Saturday, 24 March 2012

Walking in the Footsteps of my Ancestors [Part 2]

It was another lovely day & from Myra's conservatory where we had our breakfast, we could see the Swans going out in their pairs, looking for their early morning food.
The view from Myra's garden, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh

Looking out onto the Lough from Myra's conservatory
We'd got off to a bit of a slow start this morning so hadn't left ourselves too much time to look around Enniskillen.  We stopped off at Castle Coole first and walked around the estate & the grand neo-classical georgian mansion [not a castle].  Constructed in the late 1700's as a summer retreat for the Earls of Belmore, it is now owned by the National Heritage Trust.

Castle Coole, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh
Last year, almost 3,500 people descended on Castle Coole, with their antiques under their arm to be valued at the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow, when the show was filmed there.

Castle Coole, Enniskillen

The stories of Castle Coole are very much 'Upstairs, Downstairs' stories.  Once occupied by many servants, the vast basement at Castle Coole underwent major restoration & is now open to the public & apparently one of the best restored 'servant's quarter's' in the National Trust.
Looking into the The Grand Yard at Castle Coole, Enniskillen
The Grand Yard, Castle Coole, Enniskillen
Castle Coole Estate, Enniskillen
You can also go for a walk in the woodlands around the Estate & explore the Stable Yards, as well as see the Belmore Coach on display.

In the grounds of Castle Coole, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh
 Just before leaving Myra's, I'd got a message from Lillie's daughter, that my great  grandmother's great nephew Bertie [grandson of Lizzie's sister Annie], was keen to meet me, so we set off to the small village of Lisbellaw & finding the address without difficulty, I arrived unannouced.  It was another lovely visit & Bertie was thrilled I'd made the effort to find him.  I was also thrilled to now have a connection to Annie's branch of the family, as I'd found little information about her to this point. 

Guinness advertisement, Enniskillen

Back to Enniskillen, we had a quick bite to eat before  bundling back into our car, this time with Myra in tow & drove down to Derrylin, about 20 - 30 minutes drive away.
There we visit Derrylin Church & graveyard which had associations to Lizzie's mother's side of the family, the Blairs & the Croziers.  Again, I found many familiar names on the gravestones.  While at the church an elderly woman arrived & was obviously known by Myra as they got chatting.  It turned out that she was also a distant relative on Lizzie's mother's side, so another distant cousin of mine too!

Derrylin Church, Co. Fermanagh
Beautiful stain glass window, Derrylin Church, Derrylin, Co. Fermanagh
From Derrylin we drove to the nearby settlements of Knockninny & Sheehinny where  more of my Blair & Crozier ancestors lived.  Stopping at the Knockninny church, Myra again knew the man mowing the lawns there, he was her cousin on the Crozier side & yes, you guessed it... his ancestors & mine would almost certainly link up somewhere back on our ancestral line.


Next stop was very exciting for me as it was the spot where my great great great grandparents house had been situated & where Lizzie's mother would have been born, in the tiny farming settlement of Sheehinny.  While there is nothing there to see now, just being in the place where my ancestors would have been, was amazing.  I could visualize them in their horse & cart, trotting down the nearby lanes to nearby markets.
The house of my great great great grandparents, John Blair & Mary Crozier,
Sheehinny, Co. Fermanagh

My ancestors stone cottage was situated in the field at the end of this road in Sheehinny
Old stone buildings, Sheehinny, nr Derrylin, Co. Fermanagh
Looking over the countryside nr. Derrylin, Co. Fermanagh
On the way back to Enniskillen I was dropped off at Graan Abbey to visit Lillie again.  This was a more difficult visit as I knew I would have to say goodbye to her.  Her daughter Mavis, who I'd met for the day while in London a few weeks ago, had arrived from England & was also visiting.    We poured over old photos that Lillie had found in her album & I was at last able to put some faces to the names on my family tree.
Sadly, after an hour it was time to say a final goodbye while promising to keep in touch as much as we could once I'd returned to New Zealand. 

On the way back to Myra's, Mavis & I decided to take a look at some of the sites around Enniskillen first. 
Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh

Portora Castle ruins, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh
Portora Castle was one of many defensive castles constructed around the shores of Lough Erne between 1610 and 1619 to consolidate the Ulster Plantation in Fermanagh.  Plantation was an early method of colonization in which settlers were "planted" abroad in order to establish a permanent or semi-permanent colonial base.    
One story about the castle that made me smile, happened in 1859 when truanting boys from the nearby Portora Royal School tried to blow up the derelict castle in a gunpowder experiment!

Portora Royal School for Boys, Enniskillen

Portora Royal School just along the road from the old castle ruins, can trace it's history back to 1608 but the original construction of  parts of this current building date back to the late 1700's.  Often referred to as the 'Eton of Ireland', one of its more famous boarders were Oscar Wilde who attended the school during the mid 1800's & the playwright Samuel Beckett, who was also a pupil here.
Cole's Monument, Enniskillen
Cole's Monument stands high on Fort hill within Forthill Park & can be seen from anywhere in the town below.  It was built in honour of Sir Galbraith Cole, who was one of Wellington's generals and the son of the first Earl of Enniskillen.   Started in 1845, it took 12 years to complete.   180 spiral steps lead to a viewing platform with magnificent views of Enniskillen and the surrounding area. 

Forthill Park, Enniskillen
St Macartin's Cathedral, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh

War Memorial, Enniskillen
Driving through the town, we pass the War Memorial where, on the 8th November, 1987, an IRA bomb exploded near where the centoph stands, during a Remembrance Sunday ceremony – held to commemorate the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars and later conflicts.

While not clearly seen in the photo above, 11 dove sculptures  have been added around the base of the memorial in 1991, in memory of 11 people who were killed and hundreds who were injured that day.

Once back at Myra's, we decided to all go out for dinner again, back to the Killyhevlin Hotel, with it's stunning views out across Lough Erne.    I was interested to learn that the Killyhevlin had also been the target of a bombing.    Back in July 1996, the 'Continuity IRA' was blamed, although they didn't officially admit to the attack.  Over 250 people were evacuated from the hotel, but the explosion injured 17 people, including members of a wedding party & destroyed much of the recently-refurbished hotel. Over 1,000lbs of homemade explosives had been packed in a vehicle and left outside the hotel. The front of the Killyhevlin Hotel collapsed, scores of parked cars were burned and a 12-foot-wide bomb crater was left near the front door.  The so-called Continuity IRA became active after the Provisional IRA declared a ceasefire in 1994 is an illegal organisation in the Republic of Ireland & designated as a terrorist organisation in the UK & USA.

The Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen
View of the lough from the Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh
It was a lovely evening, tinged with a little sadness, that this would be my last evening in Lizzie's home town.   I had to also say goodbye to Mavis who's company I had so enjoyed.  However, there was some comfort knowing that I would be back here someday soon when I would meet up with her & the rest of my new found cousins again. 


  1. Thanks for sharing your marvellous story, it was a joy to read. It and those lovely photos can be passed down the line to future generations - another achievement :).
    A strange thought! Related to Tony Blair are you? His family hailed from nearby in Co Donegal??
    And then...the G8 June 2013 Gathering will be held in nearby Lough Erne Resort. You've started something....

  2. Thank you for your kind comments. Searching for your ancestors is so rewarding & meeting my new found Irish cousins & retracing my gt grandmothers footsteps, was a thrill beyond anything I can describe.
    Tony Blair does not feature on my family tree, but who knows.... perhaps more research needed.
    And yes, what a great event for Enniskillen next year with the G8 summit being held there.

  3. Originally from Killymitten which is near Coa ,I knew the Emerson family and quite a number of Coa residents. Lovely photos of the Fermanagh countryside. Brings back many memories .Now living in New South Wales,Australia.

    1. Hello Bob, thank you for dropping by. How exciting it is that you know of my distant cousins. I hope you've been able to go back to Fermanagh from time to time. It certainly is a beautiful region. I feel very fortunate to have been able to connect with so many of my Fermanagh cousins while I was there.

  4. Catherine Moore2 March 2016 at 14:04

    Hi, not sure how quickly you will receive this message, but I found this blog after finding out that Myra Perrott passed away a few hours ago. Myra and I had planned to meet up to discuss family trees that I had been working on.

    1. Hello Catherine,
      I received an email from one of my Northern Ireland cousins just over an hour ago telling me the sad news. She was a very special friend & we kept in regular contact.
      Thank you for thinking of me. Regards, Paddy

  5. Hi wanting to get in contact if possible, trying to find my relatives a John Blair that had a daughter named Catherine Jane Blair born 1842 in Derrylin, Fermanagh, Ireland. She married a Cartwright from Enniskillen in 1865.

  6. Hi Rachel. My gt gt grandmother Mary Anne, was Catherine's sister. I live very close to where Catherine & her descendants settled in NZ.

  7. Oh Wow! Hi, Thanks for that, I have been thinking that around the same birth years and place. Catherine died young, as a result my grandfather was passed around the Aunts. There is supposed to be an Aunty Maud, but it seems she could also be a cousin. I am so new at this. Mum was from New Zealand, obviously moved over to Australia when she married dad, you can find me on ancestry and heritage if you want more family details for your tree. :-)

    1. Rachel, I'm currently in Ireland right now & tomorrow I drive into Co. Fermanagh in Northern Ireland. This is where my gt grandmother was born. And near to where she lived is where your Cartwright family lived. My great grandmother's eldest sister MaryJane, immigrated to NZ also & married into the Cartwright family.
      I will have a lot more info for you once I return to NZ beginning of May.

  8. Wow!! So exciting! Would you be able to get some pictures of the Graves as well? So exciting! Looks so awesome over there, I'll have to check it out one day. I will also be visiting the South Island one day. Mum is from Palmerston North.

  9. PS Yes Catherine married John Cartwright, whom was born to William Cartwright, whom I do not have any info on just yet and his father is unknown. I am currently doing a course on how to family history to better my plan. :-) Looking forward to following your blog. It's been such a family mystery, because Great Grandma Edith Cartwright died a few months after grandad was born and stayed silent about his childhood except for a few funny stories. So mum and her sister are looking forward to what I find and perhaps your great blog, Thanks for sharing.