Mom and the Girls' Trip to Ireland - 2016

Beyond the Pale



May 20

This morning at breakfast, Sara, Mom and I arrived a few minutes after Annis and Martha were already in the breakfast room, chatting with our hostess, Josephine. They had apparently already told her what fun we'd had last night at Teach na Teamhrach for Mom's birthday dinner, because when Mom walked in, Josephine said to her, "I heard you were drunk and disorderly in the pub last night!" Mom got a kick out of it.

After breakfast, we loaded in the car and drove west toward County Longford, just to say we had visited the homeland of the Whelans/Wheelans. Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate enough information about the Whelan immigrant ancestors to know exactly the townland from which they hailed, but we set our sights on the goal of driving to Longford town to see the cathedral, which was rebuilt after a chimney fire burned it to the ground in 2009.



Along the way, we stopped in the town of Kells, where we found three ancient high crosses (and remnants of the monastery of Kells, which is more than 1500 years old.) Inside the grounds of what remain of the monastery of Kells is another spectacular round tower, and we read about its connection to the Book of Kells. The monastery was home to monks from Iona (and island now known as the Hebrides, off the coast of Scotland. The monks left that more northerly locale to escape Viking raiders.) They either brought the Book of Kells with them or created it shortly after settling in Ireland.

We got out of the car at Kells and walked around some, taking photos, but to preserve Mom's energy, we managed to guide the car to the best viewing spots and have her see them from the comfort of the car.

St. Lohman's at Mullingar

After leaving Kells, we took the wrong exit off a roundabout and ended up at a psychiatric institution --
St. Lohman's Hospital at Mullingar. We quickly found the right road and continued to Longford.

In Longford, we stopped for a late lunch at a cafe called the Jac-o-Bite cafe, where we had sandwiches and water. Around 4 or 5 p.m., we reached the Longford cathedral -- St. Mel's. The name of the patron saint is not a shortened form of the name Melchizedek but rather Saint Mél of Ardagh, a nephew of St. Patrick. The cathedral was an interesting modern Romanesque church, and when we first walked in, it was beautifully lit and decorated for a wedding which had just concluded. All the guests had departed, but we had seen the bride and groom stepping into a limousine as we came up to the door of the church, so we knew we were not disturbing their special day with our gawking.

St. Mel's Cathedral

St. Mel's Cathedral - Longford

Inside St. Mel's Cathedral

Inside St. Mel's Cathedral

Annis and Roberta, in the cathedral at Longford

Annis and Roberta, inside St. Mel's Cathedral at Longford -
We left prayers here for the repose of the souls of our Whelan ancestors

We spoke briefly with a man in the church who seemed to be a sort of caretaker (at least, he was tidying things up after the wedding.) He told us that the actor Mel Gibson was named for the patron saint of the church (his mother was from Longford.)

Trim Castle

Trim Castle, the largest Norman castle ruins
remaining in Ireland (used as a filim location for
the movie "Braveheart")

After looking all around the church, lighting some candles for our Whelan ancestors and offering prayers for the repose of their souls, we climbed back in the van and started navigating our way back out of town and toward Navan. It had taken longer than we thought to get to Longford, and it was raining when we got there, so we weren't up to doing much more for the day. But we weren't quite ready to go back to the B&B, so we changed our route slightly and drove back via Trim, stopping to look at the ruins of Trim Castle, a fine old Norman castle on the edge of town. Martha and I hopped out and walked around in the rain, getting some photos of the castle and the picturesque bridges over the River Boyne. Neither of us had any real desire to go inside the castle ruins nor walk along its parapet, so after a few minutes, we headed back to the car.

As we drove away, Martha saw one more angle of a photo she wanted, so Sara (who had taken over the driving shortly after we left Longford) maneuvered the car around a roundabout and we headed back past the area, searching for a spot where we could pull over quickly and let Martha out to snap pictures while we waited. Sara spotted a driveway, so we pulled in but noticed only as we were committed to that move that there were two cars parked in the drive. Two men at the rear of those cars looked up, and one of them came forward to Sara’s window. He was well dressed in a lavender dress shirt and tie, but I noticed he was wearing a sidearm. I muttered to Sara, "Uh, he's wearing a gun."  He was nice enough when he realized that we were just confused tourists, but he said to Sara as she rolled down her window -- "This is a police station. You probably don't want to park here." He wasn’t smiling.

We thanked him and told him we were trying to get back out on the street, so he stopped the traffic, implying we needed to do that now. We backed out and drove off, (still heading the wrong way, though, to get to Navan.) We once again turned around and then pulled up briefly in a bus stop. Martha hopped out, but took longer than we were comfortable with since we were now directly across the street from the police station, sitting in the "no parking" zone of the bus stop. We didn't even want to look over there to see if our policeman friend was watching us... Finally, Martha got back in the car and we moved on without being arrested. Whew.

Trim Castle

Trim Castle - the photo Martha was after

Back at the B&B, we all decided that none us of felt like having dinner. I had a half-hearted desire to hear the traditional music in the pub down the street, but everyone except Sara and I had already gone to bed, and I quickly lost lust to go out again. I just didn't feel like trudging down there by myself and certainly didn't feel like walking back along a busy road after having a pint. I was finished for the day. I was awake past midnight the night before and needed to do a little better job of getting some sleep for tomorrow.

Tomorrow is a day for visiting Newgrange. We aren't quite sure how this will work. The forecast calls for rain, and seeing Newgrange requires being outdoors for an extended time. I think Mother would very much like to see the ancient site (having already missed it during the hoof-and-mouth quarantines in 2001), but her energy and the weather might make the decision for us.

Up next: Bru na Boinne. Click here to continue reading.


Other stuff and 2023 trip

This page was last edited on 09-Apr-2023

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