Touring Abbeyshrule with Tom

During my 1987 visit to Abbeyshrule, which is fully recounted elsewhere on this site, both in a general description and my original 1987 notes, as well as a page on Mill Lane, I deal with all the serious historical stuff. But the experience of touring Abbeyshrule with an 80 year old local and meeting the other 80 year olds in the neighborhood was amusing as well as informative, so this page is a somewhat lighter-hearted account of my experiences. It overlaps with the 1987 notes, of course. For the Jones data itself, see the David Jones page.

I arrived cold, with nothing except a couple of letters sent to me in earlier years by the local priest. On arrival, the post office was closed and the church locked, and the pastor it turns out lives in Carrickedmond, not in Abbeyshrule, so, what to do? Well, this being Ireland, I sought out the pub.

The Rustic Inn is, as I commented at the time, one of only two buildings in Abbeyshrule (the other is a modern Catholic Church) which is not, in fact, rustic. A picture of it appears on my main Abbeyshrule page. It is in fact a combination pub, bed-and-breakfast inn, and nightclub/entertainment center/dancehall, and specialized in US country music when I was there, though I gather they also now do blues and jazz. (It's easier to find traditional Irish music in Boston than in Ireland, or at least I had that impression.)

The owner, Teddy McGoey, was getting the dancehall part ready for the evening's concert, but talked to me for a bit; his brother, Charlie, was a lawyer in Dublin and the local history buff, though I wouldn't hear from him until after I returned to the states. Meanwhile, Teddy McGoey located one of the oldest inhabitants, a fellow named Tom. (To this day I'm not sure I ever even heard his last name.) Tom, shown above, was I believe already hanging out in the pub anyway.

Tom was glad to take me around to talk to various people. He was a talkative sort, with lots of not always very clear memories of early days in Abbeyshrule. Trying to pin down dates was particularly difficult. But he had heard of Catholic Joneses before, although he pointed out (as the priest had in correspondance) that all the Joneses living nearby these days were Protestant, and in the village of Taghshinny.

He was the first to talk about how a Jones had married Kitty Burrows, or else Kitty Burrows was a Jones who had married a Burrows, and how there had been a David Jones' Gardens, and a David Jones blacksmith who lived by the canal.

He was ready to take me around to talk to all the folks who might know something. We got in my rented car, and bear in mind that I was still trying to master driving on the left side of the road, with the steering wheel on the right. He then directed me along the road and then said "wheel right", meaning turn right, pointing to what it would be an exaggeration to call a cowpath. So, in rental car, I begin pounding out into the bog country. We eventually saw a flat boggy area which he assured me was the site of "David Jones' Gardens", "gardens" here meaning small farms and being pronounced something like "garridens".

We then went to a house looking for someone -- I think the same chap we later found at the pub and who shows up in some pictures alongside Tom -- but his daughter said he'd gone out, but she knew that "Father has an old book" -- father here meaning not her father but the priest -- which was a reference to the parish registry.

We then went on to meet Pearse or Pierce Butler, an old chap in a cottage with a wife and a comfortable little home. I wrote his name down then as Pearse, thinking him named for the Irish patriot, but have since noted that there are Pierce Butlers in Abbeyshrule as far back as the 1860s, so he probably spells it that way. That's Mr. Butler in front of his ivy-covered cottage. We sat over tea for some time as he and Tom tried to nail down their memories.

That was the most intriguing part of the whole visit. These guys were 1) both in their 80s, 2) Tom had few if any teeth; 3) they had very heavy regional Irish brogues which sounded nothing like what I'd been hearing from younger and more educated Irish. At times I hadn't a clue what they were saying.

The biggest problem was chronology. Most of our discussions were around the Joneses whom they faintly remembered, not our ancestral Joneses, but the one or two men named David Jones who lived in Abbeshrule sometime, I gather, in the early 20th century. Kitty Burrows was a Jones, or maybe she was a Burrows who married a Jones, but one of the men remembered she used to give him candy, so that means that she had lived, at least, into the 20th century. There had been a David Jones who was a blacksmith down by the canal, and a David Jones who had the "David Jones' Gardens" farm, or maybe they were the same man... But David Jones' Gardens had burned, or the farmhouse burned, how many years ago was that now? They started counting back generations, decades, trying to pin things down by reference to other events.

Soon the conversation drifted to the bad old days of the Black and Tan War and the Irish civil war -- in other words, 1919-1922 -- and the men started reminiscing as if the Black and Tans had ridden through the village this morning.

Then we got off on Britain and America. Well, America's all right, but the British really run everything; the Americans do the British' bidding ... well, that was interesting, I thought. I do not disagree when old men might have something to tell me about my family.

In the end, I concluded that the farmhouse at David Jones' gardens could have burned anywhere from 1910 to sometime in the 1930s.

There was a lot more conversation, not all of which I can recall now. It ended with me standing Tom and a friend a couple of rounds at the pub.  I assume all my elderly informants -- Tom, Pearse Butler, and the other guy, whose name I'm not sure I ever did know -- are no longer with us, as this took place 15 years ago and they were in their 80s then.