We left Scotland on Monday, June 4th and had an easy time at the airport, since we had ordered 55 kilos worth of luggage in advance on the phone the day before. (They would have charged us 3 times that, if we had checked them at the desk…good tip for Flybe Airlines).
Our first day in Bangor, N. Ireland, near Belfast, dawned at 4:30AM as a bright, sunny day. Then, it turned grim as we were out and about. So, the tea against the rainy window in our room later was a respite from our wet and cold…are we spoiled brats or what?
Billy Scott, the guide, picks us up at Cairn Bay Lodge to tour Belfast. Nancy talks him into going to look for Sloans and McCannes first – in Armagh and Lisburn (35 miles away). She’s eager to find something….and Billy is flexible…after all, we are paying. Armagh Is elusive, even for an experienced guide (we don’t think he does this often) and we get there in about 40 minutes. His windshield wipers are going on intermittent, so far.
There are two St. Patrick’s Cathedrals – one with 2 spires (Catholics often did this) and an older one, which is Protestant. You can see one from the other; both on high hills in the town. Armagh has been the spiritual center of Ireland for 1,600 years. St. Patrick built his first church (or monastery) here in 473AD. (Oddly, he was British, kidnapped & enslaved while young and was a cowherd here in Ulster, Ireland until escaping, going to France to be trained & ordained and coming back here to convert the heathen.)
Not much about Nancy’s relatives here in Armagh, so we went to Saintfield and found the First Presbyterian Church (built in 1777, but started in the mid-1700’s or earlier). We checked the whole cemetery with Billy in the rain now….not just a “soft day”, but a “getting wet” kind of rain. Not enough for him to put up an umbrella (real men don’t do that), so I didn’t either. Nancy has a hood over her head.
Here are the travelers in front of the First Presbyterian Church. (We had found the Second Presby, too, but it didn’t start until 1796…way too late for the McCannes or the Sloans to have belonged. They fled in 1752.
We go looking for a coffee now and can’t find a pub nearby that is serving any food. We find a pub called the White Horse Inn. Billy tells the bartender that we are looking for relatives named McCanne or Sloan. You’ll not believe this, but the White Horse Pub owner’s name is Sloane. C’mon, now. Maybe the Irish wee fairies are playing with us. He lives in Newcastle and doesn’t come in the pub much, so we don’t pursue that lead…maybe later. The food is good…that was most important for now.
Billy takes us back to Belfast to do the tour he thought he had been hired to do. We see the Shankill Road and environs…it is bleak and forbidding still (and the rain doesn’t help).
Much of the history is told in wall murals….it reminded us of the work done by Jane Golden in Philadelphia. The whole neighborhood has a hand in making the decision about the murals and who does them. An interesting way to tell history and to bring people together. Here’s Billy Scott, showing us a big one in a tunnel – no dummies here…we go where it’s dry to learn the story.
Back at the Cairn Bay Lodge, we snuggle in our room and Chris Mullen, our innkeeper extraordinaire says, “I’ll put a wee heat on.” Brilliant. We bought some sandwiches, bread and cheese to do another “room night in Ireland”. We are being cheap and smart about our intake.
Before we close, we just have to tell you about our host area and the way they deal with the weather. We took a look out our big bay window at about 7PM and are greeted by an array of sailboats – three classes, including dinghies, like the twins sail in Stone Harbor, up to zingingly fast catamarans with their spinnakers out – all in wet suits in the 55 degree, rainy 15mph winds. Makes us feel like “wusses”, eh?