Archiver > NIR-ARMAGH > 1999-07 > 0931797364

From: "Michael Reed" <>
Subject: [NIR-ARMAGH-L] My visit to South Armagh (long)
Date: Mon, 12 Jul 1999 09:36:04 -0700

Since some list readers expressed an interest in this sort of thing, here

I just returned from a two week visit to Ireland, including a genealogy day
trip through South Armagh (my family, the McGeeneys, are from the area). My
wife and two young children drove to Newry and spent the night in a B&B
north of town. The border was more or less invisible. During a drive through
a housing estate on a hill above Newry, we saw political graffiti (IRA South
Down Armagh Brigade) and we briefly crossed paths with three heavily armored
Land Rovers (probably RUC, as "Crime-stoppers" was painted on the side).
They were impatient for us to get out of their way at a stop sign, honking
at us to move along.

The landscape of South Armagh was very beautiful, with hilly farmland and
pastures and small tidy villages. We drove the next morning through
Camlough, Bessbrook, Carrickcrovaddy, Cullyhanna, Crossmaglen, Clonalig,
Silverbridge, Mullabawn and Forkhill. Many of these very small villages had
British or RUC military installations on nearby hills, and Crossmaglen has a
base right next to the town square. There were frequent helicopter flights
in and out of the bases and around the countryside. In Cullyhanna, we
stopped at St. Patricks Church and cemetery and noted several family
headstones. There is an IRA memorial in town, as there is in Crossmaglen. We
then drove to Crossmaglen for lunch.

I should emphasize that at no time did we feel in personal danger. On the
contrary, the occasional military presence seemed completely out of place in
the bucolic countryside. That may not always have been the case, but it
seemed that way to us. Crossmaglen was perhaps the friendliest village we
visited in two weeks in Ireland. Shopkeepers and pub workers went out of
their way to make us feel welcome and to offer genealogy advice to me. On
their recommendation, we went to the church just outside of town (I couldn't
find the name, but it's the large Catholic Church). We noted several
McGeeney headstones. A woman in the cemetery directed me to the parish house
and Father McGeough, the parish priest. although I hadn't even called in
advance, he graciously sat down with me for 20 minutes on a Saturday evening
to browse the parish baptismal and marriage records. We found pages of well
organized records of McGeeneys, which is a very unusual surname, and I may
have actually broken through a "brick wall" in locating my great-great-great
grandfather's baptismal record.

For Forkhill parish records, Fr. McGeough directed me to Mullabawn, and St.
Mary's Church. The cemetery again contained several family headstones, but
the parish priest didn't really have time to sit down with me, and referred
me to the diocese records in Armagh which have been mentioned on this list.

On the drive over the hill to Mullabawn, we got lost and took a tiny country
road over the hill. We stopped several times to take pictures of the
stunning landscape and wildflowers, including a wonderful view of Slieve
Gullion, which dominates the countryside. A military helicopter, evidently
wondering what on earth we were doing, hovered over us for a few minutes
and then flew on. We also passed tourists having "pony treks" through the

>From Mullabawn we drove out of Northern Ireland through Forkhill, and again
we didn't even realize when we had passed over the border.

All in all, this was the most satisfying part of my journey to Ireland,
mainly because of the personal connection. in addition, however, this was
also some of the most beautiful landscape and some of the friendliest people
I encountered. Although the military presence and political graffiti were
out of place and disturbing (as if you were seeing them in West Virginia),
the area appeared very safe for tourists and I would gladly go back to visit
again. I encourage anyone with connections in the area to do the same.

This was a brief overview of my trip. I you have any questions or want more
details, please e-mail me directly at .

Take care,
Mike Reed

This thread: