Rotha Mór an tSaoil:  The Circle of Life

Where is home?

Where the heart is, of course.  It isn’t always a place in your daily life; it can be a place or a memory in your family’s history – the homes where ancestors who prevailed against difficult challenges came from, the towns you can return to and celebrate the gift of family, and the places to draw strength from as you face the complexity of your own journey.

Tullanaglug is a crossroads in geography and time.  "To Hell or Connaught" were the choices Cromwell gave the Irish.  All the known branches of Pat’s family have lived in this area of Connaught in Counties Mayo and south County Sligo for longer than Irish records exist.  Learning the history of the Cookes and the Quinns brought us to the area outside Tubbercurry.  The area has little to recommend it.  The weather is a form of torture that is ideal for catching pneumonia.  The land is rocky and boggy enough to make saints curse.   The physical environment is a shroud, though, that cannot hide the true treasure of the region.  The people here are rich - in faith, in spirit, in joy, in hospitality, and in friendship.

Tullanaglug is a riddle.  How did such a poor part of a poor land produce so many talented and admirable people?  The priest who ministered to wounded and dying Marines during the battles of Guam and Iwo Jima.  The Army officer who was a liberator of Dachau was also a gifted linguist who could speak in Latin with the imprisoned clergy to begin to understand the madness of their reality.  The Army officer who landed in Normandy and after whom John Wayne modeled his character in the movie of the Green Berets.  The nurses, policemen, FBI agents, federal officers, firemen, teachers, businessmen.  The great woman who married the perfect man and produced a family that included me.

Tullanaglug is a starting point we are using to celebrate our good fortune and to remain rooted in the relationships with our relatives who remained in Ireland.

We bought a small farm in Tullanaglug that has a 175 year old cottage that needs a lot of attention.  A lot of attention.  By the time we are finished, it will look like a brand new place.  But it won’t be.  We will always see it in our mind’s eye as the place in the past where the heroes of our family persevered against incredible challenges and allowed us to stand on their shoulders.

We aren’t special.  Our village is like a thousand other Irish villages.  There are millions of Irish families like ours.  The more we research the history, the greater the awe for those who made our futures possible.