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Published: July 29th 2016
We have planned for our day, a trip to Cobh which is the harbour of Cork city from where the majority of Irish people emigrated from in the 1800’s.Along the way we will call into Knocknagree, the village closet to where the Mahoney family lived (my mother’s Catholic side of the family) and also see if we can take our own photos of where Daniel’s parents Michael and Catherine are buried in Rathmore.
It has dawned as another typical Irish day so we expect it will follow that the drizzle will clear soon and will remain dry for the day before the drizzle comes back at night. This pattern of weather is becoming very predictable to us.
With what could be a long day ahead we left home at 9.30am and headed across the county border into Cork by taking the R577 a narrow rural road hat climbed the hills to the east of CastleIsland passing through villages with great Irish sounding names like Knocknabout and Ballydesmond before we reached the turnoff of the L1103 which is the road that leads to and then runs through the Townland of Shanballa that was the farming home of the Mahoney’s during
the 1800’s and from where Daniel as a 19 year old left to sail for three months to Timaru, New Zealand to start a new life.
The famine had ended but life must have been still very tough for Irish families governed by The English in London and the Mahoney’s probably lived a self existence life as tenant farmers.
Three years ago we had come to Shanballa after a very helpful librarian in the nearby town of Millstreet had helped us out with information and directions. She had suggested we seek out a man named Andy O’Halloran who had lived all his life in the area and may have some further history to pass on to us.
She didn’t know where he exactly lived but said to ask anyone in Knocknagree and they would know him. Such is the way in Ireland, everyone knows everyone!
Sure enough we saw a man outside clearing a drain and he directed us to the L1103 and said to knock on any door and the homeowner would know where Andy O’Halloran lived.
We did just that and discovered that Andy lived right next door but was out. We waited
in our car for a half hour or so but as it was getting late in the day and we had to get back to our hotel in Cork we resolved to contact him when we got home to New Zealand. We were moving onto Dublin the next day and then flying home from there so there wasn’t enough time to go back to Knocknagree to see if he was home.
It took a while and it was mid 2015 when we had started to tentatively plan another visit to Ireland that we wrote and had an email reply and although we heard from him once more we then lost contact and we had wondered whether he might have died.
Driving slowly along the L1103 we both recognised the house of Andy O’Halloran and believe it or not we were in luck to finally meet him as he drove into his driveway with his wife as we were getting out of our car.
His driveway was quite long and as I walked towards them as they were unpacking things from their car I had the sense that they know I was there but didn’t want to acknowledge
I introduced myself and my name immediately registered with them both and they fell into fits of laughter which had me worried a bit!
As it turned out they thought I was a Jehovah’s Witness coming to try and convert them and that I might get the message they didn’t want to talk to me by ignoring my approach.
Gretchen had parked the car well off the road and came up to join me as I was already in discussion with them and Andy was recalling his early childhood in the area growing up with the O’Keefe family into which Daniels sister Kate had married. The O’Keefes had lived on what he thought would have been the property of the Mahoney’s and this may be correct as Michael(Daniels father) is included in the 1901 census as living with the O’Keefes before he died in the same year. Catherine his wife had died a few years earlier.
Andy said we were fortunate to have called today as if we had arrived Friday or over the weekend we would have been in the midst of the wedding celebrations of their daughter.
He took a look at the copy of the Mahoney/Dillon wedding certificate I had with me and agreed that the first part of the word ‘Lock.......’almost certainly would refer to a place name beginning with Lough, the Irish word for lake.
We had a cup of coffee and some delicious wedding cake and he then offered to drive us the short distance to the O’Keefe’s farm house which although now disused was still standing.
The land in the area is now all freehold so any of the old buildings still remaining are incorporated into the new titled areas.
The old disused house was just inside a gate which we couldn’t open because it was tightly bound up. So Gretchen took a photo from the best angle she could get. Not that there was much to the single story grey plaster over stone building with an asbestos roof which certainly had the appearance of not having been lived in for many years. The roof in the 1901 census had been thatch but must have been replaced in the 1940’s or thereafter when asbestos was in favour.
Andy drove us back to our car and we thanked him very much for his time and knowledge and we felt that we had made a friend for life in Ireland as we drove on our way.
We took a quick stop in the village of Knocknagree for some video and then headed for Rathmore to try and locate the grave of the Mahoney’s.
I had joined a research website called Ireland Reaching out and they had traced the grave sites and sent me photos. Now this is where not having the internet had become a problem to us again as the email with the attached photos had been filed in our emails and I didn’t have the photos separately filed in documents I could have opened without connecting to the internet.
Although we thought finding the grave should be as easy as we found the graveyard which was next to the Catholic church built in 1864 in Rathmore. Michael and Catherine had married in the old, previous church in Rathmore.
As we started our search it was clear that locating the gravesite wasn’t going to be that easy without the photo at least that I had. Most of the graves dated back only until the early 1900’s and although we looked at all the ones with a column with a Celtic cross on the top we could not find it.
I went into the church hoping that someone may be there who knew if there were records of the graveyard.
A woman there told me about an old graveyard that was located a bit further on out of town where there was now no longer a church. Perhaps this was the graveyard we were looking for. So off we drove following her instructions carefully.
We found the graveyard in its very overgrown state and here there was a map of the graves that had been identified in recent times with the names of those buried there. The site did not look at all like what I had remembered from the photo and none of the names were Mahoney either.
Now you are probably thinking that we should have been wise enough when we were helping ourselves to the ‘free’ wi fi at Den Joes or the Tralee Information Centre and recovered the email from Ireland Reaching Out with the photos attached and saved them to view offline. We just did not think that it would be this hard finding the right graveyard.
After the ‘high’ of meeting Andy O’Halloran, the historian at Shanballa and then the ‘low ‘of not finding the Mahoney’s final resting place we needed something to console us as we regrouped for the afternoon at Cobh.
And what better way than a pint of locally crafted beer, equal to or better than a Guinness, and sandwiches at the Mills Inn on the N22 at Ballyvourney.
The drive to Cobh was uneventful and a tunnel and well placed motorway took us clear of the city of Cork to the harbour on the eastern side of the city to the Cobh Heritage Centre.
I had read briefly about the Heritage Centre and my sister KJ and her partner Tim had been there on a cruise they had undertaken last year. They had mentioned on a couple of occasions that they had been frustrated in getting the information they hoped they might on the Dillon side of the family as the historian had been away.
Not that we were looking for the historian as we were only looking for the name of the ship Maria had sailed to New Zealand on and then if there was any more information held at the Centre we would research that while we here.
I should have read more about the Heritage Centre (here we go again, read the instructions!)because there were no shipping records here just the historian man who wasn’t available for at least an hour and he charged €50 for doing some sort of research.
The Heritage Centre is a bit of a misnomer really, given over more to the story of the Titanic, which called at Cobh on its fateful voyage to New York.
So the second disappointment of the day.
I thought we might as well make it ‘three’ for the day or perhaps level the score out by returning home via Rathmore again and retry the graveyard and also check out a church whose directional sign I had noticed as we left the old graveyard.
We were at least ahead of the ‘workers ‘traffic going home and we made good progress back to Rathmore calling in first at the church I had noticed the sign for first. It was part of the same parish but had been built in the late 1950’s and the graves around the church were from ‘recent’ times and way too late for the Mahoney’s I was looking for. So another ‘dead end ‘so to speak!
One last look in the graveyard in Rathmore was in case we had missed something this morning was in order. We were passing anyway to get to the road to take us back to CastleIsland.
We both walked back over the ground we did this morning but again didn’t find the grave which we were sure was under a Celtic cross.
We returned via Knocknagree and the R577 and were soon home and ready for a Guinness as we reflected on a day that started out with the success of meeting Andy O’Halloran and hearing some of his historical knowledge of the Shanballa Townland but ended with the Mahoney’s final resting place remaining elusive to us.
One of the foods we have missed since being away from New Zealand is a good meat pie, not that we have them all that often at home, but we had bought a couple at Tesco’s on Friday and tonight’s dinner was all about a meat pie made with Irish steak with good healthy vegetables.
Tomorrow we switch focus to try and trace down the birthplace of Maria Dillon and we will head north to Limerick to check out the library there which may have resources we haven’t been able to research online. And at the same time take in more of the charming Irish countryside and the little villages on the route.
PS:the title of today's blog will get your toes tapping and give you the feeling of the freedom the Irish fought for all those years.On YouTube as usual.If you select the video of the live performance from Ballybunnion(actually in Kerry)and close your eyes you will really feel you are in Ireland.
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