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.