Log Cabin Chronicles

Letter from Ireland
"The smell of the peat..."

Rancho San Julian, CA

Posted 10/28/99

Ireland is wonderful. Naturally. As a Donohoe, I feel especially welcome throughout County Cavan. I've attended the Gathering for four years in my capacity as secretary on the board of the Donohoe Clan. My oldest brother is the hereditary clan chieftain.

I had my camera with me the day of the Clan Gathering and shot one roll of Donohoes during our tour into Northern Ireland. Then I put away the camera and enjoyed the good craic.

Once again the Donohoe Clan Gathering was worth all the hard work and the long journey. Theme: Commemoration of the Famine and Recognition of the current Peace Process.

We gathered at the hotel in Cavan town on Sunday morning for a couple of short board meetings, then embarked on our journey across the border into County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.

The often blown-up bridge has been restored, and there is now a peace statue marking the border rather than a gate with armed guards. Our first stop in NI was Florence Court, a lovely vast Georgian estate. Very Protestant, remembered as being fair and kind during the Famine.

Theirs was a life of isolated luxury within a completely self-sufficient estate. In the gardens, there is a tree which is said to be the Mother of all Irish yews. After a tour of the house, we went to Black Lion for lunch at McNean House, whose owner Niam is a renowned chef. After a sumptious, beautifully presented meal, we headed back to Cavan on the overland route, stopping to view a dilapidated Workhouse in Bawnboy.

A committe has been formed to restore it so visitors can reach an understanding of what life during the Famine was like. We ended the day back at the Hotel Kilmore with tea & sandwiches and lots of lively conversation late into the evening as we perused my brother Joe's genealogical charts and Clan photos covering the walls. We had several new people this year, and I made a couple of new friends while enjoying the company of some of my favorite people.

When I was talking with new member, Marie O'Donoghue Sheridan, I expressed a desire to bring home some turf; there's nothing like the smell of a turf fire. She mentioned it to her husband, who managed to find a few clods, which Marie promptly boxed and brought to me at the hotel. She told me the roundish ones were cut by machine, the squareish ones by hand with a slane.

I was a little worried about U.S. Customs [Agriculture], but decided to give it a try. When I checked through US Customs at the Dublin airport, I told the Inspector that I hadn't checked "soil" on my form but had a couple of clods of turf which I didn't think were soil because they were peat and I'd really like to bring them home. I lifted the bag to show him, and he burst out laughing,.

"Decorative, right?"

"Right!" I said.

"Turf isn't soil, it's definitely decorative." He grinned as he stamped my documents and sent me on my way.


Anita Donohoe lives in California. She has several photographs on exhibit here.

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