Memories of Baile na nGall: Poignant Family Moments in County Kerry

Myself, Mom and Grandad at Baile na nGall aka Ballydavid in County Kerry
Me, Mom and Grandad at Ballydavid Pier
Me, Mom and Grandad at Ballydavid Pier

“Conas atá sibh?”, “Go maith!” we both answered in unison.

Baile na nGall is a special place for Mom and I. Translated as “Town of the Foreigners”, it’s more like a second home rather than a foreign land. Áit gurb fhéidir linn Gaelainn a labhairt gan stró.

Not only is it a great spot for an off-the-beaten-track drink, it’s also the place where my grandad was born in the heart of the Gaeltacht.

Paddy Kavanagh, Pat, or Pádraig Ó’Ciobhán as he was known, was born in Baile na nGaell (or the “fíor Gaeltacht” he mused), in 1915. He joined An Garda Síochána in 1935, and after a spell in Phoenix Park Garda Depot, he was sent to Glenbeigh. It was here that he met Clare woman, Winifred – “my first and last love” he called her. They married in 1939 and had four children.

Grandad was a gardener with a great love of nature. In the moorland, he loved nothing better than sitting on a turtóg on the bog while smoking his pipe – a signature look that he acquired over the years. “The moorland was Majorca at home”, he’d say.

His best advice for success was: “Never become so important that you took yourself too seriously”.

Grandad died in 2006 after a short illness, aged 91. You can read more about his story and mine in my memoir Anseo published by New Island Books.

Baile na nGall is a small, quaint, uncommercialised townland in the Kerry Gaeltacht. It’s on the shores of Smerwick Harbour and is a quiet fishing village.

Home to a few houses, pubs, a beach, pier, the Irish language radio station Raidió na Gaeltachta, it oozes old-school Ireland from times gone by.

It’s here that we come across locals who are willing to speak the cúpla focal with people like us.

Moving past Tigh T.P.‘s pub you can head towards the back of Baile na nGall and Siúlóid na Faille (or cliff walk) where you’ll soon come across a rundown watchtower.

With the Atlantic swishing and crashing down below, it’s a magnificent, scenic route – an ideal spot too for a moment of reflection.

The walk itself takes about two hours and loops back towards the village if you take a right after the path meets the road at Dooneen Strand. Then head back and take a well-deserved drink at Begley’s or Tigh T.P.’s – we have many a time!

If you’d like to read more about Grandad, you can see an interview he did in The Kerryman here.

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Hello! Úna-Minh is a journalist, social media consultant and virtual assistant who loves (you guessed it) TRAVEL. She also feels a bit strange writing in the third person so she'll stop that now. You can find out more about me and my Mammy in the about section of this blog!

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