Personal Journeys

PERSONAL JOURNEYS

May 02, 2004|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

In search of an Irish grandfather

By Denise Barker

SPECIAL TO THE SUN

After many years of dreaming of it, I traveled to Ireland at age 60, on the trail of my grandfather, James Jacobus McHale, who left County Mayo sometime in the 1800s.

I knew only that he was in Philadelphia by 1890, and that others of his family had settled to the north, in Scranton, Pa. I learned that many Irish families from Ballina in northern County Mayo had settled in Scranton. So we would spend part of our trip in Mayo searching for signs of the 19th-century McHales.

Ballina is a medium-sized town dominated by a large cathedral. The River Moy runs through the middle of town. On the Sunday afternoon we arrived, people were strolling over the bridge in front of St. Muredach's Cathedral, watching as salmon leaped out of the river in front of the anglers who stood in the water in their hip boots.

Next to the cathedral was a ruin of a 14th-century abbey; the heavy stone walls were crumbling and overgrown. We picked through the high grass and shrubbery, through small, fallen rooms and searched on the tombstones planted among the walls for the name McHale. We found none.

As we headed out for dinner that evening past the cathedral, I chanced to look at the dedication carved in stone at the top of the steeple. I was startled to see a familiar name there. The cathedral had been built by a Bishop John MacHale in 1827. I felt some hope that I might be near to finding some evidence of my ancestors.

The next morning at breakfast, we spoke to an elderly couple on their second honeymoon who were staying at our B&B. I told them of my search, and they agreed that it was hard to track one's relatives because the records of that time are sketchy -- especially because so many people left the country during the famine in the 1840s.

We went next door to the church to ask about my grandfather. The clerk said she didn't think they would have the records there, because many who gave their birthplace as Ballina often came from small villages in the countryside.

I walked along the river, looking at the reflection of the cathedral, and I realized that I didn't need to find my grandfather. I could remember and honor him, and the entire generation that exiled themselves to save their lives -- and ours as well.

I could admire their courage reflected in future generations, and know that the sorrow they carried for lost friends and loved ones resulted in the survival of their children -- and mine -- in America.

I was walking the streets where these heroes had lived, and that was enough.

Denise Barker lives in Timonium.

My Best Shot

Peter Van Egmond, Columbia

Beauty and majesty of ancient Egypt

Among Egypt's countless fabulous temples and monuments is the Temple of Luxor, remarkably well preserved and beautiful any time of day, but especially in the early morning.

Readers Recommend

Maui, Hawaii

Helen Dea, Timonium

This beautiful garden on Maui took my breath away. Lovely flowers bloom in profusion, and you feel as if you are in a tropical paradise. Our 50th state, where temperatures hover around 80 degrees and ocean breezes blow gently year-round, should be on everyone's travel agenda.

Moab, Utah

Jeff Halley, Severna Park

My girlfriend and I recently drove across the country and back. Our stop at Arches National Park near Moab, Utah, was our favorite. The park was quiet, peaceful and romantic. Even some of the rocks were kissing.

Let Us Hear From You

We want to know about your travels, your experiences, your pictures. Here's how to participate in this page:

* My Best Shot -- Send us a terrific travel photo with a description of when and where you took it. (Cash value: $50.)

* A Memorable Place -- In 500 words or less, tell us about a travel experience that changed you; about the nostalgia a certain place evokes; about a favorite beach, the mountains, a city cafe. Include a photo. (Cash value: $150.)

* Readers Recommend -- Briefly tell us about places you've recently visited that you'd recommend to other readers. (50 words or less; photos are welcome.)

Because of the volume of responses, photos and manuscripts cannot be individually acknowledged or returned. Submissions from all categories may be used for Readers Recommend, and upon submission become the property of The Sun.

Send by fax to 410-783-2519, or write to: Travel Department, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278, or e-mail to Travel@ baltsun.com. Be sure to include your name and phone number.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.