By Peter O'Leary
The worldwide family of O'Leary must be gluttons for punishment. Despite last year's heavy programme, here they were again in September 1997 for more of the same. A slightly smaller number, but again representative of many continents and countries. There were 70 at the dinner on Saturday evening, and over 100 at the outdoor Mass on Sunday.
This year, 1997, is the 125th. anniversary of the Battle of Keimaneigh, so The Battle, and Máire Bhuidhe Ní Laoghaire, were the themes of the event. Most of Máire Bhuidhe's living descendants come down from her marriage to Seamas Burke, and many of this family emigrated to Chicago where they have remained to this day.
So we were happy to welcome some 17 assorted Burkes, Burns, Gearens, Fischers and Kileys from Chicago, and they in turn kept us all on our toes with much craic and light banter.
On the Friday morning we had an interesting and amusing talk from Doncha Ó Luaisigh on "Máire Bhuidhe and the Battle of Keimaneigh" supported by his videos showing Gougane Barra and Keimaneigh in the days long past.
This was followed in the afternoon by a leisurely bus drive to the battle site and the Máire Bhuidhe monument, where the Ballingeary Pipers gave us some lilting airs, and we all had our photos taken. Then on to Gougane Barra for a stroll around the Oratory and its other delights.
At the evening dinner we had an inspiring talk from Fr.Jim Burke a Dominican Father from Chicago, on the life in that great city. Also we learnt that it was all a lie- It was not Mrs O'Leary's cow who was responsible for the Great Fire, but a man called O'Sullivan!
On Sunday morning we had another lucid but controversial talk from Dr.Doncha Ó Laoire on "The Irish Language Legacy of the O'Learys". The questions and comments following this talk had to be guillotined eventually to allow us to have some lunch.
And finally the last event, the usual moving outdoor Mass at the Old Cemetery. The celebrant and preacher was our good friend Fr.Jim again, supported by Fr.John and Fr.Dan Crowley from Boston.
We also had a visit by the C.of I. Rector from Aherla who showed us the church plate from Inchigeelagh parish in the early 18th.c. A beautiful silver chalice and patten which had been donated by William Masters, the landlord.
As last year we were granted the blessing of some beautiful weather, despite much rain on the days immediately preceding and following our meetings. The large gathering of new friends then dispersed to their various parts of the world, apparently happy and prepared to do it all again next year.