One of the main reasons behind my decision to study in Ireland was my family background. Although I never had any contact with my Irish relatives prior to this trip, they have made my semester so much better. As I have mentioned in previous blog entries, my cousin Joe has taken me on trips exploring much of Ireland. A few weekends back I got the surreal experience of visiting the village of my ancestors.
My program of 34 Americans here at DCU was scheduled for a bus trip exploring the West of Ireland. It was a great time where we got to experience everything from the eclectic Galway City to the barren but beautiful Achill Island. At the end of the excursion, Joe met me to explore a bit more of Connemara and go on our way to Tuam, Co. Galway, about 40 minutes outside of the city.
Tuam is a small village that only recently has been connected easily to Galway City and henceforth Dublin with the advent of EU money funding new roads in Ireland. As we were about to enter the town, Joe made a quick left onto a long, narrow road. There was not much to this area except a few old houses, some new houses, a lot of land, and a couple sheds. As Joe’s brother Maurice told me later that night, even though the family home was no longer standing, this village known as Cloonfush is “where is all began.”
At the very end of the road, there was an old cemetery. We searched the graves until we found the grave of my great-great-grandfather of Cloonfush in the picture shown. Being in the footsteps of my ancestors and seeing this cemetery was unreal and an experience I will never forget.
We then carried on to Tuam, where I was shuttled around to a few houses to meet cousins, aunts, etc. Pictures were taken, stories were told, family trees were drawn and analyzed, and of course there was plenty of tea. That night I then had the pleasure of enjoying a couple pints with my distant cousins at a local pub. I spent the night at my grandmother’s first cousin’s house. Although we had to leave early the next morning, I was so fortunate to get such a grand welcome into Cloonfush, Tuam, and the whole west of Ireland. “Where it all began.”