Thursday, December 4, 2014

"Come hither, Oh man, and take in the prospect of the land of immortals!" -- My great-great grandmother wrote, or more likely, paraphrased or copied, these lines, when she lived in this house in 1834. The poem, entitled On Immortality, Judgment and Eternity is about death, judgment and the afterlife, quite grim subjects for a nine-year-old girl to be writing about. But she was raised as a Quaker and likely taught to shun the pleasures and joys of "this earthly realm" from an early age. And perhaps she already had some personal experience with death and loss, although both her parents, according to the family genealogy records, lived to see her reach adulthood.

It's hard to imagine the inspiration for her impassioned words, reading them over 150 years later. But awe-inspiring to be able to see the actual house where she lived nearly two centuries ago. Her daughter, my great-grandmother, would emigrate to America in the 1880's, learn dressmaking in New York City and then come out to Cheyenne, Wyoming and start a dressmaking shop with her sisters, where they made gowns based on the latest Paris fashions for the wives of the wealthy cattle barons.

Wyoming is a world away from the green, rain-drenched hills of County Armagh, Ireland, and I can't help wondering if Lizzie Walker Logan, my great-grandmother, longed for her homeland and that is part of the reason she kept her mother's poem and passed it on to her daughter, my great-aunt, who copied it so future generations could share this connection.  
The sense of the past and the many, many generations who have come before us is part of what draws me to Ireland. Finding a little bit of my family's history was one reason I chose to visit Northern Ireland on this trip. Another reason was to find what is supposed to be a remnant of the ancient oak forest that once covered much of this island. It's part of the Breen Wood, located somewhere west of Glen Shesk, one of the Nine Glens of Antrim. I tried to find this forest on my first trip to Ireland in 2004. Although we searched most of an afternoon, we never found it. But we did see some magical scenery that inspired my book The Dragon Bard, which was set in that area.
For this trip I again researched the forest. It looked like there were two ways to reach it, and since we going to be staying near the coast, I chose the northern route from a little coastal village called Ballycastle.  

It was a beautiful walk, but almost straight uphill. My daughter kicked my butt, setting a grueling pace. (Even though she smokes!) But long before we reached the top, I had the sense that unless we were up to hiking another three or four miles, and then back the same distance, we weren't going to find the forest. It was late afternoon and we'd already put in a long day of sightseeing, so I resigned myself to having to search for that elusive patch of native oakwood on another trip.

Despite not finding the forest, we saw some spectacular coastal scenery, including the Giant's Causeway.
 Visited one of my favorite villages anywhere, Cushendall. Where they have an intriguing landmark in the center of the town called the Curfew Tower.

 Took pictures of the ruins of the Bonamargy Friary outside Ballycastle.
And thrilled to the moist air, the glorious light, brilliant greenery and charming vistas that make Ireland such an enchanted place.



  1. I wish I knew exactly where my family lived two hundred years ago. I know it was somewhere in this area of southeast Virginia, but I'm sure any house where they may have lived is long since gone. You're most fortunate, Mary, to have be so in touch with your past…and someday, I must get to Ireland!

  2. Yes, you must, Shirley. It's a wonderful place for inspiring stories.

  3. Thank you for sharing your journey through Ireland with us! I've never been but would love to go.