As an American family history seeker who has visited the KINNADOOHY Mayo site that his great-grandfather Michael O’Malley left during the Potato Famine – 150 years ago, I want things to not have changed and to look like the Tourist Office view that I expect. That’s growing a lot more difficult.
First, the thatched roof on the original two room house -- built by Michael’s grandfather Sean -- has caved in, and the family – my 85 year old cousin Una – in the early1990’s moved across the street into a new home with three bedrooms, a stove, a toilet and bathtub, telephone, dish tv, etc. Now the Irish soda bread is not baked on the hearth but is baked at a commercial bakery.

Second, although the Catholic church is not what it once was, the daily mass seems the same at the Killeen Church of the Holy Family, Kilgeever parish – built around 1900 and only two miles away. The overall church has suffered from child abuse by priests and nuns (the Magdalen Laundries), a drop in vocations, and fallen attendance. Una still enjoys occasional trips to the Knock shrine. She even paid for new monuments at the nearby cemetery. Una and her nephew John Joe continue the nightly rosary.

Third, although the Celtic tiger economy has slackened recently, joining the European Union really helped the Irish farmer economy as markets and subsidy support grew for farms and old agers. Small farm sheep-raising is now more profitable; this made the new house possible. The effect of blow-ins, Eastern European immigrants, African asylum seekers, US high-tech investments is less in Mayo than elsewhere in Ireland.

Finally, change is slow due to personalities. Una is a familyhistorian and storyteller, her interests are more in the past than the future. She adored her father and family stories, she never married, lived at the same farm all her life, never had a car, enjoyed writing for the parish magazine, etc. Sean O’Duill, a Dublin storyteller whose grandparents were from Louisburgh, tells me that Una is one of the best known family history people in the West of Ireland.

Editors note: Sadly since this piece was written, both Una and her much loved nephew John Joseph passed away within 7 weeks of each other, see the long essay which is a tribute to Una.

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