We visited Castletownroche and asked at the Post Office if anyone knew how to find my distant cousin Larry who had visited my parents in Australia some ten years before.
All I had was his name and an old photo taken outside his house with my aunt and a cousin during the early nineties.
Just by a stroke of luck or was it synchronicity, we found Larry mowing the lawn at the old house in the photo?
“It’s lucky you found me,” he said. “I usually don’t come down here on this day”. We embraced as if we had known each other all of our lives and with no trouble to Larry at all, we spent the day with himself and his wife and on into the night.
We told stories, sang songs and met many Irish friends that day. What a time we made of it. For that moment in time we were family connected through a common history. It was wonderful to feel so welcome, so at home and so connected at long last on Irish soil.
In Castletownroche we also met Michael Roche. We stopped in the street to ask directions to Blackwater Castle. I had passed Michael in the street earlier that day. We said hello as we passed and as he looked at me, I felt an immediate connection.
We saw him again talking in the street later on. When we asked directions of him, “I’m Michael Roche” he said. Needless to say we then had quite a lot to say. We have since written to each other and I marvel at the interest in music and poetry that we share and the history and connection that we share across the miles.
We drove all over Ireland during our fortnight there. Words cannot describe the beauty or the magic of the place. We were as strangers and yet not so. Everywhere we went we felt like home. For me, Ireland was a sight for sore eyes and everywhere I travelled it seemed my Irish family were singing my song. It was as if the music had always been there and now the notes fell on the page in perfect rhythm. Now the songs I sing in my head make perfect sense!
Our trip culminated in a visit to County Fermanagh the home of my grandmother’s family in the North. It was with a great deal of regret that we left Belfast and headed for Scotland at the end of a wonderful heart-warming Irish experience.
I have a very definite sense of the great privilege it was to visit the old country as my father had dreamed of doing but sadly could not. I believe I now possess a much fuller sense of who I am. Since visiting Ireland I feel more at peace with myself. I am more grounded and more settled than ever before.
I love this country Australia. It is a haunting, ancient and beautifully rugged place. Somehow though, although it is the country of my birth, I have always felt a visitor here.
This was not the case with you dear Eire. In your arms I felt a sense of belonging that I have been searching for my entire life. It was as if you, my mother gathered me in her embrace and whispered “You are home”.
God willing I will return again one day to that ” Magical country, full of memories and dreams, my youth lies in the crevices of your hills; and here in the silk of your grass by the edge of the meadows, every flower and every leaf has its memories of you. (Katherine Tynan, The Old Country).
A fitting day to write about my love for Ireland – a poem from my father