the Irish did have a pretty steady diet of lamb and mutton. Needless to say that by the time we had driven the 12 or 15 miles to Coolalough, she was quite apprehensive as to how she would react to what she might be served. I reminded her just to smile and be polite.
Arriving at the Real’s home, we were greeted by several more sons and a daughter along with uncles and aunts and cousins and nearby neighbors. I think Myla became even more nervous since not only did she worry about the food about to be served but now she was the center of attention, which does not always set well with a young teenager. Soon Myla and I were seated at the dining table as the women scurried around to lay out our first Irish meal in a country home. As the food was set in front of Myla, I saw her nervous look change to a smile. And from then on she listened to me less and less. As I turned from observing Myla to the food on the table, I understood my daughter’s smile. Our first Irish country meal . . . Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwiches, one of Myla’s favorite meals at home.
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