Tuesday 7 June 2016

Just A Piece Of Rock?


Is it a precious stone or just a piece of rock?

Bear kisses a piece of rock that he has watched his grandmother kiss. 
He doesn't know why, he just does.

The piece of rock sits on a shelf in his bedroom, in his grandmothers house, next to a photograph.

When Bears grandmother kisses the piece of rock she knows why. 
It's a piece of rock her grandmother used to kiss. 
It used to sit on a shelf, in a bedroom, in her mothers house.

Nearly 100 years ago it was taken from the earth by Bears great, great grandmother. 
Five generations separate them but one piece of rock link them together.


What is this piece of rock? I think it is the most precious stone in the world. Is it a diamond? Or an Emerald? It is neither of them. It is a piece of Connemara Marble.
It is green like the country it came from. Ireland. It is just a piece of rock.

Last picture taken of my Nan and the piece of Connemara Marble

When I was little and my grandmother visited she would take me upstairs, pick up the piece of rock and tell me how precious it was, that it was the most precious of all stones. She would give it a little kiss and laugh.

 "Home, just a little piece of home."

My grandmother, Barbara Connolly, was born Barbara Conneely in 1903 in a little Irish village called Letterard in the remote West of Ireland. In those days the only way in and out was by boat. Until she was seven she only spoke Irish. They were poor people, making a living by farming and fishing. Her father Patrick, a farmer and a fisherman, never learnt to swim. No-one could swim in this coastal village, they didn't bother. The waters of the North Atlantic were so cold and wild that anyone falling in would surely drown regardless of their abilities.

Before my Grandmother was born her parents had travelled to Boston, USA. They stayed long enough to have two children there. Margaret and Thomas.

Many Irish families had escaped the famine in the 1840's and travelled to Boston, USA. The journey was long and dangerous. Later, between 1886-1890 there was a Plan of Campaign in Ireland. Tenants joined together and asked for cheaper rents, those that were refused withheld their rents and most were then evicted. My great, great grandparents lived on land owned by the Law Life Assurance Co. Were they evicted?

Was that the reason that in 1890 my grandmothers parents travelled the 2,838 miles to Boston?  If so, why did they come back?

Sometime after 1911 my grandmother with her family moved across the bay from Letterard to Roundstone. In 1922 when my grandmother was 19 she left Ireland to go to London. Between the 1911 census and her marriage in London in 1929 my grandmother had changed her surname from Conneely to Connolly. I don't know why.

I have tried to trace my Irish ancestry back but have not been very successful. Conneely is a very common name in this part of Ireland. There are so many questions I wish I had asked my Nan. She used to tell me that we were descendants of the Kings and Queens of Ireland, the Geraldines. I would listen to her stories but never understood their value, as I never understood how precious the piece of rock really was. The only link I have found to Irish royalty is on Wikipaedia. It tells me that the Mac Conghaile (Conneely) clan were once rulers of Connemara.

Wikipedia also tells me that Billy Connolly visited Connemara, looking for his descendants (sic), during his 2002 World Tour of England, Ireland and Wales series. It doesn't tell me if he found them. I wonder if I'm related to him?


So many questions and no-one left who can answer them for me. I will continue to search for my Irish ancestors. To find out what their lives were like. My Nan was great. She was formidable, fearless, kind and funny.

I loved her.

When I go into Bears room, I look at her picture. I smile and give the piece of rock a kiss. I can almost hear her laughter. Home, a piece of home.

My Nan

If you still have grandparents then ask them questions. If you are not sure what to ask check out my previous post 18 Questions to ask your grandparents before it's too late.

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  1. Aw, I had a little tear in my eye reading this, Sally. What a beautiful post and how precious to have something that links so many generations of your family and acts as a starting point for explaining the family history. It's always sad when you have so many unanswered questions though. x

    1. Thankyou. Even though it was a long time ago I lost my Nan I still hear her laughter in my head. She was a remarkable woman and I wish I'd asked her more about her youth and family xx


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