Williamstown: Barking Up the Family Tree

Williamstown Circa 1930By all appearances Williamstown is a typical Irish farming community. The population is about 300. The town consists mainly of three pubs, each next door to the other, and a church across the street. What’s different about Williamstown is that two of the three pubs are up for sale while the church is undergoing a major rennovation. I wish we had a chance to meet that priest. He must have tongues of fire dancing above his head.

Campbell's MeatballsWe stopped in the local market to see if anyone might know something about the Dillons (Maureen’s grandmother’s family) or the Nees (her great-grandmother’s family.) The woman running the cash register gave us the name of another woman who keeps all the parish birth and death records. Unfortunately I was so taken by the Campbell’s Meatballs “in AWESOME onion gravy” that I didn’t catch the name, while Kathleen and Maureen were too busy trying to de-broguify what the woman was telling us that they didn’t catch it either.

Everything happened so fast that I’m not sure I have the details straight. Next thing I knew I was in Mick Kennedy’s bar with a pint of Guiness in my hand and we were talking to a man named Finnegan who seemed to remember his father talking about the Dillons. I think he said that his father was a shoemaker and Finnegan used to run errands. The Dillons lived in a red house. But maybe his name was Ferguson and Dillon was the shoemaker. And I really think that Finnegan is the name of the woman who keeps the parish records.

Possible Site of Dillon Home

Next thing we knew Finnegan-Ferguson, whom we later gave the unfortunate name Meat-in-the-Trunk because he had a raw pot roast in a loosely knotted plastic bag pleasantly stewing on the rear shelf of his Ford Focus, was leading us out to the possible site of the Dillon home. Each of us took a turn poking his or her head through the hedgerow to catch a glimpse of “where it all began.”

Finnegan-Ferguson Meat-in-the-Trunk was very enthusiastic, taking us next to the villiage cemetery. We stampeded the place but most of the limestone grave markers were too weathered to read. A caretaker who was working at rennovating a nearby grist mill took me to one side. “There are no Dillons buried there. Some Nees, though. In the Northwest corner.” He took off his baseball cap and scratched his head. “Oh, and say hello to George for me. Tell him I don’t like him very well.”

At that point a green Eurovan pulled up. The woman in the passenger seat told Maureen that she remembered Rita (Dan, Maureen and Kathleen’s mother) from school. That was convincing proof that we’d hit the mother lode, so to speak.

I think some addresses were exchanged, meaning that I should end this post with a TO BE CONTINUED and a handful of ellipses.

Williamstown Cemetery