A day to rest and get ready, then off to Ireland.....
We woke just after 6am, were up, breakfasted, ready and the car loaded by 7am.
Jim was driving the first leg of the trip as he was familiar with the back roads down to the M4 Motorway, at Slough and Michael is not a morning person. We were heading for Slough to get on the M4 because we wanted to avoid the M25 (we always want to the M25).
We had a slight hold up in Slough just before the motorway junction but we were soon heading westwards towards Wales.
We stopped for a cuppa at a services, and then changed drivers. Jim got in the back and 'rested his eyes' whilst Michael drove.
We didn't have any hold ups, not even for the one or two road works – there were still 3 lanes open, there was just a speed reduction (50mph).
In no time at all we were crossing the Severn Bridge, into Wales.
There's a one way toll on the Severn Bridge – you pay (6 pounds, 50 pence) when heading West – into Wales.
Make of that what you will, is a penalty for leaving England or do the Welsh want to deter visitors?
Anyway, we crossed the lovely bridge and entered Wales. The M4 continued on well into Wales but then at Camarthen the road became a dual carriageway and then just an ordinary inter-town road.
There wasn't any heavy traffic, so we were soon driving up to the check in booth at the Ferry Terminal.
The last time we had been in Ireland she didn't have any vacancies so we'd not taken any chances and had booked on line before leaving St Albans.
Ann, our host, was as charming (and young) as ever. We got the rooms sorted out and then headed out for a meal at the local pub. There are two pubs, next to each other, and we went to the second one on Ann's recommendation. A great meal it was too. I love salmon so when it's on the menu it's usually no contest, this time was no exception.
We went back to the B & B and settled down to watch some tv. Jim was happy as there was a hurling game on, we tried to find something more interesting but failed.
The next morning we all enjoyed a lovely breakfast before packing up and heading across country to Tipperary.
Despite what you've heard, it's not a long, long way to Tipperary. The roads in Ireland are getting better and better each time we visit and this time we took a lovely smooth dual carriageway across through New Ross, by-passed Waterford and nipped down to the coast at Dungarvan, where we had lunch.
In Rosslare, Ann had recommended this route and despite our maps showing a 'toll' at Waterford she insisted that there wasn't one. She was wrong, and the map was right. There was a toll to cross the bridge on the western side of Waterford, (nice bridge though).
It was only 1.90 euro so it didn't break the bank.
In Dungarvan we parked the car and walked along the river and into town. There was a small farmer's market but we had no need for anything so just found a nice little cafe and had a light lunch.
We checked out the main street shops, bought a calendar (2016), and some flowers for Anne, Michael's cousin (Michael)'s wife.
We drove out of Dungarvan and found the small local roads leading up through the mountains, through the Vee (outside Clonmel- see August 2013 blog - 'The Gatherers gather' ).
Then we felt very pleased with ourselves that we found the farm on the first attempt.
It's always lovely to see Michael and Anne and we were soon all sitting around the kitchen table with a lovely cuppa tea chatting and catching up. After about an hour I remembered the flowers in the back of the car!
That evening Jim went off to see one of Anne and Michael's grandsons playing football. I thought that he was playing 'the one game'. (called soccer by some people), but it was, of course, what English folk call Gaelic football. I realised this when they came back and were talking about points and goals!
The next day was quite pleasant, which in Ireland means that it wasn't actually raining.
The three of us went into Cahir, the nearest town, with Anne. Jim wanted to look around Cahir Castle (one of the largest intact castles in Ireland), but we'd seen it before so the three of us wandered around the small town. We went to a small (very small) local market in the town hall, it really was only 4 stalls, why they don't have their stalls the next day at the farmers market we don't know. I suppose the Women's Institute has been baking cakes and having a stall for years, so continues it's the others that have stopped. As Anne bakes a lot we didn't have any need to buy any cakes.
We went into the craft studio and had a look around, they had some really lovely things.
We wandered down Castle Street to a little souvenir shop opposite the castle, we'd just bought our icecreams and were heading back up the street when Jim joined us, he'd finished his tour of the castle.
Cahir Castle is one of the largest and best preserved medieval castles in Ireland. It represents the pinnacle of medieval skill, and contains one of the very few working portcullises (drop gates)in Ireland. The present structure dates to the13th and 15th centuries.
We headed back for a cuppa and then lunch.
After lunch cousin Michael agreed to accompany us to Bealnablath, between Bandon and Cork City.
To the spot where Michael Collins was ambushed and shot on August 22nd 1922.
For speed, and to avoid Cork City we took the motorway and had to pay a toll – 1.90 euro.
(It seems that all tolls in Ireland are 1.90, why not 1.50?? I can see that 2.00 euro would make people think they're paying too much but to have the correct change for 1.90 is a challenge. Oh I get it, if you travel regularly you have an e tag, otherwise you have to queue and pay at a manned toll booth. The message is – if you don't want to slow down, get a tag. There is no financial benefit in a tag, it still costs 1.90 each trip.)
After a slight deviation - we missed a turn, we arrived at the spot.
It was easy to see why this spot was chosen, it's got high banks on both sides of the road and is in the middle of a twisty, winding road.
The road had been widened to allow parking and the monument was above the road, behind some railings.
We climbed up the monument, and tried to interpret the map showing where Collins stood, where the cars were and were the attackers were. We thought we had it sorted and were just leaving when a car pulled up. The man was obviously a local so we checked with him. Yes we were right, the map was not oriented the same way as road before us.
To this day it is unknown why Collins did not just order the convoy to drive on rather than stop and fight. It is also unknown why he did not take shelter in the armoured car that was part of his convoy but choose to shoot back from behind an ordinary touring car.
Michael got talking to this man and he told us that he used to travel along this road to and from work every day, until he retired. He never passed the monument without there being someone there; there was ALWAYS someone there.
Whatever you think of Collins, it says a lot that almost 100 years later, people are still visiting this spot.
We drove back, the same way, another 1.90euro toll.
The next day started quietly, Jim went into Clonmel to watch the same grandson play, this time he was playing hurling.
We had a quiet morning in and then in the afternoon Anne and Michael's son, Eamonn arrived from Galway with his partner and child.
In the evening Michael and I went into Cahir and collected Chinese Take Away for everyone. We'd asked everyone what they wanted, we were having individual dishes not a combined order, there were 10 orders.
I had them written on a piece of paper, with people's names next to the dish. The restaurant took the list, cut it into strips, and taped the name of the dish (and therefore the person's name) to the front of the bag with the meal in. I was very impressed, it saved me having to identify the dishes and remember who ordered what.
It was a great evening meal, everyone was happy and enjoyed the food. Well done Yummy House, Cahir.
There was no lie in the next day, there's never is for someone on a farm, but not for any of us with a toddler in the house.
Jim's sporting holiday continued as he was picked up in the morning to head off to Thurles, to see the Munster Final hurling match. It was being played between Waterford and Tipperary, everyone was a Tipp supporter. (Those who supported Cork – Anne, or Kilkenny – Jim, were tactfully quiet). There was a Tipperary flag in the house so Michael 'planted' it in the garden.
Eamonn was heading back to Galway after lunch, a most splendid lunch it was too. I very rarely cook a roast dinner at home in Australia so we really, really enjoyed these delicious roast dinners.
Anne and Michael have 3 grandsons living nearby, 2 had gone off to Thurles to see the match and the youngest (4yrs) had stayed with us, now that his young cousin had gone back to Galway he was bored.
He wanted to kick a ball around. We went outside to oblige. All four of us were out there playing with him, and I must say that he was tireless – and very good.
Michael and Anne peeled off, Michael and I stayed on. When we finally caved in there was a very happy little boy running inside to tell his Nan -”I won”.
We both slept well that night.
The next day we drove into Clonmel to visit another cousin. Michael decided to take the scenic route, telling Jim and me that he knew the way – near Cahir a turn to the right, not the left had us going back to where we'd come from - after a very scenic detour we arrived in Clonmel.
After a lovely morning visit we left Clonmel and drove northwards to the little town of Fethard.
(Another cousin, now living in USA, has ancestors from Fethard).
The small town high street was not very exciting, very grey in fact but at the end of the street there was a cheery light blue building – Jolly's Cafe. We parked up and went to Jolly's. We all had tomato soup, brown bread and shared 2 portions of wedges. Yummy.
Fethard is a medieval town and has the longest, medieval town walls in Ireland. We went for a walk around .
Then we drove a couple of streets to the old Augustinian Abbey before turning back through town and back to Cahir.
We took a 'back road', it was clearly signposted and almost deserted so was a very pleasant drive.
We arrived on the outskirts of Cahir. Michael was driving and said, lets go home the other way – oh dear! He was driving, he'd decided to take this road but I was expected to navigate!?
We made it though, we found our way 'home' without back tracking.
The next day Jim had plans for us all to drive up to Kilkenny but when he came in to breakfast he said that he'd changed his mind as he didn't fancy walkiing in the rain. It was indeed raining and the clouds were so low there were no mountains to be seen in any direction.
Tomorrow we would be heading back to Rosslare for the ferry on Thursday so we would stay in and spend time with Anne (or get underfoot?)
Anne headed off to Cahir for some shopping and the 3 of us stayed in, it was like we'd had a family spat, I was in the kitchen on the computer, Jim was in the lounge reading and Michael was in the front lounge reading, 3 people in 3 rooms.
In the afternoon a friend of Michael and Anne's that we had met two years ago when we came over for the family get together (with long lost cousins) came around for a cuppa and a chat. She's an absolute 'gas', so funny and so very, very nice. It was really great to see her again and we had a lovely time laughing and joking with her. Then we had to break up the jollity and send her on her way as we were taking Michael and Anne out to dinner.
Anne had been to this restaurant in Cahir with some girlfriends a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it so we thought we'd take them there and Michael could check it out too. The Lava Rock, only opened last year but has already won Best Restaurant in .
We share Anne's enthusiasm, it was great. Good décor, good ambience, excellent staff and really good food. The desserts were exquisite so, once again the camera came out. (The waitress reckoned that the desserts were the best thing – she'd have 3 a night if she could).
So, if you're in Ireland and near Cahir you won't be disappointed (unless you're there on a Monday as they're closed then) – visit The Lava Rock restaurant on Castle Street.
We headed home and dragged out the last evening with another cuppa in the kitchen, but we finally went off to bed.
The next morning we woke to lovely, lovely sunshine and fantastic views of the mountains on both sides, the house lies in between the Knockmealdown Mountains and the Galtee Mountains.
We were up and packed ready to go by 10.00am, we bade our farewell and headed off Eastwards.
We stopped for a while in Waterford City where Jim had contacted someone who had some more information about the family's grandmother. Jim is trying to fill in gaps in the family tree and get some more anecdotes about the people. We were meeting this couple in the Tower Hotel on the Quay.
We found it easily and parked nearby, having time to spare we looked around the immediate area.
In 1848 Meagher went to France to study and returned to Ireland with the new Flag of Ireland, a tricolour of green, white and orange made by and given to him by French women sympathetic to the Irish cause. The flag was first flown in public on March 1 1848 during the Waterford by-election, when Meagher and his friends flew the flag from the headquarters of Meagher's "Wolfe Tone Confederate Club" at 33 The Mall, Waterford.
In August 1848 Meagher, and othes were arrested, tried and convicted for sedition. Due to a newly passed law the sentence meant that they were sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. Due to public and international pressure clemency commuted the death sentence to transportation for life to "the other side of the world". In 1849 he was sent to Van Diemen's Land - Tasmania.
We sat in the hotel bar/bistro near the door and put a card on the table with this couple's name on it. Bang on time they strolled in. What a lovely couple and she had brought photos of her grandparents and other family members. We were shocked to see how much her grandmother resembled Jim and Michael's mother – there is obviously some family connection, it just has to be proved. At the moment there is a missing link between the two. We'd met at lunch time so decided to eat at the hotel, another great meal. We only had a light lunch, soup for some and sandwich for others, it was very fresh & tasty.
Then we had to say goodbye and head off again. We had parked on the street in a 2 hour bay, which expired at 1.30 but were told not to worry as the warders all have lunch between 1 and 2 so we were safe for another half hour. (Don't know if it's true, or if it's only the warders in that area, but it would be good if it was true for the whole of the city – you could double park and just pop into the bank or shop in your lunch hour!!)
Time to bid farewell Jim will keep in touch and do more investigating and they'll meet again.
We left Waterford by a back road and headed out to the little village of Passage East in County Waterford and caught the ferry across the Suir to Ballyhack in County Wexford, saving minutes and miles on the trip around Waterford and the bay.
The ferry started in 1982, the present vessel "TINTERN" came into service in December 2006. This has a capacity for about 28 cars. The Service operates continuously, every day with the exception of 25 & 26 Dec. The return crossing takes about 15 minutes. With an average of 120 crossings each day -
"You won't have long to wait"
The village of East Passage was truly delightful, on the outskirts was a sign warning of goats on the road. We all had a laugh and said that we'd not seen a sign like that before – when down on the quay waiting for the ferry I looked back up the roadway, up to the hill tip and there was a goat! The sign was right.
We love these little ferries, the last one we'd been on was in Mannum in South Australia when we went for a round trip as foot passengers just for the ride. (bigtripalmoststayinghome.blogspot.com - Trains and boats and a plane - pt 2 ).
Then we drove on eastwards along country roads which reminded us of the roads that were all over Ireland when we first started visiting in late 1970s.(The roads between towns are very much improved now).
Some of the villages were, to us, very typically Irish, we couldn't be anywhere else in the world – quaint whitewashed cottages, ugly modern council housing, hardly a flower in the gardens and a huge, solid grey stone church in the centre of the village. Add to this some tractors towing farm machinery and you have it. I'm not knocking it, it is very special and although it may not be unique to Ireland it is very, very typical, some villages in Wales and Scotland have their own unique feel. The only things missing to complete the stereotype were the rain - the weather was lovely, a few clouds but lots of sunshine and a couple of donkeys.
We were soon back in Kilrane, next to Rosslare Harbour and we drove around and looked down on the harbour, enjoying the sunshine then checked into the B & B for our last night in Ireland.
We walked down to the pub, and I enjoyed a full (very full) pint of Bulmers Cider - made in Clonmel.