The Old Homestead
by Bill Homan
Our honeymoon in 1977 was to Ireland and England. While in Dublin, we went to the Dublin museum to look for my father-in-law’s rifle from the 1916 Easter Sunday uprising, which we were told was on display.
John Corcoran was a Captain in the County Mayo Flying Column. We were directed to a room down a dimly lit hallway. Upon opening the door to a dark, dusty room, we saw some 500 hundred rifles stacked in a corner with ‘toe tags.’ We decided not to try and dig through them and moved on.
Next we decided to look for John and Nora’s (my wife’s parents) old homesteads. We knew John was from Ballina and Nora was from Mulranny. We extracted a shoebox full of soil from the respective properties to bring home with us.
Though John’s house was still maintained well, Nora’s house was abandoned and pretty run down with animals (sheep and goats) running through it and jumping out the windows. Aunt Mary O’Malley was still living in her home on the property, so we visited with her. Then we travelled to Blarney Castle, Wexford and Waterford. In Waterford we toured the glass factory and had a Waterford table lamp sent home.
We have been back to Ireland some twelve or more times. On two of the trips we took our three children; Heather, John and Erin, and we always go to Mulranny to see the status of Nora’s house.
On a visit in the 90s, a man named Owen Harte had bought the house and he and his 2 sons were fixing it up for a weekend holiday home for his family. I introduced myself to Owen and we talked and hit it off discussing the history of the house. Several visits later, I e-mailed Owen that we were coming over again and he replied, “Bill, you must come see the house, it’s finished.”
The original house was three rooms: a parent’s bedroom, a children’s bedroom and a everything room (kitchen, dining and living room). Owen had converted the parent’s bedroom into a modern kitchen and the children’s bedroom into his bedroom. He put in a loft bedroom over the kitchen and added a modern bathroom. All was completed without changing the size of the original house.
Owen and his wife Mary asked us to visit the house with them. On arriving, he invited us in, where he showed us around, opened a bottle of Jameson and served sandwiches and soda bread. Then he told us that they had to head out to Longford because his boys were in a soccer tournament.
With that he tossed his keys on the table in my direction and said, “stay as long as you like.” We said that we had to go into town to meet Pat’s cousins, but we certainly would come back and spend the night. What a treat for my wife to be able to spend the night in the house her mother and her five aunts and three uncles were born and raised in.
The next day we drove to Knock airport to pick my wife Pat’s cousins, Ann and Ray, from London. What a surprise it was for Ann to realize she would get to sleep in the house her father was born and raised in. From there we continued our usual travels around the countryside.
Every trip provided us an opportunity to visit with Owen and Mary until a few years ago. As we were planning yet another trip, Mary advised Owen had passed. We met Mary in Westport and took her to lunch. This was a sad time. We kept in touch and always try to visit with her on our trips to Ireland.
Forty years after our first trip to Ireland in 2017, my son John got married, and was going to honeymoon in Ireland. I asked if he wanted me to contact Mary and see if he too might be able to spend a night in the old homestead?
I made no promise that this could happen. I called Mary and explained John was going to honeymoon in Ireland and was inquiring about whether he might visit the house. Mary was happy to have him visit and said, “have him call me when he lands and we’ll arrange to meet up.”
John and his new bride, Marcella, got to spend a night in the house his grandmother was born and raised in. Upon their return from their honeymoon to Columbus, Marcella commissioned her aunt to do an oil painting of the house from a photo she had taken. That oil painting is hanging on the living room wall in our house in Willoughby.
The family still owns two acres of land down the road from the old homestead; we asked Mary, if she ever decided to sell the house, to please be sure to let us know; we would love to own it again.