Luimneach/Limerick: Castles and Crosses

I spent a day on my own, wandering through Limerick, or Luimneach. As a city, Limerick exemplifies the complex history of Ireland. Vikings, Scots, English (Norman English, Victorian English), and native Irish all played a part in Limerick’s development. 

My only preparation was a guidebook and Bus Eireann. ( I love Bus Eireann. I highly recommend it. The bus ran, even when the trains went on strike. Comfy seats, perfect for quick travel naps.)

I arrived in Limerick and I had no itinerary but to explore.  I wish I had taken the Angela’s Ashes Walking Tour and see where Frank McCourt spent his childhood. It’s first thing to do on my list when I return. McCourt says this in the first pages of Angela’s Ashes: “Limerick gained a reputation for piety, but we knew it was only the rain.”

©Sheila R. Lamb

I meandered through the city on a cloudy (but not raining) day in July and found a cemetery where I saw my first Celtic cross. It happened  have the Lamb name, so I was impressed. Now I wonder if William Lamb Stokes, High Sheriff of the City of Limerick, was particularly well-liked during the years of 1909 and 1910.   

From there, I went to King John’s Castle, across the River Shannon, on it’s own island. Built (obviously) under the reign of King John of England, it was considered a Protestant haven during the Irish Rebellion of 1641. Even in earlier times of peace and prosperity, Limerick was divided as an English side, on Inis Sibhtonn, or King’s Island, where the castle was located, and the Irish city across the river.    
©Sheila R. Lamb

Though Limerick was founded by the Vikings in 922, the Irish captured the city some forty years later, enduring a few more Viking skirmishes. Until the formation of the Irish Free State and later, the Republic of Ireland (Eire), the turbulent history between England and Ireland is defined in the city  of Limerick. 

Sources: Tim Lambert’s A History of Limerick, Ireland.

Who Were the Tuatha De Danann of Ireland?

 The Danann cycle involves myths and stories of the early settlers of the Ireland, found in the Lebor Gabála Érenn, or the Book of Invasions. The Danann were the children of Danu, arriving on the island from four mythical cities.  Tuatha refers to home of the Danann people, but also the tribe and its social structure. The modern Irish word “tuath” usually means fort or small kingdom. 
copyright sarah gallagher:
Some believe that perhaps the Danann were descendants from lost Atlantis. They brought with them four magical weapons, including the Lia Fail – the stone of destiny – possibly the one located on the Hill of Tara. According to legend, the Lia Fail would choose the king of the Danann with her magical cry.
The Fir Bolg lived on Ireland, before the arrival of the Danann. In the first battle, the Battle of Magh Tuiredh, the Danann defeat the Fir Bolg using magic. They were known to become elements of the earth and sky and brought down fog and mist as a way to confuse their enemies. According to the Book of Invasions, this is where Nuada lost his hand

The Danann also battle the Fomorians, another tribe that wished to settle Ireland, fighting in the Second Battle of Magh Tuiredh. Bres, who becomes the Danann king after Nuada, is the son of Eiru, a Danann goddess and Elatha, a Fomorian chieftain. 
When the Celts landed on Irish shores, the mystical Danann fought again. The Milesians (sons of Mil) defeated the Danann. The children of Danu were sent below ground, into hiding. This is why the Danann are now more commonly known as sidhe – or fairies. Have they faded away over time? Or does their mystery and magic remain in the hills of Ireland? 

Irish Myths: Tuatha de Danann and Nuada of the Silver Hand

Once A Goddess is based on the Irish mythological cycle of the Tuatha de Danann. In honor of March and all the Irish celebrations that go along with it, I’m highlighting a few of my favorite characters from the legends of ancient Ireland.

Nuada’s Tomb, Co. Sligo photo by capallglas on

Nuada was king of the Tuatha de Danann, the mythical tribe which ruled Ireland before the coming of the Celts. And before the Danann, were the Fir Bolg tribes. In the battle of Magh Tuiredh with the Fir Bolg, Nuada lost his hand, rendering him unable to be king. The Danann law required that the king must possess all his limbs.

When Nuada was forced to give up his rule, the kingship passed onto Bres. For seven years, Bres ruled as a tyrant, making the Danann miserable. The Danann physician, Dian Cet, formed a new hand for Nuada, made of silver.  Nuada was restored as king, and – after defeating Bres – ruled for twenty more years.

In Once A Goddess, Brigid helps to restore Nuada’s silver hand, even though his political alliances changed the course of her life.


Kilroy Was Here and So Was Gertrude: Telling Family Stories

Kilroy Was Here

It’s 1948. My Grandpa Art Lamb marries Rita Hubbarth. His father, Jimmy Lamb, gives Rita a plastic pregnant doll. He tells his new daughter-in-law that the doll’s name is Gertrude.

What it says on the base of the stand is “Kilroy was here,” a popular World War II reference. Get it? Kilroy, pregnant girl-doll?

According to my grandmother,Rita, the doll is supposed to bring fertility to the newly married couple. Gertrude has been passed down through each generation since to married couples in the Lamb family. She’s had an almost-perfect success rate.

The question everyone asked: Why was this little doll named “Gertrude?”

Family Stories: Getting to the Source of Love and Loss

It took a little bit  of research through the census records (minus a Nova Scotia glitch)  to find the answer.

In 1905, Jimmy and Rose Lamb had their first daughter, Gertrude. By 1910, she was gone, one of the first of three Lamb/Heffernan children to pass away in this particular generation.

Unfortunately, between 1910 and 1920, they lost their second daughter, Anastasia.  In 1924, Rose was gone as well – taken by tuberculosis. I wonder why the doll is Gertrude’s namesake, as opposed to her mother Rose or her sister, Anastasia? Whatever the reason, giving the doll her name, opened the door to learning previously unknown history.

Rose Glennon Lamb with Gertrude
(in back, white blouse)

My father remembers Jimmy Lamb as “grumpy,” (who could blame him?) but didn’t know why. Jimmy remarried, and his second wife, Mae, raised all of Rose’s children – the five who survived to adulthood.  My grandfather referred to Mae as his mother, although he always kept the photo of Rose Glennon Lamb, who died when he was five. No one ever spoke of Gertrude or Anastasia.

Yet forty years after the death of his first child, Great-Grandpa Jimmy Lamb remembered his daughter Gertrude.

When families don’t tell their stories, the stories become lost. History is hidden. As sad as it is, there is something to be told, that can’t be forgotten. Historically, Rose and Jimmy worked at the Alexander Smith Carpet Mill in Yonkers and were directly impacted by the Industrial Revolution. Lives were lost due to tuberculosis. Out of this, is the story of a man who survived incredible loss to rise up and become a community leader and local politician…all stories that will be continued after Tanners and Quarrymen, as part of the Famine series.
. Beta: Use It!

For those of us involved in historical research, the advent of online primary source documents has been a godsend. At least for me. Microfilm reels make me queasy.

The reason why I like and Beta is because I don’t need a library card or password to log on. Yes, I’m that lazy HeritageQuest.

Or pay a fee. Yes, I’m that poor

Maria Lamb, 1905 Census, Yonkers, New York.

 The Beta site has many more resources than the main site. Family Search site contains1880 census records, social security documents and user-input birth and marriage records. The Beta site includes more obscure census data, such as the New York State 1865, 1892 and 1905 records. And I’m only talking New York.

Records are available for numerous states and countries – browse by location or document type. These include census, marriage and birth records, death records, military, migration and probate court. Year span ranges from pre-1700 to the present. Outside of the United States, the majority of records exist for North America and Europe. Still, there are a few for Africa, Asia and the Middle East. New Zealand and Australia lie somewhere in between.  The downside is that not all of the collections have browse-able images. Many do, but not all. Due to privacy laws of various countries, some information cannot be displayed.

Beta also has a great online tutorial with lessons for beginning research, creating a family tree, and a list of all the LDS centers where you can get research help in person. FamilySearch is created and maintained by the LDS church.

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