Irish is in my blood and I love that I have the fancy O’ in my last name to always remind me of it! My sister did a family tree project several years ago and we discovered that our ancestors hopped on a ship in Ireland bound for America, went through the one-and-only Ellis Island, settled in Kentucky and eventually relocated to Chicago, with a few of them joining the mob. Actually, there’s a bar in Chicago with a wall almost completely devoted to Dean O’Banion, an ancestor of mine that so sadly got shot up by Al Capone’s gang (I’m sure he was no angel though!). Since I’ve lived in Europe, so many Europeans have told me how ‘typical American’ it is to trace their heritage and claim their European motherlands…and I didn’t doubt this fact for a second, because it’s exactly what my family did—so guilty as charged hahaha. Christian laughs at me because he is organically Dutch thru and thru so he doesn’t have to go digging into his ancestry (punk—but he does cringe when I ask him why he leaves out his Belgian side, must be a turf wars type of thing).
My mom’s a big history nut, so she was able to sift through time and find that our ancestors were from the very middle of Ireland, and soon, a trip to the motherland was underway! After a few nights stay in Dublin, we hit the green hills bound for Tipperary County. The countryside was a mixture of flowing green hills, grazing sheep, random Irish pubs on the side of the road and quite possibly the most friendly people on the planet. We kissed the Blarney Stone, visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Rock of Cashel, Waterford and soaked up the coziness of cute and cozy Cork, Ireland, snacking on as much Irish stew, bangers & mash and Shepherd’s pie we could squeeze into our bellies.
Once we inched closer to Tipperary County (where the O’Banion’s hail from!), my mom discovered an old castle was located in the area, but it was privately owned. On a whim, we stopped by Leap Castle, knocked on the door and were greeted by a generous old man, who graciously let us inside. After telling us that the castle was part of generations of families not known to him and he bought the castle as a fixer-uper (pretty sweet fixer-uper if ya ask me!!), he let us on to one more fact—it was haunted. He told us a few stories of ladders falling, doors opening after being locked (and checked!) and seeing ghostly children play in the yard, we didn’t know what to believe but we made sure not to stray too far. Now comes the CREEPY part. My mom was lookin’ around the place and pulls a book from the bookshelf: a book all about the O’BANNON family of Ireland! Remember I said we went there on a whim? No idea that this castle was even owned by our ancestors? Well the proof was right in front of us! A stroll down the road also meant we came across a cemetery filled with O’Bannon marked tombstones. It wasn’t until we showed my brothers the pictures that we realized that the old man that owned that house and my dad looked awfully similar! Long-lost relatives maybe? My dad’s smitten when he hears that story…and my mom loves to remind him around St. Patrick’s Day :).
It just so happens to be my dad’s birthday today, the day before St. Patrick’s Day…so this one’s for you Pop! Can’t wait for our next Irish adventure!