We headed off early today to explore the area my Irish great Grandfather came from. French Park in county Roscommon I was told was the area. If I’d blinked we may have missed it, but on finding the old church and surveying the graves, we couldn’t find any O’Connors. I took a photo of this grave.
He was the parish priest in Francis O’Connors days and this might be the closest we get….and then a lady came out to see if we needed any help. I told her of our quest and she asked what village in French Park. It’s now I wished I had listened more to Maureen and Maree and said I really didn’t know. She suggested we go to Ballinagare to the Mohrahans pub and grocers. “The old lady there knows a lot about the O’Connors”, she said. So we tripped over that way and I wondered if I was likely to find the old lady sitting behind the counter, but sure enough there she was. She looked about a hundred and didn’t have many teeth left, but smiled and told me clearly where I should go. “There were ruins of one O’Connor house in the fields at one and another larger place further away, but of course it’s changed hands many a time since then” Wahoo I thought, this is it.
Then we drove for miles in and around that area and never found a single thing she mentioned getting completely lost and finding ourselves back almost where we started from 3 hours later. “I give up”, I said to Gilbert.
Next stop was Boyle and then Castlerea, and then went on to Strokestown where on a tour we were told the O’Connors, who were direct descendants of the Kings of Ireland had lived. Deposed during the time of Oliver Cromwell, the property was handed to the Mahon family in around 1800 who built around O’Connors original 16th century home. The next 4 hours was spent here. They had a walled garden with the oldest glasshouse known in Ireland and beautiful woodland garden complete with a sculpture walk that highlighted the famine by high school children. We were to vote and I picked the one titled ‘hands’ it’s a beautiful piece. Tell you more about it soon. We also toured the Famine Museum, I had a basic knowledge but the contrast between the Manor house and the plight of millions starving during the famine was stark. This was a real history lesson for us.