Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Katie's Arrival and Bunratty

After spending some time in Ennis and finding a charger for my phone (for free no less, the people here are so friendly), I made my way to Mullagh to meet up with Tim & Theresa Donnellan. Theresa arrived shortly after I did and we had some time to visit before Tim arrived. She is the principal of the school in Kilkee and is consquently very busy.

Tim and Theresa used to operate a Farmhouse Inn until it conflicted too much with their busy schedules. Below is a picture of thier home on the right with a guesthouse/activity building on the left.

They also have a few "self-catered" cottages that they rent out and they put us in a very nice and comfortable cottage in nearby Kilmurry. It was a four bedroom cottage with a beautiful view of the Atlantic and also the ruins of an old castle just a few fields away.

Tim & Theresa Donnellan's Kilmurry Cottage

View from Donnellan's Kilmurry Cottage

Castle ruins behind Donnellan's Kilmurry Cottage

After a few pints with Tim at O'Kelly's in Mullagh, I headed home only to be greeted with a loud PSSHHH! as I got out of the car. Nice, a soon-to-be flat tire. Good thing I won't have to leave until 10:00 to get to the airport.

I woke up to a beautiful morning, with the sun shining and all of the air safely out of the tire. At 9:45. Whoops. Well, Katie won't mind if I don't shave and Joe won't care if I don't brush my teeth, but I will so I quickly changed the tire (I've changed a tire faster, but that's another story) jumped in the shower and raced for the airport praying that the modified bicycle tire that I just bolted to the car wouldn't go flying off enroute.

I did make it to the airport in time only because the beautiful sunny day hadn't made it's way to Shannon which was shrouded in fog (I mean it was so thick you could cut it with a knife!) which delayed thier flight about an hour.

The next stop would be Bunratty Castle which is conveniently located about 20 minutes from the airport. It's a great place to start off you first trip to Ireland with a very well preserved castle dating from the 1600s with a park that features restored cottages and various village buildings. They say location is everything and whoever built this castle had incredible foresight.

Bunratty Castle

Bunratty Folk Park Cottage with Castle in the distance

I dropped KMBG (Katie, Molly, Bobby & Gino) and Joe off at the Castle and went to go get the tire fixed which I was told couldn't be safely fixed so I wound up buying a new tire. I figured tracking down a group of five people wouldn't be that hard but the park is pretty big so I managed to double back a couple of times with no success. It was my second trip to the roof of the castle to get a better view when I saw them at the Durty Nelly pub next to the castle. It turned out that they hadn't been in to the park or castle at all yet but having lunch and doing a little shoping, increasing the difficulty of finding them in the park. Fortunatly there was enough time and light to see the castle and many of the buildings in the park and have loads of laughs. Sleep deprivation can be an interesting mood enhancer.

Then it was off to settle into the cottage, clean up and head out for a traditional music session at the Crosses of Annagh. When we got there we found out that the session had been cancelled due to a disco party for 18 year olds. Hmmm, not exaclty the music flavor we were after so we found another session in Miltown Malbay at a pub called Friels. You know it's Friels because it says Lynch on the outside. There were some great musicians there and Joe had a great session but I'll let him talk about that.

Tim Donnellan managed to meet us for a pint and meet some more of his crazy American cousins. His daughter Niamh (the spelling is probably wrong but it's pronounced 'Niev') met us shortly after. We all had a great time at Friels, particularly Katie who had made the pronouncement that, to commemorate her 50th, she would jump into the Ocean, naked. But that's her story to tell.

And if she doesn't, I will.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Gone 50 and didn't notice

This is my first blog entry of my life but now that I've gone 50 I need to try new things. I just read the list of places with gaelic names that Ed posted that we would and did indeed visit.

My stone from Magh Loscathaidhe or The Burnt Plain, the birth place of my great grandmother, Margaret Donnellan, sits beautifully on my mantel. When we visited this beautiful place I got that sense you hear people talk about of an earie familiarity of belonging or knowing.
Ed and Joe did such an unbeleivable job not only of driving us everywhere but of providing so much background information about the places and the relatives. All of our relatives are incredible, so talented , beautiful, and sooo generous! If there is a way to show them how much we appreciate all the kindnesses they showed us I have not figured it out yet.

The guest house Tim Donnellan built and let us stay in without charge was wonderful, so spacious and comfy with views of a castle remnant with the Atlantic sea just beyond. Helen and Denis McGrath have a beautiful home not far from our guest house named Niagra because of the adjacent falls. My husband Gino had a big chuckle when he read the sign and saw and heard the magnificent falls right there.
Helen was so gracious renting "The Wind that Shakes the Barley" and inviting us all to watch it with them in their home only to top the night off with a surprise birthday cake for me and a number of other goodies for us all. Denis's sense of humor is non stop, what a great character he is. It was one of the few nights Joe didn't play fiddle in a pub, the only downside beside the tragedy depicted in the movie. A wonderful evening with wonderful people! My next enty will be about the Reidy's in Ennis except for Martin who we didn't meet cause he had a cow calfing!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Joe's Day Seven - The Tattoo Parlor

The day was started with a fairly good breakfast of poached eggs in the hotel. Since breakfast was served at the ungodly hour of 10am, it was back to the room to get just a little more sleep after breakfast.

Galway is a great place to shop and the shopping district is closed off to cars. It's also usually filled with musicians, artists, and those types of interesting folk. But since it was February, it was a little short of that sort of thing, except for the one guitarist who kept playing that one particular Allman Bros. song.

While Molly, Katie, and Gino went one way, Ed, Bobby and myself went the other way to find a tattoo parlor. I had inquired at a music store, and fortunately we were in luck. One of the employees had loads of tattoos and obviously knew what parlors to recommend and what parlors to avoid. We then headed our way across the river to a tattoo parlor called "Irish Ink". I think I'll stop at this point, because I don't have any pictures of this event and Ed will most likely tell a good version of this story.

After returning from Galway, we met our cousin Tim Donnellan and his 16 year old son Colm for dinner at the Bellbridge Hotel. Afterwards, it was more tunes at Friels, this time with Henry Benagh, Bernadette McCarthy and Michael, another fiddle player. After the session ended, and the other musicians left, a young bodhran player from Belfast wanted to keep playing. He was a great player, though he looked a little like Pee Wee Herman. Molly also made good friends with one of the locals. I hope she posts pictures.

By now it must be 1am, but the night is not near ending. One of Tim's cows was about to calf and Bobby and Molly were dying to see this, so we were off to the farm. The cow didn't calf while we were there but we enjoyed seeing all the calfs and the farm layout. After spending about an hour at the farm, it was back to the cottage for one more pint and several more laughs. I think we were all exhasted but it was great to spend time with our cousins, Tim and Colm. Afterwards, Ed drove them back and by the time Ed got back to the house, the cow had calfed.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Joe's Day Six - Galway

After a good rest in the Kilmurry house (basecamp), it was time for another adventure - Galway. I'm particularly glad we made it here because Katie seemed to be very impressed by the city. And driving through Galway during rush hour, trying to keep up with Ed, really kept me on my toes.

We ended up booking rooms for a fairly good deal at the Eyre Square Hotel, 3 in each room. After settling it, it was time to eat and we were starved. The hotel recommended a restaurant called McSwiggens which was "just down the road". After asking about 3 different people where it was, we then realized it was true that "you can't miss it". The long search for the restaurant proved to be well worth it. Gino and I both had the rack of lamb, which was SO good for only 20 Euro. Katie and Molly both had salmon that was well received which also came with some very tasty scalloped potatoes. Just about everyone enjoyed their meal there, I think. Just don't get the apple pie.

After dinner it was off to The Crane Bar for some "choones". At first I was a little put off by a swedish fiddler who said it would mostly be a swedish type session with a little irish, but I think he was just hoping that would be the case. It turned out to be good fun and there was plenty of trad irish, and the swedish tunes he played were great. Sitting next to us was Emily and Chuck, a couple that was just in transition from New York to Portland, OR. It was great to meet them and tell them how great Portland is and to get them looking forward to their move.

Interestingly, the next day I met ANOTHER couple that was looking to move to Portland. That was at the tattoo parlor, but that's another story for later...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Joe's Day Five - Slievedooley

After a pretty tasty breakfast at Walsh's B&B, we were off to do some shopping in Dingle. I immediate found a music store and blew about $125 on trad irish CDs. Here's a street view from Dingle on that morning:

The next stop (other than eating) was at the old Reidy farmland, cemetary, and Slievedooley. Here's a picture from within the old abandoned church at the cemetary very close to Slievedooley. Molly and I were looking for the oldest date on a tombstone, and we found one from the late 1700's.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Joe's Day Four - Dingle Peninsula

By the fourth day, Clare finally relaxed her grip on us and we were off to the scenic Dingle Peninsula.

The pictures below are from a much needed stop for exercise in the Conor Pass. We scrambled up some slippy rocks and got a great view. Behind Bobby in the 2nd picture is a fairly large lake. I so wanted to push him in, but I figured he'd get me back worse so I held back.

Here's a great shot of the KGBM, laughing at something Ed said. That's one thing we weren't short of on this trip - laughter. This picture was taken on one of the several stops on the Slea Head drive, that goes around the edge of the peninsula.

I like this picture because the metal sign is like a thought bubble coming from the concerned faces below it:
The last stop on this little afternoon excursion was at the Wine Strand. Again, I think exercise was needed and this was about the only spot to freely walk. I started on the big rocks, jumping from one to another before ending up on a beach to walk on. There were some steep dunes that I would run and jump off of. I didn't even break my neck!

The B&B we stayed in Dingle was right across from the only pub in the village that had trad music, An Droichead Beag. I checked out earlier in the day and the bartender said there was a session and it was open and shouldn't be an issue for a yank like myself to play in. But when I walked in later when the session was about to start, there were mics set up. Microphones. On stands. I usually never see sessions that are mic'd.

Since I had my fiddle case, I immediately rushed to the back before I would be noticed. A bartender spotted the fiddle though and suggested I speak to the musicians. Michael Herhily was the box player and he had no problem with me coming up to play. After sitting off to the side for a set, they invited me to a mic and to start a set. It turned out to be great fun and a good experience to play in front of a crowd. I even got a compliment from a store owner the next day.

After shutting the taps down at 11:30, Ed and I were off for that one last pint. We had no luck until we ran into Charlie from Killarney. He was another trad musician and when he saw my fiddle case, he thought it'd be fun to have some tunes at his buddy's apartment. It was more like a party. Charlie could never get the mis-strung nylon string guitar in tune, but he was generous and offered a couple of cans of Guinness.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Joe's Day Three - Helen & Denis

I'm not certain at what time we got started on this day, but I can assure you it wasn't before noon. The first stop was Molosky to see the ruins of the home where the Donnellan family started, and Katie did the traditional rock removal for a souvenier. We estimate by 2076 the house will be completely gone by Donnellan ancestors travelling overseas, gathering a piece of it to take home.

Now that our shoes were all muddy, it was time to pay a visit to our cousins Helen and Denis McGrath.
After getting a bite to eat, Ed received a call from Helen saying that she was able to locate the-unlocatable-in-the-states-movie, The Wind that Shakes the Barley. Though I was itchin' to get to a session, possibly in Doolin which was about an hour away, I'm certainly glad I stayed. It was by far one of the most intense movies I've seen in awhile.

Helen was also very, very generous with stuffing us with goodies afterwards and even had a cake made for Katie's birthday.

Helen and Denis are wonderful people. And I'm related to them.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Joe's Day Two - Katie's Birthday

After waking up at the crack of 1pm, it wasn't long before I realized that we were slipping into that familiar Ireland visit routine of - "Hey, let's plan to travel all over Ireland, and then end up staying in Clare the whole time!"

We eventually got a move on, and were fortunate enough to get to the Cliffs of Moher before it closed. I have no photos, but from all the shutter clicking I heard from my group, let's just hope that someone will post one or two.

After the Cliffs we were off to Ennis for Katie's birthday celebration at the Jade Cottage with the Reidy cousins from the Crossderry townland. It was certainly the best chinese food I've ever had in Ireland.

Here's a picture of Katie, with the one candle on the cake (I suppose, to represent her first half-century). Whoa, THAT sure puts it into perspective. Sorry, Katie.

Also, the Reidys also presented her with a nice clock. Unfortunately, it didn't have the much needed alarm on it...

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Joe's Day One - Arrival to Shannon

As Ed mentions in this blog, I got stuck in New York en route to the old country but I'm not going to dwell on that. I have finally arrived in Shannon...

After getting through customs, and into the baggage claim, I saw that a flight from Chicago had arrived. At that moment, I frantically looked for the KBGM (Katie Bobby Gino Molly) in a stealth manner as I wanted to sneak up on their sleepy heads. But no luck- they weren't there. The practical jokes would have to be delayed for another time.

At this point, I have no idea if they have flown in, or if Ed is around. After leaving baggage claim, Ed was there in the arrivals waiting area and boy, was I glad to see him. Interestingly, Sue Reidy Mulligan was there too waiting for her husband Jerry.

After KBGM landed it was now time to get on with our holiday. This would be my first opportunity to drive over there and I was a little nervous. Fortunately, it was a piece of cake and after a few days of the tight driving on the roads, it turned out to be a lot of fun!

So I'll let Ed take over from here...

The only other thing to contribute is the kids reaction to my elation of arriving in at the cottage in Kilmurry. "I can finally take off my socks....YES!!!" I wasn't really joking around, but apparently Bobby and Molly got a kick out of it.

Also, the session at Friels was a memorable one. Though it was just another weekend for the local musicians, it was a thrill for me to play with John Kelly, son of the well known Clare fiddler who also runs the fiddle classes during Willie Clancy week, Bernadette McCarthy and Brid O'Donohue. Thanks to all of them for putting up with me!

Friday, February 16, 2007

First Casualty

The last I heard from Joe, he was negotiating an alternative journey due to his flight being cancelled. Apparently, due to bad weather on the East coast, his flight was on a long list of cancellations. A long list of one. Who knows if the weather was the real reason for killing his flight but since the weather was bad, the airline didn't have to pay for a hotel.

His dilemma when I spoke to him on a rapidly dying cellphone (his, not mine. I still had plenty of juice even though I forgot my charger as well and the phone is new enough that the charger that fits it hasn't quite hit the market yet.) was to stay in New York and see the sights getting to Ireland on Sunday, or overnight in New York, get to London and make it in on Sunday again, somehow make it to Ireland on Saturday when Katie, Molly, Bobby and Gino arrive or take a boat, arriving fully rested in time for his flight home.

I was fortunate to make my flight from Chicago since my original flight was delayed long enough to have me miss my connection. Amazingly, the ticket agent noticed this in advance and put me on the earlier, albeit delayed, flight to Chicago that arrived shortly after my original was supposed to have landed.

The impact of the snowstorm that blew through the Midwest on its way East to cancel that one transatlantic flight was still being felt and my flight to Ireland was full. In fact I was given the option of taking a middle seat or one by the emergency exit that didn't recline. My choices were bad or worse. I chose worse. You can't really appreciate reclining airline seats until you sit in one that doesn't for upwards of eight hours. I was happy enough to perform the door duties in case of emergency, but whoever did it last didn't do a good job of closing it. I was wearing a t-shirt, a flannel shirt, sweater and my coat and was freezing the entire way. And I also learned another way that the airlines are saving money. No extra blankets. At least not anywhere the flight attendant could get to at that particular moment as she was blithely patrolling the aisle. What's with stews these days. "Fly the friendly skies" seems to have somehow evolved into "Fly the 'I'm too busy checking things to bother with a passenger request on this non-cancelled transatlantic flight' skies".

In the six times that I've traveled to Ireland, the weather has disrupted the flights at least five times, all in the US. The ironic thing is that it's Ireland that has the reputation for rainy, dreary weather. That's usually not the case in my experience either and today is no exception. It's in the high 40s and partly cloudy, better than the mid-teens back home.

Time to pick up the car, shake off the jet lag and go explore and meet up with some cousins.

Have fun in New York, Joe.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Place names

Here is a short list of the places in we will visit in County Clare where our cousins and/or ancestors lived with the Gaelic spelling and translation.

The source of this information is from a brilliant web site, www.clarelibrary.ie.

Molosky - Where Margaret Donnellan was born. This is where the ruins pictured behind Megan are.
Magh Loscathaidhe
The burnt plain.

Slievedooly - Where Michael Reidy was born.
Sliabh Dúbhlaidh
Dark looking rough ground.

Crossderry - This is where Michael Reidy's father, Thomas, and his father, Michael, and several generations of Reidy's prior were born. It is still owned and farmed by Martin Reidy.
Cros Doire
A wood belonging to the church.

Coolmeen - This is the townland where Martin Reidy currenly lives, next to Crossderry.
Cúl Mín
A corner of a field.

Kilmihil - Another home to many Reidys, the most famous of whom was Sean O'Riada who gaelesized his name John Reidy. He was a brilliant composer who gets much credit with the revival of Irish music and was instumental in the formation of the Chieftans. His gr-grandfather was a speechwriter for Daniel O'Connell, known as the Liberator and one of the most eloquent MPs in the British Parliment of all time. More on Sean and his family later.

This church and parish are dedicated to St. Michael, the Archangel.

Cloondrinagh - Another townland where Reidy's lived, although I can't recall the connections. Just a cool sounding name all around.
Cluain Dráighneac
The land of blackthorns.

Other place names not listed are:

Labasheeda - This is what is often listed as Michael Reidy's "home" in Ireland. It is the largest town in the area where he was born. It translates to the Silken Bed.

Mullagh - This is where the Donnellan's currenly live. I think it translates to high point or top of a hill.

Fionnuaire - This is the name of Tim and Theresa's home & farm in Mullagh. Unfortuantely, I forget the translation.

Finurebeg - The name of the home of Denis and Helen McGrath. Helen is Tim's sister and will have to remind me of the translation for this as well. If I had to guess, it would have something to do with the beautiful waterfalls that are adjacent to their home which they also refer to as "Little Niagra".

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Eve of Katie's Birthday trip

Well here I am on the eve of my eighth trip to Ireland and I'm just as psyched as the first trip. It's Valentine's Day, February 14, 2007, 95 years to the day that my great-grandfather, Michael Reidy succumed to complications due to diabetes after lingering in a coma for three days. It initially was a quest to find out more about him and my other ancestors that first sparked my interest in travelling to Ireland, but it has been meeting the many cousins and friends that we've made since then that keep me going back.

The occasion for this trip is my sister Katie's birthday. Stating a woman's age probably ranks up there with asking it, so I won't say, but you could say it's a milestone anniversary. Since she was so happy with attaining this remarkable age, she decided to celebrate by making good on her threats to go to Ireland and bring her kids, Molly and Bobby, and husband Gino.

I've been managing to make a trip with my brother Joe every two or three years, but this is a quick turnaround since we were just there last July with my daughter Megan, making good on my promise to take her (as well as her brother Ted) when they turn 13. More on that trip later, but here is a picture of Megan in front of the ruins of the house where her great-great-grandmother, Margaret Donnellan was born.