Saturday, 1 January 2011

The Road Trip goes to Galway - Part 1

A very happy new year to all the Blog followers.
For the next few posts, I'll be telling you about what happened when I went to Clonbur in County Galway, and the wonderful Fitzhenry family I met there.

It all started when I told one of our "behind the scenes" contributors, Therese Connolly of Saratoga Springs, NY, that I was due to be visiting Ireland. She said "Give my mum a call, and visit her".

Therese's mum is Mrs. Josie Coyne, nee Fitzhenry, whose family have lived in the Clonbur area of County Galway for at least 150 years. She couldn't have been more welcoming and when I arrived at Clonbur, she sent her long suffering
husband (so he told me!) Tommy to come and pick me up on that first night.
I was treated to a right royal Irish tea with more cake than you could shake a stick at (and Tommy on continuous tea-making duties!), meeting lots of the immediate family who still lived in the area, and also some who had come home for Christmas.
It was brilliant, and I didn't get home until midnight!
So in no special order and with special memories of that night, I'd like to thank:
Josie (nee Fitzhenry) Coyne and Tommy Coyne
Breda Mullins (nee Fitzhenry) and her daughter Marie Walker, visiting from London
Mary and Dermot Mellotte (and their dog!)
Maureen Fitzhenry and her daughters Bridget, Kathleen, Josie and Marion.
I had taken some printouts of various Galway-related Fitzhenry trees, and was shown where they overlapped and joined up (and where I was missing bits!). I learned lots of stories about the family and their stories of living in this part of Galway.

The next day, after a trip to the Old Clonbur graveyard (more about this in next post) I was treated to morning coffee at Ashford Castle by Breda (very posh - here's the link) while her husband John Joe and daughter Marie made a fine lunch. I took a trip westwards along the road from Cong to Clonbur to Cornamona and then onto Maam. My first view of the snow capped hills to the west - a real wow moment, and a foretaste of the weather that waas to come. Then it was back to Mrs Coyne's place for the evening meal.

By Saturday, the snow had well and truly set in. What should have been a quick trip to the town of Claremorris, about 20 miles away in County Mayo, took several hours on ice-treacherous roads. Probably nothing compared with the sort of conditions that our American and Canadian readers are used to, but interesting all the same in a Fiat 500 with no snow chains!

On Saturday evening I was invited to accompany Josie and Tommy to a concert in the village of Cornamona, put on by the local schoolchildren to mark the retirement of their headmaster. It was a brilliant evening - the whole village had turned out for the occasion - the small school hall was certainly packed out. The children from nursery class up to secondary school put on a concert of traditional Irish music, dancing and signing. The whole concert was performed in Gaelic, as were the speeches afterwards. Josie told me that there is an incentive to get the children to learn and speak Gaelic to keep the language alive in this part of Ireland. She could understand it and translated for me as the concert went on.

On Sunday, I had to leave to be return to Rosslare for the Monday early morning ferry back home.
However, I'd managed to cram a whole lot into one week both in Graiguenamanagh and Clonbur.
So to everyone I met on that week, and spared the time to have a chat or direct me where to find more information, who opened up their homes to me and were kind enough to look over my research notes, who showed me something of normal life in their part of Ireland...
and I hope to see more of you next year!

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