Do you have a special reason for wanting to make a trip to Ireland, other than having a holiday? In this letter, we will hear from a reader who needed to make a very special pilgrimage to the land her mother was from.
Céad Míle Fáilte – and welcome to your Letter from Ireland for this week. How are things in your part of the world today? Would you believe, we are experiencing a “heatwave” here in Ireland at the moment (temperatures up at a balmy twenty two celsius!). If you are the US, we hope you are enjoying your Memorial Day holiday – while in the UK, we hope you are enjoying a balmy long weekend.
I’m having a nice glass of cool water from the well as I write – and I do hope you’ll join me with a cup of whatever you fancy as we start into today’s letter.
Some of the most popular letters we send out each Sunday are those of our own readers. In today’s letter, I would to share a wonderful story that Leslie Baldwin shared a few weeks back.
Over to Leslie:
“Good morning Mike!
Thank you for all the lovely letters you send. I have learned so much from them as well as from fellow readers. I fly out this May from the U.S. for my first trip to Ireland. Let me explain why this visit will be so special to me.
My mother was born in Belfast in 1932 and was the second eldest of the nine children of William and Mary Guiney. When she was three years old, the bakery where my grandfather worked found out he was Catholic and the story goes that the family were ran out of town. They were blessed to have escaped to County Cavan and settled in the small town of Cootehill. My uncle Oliver still lives in the family home in the town.
By the early 1950’s, my mother left Cavan for England with her younger sister to find work. Meanwhile, her future husband (my Dad) was in the U. S. Air Force and stationed at Mildenhall Air Force Base. He and my mother met through a blind date – and became engaged to be married six months later! When they married in England on November 12, 1955, only my aunt, who was already living there, and grandfather were able to attend – as money was never really in their favor. It was also the last time my Mom ever saw her father. It was even longer since she last saw her mother – that was on the day she left for England.
After their wedding my father was assigned a duty station stateside. While he was flown over on a military Transport plane, my Mom had to take the QEII to NYC and then the bus took seventeen hours to the ‘middle of nowhere’ in Lower Michigan. It was true culture shock for her. My Dad’s family thought she was the most exotic person that Matherton, Michigan had ever seen. And she probably still is!
My Dad retired after serving 25 years and through the course of his service they were stationed several places including Nebraska. Ironically, my aunt had also married a USAF officer and my mom and her sister both ended up being stationed in Nebraska at the same time. Dad finally retired from a USAF base in Michigan and we moved to Antrim County, MI. Mom thought that was so funny she often commented that “I was born in County Antrim and I’ll probably die in Antrim County”. Six months later, my Aunt and Uncle were stationed in Michigan and retired there as well. Their house ended up being two doors down from where we had lived.
In 1978 my Mom returned to Ireland for the first time since leaving in 1956. This was during the height of the Troubles, but she insisted on going to Belfast and no one was going to talk her out of it. She said it was the best time of her life.
In the summer of 1983, my Mom insisted on going home one more time before “it got too expensive to go”. They packed up everything and left in late September. Once again, she returned happy – but on Thanksgiving I learned that Mom was extremely sick with cancer. We now know why she was so insistent on going back one more time. They gave her three months to live.
She died May 15th, 1984 at the age of 52. Her only request was that we would not, under any circumstances, bury her in Michigan. We had a wake and a memorial service and Mom was cremated. We made the decision to have her buried in her beloved Ireland. Dad took her ashes over and she was laid to rest with her parents and one of her sisters.
I turned fifty-two this past year – the same age Mom was when she died. This coming trip to Ireland will be my first and is on the 33rd anniversary of her death. This is the first time I have been able to visit her grave and I’m hoping to see as much of her Island as I can in the 3 weeks I have to explore.
Thank you for listening, Leslie Baldwin.”
Thank you Leslie, for sharing that wonderful story – so full of unexpected turns and a great full-circle ending. I do hope you had the best trip to Ireland! We look forward to hearing more when you take up your prize, a full year’s free membership of The Green Room.
How about the rest of our readers? Would you like to share your story – and be in with a chance to win a full year’s membership of The Green Room? Remember, all you have to do is share your Irish family story by return email. I look forward to hearing many more stories over the coming weeks and months.
Slán for now,
Mike & Carina.
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