My wife and I spent five weeks in Ireland in 2002 looking for the birthplaces of my six great grandparents who were born in Ireland.
We spent a week in County Down with some Muckle relatives who showed us around Belfast, County Antrim and all over Down but especially the Ards peninsula where our Muckles lived. Then we drove across Northern Ireland to Donegal where we stayed a couple of days before heading south to County Roscommon.
We knew before we set out on our trip that my great grandmother Bessie Gallagher and her sisters were baptized at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Boyle. So we planned to spend a lot of time in the Boyle vicinity even though we would be staying for four days in Rooskey on the Roscommon-Leitrim border and another couple of days in Strokestown. Rooskey is about a 30 minute drive down along the River Shannon from Boyle and Strokestown is about 45 minutes south of Boyle.
We found Boyle to be a pleasant town and we enjoyed walking down some of the main streets and visiting some of the popular sites, the most famous being the Boyle Abbey, now in ruins.
One day we spent a couple of hours at the Boyle public library trying to connect the dots of some of the scattered information we had on Bessie and her family. We then stopped for lunch and then decided to walk around Lough Key Forest Park and take in the views of Lough Key from there.
We then walked along one of the forest trails before retracing our steps back to the parking lot.
On the way to our car we met a local couple who were also out for a stroll. The wife told us that they take a 45 minute walk around here every day while her spuds are cooking! We introduced ourselves and told them about our quest to find some Gallagher relatives. They told us that they knew of a Gallagher family in Sheegora, a townland a couple of miles north of Boyle just west of Lough Key. Furthermore, they also were good friends of a couple who they believed were both related to this Jimmy Gallagher and his wife Pauline. They started to explain how to get to their friend’s house but we were hopelessly confused. “Well,” they decided, “why don’t you get in your car and follow us. It’s only 10 minutes away from this parking lot.” So we did! The friends drove up the highway for awhile and then turned off to a parking area. They told us that there is no way to drive to the street where their friends live. We would have to leave our car here and then walk across a wooden bridge over the Boyle River to their house less than 100 yards away. Then off they went to take care of their spuds. My wife and I then crossed the bridge, walked down the lane and knocked on their friend’s door. I explained who we were to this sweet elderly couple who invited us into their parlor and offerred us some pastries. “Are you driving?” the wife asked me. “No,” I answered and pointed to my wife. “She’s the driver and I’m the navigator.” “Good,” she said and she handed me a glass of Irish whiskey! They then proceeded to tell us how they were related to the Gallaghers and the Sheerans and that the Sheerans lived in Doon east of the Sligo road near the shores of Lough Key but the Gallaghers lived on a ridge west of the road. They then gave us detailed instructions on how to find Jimmy and Pauline. We left their house marveling at the Irish hospitality we had just witnessed. And we could hardly believe how lucky we were to meet that couple who were out strolling while their spuds were boiling!
The next day we set out for Sheegora (all the signs say Sheegorey as did the documents we found at the library, but the locals call it Sheegora) and only got lost a couple of times. Each time a kind neighbor told us how to get back on the right path. Soon we found ourselves driving up a narrow driveway to the Gallagher farmhouse. And then we met my mother’s second cousin Jimmy Gallagher and his wife Pauline and their dog Rex. We also met a daughter who was still living with them. Jimmy was living in the same house as his father William and his grandfather Peter, the same Peter who said Goodbye to his three sisters 140 years ago. It was most likely the same house where my great grandmother was born. We had found her birthplace!
The next three weeks took us to Counties Longford, West Meath, Offaly, Tipperary, Limerick, Clare, Kerry, Cork, Waterford, Wexford, Wicklow and Dublin and we enjoyed ourselves tremendously. But we never found another ancestor birthplace.
A couple of years ago I received a letter from a grandson of Jimmy and Pauline’s who was now living in Scotland. He informed me that Jimmy had died in April, 2005 at the age of 85 and that Pauline had died soon afterward in January, 2006 at the age of 71.