Written by local volunteer Kieran Jordan
I met Dennis and Kristina Medows from Chicago in Cork city. Denis’ ancestors were Margaret Sheenan (whose father was a blacksmith) and Timothy O’Leary from Killeendaniel, just north of Cork city.
In advance of meeting them, I visited Killeendaniel to determine if there were any associated families in the area. Nobody could identify where O’Leary’s lived and I identified that Pat and Mary Farrell were the current occupants of Sheehans house. I arranged with Pat and Mary that Dennis, Kristina and I could visit the house. Little did I know what was in store for us. Pat, Mary and their daughter Irene had done their own bit of advance work. The last Sheehans to occupy the house were Siobhán and Nora Twomey, whose mother was a sister of Margaret Sheehan. When she was clearing out the house, Nora gave a bag of old photographs to Maurice Magner and asked him to burn them. Fortunately, Marice didn’t follow the instruction and put the bag of old photographs in the attic. When we arrived at Farrell’s there were Maurice and Eileen (his wife) Magner with the bag of old photographs. Routing through the old photographs was like a treasure hunt for Dennis and Kristina. There were old photographs of Margaret Sheehans relative in Ireland and America.
Dennis contacted his mother from Chicago on Facetime and she helped with identifying some of the people in the photographs. Maurice and Eileen then generously gave some of the relevant photographs to Dennis and Kristina. While we were looking through the photographs another neighbour, Stephen Walker, came in and gave Dennis a horse shoe that Bill Sheehan, a brother of Margaret, had made. Then it was time for tea, and we were treated scones, cakes, etc. During tea another neighbour, Ted McSweeney, called. Bill Sheehan, a brother of Margaret, was his god father. During the chat he was recounting the people who lived in the townland and he mentioned Riordan’s.
As it happened, O’Leary’s occupied a house belonging to Riordan’s in the 1911 census. Thus, we had identified where O’Leary’s lived. A bit of a sing-song followed, along with a visit of some of Pat and Mary’s grandchildren and their friends. During the sing-song I sat back and thought what a wonderful organisation Ireland Reaching Out is. It was a real example of Irish hospitality shown to members of the diaspora, facilitated by Ireland Reaching Out, on a voluntary basis. After the sing-song it was time for a walk around the outside of the house to see how the house had been modified and to see the ruins of the forge that was owned by Sheehans. Denis and Kristina then headed off on the rest of their trip with a bunch of old photographs, a horse shoe made by Margaret’s brother, knowledge of where O’Leary’s lived and good memories of a wonderful morning facilitated by Ireland Reaching Out.
A look through old photographs. From left: Dennis Medows, Irene Farrell, Eileen Magner, Kristina Medows, Pat Farrell.
From left: Kristina Medows, Ted McSweeney, Kieran Jordan, Dennis Medows, Pat Farrell, Eileen Magner, Maurice Magner, Mary Farrell.