The Irish in America


DAY 10: Gorumna Island and the McDonaghs

Gorumns_RMcCormackI find myself saying “One of my favorite…” a lot when I talk about Ireland because it is impossible to have just one favorite anything, especially in Ireland. How could you say you prefer the soaring sea cliffs of Donegal’s Slieve League to the gorgeous patchwork fields of Tipperary? It proves as pointless as comparing apples to oranges — or Ulster to Munster. Each is stunning in its own special way.

With that in mind, Gorumna Island in Connemara, County Galway is one of my favorite places in Ireland. The rocky and desolate landscape should encourage quiet introspection. That is, until you meet Michael and Joseph McDonagh. The brothers aren’t loud, but they are full of questions, stories, and opinions. They are as knowledgeable about current events in Ireland and the world as they are about family lore and genealogy.


I am related to the McDonaghs through my great-grandmother Mary Agnes Hannon, who emigrated from this part of Connemara in the late nineteenth century and married Andrew McCormack. Click here to read my post about our 2009 visit to the McDonaghs.’

Gorumna_RMcCormackI smile when I remember Michael McDonagh that afternoon we visited. He kept disappearing into the other room and coming back to with a book, newspaper, or photograph to show us.

It seems like the McDonaghs are related to everyone, and they are very proud of their connection to the diaspora. At one point, Michael snuck out and returned, beaming, holding up a Joe Mauer (Minnesota Twins) baseball jersey. Apparently a relative of Joe’s had visited and gave the brothers the jersey as a present. Even Joe has connections to the McDonaghs, on his mother’s side.

Gorumna is absolutely gorgeous, but the McDonaghs are what make it an Irish fave.

Photos: Regan McCormack