I am writing this letter for all the people who have not been to Ireland, and to the people who yearn to return to Ireland! I recently read a quote that said “kindness is not an act. It is a lifestyle.” I hope to give some examples of this quote in my letter.
My grandparents emigrated to the State of Maine in 1912. I spent several years researching my elusive Barretts/Walshes.With a trip planned to Ireland, I felt I need more help to knock down my some of my “brick walls”. So I turned to Mike Collins of Your Irish Heritage. He in turned directed me to Noreen of Hibernia Roots . These were my first experiences with Irish kindness. Mike responded back to me immediately as did Noreen. This gave me a little ray of hope that I might find out some information about my family before my trip.
My sister, cousin and myself left for Ireland on May 16th. Noreen of Hibernia Roots had communicated numerous times about her progress. Then 3 weeks before we left she sent me a 14 page report. In this report she detailed my Grandmother Walsh’s siblings and their names with baptism dates, churches,graveyards and their locations.
So our heritage tour was underway with our new founded information! We arrived very early on a Saturday morning. As our plane made its approach to the Shannon airport, I could see the sunrise shimmering on the tile rooftops below. It looked just like gold! I knew right then that this trip was going to be magical! The kindness acts continued…from the car rental lady upgrading our rental from a Toyota Corolla to a Mercedes at no extra charge! To our cottage landlord in Kinsale ,who had tea and scones waiting for us upon our arrival.The warmth and kindness continued through the week, from the merchants and employees at the pubs. It was not uncommon to have directions drawn out for us on a piece of scrap paper!!
The main reason of our trip was to visit the towns our grandparents lived in. We had no knowledge of any living relatives. But we were thrilled to visit a few churches,towns and graveyards. On one of our trips to a graveyard, we realized we were in the wrong one. A lady who was visiting the graveyard offered to show us the correct one, and she told us after we would go to her house for tea! Well, we are from the states where it is unusual to invite strangers into your home! But she trusted us so in turn we trusted her. We had a delightful time , she served tea , brown bread and barbeque salmon. I thought to myself this is the way life should be! The warmth, trust and kindness that was extended to us was certainly very special. We experienced some very unusual acts of kindness such as when there were 24 cars behind us on a very winding narrow road. We pulled over at the soonest opportunity, as they passed us the drivers were very polite as if to say we understand!
The absolute highlight of our trip was when we travelled to my grandmother’s birthplace. Noreen had found that Catherine Walsh was born and baptised in Ovens Ireland in 1869. Noreen had also found her 6 siblings , their bd’s and baptisms. As we headed off to find the church in Ovens, of course we got lost! We stopped to ask directions and this young woman offered to take us to the church,and gave us her phone # just in case we got separated on the 2 mile trip! When we arrived at the church, the young woman gathered the other mothers who were waiting for their children. Before we knew it there were several young ladies on their cell phones calling the Priest, the town historian, and the lady who has the church records. The town historian arrived to give us a tour of the church. To imagine that my grandmother was baptised in this church was amazing! During the tour a lady walked down the center isle holding the baptism records from 1869. This lady’s name was Mary, and she pointed, as she opened the book, to my grandmother’s name. It showed her parents, and witnesses! Well needless to say, there were tears , laughter and amazement! We had been trying to locate this document for along time…and there it was. This only took place because of the kind young ladies calling people on their cell phones! As we talked to the town historian, we learn that he had just left his dialysis treatment to come to the church to help us! We were absolutely speechless, how all these strangers embraced us …with no questions asked! Mary filled out the forms that we needed, at no cost. She then mentioned that she knew some Walshes in town. I asked for some names and compared them to the ones that Noreen had given. There were some common names! Mary suggested that we should go and meet the people. All we had to do was “go to the end of the road and take a left at the pub”! Well off we went , and to our surprise we met our Walsh cousins! We spent the rest of the day, and all of the next day. They showed us the old homestead along with the grave of our great grandparents. This was a special experience, because of the kindness of the folks back at the church. How beautiful!
We feel extremely blessed with our experience. There were so many people that played a part in the outcome. The common theme is kindness, and I really feel that kindness is a life style in Ireland. I feel very passionate about the heritage tourism idea for Ireland. I feel people could certainly benefit , from Ireland and abroad. This beautiful country has survived many hard times over the years. And its people still remain trusting, warm, and most of all kind. Thank you Ireland for renewing my faith!
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