Mom and the Girls' Trip to Ireland - 2016

Beyond the Pale

  Mom and the Girls - Beyond the Pale

One day last winter (in 2015), my sisters asked Mother if there were any trips she would like to make while her health permits her to travel.

“I’d like to see Ireland again,” she answered.

Mom has traveled to Ireland twice before – in 1980 with her brother, Mike Wheelan, and sister, Esther Blaine with her husband Bernard, and again in 2001 with my sister Sara and me. On each trip, she visited Gort, Co Galway, a place from which her grandfather emigrated in 1850. We knew from old family letters that he had lived somewhere in the townland of Ballylee, but the exact location was a mystery to us, so we always focused on visiting the old castle tower of Thoor Ballylee, which later became home to the Irish poet W.B. Yeats.

The trip that Mother, Sara and I made in 2001 was hampered by the restrictions of a waning outbreak of hoof and mouth disease in several counties of Ireland. The quarantine prohibited movements of farm animals across the county borders, and treading on popular tourist sites was forbidden. Thus, we could view the Hill of Tara and the magnificent neolithic site of Newgrange only from a distance.

Having organized the 2001 trip and another trip in 2003 with my cousin Tom Wheelan and niece Samantha Householder, I was appointed by my three sisters as the trip leader for Mom’s next pilgrimage to Ireland. Over the winter, we met several times to make a plan for the trip and finalize our travel arrangements. Mom’s wish list for the trip was to see Ballylee again and to see the Book of Kells, something that she has longed to do on each trip to Ireland but had never done.

Planning our trip
We met a few times during the winter months to plan our trip. Above is a photo from one of our first meetings. From left, back row: Molly Daniel, Martha Clark, and Sara Burrus. Front: Roberta Clark and Annis Householder. Roberta is holding a photo of her grandfather, John C. Swift, who was born in Ballylee, Co Galway in 1831. He emigrated to America in 1850 and eventually settled in Iowa. The photo frame is made from boards of a barn which he built at his farm near Ainsworth, IA.

When we picked a date for the trip, we thought it would be special to arrange it so that Mother could celebrate her 93rd birthday (May 19, 2016) at Ballylee, so we departed from Indianapolis on May 15 and returned home on May 24th. We faced one worrisome complication before our departure when Mom broke the 5th metatarsal bone in her left foot just four days before we left. Sara and Annis helped Mom through speedy medical appointments, with the end result of Mom getting a walking boot to protect her foot. Fortunately, I had already made a prior arrangement with the Ireland Wheelchair Association to have a transport chair delivered to our first B&B on May 16th, and Mom would not consider backing out of the trip.

On the following pages you’ll find an account of our trip and some photos and videos. I hope you will enjoy this adventure as much as we did.

The Pale

The Pale according to
Statue of 1488.

Beyond the Pale?

In the period immediately after the Norman Settlement was constructed a barrier, known as the "Pale," separating the lands occupied by the settlers from those remaining in the hands of the Irish. This barrier consisted of a ditch, raised some ten or twelve feet from the ground, with a hedge of thorn on the outer side. It was constructed, not so much to keep out the Irish, as to form an obstacle in their way in their raids on the cattle of the settlers, and thus give time for a rescue. The territory enclosed by the Pale comprised a region around Dublin. Much of our trip was focused on family roots in County Galway, beyond the Pale, but we did have several days of adventures in Navan, Slane and Dublin. (Click on the image at the right for more information about the Pale.)


Continue with the Introduction



The Keepers of the Stories

I am grateful to many people who preserved stories from the past and made this trip such an enjoyable and educational experience for all of us. But most especially, the people pictured below are ones who deserve great thanks. For they preserved a story, saved a letter or a photo, or helped me find and understand a record which proved to be a crucial piece of the puzzle of my Swift family history.

Kate Swift
Agnes Swift
Martha Wheelan
Martina Bailey
Mike Wheelan and Roberta Clark
Sister Joan Bailey
Sister DeLourdes Fahy
Other stuff and 2023 trip

This page was last edited on 09-Apr-2023

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