As long as I can remember, my mother talked about wanting to go to Ireland. She was saving her ‘fifty cent pieces’ & even though they were more common back in the 60’s, I knew full well that she would never accumulate enough to make the trip a reality. ‘Why wouldyou even want to go there?’ I’d ask her. ‘Because it’s where we came from’, she’d answer proudly. She loved everything Irish. She talked about how my grandfather was a wonderful step dancer and spent hours trying to teach his children to keep their arms down straight while they nimbly moved their feet. The only songs that I ever remember her singing were Irish .., Christmas in Killarney, Wild Irish Rose, Long Way to Tipperary, An Irish Lullaby. My mother had a lot more Irish in her than I gave her credit for.
I did not share her fascination with Ireland. It was the 70’s – all I heard and knew about Ireland was on the news - the violence and unrest; Bernadette Devlin & Bobby Sands; Orange parades and bombings. Being young & unworldy, I simplified it down to fighting about religion. I just didn’t get how it could even be possible in ‘this day & age’ that two Christian based religions could do that to each other and I wanted absolutely no part of it.
All four sides of my ancestors came from Ireland, my mother’s side being Protestant and my father’s Roman Catholic. My Mom’s mother refused to attend their marriage in 1942, which had to be at City Hall. When I married a protestant in 1974, it wasn’t even remotely an issue. In fact, we had clergy from both denominations perform the ceremony. To me, the fact that Ireland was stuck back in some archaic time zone was a good enough reason to steer clear of it.
Well, let me tell you – I have lived long enough to eat my words. In a history book that I picked up while I was in Ireland it said ‘If anyone tells you that they understand the history of Ireland, they are misinformed.’ I consider myself exactly that.
My mother didn’t live long enough to realize her passion to go to Ireland. But truth be told, even if she had lived another 40 years, she would not have gone. And it wouldn’t have just been because she hadn’t collected enough fifty cent pieces.
Money was just the convenient excuse, it wasn’t really an issue. Most married women of her generation didn’t go tooting off to the other side of the world with a girlfriend. Not that my Dad would have minded one little bit – he would have loved to have her go, although he never would have himself. He did not understand the desire to travel. 'Trees and sky, sky and trees', he'd say, 'We've got the same exact thing here.' He sure would have supported her going though - it was only herself that stood in her way. So she lived forever in her ‘Some-Day’ world and died too young with a dream in her heart, unfilled.
I don’t subscribe to that life plan. So when it hit me one day, out of the blue, that I needed to go to Ireland, I made it a mission for the both of us. The closer I got to it, the more passionate I became about the adventure and about my ancestry.
The scope of it didn’t fully hit me though, until the plane was landing. My mother’s paternal and maternal ancestors came from Ballymackey, Ireland in 1779; my father’s from Killarney in 1821 & Carlow in 1855. Here I was, the very first person in their line, to step back on Irish soil in 150-200 years. Strange & weird & sad that could be true, in ‘this day and age’. For them it would have been such a challenging journey - arduous and difficult. Sad knowing that they would never see their families again and scary coming to the unknown. For me it was just a matter of cultivating the seed that my mother planted.
My interest and passion for Ireland is just in the infancy stage. I have so much to learn and am intent on doing so. I have discovered a long overdue pride in being of Irish decent. Our Wellwood family motto is “REVIRESCO” – meaning ‘I flourish again’. I can certainly see where that comes from. It could be the motto for the entire Irish race. They are stalwart and tenacious people, solid and spunky with a wonderfully deep soul, spirit and sense of humour. Beautiful people in a beautiful country. You would have loved it, Ma.