Friday, September 9, 2011

Omagh N. Ireland to Donegal, Republic of Ireland

Friday Sept 9, 2011

Tyler and I awoke to a new day at our B&B in Omagh, Tyrone County, Northern Ireland.  Many readers will remember the destructive IRA bomb which went off here in 1998. It blew up the better part of a block downtown, right beside Nicholl and Shiels store which may well be distant relatives.  31 people died in what is considered the worst terrorist attack ever in Northern Ireland.

Tyler bought a set of rosary beads and a catholic cross at a church back in Wales as he is fond of christian chains and bracelets, even having a cross tattooed on his right forearm. I explained to him as we flew over the Irish Sea that Northern Ireland is predominantly Protestant and that is why they remain a part of the U.K., while the Republic of Ireland is mostly Catholic and they have been clashing for years. I told him of my memories on the radio in the 70’s of constant bombing, shooting and killing around Belfast and suggested he not display his Catholic paraphernalia until we are on the south side of the border in this divided country.

After yet another full English Breakfast, we headed down to the local library and spent a couple hours with Christine, a very Irish Librarian who helped us find local Nichols, all of which have been dead for 150 years. In no time at all, we had found the Nichol burial ground at a Church of Ireland at Cappagh, just 10 minutes up the road, and web addresses for all of the census’, birth and death certificates, etc etc which are kept in “Public Records” in Belfast.  The Nichols buried at Cappagh shared identical information with what we have on our family tree so we went and paid them a visit.

Nicest Cross - Ever!

In the end, we learned that discovering one’s ancestry is a big job and I doubt, even if we spent the next two weeks digging up records, that it would amount to much more than we already know.  If time permits, we will drop into the office Belfast and see what else we can find, though every search comes with a price tag.

From there we drove across the unmarked border to the Republic of Ireland, still driving on the “wrong side of the road” but with speed and distances in metric.  We came along to Donegal where we explored the town “triangle” and bought a few souvenirs. We had lunch, booked a room for the night and drove north to the marina at Killybeggs where we had a look at the local fishing fleet and walked the streets some more.  Then with only half the day gone, we decided to drive a circle tour around the whole north west corner of Ireland and went through dozens of little towns hardly longer than a mobile home.  We stopped to play in the Atlantic, picking up some sea shells and also explored a few very old ruins along the way.  The weather was cooperative today and the people here are the most hospitable we have seen.  There are sidewalks wider at home than most of these roads, though the speed limit is set at 80 km with rollercoaster type hills and blind corners every few hundred feet. Its quite amazing to say the least… and if you don’t go the speed limit, you get passed. Crazy!

In the evening Ty and I went pub-hopping and mingled with the locals.  Unlike Britain, we were welcomed into pubs with a pat on the shouder and one man gave us each a shot of Guiness and welcomed us.  We listened to live music in about 5 pubs, some standing-room only.  Very nice.