5:30 in Raphoe

This morning I was up at 4:30am.  Heaven only knows why.  I guess my body is still readjusting to a new time, and the stresses of the trip may be catching up.

Of course, there are WORSE things than being awake to see a glorious morning over Donegal.


Yesterday we visited the Ulster Irish-American Folk Park – a wonderful recreation of life in 16th-18th C Ireland, then walk through a ship, then a recreation of life in 17th-19thC America.  It resonated with me in ways I hadn’t expected.


I don’t think of myself as Irish – partly because my mother and grandmother were insistent that we were Scots-Irish, a totally different thing (in their eyes, and I’m certain in the eyes of many)

That strong belief sprung in no small part from the religious convictions my mother’s family held (I was raised Methodist, but my mother insisted I be baptized Presbyterian. I’m STILL trying to figure that out…)

Gerry does a dead-on imitation of my mother, “NOT Irish, honey.  ScotsIrish…”

In my mother and grandmother’s minds, it seems that Irish = Catholic, and we were not Catholic.  We have more than one John Calvin Modesitt or James Calvin Modesitt in our family tree. Thus, we were – like so many others in Appalachia – Scots-Irish.

Greater minds than mine have been unable to clearly explain what I’m dancing around here.  There’s such a painful history of religious and class persecution, and as I try to explain to the kids my own understanding of it, I realize how little I can truly comprehend.  All this while driving a stick shift with my left hand and driving on the opposite side of the road.

Watch For Little People

Oh, I DO read a lot.  I try to immerse myself in different historical texts when I visit a place, but each person’s perspective can be so different based on where they stand (or their ancestors stood.) A well-intentioned comment made in ignorance might be perceived as insulting.  At least, that’s what I try to get across to the kids – who see themselves as Jewish.

Wandering the historical recreation created a few peaceful hours of introspection.  The kids had a blast with the animals (especially the chickens), the antique methods of existence and  the freedom to RUN and burn off energy in a very engaging environment.

For my part, I spent my time pondering that although my family is over 300 years removed from Ireland / Scotland / Wales, I’m only 2 generations removed from a time when spring houses were necessary to keep butter cool and if you couldn’t make do you went without.  My mother was born in 1919, her mother in 1889.  In grandma’s corner of West Virginia, in many ways it may as well have been 1789.

I spent a good deal of time in the Weaver’s hut, talking to the spinning woman (she was lovely!) and then in the American area I was unprepared for how homesick a red maple and dogwood would make me.  Dogwood always makes me think of my mom – her favorite tree – and there was on in lovely bloom yesterday next to the pig sty.

Chatting with another lovely re-creator I told her about my family history, the whole Scots Irish thing. She waved her hand and said, “Oh, same thing.  You’re Irish.”


For my entire life I’ve believed that my dad’s family name was French, but my notions are all falling away like dogwood blossoms.

Recently while digging through my family ancestry at the LDS website and Ancestry.com, I’ve found that the Modesitts who arrived in Maryland in the late 1600’s seem to have sprung from nowhere.

Mysteriously, at around the same time a family named Mothershed can be traced from England to Maryland, all with the same first names as my Maryland ancestors.  I’ve read a theory on some of the genealogy boards that the name changed upon arrival in the New World from Mothershed to Modesitt.

The two names DO sound an awful lot alike, especially the way my family’s always pronounced it – Mod-uh-set.  Food for thought while I’m away from home.

One things for certain, we certainly LOOK like an Irish family!


Burning Peat in the Stove

As a perfect augmentation to our history lesson yesterday, the home we’re staying in is a blend of old technology and eco-friendly modern practices which are in themselves an excellent lesson for all of us.

The house has central heating, but it’s a BIG house with 19C inefficiency, so our host family heats the living room and kitchen with burning stoves.

Bread Crock & Peat

They don’t burn wood – they burn long bricks of peat wrapped in a layer of charcoal – with additional charcoal chunks tossed in when some more immediate warmth is needed.

The fires have to be de-ashed a few times a day, and if they’re not started (or revived) early in the morning we have a very cold kitchen to eat in. Peat and charcoal have to be carried in by one of the kids regularly.

The kitchen itself is divided so the refrigerator & cooktop is in one room, the sink in another, and the ‘warming stove’ in a third.  Cooking dinner is like running a relay, no microwave here! 

Thank heaven for M&S prepared dishes or we’d be spending more time than we’d like cooking, or more money than we’d like eating out!  We’re not lazy, but it IS our holiday…

Sweater Drying Above the Stove

There is a washing machine, a nice one, but our hosts use Laundry Balls instead of detergent (they kindly left some detergent for our American needs, we’re giving both methods a try…) And they have no dryer.

Clothes are washed and spun and hung above the kitchen stove, where in about 12-24 hours they’re dry and peaty-fresh.  It certainly makes one think twice about wearing a shirt only once – not a bad lesson!  We may put a laundry line on our back deck when we get home (but not inside, we lack the big old-fashioned kitchen! with room for clothes!)


Perhaps it’s like the physical sensation after taking a long, long walk, or a hard bike ride, when 30 minutes later your body kicks in and THEN you start getting hot all over and sweating.  Delayed physical response.

A Parsnip / Carrot / Potato Gratin, Homemade!

A week ago tomorrow we lost the wallet.  For all intents and purposes we’re back on our feet as far as having support here & backup in the US.

But it’s as if – physically and emotionally – the whole adventure is just catching up to me today.

When you have kids, and a husband who is counting on you to be the chief organizer, you tend to push the fear aside so you don’t unduly freak out the loved ones.  But the fear will always come back and it must be dealt with.  This morning is my dealing time.

And, to be honest, I’d rather deal with the emotional stuff now than have had one more thing to juggle at the time.  But that’s what’s got me up early, I think.

As I’ve said, folks have been SO kindthank you to all of you – but the loss of that darned wallet (and the funds therein) was huge.  [Me = dope]

I’ve decided that a small way I can thank folks who’ve helped us out is to give them one of my upcoming online knitting classes (their choice) if a donation’s been made to our ‘Robbed in Dublin’ fund.  It’s the least I can do, aside from a most heartfelt THANK  YOU!


Is anyone out there a flash guru?  Gerry’s finishing up a semester of classes through St. Paul College on computer stuff (Web 2.0 and Flash) and he’s having a DEVIL of a time getting one element of a page to work.  But upon this element his project balances.

He’s been dealing with more pain and exhaustion on this trip that we’d anticipated (the stress is getting to him, too!) and that’s clouding his ability to think clearly.

Gerry Stays Behind to Work

The past 2 days the kids and I have journeyed far and wide, enjoying our Irish holiday, while Gerry stayed here trying to make a button animation work smoothly.  I don’t understand Flash at all, but apparently when he swaps a button image it goes back to the root image and changes that, too, instead of saving a different version.

We all think differently – that’s the mantra of my classes – and I would NOT change the way Gerry thinks for anything in the world.  He has perspectives on things that I never see, and he’s clear-headed at times when I’m filled with confusion.

But the reverse is true, too, and I feel physical pain when I see him – like an toy shop wind-up doll – running into the same corner again and again and again.

He doesn’t seem to have the mechanism to back up and head for a different corner, at least not when he’s worried or in pain.  Who does? So he gets to the point where the stumbling blocks to finishing a project get bigger with every run-in with the corner, and he’s unable to see any way out of his dilemma.  It makes me think of me a few days ago when I just couldn’t figure out what to do next to reduce the agony of wallet loss.  Maybe he’s still experiencing that?

It’s so painful for me to see.  And there’s pride, too.  We all have it – me more than most – and Gerry is not usually a prideful person.  But when you feel that you’re not operating at top speed [Gerry], I think it makes it hard to get advice from someone who usually seems to skate through stuff [me], so my offers to kibbutz haven’t been met with much success.

Jaysus in Glenveagh

And, honestly, what do I know about flash?  Nothing.  It’s my OWN silly pride that makes me think I could be of any help whatsoever in this situation.

So we’re in Ireland, Gerry’s stressed and in pain, he can’t get his homework done for his project that’s due – oh, did I mention it was due today? – and I feel that I’m absolutely NO help to him at all.

In fact, I feel rather that I’m screwing up his whole semester by dragging him to Ireland, forcing him to go through the physical stress of travel, the mental stress of a new country, and the emotional stress of being robbed, just in time for him to NOT be able to finish his final assignment.

Oh, look, the sun’s up.  Time to go get some peat and think about this tomorrow.  For today, we – the family – are off to Enniskillen Castle!

Green = Euros, Pink=Sterling

10 thoughts on “5:30 in Raphoe

  1. Regarding the whole Scots-Irish/Irish/Catholic/Protestant/Calvinist thing…it’s really complicated. People who take it seriously take it *very* seriously, people who don’t can’t really tell what the big deal is. Religion is tangled up with class which is tangled up with heritage and then you have to take into account who your great granddaddy fought next to back in the war…it’s mad. Really mad.

    Also, dogwoods? I didn’t think we had those here! I grew up in Atlanta and it’s been a while since I’ve seen one. Maybe I need to trek out to Donegal next spring. I’m glad y’all are settling in and starting to enjoy your holiday after all the chaos of last weekend.

    • Hey Dixie!

      I’m so sorry we didn’t get to meet in Dublin (I may be back before we leave, maybe we’ll hook up then?) We could have bonded over Southern-esque US stuff! The dogwood was in a fenced in patch (so it wouldn’t escape?) at the Ulster Irish-American Folk Park. It’s DEFINITELY worth a trip, and not just for the dogwood!

  2. Glad things are continuing to go well. It’s great fun to hear about your adventures.

    The first photo is not gorse, however. (I’m not sure what it is, but it appears to be some type of evergreen, possibly cedar.) Gorse is very, very prickly — the needles (leaves) are sharp and arranged like a bottle brush along the branch/stem.

    When I was in Scotland I visited a botanic garden Edinburgh and was pleased to find a labeled gorse bush in the native section. As I child I read about Winnie the Pooh falling into a gorse bush, and I’d always wondered what it was like!

  3. I don’t think the leaves in the foreground belong to the yellow blossoms which I think is gorse. It is called gorse here, also furze and whins in Northern Ireland and Scotland!

    Glad you are enjoying the holiday and hope the Flash problem gets sorted soon. You have all had enough stress to last a long time!

  4. I, too, have some Irish roots and am totally envious of your trip. I know the problems suck big time, but you and the kids will have many wonderful memories to discuss in the years to come.

    I thought of your family as I watched Jeopardy last night and all the research being done for all our various conditions. Best wishes to all four of you and your hosts as well!!!

  5. Glad you’re getting on top of things and enjoying your trip now. A suggestion for the future … use a moneybelt worn under your clothes for carrying most of your money, plane tickets, passports, etc. That way you only have a day’s worth of cash available to thieves.

  6. I hope you get a chance to soak in some great traditional music during your travels – there are some great musicians from Donegal and a great music tradition! Enjoy:)

  7. Hey, Annie, I can’t help with the Flash, but Gerry & I should talk when you get back — I’ve done 3/4 of a Web-development se
    certification at St Paul College & need to get fired up to finish it. It sounds like he’s doing an online course, which is part of my problem; I learn much better in an old-fashioned classroom, with physical classmates to bounce ideas off of.

    I also have relatives (my grandfather) who insisted on making the Scots-Irish vs. Irish distinction without explaining what it meant. And we’re talking about ancestors who came to Massachusetts in the 1600s. My guess is the Hendersons didn’t like their stay in Ireland much.

  8. Hi Annie

    Hope the holiday keeps getting better and better. Just wanted to chime in on the name thing – unless your ancestors were literate, it’s possible that the first American record taker recorded their name as he heard it. They may not have had papers to show him. British regional accents and dialects were far more pronounced in those days, so it is possible that “Mothershed” sounded to him like “Modesitt”. (Odd point about the dialects: we’d recognise vertually all the words today, but we wouldn’t use them in the same context.)

    – Pam

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