After almost 4 weeks in Ireland, today dawned bright and sunny, and by far the best morning, weather-wise, of the whole month. Such a shame to spend it travelling. Although I was looking forward to seeing my family at home again, there was a definite sense of loss to be leaving Clare. The month had been so full, but gone so fast. The question, asked so many times during my stay "And how long are ye home for?", was in my mind as I drove down the Motorway towards Limerick. I really did feel that I had a tiny place here in this beautiful county which my grandfather left 110 years ago. He and his brothers left an Ireland which was changing, and a way of life which was rapidly disappearing, to forge a new life in a land where a man would be judged on his own merits with none of the expectations or limitations enforced by the position in society to which he was born. I wonder if he knew, when he left, that he would never return?
Arrived at Shannon airport with plenty of time to drop off hire car, and boarded my flight to London. I managed to work out the intricacies of the London rail service, and caught a train from Heathrow to Putney. Well, several trains, actually. It was wonderful to see Tom and Sally again when they met me at the station.
A relaxing couple of days spent with Tom, sharing and comparing notes on family history. Tom is my 2nd cousin, and nominally the "head" of our branch of Pilkingtons, being the eldest son of the eldest son - the 7th Thomas Pilkington in a direct line back to the earliest identified Thomas in county Clare. It was his family tree which really got me started on researching the Pilkington family in county Clare. I was pleased to be able to hand over to Tom a copy of the Waterpark book. Tom has a great collection of family memorabilia, including photographs and the family bible which had belonged to our great grandparents Thomas Pilkington & Mary Haughton. One treasure is Sarah Anne Haughton's sketchbook, which Tom kindly allowed me to photograph - some of the pictures are on a separate page here.
|Pilkington family bible|
The day after I arrived, Sally and I went off to explore nearby Ham House, a magnificent 17th century National Trust mansion and surrounding gardens. The house contains a big collection of portraits, and ornate furnishings from the period. The following day, we went for a walk in the huge Richmond Park, originally developed as a hunting park for King Charles I in the 1600's. The park is home to herds of red and fallow deer, and contains the beautiful Isabella Plantation which we enjoyed exploring.
Saturday was my last day, and another beautiful sunny one. Tom and Sally drove me to the station mid-afternoon, to make the train trip out to Heathrow for my evening flight home. I had a lovely few days with them, but as the saying goes - all good things do come to an end, and it was time for me to make my way homeward.
The flight home was under-booked, so I was lucky enough not to have companions - the luxury of being able to stretch out across 3 seats meant I was able to sleep for much of the trip. Arrived home to a cold and windy winter Monday morning in Melbourne, and stepped straight back in to the usual round of domestic issues and work. Wonderful to see my family again - they all seem to have survived quite well without me.
This had been such a wonderful experience, and the memories of this trip, the people and places I visited, will stay with me for many years. The next few months will be spent processing the information I collected in my travels, hopefully expanding the knowledge of our family origins, and exploring the links to the other Pilkington families from Clare.
But, every bit of information gained leads to more questions, so will this family history journey ever really end?