The Irish in America

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Just around the corner…

Adjacent to cemetery at Erke, County Laois

In less than a month, we leave for a two-week visit to Ireland.  Naturally, I can’t wait.  Although this is my seventh trip to Ireland, I think I am as excited as I was the first time I visited as a sixteen-year-old high school student in 1988.

Quite a bit has changed in the past twenty-three years, and each trip I’ve taken to Ireland has had its own unique flavor.  I have stayed in all types of accommodations (except this one…would love to try it!) and visited nearly every county in the Republic, as well as the North.

On previous trips, there may have been times when we’ve tried to do and see way too much, but not this time.  We are staying in the same place for the entire two weeks, and I am content to remain within a 15-mile radius of our rented house.  I will have everything I love in Ireland in that zone – brown bread, ruins, a good pub (or two), family, farmhouse ice cream, chocolate, a museum, and cows.  Now, the ice cream is a bit outside of the 15-mile zone, but it is still in County Laois.

Can’t wait to see the McCormack relatives.  We will be a few short miles from the farm my great-grandfather left behind when he came to America at the end of the nineteenth century.  My dad has been in touch with more relatives in the area, so he is planning another get-together (read about our first adventure in entertaining back in 2009 here.)  This makes me a little nervous…maybe last time was a case of beginner’s luck?

I am excited for Tuohy’s Bar, and I hope we can make it to the Monday night sing-a-long on our first night in Ireland.  I have never quite mastered the tricks to dealing with that initial day of jet-lag.  I never know if it is best to take a nap at some point and risk not waking up or to power through and nearly fall asleep at dinner.  I don’t want to snooze away my first day in Ireland, nor do I want to be so tired I see double.  Maybe I will actually get some sleep on the plane this time!

A bit of a diversion during the next month or so as we look at some Americans in Ireland, but I will also keep my eye on the Irish in America…


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A Look Back at 2010

75 Best of 2010

IrishFireside has included my Week of Welcomes: McCormack Style post in their compilation of the 75 best Irish-interest articles of 2010!  You can find the complete list here. I am flattered to be in such good company – thanks IrishFireside!

It is a fantastic collection of articles…I encourage you to take a look back at 2010 on this first weekend of 2011.

Wishing you all the best in 2011!  Thanks for reading!


Connemara Welcome

Wall in Maumeen (2009 Regan McCormack)

Before we met up with the McCormack relatives in County Laois (read Part I and Part II) we visited another branch of our family tree in Connemara, County Galway.  The McDonaghs are related to my great-grandmother Mary Hannon, who came to America in the late 1800s.

On the second day of our visit in September of 2009, we left Spiddal in the afternoon and drove west.  The landscape quickly became more rugged and less inhabited.  The quiet and the desolation made it feel like we were traveling back in time.  The roads narrowed as we made our way through the group of small islands connected by bridges and causeways, located in the southwestern reaches of Connemara.  Our intermediate stop was a shop where we were to call for Michael McDonagh to come and guide us the rest of the way.

Michael arrived at the shop on cue, and after introductions, lead us to our final destination.  When we arrived at the McDonagh farm in Maumeen, Lettermore, County Galway, we were greeted by Michael’s brother Joseph and their sisters Monica and Kate.  Michael and Joseph are bachelor farmers in their fifties.  Monica lives next door to Michael and Joseph, while Kate is married and lives nearby.

View from Maumeen (2009 Regan McCormack)

When we sat down at the table for tea, it was official – we had stepped back in time.  My family was momentarily confused; there were only five places at the table.  Monica assured us that they had already had their tea and we should get comfortable, as she and Kate readied things in the kitchen.  Michael and Joseph sat nearby in their chairs.

Once Kate and Monica had delivered the heaping plates of sandwiches, salad, and scones to the table, and filled our cups with tea, they sat down nearby.  Our awkwardness diminished with the lively conversation.  We all chatted, getting to know one another, and Michael would get up every few minutes to retrieve a book from the bookshelf or a news clipping from the other room for us to examine.

After tea, Monica brought the ladies out for a stroll around the garden and down the lane.  Michael, Joseph, and my father stayed inside, and (I can only guess!) they talked about genealogy, history, and sports.

Me, Eileen (mom), Eileen (aunt), and Monica (Regan, as usual, took the photo)

The McDonaghs were the perfect hosts.  I wonder how many American relatives they have welcomed into their home over the years?  Michael and Joseph are so open to learning about relatives from all over, and they are genuinely interested in what happened to branches of their family tree after they abruptly broke away three or four generations ago when relatives emigrated.

Another view from Maumeen (2009 Regan McCormack)

If you are reading this Dad…let me know if I have the place-name correct…it was confusing with all those little islands!