County Mayo: Muingnabo and Belmullet

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Our last afternoon in County Mayo seemed very Irish to me. Although we planned events for the afternoon, the spirit of the day seemed to take over and included some surprises.

I planned to meet with Phil, my County Mayo Genealogy friend, who had located the land of my great-great grandfather, Thomas Moran. She had also sent me detailed driving directions to a meeting place near Glenamoy.

We encountered our first surprise on entering the Gaeltacht or Irish-speaking region. All of the road signs were in Irish with no English. We didn’t have an address for the meeting place so we were suddenly lost. Fortunately, we had installed SIM cards which gave us Irish phone numbers on our Smartphones, and I was able to call my friend. We had driven past a sign where someone had handwritten the town “Rossport” in English so we chose that as our meeting place. The sign was probably changed for other lost non-Irish speaking visitors!

We met up with Phil, and followed her to the townland of Muingnabo, which looked like a group of houses in the middle of some sheep pastures. She stopped to talk to a young man, explained that she was with an American family tracing their ancestry, and asked if he knew where the Moran house was. He pointed to two houses up the road, a dilapidated house on the right, and a newer house on the left. He said, “The Morans live right up there!”

As we stopped to take pictures of the older house, I noticed an elderly man talking to our sons. Our older son shouted, “Mom, come meet Jimmy Moran. He wants to buy us all a pint!” Phil suggested that we all drive 15 miles to the Broadhaven Bay Hotel in Belmullet.

I got in Phil’s car to continue our genealogy conversation. She told me that Muingnabo is pronounced something like “MOIN nah bo” but it was an Irish name, and she didn’t speak Irish very well. She said that the name of the town meant a level, flat place.

I asked Phil if she thought Jimmy Moran and I were related. She thought we were definitely related since the Griffith’s Valuations property records listed Thomas Moran as a tenant. This was the only area near Belmullet where Morans had lived. Another Irish FB friend had informed me that although the Moran family history indicated Belmullet as their home, they might have resided in one of the surrounding townlands. Belmullet was a general registration center for that area.

When we arrived at the Broadhaven Bay Hotel, a wedding was taking place. Women walked through the entrance wearing sparkly dresses and fascinators, and we could hear Irish music and dancing from a nearby banquet room. While drinking our pints of Guinness, Jimmy told us that his father and grandfather were also named James. He thought that perhaps my great-great-grandfather Thomas was a cousin.

Afterwards, we drove to Belmullet, a coastal town on the Mullet Peninsula with a population of about 1,000. The area is also known for the Shell to Sea gas pipeline protests of 2005 and the jailing of the Rossport Five. A 2010 documentary The Pipe tells the story of the Corrib Natural Gas project.

A Westport resident we had spoken with previously said there was some jealousy in County Mayo towards residents in Belmullet regarding the money they made selling and renting properties to pipeline employees. She said, “They made tons of money in Belmullet during that time, and the rest of us in County Mayo were left out.”

Walking through Belmullet, I noticed another Cafferky establishment. The popularity of the name Cafferky in County Mayo seemed to verify my great-great-great grandparents’ surname.  I wish we had made more time to explore the Mullet Peninsula, but some of our group wanted to see Achill Island, the largest island off the coast of Ireland.

All in all, our last day in Ireland was a grand one combining a visit to an ancestral homestead, a pint shared with a cousin, and interesting conversations with my County Mayo FB friend.

In honor of the wild, beautiful home of my ancestors here’s “The County of Mayo” sung by Seane Keane.








County Mayo: Carrickahowley Castle and Ballycroy National Park

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It was our last full day in Ireland, and we were driving to a few more sights in the morning before heading up to Glenamoy. There, we would meet my County Mayo Genealogy FB friend and see the land of my great-great grandfather.

We drove north to Newport and Carickahowley Castle. This is a 16th Century tower house owned by Grace O’Malley aka the Pirate Queen, a “notorious woman in all the coasts of Ireland.” She commanded two hundred fighting men and had 1,000 horses and cattle. The sign outside the castle said that she ran the mooring rope of her ship through a wall loophole and tied it to her bed at night.

There’s something absurd about these strong fortresses set in the middle of nowhere. It reminded us of the castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Across the street from the castle was farmland, and a large cow was “taunting” us with its loud mooing. Anyone remember the catapult scene?  “Run away! Run away!” Of course, we’re getting pretty loony after two weeks of travel!

But we were on a quest, so it was back in the car and off to Ballycroy National Park. On the way, we saw Cafferkey’s Bar. From my ancestry research, I learned that Cafferkey might be the surname of my great-great-great grandparents whose last name was changed to Cafferty or McCaffery in the U.S.

There were more beautiful vistas of sea, mountains, and bog. Inside the Ballycroy National Park Visitor Center, we learned that the mountains were the Nephin Beg mountain range. When the sun came out, the mountains sparkled in the sun. This is because of the quartzite, schist, and gneiss rocks. Some of the mountains were green with splotches of  purple heather. With this colorful landscape, no wonder the folklore says that giants and fairies live in the mountains!

A favorite part of the center’s exhibit was a model of an early 1900s home with a thatched roof and a peat-burning hearth. There were videotaped interviews of people who grew up in the 1930s, and they told how potato pancakes called boxty were made on the hearth and how they danced at The Ballroom of Romance in Ballycroy.

It was nearing the afternoon, and time to meet my FB friend and find the Moran homestead.

County Mayo: Westport


After traveling for a while, some things become very important like a hot shower, a comfy bed, and a hearty breakfast. Fortunately, we encountered all of these at our airbnb stay in Westport.

The house was in a quiet, wooded area with a fast flowing river running nearby. It also didn’t hurt that the owner had two friendly Jack Russell terriers which are also my favorite breed. In addition, there was a cosy peat- burning fire each night in a potbelly stove.

Our airbnb host recommended the nearby restaurant Cronin’s Sheebeen restaurant where her daughter worked. We enjoyed the friendly atmosphere and the food served with the local Mescan beer. The name of the beer comes from a monk called  Mescan who was St. Patrick’s personal brewer.

When we visited the city center of Westport, we noticed at least three stores with the proprietor’s name of Moran. One sign even said Thomas Moran, the name of my great-great grandfather.

Tomorrow I hoped to see the actual land where my ancestors had lived. I would meet my Irish FB County Mayo Genealogy friend for the first time near the small town of Glenamoy. I had sent her what I knew of the Moran family tree, and with the help of property records and Google Maps, she pinpointed the area where my great-great grandfather had lived. This was the culmination of a year’s study of my Irish background, so this was very exciting!


County Mayo: Croagh Patrick and National Famine Memorial

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Croagh Patrick was visible throughout most of our stay in County Mayo, sometimes topped with misty clouds, sometimes the mountain’s strong profile was clearly seen. Looking for and at Croagh Patrick became a familiar part of our day.

Standing near St. Patrick’s statue on the mountain, the view of Clew Bay was fantastic with scattered, small islands that reminded me of “the floating islands” of Perelandra by C.S. Lewis. During this trip, images from his books came to me from time to time. And why not? He’s often associated with Oxford, but he was Irish! I learned that from the EPIC museum’s great writers room in Dublin.

Later, a chatty red-faced hiker told me he’d hiked up and down the mountain in three hours and highly recommended it. I decided not to make the climb since the path looked pretty rocky, and I still had my Cliffs of Moher Fear of Falling.

Inside the nearby store, I bought a handmade Saint Brigid’s Cross. There was a family connection in that my great-grandmother’s name was Brigid, and it was also my confirmation name. The cross is believed to “protect homes from want and evil.” It reminded me of my grandmother’s beliefs in Catholicism and Irish superstitions.

Across the street from Croagh Patrick is the National Famine Memorial. The bronze sculpture is in the shape of a coffin ship with skeletons floating on board. As we looked at the ghostly ship, we were reminded of the Mahatma Gandhi quote on the Doo Lough Valley memorial, “How can men feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow beings?” Sadly, this is still a relevant question in light of oppressive policies currently advanced by the U.S. and other governments.


County Mayo: Doo Lough Valley

I knew the tragic history of Doo Lough Valley in the time of An Gorta Mor, the Great Hunger. In 1849, six hundred starving people walked 12 miles to their landlord for food. They were turned away, and an estimated 200 died along this road on the way back.

During the past year, I’d researched my Irish ancestry. In 1851, according to family legend, my great-great grandmother Katherine searched for her husband who had gone out in search of food. She found him lying dead in the lane. The same year, her youngest daughter died. She walked from the west coast to the east coast of Ireland to take passage to England.

What caught me by surprise was the extraordinary beauty of this valley.  It really can’t be compared to anything else. The wide expanses and stillness with its dark lake, green mountains, sudden bursts of sunlight, and soft winds released something in me, and I cried and cried.

Here’s a poem I wrote about this special place in County Mayo.

Doo Lough Valley, Ireland

A passing cloud
A ray of light
The mountain changes
Or is it our sight?

Changes come with the sun
And the air
If I come back tomorrow
Will it still be there?




Travel to Ireland: Dublin

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Dublin is a high energy city! According to a 2015 article in The Irish Times, Ireland has the youngest population in the EU with 40 percent under the age of 30. Dublin is at a high enough latitude that you can enjoy long July nights. The street picture with the colored houses from the slideshow was taken at 10:30 at night.

To help you keep up, they have a coffee chain called Insomnia. So grab your morning mug o’ scald, and enjoy the arts and music, stroll through historic neighborhoods, and converse with Dublin’s international population. Don’t forget that eating in restaurants and shopping is also more affordable with the current dollar to euro exchange rate.

Even though we were highly caffeinated, four days still wasn’t enough time to do everything we had planned. The following are some of our personal Dublin Delights.

Food: Dublin offers a wide variety of independently owned restaurants with reasonable meal costs. Here are some places we would recommend.

-Our Airbnb was in the Ballsbridge/Beggars Bush area so Searson’s of Baggot St. was a fun introduction to the pub scene. We ate there late on a Sunday which is also Searson’s jazz music night. The trout special was fresh and delicious.

-On Monday, I woke up very early and felt ravenous with my mixed-up internal gastronomical clock. When our son suggested going to the cafe adjoining the National Print Museum down the street, I was all for it. The cafe, Press, makes homemade food including my favorite, a massive bowl of porridge with sliced bananas, blackberry fruit compote, and honey. A pot of tea is only 2 euros. This cafe also has the latest art/alternative journals which are fun to read while while you’re eating.

-On Tuesday, I realized I’d selected meals with mashed potatoes and beer for three days straight (including the Saturday Aer Lingus flight) so it was time to get some green veggies. The Farm on Dawson Street fit the bill with creatively prepared local produce and free-range poultry.

-Wednesday’s homemade split pea soup and tuna melt sandwich on whole grain bread was so good at Queen of Tarts on Dame Street, we ordered a slice of Guinness chocolate cake and an chocolate-almond-blackberry tart to go.

The Arts:

I was glad that we’d purchased tickets on-line for the musical Once at the Olympia Theatre on Dame Street. It looked close to sold out on the Monday night we attended. An interesting interactive element was a bar on-stage that you could visit pre-show. The actors were very talented singers and instrumentalists, and some new songs were added. The chorus at the end brought me to tears, and the cast received three standing ovations.


Today was our last full day in Dublin, and we made it a museum day. For the past year, I’d been researching family genealogy and Irish history, so we visited the EPIC Emigration Museum on the Custom House Quay along the River Liffey. Each room had a theme including reasons for emigration and experiences of emigrants. I was particularly interested in the re-enacted stories and Irish contributions to literature. There’s also an Irish Family History Centre where you can search for Irish ancestors. EPIC ticket: 14 euros, IFHC 9.5 euros.

I really like how the National Museum has free entrance to all their fabulous exhibits. At the archaeology museum on Kildare Street, we learned about the gold jewelry from the Bronze Age and the bog people. Fascinating!!


A good website for using Dublin’s public transportation is where will you can plan your route and receive costs of tickets which can be confusing for the buses. Bus tickets have different prices depending whether you are in the City Center or not. Always good to have some coins Ybecause they don’t take bills and don’t give you change.  There’s also a Dublin Bus app. The baby boomers in our group love good public transportation so next time would probably get a 3-day pass from the Dublin Center tourist office.

The millennials in our group recommended Uber which we used a couple of times. Uber in Dublin is a little different in that it works in conjunction with taxi drivers so a taxi driver picks you up. The price from Ballsbridge to The Guinness Storehouse was about 12 euros so the cost was pretty reasonable with a 5-10 minute wait.

We did have a rental car, but multiple people recommended not driving in Dublin. This was was good advice considering the traffic and confusing street layout.




Irish Ancestry: Patrick Moran


My great-grandfather,Patrick Moran, was hardworking, strong-minded, and independent. By the time he immigrated to the U.S., he had experienced enough political and economic strife that he had a disdain for bullies and a distrust of political machinery.

He was born in the 1830s, the time of the Tithe Wars in Ireland resulting from Irish Catholic farmers paying 10% of their harvest to support the Protestant Church of Ireland. The Great Hunger began in 1845. County Mayo lost about one-third of its population from starvation and emigration. While people were evicted from their homes or imprisoned for not paying rent, landlords were exporting grains and cattle from Ireland.

According to family legend, after he arrived in Philadelphia in 1856, he became a member of the Republican Party. The community he lived in was largely Democratic at that time, and voting days were perilous. Later, the government began recruiting for the Civil War, but he “paid out” to avoid the draft.

He worked as a common laborer in Philadelphia for a dollar a day. After he saved $200, he left for Brier Hill in Youngstown, Ohio. In 1866, Patrick Moran became a naturalized citizen of the U.S. In 1870, a widower, he married Bridget Philbin who was 13 years younger. They had a family of seven including a stepson from Bridget’s first marriage.

He was a mill worker at the Brier Hill Iron & Coal Co. and bought land to build a house for his family on Federal Street in Youngstown, Ohio. In the family history compiled by Uncle George, there is a receipt for Patrick Moran from great-grandfather George H. Dingledy who owned The Dingledy Lumber Company in Youngstown. When he died at the age of 63 in 1896, the probate application showed his total assets as $5,000. Today this would be worth about $150,000.

Here’s a ballad for Patrick Moran sung to “The Shores of Amerikay.” This is based on Aunt Florence’s family history, Uncle George’s information and documents, and sources from the archivist at the Mahoning Valley Historical Society.

Patrick Moran’s Amerikay

I bid farewell to the land of my youth and the homes that I loved so well

And the cliffs next to the sparkling sea, I bid them all farewell

Although I had an aching heart, for a new life I sailed far away

I’ve always had to work hard and be strong, and it was the same in Amerikay.


In the 1850s in Philadelphia, they tried to tell me how to vote

The labor bosses were all Democrats, and they thought I was right off the boat

In 1860, the U.S. government came searching for Civil War draftees

Another man could serve for me so I paid three hundred in bounty.


I liked this land, if you worked hard and saved, you could always progress or break even

With my money,  I left for Youngstown, Ohio to stay with my cousins, the Meehans

I stoked the furnace at Brier Hill Coal and Iron Mill, and with Bridget raised a big family

We had a house on Federal Street with a garden and tool room for me.


I became a citizen in 1866 and swore to support the Constitution

I had to smile when I had to renounce Queen Victoria’s institutions

I loved this new land, and the Order of Hibernians kept me connected to my roots

We marched down the street on St. Patrick’s Day with plumed hats, fringed sashes, and hip boots!





Irish Language: You had me at “Dia dhuit!”


Official Gaeltacht regions in Ireland (

Parts of County Mayo are in the Irish-speaking area or Gaeltacht. Learning a new language has always been part of the fun of travel. How hard could it be? At the very least, I wanted to learn some basic phrases in Irish.

I started with the Mango Languages app. I like this app because you practice short expressions with a lot of repetition. You not only hear the speaker, but also read the text of the conversation at the same time.

The first conversation starts with “Dia dhuit!” This means hello, but the speaker’s pronunciation and the spelling don’t match! I don’t hear a “d” sound in the second word at all! I’m an ESL instructor, and if my immigrant students can master English spelling, I should be able to conquer Irish pronunciation.

Language CDs have been helpful before so I start listening to them in the car on the way to work. But then, I think there is something wrong with my hearing. The woman speaker says the word for Irish, “Gaelige.” Then, she says, “Do you hear the ‘a’ sound in that word?” Sorry, but it sounds closer to the word “girl” to me.  For another phrase, the male speaker says, “Did you hear the ‘m’ and the ‘n”‘sounds?” No, they sound the same to me. Plus, the next time he says the expression, it sounds different. Is he pronouncing it in different ways to confuse me?

I decide to go old school and get an Irish grammar book from the library. I learn that  I’m not saying the first part “dia” correctly either. There’s something in Irish grammar called slender and broad vowels so the “di” should be pronounced like “dj.” The “dhuit” part starts with kind of a soft gargle sound in the back of the throat. Now, the Mango conversation makes sense when I hear it!

If you want to amaze your friends with your Irish pronunciation, I found this YouTube video helpful. Who knows? You might be able to pronounce Saoirse Ronan’s name the next time you see her in a movie!

Irish Ancestry: Bridget Elizabeth née Philbin Webb Moran


My great-grandmother Bridget had the strength and resilience of her mother Katherine. Like her mother, she survived the deaths of a first husband and a child. They both outlived two husbands. They died in their 80s when the life expectancy for American women was less than 60 years.

Unlike her mother, Bridget spent only the first three years of her life in Ireland. Born during An Gorta Mor or The Great Hunger and after her father’s and sister’s deaths, she and her mother left for the port city of Newcastle-on-Tyne, England. As a teenager, she worked as a milkmaid and housemaid for a family in Shields, Scotland.

Her grandmother, Cecilia, paid for her passage to the U.S. where she settled in the Brier Hill neighborhood of Youngstown, Ohio. She had six children with her second husband, Patrick Moran, and the youngest was Florence, my grandmother.

Here’s a ballad for her sung to “Spancil Hill.” It’s based on the family legend written by Aunt Florence, family documents and genealogy supplied by Uncle George, and sources from the Mahoning Valley Historical Society.

                             Bridget of Brier Hill

Last night as I lay dreaming of memorable days gone by

Me mind been bent on rambling’ to family I did fly

I felt their strength and vision, and I followed with a will

When I saw my ma and grandma at the house in Brier Hill.


I was born in 1845, the time of An Gorta Mor

My father and my sister died, my mother was so forlorn

We left for Newcastle-on-Tyne, and there was Quaker school for me

I’d hop the wag with friend Annie, but I learned to write and read.


At 13 years,  in Scotland I was a maid for a family there

Son Angus asked to marry me, but he had not a prayer

We ate oatmeal and on Christmas Day, a cookie they would give

I just knew there must be richer and happier places to live.


At 15, Grandma sent passage from Liverpool to Castle Garden

I’d soon see Grandma, Aunt Anna, and life would be more certain

Because of storms, the 6-week trip took three long months and more

Some died in the locked steerage, and I searched for signs of shore.


At 17, I married Charles Webb, who was the love of my life

He and a baby died from fever, and my days were full of strife

At 20, I married Patrick Moran, who worked at Tod Coal and Iron Mill

He built a house on W. Federal Street in Youngstown’s Brier Hill.


For thirty years, we raised a family of six, five girls and just one boy

I sometimes thought about my life with sadness and with joy

How did I live in three countries and survive in this new land?

I thank my mother and grandmother who took me by the hand.