Sharon’s g grandmother left Ireland in the 1880s and was the first teacher at Eungella, west of Mackay. Since she came from Aghagallon, north of Lurgan, we took the short drive – is there anything else in Ireland – to the small town near Lough Neagh, visiting the lake first. Three horses came over to where we parked and sniffed at us and then commenced licking the windows. We made a quick exit as I wasn’t sure whether that was covered in the car hire agreement. “”Excuse me, Sir. You have horse lick marks on the side mirror. That will cost you 1200 euro.”
I asked an old lady in the queue at the small shop in Aghagallon if I needed to cook the potato bread I bought for lunch and she laughed when I said I was going to eat it with banana. We struck up a conversation and when we told her that Hannah McKavanagh used to live here, she said, “I was Hannah McKavanagh before I was married. She proceeded to tell us about her father and mother and other McKavanaghs who had lived and died here. Before we said goodbye to the long lost cousin, she directed us to the Old Aghagallon Cemetery along Rock Road, past the dairy, through the iron gate to the top of the hill, where she said no strangers were buried. Sharon found the McKavanagh plot and you’d go a long way, we had come a long way, to find a prettier place to rest.
When the plane landed in Dublin, the steward said, “”Welcome home, folks.” I laughed and I told Sharon that my family hasn’t lived in Ireland for 150 years. Well tonight we are staying in Belmont House Hotel in Banbridge which was my gg grandfather’s brother’s place when all of the McClellands lived here. The house has been altered inside for accommodation but the grounds are impressive with grand trees all round. We’re in the front room and that’s Sharon in the window.
Kilmainham Gaol is the oldest in Ireland and you can be thrown in there for the slightest misdemeanour – stealing bread, burning down the post office to create a new republic or impersonating an Irishman with an accent tinged with a bit of Aussie slang. So for the morning we were incarcerated in the cells, the exercise yard and stone breaking yard where the executions took place. We got out on good behaviour as I asked the right questions and promised not to wander off on my own to take photographs and so we were allowed to visit the museum which was displaying items and history from the 1916 Easter Uprising. Very interesting. The British treated the Irish in much the same way they have treated other indigenous people around the world – very poorly. Upon release, we walked a couple of kilometres to the Guinness Storehouse and were able to smell it before we saw it. We had to walk up seven storeys before we were allowed to sample the nectar of the Irish Gods. I lost Sharon in the crowds, or she lost me, so I had to drink her free sample as well or I would have died of thirst waiting for her to find me hiding behind all of those people.