TechnomadicsVagabonding Europe

Galway behind us, we drove through the city of Limerick and onwards, approximately following the coastline.

We drove through County Clare, the county from which Katherine’s mother’s ancestors came, and characterised by strange purple hills which upon closer inspection were covered with purple rock. The abundance of stone in the area has led to a vast number of pretty stone fences being built, marching over the terrain.

Co Clare

Cows in Co Clare

Flowers in Ballyvaughn


We stopped briefly in a cute little village called Ballyvaughan, and drove on and upwards through rapidly changing weather, finding ourselves in impenetrable fog by the time we reached our destination, the spectacular Cliffs of Moher.

Being unsure of the local area and unable to find a viable alternative, we parked in the ludicrously expensive car park, felt our way through the mist to a parking space, donned wet weather gear and walked doubtfully to the cliffs. Oh, dear.

The Cliffs of Moher, in all their splendour

Done with the head-in-a-wet-plastic-bag Moher experience, and done laughing at our misfortune and that of our fellow tourists, we huddled back in Nettle and decided to wring every last cent of value from our parking space and stay the night, with hopes the fog would clear up. No such luck — while visibility had improved to about 20 metres the following day, it still wasn’t quite enough to see anything but the hand-rail. Having seen hand-rails before, we decided to cut our losses and move on.

We drove downwards through the fog, which cleared up as we descended, and on towards Shanagolden.

Shanagolden is a little town in County Limerick from which my great-great-etc-grandparents Michael Bourke, an agricultural labourer, and Catherine Kelly, a dairy maid (of all things!) lived. My aunt Sue tells me Michael and Catherine left Co Limerick in 1838 (some reports say they eloped, some say they were married in Ireland) bound on the ship Aliquis for NSW, Australia, seeking a better life in the colonies, with assistance from their landlord Thomas Spring Rice of Mount Trenchard and Sir Richard Bourke, of no apparent relation. They eventually settled in Pakenham and had no less than 15 children.

Wildcamping near Shanagolden

So, after an overnight stay in a nearby forest, it was a different Michael and Katherine that drove into Shanagolden on an ancestor hunt. Passing an elderly fellow on the street and wondering if he knew anyone I’m related to, we walked around the town, and visited the town cemetery. I was delighted to see several headstones with Kelly names on them — Denis and Bridget Kerry, aged 81 and 84, both passing away in 1981, and their sons Michael and Jimmy who died in the ’90s’ 59 and 69; Ellen and Daniel Kelly, who died in ’67 aged 69 and ’81 aged 80, respectively, and Patrick Kelly of 71 years who passed in 1993.

Shanagolden cemetery

Shanagolden's main street

We spoke to a barkeeper in the local pub, who laughed and told us there were tribes of Kellys all over town. She suggested an older cemetery on a nearby hill we should visit, and suggested that we find an elderly fellow named Dooney (or similar) Kelly who lives in town, who may know something useful. By her description, I realised we had passed him in the street earlier, but we didn’t end up finding him.

We had great success in the other cemetery though, in Knockpatrick on the top of a hill with beautiful 360° views. We found a host of Kellys — the most notable being Catherine Kelly who died 1897 aged 66 years, by her age possibly a niece, or younger sister or cousin of our Catherine Kelly.

Catherine Kelly's headstone

We also found a number of Bourkes, which I found particularly exciting, given that Bourke remains my family’s name. We found a sizeable tomb ‘erected by Mr Peter Bourke of Foynes Island’ (from which Michael Bourke originated), ‘for himself & Family on August the 9th 1829’. There was also a headstone naming Mary and Nora Bourke Foynes, who died in 1923 and 1935 aged 22 and 3, and their parents James and Mary Bourke, who died 1954 aged 86 and 1965 aged 88.

The Bourke tomb

Knockpatrick cemetery

Knockpatrick cemetery

With my ancestor hunting bug satisfied, we headed back to Nettle who was leaning alarmingly to one side where we’d parked her, and drove on towards Dingle.

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One Response to Co Limerick, Co Clare, Cliffs of Moher and Co Cork

  1. james bourke says:

    seems to me we may be off the same family tree.

    My great grandparents were Michael and Catherine (nee Kelly) Bourke who emmigrated to Pakenham in 1838.

    Could you please, if possible contact me with any information you have about them at the above email address.

    With kind regards James Bourke