Sunday, September 30, 2007

Back to my Roots 1

Returning To Your Roots 1

One analogy for the personality is that of the onion with the central layer being that of infancy and then all successive layers corresponding to the distinct periods of human growth. In this model, one never really escapes one’s past, and one can with ease, mostly unconscious, go from one layer to another – back to the centre or out to the periphery and back again. We are also well acquainted, from late in the last century, with returning Irish Americans looking for their roots. There was also the screening of Alex Hailey’s famous novel Roots in the late seventies and early nineteen eighties on our TV screens. There the emphasis lay on the roots of the African American.

Our family, the Quinlans, had our own returning long-lost Irish American cousins who came back to the old homeland to search us out. This evening I am sitting in Grant’s Hotel, once called The Pathé, in Roscrea, County Tipperary. My two brothers and I have returned to our birthplace for a family reunion. It must be best part of 30 years or more since we were all here together as teenagers.

As I drove into Roscrea earlier this evening I had a dry feeling in my mouth, brought on, I think, by my realization of how swiftly the years have passed. These were the streets where I had run and played as a young boy up until we moved to Dublin when I was 6 years of age. I remember once being lost in these streets when I was only about four years old. I still recall the fright in my soul, the shock to my system as I felt myself in free fall – my well-defined known world had been left behind and the strange frontiers of unknown places had been momentarily breeched by a not-too-adventurous wee boy. I remember an elderly man, or an adult whom I deemed to be elderly from my youthful perspective, attempting to stop me in my tracks in case I ran out into the roadway. I recall being so frightened that I even managed to break free from his enclosing hands about my little waist. In many ways I am still that little boy, a little less lost perhaps, but I am distinctly he. Indeed, we never forget our past even if we wanted to.

In this town are the graves of my great-grandparents, grandparents, an uncle and a baby brother along with many cousins needless to say. We will go visit these graves and attempt some cleaning up of the latter some time tomorrow. Graveyards are strange places really – they are quiet, tranquil and mostly beautiful. For most of us they can be comforting insofar as they allow us a tangible monument to our beloved departed. When we go to the graves of our departed relatives we meet them in a special way; but more than that we also meet ourselves in a unique way. We encounter what it is that makes us human. We meet ourselves at the edge as it were. We come up against all types of feelings and emotions that well up from the very depths of our being. In short we realize what it means to be mortal. That’s what it’s all about essentially – how we deal with our finitude, our contingency of being, that our very nature is all about growth and growth in its essence implies death. To look at nature or any representatives of the Animal Kingdom (among whom we number human beings needless to say) we must take cognisance of the fact that birth, growth and death are what life is in itself. We will also become aware that to live means to die and that the two are so closely related that we are living and dying at one and the same time.

My two brothers and I chose to stay for two nights to make the most of the weekend. On Saturday morning we visited the graveyard where the Quinlans are buried, took some photographs of the graves and vowed that we’d return sometime in the spring to clean up the headstones and make their epitaphs legible again. St Cronin’s Church is only beautiful and is built of sandstone quarried locally at Carrick where my father was born. That quarry is right above the old homestead. The Church has some beautiful stained glass windows. I’ll upload a few pictures I took of these wonderful windows in this and later posts.

Then we walked around some old haunts from our youth, the three of us remembering various different bits from our childhood – the beautiful primary school that Gerard attended in the early sixties and the dispensary where we were all vaccinated. I remember the needle well and also my screams as I got what was called by the acronym the BCG. I still have those scars on my left shoulder. We also recalled the old malt house that is to be renovated and turned into a public amenity. Then we walked up Gaol Road by the Court House, the oldRoscrea Castle (Butlers’ Castle) twin-towered Gaol and on then to visit where we spent some two hours looking at the wonderful exhibitions contained therein.

Above I have uploaded three small images of Roscrea town taken on Saturday 22nd September when we returned there for a family reunion. These shots were taken around 10 A.M.

P.S. I wrote the above account this evening a little more than a week after our visit to Roscrea

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