This celebration was produced by the Irish Palatine Center, Rathkeale, Ireland as one in its on-going series of activities for Irish Palatines.
As we gathered in the beautiful green rolling hills where our ancestors settled 300 years ago, there was a clear sense of coming home. For many of us this was amplified by greeting cousins and friends whom we met 5 years ago in the Palatinate or by remembering previous visits to Rathkeale. Quickly we met new friends and more cousins. Truly, a joyous celebration was beginning.
There were many highlights in this celebration, and I will try to share a few with you. Probably the most meaningful for the participants were when we walked in the footsteps of our ancestors and sat in their churches. These two aspects came together in the dedication of a memorial stone at the site of the Killeheen Preaching House. With the Reverend Dudley Levistone Cooney officiating, we heard a brief history of the Methodist preaching house and school that stood along Killeheen Lane and served our ancestors. The newly cleared ground and the beautiful memorial brought out not just our tour group, but many other people from the vicinity who shared in the Palatine experience.
Following the ceremony, we walked down the Lane as the original settlers must have done, passing farms of Teskeys who have farmed this land for 300 years. We attended services at the Embury-Heck Methodist Church in Ballingrane the first Sunday and at the Rathkeale Church of Ireland on the second Sunday. The cemeteries of these churches hold many of our ancestors and provide both genealogical information and a sense of connectedness. At the Ballingrane service, we were treated to lunch by the congregation and many Palatines who came from miles away to meet us. For me, it was a chance to meet three cousins whom I had not known previously.
Of unique interest were the two presentations by Monika Schoenbucher, from Assenheim, in the Palatinate. Living in the town that is the original home of the Switzers, Monika has taken great interest in what Dorothy Switzer might have experienced as she prepared to migrate. In two monologues she brought to us a sense of what it must have been like to leave leave family and friends for ever and venture into the unknown.
Monika’s neighbor, Doris Spychalski, brought a very special present from Assenheim. Many of us have seen photos of the corner post of the Assenheim Rathouse which includes the Switzer name among leaders of the town. The Irish Palatine Center now has an exact copy of that post to display. It was Doris’ ancestor, Stork, who signed the ‘passport’ for Michael Schweitzer to emigrate.
In addition to the visits to Irish Palatine sites, we did some fun and interesting sight seeing.
Traveling to the coast to visit the Dingle Peninsula, the Ring of Kerry, the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren, seeing the megolithic tombs at the Burren and at Lough Gur and the Flying Boat Museum at Foynes added to our tour. We were also entertained by The Templegalantine Comhaltas Group and by Siamsa Tire with traditional Irish music. Dinner at Bunratty Castle in the style of a medieval banquet was a delight for all of us except for poor Bill Teskey, who ended up in the dungeon!
Here are more photos of the event from Tom Upshaw: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lobito/sets/72157622392038310/
Here are more photos of the event from Lisa Teskey:
Here are more photos of the event from Carolyn Heald: