mad in pursuit ireland


Carmel Ghee, Maura Arnold, BallaghduffGalway Family

For Irish-Americans, going to Ireland is like Mecca to the Moslems. The Irish Hajj — a pilgrimage you have to do at least once. It entitles you to wear a tweed cap and sip on a Guinness while pretending to know that "hurling" is not what happens when you have one pint too many.

Paula MonaghanI'm lucky because, unlike most Mick Hajjis, I still have cousins living on the same land that my great-grandparents farmed, or very nearby. I met 9 of my father's first cousins (not counting spouses), 11 of my second cousins, and 3 of their children. We arrived in Moylough early, dropped into Cheever's Bar, and who was the bartender but Paula Monaghan (photo right), the eldest daughter of Michael Monaghan. Then her sister Amy came in with her football team. The tide of cousins had begun. You know I love a list, so the sidebar contains everyone I met — pretty impressive for a Bank Holiday weekend, with many of the cousins away on their own adventures.

Gretta StephensAnd, of course, I'd brought a list with me — my dogged attempt to create a family tree of the descendants of Michael Dunne and Catherine Martin: one page for their 4 children who stayed in Galway and one page for the 4 who emigrated to America (aka the Yanks). My List'een, as Carmel called it, was a great conversation starter as everyone looked for one another and tried to fill in the many missing pieces. And among the older generation, the stories began to flow.

The ancient Celts talked of "thin spaces," where the lives of our ancestors impinge on and interact with us. The night we got together with the older generation in Conneely's Pub, Carmel and Mick first walked us through the cemeteries and across the land at Ballaghduff, the original farm where my grandmother was born and where many of them grew up. The tumblers of each generation lined up and, that evening, a door unlocked so that all the generations were together — storytelling, remembering.

GypsySome of the ghosts were barely crossed over. Paddy Kilmartin, who lived his bachelor-farmer's life on the original family acreage in Ballaghduff, died last November. The house is vacant, but his dog Gypsy still waits for him there.

Patsy Dunne also died last November. Another old bachelor, he had emigrated to London. He wanted to be cremated and not buried in the Moylough family plot. His family -- the Ghees, the Dunnes, and the Monaghans -- carried out his wish to scatter his ashes in Galway Bay and at the Galway Racecourse at Ballybrit. Sisters being sisters, Carmel also reserved a small portion of ashes for the family plot, where we paid our respects.


Photos: Carmel Dunne Ghee and Maura Stephens Arnold at Ballaghduff. Paula Monaghan. Grett Stephens Stephens. Gypsy.

MORE on Ireland 2007 >>>

Thumbs Up if you liked this entry.

In Order of Appearance (numbers = generation if Catherine & Michael Dunne are Generation 1):

Cheevers Bar :
Paula Monaghan [5]
Amy Monaghan [5]
Sinead's House:
Carmel Ghee [3] + Mick
Mount Bellew street corner:
Ann Stephens O'Neill [4]
Siobhan O'Neill [5]
Back road Ballaghduff:
Ellen Stephens McLoughlin [3]
Ann McLoughlin [4]
Paddy Kilmartin's house:
Maura Stephens Arnold [4]
Kilkerrin cemetery:
Paddy Collins [3] + Josephine
Church & Conneely's Pub:
Kitty Kilmartin Stephens [3] + Peter
Lill Collins (in from Dublin) [3]
Michael Collins [3]
Grett Stephens Stephens [3]
Cathan Divelly [4]

Robert Ghee [4] + Michelle
Tony Ghee [4]
Mick Dunne [3] + Noreen
Cheever's Bar:
Siobhan Dunne Foley [4]
Aine Dunne Hennelly [4]
Mary Stephens Mahoney [4]
Michael Monaghan [4] + Ann

In Galway:
Sinead Dunne Glynn [4]

In Holy Cross, Co. Tipperary:
Maureen Collins [3]