Saturday, April 21, 2012

Irish Family in Limerick

Me/Megan, May, Niamh, Jimmy, Aj, Tim/Dad, Dan, Ning
Random-Germans, Niamh, Jimmy, and Aj
listening to the great-castle-guide
The McCormack side of my family is from Limerick City, Co. Limerick. And we had email addresses to get a hold of them which is quite snazzy. We're still connected with this branch of my family because, when my dad's grandparents retired they visited Ireland and through a series of lucky encounters and a couple of the old addresses of where people lived before they emigrated, they managed to find the Irish-cousins-of-a-sort still living in Limerick (this included a young Jimmy). Then my dad met up with Jimmy and Billy and his son Jim when he was in England for college one summer. And then Billy and Jim took us out for a pint when my brother and I were visiting Ireland before. This visit we all got to go back to Jimmy's house and met his wife and the younger two of his kids.

If I'm counting right, these cousins-of-a-sort share great-great-great-grandparents with me, because my great-great-grandparents Thomas and Mary McCormack left Limerick for the States, but Thomas's brother Dominic stayed behind in Ireland. These brother's children were proper cousin (my dad's grandfather and Jimmy's grandmother). Jimmy's kids and I are the same generation, and therefore cousins-of-a-sort.  If that made any sense at all you are quite clever and "good on ya". To add one more tiny bit of confusion the McCormack side of my family that we visited are Kellys.

May exploring the Folk-park on the castle grounds
The Kellys were wonderful hosts giving us lots of amazing food and (of course) a good deal of tea. While we ate lunch, we got to see some old family photos; including one complete with a little family tree taped to the back, which was quite exciting. Then we piled into the borrowed van and headed down the road to Bunratty Castle. It is a pretty awesome castle with four towers to climb up for great views and rooms set up with all the furnishings. As we came down from one of the towers into the great hall the Irish guide, who looked and spoke for all the world like a leprechaun was explaining courtly manners and the pre-historic antlers hanging on the walls and whatnot, which was then translated into German by the guide there with his large-german-tour-group.  It was wonderful.

Ning looking over the bulwarks at the River Shannon  
After seeing the castle we wandered around the castle grounds which are a Folk Park full of things such as old farmhouses which have been moved out of the way of Shannon Airport runways and the like. In some ways it was like an Irish Greenfield Village for anyone with a Michigan frame of reference. The highlight for me was definitely the fresh-baked breads and scones we got to sample in one of the cottages. Super tasty. There were also some chicken, sheep, goats, and Irish wolfhounds --which are really large! (The wolfhounds, not the chicken or goats)

'Round the table for an amazing meal with the cousins-of-a-sort
After the wonderful day at the castle we had a little adventure searching the shops for an extra bag to bring home gifts. Once that mission was accomplished we sat down to an amazing dinner of mashed-potato-salmon-amazingness. Aj was suffering pretty badly from his cough-of-doom and then he was introduced to the incredible healing powers of Lemsip with hot water and lemon. He perked right up and impressed us all. Yay for Irish cough meds! Lemsip for the win!

Limerick has not-so-wonderful-reputation, to the point that local Irish friends refer to Limerick as Stab-City. Not the greatest term of endearment. But hey, DC was the Murder-Capital of the states not long ago and let's just say that Baltimore has not always had the greatest of reputations either. There are extremely tight gun laws in Ireland (the police/gaurda don't even get to carry them) so most of the gang violence and "anti-social behavior" is carried out with knives instead. After we ate, my little-cousin-of-a-sort-May introduced us to a bit more Irish culture with the local Limerick band the Rubberbandits. She showed us their most famous song "Horse Outside", it's all poking fun of Limerick City and was number one in Ireland. There is a ton of swearing and the rest of it was pretty hard to catch through their heavy city accents, but it's great Irish humor and Limerick references. There is no good explanation for the shopping bags on their heads, the Rubberbandits always wear them. Enjoy the video, but ye've been warned. And apparently there really are people that ride horses bareback around less-than-classy-parts of the city.  Luckily my branch of the family are not criminals and they are quite social. 

We had a really amazing day with them and I'm really glad we got to see the Kellys!!

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