An Exile’s Rambles Through Erin




                                                        Diarmuid O’Riordan


The following is an article by Jerh Riordan which appeared in the Southern Star about 1955. Jerh,along with Cors. Kelleher and Tom Twomey were the first postmen appointed in Inchigeela in 1899, when postal deliveries in rural areas started. They were "walking" routes and wages were 7 shillings per week. After 5 or 6 years Jerh left the job and went to America. John Riordan, Jerh’s brother got the post job then. He returned to Ireland for three weeks in July 1955, and the following article appeared in the Southern Star shortly after. It was a follow on from a previous article. (We would like to thank Dermot Kelleher for giving us this article)


Blarney Castle was the next place of interest about which so much has been written that I do not feel competent to do full justice to that beautiful place, but I will say I did not kiss the Blarney Stone, for to accomplish that, it was necessary to climb to the top of the Castle, and being troubled with bronchial asthma, I thought it wiser not to do so. We set out for Mallow and Mourne Abbey. We visited the O’Neill homestead at Ballyhillogo and the Walshe’s cottage and a Mr. and Mrs. Coleman at Grenard. When we got to Coleman’s they were getting ready to go to a funeral, a Mr. Buckley who was an IRA man. He had fought for the freedom which the people now enjoy and was to go to his last resting place with military honours. So we too proceeded to Ballinamona cemetery and I witnessed my first I.R.A. funeral. No need to describe that here, as the Irish appreciate what those boys have done during those five glorious years and as they are now dropping from us one by one they are given a military farewell worthy of the sacrifices they have made. We came back to Cork that day through Fermoy. Though a little longer route, it was worth the extra time as we passed such places as Rathcormac, Watergrasshill and Glanmire. During the Marian year several grottos were set up in Ireland, out in the rural districts, by voluntary labour. In Glanmire, I think, there is the finest in Ireland. It is cut out of solid rock and no words of mine can describe it here, but I will just say it is magnificent. We arrived back at Mrs. Ryans and I made arrangements to go to my native Inchigeela on Friday. I notified the Lake Hotel in the village to that effect.

On Thursday, July 21st we rested all day and next day we boarded a bus at 6.30 p.m. that would take us to my native village of Inchigeela about thirty miles away. Well here I was at last steering westward to fulfil a desire existing in my heart for a long time. A hope, yes a cherished hope, I often thought in vain, was now at last to come true. A dream I sometimes felt would be only a dream. No one can portray my feelings on that occasion, rather I would say with the poet Locke:


This one short hour pays lavishly back

Full many a year of mourning,

I’d almost venture another flight,

There is so much joy in returning.

Watching out for that hallowed place,

All other attractions scorning.

Oh! Inchigeela, don’t you hear me shout?

I bid you top of the morning.


When we got to within five miles of the village I started to look out for familiar places and scenes. Yes, here was Toonsbridge. I wonder who has the public house now. Dan Dineen’s farm on the left. The hill of Milleen. Herlihys lived here on the right. Oh, oh, Dan the Loggs house was torn down. Rossmore hill doesn’t seem so steep and on reaching the top I can see the village.

Oh, hAnam an Diabhal, there it is. There it is "my native Inchigeel, near the town of sweet Macroom." From now on I expect the ghosts of my ancestors will be greeting me. As I am passing Joss Kellehers I can hear him singing in his fine rich voice, "Mo vesteen leigh., although I know he is gone to the great beyond these many years.

Here we are at the hotel. I am greeted first by Timmie Johnny O’Sullivan, proprietor of the hotel and a former schol mate of mine. His wife too welcomes me and Neilus Kelleher ex-postman comes sauntering in to bid me a "cead mile failte". A member of the Garda Siochana and Paddy Casey drop in later and we sit and talk late into the night. We are shown our room and prepare to retire but as I had a great desire to satisfy an impulse. As a boy I always thought I would like to stand inside this hotel and look out, instead of standing outside looking in. I now was in a position to satisfy that desire so I strolled over to the window, raised the shade and looked outside.

I did not believe my eyes! I rubbed my optics as I thought indeed I was observing an optical illusion or maybe ‘twas all a dream. This could not be true. Maybe my whole trip to Ireland was a dream and I’ll wake up in Peabody. I pinch myself. No, it is not a dream, here was my wife in the room with me. There is Delae’s Hotel across the street. (now Creedons). There is Quinlan’s house and Thade Aherne, and Johnny Barry’s and the Post Office where I worked. No it can’t be a dream. If anybody told me they saw the streets of my native Inchigeela lit up with electric lights I would not believe them. I wonder is it because I’m returned that they are lighting the place up. I ran down stairs and inquired as to what was the cause of the illumination. They told me the village had been lit up for the past six months.

The following morning after breakfast our first visit was to the chapel where I received First Communion and for confirmation. In this chapel there is a statue of the Blessed Virgin. I always thought of it as the largest I had ever seen. I carried a picture of that during my years of exile and I could see no other as large as it until I began to think that it was because I saw it with my childhood eyes that it looked big then. I was anxious now to see it again. I expected it would not look so big. I went before the alter of the Virgin Mary and yes, the same statue was there and yes it still is the largest I have seen in all my travels.

I roamed through the village and went along until I came to the cottage I was born in. I went in and explained my visit to a young mother. She was very corteous and asked me to sit down. I had great difficulty in suppressing my emotion as I thought of my dear father and my good stepmother and a fond brother whom I left here fifty years ago. I proceeded on up the road to view some more familiar scenes and to see someone I once knew, someone who was very dear to me. Moore once said "There is nothing half so sweet in life as loves young dream". I wanted to see the girl I left behind.

We got back to our hotel at 1.30pm and had dinner. That was Saturday and I spent the rest of the day catching up on my correspondence.

On Sunday morning we went to 8 o’clock Mass. There was a time when I knew every man woman and child who went to this chapel. As I wended my way through the people to Mass this morning, I knew no one. No one greeted me with a ‘Hello’ or a ‘Conas atá’n tú’.

The following Saturday my wife and I went to Confession and the next day received communion in my native place, at the same alter rail I knelt at as a young garsún as I received my First Communion.

We stayed at the Lake Hotel for three weeks. I made some new friends there who were too young to be aquatinted with before I emigrated., Paddy Casey, Paddy Joe Reilly, Dermot Kelleher, Timothy Galvin, John Mick Galvin, Eugene Corcoran, Seán Rua Sullivan. I went back to Carrig An Aifreann and to the scent of the Kilmichael ambush where the South Cork Brigade under Tom Barry annihilated two lorries full of Auxillary police one Sunday afternoon. We also paid a visit to Dunmanway to visit some people and we spent a whole day in Macroom renewing acquaintances.