Sunday, October 12, 2014

Castle Fatigue


It's been a treat, visiting here in Ireland. Most of all, I'm grateful for the opportunity to visit my daughter, who is currently studying anthropology and Irish cultural subjects at University College Cork. Between her summer semester class, studying Ireland's archaeological heritage, and her exposure to the history and culture of the country in her classes this fall, she has had the opportunity to visit several significant sites around the country. She has certainly served as our unofficial tour guide when we've stopped at the many ruins along the roadsides, explaining the significance of architectural details of castles, abbeys, round towers, ring forts and monasteries.

As wonderful an opportunity as it has been for our daughter to study these architectural and cultural gems up close and in person, as she mentioned to us yesterday, it does have its drawbacks. How did she put it? Not exactly "if you've seen one castle, you've seen them all." But close. As she explained, every castle seemed to have the same features built into the plans for its defense, so once you've seen those features—the circular staircases, the "murder hole," the oubliette, the channels to funnel burning oil—you've seen the basics of every castle's defense system.

So, for us to be driving along the highway in Ireland, spotting a sign pointing to yet another castle, would not indicate an enticing road stop for her. She's got that floor plan down pat. Perhaps, even in the very short time she has already been here, you could say she is suffering from Castle Fatigue.

That, however, was not our only reason for visiting Ireland. Together with our daughter, we wanted to visit the sites of specific interest to her own personal heritage. After all, on her paternal grandfather's side of the family, those roots are one hundred percent Irish.

It's been a treat, over these past two weeks, to be able to stand near the very sites where the ancestors of several branches of my husband's family once lived—the Tullys and Flannerys in County Tipperary, the Flanagans and Malloys in County Limerick, and now the Kellys and Falveys in County Kerry. Together with my daughter, my husband and his two sisters, we took the occasion this weekend to drive from Cork to Killarney, bringing us close to the townlands where our Kellys and Falveys originated.

However, sometimes, even the most avid genealogical researcher must set aside the pursuit of ancestors and rejoin civil society to be sociable. Thus, our visit to Ireland has included some all-purpose sightseeing during these same two weeks, including a visit to the Blarney Castle, as well as a tour through the memorial in Queenstown (now known as Cobh) commemorating the last stop of the Titanic at the outset of its fateful voyage. And of course, after our tour of Muckross House on our first day in Killarney, we couldn't have left the area without driving along the Ring of Kerry

Truth be told, I did manage to sneak in a genealogical moment Saturday morning, when our bed and breakfast host in Killarney called her cousin to ascertain the directions to Lisheenacannina in County Kerry, site of the baptism of one of the children of John and Johanna Falvey Kelly. She was sure to give me her cousin's name—she was a Sullivan—so I could drop in at any of the neighbors' homes, drop that cousin's name, and pepper those neighbors with questions about my husband's great-great-grandparents. Wouldn't you know it, but when I pulled out my copy of Griffith's Valuation to show her the name of the townlands—she hadn't heard of the place, herself—it happened to have several Sullivans listed as neighbors of our Kelly family.

"Oh, Michael," she said, picking out one of the Sullivans listed in the townland's read-out. "That's the name of my grandfather." Who knows? Even if we aren't related, perhaps our ancestors were next door neighbors. In a place where people used to live in the same geographic locale for generations, it certainly could have been possible.

Though our host drew out a map for us, and though we were already doubly covered with both a Garmin and an iPhone navigator, wouldn't you know it, but we found ourselves taking the wrong country road. While the views afforded along those narrow lanes were breathtakingly spectacular, I have to confess, we began to suspect that the road along the next country road might have been quite the same.

I'm afraid I'm beginning to lose my verve for ascertaining the exact place where each of these familial lines once walked. We did backtrack to try and regain our directions, but once we passed an old cemetery—complete with abbey and tower—the Ooh, Shiny Syndrome kicked in, and we were off the beaten path. We wandered the old section of the graveyard, seeking Falveys and Kellys—we found only two Kelly families from the area buried here, wherever "here" was—and then decided it was time to ditch the genealogical pursuits and head for the coast.



We drove along the "Wild Atlantic Way"—meanwhile, I practiced my isometric exercises—and arrived at Portmagee in time for an early dinner. While we passed a number of signs indicating the ruins and other heritage sites along the way, perhaps it was our intrepid driver's intent to retrace our steps home to Cork before dark that dampened our desire for any more exploration. Or perhaps, we all had become weary travelers suffering from Castle Fatigue.  


Photographs, above, of the Aghadoe Church, cemetery and Round Tower in County Kerry. Photographs courtesy of Chris Stevens.



10 comments:

  1. Have enjoyed your blog,am here doing the same, may have crossed paths in Killarney, Cork City, Cobh and Killarney. Looking for Scanlons, McDermotts, Griffins and Houlihans

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    1. Kat, thanks for stopping by and for your comment. Yes, possibly we may have crossed paths!

      I enjoyed taking a look at your own blog. Even though we are not researching the same surnames, it does make it feel like such a small world when you consider we are doing the same thing in roughly the same places here. There is nothing like coming back to the very places where our ancestors once walked. The personal experience adds such a dimension to the research.

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  2. May I once again remind you of my prediction: http://afamilytapestry.blogspot.com/2014/09/some-practical-matters.html

    You sound weary, but the "Ooh Shiny" impulse is still there. Glad of it!

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    1. Right on possibly two counts on this one, Wendy!

      There is such a different experience in the bed and breakfast stay here. If you want four star American accommodations, this is not the route to take. But if you want to get closer to the local people, I can't see it happening any other way. It's been real. Everyone is so genuinely helpful, and takes an interest in what we are seeking. Not to mention, name dropping is alive and well in Ireland, and our hosts have been more than happy to let us use their name to open doors for us.

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  3. I would not have been able to resist that cemetery either...old and new next to each other...and part of a round tower or something...impressive photo:)

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    1. If it weren't for the plaque at the entrance to the cemetery, listing every surname of those buried, along with the grave locations, we might not have stayed as long as we did. We had no idea how close we were to our Kelly family townland, but as it turned out, there were others from the Lisheenacannina townland also buried here, so we knew we were at least close, even if we missed the turn to the church we were supposed to find. Or who knows...maybe we found the right spot after all.

      Thanks to my husband, we have several more photographs of this and another cemetery, which I will work on transcribing after we return home. Too much to do now to try and do that keyboard work now.

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  4. Even getting to see all of the counties where your roots lie is quite a feat! If you don't make it to the individual homesites/townsites, at the very least you have a feel for the area. I always think it's neat to see if a place is like I imagined. And, yes, castle fatigue... I may know a thing or two about cathedral fatigue in Europe... :)

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    1. Melanie, that's what I've heard it compared to--getting wearied over the countless cathedrals in Europe. One of my husband's sisters lived in Germany for several years, and after touring Europe, said she began to feel that same way. We think those are such special places because we don't see them all the time, but ruins, forts, castles and the like are all over Ireland. Still, it's interesting to know the history of each particular one. For Aghadoe, it was helpful to not only read the plaque at the entrance, but to see the material posted online--even in the brief Wikipedia article. It provides a lot more perspective to these places that just appear along the roadside on our way to somewhere else.

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  5. Sounds like you are just tired of being on the road.

    :) Of course, to me, one pile of rocks looks like most other pile of rocks!!

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    1. That's exactly the way we were beginning to feel, Iggy. Lesson learned for us is to not try to cram so much activity into each day. There's much to be said for allowing down time on a regular basis. Sometimes there is that need to process everything that has already happened. A time of reflection...

      There is one pile of stones that are very important to me on this trip, though: the photographs of all the headstones we've found in cemeteries like this. Once I catch my breath--and catch up on my sleep--I want to transcribe all the ones my husband captured with his camera. Who knows? Maybe one of them will be the very piece that completes someone's family puzzle.

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