An Irish Family Holiday (from Ballindine Post)

Ballindine, Co. Mayo in the West of Ireland

The following diary "An Irish Holiday" was written by Catherine "Kitty" Cullina Risher of Dotham, Alabama, USA. It details her trip to Ireland June 26, 1998 to July 10, 1998. She was accompanied by her father James "Gene" Cullina and her mother Elaine. Also her uncle and aunts: John "Jack" Cullina and wife Elva; Margaret "Peggy" Cullina Pritchard; Sheila "CeCe" Cullina Wysock and Lois Cullina, wife of David Cullina deceased. John, James, David, Margaret and Sheila are the children of the late Thomas Cullina of Irishtown and Catherine Flattery (sister of Maggie Delia Flattery) of Cloonmore, Ballindine. Thomas and Catherine emigrated to the US in the early 1920s and were married in Hartford, Ct. in 1925. Their parents were - Paternal: John Cullina (who recorded the minutes of the Land League 1879) and Katherine Godfrey; Maternal: John Flattery and Cecelia McTigue.

It was the Cullinas first trip to Ireland. They had a great time and were so happy to meet with their Aunt Maggie Delia and all their first and second cousins. I hope you enjoy the diary as much as I did.

Mark McTigue Tuckahoe, NY, USA

Friday, June 26

Bad news - severe thunder storms in Newark - 4 to 1 chance we won't make connection for flight to Shannon. Re-routed from Atlanta to Dublin to Shannon on Delta - first class on Delta, but no interchange agreement with Air Tran so more airfare for flight from Savannah to Atlanta. Very rushed in Atlanta to retrieve bags from Air Tran then get to Delta International gate (E concourse) in 50 minutes. Very nice helpful agent at Delta in Atlanta. First class is very different than coach - much room - meals are major production - real china and glassware, complimentary alcoholic beverages, leather kit bag with toiletries, even Rembrandt toothpaste. Not much sleep though, after 2-hour dinner, dozed a couple times then breakfast - never heard of egg fattita - then landed in Dublin, and by now it's June 27.

Saturday, June 27

Uneventful flight to Shannon, some lovely views through the aircraft window. Other Cullinas were already at the Shannon airport, had been worrying some about what happened to us. Fairly small airport. Two hour delay in getting the rental van. Exchanged some money - 137 punt for $200.00 plus a 2.50 fee. Tight fit but all 8 got in the van, followed a tour bus part of the way - nice driver offered to get us on the right road - detoured through Dromoland Castle - quite impressive - large, well kept, golfing on the grounds. Driving on the wrong side of the road, on narrow, twisting streets, just a bit scary, very close to rock wall on the left side of the road in some places, no pavement shoulders for much of the way. Travelled through some small villages, but mostly rural roads, many cows - didn't expect them - and lots of sheep. Rock walls everywhere - around houses and fields, even cross fencing in pastures made of rock. Most homes and streets seemed manicured, clean and freshly painted.

Arrived at the cottage where we'll spend the next 2 weeks. It's past Irishtown and Ballindine, outside of Claremorris, really out in the country, hard to find at first. Pretty little house with some different features - punt in a meter for electricity, electric shower, lots of hard-to-get-to cabinets in the bedrooms. Very nice landlady, Martina, served us Irish tea and apple pie. Back to Claremorris for dinner and groceries. No Winn Dixie, Super Wal-Mart or even IGA-size stores around here. Dinner at a pub - Mulligans - sandwiches and chips. My turn to do the driving - only ended up on the wrong side of the road a couple of times and off the left side a couple of times. Some crazy drivers and really tight squeezes around here. Road to the cottage seems more like a one -way lane, but it's beautiful country. Black and white cows live right next to the house.

Sunday, June 28

Mass at a small church only about a mile down the street, fast-talking priest, some prayer differences, very plain building and decor, no name on the church, doesn't seem that most streets have names either. Rainy and grey outside. Breakfast at The Meeting Place in Claremorris, small place all so far have been - good meal except the black pudding (blood sausage).

Off to Great Aunt Maggie's house between Ballindine and Irishtown at the end of a long, very skinny lane. Two story house but narrow and small inside - 90 years old - little front room with stove and counter and peat fire-place that used to be the only source of heat and only place to cook. Aunt Maggie lives alone, keeps the fire burning, looks much like Aunt Annie, bright and agile, insisted we have refreshment - sherry for the ladies and whiskey for the men, and cookies. She had a shot of sherry herself. Later, she made tea, served her homemade raisin soda bread and brought out picture albums.

Dinner at Duffy's in Ballindine tried some of Aunt Elva's lamb chop, pretty good. Back to the house, driving on the left side of the road still seems strange. Lots of rabbits in the fields. Sun was out for a little while today but it was still cool. 9.30pm and it's still light, sun sets late here during the summer. Dad's most memorable moment of the day: walking up the sidewalk of Maggie Delia's house "envisioning my mother and aunts and uncles growing up there". Second best moment - getting the picture of his Uncle Pat holding him when he's about 2 years old. He'll make a copy of that one for himself. Aunt Maggie gave us a coffeepot, a non-electric percolator, because we couldn't find one to buy in any stores around here and our cottage doesn't have one. There is an iron and a hair dryer though.

Monday, June 29

To Knock after breakfast at The Meeting Place. My aunts bought Dad, our driver, a chauffeurs cap. Knock is a small town; the Shrine, site of Mary's apparition in August 1879, is actually several walled in blocks in the centre of town. There's a church, a basilica, a chapel, a museum and other buildings on the grounds with beautiful flowers and shrubs everywhere. Uncle Jack's favourite part of the day: "the Shrine, very impressive, didn't expect it to be so big". Aunt Lois' favourite: "Knock, the chapel". We left Knock at about 2.30 and decided to go to Castlebar for some shopping.

Dad drove around and around and around the roundabout.

Aunt Peggy finally found a curling iron. We went to a large store - Dunnes - and got some groceries for an eat-in dinner. My second time driving, two close calls in the very confusing roundabouts, scared my Dad on the narrow roads. It may be my last time driving. Aunt Ci makes a mean Manhattan.

Tuesday, June 30

Misty and grey again. Started the day with a trip to Cong, about an hour away, to see Ashford Castle. Very big, very old, impressive, even has a moat but no drawbridge. Three pound per person for entrance to the grounds. Disappointing that visitors are not allowed into the castle itself - only guests staying there, like a hotel. Tea and scones at the Thatched Cottage spoke with the golf pro who said Lee Travino, Tom Watson and Nick Faldo have played the course there. "The Quiet Man", movie with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, was filmed in Cong. Stopped at Kate's Handmade Sweater Shop. Elaine bought a hat and Aunt Ci a sweater. To Aunt Maggie's at 5.00 and she showed us to the church and cemetery in Irishtown then to the church and cemetery in Ballindine where Flatterys are buried - several in one plot . Took Aunt Maggie to dinner - Duffy's again - good homemade soup, tough lamb chops, very friendly, helpful people at this pub. In fact, all we've met have been most pleasant except when they're driving. On the rutted rural road back to the cottage we pass farm equipment and bikers, lots of sheep and cows, really beautiful countryside. Aunt Maggie says the sign of the cross in Gaelic: In ainm an athair, agus an Mhic agus an Spiorod Naomh, Amen

Wednesday, July 1

To Westport and Croagh Patrick. First saw the National Famine Memorial - a coffin boat - commemorating the terrible famine of 1845-1850, population of Ireland decreased from 8 to 4 million. Croagh Patrick (croagh means mountain) is where St Patrick climbed and prayed and fasted 40 days for the people of Ireland. We walked only partially up the mountain, to the statue of St Patrick; the whole trip would be quite a trek, very rocky and steep. A native at the statue site, waiting for his party, said that once a year, the last Sunday of July, thousands of people make a barefoot pilgrimage up the mountain to the chapel at the tip. Across the street from Crough Patrick are ruins of an Abbey, destroyed by heretics more than 4 centuries ago and a graveyard next to Clew bay.

Back into Westport for lunch, Aunt Peggy got a bowl of stew that was wonderful, then some shopping - no purchases except a battery for the camera finally. Next stop was Foxford to Hennigans, a pub owned by Aunt Peggy's friend's cousin, PJ and his wife Maureen. PJ advised the scenic route back to Claremorris "just a short jog out of the way". We got lost but still rode past some beautiful country and lakes - Lough Conn and Lough Cullin. Aunt Ci's favourite part of the day: "Croagh Patrick and visiting with Maureen and PJ".

Thursday, July 2

Left fairly early after a light breakfast at the cottage. Aunt Peggy says "kiss it up to God" if something edible is dropped on the floor. Aran Island tour today. Drove south through Galway. Elaine noted that we sure do a lot of turning around, then down the coastal road with beautiful view of Galway Bay, to Rossaveal and boarded the ferry for a 40 minute cruise across Galway Bay to Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands. Took a tour bus from there, very rocky terrain, small cleared patches with rock fences all around, thatched roof cottages. Tour guide pointed out a 300-year- old cottage then "the last house before America".

Bus Stopped for a meal, Irish stew was not too good, and shopping. Aunt Ci, Elaine and I climbed to Dun Aengus Ring (dun means fort), 100 meters to the top with a spectacular view. It's 3000 years old. Climb down was much easier. Elaine's favourite part of the day: "the view from the top of Dun Aengus", Aunt Peggy's "the bus tour", Aunt Ci's "both", Aunt Elva's "the dolphins", a school that jumped and followed the ferry for a little while on the way back from the Aran Island.

Friday, July 3

No major tour or sight seeing today, just a short trip to Claremorris for groceries and a little souvenir shopping. No such thing as plain potato chips in Ireland. To Aunt Maggie's for the evening. After a spot of liquid refreshment (Aunt Maggie is very persuasive) we went into the dining room and discovered that dinner was all laid out, a bountiful meal with ham, lamb, potato salad, coleslaw, tomatoes and sugar beets beautifully displayed on china. Plenty of soda bread and hot tea too, then a sherry, fruit trifle for desert. Aunt Maggie had arranged for a big Family gathering - invited other relatives living in Ireland. The twins, Phil and Kathleen did much of the hosting. Mae and Peggy were also there, as well as Mae's daughter Pauline and one of her 4 children, Luke, a cute little red headed 8 year old. Phil's daughter Mary joined us later. Bridie, who grew up in the Flattery house and Bridy the neighbour were also there in addition to a few McTighe folks. It seems that only the men have grey hair. Phil and Kathleen spent the entire evening tending to the guests. Aunt Maggie gave me another lesson in turf-fire tending. A good visit was had by all.

We left Aunt Maggie's at about 11.3Opm, first time for Dad to drive at night. Streetlights are sparse but again, Dad did a superior job of returning us to our temporary home safely. After his six days of driving here, he's concluded that there are certain requirements for driving in Ireland: "a brave heart, nerves of steel, superior depth and peripheral vision". Also, "don't expect street or direction signs". Very few road markers, lots of "loose chipping". Uncle Jack's most memorable part of today was "meeting all my first cousins for the first time, I couldn't believe the spread of food when we walked in".

Saturday, July 4

Back to Foxford to see the Mill - it had already closed when we got there Wednesday. Foxford Mill was started by a nun to provide employment for the people of the town and stem the tide of emigration. We toured the gift shops. Best picture of the day: Aunts Ci and Peggy and Elaine perched on beer kegs outside a pub while Dad and Uncle Jack are inside drinking a beer. Left Foxford around noon and went to Ballina, a fairly large but rather old town. According to Aunt Elva "it's large enough that they even put a name on it". According to Uncle Jack "scenic and picturesque".

More souvenir shopping. I think Aunt Ci holds the record for souvenir purchases at this point. Countryside changes very dramatically to the north - more hilly and much more rocky. Weather was warm enough for shirtsleeves for a while today.

Sunday, July 5

Grey and cold today. Aunt Lois said "feels like its gonna snow". Mass at the little church down the road again. The priest's house has been condemned. Congregation recites "Oh sacrament most holy..." when communion is finished. After church we went to Irishtown to the new cemetery and there is a Cullina grave - great grandfather John and his wife plus two great uncles buried there. Across the street, we visited Maureen whose maiden name was Cullina, "related somehow but we just can't figure out how, there was one big clan way back when" according to Uncle Jack. Maureen is a lovely lady, living in a 400-year- old house. Of course, she served hot tea and sweets - very good scones and chocolate cake too. It was a grand time. Down the street to Bourkes Pub next. "Aunt Annie knows it well," said Uncle Jack. Late lunch at the Dalton Inn in Claremorris, a very good buffet. Aunt Peggy's best meal so far was the stew at Westport. Today's was Aunt Lois'. We watched the washer wash a little while again today. Quiet evening at the cottage, an Irish soap opera on TV. Aunt Ci says "son of a sixty baskets". Elaine's most memorable part of the day: "I really enjoyed the visit with Maureen".

Monday, July 6

Left the cottage at 9.00am, headed to Clifden, very scenic drive, countryside started getting more rugged and mountainous after Westport. Seems to be sheep country, very few cows, sheep not even enclosed in fences, grazing right on the side of the road, a few even ventured onto the road. Plenty of peat bogs in various stages of harvesting. Noticed a large castle-like building off to the right and decided to check it out. It was a good decision. Kylemore Abbey, currently the home of Benedictine Nuns since 1920, was initially a castle built in 1867. It provided an interesting tour as well as the Gothic Church built as a memorial to Kylemore's original owner's wife in 1877. The church is decorated with ornate marble columns in pink, green and black, but the altar area is relatively simple, mostly built from Irish oak and elm. Some shopping in the gift shop, then back to the road to Clifden. More scenic drive with rocky hills, cliffs and mountains in the distance. A surprising number of cyclists and hikers were also travelling along the narrow, twisting road. There's an abundance of colourful wildflowers. We lunched in Clifden at a nice restaurant, Derryclare, suggested to Elaine by a tour bus driver at Kylemore. A hostess escorted us to our table for the first time in Ireland. Uncle Jack ordered pizza - no tomato paste or pizza sauce, just a very thin crust with a thick layer of cheese and tomato chunks and mushrooms. Aunt Lois had another bowl of not-too-good Irish stew. Dad and I then visited the Clifden Cathedral we never found a cornerstone. It's a beautiful place with a replica of La Pieta and genuine votive candles - unlike the electric ones we've seen everywhere else.

Back to Claremorris by a different scenic route. According to Pat, from Pat's Cab Company, the drive is much like the Ring of Kerry. Aunt Peggy and I found a monument with "Nothing Happened Here" written on the plaque. Aunt Lois has concluded "Ireland is the most beautiful country, stone fences, green pastures, beautiful homes with beautiful doors". Dad's favourite part of the day "the magnificent Clifden Cathedral, not finding the cornerstone was a disappointment". Aunt Elva's was "the scenery, the Abby was good but the scenery was definitely the highlight".

Tuesday, July 7

Started with breakfast at The Meeting Place then went to the cemetery and cleaned the Cullina grave plot. The grave marker is leaning forward and to the right. It was quite a chore, pulling weeds with deep, elaborate root systems. Elaine is certainly good with a shovel. Maureen came from across the street and pitched in too. Afterwards, we went over to Maureen's and naturally, she served tea and scones. We left there to go to Tom Hennigan's Farm, near Swinford, recommended by Martina. Very interesting. Tour started with a history of Ireland beginning with the Stone Age. Tom Hennigan told of the history of the Celtic cross, developed after St Patrick converted the Irish people to Catholicism, convincing them to worship God instead of the sun. The next room contained relics from the famine to include an 1857 washing machine. Tom described the weaving equipment on display next, then all the farm implements; everything from those used for harvesting peat to utensils for shoemaking and carpentry. Hidden in the peat pile was a representation of an Irish bootlegger making potato whiskey. Next to the museum was the cottage that served as home in the Hennigan family for 200 years - 3 small rooms with authentic tools and household items. All very interesting and historic - learning how the Irish people, my forefathers, lived and survived. Tom was very knowledgeable. Visit was concluded with tea/coffee and scones.

Next stop was Ballintuber Abbey. Originally built in 1612, known as "the Abbey that will not die" because it suffered major fire damage twice, but never quit holding mass. Aunts Ci, Peggy and Lois got in on a tour with a wonderfully entertaining guide. Dinner in Balla at The Bridge Inn. Seated in a private dining room, served on pretty china, three of us had T-bone steak. It was truly an abundant meal; portions were very generous plus unexpected extras. The waitress worked very hard to please, even made Aunt Elva a Manhattan though it was not quite right with sugar on the rim of a tall glass and a miniature umbrella. The stew is still Aunt Peggy's favourite meal while Aunts Ci and Lois vote for the pork they had on Saturday. Dad said "all the soups were superb, I never had a bad bowl of soup". Aunt Elva said today was a very good day "everything was great, it would be hard to pick what was my favourite". Aunts Lois and Ci agree that the farm was great, but the Abby tour was most memorable. Dad and Elaine were most impressed by the Irish cottage "very interesting that windows were so small, half doors and large fireplaces" because the British taxed them according to how much light came into their homes.

Wednesday, July 8

Started with a trip to Mayo Abby, founded by English Monks in the 7th century. The old ivy covered church houses an exhibition of the history of this village. Even though it didnt officially open until July 11 (98), we previewed the artistic storyboards. An unexpected bonus was a trip to the community centre (only place around with restrooms) where we met a group of ladies working on the exhibition as well as the revitalisation of the entire village. Dad said something about tea, one of the ladies overheard and they insisted upon serving it from their personal stock plus bread and homemade jam. The ladies told us about their craft shop, running in conjunction with the exhibition. We expressed interest so they opened it especially for us. 'Twas a shopping bonanza, an array of handcrafted items, very reasonably priced.

Wednesday evening was reserved for the party at Bourkes, hosted by the American Cullina Clan. It was a grand affair. Fiona, the bar owner's wife put out a fine spread of food. She worked our party in the backroom plus tended 2 bars out front. She really hustled. Guests included Aunt Maggie, Phil, Kathleen, neighbours Bridy and Mary, Pauline, her husband and children, Mae, Martina, her husband, mother and children, Maureen and her sister plus more. It was a lovely evening.

Aunt Maggie said "I have enjoyed every minute of your stay here, everything has been out of this world with the whole crowd here at Bourkes, the food was lovely".

She recited a poem that Uncle Jack wanted written down. Mae and Kathleen helped me with the spelling:

"Anthony Duck, Anthony Duck
Followed the girls to Ballinamuck
A hapart of tea, a penerth of sugar
Head of a loaf and a small bit of butter."

Aunt Elva's reflection: "the party was great, a few bad moments when we thought no one would show up then everyone did, a nice, informal, Irish gathering". Dad was touched that all the Irish family" seemed so genuinely happy to see us then truly sad to say good bye". I definitely agree. I felt welcome and loved by all.

Thursday, July 9

Aunts Peggy, Ci and Lois went to Dublin. The rest of us went back to Castlebar for shopping. I may have almost caught up with Aunt Ci's record. Aunt Elva finally got a good pub-made Manhattan at The Western Hotel in Claremorris. I finally figured out how to adjust the showerhead to keep from hand-holding it for my whole shower.

Friday, July 10

Back to the USA.