A cornucopia of Irish cousins – my latest trip to Ireland

My grandmother's cottage in Ballaghboy, county Sligo

In March, I was lucky enough to take another trip to Ireland.  Scheduled to be in Dublin for work on a Monday, I decided to arrive on Saturday morning and head west for a weekend of visiting.

My first stop was Ballinamore, county Leitrim.  I had arranged to meet Gerry Clarke, a friend who has been a great source of local information over the past few years.  This trip was an opportunity to make one more attempt to identify the gravesite of my grandfather’s family.  His two brothers, parents and ancestors died in Gubnaveagh and were buried at St. Mary’s at Aughnasheelin.  I’ve been over the church cemetery multiple times and since the last burial was around 1960, I assume the headstone is unreadable, buried or non-existent.

We tried to talk to one of the neighbors adjacent to the old Sweeney property but we weren’t lucky enough to catch him unannounced – maybe next time.  We did meet with the parish priest and found out there is no map of the plots from 50 years ago.  Most people simply know where their families are buried.  There are no civil burial records for any of the Sweeneys, so either they were vampires or they are indeed buried somewhere in the church cemetery.

I drove to the Ballaghboy Lodge Farm  in county Sligo very close to where my grandmother (Horan) lived.  Gerry lives in the neighboring village of Ballinafad.  We headed over to Boyle, county Roscommon, which is just a few miles away.  I had met two 2nd cousins before in Boyle and was about to meet a third – John McPherson.  His grandfather and my grandmother were siblings.

John was a fantastic host, welcoming me as a family member albeit separated by distance and many years.  We spent time with his family.  Meeting his wife, daughter, two sons, a daughter-in-law and four grandchildren was a treat.  I had been corresponding with them on facebook and email since my last visit when John was out of the country.  It was nice to exchange stories about our families and hear about my grandmother’s family and the place she grew up.  We also visited with his sister, Maureen, as well as another 2nd cousin, Mary.

As we drove around Boyle, John showed me the sights including a plaque of Maureen O’Sullivan, a Boyle native.  Chris O’Dowd is another of Boyle’s most famous citizens.  By the time John dropped me back at the B&B, I was running on fumes.  However, the B&B had a guest performer playing that evening – Donal O’Connor.  I managed to stay awake long enough to enjoy his performance.

Sunday, it was on to Carrownamaddy, county Roscommon, for a short visit with the Brennans – Mick, Eamon and Vincent.  On my last visit, my sister, brother and I met our Brennan cousins for the first time.  I was treated to lunch, some nice conversation, and an introduction to their cows.  We also called on another Brennan cousin as well as Liam Byrne from the local historical society.  After signing the Brennan visitor book, it was back to Dublin to return my rental car and get ready for work on Monday morning.

It was a whirlwind 36 hours, but well worth it.  Thanks to my Irish cousins for welcoming me with open arms!  Until next time …

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