From S.W Ireland to S.W. Victoria

– the story of a journey

A few years ago I had the opportunity to go through some old family papers.   There I came across a letter written by my great, great grandmother, Priscilla to her daughter Eliza, my great grandmother.   In the letter Priscilla wrote that the family had lived in a particular part of the British Isles ‘for time out of mind’ before they came to Australia.

It is unclear why Priscilla and her common law husband John felt the need to take a three month sea voyage to the other side of the world with all of their nine children.  Further on in the letter she hints at some family trouble – some problem that forced them to flee  their ancestral home.  The details are very sketchy.

The letter is the only written story of my ancestors I have ever found.   The rest of my forebears are silent.  All that remains of them are a few tattered material goods and fragments of stories – stories that speak of loss and disruption – some sudden change in fortune that sent them across the globe to start again.

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As their descendant I feel I carry these imprints of disruption, exile and wandering in my DNA.   No doubt many of us carry similar imprints for so many of us can trace our ancestry back to another country, another culture.

When I went to south west Ireland I felt I was venturing back through my own familial history into time out of mind – that time where my ancestral roots are lost in the mists of myth and legend.

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These experiences enriched me and gave me a sense of belonging to a people, an ethnic group, even to an ancient pre-Christian belief system I can only guess at but feel spiritually connected to.

Wedge tomb Tomb of the crone goddess, Co. Cork, Ireland

Here in south west Victoria the feeling that I am journeying back in time still comes to me when I am alone in untamed natural environments.  Here though I feel as if I am travelling back into pre-history.  I walk past archaeological evidence of the Aboriginal people that have lived here for 40,000 years to ancient fossilized landscapes that date back millions of years.

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As I clamber over the cooled lava flows that shaped this area or pick my way along the crumbling sandstone cliffs of the coast a sense of time beyond human time envelops me. I step beyond my ancestral roots into something far older – a sense of connection with the Earth that goes back through the very first humans that walked this land to the creation myths and the cellular connection between all carbon based life forms.

Standing alone in the primal landscapes of south west Victoria I feel myself to be a part of the Earth and of the universe itself.  The life force that animates all living things pulsates within my being.

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FOOTNOTE:   On a personal note this blog post was one of those ideas that woke in the middle of night.   I couldn’t get back to sleep last night until I had turned on the light and jotted  it down.   When I came online to write this blog post I saw a complete stranger had visited some old blog of mine I’d completely forgotten about and found a post I wrote about Priscilla 7 years ago.   It seems she too is a descendant of this indomitable woman and would like to email me.   Life is stranger than fiction.

 

 

 

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18 thoughts on “From S.W Ireland to S.W. Victoria

  1. I know this feeling. I felt it most intensely when I discovered my haplogroup through a DNA test and how my maternal bloodline comes down from a particular woman who lived 17,000 years ago. It blew my mind.

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    1. How amazing to discover a DNA connection that goes back so far. All this stuff does help us develop a greater sense of identity and of being connected to the Earth and each other I think.

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    1. Thanks Meg. These reflections come from an art project I’m working on. Currently I’m thinking about how to make art that reflects that sense of being part of the Earth. Doing lots of internet research and discovering many artists are using clay to talk about this. I’m trying to figure out other approaches.

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  2. To have a letter penned by an ancestor is a wonderful thing.

    I think one does feel the call of the land where one’s ancestors lived, no matter the antiquity. My brother was drawn to a NSW town and has never felt at home elsewhere. Unknown to him, our ancestor was one of the first to buy a town block, and is buried in the local cemetery.

    I hope you hear from your new cousin.

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  3. Loved this post. Some of my family are from Wales (uk) and I liked there for my twenties and early thirties. Even though the rest of my family are from all over the place I think I feel I identify with the Celtic tradition more strongly.

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  4. wonderful post Suzanne!! and that a distant cousin found you across the years and miles!!. I find the stories of the aborigines so compelling and I understand your connection to the earth. My family origins are well known in Scotland and Ireland but… my cousin found a relative who went to Australia back in the 1800’s. He was a great great ? grandfather who apparently abandoned his wife who then returned to Scotland with her children and thus we are those descendants. But my cousin found a distant cousin who is a descendant of this gr gr grandfather still living in Australia. He had married again there and had more children. It turns out we were a peripatetic family who also went back and forth from Ireland to Scotland etc. Our Irish roots are in Cavan and Galway.

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    1. Your family history is fascinating. Making that long sea crossing out then going back alone with a number of children must be incredibly difficult. People were tough in those days.
      It’s interesting to learn how peripatetic our ancestors were. I sometimes think that is what makes me such a restless soul.

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