Monday 3 pm local time ( Greenwich Mean ) (9am Minnesota Time ) Happy Labor Day
It is hard to believe that we have been in Ballyvourney Ireland just over 1 day .
The air travel was uneventful and in no time we landed at Shannon Airport and had our car (Opel Corsa..French .) Joerg drove away as though he was born to Irish driving which is formidable and that’s on the Irish “Primary Route/Principal Roads.” We had googled a map for ourselves and it helped significantly. We noticed that the road signs have improved since we last visited in 2001 when we were in Irish named towns with only an English map to guide us.And of course, the views of the Irish countryside which is a million shades of green and full of charming little towns was almost enough to distract us from our planned itinerary.
In two and a half hours we were in Ballyvourney, ancestral parish of Kathy’s Irish ancestors; the Dinneens, Kellehers and Sweeney’s; ready to turn onto what is known as “ by road” to reach
our B and B destination of Tir Na Meala ( in Irish ..House of Honey.) The by road is a divided road with each side just wide enough for a small car sometimes with grass in the middle; no ditch ..instead frequent high hedges and stone walls as borders. Because I am traveling with an undaunted driver,we are able to stay at Tir Na Meala in the rural township of Coolea (in the parish of Ballyvourney.)It is almost certain that Coolea is where the forebearers lived and Coolea is country accessible on by roads or privately maintained farmer’s roads. I have heard my cousin Steve Harrington’s tales of our great great grandfather John Sweeney and his wife Mary Dinneen’s first farm on top of a high point in Vermont Township near Blue Mound Wisconsin and the topography in Coolea is Blue Mound on steroids . Rugged, stony,. perfectly suited for grazing sheep and in some “flats” dairy cows. The Ballyvourney Parish is in the Gaeltecht so the Irish language is spoken here(along with English) by many of the local residents.
Four miles from Ballyvourney we arrived at Tir Na Meala, toured the lovely rock garden and organic vegetable garden, refreshed with a nap, then into Ballyvourney for dinner which was local seafood chowder and the notable Irish Brown Bread along with fresh local beer( on tap, Smithwick and Guinness)
This morning our Band B hostess Suzanna prepared a traditional Irish breakfast;fried fresh eggs and rashers aka Canadian bacon for Joerg and a continental breakfast for me;muesli with a delicious pancake and maple syrup Breakfast was.served in the sunny dining area overlooking the water gardens which are filling with the rain of the last two days. The area has been very dry so the rain is welcome and it is Ireland where the climate is “maritime.” Today it feels about 75 and has been sunny with occasional brief showers. Suzanna is a German immigrant and her family are visiting so Joerg is enjoying the Spechen de Deutsch. Suzanna told us that most of her neighbors are MacSweeneys or Dinneens and that the milk on the table was from the MacSweeney dairy up the hill from here. With the windows open we can hear the cows and sheep;other than that the quiet is complete.
Today was our day to visit St. Gobnait’s Shrine, the cemetery where Sweeney, Dinneen and Kelleher ancestors are resting and the ruins of the Church where they worshiped. We commented on how much the setting of St Gobnait’s reminded us of St. James cemetery in Blue Mound where the relocated Ballyvourney Parish’s Sweeneys, Dinneens and Kelleher relatives rest. The Shrine is known all over Ireland as the place where St Gobnait, the patron saint of beekeepers is honored for her good deeds including saving the area from the plague .We visited the grave and holy well and were inspired by all of the mementos left by visitors.
We had a phone call from Mary MacSweeney today and she gave us directions to her home this evening for our scheduled visit. She told me that she has invited Tadgh MacSweeney and another person who has been working with the two of them to see if they could find relatives of mine who might still be in the area .We could not have expected such a warm welcome and are deeply touched to have been invited to meet with them this evening . More later after the tea and chat at Mrs. Sweeney’s.
Feet on the ground in Shannon, IrelandFailte Ballyvourney!at at “Mrs Macs”.
An Irish By Road
View from tir na Meala in Coolea Township
Saint Gobnait's Shrine
Saint Gobnait, Patron Saint of Beekeepers
Holy Water from Saint Gobnait's Well