This morning I woke up in beautiful Corofin in pain. Emotionally and physically. Last night I got very stressed trying to post on Facebook with an almost useless internet connection and then this morning I woke up dreaming of horrible stressful situations back home ( to do with my Business) as well as having an excruciatingly sore neck. I had already woken up once to an annoying noise that I thought was running water, which turned out to be a bird tweeting outside our window, which immediately stopped as soon as I told my husband it was annoying me (was that you, Mum?). I was stressed and agitated the first time I woke up, so I knew this time I needed to wake up fully to get myself out of my state. Took a while and a few tears, and so I decided it’s time for another post.
So, here I am in Corofin. Our trip here from Galway was by hire car. I’d carefully done the sums and worked out it was probably a bit cheaper and Much Much easier at this stage of the trip, rather than negotiating buses and trains. We took the coastal road and visited the Cliffs of Moher – still spectacular, but Boy what a difference in 21 years! So commercialised now. They have built a big visitors centre, and car parks and you have to pay €6 to visit the cliffs, which were streaming with people. There are now walkways with steps and barriers. No just driving there, parking in the small car park and walking out to the Cliff like Mum and I did. There were shops built in to the hill. I was stunned! I’m not sure the tower had even been renovated last time. Although the Cliffs were much more majestic than Sliabh Liab, Jay preferred the fact that it was more natural – we all did.
When we pulled in to Corofin, I recognised it immediately, although it has changed significantly. I saw the Hostel that Mum and I stayed in on the left hand side, I saw the general store that Mum and I caught the “Post Bus” to Ennis outside of (this was the mail van that had a few extra seats that you could hitch a cheap trip to Ennis on, if you were lucky). I saw the Clare Heritage Centre which is where Mum’s Genealogy search began and then I saw the bridge that Mum loved. I was pretty emotional, but pretty calm and I managed to contain the tears.
Boy, it’s changed though. The first thing that stood out to me was the lack of pubs, especially those still open for business. There used to be 9 pubs, now there are four or five. I’ve been told by locals that people can’t afford to drink the way they used to, and they can’t afford to drive home any more.
We went to Bofey Quinns for dinner – by far the largest pub/restaurant in town.
After a lovely meal we headed down the road chasing the night of traditional music and storytelling that happens on a Thursday (how lucky are we to be here on the right night) but found a sign on the door saying it starts on the 9th of July. Of course, how Irish to advertise something as being in July but means actually not on the 2nd of July!
I had been looking at a photo of Mum I had in one of the bars in Corofin, and wanted to go back for a drink and to compare it with my memory and my photo. I was pretty sure that it was across and down the road from the Hostel, but there was no pub past the Hostel. So either my vague recollection of the location was wrong, or it wasn’t there any more. So we decided to try another local bar – Macks’s bar. Unfortunately my useless connection to the internet won’t allow the inserting of relevant photos at this time, so I’ll just write the words for now.
We met some people from Holland on the way and then met some locals in the Bar. We heard many tall tales. One guy was telling us about the perfect crime at The Cliffs of Moher – how to get rid of an unwanted wife (or husband). You just had to make sure you left “no clues” and the best way to do this was to use gloves and to put “sock over your shoes” and then if they do catch up with you and want to handcuff you you tell them you’re “itchy” and then “the worst part is if they tell you to get down (pointed a gun at you) you slap your legs an say arthritis”. He had us all (including Jay) in hysterics. We met another guy who had a twitch and kept wanting to bestow his great genius upon Jay (which was pretty creepy for Jay but we could tell he was a genuine guy), another who was telling us about his trips to Australia and how daddy long legs should be left because they eat the red backs, and then Eugene with a very thick, well oiled accent was telling us that we needed to go in to Ennis on Saturday to see the Hurly so Jay could see the “speed of the ball”. We were having so much fun trying to understand each other, it was hilarious.
I got out the photo of Mum in the pub and it made its way around the bar and after much discussion, it was decided that it was Cahirs pub which unfortunately closed five or so years ago. One guy was not 100% convinced because he didn’t recognise the booth seat, and Eugene tried to tell us that was him in the background to which his mate replied “can’t be, you’ve never owned a white shirt!”. It was confirmed that it was down the road and across from the Hostel, so I was right.
The next morning, with a thick head, I headed to the Clare Heritage Centre armed with Mum’s ancestry bible to see if there was anything extra they could tell me about Susan Kelleher, my GGG Grandmother who is the Susan refers to in the name of this Blog. Antionette was very impressed with the information that Mum had collated about Susan and Bridget after they emigrated and believes from the clues they have that they might be able to find the death of her parents and what has happened to her other siblings. They have a system where you pay a deposit and then they put multiple people on the search for up to a couple of weeks and if you are lucky at the end of it, you end up with a full dossier. Not a cheap exercise, but I decided it was worth it, knowing how thoroughly the online available information has been scoured by Mum and her dear friend Chris – an expert genealogist. Antionette loved seeing the photos I had in relation to Susan – a photo of her, the anchor and her grave, and I emailed them to her. She told me to look and see if we have her death certificate (surely I do in Mum’s files at home). She loved hearing my recollections of Corofin in 1994 and seeing the photos of Mum outside the Heritage Centre and in the pub and hearing that we think it still has a lovely vibe. She also loved the fact that I have Mum’s hair and will be leaving some in special places, including Corofin. I paid my money and took a walk, and spread some of Mum’s hair through the streets of Corofin, smiling as I did it.
Then Jay and I headed off to explore Ennis and visited the Dysert O’Dea Castle and archeological sights. Ennis was much bigger than I remembered. Only vaguely familiar. That was a bit of a disappointment, but I am realising that my memories are nowhere near as vivid as they are precious.
I’m feeling much less stressed and in not quite so much pain. Need to go to breakfast and call Sean Whelen, a descendent of Kellehers that we believe might be a relative, that Mum and I met in 1994 and Mum has maintained contact with over the years. It would be great if we can see him before we leave Corofin. We are also heading to Milltown Malbay as there is a music festival on that we were told about in Galway (and given a hand written message to deliver).
I am very mindful that I am fast approaching the anniversary of Mum’s death. Today is the 4th, but we are a day behind Australia, which means I’ll probably live it for the next two days. I think this is part of what my painful awakening was about this morning.
All I can do is live through it and get to the other side. A side where I will start seeing the second anniversary of experiences without my Mum. In a way, I think that may be worse, and it scares me a bit.