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2014 Gathering Notes

By Cathal Cavanagh Luxemburg


Our compact with the Almighty to ensure sunny weather for the Gathering obviously held again this time round. I ‘m not sure whether it was Jim or John who concluded this special agreement but it brings to mind the line from the song referring to St. Patrick “the sun on his labour with pleasure did smile”.


Once gain despite some initial worries about how the weather might behave, and the concern about a potential dampening effect on attendance of the current economic austerity, the Gathering turned out to be a roaring success. Camaraderie and  craic prevailed, with much historical and genealogical wisdom being shared amongst us.


Of course no major undertaking of this nature “just happens” and we need to say a sincere word of thanks to the main people involved in the major planning and administration behind it.


Specifically one needs to praise the time and effort which James J and John G (of Camolin), put in and the vital administrative input of Fergus which underpinned it all. The outcome was a really memorable Gathering, which sparkled with warmth and friendship.


The field trip by bus on Thursday took us up into the hilly Caomhánach country, past the mysterious prehistoric Nine Stones on to the 7th century St. Fiachre monastery  at Ullard with its later 12th century Romanesque church and then on to Graiguenamagh with Duiske Abbey ,which has numerous Caomhánach connections and whose last abbot was a Cahir Caomhánach.


It should be noted that much of our trip was subsequently through what was once Butler territory, as was underlined in the paper distributed about their interactions over time with the Caomhánachs. The Anne Boleyn (of a Butler grandfather) connection was historically interesting as she had initially been affiancéd to her cousin, a Butler descendant of chieftain Domhnall Reagh Caomhánach. Her family’s demand to have the Ormonde title was refused by the Irish side and the wedding was called off.


The lovely Kilfane church with its stone effigies  holds some striking reminders of the Norman Cantwell family.


The visit to the beautiful Cistercian Jerpoint abbey was rendered  especially enjoyable by the tour guide who  proceeded to give a very hands on practical demonstration of what life was like for the monastic community. This was the  major highlight of this bus tour. 


The Kells Priory monastic site was very extensive  and hugely impressive, being one of the largest in Ireland.


Browne’s Hill Dolmen was particularly impressive in view of the fact that it dates from between 4,000 and 3,000 BC. The mind boggles that thought of how our ancient ancestors were able to put in place the capstone weighing over 100 tons. One wonders what the entombed person achieved to merit such a major burial place. 


Successively on Thursday and Friday evenings, the songs, music and dancing laid on by the very talented local Celtic Roots group were a sheer delight and added much to the friendly spirit of the Gathering.


This got all feet tapping as well as launching some enthusiastic céilí dancers from among our Clann members.


Friday, was occupied with clan history and genealogical lectures and workshops. John presented his updated paper on genealogical sources which is of invaluable assistance to those seeking their Irish roots.


Cathal assisted by Jim, and drawing on Dr.Gary’s previous work on this topic, delivered a lecture on the major achievements of the Caomhánachs within the framework of the fascinating Holy Roman (Austrian) Empire. Of particular interest was the remarkable success of Major General  Charles Cavanagh, Governor of Prague 1165 -1777.


A visit to Ferns Castle on Saturday saw Cathal pass over the seal of office which was intended for incoming chief Patsy in New Zealand. This was just a few weeks prior to the extremely sad event of Patsy’s passing. May her noble soul rest in eternal peace.


Patsy’s place in this ceremony was taken by Lorna from South Africa who made the long journey with her sister Carole and their respective husbands Charles and Wally.


The lady (“Jazz” ) in charge of the Ferns visitor centre went out of her way as usual to accommodate us. Moreover, the talk delivered by the tour guide at Ferns Castle was particularly appreciated by our group.


We subsequently proceeded to the customary laying of the wreath at the tomb of Diarmaid McMurrough and his son Domhnall, the ancestor of our clan.


The Ferns visit was followed by the traditional outgoing chief’s banquet at which the Gathering paid tribute to faithful attenders including Celia, Msgr Charlie, Dr.Gary, Terry from New Zealand & Australia, Tom and Thelma (from Wales) who were all prevented from coming on this occasion due to illness. Heartfelt wishes were extended for speedy and complete recoveries. 


Familiar faces included  Doris and Vic from New Jersey, Robert from Peabody, Mass., Dillon and Sheri from Kentucky, Patrick from Galway and Kerry the Gaelic speaker from Australia. Also present were the late Junglejim’s  cousins from North Carolina, Elsie and her delightful 16 year old granddaughter Grace.


We can conclude with words of a well known Gaelic toast for future wellbeing at the next rendezvous, "Go mbeirimid beo ar an am seo arís" (may we be alive for the next event of this nature).


We look forward to another momentous reunion with those who can make it to the next Gathering in 2016.

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