Galway Girl

My father grew up on Galway Road. In Canada. It was a farming community north of Toronto, where many Irish immigrants settled. They named their road as a reminder of home. One of six boys and two girls, the Allen boys lived up to their Irish roots. They worked hard, liked their drink, and family was everything to them. 

The Irish ballads my father sang gave me a romanticized version of Ireland and Galway. Albeit a somewhat morbid one, since someone was always dying by the last verse. My mother loved to research family history. Her work placed the Allen’s origin in Galbally, not Galway. This new knowledge, didn’t erase the affinity I felt for Galway and Galway Bay.

Our visit a week or so ago to Galway did not disappoint my imagination. Galway, the festival capital of Ireland, is lively, full of music, has wonderful off-the-beaten-path walking areas and a couple of our better meals were eaten there. There was an Oyster Festival happening while we were there, which made it busier than expected. But then every place we have visited so far has been. 

We stayed in the Latin Quarter, the heartbeat of activity. If you like quiet, this would not be the place. Our compact hotel room, aptly named Snug faced a pub that got louder as the night progressed, then as if someone flipped a switch, abruptly stopped at 2:30 a.m. But other than loosing sleep, you couldn’t ask for a better location. We found a ‘brown noise’ channel on YouTube to play and that helped to distract from the noise. 

But here is the juxtaposition of this visit that has nothing to do with Galway but goes back to family. My father’s mother was Emma May Collins. Her family origin is County Cork, where Michael Collins, the famous and well-loved Irish Revolutionary hero, was born. Word passed around my family that my grandmother, Emma, and Michael are cousins. All I have to do is mention to an Irish person that I’m related to Michael Collins and it is like my status in Irish hierarchy is elevated. 

When we got to Galway our bus arrived at the same time and same location as the train. While getting our bearings as to which direction to start walking to our hotel, we found ourselves engulfed by the crowd spilling out from the train. Randomly I asked one of them, a young man maybe late twenties, if he knew the direction to Quay St. He smiled and said he was going that way and to follow him. A conversation ensued, along the lines of where were we visiting from, what brought us to Galway…

Johnny and I had talked about not bringing up our Irish connections any more, sensing the locals probably hear the ancestory stories from a lot of visitors. Yet, I decided to mention my grandmother and Michael Collins, anyway.

Call it happenstance, call it coincidence or a twist of fate. The nice young man, helping us out, is Brian Collins, related to Michael Collins. We immediately bonded, assumed we too are cousins, took photos, you’ll see we have the same smile 🙂 A couple of days later we popped in to see him at his work, which happened to be at a pub next door to our hotel. Brian Collins has been invited to visit us anytime.

 Mapping out family trees has never been much of an interest to me, but after this chance meeting, I really do want to discover the branches of the Collin family and see what is truth and what is folklore. 

No question, traveling is enhanced by chance meetings.

Every day, without realising it, I pass people whom I should know. Krzysztof Kieslowski 

11 thoughts on “Galway Girl

  1. My great-great grandmother was named Jane Allen, a Quaker from Co. Armagh. Today we visited the small town land where she lived, Drummannon. I need to do more research to find her grave and learn more about her.

  2. Great story, Chris! You may get interested in family studies through genealogy. I find it very interesting and have met people on line who are distant relatives.. I didn’t realize that you and Johnny have Irish blood — that can’t be good.. LOL
    Looking forward to seeing you both – Ed

  3. Finally an new post. You must have been busy with Teresa.. Good to see you back at work. That sounds really wild meeting your ‘cousin’. Small world but must have made your day. So much fun. Keep on trucking and hope Johnny had a fine day. xo s

  4. Loved reading this, loved how you fortuitously met Brian! Connections can be made anywhere…. there’s always that 6 degrees of separation going on… so glad you did Galway!! xox

Leave Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s