As my time in Galway, Ireland was drawing to a close I heard from my younger brother. He told me that he had read in some history book about Castle O’Fogartaigh, the ancient seat of clan Fogerty during the height of their power. This sparked a memory I had of perusing the bookshelves of a Salem used book store where I had found a thick, dusty book about the clans of Ireland. I had found the entry on my family, O’Fogartaigh, and took a photo of it with my phone. Years later, in Ireland, I remembered this entry and what it had to offer me. I was able to find the photo on my laptop and decipher what the text had to say about my ancestors. It turns out that there was a castle built by my family and it resided in rural Tipperary county. Having a few spare days before I had to leave for home, I decided that this would be a worthy adventure.
I traveled mostly by foot, occasionally hitchhiking, all the way south to Limerick. From there, I had to walk out of the city center until I found a place that would be more conducive to hitchhiking. I had no idea how far it would be until the city thinned out, but I knew I had to travel east. A couple hours later, I found myself in what some may call the countryside. It took no time at all to get picked up by a young graduate student. There were plenty of people going home for the evening and they all had to travel down the same road. Leaving the city, the flow of people was massive. As we got farther into the farmland however, the tide diminished exponentially. Every mile, the road split two or three ways, each thinner than the road that fed it. Eventually, we were the only car on the road. My driver let me off about 2 miles away from where I was headed, where yet another split in the road diverged our paths. I walked the remainder of the way.
Finding the castle itself was infinitely more difficult than I had anticipated. I knew that it was privately owned now, but I assumed someone in the area would at least of seen it or heard about it. I was mistaken. No one had any idea what I was talking about or why I was there. One person suggested old Farney castle down the road. It turns out that there was indeed a Farney castle in the area, not Fogerty mind you, but it was not the castle that I had seen drawings of. Farney Castle had been renovated and was now a workshop for yarn and glass blowing. I spent that night in a field behind an old barn. This would bring us to Sunday Morning. I was determined to find someone who knew where the castle was. It was a castle, right? How hard could it be to find? They’re freaking huge! In my infinite wisdom, I thought it would be a good idea to go to mass and try to inquire after the service if anyone knew anything about my castle. It turned out to be a wake for a local schoolteacher. After the Hearst drove away trailing the village behind it, I was a bit set back. Not only did I have no idea where the castle was, but I also had no idea how to get out of the village. I was 50 miles from Limmerick, where my bus ticket said I had to catch a bus later that evening. Not to worry.
About an hour later, I was able to stop a man in a tuxedo walking down the only road in the village towards his car. I asked him about a Castle in the area. He replied, “You mean that one down The Dark Road?” Yes, that’s right, The Dark Road. The unmarked dirt road that cut away from the village towards its end where I had been waiting for the past 12 hours was, in fact, lovingly referred to as “The Dark Road.” It turns out he was right. About half a mile from where I had been waiting was the grand entrance to Castle O’Fogartaigh. I wandered through its ruins for hours. I discovered that they weren’t actually ruins about a half hour into my frolics. Apparently, the owner had renovated one of the four corner towers into a liveable space. It was on the opposite side from where I entered, so I didn’t notice it right away. The entirety of the rest of the castle was overgrown with vines and covered in leaves, so I was totally caught unaware when I
round a corner and see a porch light above a red door sitting in the midst of all the rubble. No one was home at the time, or had been in a while if I were allowed to guess, but all the same I thought it best to leave.
My mission accomplished, now I had merely to return home. Turns out,that was the hardest part. Like fighting against the current of a massive rapid, I was stuck in the village of Ballycahill. Plenty of people were coming home or going in the opposite direction I was, but the only people headed to town were diminutive, old ladies and tractors. I got a few sympathetic nods as they drove by, but for the most part, the road was dead to me. I had ample opportunity to lie down in the center of the road or practice my juggling, whistle playing, or my gibber something in Gaelic. I had been pushed into a slow-moving pool at the side of the river, where little vortexes occasionally twist. But for the most part, this was a stagnant pool. No motion, or so little of it in such small magnitudes as to make no difference. I was caught by the countryside and it wasn’t giving me up. Fifty miles from the nearest bus stop, I was just as stranded as I would be in the backwoods of Wisconsin, but there were people everywhere. I, the outsider, had no way of visiting and escaping this small village in the middle of county Tipperary, near the township of Thurles, birthplace of the Gaelic Athletic Association and celebrated Hurling community.
I eventually made it out, but it took the rest of the day. Would I do it again? Yep. Even after getting stuck there for two days? Of course. Getting stuck is one of the best ways of exploring. Tried and true.