The summer my mother died I found out a great deal about the Sharkeys--even found their graves thanks to an irritable cemetery secretary. Her annoyance with having to look up 100 year-old burial records was obvious in her tersely typewritten answer on the same letter I had sent to her. But she did answer. For the record, if I were a cemetery secretary, and frankly I think I'm suited to it, I would love to help people find their family bones.
Getting back to my panic, it was 20 years as I said since I last contacted that cemetery and since then I've found many related Sharkeys whose records might reveal necessary clues of parentage and origin which is why this past May I thought I must write the cemetery again. Thinking cemetery secretaries are usually "of a certain age" I can't lie, I thought she'd be long gone since I last made a request of her but there her name was. Damn it all. I still mailed it off and hoped for the best. Two plus months later and I've heard nary a boo from her even though I so sweetly began my letter:
Twenty years ago you so kindly helped me find my relatives......
This woman is a wall. She will not be moved by age, flattery or sentimentality. And she sure didn't care about the time crunch of my Irish trip. But believe me, I knew better than to mention it in my letter. I thought for sure that would double my delay.
Without holding my breath I tried other things. I knew what I knew and kept hammering away on every free site I could online when, thank you Irish Times, I found not a Dominick and Honora Sharkey but a Dominick and an Honor Sharket who married in Castlereagh, Roscommon in 1871 exactly when Dominick and Nora Sharkey were married. It had to be them. The parish was Kilkeevin. The family is so hard to track because there were many little clusters of Sharkeys in that area and up a little further north in Sligo. I can't tell you why I'm sure it's them especially because Sharket is not their name but it was pretty much their first names together on the same page and I've never seen that before. And the year was right so Roscommon was added to our itinerary.
It was late in the day when we arrived in Castlerea at The Armcashel B&B. The very kind and helpful owner Rita told me Sharkey was definitely a local name and pulled out phone books for me though I knew I wouldn't be calling on anyone living until I had more information. My heart was set on finding Kilkeevin Cemetery and Rita knew how to get us there but was uncertain of its accessibility. The sky was dark with the threat of rain. Rita warned us to wear our boots because, if we were able to even find it, the cemetery would be overgrown. The directions were simple; drive back through Castlerea to the roundabout at the prison, take a right and turn up the road to the water treatment plant. Can you picture that?
It was spooky, wild and windy as the rain pelted us. We were soaked through in a matter of minutes but we pressed on. Ellie was loving the lark of it all. I questioned my judgement. Was I endangering everyone? What if there was a prison break or "a randy bull in top field"? We had no phone, we were miles from anyone but cattle, sheep and ghosts.
Then we saw it across a small creek and up the embankment! We circled around the stone walls looking for a way in but found the gate on the far side was locked tight. I stood on the outside looking in trying to read stones through my rain-splattered glasses. Then Richard realized there was a stile built into the wall. With the utmost care the three of us climbed the slippery stones and dropped down into the field of overgrown meadow grass and tombstones.
It wasn't completely abandoned. Some graves were relatively new but stones that might name my ancestors were weathered bare and no paths were cleared. Still we were there and through the rain I yelled hello to my family and told them they were not forgotten even if I didn't even know there names yet. Then Richard yelled "Come out and show yourselves"
Ellie and I both screamed "NO!"
Stay put, for goodness sake don't get up on our account. Just know we're thinking of you.