Map of the North Pole
It’s about nine and a half hours from Anchorage to Frankfort over the pole, versus “you don’t want to know how long” flying via the “Lower 48.”
Here’s Ben Saylor, Maura Walsh, John Walsh, Denise Martin, Jim Kerr at this year’s Anchorage Folk Festival:
The story continues… While Brian and I went to Ballymoney and then back to Cushendall for one last night in the tower, Ben and Anda went to Galway to meet Ben’s flute maker. Anda went on to Sligo to see her/our friend Colum while Ben played in sessions in Galway.
Una drove Brian and me to Belfast in her taxi (she had picked us up at the airport when we arrived). Una was infinitely patient with the rush hour traffic and just a joy to be with. We had dinner with Markus (in his incredible Victorian house) — good food and great stories before spending the night in a hotel (sorry USA– the hotels and restaurants here were cleaner in Ireland than any I have ever stayed at in the USA– not to mention the service!).
The next day we met Ben, and then Anda and Colum in Belfast, and had dinner with Colum before he headed back home; Colum had driven 6 hours round trip in order to see us all! That was one special dinner! Ben and Anda stayed with Sam, and we picked them up at Sam’s the next morning. We all headed for the Belfast Ferry Terminal to embark for Stranraer, Scotland, and thence south via train to Glasgow. Anda had left something at Sam’s place, and he biked the whole way to the terminal to deliver it!
We experienced such generosity of heart in Ireland– unparalleled.
When we left for Stranraer I felt we were re-tracing the journey made by my great grandparents David McDowell and Ellen Connelly when they left Northern Ireland for Glasgow to work in the shipyards in the early 1870’s. They would have left from Belfast or from Larne (farther south).
When I left the ferry to walk onto the shores of Scotland, a man whisked by me on the ramp and took a piece of luggage for me that I had been having trouble with. To me it was a sign that this was home territory and that these people are my people. In the Stranraer train depot I saw a woman that looked in profile exactly like my cousin Janice, who had left us much too soon– she would have LOVED knowing I had been able to make this trip).
We made it to Glasgow, transferred trains, and headed for London. The stops we made on the train trips echoed familiar names: Carlisle, Berwick, Lancaster. I grew up in York, PA, close to the namesakes of these places. This sewed in my mother’s side of the family for me.
Then there was London!
From London, a flight to Frankfort, and “home again, home again, riggedy-jig.” Over the pole, past Mt. McKinley (Denali, The Great One) again. When we landed in Anchorage, I was thrilled to see the towering white peaks, Cook Inlet, and the approaching spruce and birch. But something was different for me. Anchorage is still home, but Ireland is Home. Ireland is where my heart is.
There’s work left to do. I am determined to find out more about my Northern Ireland roots and to locate family in Ireland. Good news is that some of my cousins are interested as well. Kevin is planning a trip to Ireland in the spring!
Speaking of cousins! Thanks to my cousin Annie, who provided information about our ancestors. Thanks to Tricia, who sent me letters she kept from our Northern Ireland cousin Geraldine McDowell Jones! Thanks to Michael, who has the death certificates of David, Ellen, John Paul, and Archibald (brother of our grandfather John Paul).
I’ll repeat this quote from an earlier post:
A few of you have already come to see us, and we begin to hope that one day the steamers across the Atlantic will not go out full, but come back full, until some of you find your real home is here, and say as some of us say, like Finn to the woman of enchantments: “We would not give up our own country– Ireland– if we were to get the whole world as an estate, and the Country of the Young with it.”
– Augusta Gregory
We are in the town of BALLYMONEY. I have a strong sense that my great grandparents David McDowell and Ellen Connelly were born somewhere in the larger district also called Ballymoney. Since their names are not in the church records in the town, it’s pretty likely they weren’t born in the town. But we were close… I think!!!
Having completed our 28 day artist residency, Brian and I hopped in Joseph’s car for “more than just a ride” to Ballymoney. Joseph gave us in-depth insights about the countryside and its history. He could read the landscape as if it were a book. We stopped by this stream and I saw three dragonflies. Joseph said it was very unusual to see dragonflies there. As the dragonfly is my symbol for the ancestors, I felt we were on the right track!
Now we knew where Terry had procured the turf that he dropped off at the tower for us every few days!
ON TO BALLYMONEY: There were more sights to be seen between the place pictured above and and Ballymoney. Take a look at the map of County Antrim to see Cushendall and Ballymoney. Ballymoney is nearly directly west of Cushendall. The ride would have been perhaps an hour and half without the interesting stops we made along the way.
ARRIVAL AT BALLYMONEY: One of the first places we explored was this graveyard. The Church of Our Lady and St. Patrick is the only Catholic Church in the town of Ballymoney. We were hoping against hope that the names of my great grandparents David McDowell and Ellen Connelly would be in the baptism and marriage records there. I had visited their grave sites in the cemetery of St. Rose of Lima Church in DeSoto, Missouri, but I thought perhaps there might be a headstone with the McDowell or Connelly name on it. This was not the case. However, the exhilaration of the search was definitely present.
MORE TO COME!
I have given myself permission to do one thing a day for the sole purpose of my personal joy. I love finding pictures for the blog! Here’s to today and to JOY!
Joseph drove us to Ballymoney for our ancestor search. We took a cab back to Cushendall, and the driver was most gracious to give us a side trip to the famed Dark Hedges of County Antrim. It was indeed a spot unlike anything I had seen before anywhere! It is a row of beech trees clearly planted with intention. The question remains: what was the intention?
Okay, so this is with the telephoto lens and it’s a bit blurry. No way was I going to walk onto the fairy hill to check it out up close. I felt I was brave to merely walk around the back of the hill on the lonely road by myself. What does it look like to you? Is this strange, or what?
Here’s a nook in a hedge on the edge of a property on the road into town. I wondered, “Who sits there and what do they do there?”
One day, on the same road, I think, we were walking into town. To our amazement and amusement, a man popped out of a hedge right in front of us and said good day. He had carved a hole in the tall hedge along the road, where he sat on a bench watching the passers-by. He said he was the brother of someone we had met in town. When asked, the man in town said yes, this was his brother. But I couldn’t help but wonder if they were pulling the wool over our eyes. Maybe the man was, after all, really a leprechaun.
Okay, so what could be more quirky or strange than the tower itself? It had impressed me that way when we first saw it in July 2009. When we became residents, that impression remained! That said, I fell in love with it! The kitchen was built about ten years ago, and its skylight affords a comfortable view of the tower’s heights.
It makes me feel good when I hear that friends are checking the blog. To review the whole thing would probably take some time, but I do want to mention that it’s a long blog. If you want to walk the road from the beginning, you will have to keep clicking on “older posts.” (10 clicks back to the beginning). Also, don’t forget to click on the places on the top bar.
The blog began on March 5, 2011. From then on I did one drawing a week (through the time in Cushendall) and posted it on the blog. When we arrived in Cushendall, I began to add photos. The foundation of the blog was meant to be my drawings. I am ALMOST finished with the red book of drawings, which I will photograph and put in a post soon! I will send this book with John Hirst when he goes to Cushendall in August.
Thanks SO much for taking the time to check out the blog!
We waited patiently until Christmas Eve to burn some of the turf that Terry gave us– which we somehow managed to get back to Alaska. Brian smudged the house with it to give the carolers a whiff of Ireland, then placed it back in the fireplace. I imagined a whiff of smoke making its way to Cushendall to weave itself in with the turf smoke there on Christmas Day.
And, yes, we had tunes AND an Irish dancer in front of our turf fire! Her name is Mary, and she is indeed lovely!
The season rolled on with a ceili on St. Stephen’s Day at McGinley’s.
We wish our friends in Cushendall a Happy Christmas season and a Happy New Year! We miss you!