WEST - Day 1 - The Midlands09 Aug 2008 |
Around noon on the 5th, we drove to Banagher (just south of Athlone, smack in the middle of Ireland). The rain started, and it appeared the windshield wiper on Aunt Judy’s Mercedes was not going to make it; it was very sluggish and noisy. We did, however, make it safely to our destination: the home of David’s paternal aunt Eileen and her husband, John Ivory (who was also a childhood friend of David’s father). It is the same house that David’s father spent much of his childhood. Although the Ivorys live a couple blocks from the main street, their town is so small there is a field of horses across the road. After sitting by the peat fire for a bit, and eating peas out of their extensive back garden, we were served a huge midday meal, as is the tradition in rural Ireland. The rain had let up a bit, so we then headed for a new playground built on the banks of the Shannon River. We were met there by David’s cousin, Mark Ivory (Eileen and John’s son), Mark’s wife, Phili, and their son, Ben. Though this family lives in near Wexford, they had rented a motor boat for a week to tour the Shannon; they were docked right by the playground.
We then went on a quick driving tour of the area. We saw the grave of David’s paternal grandparents and his aunt Ann; John took us past the two pastures where his “four legged children” live (four horses, a colt, a pony); and we walked into a peat bog field and saw how the peat is cut. (Peat is an important source of energy here).
Our evening “tea” (a smaller, less formal meal) soon turned into a kitchen-busting “craic.” Besides John, Eileen, Mark, Phili and Ben, we were joined by Brian Ivory (another son of Eileen and John); Brian’s fiancee, Kathleen; David’s paternal uncle, Damien Kerins; and Damien’s wife, Catherine. We stayed up quite late laughing and chatting. As Kathleen said, all we needed was a fiddle!
All and all, it was a great day of family re-connection and learning about the past and about life in the small farming towns that makes up so much of this country.