I made my first visit to Ireland in the fall of 1977 and stayed for 2 months.
I walked a lot of roads, hitchhiked hundreds of miles and heard lovely
traditional music. I met an old Irish-speaking woman in Dingle who knew my grandparents and looked at me with recognition. I remember how the rain felt on my face, how the peat fires smelled and being welcomed by my cousins
with a warm glass of poteen and salmon caught that day off Slea Head.
I didn’t need to search for my roots, as my grandparents, Dermod Sheehan of
Ballyvourney, a traveling teacher for the Gaelic League, and Annie Curran of Dingle, came to America in 1907. In 1956, my grandfather wrote down our family history going back to the 1700s.
On that first visit, I met many Sheehan cousins on their farms in West Cork and the Currans in their pub in Dingle. Thirty years later, they’re still there. The dairy farms and the pub are thriving. It’s a rare privilege to have a living family legacy in a country that’s undergone such radical changes in the past two decades.
I received my Irish citizenship in 2005, found myself with an empty nest and started thinking about living and working in Ireland. In 2007, 100 years after Dermod and Annie came to America to start a new life, I found my way back to the “old country” to start another phase of mine.