Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Faith of our Fathers: West Waterford Bus Tour

August 12th, 2016: Our bus tour began in Dungarvan at the Park Hotel.

Kay nee Hurley McCann, Michael's mom and Anthony Hurley "Tony", Michael's uncle, had visited these places in the past. We were actually walking and touring our Irish family heritage trail. We were viewing and visiting the Irish hills and valleys and lovely rivers and streams which our ancestors walked and crossed "long ago".

Knock boy Cemetery: First stop was Knockboy Cemetery were Michael McCann's ancestors are buried. This church was built around 1700s. The ruins of the church is still standing. The thatched roof is gone. Local people perhaps worshipped here for centuries before these ruins were built. There are Ogham stones in the church building. (Look up Ogham stones of Ireland. Google says "the earliest inscriptions in Ogham date to about the the century AD.") One Ogham stone was standing in the corner of the church. I saw two Ogham stones in the construction. One Ogham stone was the support for the door we entered.

Fourmilewater Church: Helena nee Walsh Burke and her sister Noirin nee Walsh Kelly welcomed us and explained how they practiced their faith here. This church is where Johanna Walsh, Michael McCann's great grand mother and his great grand father Michael Hurley were married on February 21, 1871. (Most likely Michael McCann was named after him.) From 1830s and 1840s Johanna Walsh and her siblings were baptized in this church. She was born three miles away in the farm house in Barrranshinane, Ballymacarbry, County Waterford. For the last 150 years, Walsh and Hallinan family members are now buried in the Fourmilewater Church grave yard. They are our family. (Marriage certificate of Great grandmother Johanna Walsh says, Patrick Walsh is father of Johanna and Maurice Hurley is the father of Michael and both fathers are deceased. Their profession on the certificate is "farmer".)

Barranashinane, Ballymacarbry: Our third stop was the farm house and farm yard of Johanna Walsh where Patrick Walsh met us all. Here in late 1840s Johanna Walsh was born. The Walsh family have farmed here for over two hundred years. They presently farm dairy cows and dry stock.

Aughavolimane, Ballinamult, County Tipperary: Our fourth stop was to meet Theresa Hallinan and her niece Katie Hallinan at the restored 250 year old home where they served us cupcakes and drinks and we were able to use the bathroom. Theresa gave us a warm welcome and a tour of her property and explained the history of the house and family. Theresa and Katie are cousins because "long ago" Walsh women married Hallinan men. Theresa showed us her old home fully restored. (Her brother Bernard Hallinan just "down the road" farms dairy cows and dry stock. Bernard was at the Mass and reception in Lawlors Hotel, Dungarvan.)

We then traveled across the picturesque Knockmealdown Mountains of County Waterford to Mount Melleray Abbey. Where the Trappists monks have lived since 1835. From time to time, The Walsh, Hallinan and Hurley families went to Sunday Mass at the monastery. The Abbey was a spiritual center of the area. My grandmother Mary Hurley , at 24 years of age, consulted a monk in 1899 to see if she should leave home and sail of America. She did leave home.

Lismore, County Waterford. On the bus, we passed by the large Lismore Castle were Kathleen Kennedy, John F. Kennedy's sister, once lived with her husband. She died in a plane accident.

After lovely lunch in Lismore, we drove to St. Mary's Abbey, Glencairin, County Waterford to visit the grave of Sister Imelda Power, who was a relative of our Hurley family. However, the Abbess Mother Mary would only allow a few members of our bus group to enter in the cemetery and visit Sister Imelda's grave. We all visited the lovely chapel of the monastery. (Sister Imelda lived for twenty years in Saint Mary's Abbey, Wrentham, Massachusetts before returning to Ireland.)

The final stop of our bus tour was Killishal, Cappagh where the Shine family prepared a marvelous reception and we celebrated our heritage for some time. Where Michael McCann's grandfather Anthony Hurley in 1880 and my grandmother Mary Hurley in 1875 were born and raised. Years ago there was an old mill with a thatch roof which ground barley, corn and wheat. Anthony Hurley ran the old mill until he left home, Killishal for Boston Massachusetts in 1913. (Dick Lincoln wrote a piece entitled, "Killishal Mill and the Key". I read the story to the bus tour crowd.) Anthony's father was Michael Hurley and his mother was Johanna Walsh from Barranashinane. Michael Hurley's father Maurice Hurley married Mary Cashin around 1830 whose family owned this farm which today raises sheep and dry cattle. Today our cousin James Shine with help from his brother Robert run the family farm. We had a wonderful celebration with Shines in Anthony Hurley's old home stead which is 250 years old. It was once a thatch house.

Ballinameela Church: On Saturday, we celebrated my 50th of ordination and Maureen and John Dolan 50th wedding anniversary at Saint James Church, Ballinameela. Outside the church door is the large Hurley Family grave. Johanna nee Walsh Hurley, Michael Hurley, great grandparents and their descendants are buried in that grave. Other family members such as Maureen, Sham Shine and their son James are buried behind the church. In this church our ancestors have worshipped for nearly two hundred years.

A plaque on the Saint James Church outside wall testifies that Cathaldus was born near this church on townland of Canty. He evangelized the area of Taranto, Italy in 650 A.D. And he became archbishop and is buried in the cathedral of Taranto. He is venerated as Saint Cathaldus, an Irish Saint from Canty. He fouls be a relative too!!!

Fr. Leo

Link to Ballinameela Graves on

Link to Hurley grave in Ballinameela

Return to Main story: Fr. Leo's Golden Jubilee

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Mystery Bus Tour

The day had finally arrived! 12th August 2016. This was the day we were going to meet Fr. Leo and all the American cousins.

What would they be like? Would they really be interested in visiting graveyards, churches, monasteries, convents and old houses? What would we do if it rained all day and all the windows of the bus fogged up? Would there be enough food and drink for everybody?

Well there was no need to worry….all went well from beginning to end and a memorable day was enjoyed by one and all.

We met Hurleys, McCanns, Dolans, McCarthys and Ciampas/Sheas. It was difficult to remember names at first but it was clear that they knew each other well and enjoyed meeting up. Everybody was in the mood for a good day out and with Fr. Leo coordinating everything it was easy to relax and have fun. The children were amazing – no moaning about being bored or complaining – they were just super!

The party boarded the bus at The Park Hotel, wearing their green “Family Reunion” t shirts which had been especially commissioned for the occasion. The sky was grey and rain seemed likely but miraculously the day brightened and many enjoyed the stroll down to Knockboy Graveyard where The Walsh ancestors are buried. We explored the remains of the old church there and were amazed to see an Ogham stone within its walls.

Next stop was Fourmilewater church and graveyard. Here Helena told us about The Walsh and The Fitzpatrick connections. The concept of The Mass Rock was explained and how deeply the people of the area valued their faith and traditions.

Now we were travelling through a maze of narrow roads to bring us to Barrashinaun, the townsland Johanna Walsh (Fr. Leo’s greatgrandmother) left to move to Killishal when she married Michael Hurley in the 1870's.

Everybody was charmed by the old world cottage in Aughavoulivaun. There were stunning views of the mountains from each window so all the cameras were out. While cupcakes and lemonade were being enjoyed, Therese explained how people used to cook over the open turf fire using the fire machine.

Though our time schedule had gone out the window at this stage the bus brought us through the Knockmealdown mountains where the sheep continued grazing oblivious to us as we headed for Mount Melleray. There was also a convoy of four cars as some members of the group stated they were bad travellers and I am sure they enjoyed telling their friends back home in USA what it was like to drive on the wrong side of these narrow roads!

Food was next on the agenda so a stop at The Spire in Lismore was appreciated. The owner actually closed the restaurant to facilitate the group! Some ate upstairs while others preferred to sit downstairs or outdoors in the garden.

Sister Kathleen and Sister Máire greeted us in Glencairn and made us all feel very welcome. Fr Leo and Sister Kathleen said a prayer at Sr. Imelda Power’s grave and chatted about colleagues both had met while carrying out their missionary work while others visited the beautiful church.

Everybody boarded the bus once more for the final leg of the journey – Killishal.

It was from this house that Fr. Leo’s grandmother Mary Hurley emigrated in 1900 to be followed by her younger brother Anthony. It was then we all realised how much history is attached to the house and the mill. If only the walls could talk and tell us some more of the family history! Refreshments were enjoyed by all and the familiar banter began between all the cousins now – both Irish and American. Fr. Leo had completed the circle; bringing back the Hurleys, Sheas, McCanns, Dolans and McCarthys to visit their ancestral home. You have united us Fr. Leo and helped us to forge new links with new generations. The ancestors must be very pleased and we are very grateful to you for organising this wonderful celebration for us.

Fr. Leo has added his personal account of the day here.

Return to Main story: Fr. Leo's Golden Jubilee

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Golden Jubilee of Fr. Leo Shea

Fr. Leo Shea was ordained in New York in June 1966, and fifty years later he returned to Ireland to celebrate his Golden Jubilee. A ton load of advance planning came to fruition in August 2016 as 41 of Leo's relations from the United States arrived to celebrate with their Irish cousins. For some, it was their first visit to their ancestral base in counties Limerick and Waterford.

Here in County Waterford, the occasion kicked off with the Magical Mystery Bus Tour on Friday, 12th of August. It was an emotional rollercoaster for many, rolling back the years through Knockboy, Barrnashinane, Fourmilewater, Melleray, Glencairn, Lismore and Killishal. Family history jumped out over every ditch, townland and homestead. Stories told brought this history alive.

Later that evening a social gathering at The Local in Dungarvan provided an opportunity to continue these stories. Many of the cousins from Killishal joined with them to the background of wonderful Irish music. I think that I would not be doing an injustice to the music by mentioning that it really was not the focus of the evening, because our American cousins really just wanted to meet with us, share their stories and hear ours. Of particular interest was the fact that the younger generations met for the very first time, and ensured that the Hurley History would continue, for the first time via social media.

Ballinameela Church, Saturday 13th August 2016

On Saturday, 13th August, a very special mass was celebrated in Ballinameela church to mark Leo's 50 years. Very special also was that his sister Maureen and her husband John celebrated their Golden Jubilee on that very day. Once again, the Irish cousins arrived from all corners of West Waterford and beyond to be together with their cousins from across the Atlantic.

Later, everyone retired to Lawlors hotel in Dungarvan for a celebratory meal and reception. Traditional music was provided by "Glothach", and an evening of cultural exchange followed until midnight. Many of the over 30's retired after a long day, whereas for others the nightclub scene in Dungarvan was the scene of the after-party.

"We arrived at Lawlors Hotel earlier than expected and there was nowhere to go but the bar. Not a problem for this crew. Soon the room was filled with smiling faces and the din of many warm conversations. Then Father Leo arrived - the man of the hour. While the ties of blood and marriage connected us, it was Father Leo who united us. Over the course of the reunion, I heard this sentiment echoed by all. As such, a sense of gratitude for the unerring direction of our cousin's "compass" pervaded the gathering. 
The crowd drifted into the banquet hall and the Irish family began to show their American relatives how to celebrate Irish style. The family gamely overcame the afternoon's disappointment on the hurling pitch, and joined in song and dance. From the Shines' broom dance to the musical multi-talented Walshes to those memorable waltz lessons, it was an evening to remember. And, lest we forget, how about that American rendition of "When Irish Eyes are Smiling?" (Actually, it might be best if we do forget that). But the thought was a good one, and perhaps the song provides the best description of the Americans' feelings upon meeting their warm and welcoming Irish relatives: "When Irish hearts are happy / All the world seems bright and gay / And when Irish eyes are smiling / Sure, they steal your heart away." 

Some family history

To be updated asap...
Killishal and The Mill c. 1898

Johanna Walsh (Christmas 1900)

Mary Hurley Shea

Mementos of Weekend

Names of US Cousins in Attendance

  • Fr. Leo Shea
  • Maureen Dolan
  • John Dolan
  • to be completed asap
Links to other weekend family stories:

Monday, August 22, 2016

Garden 2016

The Mill Key

The mill at Killishal, (also spelt Killeeshal in the ordnance survey maps, grid reference X 192 956 ); was in existence from 1800 onwards. The mill probably predates that time. Earliest memories say, it was known as Maura Cashin’s Mill. Maurice Hurley, a farmer from Canty, married Mary Cashin, and they worked the mill. They were the parents of Michael Hurley (1829 – 1888). His grave stone is outside Ballinameela Church, facing the main entrance. The mill was fed by a stream known as the Douglas River. This stream was augmented by a water supply from the Finisk River. A man-made channel was dug via the lakes just one km north west of the mill site (north of N72 road). This canal has since fallen into disrepair.
The mill ground wheat, barley and oats for farmers, within a ten miles radius. The grain was roasted and also milled. The charge included payment of money, and a gift of ‘moonshine’, (‘one gallon of mountain dew, 190 proof’).  Anthony Hurley (1882 – 1969), (son of Michael), of Revere, Mass. USA, left a hand written description and sketch of the mill. In this, he describes the operation and billing system.  He stopped working there in 1910, and left for the USA, in about 1913. Milling ceased in Killishal in 1915.  There was a fire in the mill, and also the management of it (collection of monies owed, etc) was not the best.

In the mid 1950’s, during a visit to Killishal, to see the Shines, Dick Lincoln (great grandson of Michael Hurley 1829-1888), found the key to the mill, within its ruins. Sham Shine (the then owner of the mill) said, ‘keep the key’. Dick cleaned and painted it, and hung it on the wall at home in Tig Álainn, Ardmore.  Anthony Hurley, on a return visit to Ireland in about 1965, saw the key, and was excited at the find. Was it the key to the mill in Killishal?
He described cutting the hole (or gash) in the key, as a young man. He cut it so as to fashion it into a gun. Many pigeons gathered near the mill, to scavenge for loose grain.  During long periods of tending to the kiln fire roasting the grains, he shot the pigeons, and roasted them on the kiln fire, for eating. He described stuffing the key with gunpowder, and filling the front open-end with lead shot. He then lit a match to the hole he had cut in the key; and bang! a dead pigeon.
The key travelled to USA for about five years, so that Anthony could show it to his old friends there. Then his son Tony returned the key safely back to Ireland, as promised, following Anthony senior’s death.  
The key measures 14.5cm long. The internal barrel is 1.5cm in diameter. The internal depth of the barrel is 6.5cm. It weighs 190 grams.

as reported by Dick Lincoln Aug 2016. Picture to follow

Friday, July 1, 2016

Coming Out: I can't Update My Name Right Now

It's time. I've had this post in the back of my mind for the past twenty-nine years, and now the time is right. Time for me to put on paper my long regret, in order for me to move forward.

I refer to who I am, deep down. Who am I? In short, I am Pat Burke. Since 1985, I have used the Irish version of my name. I like the Irish language; in fact, I like it very much! However, the reason behind my decision at the time is filled with confusion, and as the years rolled by I continued to be haunted.

Journey back with me, please. I had been teaching in Dublin since 1978, using my given name, Pat Burke. Mr. Burke. I started my second teaching job in West Waterford in October 1985. . A strange thing happened on the day I was signing my contract. A certain local priest, who shall remain name nameless, visited my home. As I was ready to sign the agreement, he mentioned that he had a favour to ask. He said that he would like it very much if I were to use the Irish version of my name, Pádraig de Búrca. Now, it needs to be said that I applied for the job as Pat burke, and I was informed in writing that I was successful. The letter is in my name, Pat Burke. I feel certain that he was flying a kite; that this suggestion came from him alone, and was not in any way associated with the Board of Management of the school.
Fast thinking time...and to my regret I agreed. I felt really that my choices were limited. In 1985 Catholic Ireland, what the priest wanted he usually got! So, I started 22 years teaching in West Waterford as Pádraig de Búrca. Immediately, I discovered that I was in reality two persons! My parents and family knew me as nothing other than Pat. In fact, all of my schoolboy fiends did likewise! I was a schizophrenic! Monday to Friday at work I was Pádraig, and everywhere else I was Pat. Shortly afterwards, in order to rectify the situation, I changed my name officially to the Irish version. Within months, Pádarig de Búrca was on all my correspondence, and as I began to integrate back into Dungarvan life, I became known as such. Many many people became very confused.
I joined the Dungarvan Badminton Club as Pádraig, met my future wife as Pádraig, and as the years again rolled on I joined Dungarvan Cycling Club as Pádraig. Understandably, the transition was a difficult one for my parents, siblings, cousins and school friends.
Interestingly, my wife and I adopted a slight variation. I did not like Pádraig, as it has a very rough gutteral sound (for anyone unfamiliar with the language the phonetic pronunciation is "paw-drig"). The d in the middle really bugged me, and so we used Páraig (paw-rig) at home! More split personality issues now.

In or about 2010, my family brought up the anomalies with me, and I was glad that they did. I was happy once again to be called Pat by my mam, and my brothers and sisters (dad had passed on). Some had a tough time getting used to the initial change, and equally found it easier just to stick with Pádraig. Some rowed in with my Páraig variation , while some were more comfortable with Pat. Today, Mam calls me Páraig, as does Maire and Ber and Elaine. Ray calls me Pádraig, and Michele calls me Pat. Micheál calls me sham, but if pushed to decide, he'd likely go with the majority. My nephews and nieces are completely confused.

So, let me put this to bed. I have long-standing regrets about my 1985 choice. My name is Pat Burke, always was, and always will be. The Irish version of my name really is not me. So, what happens now?

Realistically, I am not going to change my name back again. I know so many people through teaching, friendships and local involvement with several clubs and organisations that it would be very impractical. My darling wife calls me Páraig, and this I like almost as a term of endearment as it originated only between both of us. I have several close friends who call me Páraig, and this too pleases me. I am 100% more comfortable with Páraig as opposed to Pádraig. But, the time is right for me to be called Pat by my family. Full fact, several interconnected loops...

Footnote: I started using Facebook in 2010. Since then I've used so many variations that even Facebook itself is at its' wits end: Pádraig de Búrca, Pat Pádraig Burke, Pádraig Pat Burke, Pat Burke, Paddy Burke (don't know how I thought that up!) and currently Páraig Pat Burke. and a lovely story to finish: I joined Tried & Tested Triathlon Club, using my official Pádraig de Búrca  title. The club uses Facebook for messaging. When a member of the committee met me recently, she mentioned that she does not know what to call me, and was sure that my Christian name was Páraig Pat, as in persons using two Christian names e.g Paddy Joe or Mary Ann (should that be Mary Anne, I wonder?). I appreciated her curiosity, and confirmed that Páraig is my favourite name. Earlier today, I tried to edit my name on Facebook to "Páraig de Búrca" and use "Pat Burke as a nickname, and here is the error message that came up: "You can't update your name right now because you've already changed it too many times. Facebook is a community where people use their real identities. We require everyone to provide their real names, so you always know who you're connecting with. This helps keep our community safe." I wonder perhaps would it make a difference if I were to email / share this with Mr. Z. Perhaps I'll launch a campaign to force FB to allow more than six name-changes, without undermining safety issues! I think ten would be an acceptable number.

If you were able to follow all of that, I'd love to hear your slant on it! If you are completely muddled, that's understandable.