Rain and the family tree

We’ve posted dozens of gloriously sunny photos while simultaneously complaining about the weather. You may have found this confusing. It’s Ireland and we expect rain but it turns out this is the wettest July on record. We were lulled into complacency by a near perfect June, and July took us completely by surprise. Shorts and T-shirts we unpacked on the solstice got packed away again by the Fourth of July.

We’ve not only had rainy days but some hellacious storms as well, when we’ve had to seek shelter from fierce winds and squall lines. The weather affected our intended counterclockwise circumnavigation such that our track is looking like an ornery child’s scribble.

Whenever we get a few hours of blue sky we dash to the nearest point of interest and do our best to make the most of the sunshine. That’s how we still manage to snap some beautiful photographs despite weather that even the Irish are grousing about.

What’s shocking to us, as sailors and perpetual weather watchers, is that we can have clear blue skies with barely a hint of a puffy cloud one minute, and mere moments later we’re socked in with low dense clouds and rain that might be light or heavy, for ten minutes or three hours. There’s just no predicting it.

The next three shots are time-stamped one minute apart. That’s how quickly it changes.

Luckily, as sailors we’re practiced at hunkering down and finding bad weather things to do. Longtime readers know I like to spend time on family history research and while I’ve had no luck scaring up anything useful on my own ancestors, we find ourselves this rainy July in County Mayo, birthplace of my son’s paternal great-grandfather. That’s a good enough place to start.

As I was poking around an old churchyard one drizzly day, a local man asked what I was up to. I told him who I was looking for and he directed me to a different cemetery.

“Keep walking down the road past the cemetery,” he said, and he gave me directions to the home of the custodian of the historical cemetery records.

“She’ll help you out,” he assured me.

I followed his directions and met this beautiful lady. Her name is Rose and when I explained my mission she sat me down in her kitchen and produced the burial records.

As we looked for the right people, we talked about the family. She knew them all and gave me the rundown on who belongs to whom, who went to America, who stayed here. She told me where to find the existing graves, then on impulse put me in her car and drove me all over the townland pointing out the ancestral homes, the church, the school they attended.

I spent a delightful couple of hours in Rose’s company and learned a lot about the McDonnell clan. She thought the original marriage and baptism records were at the church but said the priest is away until next week. That’s my week sorted.

Back at the cemetery Jack was amusing himself watching Formula 1 and I broke the news that we’ll have to hang around for a few days until Father Stephen returns on Wednesday.

No worries. The soggy weather continued and we found a quiet parkup by a lough, and I visited the local library, too.

When Father Stephen returned I met him at the church, the same church where Drew’s great-grandfather was baptized, perhaps in this very font. (The mosaic floor, of course, is new.) I was too excited to remember to photograph the priest in his vestment, but after he changed he took me to the residence where he keeps the parish records in a small anteroom at the entrance. He had other churches to visit, so he left me alone with the records, invited me to stay as long as I liked, and asked me to lock the door when I left.

I wish I’d had the same luck with my own family but I’m happy I was able to see where Drew’s Irish people come from. And so is he.

We’re eager to move on. There’s more of County Mayo to explore and it looks like there might be a break in the weather.

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One Response to Rain and the family tree

  1. Pim Tiddens

    I don’t really comment enough to reflect my appreciation! I do enjoy your adventures.

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