4: Hang Loose in Ireland

1991 Visit to Killarney, Cliffs of Moher


July 30-Aug. 11, 1991


1: Flights to Shannon, Ireland

5: Great Golf at Ballybunion

2: Galway, Ferry to Aran Islands

6: Drive to Blarney, Brinney & Cork

3: Ballinasloe for Nolan Genealogy

7: Killarney Golf

4. Killarney, Cliffs of Moher

8: Waterville Golf & Ring of Kerry




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Saturday, Aug. 3, 1991 – Visit to Cliffs of Moher, Killarney, Ireland (Betty’s account)


We left Ballinasloe for the drive to Killarney via Lisdoonvarna and the Cliffs of Moher. We made a stop at Ballyvaughn to get sandwiches and drinks to have in the car as we drove. The Cliffs of Moher lived up to their billing and were magnificent. Unlike our previous trip here, we walked down the path to the south to view and rolling Atlantic waves breaking against the sheer rock cliffs that rose 200 or more feet up from the blue sea. Hundreds of seabirds darted in and out of their nesting and resting places along the rocky cliffs. What we saw was awe-inspiring on both visits. The path to the north leads to a tiny observatory that looks like a miniature castle made of big pieces of stone.


After taking our fill of great views, we got back in our rental car and pushed on down a narrow, winding road through the limestone fields toward Killarney.


All in all, this was a good day. The nights in Ireland during the depth of the summer are 10-to-14 degrees Celsius. When I get home, I’ll calculate the Fahrenheit equivalent. (That works out to temps in the mid70s, which is warm for Ireland.)


Saturday, Aug. 3, 1991 – Visit to Cliffs of Moher, Killarney, Ireland (Lewis’ account)


Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to me until this morning at the Ballinasloe hotel to check the Galway telephone book for listings of Nolan families in this part of Ireland. I counted more than 160 listed in the Central Western Region of Ireland. I noted that there are more than three dozen families living in Athlone, cognizant that traditional Irish families are large so there are likely many times that many of people with the surname Nolan.


The large number of Nolans still in the area tends to confirm the family story passed down the generations that my great-grandfather John Nolan’s family supposedly raised horses in or around Ballinasloe early in the 19th Century. I wish I would have thought about using the telephone book for leads earlier as a side trip to Athlone about 30 miles north of Ballinasloe might have been productive.


I copied down the names and addresses of the Nolans listed as living in Athlone with the thought that I might one day write them when I get back home to Memphis. Wouldn’t it be great if the vanished Matthew and Honora Nolan (my great-great-grandparents) turned up in an Athlone resident’s genealogy? Well, at least that opens up another door to explore in my seemingly, never-ending search for the Irish portion of the Nolan family heritage.


Some time later, I wrote each of the Athlone Nolans a letter explaining my research project and asked for their help. As noted in my book, “Nolan-Miller Family History” on pages 29-32, five responded and returned my self-addressed, stamped envelopes. For ease in future research for those also rattling the Nolan name in their family history, following are the names and listed residential location of those I wrote. Included are the responses of those Nolans who replied:


  • Bertie, vicar at Tuam.
  • Eugene, Coohan Ballydangon.
  • Frank, vet. Surgeon, College la Connaught.
  • Helen, Clonown Rd.
  • John, Portlick Glasson.
  • John S., Woodlock, Ballymahon Rd., Cloghanbay.
  • Kitty, The Laurustines, Barrymore.

-          She responded that, “I do not believe that our family of Nolans is connected to your family. My father-in-law originated from Headford in Co. Galway and he came to Athlone over 80 years ago. I am living in the residence on Roscommon Road, three miles out from Athlone which he built, as I was married to his son, who is deceased. My father-in-law’s name was Timothy Nolan and his son (my late husband) was Martin Nolan. He also had a brother, Frank Nolan, who lived in the town of Athlone. They also had one sister, married in Dublin to a man called Tom O’Grady. I have four sons and three daughters. One of my sons, M. J. Nolan, is working in New York. Did you write to a Eugene Nolan, who lives near Ballinasloe? He may be connected to you. There is another family of Nolans outside Athlone in that direction. . .”


  • Leo A., 41 Auburn Heights.

-          He responded that “our branch of the Nolans do not have any connection with you. My ancestors originated from County Carlow and worked and lived in Northern Ireland in the mid1800s.”

  • Patrick, Curroclare, The Buries.
  • Sylvia, Tubberclair, Glasson.
  • Thomas, 30 Altown.

-          He responded that “my wife and I come from England and I have no connections with the Nolan family in Co. Galway. I passed your letter to a Nolan family I know in Athlone whose people came from Loughreah in Co. Galway and he is looking into it. . .”

  • Thomas, Neal Road, Ballinrobe, County Mayo.

-          He responded with a two-page letter typed on stationery emblazoned with the Nolan crest, saying “Three years ago I was invited to the Northeast UJSA on a consultative/lecturing visit and traveled north through New York State to Lake Champlain, where I pondered somewhat on the incursions of the French influence in that area, and then down the west side of the state to Cornell and Penn State Universities. One of the memorable features of the visit was the kindness of the American people to have allocated some time for me to “visit my family relations/connections” and then to watch their surprise when I could only announce that I did not have even the proverbial 50th cousin there. To receive a letter from a family member was a pleasant surprise.


-          On reflection though, the Nolans must have been forced out of Ireland during the terrible 1845-53 famine period in the same fashion as others were and your reference to your great-grandfather’s emigration of 148 years ago (in 1843) no doubt refers to this awful time. I was surprised, however, by your reference to the Nolans from the Ballinasloe area. This is due to my association of the name with Co. Carlow, where I was born. Recently, I inquired from “The Historical Research Center” about the name Nolan and was told that the name was indeed mostly associated with Co. Carlow and that of the chief of the O’Nuallain (Gaelic for Nolan as you probably know) Sept was known as the Prince of Foherta. Following the Anglo-Norman invasion of the 11th Century, the power of the Sept decreased.


-          In the 16th Century a branch of the O’Nuallain migrated to Connacht, where the name is found today with some frequency – perhaps this was the period when your ancestry came to live near Ballinasloe. Recently I had some difficulty with the claims of Sir Sidney Nolan (the now famous Australian painter), who claims that his ancestry came from Co. Clare. But perhaps he, too, originated from some of the Nolans who came to the West at that time. One other interesting feature of their spread within Ireland is that about the 16th Century also a small Sept was established in Munster, where the name became anglicized to Holohan. There is also the name Nowlan and the games park in Kilkenny City is called Nowlan Park.


-          There was a Philip Nolan (1771-1801) who emigrated to America and became one of the most notorious frontiersmen and contraband traders in the West, as well as a Rev. Frederick Nolan (1784-1864), who became a famous Protestant theologian.


-          The family motto, “car unum, via uno,” I suppose still meant “one heart, one way,” to all these family members.


-          Today, the name Nolan is among the 40 most common names in Ireland. But your letter arrived at a most opportune time for me as shortly afterwards I received a letter from a Mary E. Nolan, 3687 Ira Road, Bath, Ohio, 442210, USA, informing me that we are now about to have published the “Nolan 1991 International Registry” or “The World Book of Nolans” covering Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland, Wales, Germany, Austria, Canada and the USA.


-          For the moment I hope that this gives some information to go on and I must continue to investigate your claims of the Ballinasloe association. The world sometimes gets very small in these matters as recently I was in Senegal, where I have research projects, and on walking to locate a restaurant one evening I happened upon the beginnings of an oil well bore. I was interested in the material laid out on the ground reflecting the underground configuration when a white man approached me to inquire of my interest and his name was Nolan. Also an Australian research colleague recently sent me a picture of the monument in the center of Darwin in North Australia on which is written, “To those who died, et.” and one of the names is Michael Nolan.


-          I am sorry if this is a rather hurried and late Sunday “off the top of my head” response but I hope that the contacts continue as one feels a sense of homeliness about these matters as well as a deep sense of history and related matters.”


  • Vincent, 1 Clonown Rd.
  • William, Killinure Glasson.
  • William, dental surgeon, River at Ballinasloe (I had determined during my 1986 visit that he was a newcomer to the town).


-          He forwarded my letter to Nancy Nolan of Ballaghlea, Ballygar, Co. Galway, who wrote me that the dentist is a native of Limerick but knows that Ballygar has several Nolans and “he thought that I might help. As it happens, my husband, who was a teacher, came to this parish from Ballhaunus, Co. Mayo, and someone remarked when he came, ‘You have come to Ballygar – the home of the Nolans.’ A little village two miles from her has the postal address, Newbridge, Ballinasloe, and it might have come from Ballinasloe because the name was in the postal address. The town of Ballinasloe would be about 15 miles from Ballygar Newbridge.”

-          “The Christian name John seems prevalent in the Nolans down to the present day. Perhaps there may be some information in the parish records of old Ballygar or Newbridge. Fire seems to have played havoc in the old days with parish records. Nowadays there are heritage centers trying to sort out and computerize the records – one has been at work in County Roscommon but I am not sure if Galway has done so.

-          “I am sending you a little information about the name Nolan from McLysaght’s ‘Surnames of Ireland”; O’Nulliam comes from the Irish word nual (meaning shout). In early times they held hereditary office under the Kings of Leinster. The chief was known as a Prince of the Barony of Forth, County Carlow. A branch immigrated to East Connacht (probably in Cromwellian times). It is said they were before the kind shouting when new taxes were levied. My husband says they would be hoarse nowadays if they had to announce all the new taxes!”


The letters later sent to me from Ireland Nolans indicate just how wonderfully helpful and literate the Irish can be.


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