I got off the small plane from Bristol last Saturday, and was absolutely shocked at the exorbitant prices of rental cars at the airport, but got one anyway and white knuckled it for an hour from Shannon Airport to Kinvara where I booked an AirBnB. Driving on the left side of the road in the right side of the car was challenging at first. By the second day, I was totally comfortable- a duck in water. Maybe being left/right dyslexic came in handy in this situation? (When not a debilitating challenge, it is often mildly annoying to me, and usually funny to my friends.) I plopped my stuff down at the B&B, threw my travel guitar on my back and walked down to a pub to find a jam. Steam and screams poured out of the first place I opened the door to. Big match between rivals Mayo and Kerry counties. (This Irish football is quite a bit different than European futbol / soccer. They get pretty physical and hold the ball, and kick it over the goal and the different angles and distances to the goal result in various points. Since I couldn't get in past the front door of this pub, I walked back outside and started talking to a few guys sitting on kegs outside drinking a pint. "Play us a song." So I did. Half time miraculously forced the innards of the smelly confines to the street right in the middle of "Breathe." "Play another one!" "What kind of guitar is that?" The guitar was passed around and soon the entire lot of us were singing Green Day, of all things, at the top of our lungs. (The young ones often consider Green Day to be old school). The guys were on their way down the coast to the matchmaking festival in Lisdoonvarna and invited me to go along with them. Ha ha. As they boarded the bus a bunch of these guys started throwing money at me (unsolicited - I didn't put out a hat), thanking me for the songs, which bought me a lovely dinner.
Later on I walked to a different pub where I heard a traditional session was going on. The guy playing the button accordion invited me over to play. And we did- together for 3 non-stop hours. Really good players. It was thrilling for me to be in Ireland remembering songs from the Stevedore days and just playing by ear and following them without too much embarrassment.
The next day I drove into Ballyvaughan where rumor had it my great grandfather was born. This little fishing village on the coast is as cute as Kinvara, which I absolutely love ((I hear John Pryne lives there.) I took a long walk toward the water and spoke to my dead relatives- my ancestors and my mother, my grandfather and aunts. I asked them to help me find some relatives. I walked into a pub and walked directly out again. I wasn't feeling it. I walked into another. There were 3 older gentlemen sitting at the bar in suits drinking whiskey and pints. The barmaid said hello and I announced that I was looking for my family. She responded, "Oh no. Where did you see them last?" I chuckled they were dead. After divulging what little information I had on the family they wrote down a name of a B&B and pointed me toward it and said to talk to a woman named Breada. Then I was shown the church announcement welcoming home the Keane family. Apparently Keanes from all over were embarking on Ballyvaughan the next day. (My family spelled their name "Kane," the way the guys at the bar pronounced the name.) I went to the referred B&B and met an American woman and an Irish man. Breada was not there but they told me to come back at 5pm. They showed me a picture of Breada's father who, to me, looked a lot like my grandfather. But I still wasn't sure that I had the right family. There was a painting on the wall of an old thatched roof farmhouse that Breada grew up in. It looked familiar for reason I couldn't describe. I knew there was a thatched roof house that was most likely still in the family. I left the house after a cup of tea. I wandered over to the church I assumed my great grandfather was baptized in. (I thought he had left America when he was teenager and got married in Worcester MA.) I am not a practicing Catholic, but my ancestors were. I lit a candle for them. I wandered around some more, trying to feel the village. I went back to Breada's a few hours later and as we chatted we both felt fairly certain that we were from the same family. She invited me back the next day to meet her mother, Mary Keane and to visit the farmhouse and to extend my visit an extra day (she would arrange a room for me) to meet "The Americans" for the reunion, and especially Aggie who kept all of the stories. I would lose my money on the AirBnB in Dublin by staying, but I thought it was worth it. And Breada was arranging for my accommodations in Ballyvaughan. The next day I met Aggie's son, Michael who opened up an ancestor.com site. And there it was confirmed. My mother's name, her brother's name, my grandfather and his three sisters. His youngest brother was missing. And rows and rows and columns and columns of Keanes and Kanes. We think that when my great great grandmother mother came over to US with her younger children, she probably didn't read and write English. It sounded like "Kane." The American Keane's are my great grandfather's older brothers who arrived earlier. One of the brother's Michael, stayed behind in Ballyvaughan to care for the farm. That is Breada's lineage.
So...a woman walks into a pub...in Ireland....magic happened.