Clan Gathering 2008
Thanks once again to Neil for his report of this years gathering.Thanks to the Baltimore 2000 Committee for the work they have put in, a special thanks to Marion in her role as master of ceremonies once again, Eugene Daly author of Heir Island for his guided tour and talk on Heir Island, Pat and Bernie McCarthy for allowing us into their wonderful home Dun na Sead and Bernie for her talk on the history of the castle, Con Fada O`Drisceoil for opening the gathering and for letting me play some tunes with him on Cape, and of course the people of Baltimore for letting us share their village for a few days. And everyone who made the effort to be there in a very special place. Dave Driscoll
If anyone is thinking of visiting the gathering please let us know what you would like to see or do while your there and I will pass it on to the committee and see what we can do.
These may be two small words in the dictionary but they mean something powerful to all and sundry. These words may ring true when returning to Australia after a long holiday, however, as each June comes along and we drive down the R595 and come over the hill into Baltimore, West Cork, these words ring loudly within my brain and the meaning to me is the same.
It is Tuesday, 24th June 2008 and Lyn, John Driscoll of Pennsylvania and I drive into Baltimore and drop our bags off at Fastnet House, to what is our “home away from home”. Ronnie, Sandra their daughter Anna and son Luke are there to give us our annual friendly welcome to our “home sweet home”.
The weather so far this year is not terrible; however, is also not the best we have had in our past travels to the Emerald Isle. Once again, for those who have not been to Baltimore - I shall give you a little description of the layout. Our B&B is on the road into the village from Skibbereen and is next door to Dun na Sead, the O’Driscoll Castle. Across the road from us is the Algiers Inn which opens its doors nightly at 5pm and is owned by Ceiran Walsh, also working with him is Sean and Moira. Down the hill towards the harbour, some 25 metres, you look to the right and see the castle while to the left is the main square, which is actually triangular (but we won’t split hairs). On the corner is a B&B run by Bernadette O’Driscoll, whose late husband, Bernard, was a main instigator in getting the reunion going again in 1986. Next to her B&B is Bushe’s pub and will be our main source of refreshments for the next seven days. On entering the pub we are greeted by Aiden Bushe, the eldest son of Richard and Eileen, and it again feels like we were in the pub only yesterday. He goes to the kitchen and out comes his wife Marion, our host for the reunion, and she is then followed by Tom, Pat and Gordon and we get to meet the new staff as well. First pint comes from Aiden and is extremely welcomed by yours truly after the drive down from Shannon Airport this morning. We stay indoors and catch up on the local news from the past year and also meet up with some of the locals we have met previously.
We adjourn outside and absorb the beauty of this harbour once again. At the end of the square, the bar owned by Yuen Jacob has been renovated and was described to us by the purists as “reasonably sympathetic” to its surrounds and by another as “not horrible” which is really quite a good rap as no-one wanted to lose the charm of the original building. The original pub “McCarthy’s” was named after its owner and was purchased a few years back by Yuen. Renovations were started in 2006 and were completed a week prior to us arriving this year and it was in the now finished restaurant upstairs that the media opening of the Clan Reunion was held the previous Wednesday evening.
As you sit around one of the barrels and enjoy your drink, you look out upon this magnificent harbour with the Sherkin and Cape Clear Island ferries moored at the new-look dock. Behind the docks, the many yachts and motor boats are moored and off in the not too far distance is Sherkin Island. On Dave Driscoll’s website as well as John O’Driscoll’s from Australia and Chieftain Bruce Driscoll’s from Canada and now Jim Driscoll’s from the USA, you will be able to see for yourself the beauty of this village. They say “ a picture is worth a thousand words”. Let me tell you that you can multiply this number by a hundred and you may be close to seeing the view one does when you are there in the flesh.
At my first reunion back in 2002 I arrived in the village on the Friday and then the next year it became the Thursday and the following year the Wednesday and also staying the Monday night after the reunion, now we are there for seven nights and would stay for longer if we could. In town for even longer than us is Dave Driscoll, our past Chieftain of 2006/7, who visits several times during the year including May for the Fiddle Fair.. We enjoy the peace and tranquility of the village that night as we settle in to our second home again. In town as well, also staying at Fastnet House, are Colleen, Terra and Bob from the States and it is great to see them coming back to the reunions. It truly does get under your skin - meeting fellow O’Driscolls from all over the world.
On Wednesday the clouds had mostly disappeared and John and I had arranged some months earlier to have a game of golf on the Skibbereen & West Carberry Golf Course. I shall keep this short so John will still talk to me, the result is Australia - 1 and America - nil, better luck next year John. The course is breathtaking, literally that is, if you were to walk up “Cardiac Hill”, we were smart enough to take a buggy. That night we dined at Rolf’s restaurant, one that we have never eaten at before, and let me tell you that the three of us had one of the best meals we have ever eaten. Back down town to the pubs after dinner and we were able to catch up with more of the locals who we know and settled back for another night of great tales, some of which may have been a little embellished, but never let the truth get in the way of a great story. We noticed this year that not only one boat trip was arranged but two, one on Thursday evening to Lough Ine and on Friday to Heir Island. Also some more great news was that the music we had usually enjoyed by ourselves on the Thursday night in Algiers was on the program, so we were looking forward to meeting some new O’Driscolls if they arrived the day earlier.
On Thursday the weather was not too bad, except the breeze, which was up a little and also a light drizzle about. Things went well as we headed off to Glandore even though the weather is not too good. We have a drink inside the pub as it was a little too wet to sit outside. For those who have not been to Glandore, it is a little village just a little east of and between Baltimore and Skibbereen. The two pubs there have tables and chairs set up ON the road across from the pubs and overlooking this beautiful inlet, the waitresses have to dodge cars to take your order and deliver your food and drink - quite different! The inlet has yachts moored and across the other side is Union Hall and their large fishing boats are tied up on that side. Where you sit is about 50 metres above the water level so you get this spectacular view.
We returned to Baltimore in time for me to have Eilleen Bushe’s famous spring onion soup (well, famous with me). It is not too long before our Chieftain, Bruce Driscoll and his wife Marilyn turn up and it feels like we saw each other just last week instead of a year ago. The plan set out for the O’Driscoll’s was to board a boat at 6pm and take a trip to Lough Ine. Everything depended on the weather as a constant drizzle was always going to prove to be too uncomfortable for the journey to go ahead, so all fingers were crossed in the hope that the weather would ease and the trip could go ahead.
Around 4pm Lyn and I headed off to Skib to pick up my daughter, Natalie, who had just flown into Cork and was joining us for the weekend, which was a surprise to Lyn and I that she sprung on us just two weeks before we left Australia. The plan was to collect Natalie and return in time for the boat cruise, weather permitting. We picked her up at the bus depot and returned to Baltimore where we caught up with Tim Driscoll from England and he and his lady friend, Sheila, agreed to join us for the (now traditional) early arrivals Thursday night dinner, which we were organizing for after the boat trip. This year instead of the Mews we decided to go back to Rolf’s, as the food, wine and service were just fantastic. The weather remained and the boat trip was cancelled so it was and earlier dinner for which was excellent. The night was topped off with the music in Algiers which turned into something very special as more and more O’Driscolls arrived to meet their long lost cousins. Ceiran was run off his feet as the pub was chocked full of O’Driscolls enjoying each others’ company. The great music was being provided by our landlord, Ronnie Carthy, his young son Luke on the Bodhran and our past Chieftain Dave Driscoll. This night really proved to be a monstrous success and we hope that it stays on the program for many years to come. The bell was rung, last drinks were consumed and then off to bed we went.
By Friday morning the weather had improved, the day looked bright and the boat trip planned for later in the day looked to be going ahead. The day was spent around the square talking with the new cousins we had all met the night before. Family histories were exchanged along with email addresses and other contact details. The boat trip to Heir Island was a huge success and those who took the journey had nothing but good reports. I was trapped by Paul Driscoll from England along with his father Jim and grandfather John, so we exchanged stories and had a few drinks while the others were away. The boat returned in plenty of time for people to get ready for the registration taking place in the great hall of Dun na Sead. This castle has been owned by Pat and Bernie McCarthy since 1997 and they have painstakingly restored it back to its glory days. When you come to Baltimore you MUST drop in to see what a fantastic job they have done in the restoration.
We all made our
way to the castle by 7.30pm and after signing in we took every vantage point to
listen to Bernie talk about the history of this castle which was originally
built by the Normans in 1215. On Dave’s website you can find out more about this
amazing building. We are greeted firstly by Marion Bushe and then our Chieftain
Bruce introduced Bernie. The talk was a huge success and Bernie had everyone’s
attention from start to finish. After the talk our chieftain then called upon
Eamon Langford to say a few words. (This man is the author of the book,
“O’Driscolls Past and Present”). He has also done some 10 volumes on
O’Driscoll’s history which will be available to all to read in the Cork County
Library and the Cape Clear Museum.
On Saturday the boat trip to Cape Clear is the regular journey and most board the ferry at 11am and set out for the Cape. This I cannot report on as I had other arrangements in place, namely Australia playing France in Rugby Union, being shown in Bushe’s Bar. I have done the trip to the Cape on other occasions and the walk with Jeff Oliver I found to be very informative and the visit to the Museum is of special interest with a lot of memorabilia from our heritage. Lunch at Ciaran Danny and Mike’s Bar is always good followed by music by Mary O’Driscoll and then return to Baltimore on the 6pm ferry. When everyone returned to the square the place was hopping with a band we have not heard before named Rubicon and the leader, who played the fiddle, was a pocket dynamo. He was dancing on the tables in and out of the Jolie Breeze restaurant and all over the square - all the time fiddling away. Chieftain Bruce enjoyed himself to the utmost along with Danny O’Driscoll from England and many, many more people. It was the most infectious music, and it was impossible not to at least tap your feet during their songs. The whole gathering was on an enormous high and when the band finished it took some time to come back down to earth. I have sent Dave Driscoll a short DVD of the band which I recorded and maybe you will be able to see them in action on his website: www.odriscolls.me.uk.
On Sunday the mood is one of “quiet please!” as the mass at Rath takes place at 10am. The noon ferry is then caught and it is off to Sherkin Island for a history lesson in the back garden area of the Jolly Roger Pub and then we returned to the square for more entertainment. At 3.30pm Chieftain Bruce thanks all those involved in putting on what was absolutely a great four days and nights of celebrations. We have met up with faces from past gatherings, including Margaret and Helena from England, who brought along what seemed like about 20 family members to enjoy the festivities. It is always great to see these ladies as they are like the rest of the O’Driscolls I have met over the years and that is they love a good party and each June Baltimore IS the best party going. New cousins we met were Ray (aka Randy) from England, and his two sons Matt and Danny. Ellen and family from the States were there for their first visit and hopefully not their last. Some we missed this year were Jim and Carol from America and I know he will not be too happy when he hears about this year’s frivolities. From Australia we missed John O’Driscoll and hopefully all will be better for him to return next year. The music played all afternoon and sadly we must say goodbye to some of our cousins as they make their way to Cork airport and have to fly home. These included my daughter, Natalie, who was very kindly given a lift by Paul, Jim and John from England. Lyn, John and I were going nowhere, as we stayed till Tuesday, and that way we were able to enjoy the quiet after the storm. The weather this year may not have been as good as past years, however, each day it did get better and better, to the point that sunburn was the result for me again.
This was as successful a reunion as they have all been (and they seem to get a little better with each year!) I hope that on reading this it entices you to come along and experience for yourself this beautiful part of the world, where your family originated from, and the best time to be there. Other websites to look at are on Dave’s website and information can be gathered from these with regards to your country.