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the gathering

Ireland launched a brilliant marketing campaign: The Gathering – Ireland 2013.  They encourage you to search out long lost family members, distant cousins, and relatives twenty times removed.

We held our own personal Gathering for one week in July in Western Ireland.  My mom was born there, and came to live in the US when she was 15.  I am one of seven children.  We all were there, as were our parents, all but one spouse/partner, and all but two nephews.  We were 25 strong, ranging in age from 15 months old to 82 years young.

Part 1 of our Gathering:  Westport, Co. Mayo.  We stayed at McCarthy’s B&B, taking over the entire guesthouse as well as two connected apartments.  Go there if you can.  Geraldine will take care of you from arrival through breakfast, getting locked out midday, and then in the pub at night with traditional Irish music.

Part 2 moved the Gathering to Kilkee, Co. Clare.  (My loving husband insisted on keeping the rental car radio tuned to County Clare Radio here.)  Kilkee is a seaside resort, where my mother used to spend summer vacations.  This is where she learned to appreciate and love swimming in 50 degree water!  In Kilkee we also had the opportunity to drive into Limerick and reconnect with distant cousins, who ended up being people you want to see more frequently than once in any given lifetime!

Ireland, or in the Irish accent, Aaaaahrr-land.

The Gathering for my family started with a three-hour drive to JFK, during which time Stephen found any and every opportunity to haul out his affected Irish accent.  He said “two, tree touuusand” to modify just about any noun.

Two, tree touuusand people.

Two, tree touuusand feet above sea level.

Two, tree touuusand Aaaaahrr-rishmen.

We were all rolling our eyes in the car, and the kids, mercifully in the back seat, put in headphones.

By the end of our Gathering, we were all on the “two, tree touuusand” track.

The Gathering – Ireland 2013.  If you have any hint of Aaaaahrr-rish blood, consider joining a Gathering.  Find your ancestors’ last names and search out dates and locations.  You will never know who you might meet!

Next up – details on County Mayo, the hidden gem of Aaaaahrr-land.  Granny was right that there is nothing like Mayo.


About Claire Ziamandanis

Claire Ziamandanis is Professor of Spanish at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY. Over her 20 years at the college, she has been a champion for study abroad, establishing the first affiliation for Spanish students, and then working with the Study Abroad office to open the doors to students from other majors. Claire loves travel, food, wine and Spanish but not necessarily in that order!

One comment

  1. Claire, what an amazing trip! Did you find any distant relatives? My best friend’s father is a former middle school history teacher and when she was very young (maybe not even born yet), he researched (before the Internet!!) his family and found them. And two summers ago, she took her children to visit the family her father had reconnected with all those years ago.

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