John Curtin’s directions (read part one) were hardly needed; as it turns out, you couldn’t miss the dance.
We turned onto a narrow lane crowded with cars. Ahead there were a hundred people in the road and volunteers cleared the way so we could find a place to park. This was a traditional crossroads dance — and yes, it was right in the middle of the crossroads. These Sunday afternoon events have deep roots in Irish tradition and in recent years have become popular again.
On stage were the the Striolán Ceili Band from up the road in Mountcollins — and Henry Keogh was found, not playing the bodhrán as promised, but flipping hamburgers.
“I’ve come from America looking for Curtins,” I told him.
He gestured toward the stage and dance floor. “Well, half the people up there are Curtins!”
I threw out a few names and he thought deeply for a moment. Then he waded into the crowd and came back pulling a woman along with him. “I think this is who you’re looking for,” he said and went back to the grill.
Her name was Eileen Fitzgerald, but before marrying she was called Eileen Curtin, just as my mother was. After comparing notes, we confirmed that we shared the same great-grandparents, listed here in the Irish Census of 1901. Eileen brought over her sister, Noreen — I think we were all a bit thunderstruck by the meeting. They both had moved to nearby Brosna years before.
Why’d you move to Brosna, I asked.
Eileen laughed, “To find men!”
Earlier in the day I’d walked through the graveyard where dozens of Curtins rested, and while that was a powerful experience, it was the pub, the dance, meeting the sisters — where the present met the past in real life — those were the true highlights of a trip filled with amazing moments.