I experienced Irish hospitality in Northern Ireland

Tom O’Rourke and Bernadette (O’Rourke) Cousins. About a year ago, I was looking through my DNA matches when I found I matched a man named Tom O’Rourke. Though a distant cousin, Tom lives about 200 yards from my ancestor’s home in Killowen, Northern Ireland. Bernadette is his daughter.

It is true what they say about Irish hospitality. As I think back on my visit to my Irish relatives nearly a month ago, I can’t remember one minute where I didn’t feel welcome or like a part of the family. The Irish people are some of the most friendly people on this earth.

Despite having never met us, Bernadette (O’Rourke) Cousins and her father, Tom O’Rourke (my DNA match) and the rest of their family, welcomed us into their home and even ferried us around the Mourne Mountain area, showing us the sites. Not only did they do that, but Tom’s wife, Magella, invited us to dinner where she served the most delicious stew as well as cake, ice cream and custard for dessert.

Tom and Bernadette were eager to show us around. They drove us to the Kilbroney Cemetery in Rostrevor so my sister could see our ancestor’s grave, then on to Hilltown, the Spelga Dam, the Silent Valley, the Catholic Cemetery in Kilkeel, Greencastle, then on a ferry ride across the Carlingford Lough and back. I have a new appreciation for the area where my ancestors were from — a small village named Killowen which is located in south County Down, on the edge of Cnocshee, a small hill that is part of the Mourne Mountains.

My visit with Kieran

Kieran Waters is standing by the grave of his mother, Philomena (O’Rourke) and his father, Robert Waters.

The next day had the opportunity to reunite with Kieran, my third cousin, whom I’m convinced is one of the nicest men I’ve ever met. Kieran treats me like family even though we met just two years ago. Kieran drove me and my sister to the town of Carlingford where we could look back across the Carlingford Lough and see my ancestor’s homestead. Carlingford is like stepping back in time with its medieval ruins at the center of town.

He also took us to the Catholic Cemetery in Newry so I could see the Quinn family grave. After, we went to the cemetery near the town of Warrenpoint where Kieran’s mother, Philomena O’Rourke, and father, Robert Waters, are buried.

It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

Thank you Bernadette. Thank you Kieran. Thank you Tom and Magella and Mary Cormac. I had a wonderful time.

May the road rise to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face;

And the rain fall soft upon your fields

Till we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Slán go fóill

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