Monday, August 20, 2012

Tyrone Diary 2012- Back to Crossan

It’s been a year since I traveled it, but I could find my way there.  The road from Belfast to Irvinestown, County Fermanagh is about a 2 ½ hours ride.  Belfast is a wondrous mix of old and new .  Driving through the streets you get a feeling of blend of yesterday and today with its eyes on tomorrow.  Spending the brief time we did last year did not give the city credit for where it is going.  We were half way  through our trip when we stopped for a fry – the traditional Irish breakfast.  The students sampled soda bread and potato bread, which met with their approval.  Not sure the beans, mushrooms, bangers, Irish bacon, and tomato at breakfast passed the test.  Learning and exchanging culture is an important goal of this program. 
As the scenery became even more green, if that’s even possible, and the foliage more dense, we knew we were heading north.  Once again Mahon’s Hotel is our base for the week.  There is a different atmosphere here than other places I have visited in US and abroad.  The welcome was warm and sincere and the management remembered us from last year.  If only I could drop the Boston accent.  If you’re ever in the area drop by for a stay, or at least a pint in the pub.  You will be kindly welcomed.

After a brief respite we made our way down the pilgrim’s road to Crossan- the home of Hugh Cummiskey, the goal of our trip.  The American students, and yes, even myself, were in awe of our surroundings.  The rolling hills, the low of the cows, the sheep studded against the landscape, and blue sky contrasted with the dark rain clouds and cow pies that we encountered.  Seeing the path bordered by tall hedgerows and end of summer flowers made one ask why anyone would leave this place.  But Hugh didn’t want to leave- life was no longer possible in this piece of paradise.  Forces surrounding him never let it be possible.

Last year’s dig focused on the Cummiskey homestead.  Colm and the Queen’s team’s research identified another home on the property through the Griffith’s Valuations completed about the 1850s.  This resource is valuable to genealogists and archaeologists.  It lists in great detail land ownership and property values.  With little other period material, finding the Cummiskey entry especially with 2 homes listed on one property, is an important find.  With maps in hand, Dr. Donnelly walked the property and came back smiling.  There are random stones in fields, and then there are trained folks who see order in disorder.  Those random stones could very well be Hugh’s father’s house.  A little research and a little digging will tell more to the unfolding story.

In between the raindrops (and there were more than a few) Colm pulled up some rushes and made a St Bridget’s cross.

Colm won the bet

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