Saying goodbye to County Down

Kilbroney Cemetery gravesit
Me at Kilbroney Cemetery

I had a heavy heart when I left Rostrevor, County Down yesterday morning. I was sad to leave because everyone was so good to me there. From the young lady (I don’t even know her name) who worked at the Old School House Café who helped me navigate the bus from Rostrevor to Mark Brennan who invited me to his home and shared the history of Killowen with me. In between there was Kieran Waters, my third cousin, who took me to the old O’Rourke homestead, Liam Baxter, proprietor of Rostrevor Holidays where I stayed, Roisin O’Neill, a distant relative who met me for lunch in Belfast, Annie Brennan, Mark’s wife, Rose Brennan, Mark’s daughter, and her fiancé, David.

Before left, I stopped by the Old Kilbroney cemetery and took one last look at my ancestor’s gravesite and found someone had left flowers. I only wish I knew who because perhaps it’s another relative. I had a maintenance man take my photo with the stone. I don’t know if and when I will return, so I wanted to get one last look at it. Hopefully someday, I will be back.

Saturday evening, Mark picked me up and drove me around Killowen. We went by the primary school where my great grandfather would have gone to school. Of course, the building is modernized, but Mark explained it was the exact same floor plan and in the exact same spot as it was years ago. Mark also showed me the old dock on Carlingford Lough where my great grandfather most likely boarded a boat for Liverpool. The dock is no longer in use, but it is still there just outside of Rostrevor town.

Annie and Mark Brennan
Annie and Mark Brennan

After the short drive through Killowen, Mark drove me to the other side of the A2 (Mourne Coastal Highway) to Greencastle. There is an old Norman castle there, but unfortunately it was closed. It’s only opened in June, July, August and September for tourists. We drove to the edge of the water and looked back toward the Mourne Mountains and had a beautiful view of Crockshee in the distance. Mark explained when people from Crockshee were sailing out of Carlingford Lough for other lands, they looked back toward Crockshee and would see small fires on the mountain. Families and friends of the emigrants lit the fires as a way to say goodbye. Many of the emigrants never returned, like my great grandfather. I tried to imagine what it was like for him, to look back on the fires burning on the mountain, knowing he probably would never return.

After our drive, I was invited to Mark’s house for tea where I met the rest of his family. His daughter, Rose is a singer/songwriter and she wrote the song below about living near Crockshee.

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3 thoughts on “Saying goodbye to County Down

  1. Loved reading your blog Lois – what an important adventure for you. Ireland will miss you but we welcome you back.

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