This trip is costing me a lot of money, but I don’t regret it for one minute. It is worth every penny. I had a fabulous day yesterday when I met an Irish cousin (third cousin) and set foot on the actual property where my great-grandfather John O’Rourke was born. The property is situated up a small road about two or so kilometers east of Rostrevor. It is at the side of a small mountain known as Knockshee (Fairy Hill).
The property has a great view of Carlingford Lough, a bay sits on the border of Northern Ireland and Ireland. Kieran Waters, a descendant of Francis O’Rourke, John’s brother, was kind enough to take me there. It was exciting to finally meet him as we have been corresponding through Facebook for at least a year. Not only did Kieran take me there, he also brought me photos, a family tree and a copy of our second great-grandfather’s (James O’Rourke) will written in 1903.
In addition, he brought me a phone number of local historian of sorts – Mark Brennan. I am invited to Mark and his wife’s home for tea Saturday evening at half-six (6:30 in Irish). I am really looking forward to it. This is exactly what I wanted to do – meet the actual people of Ireland and Northern Ireland and learn about what life was and is like for them. When I left Ireland after my vacation two years ago, I knew I had to come back. My trip to County Down then had been mostly a failure. I failed to locate my great grandfather’s baptismal certificate and I was unsure if I found my ancestor’s grave in the local cemetery. I had gone to the cemetery my last night in Rostrevor at the urging of
my partner Toni who said I would regret it if I didn’t. It was not until I arrived home that I realized I had located my ancestor’s gravesite and I owe it all to ancestry.com and Lisa Cutshaw, a third cousin who resides in Monterey, Calif. For those who don’t know about ancestry.com, if an ancestor in your family tree matches another person’s tree, it notifies you. I was notified that my great grand uncle Francis O’Rourke matched Francis in Lisa’s tree. To make a long story short, I contacted her and she confirmed the gravesite I had found was my ancestors’. She also told me where they had lived — a place known as Crockshee or Knockshee. I also had help from Deirdre McEvoy, an
amateur genealogist from the Rostrevor/Killowen area. I made plans last September to revisit County Down. And yesterday I realized my dream – to meet an O’Rourke cousin and see where my family is from. Enjoy the photos.
Feckin’ roundabouts. Everywhere you drive in Ireland and Northern Ireland there they are. (Feckin’ is not a bad word. It’s what you say instead of the F word here.) You think you know where you are going then you come to a roundabout. First off, you have to remember to go to the left. It’s not too hard because you’re already on the left. Then you have to figure out which way you are going. If you can’t figure it out, you can drive around in circles until you do.
There are other things that drive me crazy about driving in Ireland. People just park any which way. You don’t know if you’re going down a one way street or not. Then cars are parked halfway in the street. It’s up to you to go around them. Another car might be coming in the opposite direction.
My journey to Rostrevor through the roundabouts
I woke up yesterday to a windy, cloudy and rainy day. I wasn’t looking forward to driving the 192 kilometers to Rostrevor, but what choice did I have? Luckily, it never rained really hard and I figured out how to use the windshield wipers pretty quickly. I got gas (or petrol as it’s called here) in a small town called Milltown just a few miles outside of Sligo. I could hardly understand the girl the counter. She was asking me if I got petrol or diesel. When I couldn’t make it out, so I just pointed to the pump. Continue reading “I don’t want to go to Londonderry (Derry)”→
Today was my best day so far in Ireland. For one, it didn’t rain. Well, it didn’t rain significantly. It was windy and cold and a few drops fell from the sky, but I can’t have everything, can I? The other reason is that I finally fulfilled a long-time dream of mine — to travel to Breifne, where the O’Rourke clan originated.
After spending for days in Dingle, I was off by bus to Sligo in northwest Ireland. I woke up Sunday morning in Dingle and it was pouring — really coming down. Since Sunday was a travel day, I wasn’t too disappointed. I got completely soaked walking to the bus stop because I was too cheap to take a taxi (it was only three or four blocks away). The wind was howling so hard it turned my umbrella inside out and it broke. I deposited in the trash at the SuperValu (that’s how it’s spelled) in Dingle. I can buy another one. There’s no umbrella shortage in Ireland.
The trip on Bus Eireann took 10 hours and I changed buses three times. I had two layovers of 90 minutes — one in Tralee and another in Galway. By the time I got to Galway, it had stopped raining. The last leg — from Galway to Sligo took two and a half hours and we stopped at every one-horse (or one sheep) town along the way. When I arrived in Sligo at 8:20 pm, my hotel was right next door to the bus station. Continue reading “My most amazing day in the home of the O’Rourke clan”→
I woke up this morning and it was raining again. That makes five of the first seven days I have been in Ireland it has been raining. There is nothing I can do about it, but make the best of it. Even the Irish hate how much it rains here and you’d think they’d be used to it.
Yesterday, however was a beautiful day. Irish eyes were smiling. In my last post I wrote about the advantages of traveling alone. Well as I found out, there are some disadvantages. I wanted to take a tour of Slea Head and it’s recommended if you have a car to drive it. I don’t have a car and don’t plan to rent one until next week, if at all. The hard core cycle the Slea Head drive and some even walk it, but cycling would take all day and I was not prepared to walk it. So I tried to book a tour. Well, the tours need at least three people to book or they don’t go.
I was really going to be disappointed if I didn’t get out there on Slea Head, so I did something I wouldn’t normally do. I offered to pay for three people even though I was the only one going. It was a little pricey, but I’m sure I would have regretted it for the rest of my life. It was cheaper than renting a car.
Anyway, it was fabulous. I had my own private tour guide — Frank. Frank stopped where I wanted and stayed at places as long as I wanted. He also took several photos of me at the various sites. And it was a glorious day. I only wish I had remembered to take a photo of Frank. We stopped at beaches, piers, megalithic and early Christian sites. I love old stuff, especially old things in Ireland. The tour took three hours and we looked at beehive huts, an old church, Celtic crosses more than a thousand years old and had stunning views of the western coastline. If you’d like to read more about megalithic Ireland, this is an excellent site: http://www.megalithicireland.com/
Before I took this trip, I was nervous about traveling alone. I’ve never traveled by myself and was worried whether I’d get lonely. But I just felt I needed to do it alone. For one, I wanted to be able to do what I wanted, when I wanted. Toni and I travel well together, but we are different people and like to do different things. Sometimes I just like to sit in a cafe and people watch and to Toni that feels like she’s not doing anything. She needs to move around and see something, or she feels like she’s not getting her money’s worth. She also doesn’t talk much to other people she doesn’t know and I enjoy it.
So far this has been the best experience. I have met so many people that I otherwise would have never talked to if I had traveled with another person or more.
To begin with, I had dinner the other night in Dublin with Deidre McEvoy. Deidre is an amateur genealogist from Rostrevor, where my O’Rourke family came from. She does genealogy for lots of people, particularly Americans searching for their Irish roots. She was able to send me lots of information, including the names of my third and fourth great grandfathers. (By the way, they were both named John — John Jr. and John Sr. My great grandfather is also named John.) Continue reading “Traveling alone in Ireland is not so bad”→
Sleep and sunshine are beautiful things. I got both yesterday. Today I’m not so lucky. I’m OK in the sleep department, but it is raining again. I have to remember this is Ireland. There is a reason it is so green and the the rivers are so full of rushing water.
After feeling like a zombie for the first two days, I finally slept a full night Sunday night. I spent Sunday looking in stores, but I didn’t buy anything. I also went to two museums — the National Gallery and the National Archaeological Museum. There didn’t seem to be a lot of art in the Gallery. It appeared to be undergoing a remodel of some sort. I think I might have missed a wing of the gallery or something, but the art I did see was quite good. I had a wonderful vegetarian lunch at restaurant called The Farm, then headed over to the Archaeological Museum. It is one of my favorite museums. I was there on my last trip, but I had to see the Bog People again. Continue reading “Sleep and sunshine”→
If only it could rain like this in California in January. I was ill-prepared for the weather when I stepped out of the Dublin airport late yesterday morning. The rain was coming down in buckets and the cold penetrated my skin underneath my light sweater. I was only wearing a t-shirt under the sweater and my umbrella was packed away in my suitcase. What a difference between the warm, sunny weather I left in Ukiah. The the biggest shock of all was the air temperature — 45 degrees. It literally felt like a cold January rainstorm in Northern California, when it used to rain in California. I expected the rain, but not the cold. I had checked the Dublin weather before I left and it had been in the low sixties.
My flight was uneventful except that they somehow did not have me on the list to receive a vegetarian meal. Luckily, they had an extra one. I sat next to a French lady traveling to her home in Paris who barely spoke the entire trip. I managed to get a few hours sleep which is pretty good for me as I always have trouble sleeping on planes. I still have jet lag today as I only slept about four hours my first night in Dublin.
It’s Sunday and five days before I leave for Ireland. I still don’t have a complete itinerary, but I know most of the places I will be. When I arrive I will at least have a familiar face to greet me. Earlier this week I contacted the taxi driver we hired two years ago when I visited Ireland two years ago. His name is Tony and he was perfect for us. He drove us to Newgrange, then to Malahide Castle and Howth a small town just north of Dublin. He took us to his favorite fish and chips restaurant, a small take out joint where they didn’t even write down your order. I don’t usually eat meat or fish, but I made an exception and it was delicious.
On our last sight seeing day in Ireland he took us to the Dublin Cemetery, the Botanical Gardens and his favorite watering hole or pub — John Kavanaugh’s. We saw the graves of the Irish martyrs — Patrick Pearse, James Connolly and Tom Clarke who were executed by the British after the Easter rising in 1916, an event which is said to have turned public opinion against the British and for Irish independence.
I’m glad I’m arriving Saturday morning to a familiar face. I’ll be tired after the 10-hour flight. He has already suggested I check out Croke Park in Dublin a venue where Gaelic Football and Hurling are played — two ancient Irish sports. He must have sensed I’m a sports fan. I may even check out a hurling match when I’m there.
In three weeks I’m leaving for Ireland for my first solo trip ever. I will be going to Ireland to meet long lost relatives, to research my genealogy and to have some fun. My last trip to Ireland two years ago was a blast but I went with four friends and it was a compromise every day. I wanted to do a lot of genealogy, but it was nearly impossible with four others and one car. Let’s face it, not everyone is interested in my family history.
I often wonder why I focus more on my father’s family than I do my mother’s side. I think part of has to do with my name — O’Rourke — one of the Irish clans from long ago. From as far back as I can remember people would ask me if I was Irish. Duh. Also, my father died when I was young and I was estranged from my O’Rourke relatives for 40 years. It was only in 2006, with the help of the Internet (it was before social media) that I was able to contact my Uncle Denny or Dennis O’Rourke. Uncle Denny was a Catholic priest when I was a child and 40 years later I found out he was married with two high school-aged children. One of his daughters, my cousin Katie, was interested in her family genealogy and told me the O’Rourkes were from a tiny town in County Down called Rostrevor. Continue reading “Getting ready for my solo adventure”→