Back to my Roots

After Galway we hopped onto a bus and headed toward Castlebar, which was the home of one of my 3x great grandmothers (A fun fact is that we have 16 sets of great-great-great grandparents). I must say, for anyone considering travel to Ireland, we were quite satisfied with Ireland’s buses. They were clean, on time, and all that we used were equipped with Wi-Fi.

During our stay in Castlebar, we were lucky to have a friend from our trip to London five years ago drive us around, and our hotel was located close enough to the town that my two-year-old hip was able to walk to dinner and the library with little effort.

While at the library, I was introduced to a woman who allowed me to view the contents of a large box containing inventor Louis Brennan’s stuff: photographs, letters, a ruler (I learned at that moment that Ireland did not go metric until 1965), his will, and a small notebook with Louis’ notes on his inventions. Dad was able to show the librarian and me how those drawings became the prototype of his gyroscope. I had a grand old time photographing the contents of that box to later add to my family tree.

We walked past Louis’ childhood home, which leaves no doubt that Castlebar’s famous inventor had once resided there.

After a lovely Chinese dinner (You probably know we are not traditionalists when dining out), we headed to the cemetery, where we noted that the Brennan grave site truly was the biggest monument in the Old Castlebar Cemetery. Sadly, so many of those buried there were children.

Louis’ wife’s family’s final resting place was sadly overgrown with tall grass and weeds. Dad was happy for the fence, because he feared I would be attacked by a critter or two if I ventured inside. There were stairs leading down to the vault at the side of our grave. Our guide told us that children used to go down there and play. (Creepy!)

The following day after a lovely breakfast at McDonald’s (I am not kidding. It was quite impressive, but more on that another time), we met our friends at the Peace Park and then were taken on a lovely tour of the Mayo Heritage Centre before heading into town for the presentation of the Bible.

More on Castlebar another time.

Back in Castlebar

I went to Ireland to visit the beautiful country where many of my mom’s family have their roots, and I also returned a family Bible, which had made its way from Ireland to Brooklyn, then Staten Island, and later to my aunt, Marian Carey Palazzo in Boonton, New Jersey in 1981. After her death, my daughter Jamie drove it from New Jersey to me in South Carolina.

Transporting it was no easy task. The Bible weighs 13 pounds, but as challenging as it was for us to bring it to Ireland, it was a piece of cake compared to what it must have been in 1862!

The Bible is approximately 170 years old, and is therefore quite worn. That was not surprising considering how many hands touched it and how many times it was moved over the years. The cover was literally falling off, so we secured it with self-adhesive bandages for its journey across the pond.

I knew getting through the security checkpoints at Charlotte airport would be challenging. We had to wait while they unwrapped the bandages and insisted on peeking through each page, looking for who knows what. I assured them that if there was anything of value hidden inside, I would have removed it long ago. Trust me. I looked many times for that certificate or photo or perhaps a touching letter. Luckily, the TSA agent recognized the age and let Dad help her open it, which is apparently rarely allowed.

Although I wanted to return it years ago, I wasn’t sure exactly how to do it without risking its loss or further damaging it. I refused to let it out of my sight. I scoured stores seeking a bag large enough to carry it, yet small enough to fit under my airline seat, and I finally located it at TJ Maxx.

After the trip across the Atlantic, it was placed in a taxi, then onto a train for a 2 ½ hour ride to Galway, passing by lush farmland brimming with sheep and cows grazing peacefully in the fields.  My precious cargo remained in the bag at our hotel, while we explored Kylemore Abbey, the Cliffs of Moher, and the Burren. I highly recommend all three.

              

Next, we loaded the Bible onto a bus for a short ride to Castlebar, where we were greeted by our friend, Brian Hoban, who carefully placed it into his car for the ride to the local tourist office, where we presented it to the town.

After we left, it was transferred to its new home at the county library—its final resting place.

I loved waking up each morning and looking at it siting safely away from the curious eyes of my two grandchildren, but it is back home and in a place where more people will see it.

But I will miss it.

The Main Man From Castlebar

I mentioned that I met two people during my 2014 visit to London that have made my list of the most interesting people I have met. The first was my globe-trotting friend who goes by the handle of “Bumblebee,” and the second was the Prime Minister of Ireland, known there as the Taoiseach (pronounced “tea-shock). I have tried to understand their government, particularly since they recently had their own election and no one got enough votes to be elected. But I am not trying to teach you the ins and outs of Irish politics but to explain my story of meeting the man.

The invitation was from the Mayor of Castlebar and the Prime Minister. My first thoughts were of fashion. What do we wear? I was told “business casual,” so after carefully researching what this meant in the UK, I decided on a suit with a nice scarf. For men, all that we could deduce was it meant “no tie needed”, just a sport jacket and a shirt with a collar. So Dad did not pack a tie, and he was the only man at that ceremony not in a suit with a tie. He felt awkward, but everyone was so happy to have a relative, even the distant cousin in-law, that it did not matter.

Would I meet the Prime Minister? Oh yes. In fact, we were seated in the first row of the church with him, and later at the Irish pub, at what Aunt Ar refers to as “the meal of mercy, we were seated in a roped-off area with him, several local mayors, and a prince.

When he learned where we lived, he called me “Carolina,” and when I mentioned that I was originally from New Jersey and Dad said he worked for Merck, we were surprised with his comments. He told the story of meeting the CEO of Merck, and he stated that he wanted to meet his boss. “I don’t mean Chris Christie,” he said. “I want to meet ‘The Boss’—Bruce Springsteen.

Now I have no idea if I would agree with him politically. I know only that he supported gay marriage in a Catholic country, so he can’t be all bad. And he gave me a present, so how nice was that!

So even though he may not be the most fascinating person I have met, he is the most influential in his world. I thought it was very cool! (By the way— I like the idea of bagpipes at my funeral!)At cemetery