Yesterday all I knew about my paternal great grandmother is that she died while giving birth to my grandmother in Crossmolina, Mayo. Today I made it to this very place and with the help of the locals, found the Kilmurray graveyard about 5 kilometres outside of town.
Some time later, wet from the sort of Irish rain that frankly seems a whole lot wetter than the stuff you get in other parts of the world, with ankles stung by nettles from traipsing through the hilly graveyard, I was beginning to think I would fail to find her tombstone (amongst the 1,061 surrounding the church). But just as I went to check see what time mass was due to end (so that I might inveigle more of the locals in my hunt), the luck of a rabbit redirected my path. Whereupon I literally stumbled upon it
Tucked into the far corner, under the watch of the glorious Mt Nephin, I found the tomb of my people!
I’d only barely been able to make out Great Gran’s surname and the year she died (1908); the rest of the tombstone was too difficult to read. Until my next piece of luck arrived. Just as I got up to leave, strobes of sun blasted through clouds and lit up the engraved words. Just like invisible ink slowly turning blue.
So I sat back down and read the mossy, faded letters and discovered that she lies alongside her mother and father (probably because she died young and her widowed husband remarried to raise the family), a brother-in-law and a nephew who also died too early a death.
* * *
My Mayo investigations proved successful on a number of dimensions this weekend, not least this happy find.
Turns out not only can I afford to buy a lovely home there, I could probably buy it in cash!! Well ok, a small one.
It was very exciting driving along desolate roads through mountains and down into cliffside swerves, all the while thinking ‘Hmmmm…which of these scenes would I most like to look at over and over again?’
However, before I run away with my daydreams, there is the teeny question of what to do with any property where I’d only live from time to time, for summer breaks and occasional writing retreats.
It’s a romantic idea but so far one that doesn’t pass the Counting Zeros test of financial sense. Plus I get the feeling that my newly found ancestors would want me to run through those numbers quite a few times with an eye on what’s smart versus what’s just foolish. Hardest hit by the Great Famine, not just any farming family survived Mayo life. No doubt, practical wisdom and a mind for business were vital to my being here today.
On top of this calculator-reality, I’d get lonely.
So either I need to find the perfect place (one with both stunning views and a nearby community of friendly and living souls) OR this idea that I might buy in the west of Ireland may turn out to be a clue in the Counting Zeros scavenger hunt, but not the path I take in the end.
It’s too soon to say.
My quite sensible Mayo friends suggested that the smartest thing to do is find a place to rent so that I can try out what it would feel like (and cost) to have Mayo as a 2nd home.
And so it’s decided — that’s the next Counting Zeros pilgrimage! Later this year I’ll be back to devote a few days to nothing but checking out rental properties. Even the cursory glance over the past few days has shown that a week’s rent in London buys me a four bedroom house along the very roads I want to travel. Shocking but true, the amazing things you can buy when life’s blessed you with choice.