Friday, September 19, 2014


Photo: Michael Wayne
Click any image for a larger version

It all started with an out of the blue email from Michael Wayne in Florida. When I saw the intro, "Mr. Póló", I immediately thought it was one of those spam things. Fortunately my curiosity got the better of me and I read on.

Some of Michael's people were Whelans from the Knockananna area in Co. Wicklow. He had Googled the place and come up with my web page on the village and then got in touch with me.

His main purpose was to enquire about a plaque he had seen on one of the family graves during a visit to Knockananna last year. You can see the plaque above. The Gaelic script led him to believe it was in Irish but he could not find a translation. The script is certainly misleading and the text turns out to be a Latin version of Matthew 20.1 "The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a landowner .." and so on into the parable of the Vineyard.

Photo: Michael Wayne

Once we got that out of the way, he told me this amazing story.

Some twenty years ago his mother had given him a plastic sealed envelope of papers and photos on the history of her side of the family: the Whelan’s. He wasn't hugely interested at the time and, after a cursory reading, chucked it into the back of a drawer. The bulk of the information in the packet was an essay and story based on much research done by a distant (Whelan) relative named Dan Wagner in the early 1970’s who had typed out this large volume of pages about the Whelan family history and the ancestral area around Knockananna.

This year, Michael and his wife Kendra were planning a visit to Ireland. "I decided then that one of the trips we had to take while in Ireland was to try to track down the family gravesites in Knockananna so I made a copy of Dan’s entire packet and the photos along with a “to whom it may concern” letter about who I was, and my contact information. I put it all in a waterproof envelope and figured if I did find a Whelan gravesite I would just leave the envelope at the site and see what, if anything, would happen".

Photo: Michael Wayne

In the event, he changed his mind and left it in the adjacent church. Instead, he left a bottle of Guinness at the grave.

Some while later, he got an email from a Whelan relative in Knockananna. Someone had taken the packet from the church and passed it on to the relative who was thrilled to get the information it contained. Her family had been aware of some visitor from the States way back who was collecting information on the family, but they knew no more.

And lo and behold, when I checked out my own photos of the graveyard from last Christmas, I found I had taken a photo of the very same grave, and it appears the Parish Priest had meanwhile confiscated (scoffed?) the bottle of Guinness. I had taken my photo because of the interesting way the illustration had been worked into the gravestone. This was a feature of a number of the gravestones there.

So there you are.

Isn't the internet a truly amazing place.

You can read Michael's own story and see a photo of his mother and grandmother.

My page on Knockananna.

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