After leaving Castlebar in County Mayo (yeah, I know it has been a few months since my last post – I just hate it when life gets in the way of my genealogy research! ), I convinced my fellow travelers that perhaps we could look for the small town of Islandeady, where my great grandma Bridget was born and raised. We saw a sign saying Islandeady and thought perhaps we had missed it but then we saw another sign for a turnoff that read, “Bilberry Lake and Islandeady Cemetery”. Wow, I think we found the pot of gold! I had heard that the place was a “wild rural area” but was delighted in what I saw.
We drove down this narrow country road – only room for one car’s width -– for about a mile and then saw this lovely, peaceful lake surrounded by green hills with green trees and green grass. It was Bilberry Lake. Across the lake we could see a cemetery on the hillside. The four of us got out of the car and took some photos. It looked like there was a huge cow on the top of the hill (at the top of the cemetery). My brother told me that it was a statue. I told him I saw the cow move its tail. He told me that was another animal behind it.
Although it looked like the cemetery was across the lake, the country road actually led us directly to the cemetery. Never did I imagine discovering my great grandmother’s hometown would look like this! The Islandeady Cemetery is on the side of a hill. Of course, we need to explore it. I love all the large monumental headstones! Some were very old and extremely hard to read. After we visited the cemetery (we found several graves of Chambers but no immediate ancestors) and saw that the cow on the top of the hill was REAL, we went to explore the ruins of the church next to the cemetery.
St. Eiden’s Church was built in the early 13th century. The East window is Gothic. It has been in ruins since penal times and is surrounded by massive famine graves. The church was restored in the 1990’s. Near the church is an oak tree that was planted to commemorate the famine victims in unmarked graves.
From the church and cemetery you can see Crough Patrick, which is a mountain and means St. Patrick’s stack. Reportedly, St. Patrick fasted on this summit for 40 days during the 5th century and built a church there. The legend is that this is where St. Patrick banished the snakes from Ireland. I absolutely love that this story of St. Patrick takes place almost in my great grandmother’s “backyard”!