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  • Greg O'Loughlin

An American Irish Republican Travelogue. Part I

What I Did On My Summer Holiday - an American Irish Republican travelogue.

By Greg O’Loughlin

I’ll leave the story of how we managed to thread the needle for a visit to Ireland in the dozen or so days that visits were allowed. Suffice it to say, it involved a combination of luck, good timing, nasal swabs, & vaccines.

We were seeking disconnection from the last year-and-a-half of lockdown, connection with some friends and colleagues we hadn’t seen in too long, and some history and learning along the way.

We stayed in Connemara for most of the trip before returning to Dublin to spend some time with friends. While we were in Connemara, we planned on visiting Pádraic Pearse’s cottage, and when we got back to Dublin, we were booked for a 1916 Rebellion Walking Tour with author and historian, Loran Collins and along the way, we were set on finding some history books and poetry at Kenny’s Bookshop. The rest of the trip would be focused on the seashore and family time.

After a long drive, a grocery run to last the week and a little settling in, we spent an afternoon at Moyrus Beach - a sandy cove which, at low tide, is knee deep for what feels like miles. It was a picture perfect day - sunny, 28 degrees, with a light breeze coming into the shore.

Without warning or notice, a fog rolled in so quickly and so thick that we couldn’t see the shore from where we’d walked out to. It lasted about 45 minutes and was so disorienting, confusing, and novel that we didn’t really consider the danger until recounting the experience later that night.

We discussed the notion that had the weather been any more threatening than a thick fog, we would have been in danger pretty quickly.

After a few sandcastles and a little more splashing around, we packed our towels and buckets back into the car and took the scenic route home. Along the way we passed a marker close to the shore that read, Óglaigh na hÉireann, with four names below. We were eager to continue our learning and understanding of history on this trip and had many scheduled learning and history stops as part of our holiday, and this hadn’t been on my radar.

It turns out that these men, Seosamh Ó Caola, Seosamh Ó hUaithnín, Séamas Ó Fearráin, Páraic Ó Cualáin were four Irish Volunteers from the Parish of Carna that drowned at sea on the 6th February 1921 while carrying out their duties. According to Wikipedia, they were making their way by boat from Moyrus beach to Roundstone for a Battalion meeting, when they were caught by a violent storm and drowned off the shore of Inishlacken.

We hadn’t been caught in a storm on Moyrus Beach, but the speed with which the fog rolled in without warning was unlike anything we’d experienced before. The thought of these brave men who were serving their country being similarly caught out by far more dangerous weather hit home in a way that your usual roadside memorial can’t quite muster.

It was a bonus of a learning experience for us all to learn more about exactly how far and wide across the country the effort for independence truly was. It made us even more excited about what we’d learn on our tour when we got to Dublin and for the discoveries we’d learn along the way.

Before that though, I’ll share details and the impact of visiting Pearse’s cottage in next week’s essay on what this Irish American did on summer holidays.

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