Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ireland - first post

I married an Irish orphan. His father died when he was 10 and his mother when he was 16 after a long illness. His father was born in County Roscomon and his mother in County Lietrim (sp?). That's all he knew. He had two paternal uncles, one whom he lived with till he was 18 and who stole his social security money and one who was a bartender in Brooklyn but never learned anything from them about his heritage. We went to Ireland in 1957, and again in 1965 to search for the place where his father came from. He did remember the name of a town in Roscomon that was mentioned sometime in his youth. The first time we didn't find it but had a great time anyhow because there was a bus strike and we hitchhiked throughout the country meeting a lot of interesting people and did a lot of hiking (with ponchos) because it rains every day, not usually long or much but that's why Ireland is so green. The second time we rented a car and found the town that he remembered and was sent to an old priest who was supposed to know everybody in the County and ended up at a farmhouse owned by Mitch (I can't remember his last name ) who was the son of Amy Doyle, one of the three sisters of his father who had never emigrated and found out that Mark had 21 first cousins he never knew existed because no one ever told him that his father had three sisters.
It was still a quite primitive place by US standards, a big stove where you built various wood fires depending on what you were cooking or baking. I think there was a water pump in the kitchen but the barn was used for elimination by people as well as animals. Mitch was married to a nurse, Eileen and they had four children, more to come later. The toddler didn't wear diapers just ran around with a bare bottom learning early to head to the barn. They were quite self-sufficient living off the few acres they had but there was very little cash for anything that needed to be bought. They served us dinner in the parlour which was only used for special occasions. Maria, the oldest girl called it the Christmas room. Mitch's sister drove down late in the evening. She had been engaged to a man with whom she was going to emigrate to the U.S. but he had been killed in an automobile crash driving down to the homestead. So we waited quite anxiously for her late arrival. She did later marry another man and they did emigrate to Brooklyn and had two girls who competed in Irish dancing. We found out about more of the cousins and later visited one in Dublin who with his family during tourist season lived in a tent in the backyard, renting out rooms in the house as a bed and breakfast. In those days in the UK and Ireland the cheapest way to travel was to stay at a bed and breakfast, usually just a room or two in somebody's house. Not at all like the fancy bed and breakfast places you find nowadays here in the states.
There's much more to say about Ireland and also about Mark's brothers and sister whom he had no contact with till our daughter, Mary Ellen started writing to her cousin Mary Ellen (both named after their Irish grandmother because Mark's sister got our address from Eileen with whom I stayed in touch.
More later. Eliot wants to watch a DVD.


  1. What an interesting post.
    My son-in-law has an uncle still living in Ireland, and they are going to visit him in April. I'm sure my daughter will find it quite an experience, both because of the different culture, and because they will be on a farm where they raise cattle. Daughter and SIL are vegetarians.

  2. Oh this is an amazing story, Karin, what a sad life your exhusband had, so many have such troubled childhoods. I well remember that kind of 'poverty' combined with the priceless non-material riches.

  3. there you are, that wasn't difficult, was it?

    It's an interesting story; I've never been to Ireland but I think things have changed a little, since they've joined the EU. Ireland was quite a powerhouse before the current recession.

  4. That must have been a fascinating trip!