Reflection on Ireland

March 21st, 2018

I learned a lot while in Ireland. In truth, more than I expected. In my first blog post, I stated that “I hoped that by traveling to Ireland for my Senior Project I’d feel more connected with my ancestors, my larger family, and come to understand why my grandfather felt so connected to this magical place that he would often reference as my homeland.” I now feel as though I have obtained these goals. After witnessing the rolling green hills blanketed in farms, the snow-dusted mountains, the “wild” Atlantic sea crashing up against the rocky shore, and more, I can say that I understand why my grandfather felt so connected to Ireland. I also understand why my grandfather was an Irish citizen and why my father and aunt were also granted Irish citizenship. I now understand why my family continues to go back and visit our homeland. My homeland. I feel connected to this place and I can’t wait to return in the future.

My grandfather passed away this past January. I mention this because my Irish cousins flew one of their own across the pond to attend the funeral. My uncle Stephan was the one who came as the Irish representative. And just recently, my father and I stayed with my uncle Stephan while in Ireland. Due to my grandfather’s funeral and my Senior Project, we as a family have re-established an open line of communication through social media and are creating plans to visit with each other more often than twice a decade. My uncle Stephan is now discussing with his wife a plan to come to America this summer and spend time with us at our family’s shore house in Stone Harbor, New Jersey.  Likewise, my father wishes to return with my brother to see the Open Golf Tournament at Port Rush in 2019. I’m also planning to study aboard in either Ireland or Scotland during college. Additionally, all of my cousins who are around my age (Adam, Bruce, Chole, and Martha) now follow my brother and me on Instagram and continue to communicate with us via Snapchat. Through social media, we are continuing our family legacy of establishing love, loyalty, and friendship between our families.

I miss Ireland. It’s the home I never knew. And thus, this past St. Patrick’s Day was difficult for me to observe. To see people getting drunk before noon, not knowing what they were celebrating made me upset. I knew that barely any of the strangers I passed on the street appreciated Irish culture as I now did. Most of them probably only knew of the classic Irish stereotypes of Leprechauns and red hair. I was saddened by the whole day. However, while out to dinner with my father at a small tavern in Unionville an old man pulled out a fiddle while we were waiting for a table outside at a firepit. Over the blare of the modern day pop covers that were being sung inside, this man played traditional Irish songs on his fiddle. It made me cry hearing the music that I thought I wouldn’t hear for another couple of years. I thanked him before meeting my dad inside, and the man just smiled like he understood everything I was feeling. It was the little taste of home that I longing for all day.

I like to think I would’ve made my great-grandmother Rebecca proud. Her direct descendants have come a long way from being simple sheep farmers in Ardara. Especially me, an intelligent, well-educated girl looking to make her own way in an increasingly complicated world. I have been given so many opportunities, such as going to Westtown, that she couldn’t dream of obtaining in her lifetime. I hope that as I move forward in my life, I’m able to continue making my family proud.



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Castle Ruins

March 9th, 2018 || (March 14th, 2018)

Hello everybody! I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while. I spent most of the past two days flying back to Philadelphia while feeling very under the weather and now I’m terribly jet lagged. However, I wanted to make sure I posted this blog update by the end of the day today. I hope you enjoy!

Over the course of my travels, I’ve seen a lot of different castle ruins I thought it would be appropriate to write a small bit about some of the castles I’ve seen since they all hold important aspects about the general history of Ireland.

Castle Dunluce:

Castle Dunluce is now a ruined medieval castle located in Northern Ireland. The first known residents were the McQuillan family in 1513. However, the McQuillans lost possession of the castle after suffering two defeats in a series of battles against the MacDonnell and MacDonald Clans. However, it was the MacDonald Clan that eventually took full control of the castle. According to a local legend, the castle was later abandoned because the kitchen broke off of the main castle and fell into the sea during the 17th century. Although, this legend was disproven by archaeologists who believe that the kitchen didn’t collapse until the 18th century.


Continue reading “Castle Ruins”

Hill House

Hello everyone! This is just a reminder that due to a lack of wifi and poor cell reception I have been unable to update my blog and that the date these posts were written will be listed first and followed by the day they were posted in parentheses. Thank you!

March 7th, 2018 || (March 11th, 2018)

Today my father and I traveled to Ardara to meet my Uncle Allen Given and his wife, Silva. I say Uncle Allen, but in fact, he is my first cousin twice removed, since my great-grandmother Rebecca was his aunt. Anyway, Uncle Allen is the only living member of the Given family who knows where our family homestead, Hill House, is located. After a short five-minute car ride from the quaint town of Ardara, we drove out to the center of a peninsula on an extremely steep one-way road called Loughros Point road. However, the view of the cliffs that lined the south side of the peninsula was beautiful and the pale blue waters of the “wild Atlantic” were rolling up against white sandy beaches. Likewise, the coast of the north side peninsula was nearly a perfect semicircle, which showcased the raw beauty of the sea. It was in this moment of observation that I finally understood why my grandfather had visited Ireland so many times and why my father had come back here so many times. It was the most beautiful sight I had ever witnessed. More beautiful than the Giant’s Causeway. Continue reading “Hill House”

Giant’s Causeway

Hello again! I’m terribly sorry for the lack of blog posts! I’ve been travel through several rural areas of Ireland with horrible wifi and cell phone service. However, I’ve been writing my blog posts all along and now I’m finally able to post them! An important side note: the date that these posts were written will be listed first and followed by the day they were posted in parentheses.

March 6th, 2018 || (March 10th, 2018)

Ireland is a lot more beautiful than I thought it was going to be. Before coming here I had this preconceived notion that in Ireland it was going to be constantly raining, drizzling at least, with cloudy skies, ugly green hills, and dark navy oceans. I was so terribly wrong. After landing in Dublin on March 5th my father and I embarked on our two-hour drive (on the “wrong” side of the road) past Belfast to Ballyclare to meet with my cousins Stephan and Stephanie Deyermond. Then as a group, we drove up to Port Rush and had a lovely dinner together. The following morning my father and I adventured to Giant’s Causeway. In my family, it’s a tradition to visit Giant’s Causeway when in Ireland. For those of you who don’t know, Giant’s Causeway, or simply the Causeway,  is a series of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, which formed as a result of an ancient volcanic eruption. They are also infamous due to their hexagon pattern. Furthermore, Giant’s Causeway has been recognized as a World Heritage Site and national park. Continue reading “Giant’s Causeway”

Is Ireland my True Homeland?

March 4th, 2018

Hello everyone! My name is Sarah Murray, I’m a senior and part of the class of 2018 at Westtown and about to embark on my Senior Project. I’ve been attending Westtown since I was in kindergarten and to say that I’ve been looking forward to this week for a long time would be an understatement. Currently, I’m in the international airport terminal at Philadelphia waiting to board for my flight. You might be wondering where I’m going (if you didn’t read my blog post title). Well, after several lengthy conversations with my parents and swim coach, I decided that I would go on an independent Senior Project and travel with my father to Ireland to research my family heritage. My grandfather would constantly talk about my family history and our family members who still lived in Ireland. He was so passionate about the subject that I decided to go back to visit “homeland” and see what’s so special about Ireland. Plus I’ll be able to have consistent pool time in Ireland so I can continue my training for my Swim Championship which is the first weekend in April.

I will be landing in Dublin sometime Monday morning around ten. From there I’ll be driving to a small town outside of Belfast called Ballyclare where my aunt and uncle Rachel and Stephen Deyermond live with their daughter Martha. I’ll be spending a couple of days with them before visiting my family homestead in Ardrahan. My great-grandmother who I’m named after grew up in this homestead with her nine other siblings before she immigrated to the United States in 1937. After this part of the trip, I’ll travel to some other cities and towns, such as Donegal and Port Stewart in Northern Ireland. I’ll also be visiting some of the sites where they film the popular television show Game of Thrones since I’ll be in the area. I hope that by traveling to Ireland for my Senior Project I’ll feel more connected with my ancestors, my larger family, and come to understand why my grandfather felt so connected to this magical place that he would often reference as my homeland. 

Signing off for now!