Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Charmed by County Antrim

My first visit to Northern Ireland happened about one year ago in 2007 when my husband, Patrick Kelley, and his three brothers and wives - all eight of us - visited and toured Ireland, Scotland and a wee bit of England by rail and by ferry. We had a glorious time but were on a definite and tight schedule.
I had made it known that a cousin had connected with my McKeeman family in County Antrim and that I’d love to zip up there to connect and to see the birthplace of my Great Great Grandmother McConaghy of Deffrick and Great Great Grandfather McKeeman of Ballyoglagh, never thinking that any of my brothers or sisters-in-law would want to join on that part of the trip. But, alas, they did not want to miss a thing and so the eight of us left Belfast in two rental cars to spend one day in County Antrim.
We met Nevin and Agnes, two local members of NALIL, and were greeted warmly and whisked off to visit farms, cemeteries and the marriage site of my grandparents. It was quite a humbling experience for me and, though we had only a brief whirlwind tour, I was won over by the warmth of our hosts, as well as by the natural beauty of the land. Leaving there so soon in order to return the rental cars to Belfast, my heart was heavy; I felt pulled to stay in the area longer than time would permit.
Imagine my joy, then, to have the invitation from my cousin Jane to tour Northern Ireland this spring of 2008 and to be able to linger and to enjoy the area for a longer period. Jane and her husband, Dan, flew from Tucson, Arizona; a good mutual friend, Marjorie, flew in from Fort Wayne, Indiana; I flew from Greenville, South Carolina; and we all met up at Dublin Airport. It was a bit of a reunion for us; Jane, Marjorie and I had been schoolmates during our high school years!
More (DOC) or More (PDF)
Bonnie Kelly, South Carolina, USA
What can I add to Bonnie's wonderful letter! She almost said it all. But Dan and I want to add our love and good wishes to all those who so beautifully entertained us and introduced us to the homeland of our ancestors. Thank you one and all so very much.

Our tummies are full, our eyes have seen so many wonders, our ears have been soothed with traditional music and we have met some of the most gracious and kind people on this earth. We wish we could drop in for a visit every so often. But, lo, we live so very far away. We really hope some of our dear new friends will come to see us in Arizona one day.

And to all those who are our County Antrim friends: God be with you till we meet again!

Jane and Dan Hodgson

Nevin adds: