L loves Loch Fyne and Loch Awe

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which).  Today I get to talk about some of my favourite L places.

L is for Loch Fyne

Loch Fyne near Inveraray © P Cass 2010

Do you think there’s a statute of limitations on how time-distant a place can be and still tug at your heart strings and speak to your DNA? Although I’ve visited lots of my genealogical heritage places and walked the land, there are only a few that truly make me feel like I’ve come home. Dorfprozelten in Bavaria comes close because the history is so close to the surface, but language and cultural difference stand between me and that feeling of home-coming.

Loch Fyne in Argyll is that home-place where I can truly feel my roots deep into the land and scenery, and as I stood on its banks one day, that realisation came to me so clearly. I may identify more with the Irish people and love its scenery but it’s the sparseness of the Scottish highlands that call my name.

Strachur on Loch Fyne on a wintery March day. © P Cass 2006

Scattered along the shores of Loch Fyne are family places: Ardkinglas and nearby Strone where James McCorkindale and family lived; Cairndow where Isabella Morrison McCorkindale is buried; and Strachur where my Morrison ancestors lived back into the C18th. Inveraray, home of the ruling Campbells, is pivotal to anyone who lives in the vicinity, including my McCorkindales (earlier aka McCorquodales, various spellings). I love that when I feel the smoothness of a timber egg from the Ardkinglas Tree Shop I have a long-distant link to my ancestor who worked on this estate.

L is for Loch Awe

View over Loch Awe from Kilchrenan side © P Cass 2010

Loch Awe is another place which calls to my heart. Just over the hills from Inveraray my earlier McCorquodales lived along Loch Awe for what was probably centuries, later apparently moving from the parish of Kilchrenan on what is called the northside (though I think of it as west) to Inishail on the southside. There is something soothing about being on either side of the loch, despite what I know of its blood-thirsty history. In fact this northern end of Loch Awe was traditional country for Clan McCorquodales, centred on nearby Loch Tromlee, land-locked in Kilchrenan parish. I’m quite sure that my own McCorquodales are minor members of the clan, but equally I’m reasonably confident that they lived hereabouts for many years.

The history of Laufach is told on the carvings on this pole (don't know its correct name). © P Cass 2003

L is for Laufach

My love of ancestral places doesn’t quite extend to Laufach, pleased as I was to visit. Its railway role should have made me feel at home but it didn’t, making the town feel rather industrial. However I’m certainly indebted to the local historian from Laufach, also a descendant of the Kunkel family, who provided me with an ancestral pedigree stretching back many generations into 17th century. Our language barriers proved a challenge to real communication as he spoke little English and my German really wasn’t up to what was needed.

L is for Limerick

Although my O’Brien family were from Broadford in east County Clare, they belonged in the Limerick Union. Had the Famine driven them to a workhouse, which mercifully they weren’t, it would have been to Limerick Workhouse they’d have been admitted. As part of my east Clare research I spent some time looking at the early 1850s Board of Guardian minutes to learn more about emigrants to Australia who may have left the workhouse. Murphy’s Law being at work, these records are now online and you can read more here.

I think it’s almost certain that Mary O’Brien and her sister Bridget would have visited Limerick at some point and may even have transited through Limerick on their migration to Australia.  The Silver Voice blog has a wonderfully descriptive tour of Limerick here. My own photos of Limerick have vanished somewhere so no pics from me I’m afraid.

L is for London

We loved the interior of St Saviour's, Southwark where my husband's Cass ancestors married. It seemed quite simple despite the decoration. I know, makes no sense. © P Cass 2010

At different times I’ve had quick flits into London to read old census microfilms, or pull down the BDM registers in those pre-digital searching days, or a one-day visit to the National Archives. However the horrendous pound-dollar exchange rate ensured these were never going to be long stays.  Thankfully on our last visit the Aussie dollar was strong so a visit of a few days was possible. This time we played the tourist and were able to investigate some of my husband’s family history sites on the south bank of the Thames including St Saviour’s at Southwark. While I know I have some London ancestry, I’ve not found much about the specific locations so I gave myself permission to just go out and have fun!

L is my wish for a winning Lotto ticket…

It’s a bit of an Aussie pastime to plan what you’d do if you won the Lotto. Imagine the fun that could be had in all these heritage places, visiting the sites and spending days weeks in archives. Oh well, one can but dream!

A is for Ardkinglas in Argyll, and Alotau (Papua New Guinea).

 Let me explain my plan for the A-Z blogging theme for April. Given that family history is my focus generally, there are a number of paths I could have taken. I’ve opted to use each letter to highlight a place/places of some ancestral significance. Hopefully they’ll also be interesting from a travel point of view. I’ll try to keep them relatively short on words (good luck with that!), and where possible, illustrate them with photos. Where I’m defeated by a particular letter (eg X), I may write about a place I’ve visited. (X still has me stumped). I’m already behind the eight ball having just learned about the challenge so I’ll do two tomorrow to catch up.

A is for Ardkinglas in Argyll, and Alotau (Papua New Guinea).

Ardkinglas on Loch Fyne.

Ardkinglas is an estate in Argyllshire, Scotland. Technically Argyll is in the Highlands but very close, by sea, to the metropolis of Glasgow. In this way eastern Argyll bridged the cultural divide with the Lowlands as in the mid-19th century more and more Scots found their way to Glasgow to look for work as their traditional rural roles disappeared. My McCorkindale ancestors lived on the Ardkinglas estate for many years as evidenced by the census returns. However don’t begin to imagine my family offers a re-run of Monarch of the Glen, despite its physical similarity. Unfortunately my family, like most other Scottish emigrants, were labourers or workmen on the estate, not the laird.

The sixpenny gatehouse for Ardkinglas estate.

Not only that, the current “pile” is not the one that James McCorkindale knew when he worked as a sawyer on the estate in his younger years. As he aged he seems to have become more of a general labourer and in old age, the census reports him living in the sixpenny gate house at the entrance to the estate. Ardkinglas offers one of Scotland’s beautiful gardens with magnificent conifers from around the world and a fantastic array of Rhododendrons. It’s a delight to wander around even in chilly weather but absolutely gorgeous in spring. My husband has just learned to his peril that they now have accommodation available in the old butler’s quarters….he’s so in trouble now.

Alotau is the headquarters, albeit a small town, in the Milne Bay district of Papua New Guinea. It’s family history links are modern rather than historic, with three generations of our family having lived there. You can read about my in-laws’ contributions to Papua New Guinea here and here.

When I went to Alotau as a young bride it had only recently taken over the role of district headquarters from the island settlement of Samarai, another site of family history heritage of which my husband has many fond memories. We had radio telephones, slow combustion stoves, 18 hour power, and more red clay than you’d care to see in your washing. Most of our groceries came in from Samarai or Port Moresby, and the pilot’s success at landing depended on the weather. You can read about my 1st Papua New Guinea Christmas here.

The airstrip for Alotau is some miles away at Gurney, the site of a major World War II Australian base. The Battle of Milne Bay in 1942 was pivotal in turning the tide of the Japanese advance. While less well known than Kokoda it was arguably even more important in the overall scheme of the war’s outcome, as it was the first time the Japanese military had experienced defeat. Milne Bay is U-shaped, and in the Wet Season the cloud descends over the surrounding mountains obscuring everything until you can barely see further than 20 metres away and keeping aircraft from landing –very inconvenient.  It’s unforgiving flying country which challenges all a pilot’s skills. One plane crash, soon after I arrived, killed a young family who we knew, as well as others[i]. The sound of choppers and planes searching through the clouds and mist for a downed aircraft is an eerie and sobering one. My husband was the last person to see this plane take off and I had farewelled some who had stayed at Glyn Wort’s guesthouse (where I worked) that morning. It’s surprising that the incident was not more well-known among his colleagues.

My Alotau memories are quite shell-shocked, having come from a familiar urban environment to a very different environment, but within the year it felt like home. I’ve always wanted to revisit Milne Bay to refresh my memories.


[i] Also see http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/the-kiaps-honour-roll.html. The plane had reportedly stalled the day before when another kiap (later murdered) was on the flight.  In PNG, we lived with the philosophy that “when your number’s up, your number’s up”.

Time for a new blog look

If you’ve previously logged into my page and are bewildered today, it’s because I’ve introduced a new look to my blog. For some time I’ve been feeling that my blog is a bit “squashed” and made it harder to read. Hopefully there’s not too much open space now.. Let me know what you think…is it easier to read?

The header takes up a bit more space than in my old-style blog but nearly all the images relate to my family history as I’ve used images of ancestral sites. I’d like to be able to link specific images with specific pages but that doesn’t appear to be possible. Happy for any tips if other WordPress people can offer some.

So what images will you be seeing:

The old red-roofed shed on my O’Brien family land in Ballykelly, Broadford, Parish Kilseily, Co Clare, Ireland.

Shore in Leith, Scotland, where my Melvin ancestors lived for many decades before emigrating: they could return now and be familiar with all these buildings.

Dorfprozelten, Bavaria from across the River Main, showing the village church, boats and vineyards: home of my Kunkel ancestor.

A beach scene from Achill in County Mayo because for me it typifies life on Ireland’s coast even though none of my rellies come from here.

A view over Dorfprozelten on the River Main, Bavaria. The river is a boundary and across the river is Baden.

Snow capped hills not far from near Drimuirk on south Loch Awe, Argyll, Scotland: McCorkindale country..

A view over Loch Awe from Kilchrenan parish: my McCorkindale ancestors moved from one side of the lake to the other but the north side (Kilchrenan) is where the McCorquodales came from in the long distant past.

A typical Irish scene in County Clare:patchwork fields.

Inveraray in Argyll, Scotland, home of Clan Campbell, and a focal point for families living in the area -they were inevitably influenced by this family. It is situated on Loch Fyne and my McCorkindales also lived at Ardkinglas at the top of Loch Fyne while my Morrisons lived across the loch from Inveraray.

Hmm, not sure all the images are scrolling randomly as intended, so please bear with me on that one..but at least you’ll get some.

I do hope you enjoy the new look.

A family word cloud

Inspired by a post by Aillin at Australian Genealogy Journeys I had to give this a go, using Wordle to produce a cloud of my families’ names and places. Haven’t figured out how to deal with double-word places eg Charters Towers but it was fun.

Wordle: A FH cloud2

And another of just my family names:

Wordle: A fh cloud3

And some places from my husband’s families’ places of interest:
Wordle: FH for u