Book Picture The Terry Reunion at Ballycotton
or The Story of Frank Terry

In the summer of 1988 or 1989 (no one can seem to remember for sure now) Patrick, Jennifer, Patricia and I landed at the Shannon Airport in Ireland. After a quick stop at the nearest souvenir shop and a brief respite at Bunratty Castle we holed up at a B&B (as in Bungalow and Breakfast, not, as we found out a typical Irish home) before heading off in a great clock-wise trip around the multi-hued emerald isle.

After a few stops, each a story in themselves such as O'Casey's Keep at Two Mile Bridge or the coldest resort in Ireland - Lahinch - we made our way to Salt Point just outside Galway. We found a brand new B&B - beautiful brick. The man of the house was digging in the ground preparing the front area for a lawn.

This then is the scene as we settle in for the night, the Lady proprietress begins the seemingly endless round of Irish questioning-- The lady said, "And what are you doing in Ireland - are you looking for your roots?" I told her I was - “And what do you know about them? The name is Terry is it? I don't think I'm knowing any Terry’s at all - they aren't from Galway are they? What did you say you knew about them?" (Years later I was to learn of a number of Terry’s in Galway but that is another story.)

"Well, they came to Ireland from Normandy with Strongbow in 1100 AD or something like that. Strongbow came into the South of Ireland and the Terry’s were most notable in Cork. A heraldic book in Dublin said they were the mayors of the city and county of Cork (22) twenty-two separate times since 1275 AD. (This I verified in 1992). And I've seen a number of small stores here in Ireland with an awning that says Terry's on it - so there must be a chain of them." (I think now they may have been stores that sold chocolate made by Terry’s Chocolates of England.)

She took this in and said, "Well let me just check on it" and left the room. A few minutes later she returned to the room to say, "Well, there are only five Terry’s in all of Ireland.”

Somewhat dejected I pondered, "How did you find that out so fast!"

"Well, I looked in the phone book, didn't I?" Then she added, "but just a minute, I've another guest from Cork staying with us just now - let me have a small chat with him - it is likely he'll know of any Terry’s in the area Cork." She promptly left again and we continued our chat the next morning as we ate our full Irish breakfast consisting of rashers, eggs, toast, bangers, black pudding, white pudding and coffee and juice. It lasts all day.

"Well now, here's a man from Cork and he does too know a man named Terry."

A man with red hair, blue eyes and a ruddy skin spoke up "There's a Frank Terry living in Ballycotton, but he is a blow-in (meaning he hasn't been there long). Don't know anything about him really, just heard of him."

"Well maybe you've some ancestors here in Ireland after all - don't you think?" The lady seemed to relish in her part in the discovery, but the red haired man quickly slid out of sight as he had just barely stepped beyond the door jam to make his statement sheepishly in the first place.

After breakfast we were off headed across the midst of the island, for the southeast or mid-east - the Wicklow Mountains and the site of St. Kevin’s monastery in Glendalough - which is beautiful - green luscious and the location of the story of the Dolan’s - Eddie and Mary.

The story picks up again as we are approaching Cork from the east and suddenly we see a sign a sign for "Ballycotton". "What's significant about Ballycotton Patricia? Look it up in the Blue Book, if there's anything interesting, maybe we could spend the night there and go in to Cork tomorrow?"

Patrick is too quick - "You just want to see if you can find Frank Terry." A chorus of "OH NO! " rang out.

Patricia thumbing through the guidebook offered some hope. "There is a seventeenth century hotel over looking a small picturesque bay - a small fishing village where the fish can be bought on the pier as the boats return at days end. Sounds interesting enough for me." And away we went - only 2 km. Frank Terry had to live around there somewhere.

The village was along one road in and out, along the bayside shoulder of a small narrow peninsula that grasped the bay like a short thumb. At the end of the peninsula the road split - one fork leading to a small concrete fishing pier where indeed a group of fisherman were unloading their catch. The other fork lead up to the top of promontory and around to the ocean side where two lonely benches were positioned above the cliffs looking out to sea. A lighthouse protruded from the other side of the entrance to the bay. The opening that enclosed the small bay seemed like that of a thumb and finger of the left hand. We found the hotel on the left side of the road overlooking the bay.

Patricia and I went in and Patricia went upstairs with the maid to check the rooms while I chatted with the receptionist inquiring as to the rates. The receptionist started up the old Irish questioning. "And what brought you to Ballycotton?"

I told her "we'd heard there was a Frank Terry living in Ballycotton while staying at a B&B up in Galway. My last name is Terry and we are sort of tracing our roots.""Well", she said, "he lives just past the church steps on the way out of town - the house with the black door - on the left. You should have been here this Saturday past! Frank held a family reunion right here in this hotel. There were 26 separate Terry families from all over Ireland. You missed the reunion by only a few days." In fact it was Wednesday, so make that three days.

Patricia doubted that there were 26 Terry families in Ireland - she taunted that they must have chartered a boat and came over from England for the event. Patricia said we should push on to Cork meaning as she told me later that the rooms smelled musty and we had decided before hand that we didn't want to spend another night in "mustiness."

Back at the car, Patrick and Jennifer were ready to "hit the road" to more adventurous terrain - anywhere actually.

As we headed west out of the village I noticed a car starting to back out of a driveway. It was then that I saw the "black door". The car turned and was coming our way. I leaned out the right driver’s side window and waved down the driver to the immediate protest of the three others. "Phil, what are you doing?"

As the other driver stopped I asked, "Hello, you wouldn't happen to know where Frank Terry lives?"

"And who'd be wanting to know?" he replied.

My opening - I reached for my wallet exposing my driver’s license, which I thrust out the window close enough for him to read. "Well, I'm Philip Terry from California and I'm a little late for the reunion!"

"I don't believe I know anyone from California," he said.

"I’m probably not related but I'm searching for my roots and a man up in Galway said there was a Frank Terry here in Ballycotton and I thought it would be interesting to meet him.... you, I take it that you are Frank."

"I'm sorry I don't know anyone in Galway", he exclaimed. "What did this man look like anyway?"

"Well, he had red hair and was from these parts but was in Galway on holiday, (I liked the way I slipped in one of their words “holiday” - I felt like I was getting the hang of conversation here abouts - mostly questions) and he said you were a blow-in, so he must know something of you?"

At this point Frank invited me to meet his family but I distinctly heard him say he didn't know any red haired men. (Many tinkers are known for their red hair!)

We met his wife and children and he rang up his brother in Cohb, a nearby town. His brother James and I talked for about a half an hour but could not find a match.

Frank kept offering tea but didn't actually move to make any. They didn't seem poor but I noticed a gash in the wall that I stared at trying to figure out what it was - no wonder I couldn't find an ancestral match with James. (I now know what the relationship was - so I need to go back to Cobh and renew that chat!) Suddenly I figured the gash out too, the cord to the red flickering light above the picture of Jesus was buried in the wall – stone, cement or stucco it seemed and then covered over with mortar, but unpainted, it seemed just a slashing gash in the wall. All it needed was new paint.

As I rejoined the group in the parlor, I could see the little red haired kid running his toy car up and down Patricia's pant leg and her eyes pleaded for relief, as in "Phil we've got to leave, now!"

On the way to the car, Frank, who looked kind of what I think I look like when there is no mirrors around to beg the question, asked if I was the first born boy in my family and did I know who I was named after. While I muttered some reply that I thought was cute such as the milkman - actually an older man that both my Mom and Dad admired - Frank proceeded to tell me that the first born son in his family had been named Philip (one L, very important - the spelling of the kings and apostles too, for that matter) for generations and his little red headed boy was named Philip. Immediately I felt an affinity for this little guy. In fact later I was to run into a whole series of Philip's (Terry that is) from Cork, but that is another story.

I realized Frank wasn't first born, his brother James wasn't first born either, so this was leading me into other thoughts as we piled into the rental car, waved good-bye and headed off for Cork. The sun was going down – fortunately, Cork was not far - I wondered though if Frank in his effort to be hospitable had forgotten or lost the opportunity to complete his errand. Bring on Cork - fabled center of the Terry clan. And hopefully a pot of tea!

As a footnote to this story, a museum in Cork produced some copies of some book passages that mentioned Terry families. The first one I read said that “Philip Terry was a victualer in the services of the King of Spain and was rewarded with the Heraldic crest as shown in the illustration below.” A victualer is a supplier of victuals; a sutler. The museum also produced a list of the mayors of the city and county of Cork and the Terry name was listed 22 times. A coincidence was that they had an exhibit of Cardon Terry’s work as a silversmith. I recently bought a book “The Terry’s of Cork” that tells the story of the Terry families in and around Cork, Ireland.

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