Camino Rambling

Camino Rambling

This section of short stories started by accident when my old school-friend, Dr Danny McAllister, practicing in England, reneged on an anticipated visit to our shared ancestral parish home in September 2012. His excuse was that a long-planned 500 mile stroll was to take precedence over yet another visit to the homestead to poach a few tasty wild salmon from the River Moy. Each to their own, I thought to myself, until Danny later explained that his walking expedition was actually a re-enactment of a historical pilgrimage across northern Spain. Danny was sufficiently daft / possessed / fit / brainwashed (delete as per reader’s choice) to attempt to walk alone and uninterrupted from the French side of the border near to Pamplona all the way west to Santiago de Compostela. I was educated to learn that this countryside / countrywide walk is known as El Camino de Santiago to the ancient ramblers.

Danny’s walk along well-worn pathways was scheduled to take a little over a month, allowing for permissible overnight rests. I decided to accompany Danny (not in person!) by relaying the news from his South Sligo ancestral farm parish at regular intervals by way of a diary report. I was wary of this undertaking; maybe more-so than Danny’s physical challenge – because nothing much ever happens in a quiet outback in the West of Ireland, far off the beaten tracks which Dr McAllister was attempting to conquer, does it?

It was only when Danny reached the holy grail of the Atlantic Ocean, and I read back my diary notes, that I too had a “religious” experience and appreciated that a helluva lot happened in our isolated Irish community in the space of one month. My epiphany moment made me realize that the more distance there is between houses (typically 200-500 metres here), the closer the community. Every birth, courtship, wedding, illness or death is verbally communicated around the parish within a matter of hours of any formal announcement or insider knowledge being proclaimed. The well-being of the occupants of every secluded home is monitored from the village meeting points, namely the shops and pubs (some of which are shops and pubs). Help is always at hand.

I have lived in apartments and terraced streets in other parts of the world, and I never even knew the names of some next-door neighbours despite being more than familiar with their raised voices through seemingly paper-thin walls.

And so … I simply relayed the parish news to Danny, as it happened, and how I interpreted it. Danny told me he welcomed the light relief provided by my missives, and so did his fellow walkers when he shared the regular updates at his overnight hostels. In fact, Danny’s fellow-Camino pilgrims from around the world now want the GPS co-ordinates of our little corner of the world. Danny warns that there could be an invasion of lost souls looking for enlightenment. Whoever they are, they will be welcomed and cared for. That’s just the way of life here.

Click on Camino Rambling below to catch up on what’s been happening in the parish ….

Start at 26th September 2012 in order to follow the Camino trail, then:

28th September 2012

30th September 2012

1st October 2012

4th October 2012

6th October 2012

9th October 2012

16th October 2012

20th October 2012

22nd October 2012

26th October 2012

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The second Neary / O’Rourke marriage

It was great-aunt Maggie Neary’s 132nd birthday on 6th April 2017. Right on cue on this birthday, a long-lost photo of Maggie on her wedding day in 1913 emerged from an old family chest. Margaret Neary married John O’Rourke, a fully qualified NYC Civil Engineer originally from Leitrim, on 18th June 1913 in the Bronx.

Just under 10 years earlier, Maggie’s eldest sister Mary Neary married John’s eldest brother, Charlie O’Rourke at St Philip Neri’s Catholic Church in the Bronx. A family tale in New York relates that Maggie’s older sister Bridget once courted John O’Rourke and hoped that he would eventually propose marriage. This romance was progressing steadily as John completed his Civil Engineering studies – and then Maggie Neary arrived on the Bronx scene when she arrived in New York with her brother Matthew in 1905. Poor Bridget Neary’s dreams were dashed when John & Maggie started to “walk out” together at weekends. A few years later, John O’Rourke’s engineering career was flourishing and he was ready to settle down. John proposed to Maggie, and Bridget Neary returned to Ireland broken-hearted. A year after arriving home in Tullinaglug, Bridget married a Sligo man at St Attracta’s church in Tourlestrane- maybe on the rebound.

Meanwhile, Maggie & John married and conceived 5 children, the last being Eileen born in 1925. Eileen O’Rourke’s daughter Maura sent me this great photo on Maggie’s 132nd birthday … after a root about in an old family chest.

1913 photo (Maggie Neary on her wedding day)

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