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Ireland 1994

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Our trip to Ireland (12-19 February 1994) was great. In December Lufthansa was having a sale on airline tickets anywhere within Europe. We were able to get four cheap round-trip tickets to Ireland from Stuttgart for the week of the girls' February vacation at the International School, so we bought them and began planning! I had four goals for the trip; to visit relatives, to obtain a copy of my grandfather's birth certificate, to buy Irish sweaters for the family, and to buy as many CDs of Irish music as we could afford. I only failed in one goal, to get a copy of my grandfather's birth certificate, but it wasn't for lack of trying.

There were no flights directly to anywhere in Ireland from Stuttgart, so we had to do a one-hop flight; Stuttgart to Frankfurt, and Frankfurt to Dublin. The first leg of the flight left Stuttgart VERY early, 6:55 AM on Sunday, so we took a taxi at 5:30 AM from the house to the airport. We had a 2½ hour layover in Frankfurt, which wasn't all that long when you consider trying to herd children through 2 different terminals of a major European airport. Actually, it was just about right. Any longer and we would have gotten bored, and any shorter and we would have had to hurry.

Our flight to Dublin was uneventful, and we arrived, checked through customs, changed some money, got our rental car, and hit the road by about 2:00 PM. We rented our car through a car rental place in Camden Maine (of all places!) that specializes in European car rentals. I found out about them on the CompuServe computer network. Their prices were about half what I would have had to pay if I did it all from over here in Europe. Amazing!

Driving in Ireland is the same as driving in England; backwards (at least to an American or continental European). It took a few hours of driving on the left side of the road from the right side of the car to get comfortable with it. We drove southwest from Dublin along the N7 highway towards Limerick. There are four classes of roads in Ireland; National, Regional, Secondary, and Other. the National roads are the Irish interstates, two lane (one each way), undivided, not too narrow. These are the best they have. The speed limit (mostly ignored) on this type of road is 75 MPH. The Regional roads are a lot like the National roads, only narrower. They connect regions of the area (the Ring of Kerry road is a Regional road). Cars passing each other have plenty of room (plenty is a relative term), but if a tourist bus comes the other way, you'd best slow down and pick a wide section to pass in. The speed limit on these is 75 MPH too. Secondary roads are a lot like abandoned driveways in width and condition. Roads classified as other, we call paths.

We stopped for the night in County Tipperary, in a town called Toomevara. We found a B&B and pub along the road called Josie Moloney's Pub & B&B just as we were running out of steam (we were an hour behind our German time, plus we had gotten up at 4:30 AM that morning). Music that night in the pub was provided by an electric keyboard and tenor. It was an odd combination. The singer was quite good, until he got plastered. The piano player was consistently mediocre. These two didn't play much traditional music, but the Guinness was good.

The next day (Monday) we finished our drive across the country (that sounds more impressive than it is - it’s not a wide country). We drove into Tralee via the Limerick road. Along the way we saw lots of thatch-roof houses and shops. In Tralee we spent a few minutes walking around town and The Green, a park by the tourist office. Even in February the daffodils were already in bloom.

From Tralee we drove out over the Conor Pass to Dingle Peninsula and the village of Dingle. We stopped at the top of the pass to view the north and south sides, but the wind was so strong it was difficult to stand upright. There must have been a 70-80 MPH wind up there! The view was spectacular, though. We found our bed & breakfast, the Corner House B&B on Dykegate Street in downtown Dingle, a place recommended to us by my first-cousin-once-removed, Sr. Mary Cecilia (actually Mother Superior) who ran a girls school (Coláiste Ide) outside Dingle and who we were going to visit. Mrs. Farrell, who ran the B&B, had a daughter who went to the school that Sr. Cecilia ran, so that was how the connection was made. That afternoon, we drove out to Coláiste Ide to find Sr. Cecilia, but she and the other nuns hadn't returned from a meeting in Tralee, so we almost missed them. As we were driving back to Dingle, Lynn noticed that a person in the car that had just passed us going the other way looked a lot like she had remembered Sr. Cecilia to look, so we spun around and headed back to the school and sure enough, there they were! We visited for a while that evening, had a light dinner, and made arrangements to meet Sr. Cecilia for lunch the next day and have her narrate a driving tour of Slea Head!

Colaiste Ide Signpost by Milltown Bridge


On Tuesday (Valentine's Day), we were treated to lunch by Sr. Cecilia at Lord Baker's Restaurant in downtown Dingle. It was a great restaurant, and we enjoyed the stories she told. From there, we drove all over the outer edges of the Dingle peninsula, called Slea Head. We stopped at lots of scenic places, including the little parking place at the tip of Slea Head by the Crucifix shrine by the side of the road, and took lots of videos and photos. One side is mountain going up, and the other side is a sheer drop to the rocks and water below. From here you can see the Sleeping Monk Island off the coast. We also saw the rising mounds of earth called the Three Sisters, near where they filmed the movie Ryan's Daughter.

We also visited the Reask 5th Century Christian Settlement & Monastery and burial ground, and the Gallarus Oratory, an early Christian church shaped like an upturned boat. From there we visited the 12th century ruins of the Kilmalkedar Church close to the Gallarus Oratory. Inside the oratory we saw the Eye of the Needle, which legend says through which one must be able to pass to be saved (Gene didn't fit - he's doomed). There were lots of old Celtic crosses in the graveyard outside.

Cliffs on Slea Head road
Ogham Stone at Reask Monastery
Gallarus Oratory on Slea Head - 5th century church
Kilmalkedar Church - The Ruins and Graveyard

All throughout the area we came upon many ogham stones, which were early representations of Celtic writing. Summarizing from my computer encyclopedias:

In Gaul, concurrent with Latin inscriptions of the late republic, a form of Celtic inscription appeared, based on Greek letters. Later, during the early Christian period, Celtic inscriptions were written in ogham, one of the Irish runic languages. This writing was alphabetical and apparently an independent invention, based on arbitrary symbols much like a Morse code. The ogham inscriptions exist on about 370 gravestones scattered through southwestern Ireland and Wales. Dating from the 5th to the 8th century, the inscriptions consist almost entirely of proper names.

On Tuesday we spent a little bit of time on the pier out in Dingle Harbor, looking for the dolphin who has lived in the harbor for the past fifteen years. The locals call him Funghi, and in the summer time he lets people swim right up to him and hold on to him. We never did see him, though. It must have been too cold.

From Dingle, we drove back to Tralee where we met with Sr. Cecilia's sister, Sr. Mary Aloysious (actually, another Mother Superior), in Balloonagh Convent. There were a number of nuns there waiting for us, and dinner had been prepared, so we ate wonderful salmon and chicken, and enjoyed a tour of the convent and buildings. We also had a nice visit with Sr. Aloysious, who was able to find time in her busy schedule (the next day was Ash Wednesday) to visit with us.

On Wednesday we drove to Killarney and explored around there for a while. We stopped at Quill's Woolens and bought Irish sweaters for everyone (two for Lynn, she gets cold easily), and then we drove the Ring of Kerry out to Moll's Gap and the turnoff to Kenmare. Even though it was winter and there was snow on the ground (an extreme rarity in this part of Kerry), it was still beautiful.

We also stopped at the cathedral in Kenmare to see the redwood tree that my Great-Uncle, Canon Jeremiah, had been so proud of (a Canon is an Irish equivalent to a Monsignor). From the cathedral we went to a nursing home outside of Killarney where the birth records for the area are kept. I was looking for my grandfather's birth certificate, but out of the nine children in the family (Canon Jeremiah being one of them), only one was recorded officially, and it was not my grandfather. We can speculate as to why children were not recorded consistently back then (1870's), but the fact remains that his birth certificate did not exist, only his younger sister's birth was officially recorded (which I did get a copy of).

That evening we went exploring in Ardfert and found the old farm that another of my first-cousins-once-removed, Eileen had lived in when Lynn and I had last visited ten years ago. Her son Bert (my second cousin) lives there now, and so we stopped in unannounced and had a wonderful visit with Bert, his wife Joan, and their two daughters Maeve and Grainne (who are Megan and Audrey’s third cousins).

On Thursday we returned to Ardfert and paid a visit to my bachelor cousin (actually, another first-cousin-once-removed) Mickey, who still lives in the two room unheated farmhouse where my grandfather was born. Mickey is a retired dairy farmer, and he lives alone, so his house looks like a bachelor lives there! He was great and we had a wonderful visit. While Mickey told stories about the old folks in the family, Lynn was filming with the video-camera, so we have it all on tape. That video is priceless.

Gene & Lynn - Lower Lake of Killarney
Knockbrack - Megan and Audrey with Mickey

From Mickey's, we stopped in on Eileen, Bert's mother (and Mickey's sister), who lives nearby in a new house built for her by her sons. She took us to Banna Strand (beach) and the Franciscan Friary Ruins near her house. We had a great visit with all the relatives, and Megan and Audrey got to meet the people I talk about in person. The third generation has made contact with the Auld Sod.

On Friday we stopped in Tralee one last time before beginning our drive back to Dublin. Our flight out was at noon on Saturday, so we wanted to be in Dublin by Friday night to be able to find a place to stay. Our goal was to find a place that was well-insulated and warm. All through the trip we had been staying in B&B's, which are wonderful places to stay, but we had accidentally chosen the coldest week in Ireland's recent memory to visit, and to add to the chill it was also the windiest in recent memory too, so all the houses we stayed in could not keep up with the chill. We slept in ice-cold rooms every night. Our last night, we were looking for someplace warm! By Saturday afternoon we were home in Stuttgart. We only spent a week in Ireland, but we were able to accomplish a lot, and most importantly, we were able to introduce a third generation of the clan to the very real and alive relatives in Ireland.

Toomvara - the Side Street by Josie Moloney's Pub
Toomvara - Audrey by an Irish Signpost


Postscript 1998: Since our 1994 visit, a few things have changed. My cousin Eileen passed away suddenly in 1996, and the girls' school on the Dingle peninsula (Coláiste Ide) was closed, but has reopened under new management, and my cousin Sr. Cecilia has retired to a convent outside Ardfert. Time marches on, in spite of our fondest wishes........







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