Laois County September 13th 2023 – Come Home Journal #18
Is a house a home when it has no roof?
Last minute tidy of the apartment. Dishes done, bags packed, bed made, every surface wiped. Final checks done (every cupboard opened and closed). I leave a bag on the table with things I had packed and not yet used, with a note of thanks to regift. I had packed terribly, in a headrush of needs I no longer felt.
I order a cab and head to Heuston railway station for train travel to Cork. I have fallen heads over heels in love with Dublin. I have walked everywhere and often, and it’s been so much more than grand. I resolve to come back. I have not yet had enough.
The station is full of travellers, those with bigger bags nod to each other in honour of the drag! I haven’t bought my ticket to Cork because I need to stop off at Portlaoise on the way. Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail) is confusing online, but way cheaper. My plan of action is to buy a multi-journey ticket face to face. I’m nicer in person, more affable than my emails make out.
I find my way to the ticket counter and ask the ticket guy if, on my way to Cork, I can get off the train at Portlaoise, visit and then get back on the next train to Cork. Same day travel, multiple landings.
“Oh no”, he says, “you’ll need a different ticket.”
“Sure. Can I get that ticket please?”
“Oh no”, he says, “we don’t sell a ticket like that!”
I’m also more patient face to face with actual people. “No worries. What should I do, do you think?”
He thinks about it for a minute and then says “Get a ticket to Cork and alight where you want. Tell them you’re feeling faint. Or something. Who’s going to stop you? This is Ireland!”
My faith remains at high watermark in Ireland. Everyone wants to get on and if you want to do something then you should do it. Just don’t make any trouble for anyone else.
So, I get on the train to Cork and hop off in Portlaoise, County Laois. No feinting required. No one to stop me. I drag my heavy suitcase and bags down the long stone stairs, possibly grimacing the whole way. I’ve packed badly and every groan tells me just that.
I make my way to the Laois County Council (wonderfully .coco in emails), and I meet Elaine. In my handwritten journal I note she is younger than me. This is strange. Age difference is not something I usually note unless its high contrast. This time it is not so possibly I am stuck by her beautiful manner in one so young.
She is witty, accomplished and ready to laugh. She takes me and my bags into the county council cafeteria. It seems most meetings take place here. A lovely big bright space with long rows of tables. They have everything including proper coffee!
With encouragement from Elaine, the cook comes out to say hello.
“Hello there. Where you from?”
“Wadawurrung Country in Australia.”
“Oh, Australia. Grand. Just home for a visit then?”
Hearing this line so often feels like a welcome each time. Everyone it seems knows someone from Australia. We are not exotic, we are kin.
“Would you like a scone?”
And I am sold, my life for a scone! This particular and beautifully presented scone wins Best in Ireland Scone. As voted by me!
I open my cases and display my packing abilities as I try to find what I have brought with me from the Eureka Centre for their contacts in Laois County Council and for the Tenakill House Restoration Committee.
Then I meet Dan and Mary Carmody from the committee. Fabulous people with a vigour for life that is contagious. They tell me everything from then until now including how much their project depends on people.
“We need folks with get up and go. We don’t need people that are, don’t get me wrong, useless.” We laugh together in understanding the kind of useless that often gets promoted. Dan and Mary have the get up and go. Mary has a meeting soon and needs to be dropped off home for ‘the zoom’.
They take me to their home for the drop off showing such kindness and sincerity. They are humbled by the gift I have brought them from the Eureka Centre in Australia. A Eureka Flag. They hold it upside down for the photo. None of us notice. We’re too busy having fun!
Dan and I drive out to Tenakill House, the birthplace of the Lalor Clann. There’s our Peter (Eureka rebellion leader), his father Honest Pat (the MP), his brother James Fintan (revolutionary and journalist) and another brother Richard (MP). What a family of activists and revolutionaries. I’ve attempted below some details that if not correct are close. Someone might correct me on which Patrick was which!*
Patrick Lalor was born c. 1730 and married Mary “of Doon.” They built Tenakill House, Co. Laois, Ireland ca. 1771. Patrick and Mary Lalor had the following children: James, Edward, Patrick, Thomas, Julia, Fintan, Joseph, and Mary.
Patrick Lalor (Patrick and Mary’s son aka ‘Honest Pat’, MP and anti-tithe campaigner) was born c. 1781 at Tenakill House. Patrick and Anne (nee Dillon) Lalor had the following children: James Fintan (revolutionary and journalist), Margaret, William, Joseph, Patrick, John, Mary, Jerome, Thomas, Richard (MP), Catherine and Peter Fintan (Revolutionary Eureka leader).
The house is still standing due to the work by Dan and Mary and others who have worked so hard to support it. Today it stands waiting for a roof to complete it and protect it before it is habitable inside.
Off now to Raheen the little village nearest Tenakill. Dan stops at the graveyard in Raheen. He wants to show me the tomb of Honest Pat Lalor. We walk through the cemetery overgrown with nettles, grass and brambles holding fast our heels. Dan is committed and pulls his way from gravestone to gravestone until he finds it.
He is helping me to take the photographs, pulling back the brambles, getting his shoes wet. At the tomb he tells me I can stand on the stone to record the words. I politely decline. He is worried I think it disrespectful.
“Sure he’s dead and aren’t you getting his message out? It’s not disrespectful. You do what you can, apologise and thank him later! And I’ll do the same.” With that this nimble elder climbs on top of the tomb, takes my phone and grabs photos of the text inscribed.
Gloria in excelsis Deo
Here lies the body of Mr Patrick Lalor
Who depd this Life March 19th 1805 Agd 75
Yrs also his wife Mrs Mary Lalor of Doon who
Depd this Life July the 27th 1804 Aged 54 Yrs
Also his son Patrick Lalor
Died 23rd April 1856
And his wife Ann Lalor née Dillon
Died 4 June 1835
This is the tomb of
honest Pat Lalor M.P.
and his son
Richard Lalor M.P. Tenakill
In the photos Dan takes you can see his feet, wet with dew and grass seeds, and full of the beautiful passion for stories of the Irish.
Dan takes me to the Raheen church a ‘very rich man’ has restored, he speaks with the woman in the church about his hopes the same rich man might yet restore Tenakill House.
And finally, Dan carries my bags to the station. We hug. The day spent together has made us firm friends. I promise to write, he thanks me for the gifts, I say I will send word, he says he will send the DVD.
Both of us realise none or all of that may happen, and we are grateful for the time together that might bring our countries closer together.
When I arrive in Cork I discover I am staying in an old hospital and my window looks over its graveyard, itself overlooked by the church tower. Mist is rising over the graves as the sun sets. It feels right.
Check out more images here:
Check out the Tenakill House listing and location on the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage Ireland.
*Thanks to Dan Carmody for setting me straight, see below in comments.