Friday, May 13, 2016

The penny has dropped: History's not simple to understand.

We have just spent a marvelous day in the Dingle Peninsula. This is the Ireland that we see in movies, the mythic Ireland that we’ve been shown as North Americans. The drive in offered rolling hills on the right and green pasture up to the ocean’s edge on the left: houses were positioned on the hill-side of the road, with the pasture for the sheep on the water-side. Mom says Grandpa would exclaim about the North American habit of building right on the waterfront “the waterfront should be for everyone”. We are certainly drinking in every vista.  

We don't stop an awful lot unless it's time to let the boys photo taken from moving car - check. 
The town of Dingle is exceptionally picturesque in the real sense of the word. On the road from Dublin, to Wexford and now to Dingle we’ve seen variation in towns that buzz and seem to thrive, and towns that look like they’ve got their heads down, just trying to make it through the next hump. We went to a pub in Tomhaggard (a very small village near Butlerstown where we stayed in County Wexford). One half of the pub ownership told us, as we walked in to see her and a friend hastily butting out, that they now sometimes sneak a smoke in the pub, since the inspectors don’t come by anymore: they used to come checking all the time, when business was booming. I asked when they were booming, she said “2003-2008…It really hit its lowest in 2010”. Right, the downturn, as we euphemistically call it. By the end of the night (nearing midnight on a Wednesday) there had been a total of 10 visitors since we’d arrived. The publican gave us a lift home at the end of the night. Wild!

The pub in Tomhaggard, a 20 minute walk down the back lane

From the same pub: Linziestown is another name for Lingstown - right next to snowshoes! There was a Northwest Territories licence plate on the door too. Was this place meant for my Mom or what?! 

In Butlerstown Castle (drawing room?) looking at the family tree with Tricia, Anna & Helen

In the Butlerstown Boxwell graveyard and church

Dorothea Janet Boxwell, died at 12 years. Mom did a grave rubbing of her stone. 

It's not at all uncommon for us to find two children on our laps whenever we find a cozy nook

Bagenal Harvey & Boxwell Cottages
We had a remarkable time staying in Butlerstown Castle cottages – named for our relations no less! Bagenal Harvey Cottage was a renovated cowshed, with a wonderful enclosed front yard and access to feeding donkeys! What a delight for us parents – keeping kids inside is hard, so so much easier to be able to let them roam free from time to time. Helen Boxwell, our host’s sprightly, and short of short-term memory, 90 year old mother, has written the better part of the Boxwell family history in Ireland and spent the day with us as we explored backroads in quest of Ballymacane and other Boxwell haunts. 

The left side of the house is the original Ballymacane, where my Grandpa & Nana lived for a short while. It was financially untenable for them to maintain the land, and their loan requests were denied. They sold in 1963. Nana was pregnant with my Mom. The Devereux family welcomed us in with smiles, tea & biscuits. 
My particular exploration has also been an inquiry into the waves of colonizers of this wild green land – my family belonging to one of those waves. Helen told us, with a wry smile, that John Boxwell came to Ireland in the 1600’s after being ousted from England for being a Catholic (on the losing side of a change in reign). He left England as a Catholic, and arrived in Ireland a Protestant. It was a business decision, Helen surmises. He married, procreated – and the rest is history. It was at Lingstown castle that I came to the conclusion that roughly 400 years’ residence will do when asking the question “where is my family from?”. Our Irish roots (at least those that were traced through the male lineage) are Saxon (as opposed to Norman, Viking, Celtic, Pict…), part of a wave of latest-colonizers. What I realized, is that Ireland was very much a British colony. This will no doubt sound naïve, but I hadn’t fully comprehended the reason behind the religious divide that is so much more commonly talked about. Ireland was as much a British colony as India was, or Canada was in terms of treatment of indigenous people & their land.  Life was brutal. There’s a reason for the strain.

And with this realization, I’m ready to let this simmer. I’ve found a great tree growing out of my ancestor’s home. There’s something poetic about this.
Lingstown Castle

We’re finding our flow as a travelling family of 7, not always simple, but every day brings something beautiful. 
That's right! The Blarney Castle! Actually a great stop on the way to Dingle. They boys ran free, and it was WAY less touristy than I thought it would be. L-R: Janet, Tricia, Hans, Brian & Otis & yours truly with Russell!

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