The inclement weather couldn’t dampen the spirits or the welcome given to numerous Burkes who came from all corners of the west to gather in Colmanstown – to hear of the history of their illustrious ancestors and meet their transatlantic cousins who had flown in from Baltimore.
Bernie and Frank Burke’s Bar in Colmanstown was the ideal venue for the gathering, with families from Kilbride, Roscommon, Headford and Castlehackett, as well as several local Burkes represented.
After the welcoming cuppa and chat, local historian and genealogist Martin Curley, gave a presentation on the origins and history of the local Burkes sharing early 18th century deeds naming the local townlands and parts of Galway city that the family inherited or bought over the centuries as well as their family links with the local O’Kellys.
The 1851 sale of the estate which ended their tenure in Tiaquin and the 1855 Griffith’s Valuation showed the present generation Burke’s ancestral links in Cuddo where the family still own the same plots of land.
Recent DNA tests done by locals with Burke ancestry showed deeper connections between the various families and especially for the US visitors highlighted the links locally to their emigrant ancestors Michael Burke and his wife Bridget nee Burke who lived in Baltimore MD in the mid to late 19th century.
Patsy and Bridget Burke, present owners of the site where the Clanrickarde Burkes installed their cousins as stewards in the place of the O’Kellys in the 16th century, shared their insights and knowledge handed down over the generations about the history of the people and place.
It was here that the future governor of North Carolina, Thomas Burke, was born – and although now a ruin, the grandeur of the building and demesne was still evident for all to marvel at.
It was then onwards to do a local tour via Garbally Castle, scene of a siege in 1503 which led to the battle of Knockdoe, to see what a typical O’Kelly tower house would look like.
Sadly the castle ruins in Tiaquin don’t do its historical significance justice so seeing up close the amazing stone work, the ‘murder hole’ and thick walls in Garbally left a deep impression of what has been lost.
The final part of the tour was to the grave of David Burke and Bridget Griffin in Doonane, ancestor of many of the present-day Burkes in the area.
Back at Burke’s of Colmanstown the day was capped off with a wonderful seisún by Kevin Rohan with locals joining in with song and dance to entertain all.
The visitors were delighted when it turned out that the dancer was one of their closest local relatives – whichh Martin Curley had found out from a DNA match.
Sunday brought better weather and, after a special Mass in Lackagh where Fr John O’Gorman welcomed the guests, it was on to a short introduction to the Museum by Jarlath McDonagh; a brief history of the battle of Knockdoe by Michael Hurley; a welcome from local councillor David Collins, and a personal Burke family reflection by Galway hurling legend Frank Burke who spoke of visiting the English ancestral home of the Burkes in Ely where by coincidence his son now lives and the Burke impact on the parish life.
Museum Manager Breda Murray as always was a great host and after tea and music she shared with the US visitors a historical tour of the parish which was enjoyed by all.
Main photo: Some of the many Burkes who showed up to welcome their Baltimore cousins at Burkes of Colmanstown; included are Gerry Burke (Brideswell), Ozzie and Pat O’Grady (Tiaquin), Mary Margaret and Dermot Burke (Annaghdown), Frank and Bernie Burke, Dennis and Jan Burke (Arizona), Mimi and Tim Burke (Ohio), Brid Burke and Kevin O’Callaghan (Dublin).
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