Thursday, April 27, 2017

Finding My Roots, and Grandma's House

I had been told that my Great Grandparents had been buried in the cemetery in Ballinafad, which is about 1 mile from Ballynahinch.  We decided to try and find them, and this is what we found, an overgrown, untended graveyard.  It was hard to tell where to look, and when we did find graves that had names on them, it was hard to decipher them.
There were many 'famine' graves, these are just stones in the ground, that have no name, and only signify someone is buried there.

I have cousins who have tried and failed to find their graves, and even an Uncle who came with his son to try, and they couldn't find it either.  Even through I never knew my great grandparents, this place seemed to be an indication that they had a hard life and their resting place was also a hard place to be.  Not even the sheep were grazing here.  
My grandmother had 10 siblings, and all of them came to the US or to Canada from here. I can't imagine the courage it took to leave all that you'd known, and get on a boat to sail to a place where you wouldn't know anyone.  Grandma Nora (Honoria) Geary from what I remember was a starched lady, who worked as a domestic for the Cabot Lodges and other Boston blue bloods.  She worked hard, and when she had enough money, she sent it to Ireland to bring the next sibling over.  I'm guessing that things in Connemara were pretty bleak if they all left.  
After our trip to the cemetery, we decided to find the house where she was born.  We'd been given sketchy directions and a photo, and found it without any problem at all. 

I don't think anyone was living in it, it looked like it was abandoned.  But we did find it, and that was enough.  I have a new appreciation for this side of my family, and the tough life that they lived here in this north western part of Ireland.  


Heading North, Dr. C. and I were going to stay at Ballynahinch Castle Hotel.  My great-grandfather Patrick Geary was in charge of the fisheries here in the late 1800's through the beginning of the 1900's.  The Castle was owned by the Berridge Family at that time, and legend has it that they treated their staff well.
We were fortunate enough to take a tour of the property with Noel, one of the groundskeepers.  It was about a 3 mile walk, and around every corner was a new and more beautiful view.

The Owenmore River is a favorite spot for fly fishermen, and when you come to Ballynahinch you can indulge your passion.  Unfortunately, I didn't inherit great granddad's gift of fishing.

This is a Connemara pony; bred to be a working animal, they are now used for riding and equestrian pursuits.  You can take a pony trek on the Twelve Bens mountains.

This beautiful bird would stand in the middle of the river waiting for its dinner to swim by.  This was the view from our room.

And, then there was a rainbow.  We were hoping to find some leprechauns, but no luck.  Ballynahinch was magical.  The food in the Owenmore restaurant was exceptional, actually the best we've had in Ireland, and the food in the pub was excellent as well.  The staff from the front desk to the wait staff in the restaurants were so accommodating, and well trained.

We left after 3 days, which weren't nearly enough but there is more of Ireland to see, and we needed to get south to see the Dingle Peninsula.

Monday, April 24, 2017


 Ballymaloe is famous the world over, since its owners have been stars in the Irish culinary world, putting this little part of Ireland on the map so to speak with their cooking and country house. In 1948 Myrtle and Ivan Allen bought the farm and several years on, Myrtle opened it as a restaurant, serving traditional Irish food.  The property has grown to include a cafe, gift shop, event venue, bed and breakfast and a cookery school off site.  I have always wanted to come here, to experience it, since many friends have studied cooking here, and have raved about it.
It is definitely off the beaten track, and at times I wasn't sure if the GPS was directing us in the right way, but get there we did, and were welcomed to the Top Room, a lovely room at the top of the house (hence the name) with a view over the front court yard.
Our room is the top right corner

To the right down an incline is the swimming pool, at 50 degrees F, it was not in use
When we arrived in the late afternoon, we were hungry, and decided to try our luck at the little cafe at the back of the gift shop.  We settled for an apple streusel cake, and two pots of tea.  This is a tiny little cafe and they serve lunch and baked goods with great tea.

 The House makes reservations for your dinner on site, even if you aren't planning to eat there, they seem very loose about that, and we opted to try dinner in our first night.
White vegetable soup with parsley cream

From the hors d'oeuvres table

Roast Guinea Fowl

Roast John Dory

The food was quite good, and the service was well done.  Our problem has been that these 7 course meals are more than we need to eat, so the following night we asked if we might just have soup and salad, which they were happy to serve us.    The property at Ballymaloe is beautiful, with lawns, and a walled garden, along with wisteria covering the manor house. 

Entrance to the walled garden

Beautiful tulips

Breakfast was a feast for the eyes as well as the soul.  I'm becoming addicted to Irish butter, and tea.  
The Dining Room
 Homemade Bread
 Scones (another addiction)
 Brown bread
Oh butter, how do I love you, let me count the ways.
 This guy sat in the corner as we ate
 Crepes with lemon and sugar
Jack McCarthy sausages and scrambled eggs 

We left Ballymaloe with some very nice memories, and enjoyed the stay here immensely. It is nice to know that the family continues to run the property and that it continues to bring back guests every year.  One family staying there this weekend was celebrating the 50th anniversary of their parents, and they had been bringing their children there  every year  for holidays.