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This is an online diary of my latest trip to Ireland.
Dennis J. Ahern

Tuesday, March 15th

A word about napkins. If you are in a takeaway and want something to wipe your face with after you've gorged your fill, don't ask for a napkin. Ask for a serviette. A napkin is something to wrap a baby's bottom in, or perhaps a feminine hygiene product, but it is not something you will get in a restaurant. And while we're in the neighbourhood, don't refer to that belt-pack cinched around your waist as a fanny pack. In Ireland, "fanny" is slang for the aperture through which most babies first see the light of day.

I got up in the middle of the night to have a slash (micturate) and when I came back to bed there was somebody else in it. But this was not like the emigrant hotels in Queenstown in the days when landlords would bring musicians into the common room late at night and start a dance, which the people in the dormitories were encouraged to join and then while they were up dancing the landlord would sell their bunks to another crowd of emigrants stuck in town waiting for a ship. Instead it was Sam, the family dog, whose custom it must be to share sleeping quarters with the permanent tenant of my guest quarters. I'm used to sleeping with cats and one of ours is almost as big as Sam, but it took him a bit to find just the right position, under the covers and backed up against my leg.

I forgot to mention how the showers work in many Irish houses. Before you use the hot water you have to pull a string hanging from a switch in the ceiling someplace in the bathroom. This turns on whatever power source heats the water. Otherwise all you get is cold water.

The radio at breakfast is talking about the frosty reception Gerry Adams is getting in the States. The family of Robert McCartney, who was stabbed to death in a Belfast pub, are on the radio expressing their disillusionment with Sinn Fein. And after telling you of the extraordinary precautions taken to protect armored car deliveries in the Republic, I have to report that some robbers got away with a couple of million euro by taking some employees' family members hostage and forcing them to cooperate.

There was barely time to check my email before Jean announced she had called a cab to take us downtown. We had planned to take the #8 bus and get off at the bus station at Parnell Place to check my packs, but because of the rain we opted for a chauffeured conveyance. Between the time she called and the time it showed up at the door, less than five minutes had elapsed. At the bus station it cost me 2.60 each for three pieces of luggage to be left, but it was worth it rather than carry it around all morning. We went down Oliver Plunkett Street and detoured into Princes Street to look at the Unitarian Church, then we stopped in looked in a bookstore for a bit where I saw a new book on the Titanic that I may want to bring home for my local Library. A former trustee of the Acton Memorial Library, of which I am also a trustee, was the last person to step off the deck of the Titanic into a lifeboat and we have special bookplates for our Titanic collection with her picture on them. But I will wait to by this in Belfast so I won't have to carry it so long.

We continued on to the Cork Archives Institute on South Main Street where Jean had made an appointment for us to do some research in their manuscript collection. I've been there before and was disappointed to find that Mr. Higgins, who supervises the reading room, was off today. On my last visit, a couple of years ago, he had asked me to look for some information about a member of their family who had emigrated to Boston in the early 1900s and had a fatal encounter with a railroad. I had spent some time researching in the State Medical Examiner's records at the State Archives without success. I left my card for him to email me and go over the details again in hope I can find something in the newspapers of the time.

I decided to look at the minute books of the Mallow Poor Law Union. I believe the John Ahern who was an elected Guardian for the first several years of the Union, was my great-great-grandfather. When I had looked at these books some years ago, his name stopped showing up in the list of those present at meetings and I surmised that he was no longer on the Board. On picking up where I had left off before, however, I eventually found him listed as one of several "Relief Officers" approving a report of an audit of the register book for the workhouse. I wonder what a Relief Officer was, as opposed to a Guardian.

At some point I went downstairs to use the gent's and overheard the porter giving some visitors information about where they should go for certain records in county Cork. They were looking for someone from Annabella, and were going to go to the Heritage Centre in Mallow and the receptionist was advising them to take the train, but I interjected myself into the conversation to advise that the train station in Mallow is more than a couple of miles from the town centre, whereas if they took the bus it would drop them off only five minutes walk from the Mallow Heritage Centre. I asked what surname they were researching and when they said it was Murphy, I wished them luck as it is the most common surname in Ireland. One of the four, however, allowed as he was researching a Fitzpatrick and I told him my great-grandmother was Ellen Fitzpatrick from Mallow. In fact, I was going up to Mallow on the bus after lunch and maybe I would see them.

Jean and I went around the corner and down the alley to the Triskel Cinema, where I've seen many movies at the Cork International Film Festival. They have a cafe there and Jean had a bowl of vegetable soup for 3.90 and I had a bowl of Oysterhaven seafood chowder for 5.50. It was very nice and not thick with flour like some clam chowders you get around Boston.
I then headed back to the bus station to continue my journey, but on the way I met two American couples who were standing there trying to decide which way to go. They wanted to see some sights and I suggested they should see the Jeanie Johnston and as I was going that way I took them there and told them all about the ship on the way.

The folks from Detroit were saying how the Guinness here was better than back home and I told them that it was actually better in Boston as they bring it over through and undersea pipe and it stays quite chilled until it comes out of the tap in Boston, but unfortunately, from there to Detroit it tends to decline in quality.

I left them to view the ship and got the bus for Mallow. I asked if I could buy both my ticket from Cork to Mallow and Mallow to Galway at the same time, but I will have to pay cash on the bus the next day for the second leg of my journey. Leaving Cork I was surprised to see a lap dancing club across from Murphy's Brewery. Unbelievable! Father Matthew must be rolling over in his grave.

The Jeanie Johnston from astern.
The Jeanie Johnston from astern.

In Mallow I stopped at the Hibernian Hotel, or as the locals call it "the High-B", and talked them into letting me leave my bags in an empty room until I returned to dine later. Then I went next door to the Mallow Heritage Centre to say hello to Martina Aherne and catch up on the state of things. She was disappointed that the TIARA index of Irish death notices does not include the place of burial, but it was not one of the fields we used and such information is only infrequently mentioned in obituaries in Irish papers of the 19th century.

After that I went down the street to the Mallow Town Library and poked around for a bit. They've come a long way since my first visit in 1993. Back then, the only heat in the place was a space heater behind the Librarian's desk. They've also added Internet terminals since I was last there and I thought I might use one to log on and check my email, but when they found that I was not a "member" of the Library I was informed it cost €2.50 a year. At home we are used to public Libraries being free to the general public and I decided to pass on using the Internet access and spent my time looking up Aherns in the indexes to the journals of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society. I found some tombstone transcriptions done by Richard Henchey and copied them out.

I called John Caplice of the Mallow Archaeological and Historical Society and made plans to meet before the meeting as he informed me that I would be staying at his sister's house this trip as their home was undergoing some major renovations and he wanted to take me there and get me settled before the meeting so she wouldn't have to stay up to greet me. I stopped by a cybercafe next to the Tesco's supermarket and used a terminal for half an hour for a fee of four euros, the most expensive I've seen, but as I wouldn't be able to use John's computer that night it was worth it to just catch up and clear the inbox.

I stopped in at Tesco's to get some orange juice and while I was there noted the prices on the Baileys. They had a sale price of €16.74 for a litre. I bet it will be more than that at the duty-free on the way home. They also had smoked salmon at €6.50 for 400g. I then went over and had a nice plaice (sole) and chips with tea at the High-B for €10.90.

The annual general meeting preceded the evening's speaker and there was much formal business to accomplish with the proposing and seconding of various resolutions and election of a new committee for the coming year. The speaker for the evening was Mehaul Magner who told us of "How Bridgetown Church moved to Ballyhooley". Before we adjourned I made a brief announcement about the volumes of "The Search for Missing Friends" that I was donating to the Library in memory of my family and how fortunate I felt that I had been able to trace my ancestry to Mallow and find so many missing friends. As is the custom of the Society we then adjourned to one of the local establishments, in this case the Bridge House, for refreshment, where after much prodding I produced my pennywhistle and played for my drink.

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