Sunday, October 28, 2007

My Grandfather's House

Those of you who were reading this blog back in 1996 might recall that that was the year of the Great Ireland Experiment. I moved to Dublin to embark on a career as an international correspondent. I filed a bunch of spots for NPR, but ended up spending most of my meager income on Guinness. And the rest of my money, as the saying goes, was squandered.

Anyway, in November of that year, shortly before ending the GIE, I went to the village of Dunfanaghy, in northernmost County Donegal. I went in search of my roots. Dunfanaghy is where my paternal grandfather, Samuel Algeo, was born – and whence he emigrated in 1908.

On my first night there I went to a pub, where I ran into a fellow about my age named John Algeo. We got to talking and discovered that his grandfather and my grandfather were brothers – so we were second cousins. It was pretty amazing, though running into one of my blood relatives in a pub isn’t that much of a stretch.

John couldn’t have been a better host, and he spent the next day showing me the amazing scenery around Dunfanaghy, as well as his house (which my grandfather grew up in), and a few other things best not mentioned here.

So when Allyson and I went to Ireland this month, we checked in on John and found him just as hospitable as ever. Here we are standing in front of his house – the historic Algeo family home, so to speak (the satellite dishes were added after my grandfather left):

And here we are standing on the beach directly across the road from the house. (John says that when our grandfathers were growing up, there was no road to the house, and the family didn’t own any land connecting to a road, so they could only come and go at low tide, when there was enough beach to make the trip!)

Allyson and I had a great time in Dunfanaghy, though it’s changed a lot in the 11 years since I last visited. It’s become a suburb of Letterkenny, a booming city about 40 minutes south. Lots of houses are being built, and fancy-schmancy shops are opening up. My grandfather would barely recognize the place. But at least he’d be able to walk back to his old house at high tide.

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