Day 6 – Monday Aug. 21, 2006
We ate breakfast at the B&B, packed the car, snapped a few pictures of O’Brien’s Bridge and headed back to Killaloe. After changing some traveler’s checks into Euros we went to the Tourists Bureau to stock up on maps and interesting books. Then we headed up the hill in search of the nearest Post Office where Noël bought some more stamps. While she was shopping I wandered further up the street looking for old things and photo opportunities. From the top of the hill I got some nice shots of the streets of Killaloe with the hills across Lough Derg and Ballina on the opposite side of the river in the background. Walking further up the hill I came upon “Killaloe Church” (no other name was in evidence either inside or out). A low wall surrounded the church and a small parking lot. There was an information sign that described the location as the site of Kincora – the fortress of Brian Boru. No remains of that earlier structure were to be seen and none are known to exist.
There was a small stone chapel off to the right of the church, but still within the low wall surrounding the modern church. The small chapel was a 7th century chapel that had been removed from an island in the Shannon and reassembled on this location. A hydroelectric project on the Shannon in the 1930s was due to raise the level of the water by 15 feet and would submerge the island.
We took some pictures from the church on the top of the hill and it provided a marvelous view of the surrounding hills. Walking back down the hill we headed for the ancient Killaloe Cathedral but it was locked up and we couldn’t get onto the grounds. Therefore we walked around to the back of the property to see if there was another entry point but we never found any.
Having finished our site seeing in Killaloe we headed back to the car and went into a grocery store across the street from where we had parked the car. We bought a few things and looked in vain for Terry – again. Crossing the bridge we headed into Ballina, just across the river from Killaloe, and headed south to the Anglesly Road (the Thurles to Limerick Road). Arriving at Upperchurch, we stopped in the village to take a few pictures because we never knew what the weather was going to do next. In Ireland, when the sun comes out you stop and take pictures – no questions asked. Next we headed out of the village on the west road to Con Ryan’s house where Mary (Connelly) Ryan was waiting for us.
Noël and I chatted with Mary for a couple hours while we waited for Con to return from work around 4pm. Mary asked us if we wanted to walk up the hill with her to check out the cows and calves. We saw some fantastic views of the surrounding countryside from on top of the hills of Knockacurragh Commons looking out over the fields of Gleninchnaveigh, where they own about 300 acres.
Due to the falling price of milk the Ryans were not doing “dairying” at the moment. They were doing “calves” and had three bulls – currently on loan – to impregnate the cows. It is all business – any cow not with calf after the season is SOLD. The young calves are their product now. They have about 200 cows and they also have a herd of sheep but they had moved the sheep to another field for a few weeks. On our last visit in 2000 we had all enjoyed watching their sheep dog work the herd of sheep.
Mary would climb the hill twice a day to make sure the cows and calves are OK and had not broken through the fence. She said it would still be light at 10pm when she would go out to check on them again. [Brown calves = DELCIAN]. They raised a particular breed of cows that have smaller calves and the cows are able to give birth themselves without a vet’s assistance.
After checking on the herd we walked back to the house along the narrow country roads and saw some more spectacular views of the village of Upperchurch in the distance, nestled among the green, stone fenced lined hills. We walked along a very narrow, curving road, which, minus the curves, were more like a driveway, where driving on the left or right were basically the same. We asked Mary if it was dangerous because of the cars coming around blind corners. She told us not to worry because you could hear the cars coming long before they got to you.
Arriving back at the house, Mary took us next door to visit with her daughter Eileen Atkins and her family. We talked with Eileen outside for a while and met her youngest son Brendan (5) who was very proud of his new (fake) tattoo. There was a lot of catching up to do since our last visit in 2000 and quite a bit of teacher talk. Eileen and her husband Richard are both teachers as was Mary before she retired.
Mary went over to her house to see if Con was home yet and we went inside Eileen’s cottage that they had expanded a couple years ago. This was also the ancestral cottage where my ancestor Mary Ryan McGrath and her family had lived at one time (prior to 1850) with her brother Jeremiah Ryan. We sat in the kitchen where Eileen’s daughter Ruthie had just finished baking a batch of muffins and continued our visit. In a short while Mary called to say that Con was home. So we gathered Eileen, Ruthie, Declan and Brendan together for a nice picture in their kitchen.
Eileen walked Noël and I next door to Con & Mary’s house and we went in the backdoor, which is traditional practice when visiting neighbors. We talked with Con as Mary got the table ready for a light dinner. They had eaten their big meal earlier in the day before we arrived. We ate dinner and talked with Con and Mary from about 4:30 until 7:30.
We talked about Irish customs and the old family connections. Formal baptisms were always done in the church and the townland names entered into the parish records were the parents’ place of residence at the time of the baptism. A Private baptism – this was given in case it was feared an infant would die before a formal baptism could be performed. These private baptisms WERE NOT RECORDED. This could possibly explain why my gg-grandfather, Michael McGrath, had been formally baptized in November 1843 when his actual birth was believed to have been in June 1843. After a private baptism perhaps the pressure to have a formal baptism was reduced. Children who died unbaptized would not be buried in the regular cemetery but in a special Children’s cemetery.
During one of their trips Con and Mary and some of their friends found themselves in San Francisco and for some reason they didn’t have a place to stay so they contacted the police department. The fellow in charge was from Co. Clare. He was so pleased to hear an Irish accent that he said he would take care of them. Con wanted them all to spend part of the evening in a cell but there weren’t any empty cells available at that time. The police officer called a nearby hotel and found rooms for Con and his friends. Then he reminded the person at the hotel about the “little problem” that he had helped him with a while back and therefore he wasn’t to charge these nice folks very much money.
Upperchurch Ryan Nicknames – Big Nelly, Ryan-Giants – Some man named Ryan had lifted a large rock during a construction project and another commented that he was a “giant” of a man and the name stuck. Con would be Ryan (Connie) and he thought my Ryans, or at least those descended from Jeremiah Ryan, would be Ryan (Hayes) due to his marriage to a Hayes.
Mary was working on her doctorate in theology at Thurles Seminary. This is a three-year degree and she has one year to go before she completes her degree. Her topic is Women and the Church. We discussed why some of the Irish took up farming in America after farming had been so disastrous for them in Ireland. They had farming experience and the opportunity to OWN the land might have been a temptation too great to resist.
Con & Mary’s first four children were named after their (the children’s) grandparents. After that Mary gave them old Celtic names – Diarmad, Neve, Greinne, …
Con and Mary asked us to stay with them that night but we told them we already had reservations at a B&B in Thurles. Next time they said we should stay at their home.
As we were leaving we discovered that Con and Mary had to go out to pick up someone at a hospital and take her home as part of their volunteer work with St. Vincent de Paul. We said our goodbyes and headed back into the village of Upperchurch. We stopped in front of cemetery to look for a few names and to take a few pictures. The sun was low in the sky and the weather was perfect for taking some pictures. No Sheahans were found but a lot of Shanahans. The original research from Nenagh (1998) showed several McGraths were buried in the Upperchurch Cemetery. However, I have never been able locate any of these gravestones in my searches of this graveyard. There was only one McGrath stone, a recent one. There were several stones that were impossible to read or had fallen over, inscription side down. It is possible that one or more of these stones could be a McGrath. I need to find out the source of the list that the folks at Nenagh used back in 1998.
We headed to Thurles and out the Templemore Road. Just past the Creamery was the Cuillan House B&B. This was the best B&B so far –Ellen Cavanaugh was the owner.