From Dublin we travelled north through rolling farmland covered
with herds of sheep and cattle. Each family's parcel was divided
by hedges and rock walls giving a beautiful patchwork quilt effect.
We crossed into Northern Ireland and were surprised that there
was no visible indication that we had crossed a border into another
country.. No guards, not even a welcome sign. The only way we knew
we were now in Northern Ireland (other than the fact that our guide
told us!) was that traffic signs were now in miles per hour instead
of in kilometers as is the case in the Republic. In both the Republic
and Northern Ireland, traffic drives on the left side of the road
and most roadways are narrow, two lane roads. While the Republic
has gone to the Euro, Northern Ireland uses Pound Sterling just
like the UK.
stopped at the Down Cathedral in Downpatrick which is reputed to
be the burial place of St. Patrick. He initially lived in the area
during the 5th century. Although the cathedral was not built until
the 1100's, people believe St. Patrick returned to the Downpatrick
area to die. It is thought that he is buried somewhere beneath the
present church. A large stone was placed in the graveyard to commemorate
his burial place here.
When we arrived in Belfast, Barbara and Colleen grabbed a taxi
to go to the Belfast Public Records Office. Our grandfather was
born in Ireland in 1888 and immigrated to the US in 1909. We were
trying to locate his birthplace. Our only clue was a piece of paper
indicating his confirmation at the Presbyterian Church of Myroe.
The Church no longer exists but we had discovered prior to the trip
that the public records office had a microfilm record of the Church's
birth and baptism records. We were very excited to find the listing
for Grandpa's birth along with his twin brother. That record gave
us the name of his father and mother and the county and parish where
he lived, none of which we knew before. We learned that he llived
somewhere in Londonderry but we were not able to find exactly where.
raced back to the hotel in time for a bus tour of Belfast. It is
a surprisingly pretty city that shows little sign of the past trouble.
It is also not as crowded as Dublin (1/2million population).The
city is rich in Victorian and Edwardian buildings with elaborate
sculptures over the doors and windows. Did you know that the Titanic
was built in Belfast and today the world's largest drydock is there?
across the street from our hotel (the Europa) was a very ornate
and historic pub called the Crown Liquor Saloon. It was built in
1826 and has gorgeous stained glass windows, a tin ceiling, tile
floors and a beautiful long bar with inlaid colored glass and marble
Especially interesting were a series of ten small rooms on each
side called snugs, each guarded by a mythological beast. Inside
there was an antique system of bells for summoning service.Naturally
we had to try a Guiness, the national beer of Ireland.