Monday, June 30, 2008


This was our destination after crossing the Shannon, the home of Declan Ganley. I didn't mention his name in a previous post out of concerns for his privacy and security. Then Danny got into a discussion with a local florist in which he mentioned that he was staying with the Ganleys and the florist said, "Oh, they have a marvelous home." So, clearly, where they live is no big secret.

Declan made his fortune in the telecommunications business. He bought this home when he was 26 years old. As mentioned below, it was once owned by the singer, Donovan. Declan has gained recent fame through his leadership of the campaign in Ireland that succeeded in persuading the Irish voters to vote no in the recent referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

He's a tremendous host, a brilliant reconteur and an all around great guy. The video below shows the house from the front and back. It also shows our bedroom (which also had Al Gore as a guest), as well as the "snooker room," where the men retired after dinner to discuss politics. Also shown is the indoor pool and both families (except for me) sitting at brunch.

It was a delightful and memorable visit.

Crossing the Shannon River on the Way to Galway

Rita's Relations

Rita's father's people are from County Kerry. We were told that she had relatives in a place called Kilgobnet. No one we spoke to had ever heard of the place. Fortunately, Google had, so we were able to place it generally, near Killorglan, the place where Puck Fair takes place. Rita's father's boat was named Puck Fair in honor of his ancestors.

Unfortunately, most of the people in Killorglin had never heard of Kilgobnet either. We ended up stopping at a private home and got directions that brought us close. We asked about three more people before we found the Kilgobnet Post Office. Here's Rita with the pictures that she'd been sharing with postal employees. They got us close. The last person we talked to turned out to be the next door neighbor of our target. The place she sent us to was a working dairy farm.

We went to the designated house and Rita knocked on the door. The woman who answered was Nora O'Shea and, after a moment of hesitation, greeted us warmly and invited us in.

It was a delightful visit. We had tea and, just as we were about to leave, her son, Cormac, showed up. He runs the farm and was equally gracious.

Here's a video of the great meeting.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

In the Rain

In a previous, out of sequence post, I showed our visit to Torc Falls. Here's a bit of an "out-take" that really gives a sense of the rain as Danny and Bridget exit the frame dejectedly to get under an umbrella.

Ladies View in the Kerry Mountains

The Kerry Mountains

We stayed in a very nice B&B in Ballylicky, County Cork on Wednesday night. Good food, good accomodations. No Internet connection, depite promises on the web site. So, we enjoyed our stay and moved on a day earlier than we had planned. Our next stop was Killarney, which would take is through the mountains of County Kerry. We also made short stops in Kenmare and Skibbereen.

The weather alternated between light and torrential rains. While the weather limited the distance we could see, it did not limit the beauty. In fact, I kind of liked the ethereal mode of the mountains as we drive through Moll's Gap and stopped at Ladies View.

Here we are braving the elements somewhere up in the mountains. That's Danny beneath the hood.

Tomoleague Friary

As we drove along the south coast of Ireland, we came across an old ruin of a 13th Century monastery, Timoleague Friary. It is now reduced to its exterior and interior walls. But it was clearly quite the structure in its day, overlooking the sea and countryside.

Bridget explored a number of "nooks and crannies," even climbing through some very narrow passage ways. She found what appeared to be a dungeon, but was probably just one of the monks' cells. You can see her through the bars.

The grounds are now covered with grave stones, both inside the structure and out. Some are as recent as the 1990's. The propery is now, in effect, a cemetary.

The Kidnapping

In an earlier post about John Saunders' house in Dublin where we are staying, I mentioned that the house was formerly owned by a businessman who was kidnapped by the IRA right outside his home. It was a dramatic event that got enormous news coverage at the time, twenty-five years ago.

As it happens, it was back in the news this week when the Provisional IRA man who was charged with the crime 10 years ago was acquitted of all charges. The Irish Times devoted an entire inside page to multiple stories on the incident. The Times requires a subscription to view the whole story, but here are excerpts:

Former IRA leader freed on Tidey kidnapping charges.
817 words
27 June 2008
Irish Times
(c) 2008, The Irish Times.

COURT REPORT:FORMER IRA leader Brendan McFarlane was yesterday cleared of the kidnap of former supermarket executive Don Tidey almost 25 years ago.

The Special Criminal Court discharged the former IRA leader after an application by his counsel, Hugh Hartnett SC, for a direction of acquittal. This followed a statement by prosecuting counsel Fergal Foley that the State was "offering no further evidence".

Earlier the court had ruled inadmissible an alleged admission by McFarlane to gardaí that he had been at the wood in Co Leitrim where Mr Tidey was held captive for 23 days in 1983.

Mr Justice Paul Butler, presiding at the non-jury court with Judge Alison Lindsay and Judge Cormac Dunne, said McFarlane retains the presumption of innocence.

The judge said that the court had heard evidence of "the horrendous kidnapping and physical abuse of Mr Tidey and his son and daughter", which resulted in the killing of a young soldier and an unarmed Garda recruit.

"Although almost a quarter of a century has passed, it is clear . . . from the evidence of Mr Tidey and the attendance in court of the families of the garda and solider that all have suffered greatly," he said.

Here's a description of the actual crime:

Don Tidey would have seen nothing unusual in a uniformed “garda” flagging him to stop at a “Garda roadblock” at the junction of Stocking Lane and Woodtown Way. However, the “gardaí” were in reality members of the Provisional IRA. Tidey tried a frantic reversal when he realised what was happening but to no avail.

A submachine gun was put to his head and he was bundled from his car. Susan and Alistair [his 13 year old daughter and 24 year old son] were pulled from the car by an armed man, also in a garda uniform and thrown by the roadside as the terrorists left with the father. The snatch was over in five minutes and involved five or six men.

In the immediate aftermath of the kidnapping, gardaí concentrated their efforts on the immediate

vicinity but quickly enlarged their search to parts of Kildare, Kerry, Roscommon and Mayo.

For almost all of his abduction, however, it appears that Tidey was held in woods near Ballinamore in Co Leitrim.

On November 27th, a ransom demand for £5 million sterling was telephoned to Associated British Foods offices in London. ABF and the government were totally opposed to paying.

However, the net was closing. From about December 13th in the Ballinamore area, about 1,000 soldiers and some 100 gardaí were manning roadblocks, scouring the countryside and doing house-to-house searches.

At about 2pm on December 16th, Garda recruits were crawling through dense undergrowth in a forest of young pine trees at Deradda Woods. They saw some plastic sheeting in a hollow. It stirred.

They moved back and called for assistance. Gunmen leapt up and began firing.

A hand grenade was thrown. Gardaí and soldiers swarmed forward. The gunmen fled. Don Tidey, his head covered by a balaclava, was freed, physically unharmed. But a young garda and a soldier had given their lives to save him.

Pte Patrick Kelly, a 35-year-old from Moate in Co Westmeath, was shot dead. He left a widow, Cathrina (31) and four young sons.

Gary Sheehan, aged 23, died with him. He was due to graduate from Templemore in 1984. He was the son of Det Garda Jim Sheehan, stationed not far away in Carrickmacross in Co Monaghan.

Gary Sheehan is remembered by each batch of recruits to pass through Training College in Templemore.

The best all-rounder receives the Gary Sheehan Memorial Medal.

In the coverage of he acquittal, there were also many accounts of the way things were in Ireland in 1983 when violence was common and there seemed no light at the end of the tunnel. We, in America, tend to forget the enormity of the change in Ireland. Throughout our trip, when people tell stories of more than ten years ago, there is always a reference to "the troubles," which permeated all of life in Ireland. While Ireland is heading into some rough waters now economically after a long boom, it is a blessing that the country will never go back to the way it was.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Torc Falls

OK, back to our chronological posts. This is our visit to Torc Falls on Wednesday just outside Killarney. The falls are spectacular. As you can see, we visited in a driving rainstorm, so we didn't have to deal with tourist crowds. And, fortunately, the B&B we checked into allowed us to use their clothes dryer. We were soaked to the bone.

Moy Hill

This is a little out of sequence, since I'm still posting from three days ago, but here's where we stayed last night. It's the home of an young Irish telecommunications entrepreneur, whose name I have to leave out for security reasons. He has enemies....seriously. We became friendly through our daughters, who were classmates in grammar school. Their house in Washington off Foxhall Road is the former home of Bishop Fulton Sheen. This is their house in Ireland. They invited us to come visit. A truly spectacular estate, once owned by the 60's rock star, Donovan.

This the main house. Many other building on the 90 acre property. A 2 mile driveway, a lake in front and sheep grazing on the lawn.

Family Connection

Here's Virginia Minihan's confirmation of the family connection between me and Jerry O'Donovan. The supercedes all other speculations on this blog:

We and Jerry O'Donovan have the same great, great grandparents...John O'Regan and ?? (female) (Driscoll) O'Regan . They had 3 girls 1. Mary Regan...our greatgrandmother...who had Margaret (maggie) O'Regan..later Singleton, our grandmother 2, Margaret O'Regan later McCarthy with no family and lived in Rossmore, Ballineen 3. Catherine O'Regan later O'Leary...Brother Richard's grandmother and Jerry O'Donovan's great grandmother. jerry O'Donovan's father, Jon O'Donovan were brothers. Catherine (O'Regan ) married Jeremiah O'Leary. One of their daughters, Catherine, married John O'Donovan who had 5 children, one being broher Richard, and one being John O'Donovan (Jerry's dad).
Glad we cleared that up.

Jerry and Peggy

Here's a video of Jerry and Peggy in their kitchen. It is confirmed that Jerry's great grandmother and my great grandmother were sisters. See next post.

Billy and Dan

Also from central casting, these two American tourists with their mobile devices, visiting Kinsale from Washington, DC.

Willie and John

Here are Willie Corrigan and John Cod, right out of central casting. They are a couple of laddies in Kinsale on holidy from County Whitlow.

Jerry and His Ponies

Here's the corral next to Jerry and Peggy's house with Jerry's ponies. Typically, Bridget was enchanted.

"They're so cute!"

I didn't get their names.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The O'Donovans

Our destination in Cork was the O'Donovans house, Jerry and Peggy. Many members of my family have visited Peggy and Jerry, as they are rumored to be distant relatives. I haven't been able to establish for certain whether the relationship exists, but it has become irrelevant. They are so welcoming and so many have dropped by, that we've stopped obsessing over the relationship. That said, if a relationship exists, it would be that my great grandmother is sister to Jerry's great grandmother. The evidence is that they had the same last name, Regan.

Here's their house. It is surrounded by beautiful gardens, with a fenced in yard on the left for Jerry's three ponies. "Just a hobby," he says. They also have two little terrier dogs. One played Toto in the local production of The Wizard of Oz and would have to be picked up every evening by cab to be ferried to his performance.

The house was full when we arrived with friends and family. And Peggy put out a massive spread of food.

Lots of laughter and catching up on the "family."

We also talked politics. They abhor Bush, so we obviously got on well politically. Ever time it was suggested that they visit us in the states, Jerry would say, in his thick Irish brogue, "After Bush is gone."

The also all voted no on the Lisbon treaty. It was fascinating listening to their reasoning, particularly after hearing the "pro" from most of my colleagues with Fleishman Hillard.

It was a warm vist and we've clearly made friends for life, whether or not they are family.

Driving in Ireland

We departed from Dublin on Tuesday morning in a car so generously offered by John and set off for Cork. One of our true lifesavers on this trip has been the GPS system in John's car. We'd have been literally lost without it. Sometime we were lost with it, but that's a longer story.
Despite all the warnings given to us about narrow Irish country roads, the road from Dublin to Cork is a standard divided highway where you can get up to a good speed. The limit is 100 kilometers per hour, which is 62 miles per hour. Of course, there's also the problem if driving on the left, which takes some getting used to, but not so much on a divided highway.
In any event, at one point, while passing another car and admittedly exceeding the speed limit...a bit, I heard a police siren. Oh God! At that same moment, the car behind me started flashing its lights. While it didn't look like a police car, I assumed it was an unmarked car. So, I began to slow down and look for a place to pull over. As I did so, I was rehearsing my speech to the police officer in my head. "I'm just visiting from the states. My first time driving in Ireland. I'm Boston Irish Catholic. I really hate the British. Etc., etc. etc."
My first inclination was to pull over to the right, but there was no shoulder, of course, since that's the passing lane. The shoulder is on the left. All the while I'm going slower and the car in back is flashing its lights more frantically. Once I got my bearings, I moved into the left lane heading for the correct shoulder. The car in back just zoomed past me, honking his horn as he passed and, I imagine, gesturing toward me.
As it turned out, the siren came from the GPS, which helpfully monitors your speed. The car behind me was flashing his lights to get me to either speed up or get out of the way. So, when I, in fact, slowed down, it apparently enraged him.
So, even among the even-tempered Irish, there is road rage.

Danny's First [legal] Beer

If Danny's follows the path of far too many Irish men, we'll know where it all began. Here he is with our host, John Saunders.

We visited Johnnie Fox's after our first day tour of the countryside outside of Dublin. It's a dusky old pub, established in 1798, full of old framed newspaper pages commemorating great events in Irish history. Sitting at the top of a hill outside of Dublin and fed by a narrow, curvy road, you wonder how its patrons, after many pints, were able to navigate their way home without incident. No doubt many didn't.

And, yes, the Guinness tastes much better in Ireland. Danny said, "Tastes like a milkshake."

Not a good sign.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

We interrupt this program.....

Sadly, I have not been able to find an internet connection that allows me to upload pictures onto the site. I'll keep trying. So, check back if you want to see:

Danny's first legal beer
Bridget imprisoned in Timoleague Friary
The family looking at Torc waterfall in a driving rainstorm
Peggy O'Donovan's massive spread to great the distant cousins

And more...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Merry Ploughboy

We wound up the evening at an Irish pub close to John's house called the Merry Ploughboy. The place was packed, even on a Monday night. The music was fun, with lots of audience participation. Then they brought on the Irish dancers, that were clearly influenced by the Riverdance phenomenon. Very athletic dancing and occasional ethereal mood music.

They also involved the audience in the dancing, even pulling our Bridget on stage for a performance.

Good Germans

Ireland was neutral during World War II. There is no way the people of Ireland could officially join their oppressors, the British, in their squabble with the Germans. Nevertheless, the government was supportive of the Allies. The people of Ireland, however, did show some sympathy for German soldiers, particularly pilots who crashed in the countryside. John took us to a very picturesque little cemetery for German soldiers from both World War I & II.

A Tour of the Countryside

John took is for an auto tour of the countryside. While his home is but 7 miles from Dublin center, we were in rural Ireland within minutes. Wide expanses of bog land and rolling hills. After many miles of climbing ever higher into the Hills, John pulled over to show us the most spectacular private residence I have ever seen or heard of. Looking over a cliff deep into a valley, there stood a magnificent country mansion, fronted by a vast expanse of green lawn leading to a mountain lake. The little specks on the lawn were wild deer grazing. And the sound was of an unseen rushing waterfall. The house is owned by an heir to the Guinness fortune. Unfortunately, it was impossible to capture this view in one picture, so here's three. You make out the mansion just over the grass with the roads leading to it in the first photo. The next picture shows the lawn leading to the lake. And, finally, the view of the whole lake. Nice crib, huh?

The View from Farnham Hill

Pictured is John Saunders, my wife Rita and my daughter Bridget. They are standing on a porch just off John's second floor bedroom. You can see the wrought iron fence opening to the property and just to the left of that, the little patch of white is the empty guardhouse. While the day is overcast and it doesn't show in the photo, you can see the city of Dublin over the top of the tree line. Just beyond the city, you can even see Dublin harbor.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Farnam Hill Revealed

Here's a view of John's home that doesn't nearly do it justice. The inside is spectacular, full of large windows that bathe the interior in light and, of course, green.

At Farnham Hill

Arrived at Farnham Hill, the home of John Saunders, Regional President for Continental Europe for Fleishman Hill. He has a beautiful home, very modern on an expanse of green, as befits its Irish location. I will post a picture once I get past some technical difficulties.

The house was previously owned by a British businessman who was kidnapped by the IRA only steps from the front gate. It turned into an international incident. And, while the businessman was eventually freed, two Irish police officers were killed in the rescue.

As a consequence of this history, there is a guardhouse at the gate and a very large security camera. These now lay dormant, relics of a previously violent time.

John, his wife Jean and his daughter Caroline are the warmest of hosts. They gave us some sustenance and sent us off to bed for a nap to recover from the trip across the ocean.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Off to Dublin in the green in the green...

Heading off to Ireland for our family "graduation celebration." My wife, Rita, Danny (just graduated from high school) and Bridget (just graduated from grammar school) are setting out for our second international family trip.

While I'm 100% Irish descent, I've never been to the Old Sod. I'm struggling with conflicting feelings. On the one I've listened my whole life to stories of Ireland. All the counties and even the towns have names that are very familiar. Ireland is built into both my DNA and my psyche.

On the other hand, I have no idea what to expect. We've had one foreign family trip to Florence, which was magical. On this trip, we will have the benefit of some friends and family who will help guide us along. So, while it does not seem quite the adventure of previous foreign trips, I still feel like we are entering the unknown. I hope to be able to post comments, pictures and even videos throughout the week. So, feel free to check back.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Barack on Fatherhood

The man is amazing. He continues to impress and move me. His sermon on father's yesterday was remarkable.

Here's a passage I really liked:
I say this knowing that I have been an imperfect father – knowing that I have made mistakes and will continue to make more; wishing that I could be home for my girls and my wife more than I am right now. I say this knowing all of these things because even as we are imperfect, even as we face difficult circumstances, there are still certain lessons we must strive to live and learn as fathers – whether we are black or white; rich or poor; from the South Side or the wealthiest suburb.

What impresses me most about him is his humility. But I've struggled to identify that humility, because he's clearly got an ego and he knows how smart he is. But I think I've finally figured out the kind of humility that so impresses me, it's his moral humility. He's always acknowledging his own "imperfections." I believe that's genuine. He knows he's smarter than most people and he knows he is one of the great communicators of our time. But he doesn't believe that makes him a better human being.

Here's the whole speech: