The morning sun pressed through my window and pried open my eyes at half past six. Since breakfast wouldn't be served until half past eight, I decided that a short walk to explore the area around Dundrum House of Tassagh would do me some good. I spent an hour and a half taking pictures in the close proximity. The walk was well needed after all of the airplane and car time the day before.
Back into the house at eight o'clock to find a cuppa tea waiting for me. Liz said it would take off the chill of my morning walk. That it did. As I was standing in the kitchen with my tea, I noticed that one of the lambs had been brought in by the fire. It was the same lamb I had noticed the evening before curled up next to the stone wall. I had said something to Larry and he had gone out to check it immediately. Larry thought that the lamb would be strong enough to venture out later that morning. I hurried upstairs to put away my camera gear and wash up before breakfast. I was looking forward to my Ulster fry. I was not disappointed. Breakfast was delicious!
Right: Myself, Tommy (seated) & Jimmy Kane (holding Mary Murphy's photo). Note the time on the Clock ... half past midnight.
After breakfast, I decided to take a walk along part of the Beetler Trail. The Beetler Trail is a 9 mile circular walking / cycling route, mainly along minor country roads, in the area of Keady and Tassagh. The White Gates of Dundrum House is one of the stops along the trail. The white cast iron gates and pillars date back to mid 1700s. During World War II, when metals of all types were scarce, there were several attempts to seize the gates for melting down. Luckily, they survived intact. I found a fabulous ruin of a Manor House & Barns just up the road from Dundrum House. Larry said that it was once owned by one of the Linen brokers. I made my walk a short one, as I knew the Rices were coming to get me at one o'clock. I sat in the parlor for a bit and read a few articles which had been published on Dundrum house in the local papers. Feeling restless and having an hour to kill, I decided to walk out on the front lawns and take some pictures of the horses in the pasture across the road. As I headed out, Liz told me that they had put the lamb back out with its Ewe. Mindful of the protective nature of all mothers, I kept an eye out for the pair as I walked down the drive. As I neared the gate, the ewe began "herding" me toward the cattle grate which runs across the entrance. I thought that she was trying to keep me out of the area where her lamb was resting. It was only as I got closer and could hear the faint bleating that I realized what she was trying to do. The lamb had become tangled up in the cattle grate and the Ewe wanted help getting him out. I finally got him free and realized that he would need to go back up in front of the kitchen stove. I bundled him up in my sweater and carried him in to Liz and Larry. They said they had never had a guest bring in a lamb for them let alone use their coat to give the animal some warmth.
Leo & Mary's daughter-in-law picked me up at one o'clock on the dot. Baby Shanna in the back seat greeted me with a bright smile and a chortle. Leo & Mary would have come themselves but Leo had been up most the night with a mare and new foal. Mary greeted me like family with a warm hug and a kiss on the cheek. The smells permeating the kitchen told me that a veritable feast was soon to be laid out. Leo came in a few minutes after we did. He greeted me with an even larger hug and a kiss on the cheek. Leo didn't waste any time in getting down to the business at hand, Rice Roots, his & mine. Whilst we were in the front parlor, another of his sons and daughter-in-law were in the back sitting area with little Lucy, another of the grandbabies. Once she woke properly from her nap, Lucy was just adorable. Leo pulled up some Armagh specific genealogy sites and in short order we found my Edward Rice and his family on an 1821 census listing. It placed my Rices in the Belleek, Newry area. That bit of information fit with the information I had been receiving via email communications with my Gran's niece.
I did learn from Leo that the name Rice comes from O'Mulcreevy and that we are believed to be a branch of the O'Neill clan. How the Saxons managed to butcher O'Mulcreevy into Rice is a mystery.
Mary called us to lunch, which was indeed a feast! She had fixed a beef mince lasagna, a chicken in cream sauce dish, roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, julienne cut carrots, broccoli florets with string beans and mixed corn and peas. The only thing which I didn't sample was the chicken dish as it appeared to have mushrooms. I was full to bursting and then Mary said "would you like ice cream with your crumble?". I managed to get through dessert, a delicious mixed berry crumble and the most decadent vanilla ice cream I have ever tasted.
After dessert, Leo and I continued with our genealogy search. I told him that I had been given the address for some relatives in Belleek off of Barr road. Out came the phone books whilst Leo tried to find a phone number for 22 Barr road. No luck in finding a number but he did locate the area on a map.
The Rices were to be at a christening for their first Grandson at four. Mindful of the time, I reminded them that they would need to drop me off at Dundrum house on their way. They'd have none of that talk. They insisted that I was going to the christening, as there would be people there who could help me find my Rices. So off we sped towards Crossmaglen for the Christening.
After the christening, we headed off to the christening dinner which was held at a small restaurant called The Bistro, also in Crossmaglen. A lively discourse ensued with another of the guests.
"George, come down here." says Leo, "Would you be knowing Tommy Kane down Belleek way?"
"Tommy Kane, the postman?" sys George, "Why sure but he is dead these many years now. Unless you mean young Tommy. He still lives up on Barr Road"
"Do you know if they have any Rice and O'Hanlon connections?" says Leo. "To be sure they do. Its the Rice farm that Tommy tends now." says George.
After the dinner and many hugs, Leo & Mary took me on a quick tour of Crossmaglen. Crossmaglen has a strong Republican bent and a deep history in regards to "The Troubles". This was plainly evident in the monuments, shrines and statues throughout the town.
Once Dinner was through and the tour finished, Leo decided we would head to Belleek and find my Rices. Off we went to Belleek. Leo flagged down a man headed to a Belleek pub to ask if he knew the Kanes and how to get to their place. The man was well familiar with the Kanes and offered up excellent directions.
As we headed up Barr road, Leo became concerned that we had missed the house entirely. Seeing a light on in a house, he stopped to verify his directions. The man who answered the door didn't find it at all strange to give directions at nearly ten at night.
Ten o'clock and five after found us pulling into Tommy Kane's driveway and parking in front of a darkened house. The only light was coming from a back area. Leo climbed out of the car and knocked on the door. Inside the car, I told Mary that I felt that this was above and beyond the call. She said Leo never starts something that he doesn't finish it.
Ten o'clock and ten after found us in Tommy Kane's kitchen as Tommy laid out a tea. Tommy Kane is the grandson of Mary Murphy (nee Rice), who would be my Gran's aunt. Hanging on the wall in the kitchen was a picture of Aunt Mary, herself the same one I was carrying in my Camera bag..
I knew a sense of family, staring at that familiar face. Aunt Mary lived to be one hundred and 108 by some accounts. Leo told Tommy how we had come to find him. When Leo told him of stopping at the house down the road, Tommy told him that was another relation, John Bryan Murphy. Tommy excused himself for a few minutes and went across the road to get his brother Jimmy. Together, Tommy and Jimmy farm the holdings that have been in the Rice family for over three hundred years.
I didn't get to see the farm, as it was night time. I will just have to go back again. Photos were taken, addresses exchanged and then we were heading back towards Keady. It was two o'clock in the morning before I made it back to the B&B.
A short night before a long day, as I wound my way towards Donegal and the wicked & wild coastline of the Sliabh. That is a story for another day I suppose ...