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Day 5: Halfway Through+the Heart of the Great Atlantic Way!

in which your author returns to a classic trad pub and

semi-overcast 70 °F

Day 5 begins in Westport, at one of the nicer Airbnbs of the trip. It makes a big difference to meet and engage with a host, and Patricia is a great exemplar of the tradition of Irish hospitality. We head into the center of town, only about a 5 minute drive, where Dan gets out to grab us coffees; the traffic is substantial and street parking is impossible so we circle around, eventually finding a small lot. I go and get Dan, eavesdropping on a walking tour on the way (the charismatic guide tells the story of how the statue in the center of town was originally a British banker who the townspeople shot at) and we stop into an Irish tchotchkes store where I pick up some patches of Tyrone and Westmeath, my ancestral Irish counties. (Or at least the ones I know about.) Dan buys a mug that says “Irish seasons," each showing a sheep under a raincloud. We wander around a bit, stopping into a kitchenware shop, where I pick up some cocktail-making utensils, and a bookshop, where I pick up a discounted Liam Clancy CD. (I don’t need another, but it was only 5 Euro and knows what gems might be found!)

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We grab a specialty hot chocolate for the road, and make our way the short distance to Croagh Patrick, a grand mountain I climbed, through dense fog, back in 2008. It’s a legendary Catholic pilgrimage spot in Ireland, and I tell Dan and Dad that St. Patrick was said to have – well, in fact I forget what he did here, but it was something very important and religious! I recall fighting my way through fog to the top, and finding an actual chapel up there! Dad tells us how, at age 22, he climbed Ben Nevis, a similar mountain in Scotland. We park for a couple minutes in a driveway and look up at the imposing mountainside, too covered by fog to make out much of the upper reaches.

We press forward, passing through Louisburg, a sleepy seaside Mayo town where I stayed for a few days in 2008, courtesy of Peter and Moira, our friends who we will meet up with later this week.

Dan has a recommendation from a friend involving the coastal town of Clifden, another place I’d never been. The main part of town is packed and we luck out with a parking spot; I depart to go check out an antique shop and a music shop, and Dan and Dad head to Lowry’s, an inviting whiskey-focused pub. The antique dealer is a bit brusk, but I’m able to bargain my way into picking up this beautiful book on France between the World Wars for ten Euro. (Ergh, just realized I coulda picked it up for Amazon for less, but I didn’t have cell service to check, and there is something old school and support local-business-y about buying on object where you actually found it.) I didn’t find anything to buy at the music shop – CDs are terribly pricey these days, and I admit the convenience of Spotify has really taken a hit on my music purchases!

I join them at Lowry’s, where Dan asks about an alleged former bartender who used to date his friend Meghan, and a picture of Boston mayor Marty Walsh which she says was hanging in the front window, but the friendly bar minders don’t have any recollection of either. We get a recommendation for a food spot across the street, and sit down for soups, which are really terrific. Dad enjoys the rich seafood chowder and Dan and I order carrot-based curry soups. Two musicians start playing and they’re very good, singing acoustic covers in harmony vocals – sadly we must be on our way toward Galway, but we have a bit of chat with them before departing. Clifden is definitely bookmarked as a town to make a stop in for a day or two on a future trip, seems like one of those delightful Irish places halfway between a city and a small town.

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The drive to our next stop, Galway, reveals some of the most impressive scenery of the entire trip. This is the heart of the Great Atlantic Way! Eeking our way down winding, one-lane roads, the mountains and lakes are massive and lush. This drive is not for the faint of heart, as turning a mere 4-5 feet to the right of our lane would launch us over one of the cliffs. Along the way, we encounter many ambling sheep, grass munching happily on grass, and we shoot this fun interview with two of them.

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Dan leaves a sticker of his beloved dog Howie, who passed away last November (special thx to Jackie for the awesome specially designed stickers!), on a road sign looking out at one of the most dramatic views, and I leave one of Aeronaut Brewery. Wonder how long they’ll stay up? We stop at a rest center and Dad buys a beautiful Aran sweater; I pick up books on gravestone letterings and Irish traditional music, which are like, almost kind of the same thing.

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Galway is of course one of the musical centers of Ireland, and its 6th-largest city by population (odd, I would've thought it ranked 2nd to Dublin!). This is technically my 3rd time here, but I don’t know the city very well save for a few musical and rainy memories. We locate our Airbnb, which is an actual Bed & Breakfast in a residential neighborhood about a 10 minute drive from the city centre; our hosts John and Anne and very pleasant. Though it’s quite expensive, our room is tiny (only two beds!) in comparison to some of our previous lodgings; not only is it a holiday weekend, but the annual Galway (Races (horses) is on this weekend, and (admittedly) I also booked the place on the late side.

We take a cab to the Crane Bar, one of the best known music pubs in all of Ireland. I first visited here in 2008, and met a man named Gerry Shannon, who sang these epic solo songs about Donegal and his hometown of Doolin. (Apparently he still comes in!) After stopping at a convenient pizza place next door, we walk into this famous venue – I recall walking here from our hotel late at night, during the pouring rain, during my last visit to Galway in 2014, just to see it. The upstairs music listening room lives up to my memory of it, as it’s stuffed with people focusing on the quartet of traditional musicians facing the bar. As someone who spends a lot of time thinking about how to engage audiences with music in drinking establishments, it’s so impressive to be reminded how seriously and respectfully the patrons treat the music here. We find a table toward the back, and the folks sitting next to us are really the only ones talking at anything above a low-medium level. Our friend Leo (Mark Madden’s Dad) joins us with his friend Bernadette. I grab Dan and myself some whiskeys, which are priced ridiculously cheap compared to American bars, and I particularly enjoy the Jameson Crested. (I would pick up a couple bottles of this on the cheap later on the trip.) We swap pints with Leo, and fight to understand his thick Northern Irish dialect underneath the din of the music. Leo and his son are two of the finest people I know anywhere, and it’s cool to meet up with him again.

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Toward the end of the music, I consider asking to sing a tune, but chicken out, as it doesn’t feel quite the right vibe or timing yet. I know another chance will come up. Dad’s tired, so we part ways with Leo and offer a personal tour of Boston if he ever makes it over. I take a picture of the document attesting to the fact that the Crane Bar is a sister pub of DeBarra’s in Clonakilty, where we’ll be in a couple days.

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We grab a cab back to the Airbnb and experience one of our many friendly cab drivers, who hives us recommendation on fish & chips for tomorrow: “that place will blow the ears right off ya!”

I do wish we had more time to spend in this town, but we did experience some good craic and will have some time to explore a little tomorrow.

Posted by coolmcjazz 16:07 Archived in Ireland Tagged galway westport clifden Comments (1)

Day 8: A Cross-Country Drive and Crossing to Scotland

in which your author doesn't get nearly enough sleep, drives through his great-grandmother's hometown, and arrives in one of his favorite cities anywhere!

semi-overcast 40 °F

From what I recall of the morning of Day 8 – and do forgive me, as I must admit I’m now writing these posts from the distance of slightly over a week ahead! (the blog must be completed) – I awoke frustrated about the fact that I was granted fewer than five hours of glorious sleep in the quite comfy and large hotel bed. This would be an ambitious travel day of crossing the country in the morning and ending up in a different country by afternoon, and leaving at 7:30am would be crucial to making the day work as planned.

We stumble downstairs; I ask if we can grab coffee to go and am told plainly by the kind-but-not-messing-around man in charge of the hotel’s breakfast service, “No.” (I've forgotten we’re Americans used to breakfasting on the run and the Irish simply won’t have that!) I grumble about the time to Danny and Amy and we sit while Graci and Mark join us; Mark orders a veggie breakfast for us – by this point the breakfast man has told us leaving at 8am will get us to Dublin on time, though I do want to see a bit of Athlone on the way – and we’re all sitting and drowsily enjoying our last moments in Galway. As I guessed, we really didn’t leave enough time to spend in this town, and because it’s “the off-season of the off-season,” I fear we’ve missed out on the typical festive character of the town that I witnessed when I visited in 2008. Still, it was great to solidify the mental picture of the town I began forming almost six years ago, so when I visit next I'll have an even better idea of where I am!

We pack up the car – I’m flummoxed after somehow losing my Red Sox hat (which was later located in Stranorlar!), and say fond farewells to our serendipitous travel companion, Mark, The Pride of Magherafelt and Enabler of One of Our Most Fun Experiences Of The Trip. (Flights on the fly to Edinburgh were too expensive, but something tells me this isn’t the last we’ll see of our Irish friend. Perhaps next time we will watch some “American football” and eat some “MackDonald’s” with him?)

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I last only about 45 minutes behind the wheel and Amy kindly takes over, driving the remainder of the three-hour trip to Dublin. I had wanted to stop in Athlone, a small-ish town in County Westmeath, because it’s allegedly the town our great-grandmother Bridget Creighton came from in 1882. As the family history goes, she was only 5 and came over with her mother on a boat; she got deathly ill on the journey and her mother prayed she wouldn’t die so they wouldn’t toss her body overboard. Luckily (especially for us!) she didn’t, and raised a typically large New England Irish family. We didn’t get out of the car in Athlone, but drove through its downtown section, and it looked perfectly nice, if small. The midlands don’t get nearly the same tourist traffic as do coastal cities like Dublin and Galway, but there’s a charm nonetheless. I look forward to spending more time in Athlone on some genealogy-dedicated trip in the future!

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We get to Dublin with what feels like plenty of time, but Amy is a ball of stress, having not yet printed out her crucial boarding pass; RyanAir is very cheap to fly, but if you don’t bring a printed boarding pass they charge you 80 Euro to print a new one! We find our way (barely) to the hotel Amy has booked for our last night in Dublin and I repack my computer bag with essentials for a 2-day trip to Edinburgh. (RyanAir also charges lots for checked bags so we all made sure to slim down for the trip.) Amy wants to stay behind to try to get her ticket printed at the hotel, and the rest of us head to the airport on the hotel shuttle. I don’t have a good feeling about splitting up like this!

We manage to get on the plane (after forgetting to have our boarding passes stamped by Irish customs and encountering a sympathetic and very helpful gate agent who does this for us) but alas, no Amy. (We wouldn’t see her until much later that night, after she caught the next flight, unfortunately at a not insubstantial financial loss.)

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Arriving in Edinburgh, we take five or so minutes relaxing in an airport lounge; a poorly timed rest, as it turned out, because just as we are about to board our bus to the center of town, a frantic airport agent tells us to evacuate the area because the airport is undergoing an emergency closure! We wait for over an hour in a small room crammed with would-be passengers, and information is sorely lacking. (What kind of fire drill tells people they can’t leave the area?!) Finally I approach someone official and state that we’re not trying to stay at the airport, but leave it and go into town, and she matter-of-factly says “Oh, you can just walk out.” (Good thing I asked – we might still have been waiting hours later!) While we're waiting, Danny and Graci, ever in good spirits, entertain themselves with Mad Libs.

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Later we found out there was a false alarm based on a suspicious package, and the airport was in fact shut down for a number of hours. We walk over a mile to find a bus. Not the best way to drop into town but we at least feel better off than our dear, poor friend stuck at Dublin Airport! Here's the shot where I say "put on the face that represents your last hour"; somehow it comes out looking like the album cover for an indie band.

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We hop on a double-decker to town, sitting on top in front. (Why don’t they have these in the US? Apart from being fun, they seem an efficient mover of people. Then again if we did have them perhaps they wouldn't be as fun?) Approaching the center of Edinburgh, I start to recognize neighborhoods and landmarks from my trip in March, 2011. (Especially the Castle, which looms ominously over the entire city.) Edinburgh is an eminently “memorizable” city – after having spent only five days here I really felt I could “see” the layout of the city in my mind.

The bus lets us out on the North Bridge; as Danny gets out he hears bagpipes. We walk up through a neighborhood I remember, and pop our heads into a cute café where I remember eating some rather mind-blowing vegetarian haggis in 2011. They don't serve food for a couple hours, so we press on; Graci and Danny grab loaded baked potatoes from a neighboring shop with a friendly attendant. She has me take a photo of her in one of the trademark British style red phone booths. Welcome to Scotland, Graci!

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We make the rather long hike to our Airbnb, and are disappointed to discover that although the place is clean and the furnishings are nice, there’s only one large bed for the lot of us. After a fairly pathetic attempt at a nap, Graci and I decide to hit the town a bit while Danny is collapsed in sickness-recovery mode on the couch. First stop is the afore-mentioned Arcade Whisky and Haggis House, by now open for food. I thoroughly enjoy my veggie haggis, and also my first scotch back in Edinburgh, a Balvenie 15. (I think? I remember I wanted a fairly expensive one for my first scotch whisky back in town.)

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The area in front of Edinburgh Castle is completely deserted; when I was here in 2011 there were swarms of people about. Graci seems floored by it (understandably).

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Walking down to Grassmarket, it’s noticeably quieter than my last visit. (It’s also fairly early at night, but still the city seems pretty dead.) Speaking of dead (bad segue), we read the text at the raised circle where hundreds (thousands?) of religious dissenters were publicly executed; Edinburgh is a city that wears its ghosts plainly. (The ghost tours proceeding around us add to this feeling.)

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We stop at another pub (the Black Bear?) for more ridiculously-inexpensive-by-American-standards scotch on "malt of the moment" sale (Dalwhinnie 15 and Highland Park 12) – I think Graci is starting to get one reason why I love this town so.

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We walk up a street and I recognize where I am – right by what could be, apart from the Castle, the most famous landmark in all of Edinburgh: the beautiful statue of loyal Greyfriars Bobby, pilgrimage spot for dog lovers all over the world. (As detailed on my last visit.) I really like coming back to cities I love.

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We make our way over to a pub called the “Brass Monkey” which a few locals have recommended. It’s a bit more lively, and sort of fascinating in its low-light Brooklyn hipster vibe (doesn't really feel like a proper Scottish pub, but more student-friendly) but my social graces are exhausted so I retire to the back room where enormous mattresses are spread out (Apparently the bar plays movies in this space at 3pm every day.) I spend about an hour texting with a great new friend. (Wink.)

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After a while we head out and outside the bar I meet one of the friendly chaps Graci has befriended – a friendly intellectual type with a very cool handlebar moustache!

We get back to the flat and wait for Amy to arrive. Not the most exciting day, especially in comparison to our previous day of travel serendipity –although we did successfully execute (so to speak) a somewhat crazy itinerary of waking up in Galway, crossing over to Dublin, and going to sleep in Edinburgh! – but at least we all made it to this fantastic city, by hook or by crook, and we have the next couple of days to explore. I have such a soft spot in my heart for Edinburgh and can’t wait to revisit certain spots and show this town off to the crew! If only any of us could manage some decent sleep...

Posted by coolmcjazz 17:59 Archived in Scotland Tagged edinburgh dublin athlone galway Comments (0)

Day 7: Old Homesteads! Rainy Graveyards! Dan McCools!

in which your author traipses through ancient, muddy mccool lands, generally gets rained on all day, and fulfills a six-year old promise!

rain 42 °F

Day 7 began with the first legitimately early morning of the trip, significantly aided by our new Irish friend Mark practically leaping into the living room where Danny and I struggled to sleep (not out of lack of comfort but out of the fact that for some reason it felt impossible to sleep more than a couple hours at a time this entire trip). We have a quick breakfast (I am obsessed with Weetabix, which seems to be everywhere in Ireland – why cant we get this magnificent cereal in the States?), grab quick showers, and start out on our way. As Danny and I plan to do some serious cemetery visiting, Graci will go off with Mark and meet us that night in Galway. Perfect!

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Mark’s father Leo volunteers to shepherd us around to all the historic cemeteries he knows in the region; starting with the McCool homestead just up the road in Toberhead, we plan to make stops in Dungiven and Stranorlar. Toberhead is only about 2.5 miles down the road from the Flax Inn, and I’m interested in seeing the McCool Homestead I mentioned in my last post. A number of McCools in America claim connections to this lineage: John McCool, born 1670 and his wife Olivia lived here in the early 1700s. (In my extensive research I’ve yet to make any definite connection to them, but establishing one eventually is certainly within the realm of possibility.)

Danny, Amy, and I pile into Leo's car and after a quick stopoff at a pharmacy.

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Danny realizes he doesn’t have pounds to buy much-needed cough medicine and while he's out hitting a cash machine, Leo very generously buys it for him!

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We head off to the farm where the homestead is located. We find the turnoff road with no problem, as there are two signs with “McCoole Road” planted at either end of the road – I remember seeing this sign in some of my online research. (Many of our 18th century ancestors spelled our last name with an “e.”)

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Leo pulls into a spot next to a farm, and a stumpy, elfish man with a thick rural accent gives him directions for how to get to the old building, which he claims dates to 1735.

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We wind around and end up in front of a rickety stone edifice blocked off by barbed wire and loads of mud. We manage to climb over and walk around the abandoned building.

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Danny and I grab small leaves and we take a whole bunch of photos. It starts raining rather furiously. I climb through the building and see that it’s used only as a storehouse for old tractors; clearly no one has used this building for a very, very long time. (Note: I need to check with the afore-mentioned genealogist Charles McCool about what this building actually was – I had been looking for a plaque that said “McCoole” but never saw it. Is what we saw not the actual homestead but the smaller house that John built for his son? Probably. Either way, it’s a fascinating place to drop by.)

We head back to the Flax to pick up the rental car – a meter maid is only feet away when I walk up to it – and follow Noel out of town toward Dungiven, about 30 minutes away to the west. Dungiven is interesting to me based on a photo I came across only a few weeks ago, that of the headstone of one Elizabeth McCool, "Born in the Parish of Dungiven, County Derry,” and wife to Adam McCool. There aren’t very many McCools in Rhode Island to be found in the early 1800s, so the fact that this grave is in Providence, RI, not far from where my ancestors would have migrated, means that a connection is at least somewhat likely.

We pull into an old cemetery and Leo asks the priest (who says “Good man” to me, one of my favorite phrases heard often in this region), who sends us to the secretary, who tells us to look on the list of family names in the cemetery. It’s raining steadily and quite windy at this point and the list of names reveals no McCools, so we battle the downpour and head on our way.

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We stop at one more old graveyard in town and while the others stay in the car I scour it for McCool graves. After 15 minutes or so I DO in fact find one, a very old grave on which the only legible writing reveals the name “John McCool.” Could this be the grave of the original Toberhead McCool, or someone related to Elizabeth McCool of Providence, RI? No way of knowing just yet, but it’s fun to imagine.

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Leo takes us down more windy roads and we end up at the ruins of a tiny 11th century stone church called Banagher Old Church. It’s pouring heavily but I make my way around the ancient house of worship, laden with grass and surrounded by graves made anonymous by the ravages of time and weather. There’s a grave of a 12th century saint (St. Muiredach O'Heney) which resembles a small gingerbread house, and Noel insists Amy and I both find the sands, which are renowned for their miraculous curative powers. (Alas, the sand has turned to mud on this day!)

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We part ways with Leo, who gives us directions for the turnoff toward Stranorlar. We follow him around windy roads and the landscape increasingly opens up to reveal Donegal’s trademark gorgeous green vistas. We’re so incredibly fortunate to have run into these people; without Leo's help there’s no way I would know where these potentially McCool-related spots might have been.

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We stop at a drugstore where Danny mentions we’re looking for McCools; the cashier prints out a Wikipedia page on Seán McCool, a local IRA hero and football player who died in the 1940s. (Is anyone not friendly and helpful in this country?) We pass a number of signs on which the "London" part of "Londonderry" is crossed out; Dan jokes about how one fella must traipse around Northern Ireland "crossin' out Londons" every day. I see a sign for Raphoe, which I recognize from my research, so we turn that way, about 6 km up the country road.

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We get out and use the restroom in a tiny bakery, where we chat up the owner, a big boxing fan whose boxing past seems a funny contrast to the apron he presently wears. He sends us on our way with free samples of buttered Irish soda bread which are fluffy and simply divine.

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Amy and Dan check out the simple old Catholic Church across the street while I breeze through the graveyard, finding no evidence of McCools. Dan asks two construction workers in the church lobby if they know of any McCools and they seem to quiz each other on the name : “McCool?” “Aye, McCool?” “McCool?” “Aye.” “No, don’t know any McCool.” It becomes one of our favorite referenced impressions for the remainder of the trip.

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Having found nothing outside of friendly folks and delicious soda bread in Raphoe, we head out toward Stranorlar, a town I had visited on my first Ireland trip in 2008. It’s one of my most piquant memories of that trip, mostly due to the characters we met and one outrageous night when a group of traveling people (locally called “gypsies”) came very close to assaulting my ex-girlfriend and I outside of our hotel, the window of which was all smashed up the following morning. We stop off at one cemetery holding the grave of Irish Free State founder Aaron Butt – a grave I remember photographing six years ago – and make our way into town, passing by Kee’s Hotel where I stayed those years ago, and parking outside the McCool funeral parlor. A helpful woman in the office next door gives us contact info for Gerard McCool, local undertaker, and for Dan McCool (his first cousin), a local sawmill owner who I met up with for a drink those years ago, and a fellow I very much wanted to introduce to my brother.

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The woman tells us Dan McCool will be found at his sawmill and she gives us directions. (This is the sort of town where everyone really knows everyone else.) On the way, we stop off at Sean McCool park, spelled in the original Irish of our forefathers.

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It’s pouring rain as we park and climb up a hill where I can hear the buzzing of a saw. I spot Dan McCool, age 71, wearing a bulky jacket, and approach him. He turns off his saw and I say “Hey, I don’t know if you remember me but I’m Jason McCool – I met you almost six years ago and I told you one day I’d bring my brother Dan back to this town to meet you. Well, here he is.”

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The elder Dan McCool’s face opens out into a gigantic grin and incredulously shakes my brother’s hand. We stand and chat with him in the rain for a good 25 minutes or so; he tells us about his son who passed away suddenly within the past year, and it’s very moving. He takes us on a short tour of the mill he has owned with his brother for over 30 years. My brother compares stories about what it’s been like to be called Dan McCool; neither of them had ever met anyone with the same name. It’s easily one of the highlights of the trip for all of us: for me, because it’s a completion of an idea I had years ago; just seeing the expressions on these guys faces made the trip to this town more than worth it.

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We part ways and head back into downtown Stranorlar, passing by many things I recognize better than I would have thought I might. We pop in at a betting parlor owned by another McCool – I had stopped in here in 2008 to find the owner not around but this time he’s there and we take a selfie with him, also saying hello to his son. (It’s a personal goal to shake as many McCool hands as I can in this country!)

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There’s one more thing I want my brother (and poor, patient Amy in the back seat, entertaining herself with her book this whole time) to see, and that’s a McCool sign that I photographed in 2008. I’ve told this story probably 50 times, about when I stopped into a random town in Ireland based on the preponderance of McCools in a Griffith’s Valuation census from 1857, and the very first thing I saw was a rickety old barn with “McCool’s” emblazoned on the side. It takes a few minutes and I’m not certain I’m going the right way, but eventually we find it. The sign, however, has been removed! The windows have been boarded up as well. Still, a special place and I've hit yet another place I wasn't sure I'd ever make it back to.

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I want to make one last stop, at the house of McCools which lies up behind this structure; the well-known local undertaker Gerald and his wife live here. (I had knocked on this same door in 2008 to no avail.) This time, his very pleasant wife May answers the door, and Danny and I explain our visit to her – shortly, her son Gary and her husband Gerard show up, and we have a really nice chat in their kitchen. Mary mentions that they’re big fans of the Kennedys, so I give her a JFK mass card that I picked up at the JFK Library in Boston on the 50th anniversary of his death last November. Gerard takes us out back to see the white metal sign I had photographed those years ago, and tells how his father had constructed it sometime in the 1940s. My photo of this sign has been passed around by dozens of McCools in America; just recently I noticed it used as a Facebook cover photo for a girl I had no connection to!

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It’s terrific to meet these nice people – possible distant cousins, who knows – and we eventually follow Gary toward his house where he will direct us to the main road out of town. At some point I lose my treasured Red Sox winter hat which has accompanied me on a number of European trips – but when I get back to Boston I find out it has been located on the driveway of Gary’s house! Am hoping to reunite with it soon. Gary draws us a map to get out of the area and we head out on our rather imposing long drive to Galway where we will meet up with Mark and Graci. I drive for about 45 minutes but am starting to drift, so Amy takes over for the rest of the trip.

We arrive in Galway and check onto the fine hotel Mark has recommended; this website “Laterooms” is really a good find for locating last-minute discounted hotel rooms. We drop our bags and stretch out and eventually head out to meet our friends in town, walking about fifteen minutes through rainy Galway, where I stayed in 2008, and recognize the general layout. We’re all very exhausted.

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We make our way through a few pubs and hear some music, and I drink a delicious "Galway Hooker" (local pale ale). The town is noticeably sleepier than how I remember it; January seems the off-season of the off-season in this country! Mark performs a hilarious impression of Americans in which he states "I love American football!" a qualification which of course no American would EVER say (haha!) and we eventually call it a night around midnight.

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As Amy and Danny walk back toward the hotel, I decide to seek out a pub I had heard some great music at in 2008 (what is this thing I have with finding places I once visited?). A bouncer tells me that this pub, which I identify from a guidebook as The Crane Bar, was about a 15 minute walk, but I feel plenty safe as the streets are mostly deserted. I grab a caramel “twistie” (sundae) from a fast food place and cross a bridge looking over the furiously rushing river; halfway there it begins to pour but I’m undaunted in my quest! I find my way to the pub, which is closed, and snap some photos. It feels strange, like walking into a postcard memory from years ago; I pass by the street corner where my ex and I talked to the singer Gerry Shannon (by then quite intoxicated) who had sung solo in the pub, where I bought a CD from him and we realized he was probably sleeping in his car. It’s a bittersweet visit but I’m glad I made the solo, wet pilgrimage – it’s also nice to be on my own for a bit, and I’m reminded that pretty much all of the traveling I’ve done over the last few years has been alone.

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I walk back to the hotel, soaked to the bone, take a warming shower, and collapse into a too comfy bed. Tomorrow is a very early morning, followed by a cross-country drive to Dublin and a flight to Edinburgh. What a full, unique, satisfying last final day in this amazing country.

Posted by coolmcjazz 13:48 Archived in Northern Ireland Tagged donegal galway derry Comments (7)

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