On our last day in Ballina our host at Whitehorn did something I had never expected (and which I have never had happen before or since). After having talked with us about mum’s research extensively, she had apparently noted down the surnames my mother was hunting for, along with the rough location of the family we were looking for. We found this out because, before breakfast, she mentioned that a friend of hers had a friend that lived up on the mountain who shared one of those surnames “and knows a lot about the people up there and might be able to help you find their place.” Beyond that, she offered to drive up with us to make sure we found the right man and had proper introductions.
Which, after one last stop at my favorite coffeeshop in the area (Derg House, which I briefly mentioned, and which had its own set of interesting events which I might reflect on later) started our grand ascent up the hill. It was, like many Irish roads, nearly a one lane road, where, if people wished to pass each other, they would have to come dangerously close to the rocks or dangerously close to the edge, and everyone would reach out their window to pull their side mirrors in, just in case there was a scrape.
We made it up the edge without incident, and had a lovely chat with the man, but it appears he is not a long lost relation, as he only recently moved from an entirely different county, Mayo, I believe. Also, for clarification, “recently” in this case is the much more long-term “recently”–while he had lived in Tipp for several decades, that can be classified as recent when one is looking at a timeline of hundreds of years. He told us a bit about the area, then directed us on to a great lookout, which, once he mentioned, our host immediately agreed we must see. Thus we all piled back into the car and continued on our way, our host stopping to tell us about a particular spot which, while only sporting a small, hard-to-see marker, was important to those in the area as it had been where a group of men strongly against British rule had been killed.
These particular areas are of much more interest to me, as the memory and the tale is not particularly well documented, or of much concern to anyone outside of the area. The community, however, had made the decision to keep the memory of these men and what they had done alive, and it had been handed down to any who would listen–and now to us. She told us we could see the spot better when we got to the top, so we continued up, making the mental note to look back once we reached the top.
The view from the top was breathtaking. The last set of photos I posted finish up with a series of photos from the top,but they do not quite do the view justice. Ireland is such a beautiful place–this particular spot in Tipp was a particularly beautiful place. So why did so many people leave? The answer, of course, has nothing to do with the beauty. It has everything to do with oppression, persecution, and politically-caused famines. But how awful it must have been to leave this home for another country, where, despite the American ideal of having open arms for all immigrants, reality often dictated a much harsher environment where people were (and sometimes still are) often openly hostile toward immigrants. No wonder so many wanted to find a way to return home, even before they left.
I don’t believe that people live on in their descendants (I mean their awareness, not their habits or tendencies, which are very often replicated in their children), but I almost wish it were true, just so John Tully could see his mountain one last time and be happy.