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|
|Michael Gillan, Tawnykinaffe, 1931|
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!
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|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.