Sunday, September 18, 2016

Days 5, 6 and 7: Dublin, Newgrange and Home

After we said our goodbye's to Liam, we got to our rooms and dumped our incredibly heavy bags. We then headed downstairs to the Vat Bar in the Blooms Hotel, Temple Bar district. We had dinner there, but it took forever to get our food. After sitting all day in the coach, then sitting for two hours to eat, my badly swollen feet, ankles and legs were killing me. We needed a walk.

I had trouble the entire trip with internet service. It appears only my phone had a problem, so I plan to get a new one very shortly! Once I got help from the Reception Desk woman logging in, I finally received my email from Mary Gibbons Tours with instructions on where to meet the coach. I planned to take her tour to the Hill of Tara and Newgrange the following day. After relaxing now that I had my information, we all went out to see Dublin by night. We walked in the direction of my destination the next day, and I quickly realized we were staying right down the street from a pub Larry and I visited on our trip two years prior! I couldn't wait to tell Larry, but of course, I couldn't without internet access.

We walked to the AIB Bank on O'Connell Street across the River Liffy. Along the way, we stopped at Carroll's souvenir shop and bought the first of our gifts to take home. After we found the bank, we headed back to the hotel. We were all exhausted.

Entry to Hill of Tara
Mound of Hostages
The next morning, I got ready to leave for my tour. Everyone else wanted to stay in Dublin. Neither Billy nor Cindy had ever been, and I encouraged them to see the city and take the Guinness factory tour. They loved it, bought lots of souvenirs and walked their feet off. Billy escorted me to AIB Bank and saw me on the coach.

Stone of Destiny
Famine Victim Mass Grave
I had a lovely quiet day, not communing with anybody else on the tour. I just enjoyed the ride and nature when we reached our first destination: Hill of Tara. This hill is where the Kings of Ireland claimed their crowns, if they had one. To demonstrate that a man was worthy to be king, he had to drive his chariot as fast as in a race to the very phallic-looking "Stone of Destiny". Once he reached the stone, he had to swerve quickly so the wheel scraped the stone and made it scream. If the stone screamed, he was worthy to be king. The stone had been moved from its original location by the farmer who owned the land because it was in his way. He moved it to "the mound of hostages". There are two large circle mounds next to one another. Close by is another mass grave of famine victims, marked with a Celtic Cross surrounded by a fence. The hill had a lovely view of the surrounding area, and it was very meditative to walk around there.

Next we headed to Newgrange. This 5,000+ year-old structure was built by stone-age farmers. Those farmers carried huge boulders twenty kilometers on their little boats down the River Boyne and other waterways to then be rolled up hill on logs. the sides of the huge grassy mound was also covered in white quartz from seventy kilometers away and granite stones from fifty kilometers away. The thought of this amazing feat again boggled my mind.

Light box
We waited our turn to go inside, and were instructed to be very careful exiting as we were very likely to bump our heads on the cap stone. Those old farmers were much smaller than we are. Both sides of my body touched the huge standing stones that formed the passage walls as we walked to the cavernous end of the tunnel. The ceiling looked to me to be twenty to thirty feet high. The architecture of the layers of stone and stone "shims" was really impressive. There were three bays in the cavern that must have been dedicated to certain ceremonies. Once such bay had a large indented stone bowl. Hieroglyphics were everywhere. On the wall stone of one bay was the logo of Newgrange, a three-circled spiral set. I bought a pin of it, but when I saw it in person, I closed my eyes and rubbed my hand over it lovingly and respectfully. I thanked the farmers for creating this masterpiece that modern humans could experience and enjoy.

Our guide, after confirming nobody was claustrophobic or afraid of the dark, turned out all the lights and it was completely black. Slowly, she turned on light that meant to demonstrate how light entered the cavern down the passageway from the lightbox above the entrance on the Winter Solstice. It was just amazing.

We learned all about the Boyne Valley during our drive and visit, and our guide invited us to imagine what the landscape must have been like five thousand years ago. It was a very interesting and informative trip, and I was glad I went.

The Pub
Billy texted me he was waiting for me at the bus stop, and walked me home. He was so sweet. We stopped for a pint in that pub Larry and I visited, and listened to fun music for a little while before meeting Jeanne and Cindy for dinner.

Elaine O'Neill
From our Clan DNA test, we found yet another new cousin, Elaine O'Neill, who lives in a suburb of Dublin. We made a date to meet her at our hotel Tuesday night for drinks. She drove and parked her car two miles out and took a bus to meet us. She arrived at the bar and we kissed and hugged. We got a booth and shared histories. She had been researching on for thirty years! She was a wealth of information. We shared what we each had, and contact information. After a couple of hours, she joined us while we ate supper. We took pictures and then it was time to say goodbye.

Like Breada, Elaine had tears in her eyes when we parted. She was so sweet. Billy escorted her to the taxi stand, and knocked on the driver's window after getting her settled in the back seat. "You take care of my new auntie, now, you hear me?" Elaine laughed in the back seat, then they drove away.

Jeanne and Cindy settled down for the night in our rooms, but Billy and I weren't tired yet. So, we stayed in the bar for a while, shared a whiskey tasting, then had one more for a nightcap while we listened to a man sing ditties and play guitar.

The next morning, we checked out again at noon, after our very last full Irish breakfast. We dragged our extremely heavy bags a couple blocks to the taxi stand and secured a wagon to haul us all and our bags to the airport.

We were very sad to leave our newly found roots in Ireland, but so happy to have found them at last. See you in three years, Ireland! Thanks for the memories. With Love, the New England Crowleys.

Day 4: Celebrating with the Clan

Billy meeting Murphy
Our weekend was full of amazing surprises and inspirational events. We are so appreciative to Michael Patrick and Liam for all the wealth of historic information they provided. We learned so much this weekend. Thank you to the Council for providing this unique and wonderful opportunity to feel like a Crowley at an entirely new and much more rooted level.

My back on stage
After our last full day of excursions into the Crowley history, we all ended up at JJ's pub in Bantry once more to raise a pint or a glass, sing and dance the night away. We shared lots of kisses and hugs, and everyone came to say goodbye.

After much internal lamentation, I finally decided I had to fulfill my dream of singing in an Irish pub in Ireland. I could only recall one verse of "One Misty Moisty Morning", (Steeleye Span version), and told Larry Crowley what I wanted to do. He handed me the microphone, and I turned to the crowd.
Nice Picture in JJ's

I can only remember one verse of this song, I said, but if I don't sing in an Irish pub in Ireland once in my life, I'll always regret it. I sung my verse with a modified Irish accent a capella, then said, "Good night, Ireland. Good night Crowley Clan!" It was momentous for me! I promised one Crowley that I would come back in three years having learned the entire song and sing it again. I promised Bradley, who is learning Appalachian banjo and also promised to learn some songs to perform, that I would join him on stage next time. It was a great night, albeit bittersweet.

Our hotel balcony in Bantry
The next morning, we slept in because checkout was at noon. Liam, who was driving us to Dublin, needed the morning to drive folks to Cork, so we were grateful for the time. We enjoyed our last full Irish breakfast in Bantry, gathered are even heavier bags and met Liam in the lobby at the appointed time.

My brother, Billy, saw Michael Patrick outside smoking. He felt the need to apologize for my behavior the day before. You see, I had asked Michael Patrick for a copy of his book, "The origins and history of the O'Crowleys as an Irish Gaelic clan" from the first moment I met him on our arrival. I found out at our last opportunity to receive that book, that they were all gone. I marched right out and interrupted his conversation saying, "Are you telling me all your books are gone? I have asked you for one every day this weekend, and I full expected you to save one for me!" He looked sheepishly at me and agreed I was right. We went right inside the hotel and exchanged contact information. He promised he would mail me a copy this week.

When Billy saw him, Michael Patrick told him he had lent a copy to a woman who decided she didn't want it. He handed that copy to Billy to give me. We laughed. Then I said, "After all that, he could have at least autographed it!" We laughed again. Michael Patrick, I'll bring it with me in three years, and you can autograph it then. Thanks, Cuz. Love you!

Liam asked if we minded if Phyllis and Sean Crowley joined us. They were staying at her grandfather's house in Bandon, next door to where Liam lived. We said of course not. The house was adorable! Billy helped carry out their bags and Cindy popped out to snap pictures of the beautiful red hydrangeas we saw everywhere that we loved and never saw in America. We stopped for lunch on our way to Dublin and never stopped again until we arrived.

At the Blooms Hotel in Dublin's Temple Bar district, we said our sad farewells to Liam with our profound thanks for making this trip an extra special experience. More kisses and hugs all around, and he was gone. Now for the next adventure sans the Crowley Clan.

Day 4: Beara Penninsula (Old Ireland)

Welcomed by Allihies Mine
Our last Gathering day was spent driving to the Beara Penninsula. First, we visited the village of Allihies where the copper mines are located. We listened to a very interesting lecture about copper mining, and the torture of the Irish who worked the mines.
Castle of Mine Owner

The squallor our ancestors were forced to endure boggle the mind. Families were drawn to mining because the famine forced it as an alternative to make money when the potatoes families depended on for food and income vanished in the blight. After seeing the depths of fathoms men were required to descend in order to reach the copper veins, I asked the lecturer, "How did those men deal with the pressure of those depths?" "They died", he said. We saw the castle built by the owner of the land where the mines were located, and it made me angry. The inequities of those who profit at the expense of workers who suffer was so blatant and so sad.

I actually confused the timeline of events in my last post. Our visit to Dunboy Castle was actually this day, after the mines. I remember because, after passing the incredible castle built on the backs of Irish miners, we approached the area to disembark for Dunboy Castle. We were delayed in getting off the buses because the fence that secured a drive for the buses to turn around was locked. There was Liam with wire cutters in hand, cutting the wires that held the gates closed until the men lifted the gates and layed them aside. The wire was replaced when we were about to depart the area. Our driver joked, "Who expects to go home this week?" We all raised our hands. "I'll be visiting you in an Irish prison for sure. Don't expect to be leaving!" We all laughed a little guardedly.

Also a not-so-funny event occured on the way to Crowley Castle. While we were at the castle, our small bus tried to back up down the road and ended up stuck in the mud of a ditch. We had to wait while Liam got hold of the local farmer whose land hosted the Castle to come pull it out with his lovely new blue backhoe. Billy had to be in the thick of helping with this, of course. After we got on our way, we were once more delayed as a car driving opposite our bus was stalled in the road. These roads are very narrow and passing vehicles is a challenge. Everybody yelled, "Billy, go help her!" So he did. He got the car started with gratitude from the woman driving it, and now he can declare, "I drove in Ireland!"

Once we reached the Beara Penninsula, Tom Crowley, a past Taoiseach, was in charge as this area of old Ireland is his ancestral home. He has cousins who still live here and buried in the cemetery we visited. He comes back here every year to visit family.

He introduced us to the history of the Kilkatherine cemetery. This was the site of a monastery. In turn, male monks inhabited it and also nuns posing as monks. Nuns were not allowed to live alone, so they posed as monks and served Mass. It was a beautiful old cemetery, and the monastery ruin's stonework was magnificent.

When we disembarked from the bus in this area, we were hit by very strong winds. It was not raining, but I had to be careful walking as in one moment walking around the old cemetery with long grass and hidden stones, the gust was so strong I felt myself sway with it. "Ground yourself," I said to myself.

On one wall of the ruin facing the sea, a strange head is mounted. Tom told us this story: A man exploring the cemetery one day found the head in the grass. It had somehow been knocked off its place at the top of the wall near the entrance. He took the head home. For days, he heard strange crying in the night, like a cat screaming. This went on so long, that he finally realized it had started when he brought home the head. He took the head back to the cemetary, and with cement, mounted it in its place on the wall. The night screams were silenced ever after.

Lunch in Allihies
Billy making an entrance
The entire weekend's weather was a miracle. We said to everyone who credited our happy dispositions with bringing the sunshine with us, "You're welcome!" When on the bus, it rained. When we got off, the rain stopped (for the most part). It was great. After taking many pictures, we headed back to the hotel for a final farewell at JJ's pub in Bantry.
Cindy enjoying tea
For Brother, Jimmy

Allihies Bay
Allihies beach of crushed quartz

Day 3: Dunboy Castle

Passing the White Stick
Dunboy Castle was a significant battle site for the O'Chruadhlaoich Clan, so this is where the Taoiseach, Michael Patrick Crowley, transferred his power to the new leader, Dr. Patrick Crowley, by handing him the white stick as Dr. Patrick stood on a special stone. Dr. Patrick introduced Michael Patrick to the Clan and its history and served as Michael Patrick's mentor. This was truly an emotional moment for them both. What an ancient feeling all these ceremonies created in our hearts. At least I stopped crying.

Dr. Patrick, new Taoiseach
After a speech about the site that was a ruin and its significance, we climbed into the center for the ceremony of passing the stick. It was very moving, and everyone cheered. Afterwards, Matthew (or Michael) Dawson, the bagpiper, played an original composition for the occasion, "Crowley's Lament". It was beautiful. Unfortunately, I didn't think quickly enough, so I only got the last half of it. It is not published anywhere. He created it the night before and played it for the first and only time in this ceremony.

We clean up good.

It lightly rained on us again, and everyone was ready to head back to The Maritime Hotel in Bantry. We rode over an hour to the hotel, got cleaned up and ready for the banquet. This banquet was a dressy-uppy affair, and very special.

William and Tamara
Tom and Billy (now Liam)
As Billy, Cindy, Jeanne and I chose our table, I was introduced to "the Providence, Rhode Island" couple, William A. and Tamara Crowley. William confessed he was actually from Seekonk, Massachusetts, so we realized that was like we say we are from Boston.

William and Tamara live in San Diego and were decked out in full Clan regalia. This was also their first Gathering, so they had the outfits handmade by a woman in their area. William shared her business card with us in case we wanted to have something made for the next Gathering in three years.

Ambassador Kevin Michael Vickers
The Ambassador to Canada gave a very intimate, personal account of his ancestral history search and what it meant to him. It was a very nice speech. Next, a man from the National Genealogy Institute of Ireland gave a lecture about the subject. Not as nice, and very dry.

Karen and Larry
Next, came the awarding of special medals to Liam, Larry and others for their dedication and hard work on behalf of the Clan. So many beaming and happy faces to capture on digital cameras. All the Chieftains wore full Clan attire, while the women of any significance like, Marian Crowley Chamberlain, wore a tartan swag with the O'Chruadhlaoich (O'Crowley) pin on it..

Marian Crowley Chamberlain
Marian was a Taoiseach and lives with her husband, in coastal South Carolina. We met online and discovered we are fifth to eighth generation cousins through the DNA test. She was instrumental in advising me about the Gathering, how to get there, what to wear and anything else I needed to know. Thank you, Marian. It was so nice to meet you in person.

All the Taoiseaches

Liam and Martin Crowley
After all the speeches, and a delicious dinner that culminated with a toast of either whiskey or gin provided by Charlie, another new Chieftain (the Red), the formal pictures began. After snapping a few of those, and before music and more partying ensued, we skipped out and adjourned to our rooms. We were exhausted, and had enough fun for one day. It was truly a magical day indeed.

Day 3: Crowley Castle

This was the most emotionally moving experience of my life, indeed of all our lives. The buses pulled up to yet another area of green fields with herds of white cows this time, while we all gathered on the dirt road. As we gathered, we waited for the new Chieftains, the Taoiseach and the piper to move to the head of our Clan. When the piper began to play we moved en masse as we marched as a Clan to the Castle. Something shifted inside as we realized we were now part of a Clan.

As we marched past the cows, we rounded a corner in the road where more green fields of every hue were layed out before us as far as the eye could see. Something wrenched in my heart again, and tears welled up. I started to choke on those tears and had to shut off my video camera because the emotions were just too strong to share. What was happening to me? I cried off and on all day!

As we trekked down the road another herd of black and white cows came running toward us at full gallop. We all laughed. One black and white calf headed the herd toward us, while a black calf intercepted it saying, "Oh no you don't!" The black and white calf said, "Screw you!" and turned in the direction we walk running for all it was worth to meet us at the tree line before we marched up hill. It stood there watching us and soon the rest of the herd galloped and caught up. We laughed so hard at these antics. These cows were hilarious!

On the left was a lovely field, and in the center, was a fence in which the most beautiful black stallion pranced wildly. His head was as erect as is tail. His tail was so straight it looked like a flag. It was a stunning animal and many of us stopped to take pictures of his magnificence.

As we rounded the hill, the restored ruins of Crowley Castle shown before us. It was literally in the middle of nowhere, set like a black jewel in fields of every green imaginable as far as the eye could see. We made our way down to the castle that was surrounded by a fence to keep the cows out, and saw priests preparing an altar for the Catholic Mass we were about to participate in. The Council members mounted Crowley flags just awarded onto the fence, but not before a priest blessed them. Liam got down on both knees for the blessing after laying a handful of hay on the ground to try and keep his pants dry. It rained on us off and on during the Mass.

Larry Crowley played his banjo and someone else played guitar as a group sang hymns during Mass. We were all given sheets with the songs and their words to join in as we wished. As the rain baptized us in our new homeland, we all solemnly walked up to receive Communion while hymns were sung by the group. A little brown and white puppy and a black and white herding dog ran around us while children ran and played in front of the fence. It was such a special and intimate moment we will never forget.

After Mass, we made our way back to the buses for our last trek of this wonderful day.