Associated with our Shaughnessy families – Connemara was traditionally divided into North Connemara and South Connemara. The mountains of the Twelve Bens and the Owenglin river, which flows into the sea at An Clochán/Clifden, marked the boundary between the two parts. Connemara lies in the territory of Iar Connacht, “West Connacht”, which is the portion of County Galway west of Lough Corrib and the portion of County Mayo, townlands Cloonee, Ballinrobe and Creduff, in the barony of Ross.

Day 5 morning found me in Westport before visiting the award-winning Connemara Heritage Centre to gain a unique insight into Ireland’s past.

Our little group were blessed with the stories told by Martin Walsh. Martin is a wonderful storyteller and listening to his Irish brogue, the stories certainly come to life.

Martin, Nora and their family run a hill farm in the heart of Connemara. In 1992, they diversified into agri tourism and at the Heritage Centre, the family share the history, heritage, culture & traditions of the Connemara. The farm has cattle, sheep and the world famous Connemara Ponies with a few friendly donkeys & chickens.

The centre is based around the restored pre-famine cottage of Dan O’Hara a tenant, forced to emigrate to America in the 1840’s when he was evicted from his home. Martin Walsh is related to Dan OHara and this is part of his story.

Dan O’Hara’s homestead is built on the original site of the home of Dan from Connemara, a renowned Irish ballard all over the world.

O'Hara Family Fire Place

Dan O’Hara lived with his wife and seven children in a cottage shadowed by the Twelve Bens. The mountain range is breathtaking. Many remains of human presence can be seen in the Park. The oldest are megalithic court tombs some 4,000 years old. It is an ancient landscape.

The twelve Bens are a group of small mountains that are the dominant feature of the Connemara countryside.

Dan from Connemara is renowned as a popular ballad all over the world and the words represent all Irish tenants that where evicted from their homes by the landlords.

Sure it’s poor I am today
For God gave and took away
And He left without a home poor Dan O’Hara
With these matches in my hand
In the frost and snow I stand
So it’s here I am today your broken hearted

Achusla geal mo chroi*, won’t you buy
a box from me
And you’ll have the prayers of Dan from Connemara
I’ll sell them cheap and low, buy a box before you go
From the broken hearted farmer Dan O’Hara

In the year of sixty-four
I had acres by the score
And the grandest land you ever ran a plough through
But the landlord came you know
And he laid our home so low
So it’s here I am today your broken hearted

For twenty years or more
Did misfortune cross our door
My poor old wife and I were sadly parted
We were scattered far and wide
And our children starved and died
So it’s here I am today your broken hearted

Though in frost and snow I stand
Sure the shadow of God’s hand
It lies warm about the brow of Dan O’Hara
And soon with God above
I will meet the ones I love
And I’ll find the joys I lost in Connemara

*Achuisla geal mo chroi: Dear brightness of my heart

Visit Ireland 2018

My trip to Ireland September to October was to gain an understanding of the people, the culture and history of my Irish Shannassy, Begley, Fogarty, ONeill people. I was particularly interested in Mayo, Donegal, Derry. These where the counties that my mothers side of the family came from.

During my journey I made it my mission to visit various small villages along the Wild Atlantic Way.

However, to start, I now write about the other county I visited which was Killkenny in search of the church lands where MARY PIDGEON born and baptised 1831. Mary was the only Irish person in my fathers tree line, with all others coming from Shetland. Her baptism image is from the Gowran townland and found in a genealogical site Find My Past. An excellent site if interested in being able to download an image.

It was toward the end of my trip that I located the church land and was able to photograph some beautiful images. St. Mary’s Collegiate Church Gowran (Gaelic/Irish: Eaglais Mhuire), also known as the Church of the Blessed Virgin of the Assumption, is a church in the centre of the town of Gowran, County Kilkenny, Ireland. It is an ancient site and a National Monument of Ireland.
The local people told me that there are “over 9000 souls in the ground”.

I will include some photos of the church land and some of the grave stones after I get myself organised. In the meantime here is an example:-


The pub was just across the road and the older people were interested in the family names. I was astounded. I must admit I spent hours wandering around the grave sites and taking in the feelings associated with finding a precious link to our family story.

This person from across the world popping to a little local pub was welcomed with open arms. A young couple took me under their wings and invited me inside where it was warm and cosy. I listened to their story and they listened to mine. Why was I here so long away from my home? I told them about my family and Mary Pidgeon being a first family settler, arriving in Sept 1852 at Point Henry, Geelong, Victoria, Australia. They knew exactly the right question to ask when I mentioned the name married to KENNETT. Was he in the barracks? Well yes he was. The Kilkenny Journal, 25 July 1849 and The military in Kilkenny 1800-1870 by Liam Böiger B.A. Thesis for the degree of PhD Department of History National University of Ireland Maynooth will allow you to read the history.

Thomas Trevanian Kennett served in a Dragoon Guard component for a short while, before returning to England and then leaving for Australia.

He married Mary Pidgeon in 1852 and their second child MARY EMMA KENNETT was my fathers grandmother.