The World Got Smaller Part II…My Irish Cousins

As I’ve said numerous times here on my little blog…I love writing here to document some life events, travels, favorite recipes, Monday motivations etc… that can someday be read by my grand kids long after I’m gone, so please indulge me as I share (hopefully not bore) with you my new found family that I’ve come to know and love.

Day three was all about our ancestral homesteads and meeting the rest of the cousins. Our first stop was at our cousin Mary’s home a short ride from Padraig’s home. We had a quick visit with her, her daughter, Susan & husband, Pat….

…before continuing on to pick up my dad’s first cousin, Colm, who’s 89 and sharp as a tack! Side note here…Colm had gone to England on Friday (or Saturday??) to attend his granddaughter’s confirmation and usually stays up to 2 weeks. When he heard I was coming he changed his return flight and came home Monday night to meet the relative from California, me. I was so honored and humbled by this sweet gesture. He was the one that remembered some notable events in my dad’s family (his brother drowning in the Hudson River) that made Padraig and I realize we were truly family. I was looking so forward to meeting him.

The three of us started our journey to Castlerea, Roscommon, an hour’s drive north, to see our ancestral homesteads and for me to meet all of my cousins. At one point Padraig asked if I remember my grandpa John (they called him Uncle Johnny, but they’d never met him since he moved to the US before they were born) and I said I didn’t remember much about either of my grandparents because I was only 7 & 8 when each of them died. One thing I did remember was a song my grandma sang to me as she bounced me on her knee….my mom sang it to my kids and I now sing to my grandkids and they love it! It’s called “up, up a horsey”…that goes like this…

Up, up a horsey
Up, up again sir
How many miles to Dublin town?
three score and ten sir
Will I get there by candle light? (then you have them do a fake fall off your knee)
Yes, and back again
Up, up a horsey
Up, up again

Apparently the original is a bit different, but similar enough and everyone has their own Irish (or London, etc) version. So, I’m telling Colm and Padraig and as I’m starting to sing it they join in! It was truly a spiritual, unifying moment as I sat in that back seat singing this decades old Irish children’s song with my new found family. WOW! I later asked my friend, Gina, from Dublin if she’d heard of it and she hadn’t. It’s truly a song that originated in the west of Ireland (..how many miles to Dublin town…). It was the first of many moments that took my breath away and made me a bit teary eyed.

Lough (Lake) O’Flynn, Ballinlough

On we go to Castlerea, Roscommon. Our first stop was Lough (lake) O’Flynn in Ballinlough where our great, great grandparents, Daniel & Mary Egan, lived, and where my grandpa and his siblings used to go as children to visit. After my great, great grandpa passed away, Mary was asked to come down the street to help with the delivery of Austin McDermott and never returned to her home down the street. It is said that Austin become her “pet” and before she died in the early 1900’s, she waited until Austin came home from school to say goodbye and pass away. The weird thing about this story is that Austin is not a very popular name in Ireland…and that is my son’s name!! Blew us all away!

where Austin McDermott was born and where my great, great grandma lived for years.

Next we drove around the lake to visit Sean Vaughn, a relative from my great grandma Kate Kenny’s side of the family. We were just going to see a property down the street where she was born, but lo and behold they invited us in for tea and sweets, as well as some yummy Irish brown bread with butter. We chatted for awhile and then went down the street to see the old home where great grandma, Kate, was born. The hospitality of the Irish people never ceased to amaze me and warm my heart.

Padraig and I in front of Kate’s birthplace…pretty big stone cottage back in the day.
Sean and I…same property. Isn’t it so cool & amazing how they leave all these homesteads on their property & don’t tear them down?

Next was a drive through Main Street, Castlerea, where my grandpa and his siblings were born, where Colm and Padraig were born and where some of the relatives still live today. Colm, although he doesn’t presently live in Castlerea, is so enamored with his hometown that he has written volumes of pages on the history and goings in in Castlerea and Roscommon. It holds a special place in the hearts of all my family members….and now with me. Here’s a pictorial tour of a few notable family places…

vintage Main St, Castlerea
same street, present day…hasn’t changed much!
grandpa’s home when he was born
where my grandpa walked to school…St. Patrick’s
St. Patrick’s church right next door, where they went to services and were baptized

baptismal font where they were all baptized

On to dinner and meeting all my cousins! When we arrived at the restaurant there were already a few of them there having cocktails. A long table was set and as I went over to look, there in the middle of the table was a cake….

I excused myself to go to the bathroom, so I wouldn’t totally lose it in front of them! How sweet & thoughtful is that?!
left to right…Edel, Enna, Maura (back), me and Anne
Dympna,Brian and Enna (Keaveney)
Maura, Padraig & Anne
the whole gang…yeah, I know it’s blurry, but gotta take what you can get.

It was a lovely evening and dinner, with lots of questions and conversation! As the evening was winding down, Padraig stood up to give a little speech reminding us of our relationship to one another and saying that we all came together because of me. I reminded him that he was the one that contacted me and it wouldn’t have happened without him. He replied, ‘yes, but you came!’ Another moment I had to hold it together! Lastly, and the most special, Enna stood up and said they had all gotten together to get something to remind me of my heritage and new family….

a beautiful Celtic knot.

I was pretty speechless and barely held it together to thank them all for their hospitality and love. I had a whole new extended family in Ireland!!

If you’ve read this far, thanks for indulging me and reading about my journey to meet my new cousins. (there are many more little stories I could tell, but I’ll stop Day 3 here) It is a day I will remember forever…and even when I can’t quite remember it anymore, I’ll come back here and relive it as if it were yesterday!

Thank you to Padraig and Grainne for opening up their home & hearts, and to all my cousins for their welcoming arms. You are always welcome in my home here in California!

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!

7 Comments

  1. I LOVED reading this and want to hear so much more! Boy, would this make your Dad (and Mom) smile from ear to ear. What a wonderful journey! you’ve inspired me to go back and look at my Ancestry results a little closer 🙂

    1. It was a magical, once in a lifetime, trip. I finally got my grandparent’s marriage certificate and had it certified while I was in NY….after waiting all day in 3 government offices!! One step closer to getting my Irish citizenship (fingers & toes crossed!)

  2. What a wonderful story. As Beth said, I am more inspired to look into our family ancestry, history and heritage. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Jeanine, you had me in tears!! what an incredible and emotional journey you had!! You are so inspiring!!!! thanks for sharing!! xoxoxo

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