The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Mullingar and Us

As I mentioned in a previous post, Dear Diane and I returned from a two-week trip to Ireland (our first) about two weeks ago. We had a delightful time and were able to visit and enjoy at least part of that lovely country.

We decided to spend the last three days of our trip in the small city of Mullingar in county Westmeath. We took up residence at a lovely B&B, Tara House, and were very well cared for by the proprietor, Maureen Doran, and her husband Gerry. If we return, and God willing I trust that will be soon, we shall certainly stay there again.

Mullingar is not your typical Irish tourist town, but our reasons for staying there were strictly personal and had little to do with tourism. My paternal grandmother, Anne Moran, was born in Mullingar in 1877 and came to the United States when she was just a toddler. The cathedral in which she was baptized was torn down in the early 20th century and replaced by the present cathedral, built in the 1930s. We attended Mass there one Sunday and were pleased that our B&B host, Gerry Doran, was the reader that morning. It's really a magnificent church as you can see in the photo below.
Mullingar's Cathedral of Christ the King

Although Mullingar might not be a tourist magnet, we soon discovered that it's actually quite well situated for visiting some of Ireland's wonderful ancient sites. One of these, Clonmacnoise, is a national heritage site that includes the ruins of a 6th-century monastery founded by St. Ciarán (Kieran to us). It also includes the tombs of many of the Irish kings of old. Coincidentally, I discovered that one of the two tall towers at Clonmacnoise is called McCarthy's Tower, named after the kings of  Munster who were apparently numbered among my ancestors. Sadly, there's nothing left to inherit. Anyway, I suspect the tower would be a bit drafty.
McCarthy's Tower at Clonmacnoise
We also drove to the nearby town of Fore, to wander among the ruins of St. Fechin's church and abbey which he founded in the 7th century. While there we encountered a breed of cattle called "Belted Galloways." They're rather unusual looking -- Diane says they look like they're wearing cumberbunds -- and are raised largely for beef. The photo below shows two of these interesting bovines lunching near the ruins of St. Fechins monastery.
Belted Galloways near the town of Fore

Another short drive took us to the town of Multyfarnham where we visited the Franciscan friary that dates to the 15th century and has been in continuous use ever since. The current friary church was quite nice, and I've included one photo below.
Interior of the church at the Multyfarnham Friary

Being creatures of habit, during our stay in Mullingar Diane and I ate in the restaurant of the Greville Arms Hotel each evening. We enjoyed our meal the first night and so we decided not to tempt fate and try elsewhere. Interestingly, the hotel is located directly across the street from Whelehans Pharmacy, founded toward the end of the 19th century. Some years ago, I bought an old  measuring bottle of the kind used 100 years ago. The bottle is etched with the words, "T. P. Whelehan Earl St Mullingar." I purchased it for a few dollars simply because of its connection with Mullingar, where my grandmother was born. I never expected that the pharmacy would still be in business. The photo below was taken during dinner from our table at the Greville Arms Hotel restaurant.

We also planned a visit to the Mullingar Pewter Company and its factory, as well as a related business, Genesis Fine Arts, that produces some beautiful sculptures. While browsing in their shop I came across a photo taken in downtown Mullingar in 1890, only a few years after my grandmother had emigrated to the United States. I had to buy it. But remarkably, as I studied the photo, I realized I had taken a photo late the previous afternoon from almost the same exact spot. As I looked at the old photo I searched my digital camera's SD card for the shot I had taken and could hardly believe the similarity. Two photographers, over 120 years apart, stood on almost the same exact spot. It was uncanny. I've include both photos below.
Mullingar c. 1890 (

Mullingar 2012 by Dana McCarthy
I'm happy I was able to touch some of my Irish roots, but happier still that I live in the USA.

Pax et bonum...

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