So there I was relaxing and working in bed yesterday afternoon … it was a really rainy day … when there was a knock on the door.
I answered the door and there was Conor Smyth over from the big London smoke.
He was offering to take me for a drive around the area to some of the places in John Mcgaherns books and life … very thoughtful … but then all the Smyth men I’ve met seem to be.
Not sure if observation skills are their forte … Conor says ‘ready to go now?’
Yeh right … I’m in a grotty jumper and pyjama pants and socks … all dressed for a wander outside … not.
I got changed and off we went.
I love the land and lakes around Ballinamore … it makes me very happy.
I took a few photos of places in John’s life and books … Conor was photo director …and we got some great shots …although Conor is very camera shy … here’s an elusive shot.
Here’s the Abbey Bar in Fenagh … the town was mentioned in one of John’s books. I think Fenagh is a lovely village.
In the book ‘So they may face the rising sun’ this is the graveyard where they bury the guy that died. Sorry I’m not more lyrical … I want to re read that book real soon.
Here’s Laragh Lake where so much of John’s life revolved and formed the focus of the book .. So they may face the rising sun…
Did you know that Leitrim has more lakes (over 140 … wonder if that includes the disappearing lakes?) than any other county … the cleanest air … 1 traffic light … a trillion stars … and really really interesting people.
And in Ballinamore there are so many places that were part of John’s life and found their way into his books … the garage … and just outside Ballinamore is the first home he lived in as a child.
Here is the field in Aughawillan where there was a house that John spent time as a young person.
Here’s the Aughawillan school where John’s mother taught…
… and what a view from the back yard … we weren’t trespassing … Conor knows the owners … then again … I think he knows everyone living around here.
Finally … Aughawillan church where John is buried with his mother …
I love the way signs are displayed on country roads.
On our wanderings Conor showed me the Ivy Leaf Ballroom.
I’d heard about a great 50’s party that Kevin had organised about 10 years ago … people cycled from town … and I hear there were all sorts of cycling adventures on the way home.
As we drove around the lovely lanes and roads I said that I often wondered what it was like to grow up in one place knowing everyone … all the Harts, Hamill’s, D’Arcy’s, Smyths, Smiths, and Maggie …
I had lived in 3 different countries by the time I was 6 and in my life I’ve lived in over 50 different homes … I learnt how to be comfortable being the new kid in town with all the other kids who grew up together … I decided to just be myself from an early age … and enjoy the newness.
Now I’ve been in Ballinamore nearly 2 years and I love the place and the people … there’s room for individuals and it’s one of the few towns where people don’t describe new comers as ‘blow ins’.
I’ve been welcomed by so many people and I feel that Ballinamore is where my heart has finally found a home.
And when Conor and I dropped in to the garage we ran into one of those ‘the world’s a small place’ moments.
I was chatting with Johnny when Conor asked me if I knew of a place in Australia called Karratha.
Why … says I.
Jimmy Holohan’s son and 2 friends are working there … says Conor.
Guess what? …my mother … sister Siobhain … brother Liam and their partners and kids … all live there.
Now I know that many of my Irish friends have children travelling around Australia … but it’s usually on the East coast … Sydney … Melbourne … Brisbane.
I come from the West of Australia and it’s only a small percentage of Irish that wander over that way … it’s a huge country.
So I was delighted to hear that Jimmy’s son was where I had visited in January. I’m going to send the photo to my sis in Karratha and see if she can get it in the local newspaper.
I was thinking about who loves a place like Ballinamore more … the people that grew up in it … or … the people that choose to move and live here?
And I decided that we both love this place … just in different ways.
The longtimers have a depth of memory and connection I will never have … and I (as a newcomer) have an enthusiasm and see the town with fresh eyes … and my friends (both longtimers and newcomers) all know how to have a good time … long may it last.
I’m off for more wanderings today.
Have a great day.