2001 Ireland

One of the times I got in trouble while visiting the Cliffs of Insanity…I mean Moher.

Everything about traveling to Ireland made me feel as though I had come home. Indescribably, I felt as though the places I walked and the very air that I breathed called to some inner part of me. I had chosen to study abroad for a summer program in Ireland because my paternal side is extremely proud of their ancestry. My maternal grandmother was also from an extremely Irish family and as an English major I wanted to know more about the culture that had spawned such an extreme fascination for family.

I know several of my extended family members had visited Ireland over the years, including my grandparents, who had won some kind of Irish sweepstakes. I looked forward to reading the literature and knowing more about the storyteller streak that seemed to appear amongst my kin. My father, interested in genealogy sent me with documents that outlined the family as far back to Ireland from Canada as we had. I made a slight effort to do more research at the library while in Dublin, with no luck.

I wrote off that part of my trip and enjoyed the rest of the adventures that I was exposed to through my program with my new friends.

Until we got to Ennis, in the County Clare.

We stopped shortly at the small town on our way to grab food en route to Galway. The name rang a bell from the genealogy papers that I was carrying copies of around the country. My friends and I walked into a small convenience store to fine sandwiches that could be eaten quickly so we could investigate the little town. When in Ireland, however, a bus does not show up to a relatively quiet area with college students and ignore the masses of young adults wondering about.

The clerk at the store was selling us our sandwiches and asked where we were from. We explained, and having had the reminder that I was in the county where my ancestors were from and the very town I recognized from my documents, I asked the man if he knew any Hoolihans. I knew the name had changed since it emigrated from the motherland and wasn’t expecting much in return. To my surprise, the man responded excitedly.

“The Hoolihans! Of course. How do you know them?”

“I am a Hoolihan!” I responded in shock.

“Well, they’re solicitors and they are just around the corner! I will take you there.”

With that the man grabbed my hand, stated to his coworker that he would be right back and began to walk me down the sidewalk, talking my ear off. My friends trailed along behind, and I could hear them excitedly laughing.

I couldn’t believe my luck and knew my dad would absolutely freak when I told him. It was going to be the single largest genealogical discovery he had made since finding our relatives in Canada, where the Hoolihans (or Houlihans, rather) entered the continent.

But when we arrived at the solicitor’s office – it was closed for lunch.

“Not a problem,” said my guide. “There aren’t many places to eat in town. I don’t take my lunch for another half an hour, and I can point them out to you then.”

My heart sank. Our bus was leaving before that.

I explained the situation and thanked him for his time. I then proceeded to walk into as many eateries as I could in the small town before the bus departed, asking about the Hoolihans at every stop.

But, it was not to be. No epic tales of family reunions, just the hope that someday we will find that link to that self and soul whose connection rings from the deepest DNA.

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