We awoke early and after a quick breakfast that had been left for us in the hall, we went out to wait for the 8:00 a.m. bus to Kilkenny. We wanted to be sure not to miss it as I had an 11:00 a.m. appointment at the Kilkenny Archeological and Genealogical Society to research my Irish ancestor, Patrick Phalen. It was a chilly foggy morning in Inistioge; the only signs of life were parents dropping their teenage children off for the school bus to Thomastown. They were all dressed in light blue sweaters and had gray plaid skirts or gray slacks. The school bus left first and ours second. We were accompanied by a person with a seeing eye dog which lay down by the driver. All succeeding passengers had to step over the dog which they did agreeably.
We passed through Thomastown which looked like a prosperous town (and perhaps an interesting town to visit) and onto Kilkenny arriving a little after 9:00 a.m.
We walked down to the tourist office and inquired for the location of the Rothe House which housed the genealogical society. Then we wandered up into the town on a chilly morning. Most people seemed completely unaffected by the cold – dressed casually without overcoats. We found a warm corner in the coffee shop and a latte. Later on the main street we got some funds at an ATM, walked by the Courthouse, a large gray stone building, and walked on to the Rothe House, another gray stone building but much older. There, I asked the young girl in the bookstore for Mary Flood and she showed us into a room further back in the house. After some time Ms. Flood appeared and asked whether I had received the response she had sent to my inquiry. I indicated that I had not, and there was another delay while she printed her letter again.
The document said that there was one couple that could possibly have been Phalen's parents but they had been married in 1800 – a little early for his birth in 1823. Further, the only children that they could find in the baptismal records were a Catherine and John (1805 and 1807 respectively). In general, the search did not look promising, since Phalen was a common name and I did not have a specific town or parish location.
As the parents cited were from the lower parishes of Kilkenny (where we had just been hiking), I asked Ms Flood whether it was possible that they had moved across the border to Tipperary and where other baptismal records could be located. She said she did not have access to Tipperary records though she could ask their Tipperary colleagues. Later, in parting, she asked her assistant to show us a video tape of the Rothe House and to let us walk through the house – a fascinating place with old furniture but also artifacts from ancient times and Middle Ages, including a bronze age bowl, old tiles, many tools, old and modern. There was also a vertical rectangular stone which contained an early language called Ogham. This was a precursor to the Irish language with an alphabet of 25 characters made by a series of long, short and slanted strokes on the edge of the stone.
As we were leaving this exhibit, Ms. Flood reappeared saying she had contacted her counterpart in Tipperary and they could find no other baptismal records for Phalen. I also asked her about Phalen's emigration and how I might find information on it. She mentioned a couple of sources and later left me a book with a section on Canadian immigration.
After looking at an exhibit of intricate and finely sewn and crocheted ladies undergarments of the 19th century, we left, as they were closing for lunch. It was quite chilly (and had not been much warmer inside). With packs, we walked up the street where we found a warm restaurant with hot soup and scones.
With the sun now out, we walked up around Kilkenny Castle, which had extensive lawns, and back to the Tourist Information Center where we asked about trains to Carlow and on back to the bookstore at the Rothe House. Finally, we walked to the conical tower and the Church of Ireland. As we were leaving the graveyard, a young couple asked us for directions to the castle and when we walked down the street with them we learned they were from Groton, Massachusetts where I had gone to school. Small world!
We went on across the Nore River and to the Rail/Bus station where I found the train for Carlow had just left, but a bus was to leave in twenty minutes at 4:20 p.m. Bon decided that we should call a B&B in Tenahely (which she had read about on the web). The woman offered to pick us up in Carlow at the Hacketstown turnabout at 6:00 p.m.
As we left the station for the bus our tickets fell from my pocket but we recovered them and left for Carlow. The trip was through much flatter country than we'd seen – mostly farmland and not as beautiful as that we had walked.
We arrived at the bus station in Carlow and in haste almost boarded bus to Hackettstown. We waited in the cold, first for a late bus and again at the turnabout for our driver. Madge Kelly, our hostess, was pleasant and talked about our hiking plans. We drove by a spectacular dolman and then toward the hills and small mountains of the Wicklow Way. In the dying light, Madge showed us the way we would walk the following day. Her house and our room were lovely with the arced silhouette of a hill across the way.
Bon and I walked into town to a Tinahely pub where we had a simple dinner and a great ale (Smithwicks – the W is silent). The fellows at the bar were enjoying themselves though what they were saying was incomprehensible. We also found out how turf or peat “logs” are sold from a woman at a neighboring table.
Finally we took a chilly walk home, stopping by the grocery for a few things for tomorrow’s picnic. The stars were out but the moon was clouded as we got to the house.
Wicklow Way: Tinahely to Djouce
(Click on map to enlarge.)
Copyright 2002 Donald R. Chauncey - All rights reserved