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. Continue reading “Saying goodbye to County Down”→
One of the wonderful things about Ireland and Northern Ireland is its appreciation for the outdoors. There are hundreds of places to hike, both on public land and through private land on public right-of-ways. Hikers are everywhere in Ireland as the Irish enjoy their walking.
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)”→
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”→