Monday, December 23, 2013

A Visit to Tawnykinaffe, Co. Mayo

When we were in Ireland recently, we met up with some of my Gillan cousins, who took us out to the small town of Tawnykinaffe, Co. Mayo, where my great-great-grandmother Mary Gillan was born. Although the property is no longer in the family, my cousins had grown up there and so were fantastic tour guides. There are two houses right next to each other, the original one-room cottage and the larger house, built c. 1940. After the family moved into the newer home, the older building was used as a barn. Both are now abandoned.
The new house
The original house
After I got home, one of my Gillan cousins sent me this 1931 picture showing Michael Gillan (born c. 1910) in front of the same house we'd visited.
Michael Gillan, Tawnykinaffe, 1931
I'm not sure whether the appearance that the door is in a different place is just a question of angles and perspective, an indication that the entrance was moved at some point, or evidence that the picture was actually taken from the opposite side of the house (as I can verify that there are both a front and a rear door; I walked through both).

This little corner of Tawnykinaffe, with only a few houses, most of them empty, seemed quiet and isolated. It was a little surreal to hear stories of how bustling, active, and full of life the neighborhood had been as recently as the mid-twentieth century. It was also challenging to mentally eliminate the encroaching trees to try to picture the landscape as it would have been before the Irish government planted them en masse, at some point in the last 50 years. Though they look full grown, they're actually a very recent feature. It's easy, when visiting a town, to look around and identify new buildings and modern technology and realize that the scenery has changed in the last 50 or 100 years. Without my personal tour guides, though, it never would have occurred to me that natural features like trees - particularly in such numbers - might also not have been a long-standing feature of the environment.
I managed to peer through the trees for a glimpse of the view that predated them.

After visiting the family homestead, we went out to lunch in Pontoon. This was cool for me, because Tawnykinaffe is so small that Google Maps can't always find it. To get a general idea of the area I was looking for, I used to search for nearby Pontoon, instead. Pontoon is easy to identify because it falls right between two lakes that are very close together, separated by only a bridge. This is a feature that stands out on a map, and is easily identifiable as you drive across that bridge in your car!

View Larger Map

Ben and I on the Pontoon Bridge

We had a fantastic time and a lovely lunch and I felt so lucky to be able to meet so many of my cousins and have a personal tour of the place my ancestors had lived.

Our last Gillan family stop was a trip to the cemetery, but I will save that post for another day.


Mark Gillan said...

Hi Katy.
I met you when you came to Mayo briefly in Healys Pontoon with my father Michael, Mary and Margaret. I stumbled on this website somehow. It is great the amount of research you have done tracing the Gillan family history. It is really interesting reading through the history. I was in New York last month and we went to Ellis Island and we found information about Celia Gillan which we found very interesting. Keep up the great work. I will have a good read

Kathleen Scarlett O'Hara Naylor said...

Hi Mark! Thanks for visiting - it was great to meet you when we were in Mayo! I'm glad you've enjoyed the blog - next time you're in NY, let me know and we'll show you around - and I think we still owe you a meal!

Tim Chambers said...

I found your site by chance. My Chambers family in Mayo north of Castelbar intermarried with the Gillans several times on my ancestry tree. The Gillans also served as Godparents and marriage witnesses in several documents. The last known family Gillans were in Crimlin and Tawneykinaff.