Daughters of Donegal

When the author took his girls to the land his parents left, they were happy to see how much they had in common with their kin

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"Glenna, her 14-year-old sister, Cathleen, and I were making a sentimental journey," writes author Patrick Breslin. "We are among the 40 million people of Irish descent who call America home. Each year, thousands of these Boyles and McCarthys and Callahans and McEvoys journey to Ireland, driven by curiosity and a hunger to seek out their roots."

Breslin's parents had taken him to their homeland in Donegal, Ireland, for a magical summer when he was 11 years old, and now he wanted to do the same for his girls. He took them to castles and forts, including Loughadoon, a fortified island that the Breslin clan probably controlled around the 5th century, as well as Doe Castle, built in the 15th century, and the seat of power for the Sweeneys, the girls' maternal ancestors.

But Breslin didn't seem to be getting through to his girls. Finally, he remembered his parents hadn't dragged him to abandoned forts, but had bought him a bike and turned him loose. He decided to slow down. Soon, the girls were gathering eggs, helping to dry the turf used for fuel in Ireland, or to tie sheaves of grain into bundles. Glenna returned again and again to the river Glenna, for which she was named, and Cathleen, who had a hectic social schedule back home, grew more and more relaxed. Night after night, Breslin and the girls gathered around the kitchen stove at the home of his cousin Patrick and Patrick's wife, Kathleen, to hear intimate stories about relatives from the not so distant past.

"I set out to give my daughters memories of castles, chieftains and warriors," Breslin reflects, "but the memories that remain lodged among the treasures of childhood start with the warmth of a kitchen."

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