17th March 2014 – St Patrick’s Day and my Dad’s 60th 56th birthday and we were in Ireland to celebrate. After arriving into Galway a little later than expected we threw back a few pints of the Black stuff, woke a little weary, polished off the big breakfast and headed out of Galway towards Gort in search of our Larkin Ancestral Heritage. I had been informed that there was a direct descendant of the Peter Larkin who was sent to Australia in 1821, and who still lived in the region near Kilcolgan. With a rough address and a phone number, we were back in the car and on the way.
We stopped at the local service station and asked if he knew Peter Larkin (the current) and he pointed us into the direction of Ballindereen. After some more directions from another service station, we were sent out to Mulroog West where the road basically turned into a boat ramp. We turned around and came upon a wiry old farmer in his garden. After a friendly chat where we told him “who’d we be lookin’ for” he said he was related to Peter and that we needed to head down the wiggly road, turn left at the water pump, then right (at the intersection where we could see the service station who gave us directions) then left again. Before we could drive off, he said “And I’d be seeing ya down the pub!”. We drove up the road and while we couldn’t see anyone about, a neighbour said he rented off the Larkin’s and they own a Pub in town. So off we went, back to where we started, in Raferty’s Rest, across the road from the first service station. After all that driving, it was time (11:30am) a quick pint and to chat to the barmen.
They weren’t giving up any information, but when we said we were Larkin’s, the barmen left, served some customers food and came back with his phone and with Peter Larkin on the line. Peter was busy until about 1pm, but was happy to catch up in Tully’s Bar, Kinvarra from then on. We had just enough time to drive past Dunguaire Castle sitting on the shore of Galway Bay, before heading into the town to search for a car park before the St Patricks Day Parade. Tully’s was closed so we ducked into Keogh’s for a delicious (massive) meal while the Parade meandered past. We walked back down to Tully’s and it was still closed, probably due to the landlord driving past us in the Parade. We waited outside as Peter turned up with his mate Phil, gave us some clover for good luck, before parking the car and meeting us outside. Unfortunately, Sarah had to head back to London so I had to drop her back to Galway, leaving the other generation discussing what else they had in common, other than grey hair.
When I arrived back to Kinvarra, I walked into the bustling little bar, and there in the corner, surrounded by pints, was Uncle War, Mum and Dad. They had gained a few extra friends, Peter’s partner Anne, their sister-in-law Angela, our friendly farmer from earlier and, Gary, a towering man in a cowboy hat from Tennessee. I passed Peter and Phil on their way out to get a few guitars, grabbed a half-pint of Guinness (I was driving) and settled in alongside the rest of the Larkin’s. The boys started playing, the beers started flowing and the biggest oysters I had ever seen were slapped sown in front of the Aussies to enjoy. We were enjoying ourselves so much that the comment was made that we should look for a room in the town and get really stuck in. But, as the responsible man I am, I held back and it turned out for the best, as Peter packed up and said we should swing by the house to see the old homestead that was built by my Great (x8) Grandfather and his brother in the 17th Century.
We pulled into his house and wandered next door where the house and shed were built. While the outside of the house is a bit more modern, we still saw where the original house stood and Peter took us in to see the original fireplace still intact with the original timber beams poking out for when you used to hang your meat. We then walked up the path to a 2000 year old cross sat on the hill from where there used to be an old settlement. It was quite surreal wandering down the old road, alongside the stone walls knowing that our family had taken the same steps for hundreds of years. Peter invited us in for a “cup of tea”, but Anne had already made up a pile of sandwiches for us and before tea was served we were treated to a small glass of Irish Whisky. Well I had a small glass, the older “boys” tried a couple more, with Uncle War deciding to compare the Bushmill’s from the Jameson’s. We sat in the kitchen chatting for a few hours swapping stories before saying goodbye to our new “Rellies” and driving back to Galway. We had a few more Guinness’ in the hotel bar, talked about the day while the earlier Bushmill’s and Jameson’s talked Uncle War into singing a few songs from Johnny Cash! It was a different St Paddy’s Day to what we had all celebrated before but we can all say, thanks to Peter & Co, it was the best St Paddy’s Day/Birthday we have had.
Our search for the Larkin’s continued the following day as we left Galway Bay and headed off toward Dublin. I had read previously that there is a Larkin Clan gathering taking place in Galway this year and that the Meelick Church once contained a Larkin Chapel. David Larkin, who has worked on our family tree and put me in touch with Peter, had confirmed this, so we were Meelick bound. We opted to take the scenic route and drove the back roads most of the way, driving along the stone walls amongst the recently flooded farmlands and onto Meelick. The road seems to naturally end at the gates of Meelick Church that is sat on a small hill surrounded by lush green fields full of sheep. We wandered up hoping to find someone who could offer a bit more information. Unfortunately, no one was there so we wandered in. It is the oldest Irish Roman Catholic Church with continuous use since 1414. As wandered around inside, we saw a couple of plaques showing the Larkin name. As we wandered outside amongst the numerous Larkin gravestones, we saw the remains of an old chapel attached to the side of the Church, that was what we could only assume was the Larkin Chapel. Just as I walked into what would have been the floor of the old Chapel, the clouds shifted and the Sun shone on and old ancient gravestone showing what I am to believe the Larkin Coat of Arms. (After further research it appears correct.)
Whilst the sun was shining, the wind was hard and it was cold, so it was not long before we jumped back in the car and headed for Edenderry. I had been to this part of Ireland before and it was for the same reason we stopped by again – Lunch at Patrick Larkin’s. We got a seat in the corner and sat down to enjoy a pint and a feed. One thing that does seem to run in an Irish family is a name. I had met Patrick Larkin 5 years earlier and he had introduced me to his son Patrick, but it was actually Patrick’s dad, Patrick, who had started Patrick Larkin’s. Are you with me? Anyways, to make it more confusing, the first time I met Patrick, I mentioned I was Wade Patrick Larkin so he just called me Patrick. This time, when we arrived, Patrick’s Dad, Patrick was behind the bar so we ordered and waited for Patrick to come by. Patrick (the one I had met previously) came by and took our order and when I said I was Wade Patrick, he remembered me as the Patrick Larkin from Australia. I introduced Patrick to my dad, John Patrick, and Patrick sat down and told us all about Patrick, his dad, who was behind the counter, when Patrick, his son walked in. Then, a bloke called Niles, bought us all a pint.
After lunch we drove on in to Patrick Dublin.
We were staying the Gibson Hotel near the Dublin Docklands. It is a pretty nice hotel, mainly set up for people going to a show at the O2 across the road, but the bar was nice and the meal even nicer. So that’s where we spent our first night. We only had the best part of a day in Dublin so we jumped on a tram and got off near O’Connell Street where this a statue of Jim Larkin just in front of the Dublin Spire. We decided to jump on a Hop-On Hop-Off tour as it was freezing and I didn’t wear my coat… which, for some reason, meant Mum wanted to walk in front of me “Breaking Wind” (her words*). That revelation aside, we jumped on past Trinity College and decided to get off at St Patrick’s Cathedral. When travelling, I am quite interested in many things, but as Uncle War would agree, you can sometimes feel a bit, well, ‘over it’ when it comes to going in and out of churches/castles/museums. Now, St Patrick’s Cathedral is a beautiful building, and as my Patron Saint, I found it all very interesting while I eavesdropped in on a private tour, but when I turned around midway through a massive yawn, it unfortunately did not go unnoticed. A lovely lady walked on up and said:
Lady: Oh my! That’d be the biggest yawn I’ve seen in all me days.
Wade: Yeah Sorry, just a bit weary
Lady: And what’d ya be weary from.
Wade: Well it was St Patrick’s Day the other Day… So I blame St Patrick.
Lady: (Turns to Mum) It’s always good when you have someone to blame! Well I hope you’d had a good time.
Wade: I certainly did!
Lady: Good! Great! God Bless ya then!
Refreshed and revitalised, we walked on out to the Cathedral Gardens to take some photos as Uncle War and Dad enquired with the groundsmen as to what type of grass it was. As we wandered up to the Guinness Storehouse we detoured into some back streets to find St Nicholas’ Cathedral where we read a Captain Peter Lorcan (old spelling) had been buried. The church we found was much newer then the name we were looking for, so we continued on to Guinness. Anyone who has done a Brewery Tour knows that they are pretty much all the same and the ticket you buy is mainly for your “free beer.” The Guinness tour is basically the same, but the Guinness at the top of the Storehouse the tastiest and also has the best view of Dublin. We were back on the bus past Kilmainham Gaol and into Phoenix Park where I was informed of another useless fact that I will now hold with me forever… The lion that roars at the beginning of all the MGM Films came from Dublin Zoo in Phoenix Park! There you have it.
It was now lunch time so we jumped off the bus and walked across Ha’penny Bridge and into Temple Bar to search for some food. We made it about two steps into an alleyway when we saw a door to Merhant’s Arch Pub and everyone walked in, except for dad who, for the first time in his life, tripped into a pub. This, of course, led to his younger older brother giving him a bit of stick about old age/vision/lack of hair and so on and so forth. Not wanting to let his big brother get the better of him, dad had to bring up the story of the Kurramine Mime.
As the story goes, (I was not there) my Uncle was left to his own devices when picking breakfast one morning at King’s Cross Station. Some of you may not know, but as a child growing up, listening to the tales of my father’s and uncle’s conquests, one would assume, knowing the ‘hunter and gatherer’ in them both, that this would not be a difficult task. However, clearly rattled by an earlier incident trying to enter the bathroom in the same station, Uncle War faltered. Standing in Pret-A-Manger (a well-known sandwich shop in this part of the world) and fronted with so many Breakfast Sandwich options, you would assume he was just standing in front of the fridge making up his mind. If only that was the case. As it happened, he was wondering how to get in. He ran his finger along the bottom looking for the door seal. He ran his finger along the top looking for a door seal. But it was only when he saw ‘a local’ put her hand right through the glass it clicked; there was no door. Slowly, but surely, Uncle War lifted his arm and carefully pushed his open palm through the ‘glass’, and with a look of amazement, he grabbed his sandwich, completely unscathed.
“You can take the boy out of Kurramine, but you cannot take the Kurramine out of the boy… Or the Tyalgum!”
*Please note: I was specifically told to remove this sentence. I just wanted to show I acknowledged this.