22 September: We saw a standard tourist spot, Monasterboice, where Cistercians established a monastery in 1142. The current church ruins date from the 14th century, but there is an interesting 110 foot high defensive tower. The door was originally 15 to 20 feet above the ground and reached by movable ladders. Burials in the surrounding cemetery over the centuries have raised the ground level, and now the door is only up about 7 feet.
We enjoyed looking at the grave markers, some of which are quite recent. But the real tourist highlights were large stone crosses with biblical stories carved on them as a way of educating the public. One is named for an Abbot who died in 923.
From there we drove to our hotel and lunch in Carlingford, to Newry just inside Northern Ireland and then across the Cooley Mountains back to Carlingford. Carlingford is quite gentrified, but the view out across the water towards Northern Ireland is beautiful. Breakfast at our hotel the next day included fresh-baked croissants, the best I ever had.
Up to the 1980s, there were customs barriers at the border which were blown up regularly by the IRA. Now there is not even a sign that says you are crossing the border. The only indication is the highway signs in Ireland are in kilometers and those in Northern Ireland, still part of the U.K., are in miles.
Thinking St. Patrick’s grave was in Amagh on our planned route north, we told driver Jim we would like to go there. Without a word, he took us to Downpatrick, considerably out of the way. We found the reputed grave marked by a large stone, but we were surprised it is at an Anglican church – very beautiful, but Anglican, not Catholic.
We then went to Cookstown where we got directions to the Lissan Cemetery in order to find the grave of Alie and Michelle’s great grandfather, Hugh Corrigan. Hugh had eight or nine children (one name mentioned in a document is otherwise lost) and all but two scattered around the world. Alie and Michelle’s grandfather Patrick emigrated in 1898 (Hugh’s father was a Cargan, and Patrick returned to the name Cargan when he came to the U.S.)
After visiting the cemetery, we began a long search for the family homestead last farmed by great uncle Hugh and his wife Beatrice. Jim finally found a farmer who knew where it was, but it had been pulled down to build a new
house. Before we left, however, he suggested we go in and talk to his mother, Florrie. She is a delightful woman who knew both their great-uncle Hugh and his wife Beatrice when she was a young woman.
Finally, we took Jim far out of his way again to the village of Cargan. But it was worth it because it led us to a wonderful high-walled steep valley down to the Irish Sea. After a long day, we finally reached our hotel in Belfast.