Irish Gathering 2013

Ancestry Research, Stories from the Irish and The 2013 Festivities of the Gathering in Ireland!

Valentia Island, Co. Kerry

August 18, 2012
by Christine
0 comments

Valentia, Tarbert, Lahinch & Galway City

I called again upon my Kiwi friend Stephen, who proved to be indispensable during my trip to Delphi last month. Asking him again to forfeit yet another weekend from the big smoke of Dublin and act as driver through the dicey West of Ireland roads, he was more than obliging. No doubt the sheep and cyclists on the Ring of Kerry breathed a sigh of relief upon his undertaking the task.

From Dublin we reached Renard Point in Kerry in just over five and a half hours. As Stephen legs were numb from the first leg of the drive, I took over the piloting and bought a return ticket from Renard Point to Valentia Island on the car ferry. I had business there with my Uncle Robert who was holidaying with my Aunt Joyce. I hadn’t been down to Valentia since my sister Sabrina had competed in the Valentia Triathlon a few years ago. I was again struck by the wildness and beauty of the island. It is such a nice way to arrive on Valentia. To watch the small harbour grow in size ahead while seals pop their wet heads out of the calm sea to eyeball you.

Stephen and I were given a wonderful welcome by Robert and Joyce, who are without question, the best hosts I have ever have the pleasure of being guest to. Robert had picked up a Laser boat from the local shipyard and had been out all morning in the bay. No doubt Ireland’s Annalise Murphy, the Irish Olympian who was burning up the waves that weekend, had helped the sales of many Laser boats in Valentia. Joyce had laid out a beautiful spread off Atlantic Bay crab claws, salad, brown bread and potatoes which Robert had grown out in the garden.

Valentia Island, Co. Kerry

Valentia Island, Co. Kerry*

Valentia life is certainly a different speed and quality of life. The land is very easy to grow all manner of produce in and the plentiful supply of nutrient rich seaweed helps the vegetable to flourish. Robert brought us out to the sun room where he had washed some seaweed and was drying it out. Joyce explained it is used for all manner of local remedies, from face creams and beauty treatments to tea and Japanese Sashimi. Robert asked us what route we had planned to get to our lodgings that night in Quilty, Co. Clare. Stephen, ever the Man Friday, had the foresight to book us into a cottage just off the strand in Quilty. Robert took out a map and calculated the mileage between us and Quilty. He informed Stephen we could shave at least an hour and a half off the journey if we took the Tarbert to Killimer Ferry. The last one would leave at 9.30 that night. It was already 7.30 and there was no time to spare, I finished the last mouthful of my carrot cake and kissed Robert and Joyce goodbye. Stephen, being the trooper that he is, took the reigns for the next leg of our trip. We boarded the Valentia ferry and waved goodbye to the tourists and seals. After alighting the Ferry at Renard Point, Stephen put the foot down and we reached the Tarbert harbour at exactly 9.30 that night. We expected to see the Ferry just pulling out of the harbour as we rounded the final bend but as luck would have it, the Ferry was running three minutes. Night had fallen by the time we reached Killimer on the far side and we stopped in Kilrush to pick up some supplies for the evening. In the off licence, a friendly attendant suggested we take in the Star of the Sea church in Quilty. He briefly explained the history of the church which led to my interest in penning the article.

Over the next few days we travelled all around Clare. We drove to Lahinch where Stephen launched himself into the waves of the Atlantic while I watched at a safe distance from the bar. We hiked around the Burren National Park where I got us lost on the Mullaghmore walk (blue line trail) and almost navigated us over the edge of a cliff. Stephens skills as a “man of the earth” were in full throttle and he backtracked our steps, saving us from becoming another statistic on a mountain rescue report. We stopped in the wonderful village of Kilfenora to visit the Burren Centre and St. Fachtnan’s Church. Vaughan being the prominent name in the graveyard, I felt it only fitting to stop by in the local pub Vaughan’s to take in the Katie Taylor Lightweight Woman’s Semi Final in the Olympics. Well done Katie. “He gains what he seeks and he strikes what he aims for.” Never has the Taylor family motto been more relevant.

Flower in the Burren National Park

Flower in the Burren National Park

The Scarriff Harbour Festival is always worthy of a visit every year. Every August bank holiday weekend finds the harbour transformed and filled to the brim. It’s full of music of all genres, dancing, recitals and events for the kids. This years celebration on the Lough Derg shore showcasing everything that’s great about Clare was as lively as previous years. My own personal favorite from the festival was the junior Irish dancing which brought real energy to the stage. This month my Golden Harp Award for community spirit from Irishgathering2013 goes to the good people of Scarriff for their enthusiastic contribution to the Irish cultural calendar. It was thoroughly enjoyable and I left with a hamper full of delicious homemade country products.

Finally we stopped in Galway city before getting on the motorway back to Dublin. Galway has always set a high bar for other towns to follow from an arts point of view and I enjoyed a few hours of strolling around, snapping up the atmosphere with my camera. The street artist are professional musicians. Eyre Square was flying the flags of the 14 tribes of Galway and I sipped a cappuchino proudly under the Joyce flag whilst photographing the square. I promised John O’Malley who I talked to in the Square that I would mention the pupils of St Francis school of Ballinfoyle Parish who knit a patchwork sail to cover the famous Galway Hooker statue, which was erected in Eyre Square in 1984. For the benefit of our American readers, a Galway Hooker is a fast sailing ship which is famous in the West coast for its rust red coloured sails. The name Hooker is said to come from the Dutch word howker/holker, a small easily manoeuvred ship. So Roxanne, you don’t have to put on the red light.
Until next month, keep well and keep checking in with us at Irishgathering2013.com

Chris

*Photograph by Graham Duke

Direction County Claire

August 16, 2012
by Christine
1 Comment

Allo Leon, Adios Armada! – Chris’s Diary, August Bank Holiday Weekend

Ireland’s hospitality towards unexpected visitors has always leaned towards the sweet side of the scale. For troubled expeditions of foreign marine fleets, this hospitality has been upheld proudly by Irish citizens, with and without the current ruling powers Veto.

I visited the West of Ireland for the August bank holiday weekend, planning to take in some surfing in Lahinch and live music in The Scariff Harbour Festival, but found myself sucked into penning yet another article for Irishgathering2013.com. The need to impart the tale I had learnt came about after I happened upon a quaint church in the village of Quilty, Co. Clare. Constantly on the quest to discover yet another great untold story from our jewel encrusted past, I called upon all my faculties to sew together the fabled fabric rarely told about the rescue of the ship’s crew from The French vessel, The Leon XIII. I would like to thank the sales assistant at Next Door off licence in Kilrush and The Quilty National School for their contribution to this article. Also praise to The O’Dwyer family for their part in the conservation of this story contained in the bricks and mortar of the Star of the Sea church in Quilty.

Direction County Claire

Direction County Claire

One dismal morning, on the 1st of October in the year of our lord – 1907, a three-masted ship was sighted off the coast of Quilty, dangerously close to the reef offshore. The ship was scheduled to enter the Shannon Estuary laden with a full load of wheat from America. Due to hampered weather conditions, she kept her distance off the coast, trying to bide time until the storm passed. But the storm only grew in size and unmercifully threw The Leon XIII and her crew around like milk in a churn. The local fishermen of Quilty had been monitoring the ship and despaired when her rudder was destroyed by rocks on the rugged coastline of Mutton Island, not one mile off the beach from Quilty, leaving her without means to navigate. They feverishly pushed their currachs through the unyielding waves, only to be thrown out by the tempest and almost drowned themselves. The families of Quilty kept candles burning in the windows of their houses in an effort to send a signal to the sailors that they had not been abandoned. There were twenty two crew onboard.

Abandoned Fishing Boat, Quilty, Co. Clare

Abandoned Fishing Boat, Quilty, Co. Clare*

As the grey light of day fell over the sorrowful scene, the fishermen silently carried their currachs made of wooden frame and animal hide back towards the shoreline. They were determined to get to the ship which was now taking on water. Again and again they were battered by the sea, continually having to rescue their own men and place them back into their currachs. Eventually, through sheer brute will and with exhausted arms from rowing, the currachs rallied together in a fleet and managed to reach The Leon. They took as many sailors as they could hold in the light sea crafts. The captain was injured with a broken leg and chose to stay with any other sailors who could not be accommodated on the rescue currachs. A second trip could not be made that day and so it was that the local Irish men and women of Quilty and the neighbouring towns of Miltown Malbay and Spanish Point, kept vigil over The Leon from the shore. They prayed through the night for the storm to break and on the morning of the 2nd of October, the waves eased and the sky opened in patches of blue through the grey cloud. As the sunlight hit the drenched wood of The Leon for the first time in days, a naval ship had arrived from Cobh, Co. Cork and was able to get close enough to pull the remaining sailors and injured captain to safety.

A round towered church stands close to the site of the rescue to this day. The Star of the Sea church was finished in 1911 as a dedication to the bravery of the Irish fishermen and it is testament to what can be achieved through human will and overcoming seemingly impossible tasks.
Here are the names of those brave Irish fishermen, who risked their lives against the might of the ferocious Atlantic to bring the French sailors to safety:

Martin and Austin O Boyle, Patrick Kelleher, Denis Kelly, Patrick Cunneen, John Mc Inerney, James Falsey, Michael Stack, Michael O Dowd, Patrick O Boyle, Michael and John Kenny, John Kelleher, Patrick Kelly, Michael Mc Inerney, John Scully, John O Connor, Peter O Boyle, Martin Murrihy, Francis Healy, Patrick Mangan, Martin Moloney and John Stack.

In a separate turn of events, The Spanish Armada fleets, which stalked the coast of Ireland and Britain in the late early 1600’s, were a considerable thorn in the side of Queen Elizabeth I and a constant threat to her empire. The edict was sent out across Ireland through the powers that reigned, (the occupying English authorities acting in her majesties effort) that if any person aided the prosperity of any member of the Spanish Armada, certain death would soon follow. Although this law had encouraged Irish men and women never to allow a marine man of Spanish blood to darken their doorstep, it cannot be denied that the women of the west of Ireland possess a certain “dark exotic quality” lending to the Róisín Dubh appearance of so many of our countries celebrated beauties. One need look no further than the internationally revered Galway Girl to estimate our fulfilment of this order to the British monarch. Beguiling Irish eyes are still smiling. When they’re not winking at you!

This Diary entry is dedicated to the memory of two Quilty fisher men, Michael Galvin and Noel Dickinson, who were tragically lost to the sea on Monday, August 13th from their vessel Lady Eileen. Our hearts and prayers go to Quilty, to their family and friends.

Is féidir dia choimeád sábháilte a n-éadrom – May God keep safe their light.

*Photograph by Yellabelly*

Happy end: Chris meeting Paddy Joyce

July 30, 2012
by Christine
1 Comment

Genealogy Adventure: A Joyce’s Return to the Homeland – Day 3: All’s Well That Ends Well

Day 3: All’s well that ends well

Missed how all this started? Read part 1 Genealogy Adventure: A Joyce’s Return to the Homeland – The Bet, part 2 Genealogy Adventure: A Joyce’s Return to the Homeland – Day 1: Into the West and part 3 Genealogy Adventure: A Joyce’s Return to the Homeland – Day 2: The Delphi Experience.

Over a long breakfast, Stephen rallies my spirits with a “St. Crispins Day” speech. He knows I was downhearted from our lack of findings the last few days, so he suggests driving north towards Clare Island to further the scope of our search. The drive takes us past Croke Patrick, through Louisburgh and down the west coast to Crossinsky Strand, known by the local surfers as Cross Beach. I know his game; he’s been dying to get me back into a wetsuit since kayaking yesterday. I oblige him. The water is cold and we rent two boards off a cheery surfer dude with a truck full of surfing gear. He tells us where the safest place is to surf, Stephen listens, I disregard this and head for the big waves. The first wave hits me and I feel like my ear canal has been surgically removed. Stephen’s a natural. Webbed feet, that one. I paddle further out to sea and lie on my board wondering if I could reach Inishturk Island on the surf board. The lifeguard motions for us to come in. I don’t tell Stephen about the twenty quid I gave the lifeguard an hour earlier and our secret hand signals. “It’s a shame, I was just getting into it…” Stephen says, disappointed. “ Yeah, me too!” I say winking at the lifeguard. Our hands are purple at this stage but a hot cup of tea soon puts us right again.

We drive for an hour looping back towards the R335 hoping to get a glimpse of the Aillemore megalithic tomb. We get to the site expecting to find a Newgrange-like type of structure built by my ancestors through sheer might and will and I’m craning my neck over a pile of stone to get a better look, when Stephen points and draws my gaze downwards.
The pile of rocks IS the Megalithic tomb. I feel like the kid who got fruit for Christmas.

After a bath, I spend an hour running around Delphi asking anyone I met if they knew any local Joyce’s. A Latvian Mountaineer asked me if that was a fish. It might as well be, I replied. A big wet one.

Stephen is at the bar and Corina has told him about a great trad session from six to nine in a pub down the road called The Carraig Bar in Leenane. He’s mad for some Irish tunes and I agree to go. I can pen a tune about how Irelands long lost daughter comes home to find all her relatives have split and left her on her todd. I could call it: “Forget me not, you absent lot.” Can you hear the Ilin pipes?

Carraig Bar Leenane

Carraig Bar in Leenane

Trad band

Trad band

The sun is setting in Killary Harbour and The Carraig pubs ample windows are flooded with a sepia glow. The scene warms my heart instantly. The trad band, consisting of a squeeze box, tin whistle and a bodhran, is in full swing and two local women get up to set dance. The bar is packed and as the locals finish their work for the day, they trickle in. I order drinks for us and chat with a local called Tony. Stephen finds a pair stools right beside the bar facing the band where two tourist have left and we claim them. I’m starting to relax and a French lady asks Stephen to take a picture of her and her husband either side of what I presume to be a local man of about ninety years old with a Paddy cap and a mischievous grin. He’s propping up the bar where it meets the wall and it looks like, from where I’m sitting, the pub was built around him. The French couple speak perfect English and ask him what his name is. He doesn’t understand being Gaeltor and having leaving cert Irish, I interject, “Cad is ainm duit?” He winks and replies “Paddy Joyce”. Paddy Joyce. Paddy Joyce. God bless you Paddy Joyce. “ PADDY JOYCE! Is mise Chris Joyce! Chris Seoige! Mo clan amach Gaillimh anseo! Ta tu Joyce agus is mise Joyce, mo dheathair d’aois!” I cried kissing him and jumping up and down. Stephen and French couple think I have just contracted Tourettes Syndrome along with my happy new friend. I try to explain to Paddy Joyce through my now exhausted stock of standard issue Irish, that I had a bet with a friend in Dublin I wouldn’t find another Joyce relative from my clan here. He says his Joyce stock goes right back to the clan of old Joyce Country. He says he’s always been here and he always will be. Then he says something I don’t understand. “ Aithníonn ciaróg, ciaróg eile.” I get him to write it down and tell him I’ll google it when I get back to Dublin. Stephen takes a photo of us together and after an hour we head back to the hotel for a triumphant dinner. I have the duck in a tip o’ the hat to my bet with Alex and afterward, ring him in Dublin and inform him he must forfeit his dignity and be my steed for the battle re-enactment on the 9th of June in Clontarf. I have Stephen confirm this fact and ask Alex to google what Paddy Joyce said in the bar. He struggles through the Fadas and eventually finds the meaning.

Happy End: Chris meeting Paddy Joyce

Happy End: Chris meeting Paddy Joyce

“One cockroach recognizes another cockroach.” He reads aloud. Irish Magnetism. Even cockroaches understand it. Put that in your pipe and smoke it Alex.

Along the road near Leenane

July 24, 2012
by Christine
0 comments

Genealogy Adventure: A Joyce’s Return to the Homeland – Day 2: The Delphi Experience

Day 2: The Delphi Experience

Missed how all this started? Read part 1 Genealogy Adventure: A Joyce’s Return to the Homeland – The Bet and part 2 Genealogy Adventure: A Joyce’s Return to the Homeland – Day 1: Into the West.

I awake and have no idea what time it is. I’ve slipped quickly into Delphi mode. At the resort, there are no TVs and getting a signal for your mobile phone requires hiking 750 feet up the nearest mountain. For me, this is heaven. I breakfast with Stephen and discuss the plan of action for the day. He suggest a bike ride up to the Doolough Pass, with a quick hike up the Sheffry hills to get us warmed up for sea kayaking. I try to look enthusiastic and mention that I was in a musician for ten years. Hence, I have the bones structure of an eighty year old well digger. He laughs and leads me out to the bike shed, I mournfully follow.

Doo Lough

Doo Lough

Biking is a great way to see Connemara. Life is much slower here, even the ponies have shorter legs, they are not in a rush to get anywhere. I use this stratagem when taking on the Doo Lough Pass. Doo Lough itself is as deep as the mountain is high which towers over it and black as Guinness. Stephen and I are awestruck by the beauty of the natural landscape in the area and curse ourselves for not holidaying more in Ireland. It really is stunningly beautiful. At least that’s what I keep telling Stephen so I can stop and take picture and catch my breath. Sheep occasionally jump down from the mountain and catch me off-guard. Stephen cycles at 40km/h and shouts over his shoulder at me as he recounts life on a sheep farm back home in New Zealand. He cycles a full two miles before he realizes I’ve come off my bike.

Cycling Doo Lough Pass

Cycling Doo Lough Pass

Sea Kayaking at 2pm and pensively I rationalize, there must be some Joyce’s working in the bay as fishermen. I can get really close to them in a kayak. Stephen helps me get into a wetsuit in the rain. I feel like a Clonakilty pudding and when I ask him if my bum looks big in it, he just laughs. He’s been doing that a lot on this trip, next time I may have to bring an Aussie. I tell him this, he doesn’t laugh.

Clonakilty Pudding

Clonakilty Pudding *

James, who is our Kayaking instructor for the afternoon, leads myself, Stephen and three other couples down to the edge of Killary Harbour. We go through some basic safety rules and get our operation instructions and then it’s pretty much heave-ho off the shoreline. I am surprisingly comfortable in a sea kayak and turn around to brag to Stephen. He’s about 200 yards ahead of me, his Māori lineage helping him slice directly through the waves. The water in the inlets of the fjord is fresh and eventually when we get further out into deeper water, the salt water tells us we’re starting to suck diesel. The water is warm today as cloud has gathered in the afternoon and it’s very pleasant to be splashed by the deep Prussian blue salt water. We stop at an underwater mussel farm in the harbour. Each buoy which floats in a long line of buoys, holds a heavy rope of mussels underneath. It takes up to three years for the mussels to fully develop underneath. So there’s not really any need for fishermen to be around them today. All other fishermen are much further out to sea, James informs me. No Joyce relatives on the water today. We head back inland after an hour or two on the water. I’m famished and thinking about mussels in white wine, tomato and herb sauce. After we dock, James our instructor takes a running jump off the pier and into the sea. For some strange reason, everyone in our party follows like lemmings. Call it crowd mentality or confusion from our group as to whether this was still part of the kayaking lesson, but Delphi is like that. It just gets to you. It gets under your skin and before you know it, you’re launching yourself off a pier into Atlantic waters. I am wondering how many of my relatives had done this in previous years at this exact pier before the bad angle at which I enter the water brings me crashing back to reality. The Dublin in me reminds me my health insurance isn’t up to date and I crawl into the back of the Vanette with the others, thankful I haven’t broken anything. We sit like wet seals in our suits as they squeak against the black sacks covering the seats while the windows mist up on the way back to the hotel.

Along the road near Leenane

Along the road near Leenane

After a quick dip in the Jacuzzi and steam room, Stephen and I wolf down some mussels at the Hotel Bar. Corina isn’t working tonight and I find myself missing her company. I ask Orsi at reception where the best seafood Restaurant is in the area, she tells me The Portfin in Leenane. She very kindly makes a reservation for 8.15pm for me. Stephen and I arrive in the drivings of rain and this place looks fantastic. It’s full of locals and our waitress explains two big parties will be in later that night. I ask around on my way to the toilet if any of the staff or patrons are Joyce’s. They all reply in the negative. Even the restaurant manager is from Dublin, I am disappointed to find out. I feel as though my clan are hiding up the mountains and when I go up, they head down the other side. When Stephen goes to the toilet, I try and cheat using his smart phone to search for Joyce’s in the area through an Eircom site. No dice. He has disabled the Internet option. Alex must have got to him. I have scallops and crabs claws which are delicious and we split a banoffee pie. We stop for a pint in Gaynor’s bar, which was famously featured in the movie the field. No Joyce’s in tonight. I go to bed with a full belly and a heavy heart.

Come back for the final day of Chris’s adventure after the weekend …

*Photograph by Georgina Ingham

Swim in Lough Corrib, County Galway

July 11, 2012
by Christine
0 comments

Genealogy Adventure: A Joyce’s Return to the Homeland – Day 1: Into the West

Day 1: Into the West

Missed how all this started? Read part 1 of Genealogy Adventure: A Joyce’s Return to the Homeland – The Bet …

The following Friday I started on the road to Galway at 9.30am. I convinced my Kiwi friend Stephen to come along to witness and document my glory. I booked us into The Delphi Mountain Resort, right wham-bam in the middle of Joyce Country. He’s very outdoorsy and the adventure centre would keep him happy while I was hatching my plans in the spa jacuzzi.

Aughnanure Tower Castle County Galway

Aughnanure Tower Castle, County Galway

We arrived at Oughterard just after noon and decided to take in Aughnanure Tower Castle beside Lough Corrib. It was Built by the O’Flahertys c. 1500. It’s worth mentioning now that my Mother is an O’Flaherty and I have the blood of Grace O’Malley running through my veins. This explains my aversion to authority and my stout seadog legs. The O’Flaherty family motto is “Fortune favours the strong”. I felt I was now on the right path and Alex should invest in a sturdy pair of knee pads. I picnic here with Stephen and take in my relatives handiwork from a distance over a ham sandwich. It’s a solid and dominating structure with a lower level storage room at ground level with two banqueting halls above. There are toilet facilities on each of the higher levels so the party goers didn’t have to leave the comfort of the heated large rooms with immense fireplaces. The second and first floor both have fabulous vistas out of the north and south landscapes. There are arrow holes over the main doors for protection purposes. I’ll have to get one of them for the TV license inspector. We get back to the tour mobile and drive for ten minutes. Suddenly, Stephen pulls the hand break and leaps from the car. He jumps into Lough Corrib and yelps with the cold. Kiwi’s are prone to doing things like that. It’s their southern hemisphere polar magnets. Don’t get me started.

Swim in Lough Corrib, County Galway

Lough Corrib, County Galway

Onwards through The Western Way, Lough Corrib grows smaller on our right and Joyce Country descends from the Heavens and rises up in mountainous form. I really am quite overwhelmed when I see my mountain in the thick of Joyce Country named “Bunnacunneen”, standing all 577 feet proud. I dry my eyes and we head for Leenane, a small fishing village in Killary Harbour. A short drive around the fjord takes us through a gap in the mountains and we reach our lodging for the next three nights at the foot of Ben Creegan. Delphi Mountain Resort is situated 10 minutes walk from Delphi Lodge which was built in the 1830’s by The Marquis of Sligo. The name “Delphi” coming from the site at which the Delphic Oracle resided in the valley Phocis where Apollo Slew a dragon named Python. With my mind buzzing with the thoughts of a dragon descending Ben Creggan and killing me before I finish my mission, I head for the spa to build up an appetite. After a spell in the spa and a splendid Lamb dinner with Stephen in the hotel dinner, we head for the bar where Stephen runs into a fellow New Zealander Corina, a manager in the resort. Are you paying attention Alex? Southern Hemisphere Regional Inconceivable Magnetism Polarised. S.H.R.I.M.P. I’m working on the t-shirt design on the back of a beer mat in the bar when Corina, fellow go-getter outdoorsy type signs us up for sea-kayaking tomorrow at 2pm. I lie and tell her I’m already booked in for a facial at that time. Being the great manager she is, she says she can re-arranges my spa appointment. I tell her I’m psyched, have a double Irish and head for for the thatch. I dream I’m eaten by a giant underwater dragon in Killary harbour that night. Stephen can only identify me by my dental records, worse still … Alex wins the bet.

Read on in part 3: Genealogy Adventure: A Joyce’s Return to the Homeland – Day 2: The Delphi Experience