The house in which my father was born, in the townland of Maghera, seven miles northeast of the town of Ennis in County Clare, Ireland.  Locally, this house was always known as “The Nestor House,” as my grandmother’s family, the Nestors, had lived on the land for generations.  Mary Nestor married Patrick McNamara in 1878, and they eventually moved into the house and their children were raised in it.

The wall with the gate seen in the photograph above ran parallel to the road which led southward toward the Maghera Crossroads.  The front of the house was actually set perpendicular to the road.  Directly across the road was a stream which provided a steady supply of clean water, not to mention trout.

 

Another view of “The Nestor House” in Maghera.

 

“The Doctor Mack”

My grandfather, Patrick McNamara, posing before the family house in Maghera.  To this day, elderly residents of Maghera remember him fondly as “The Doctor Mack.”  He was not actually a doctor, but he had worked with horses his entire life, and if any local person had a horse that seemed ill, they’d bring it to my grandfather and he would prescribe a remedy.

As 88-year-old Michael Kenneally explains, “There were no vets here in those days.  But the Doctor Mack, he would always know what to do.”

Note the unusual shape of the trees in the center of the photograph above.  I had puzzled over what that could be in photographs of the old house, and the answer was provided when another elderly resident of Maghera, 87-year-old Mrs. Whelan, a retired dressmaker, was shown a copy of this photograph.

“Oh my goodness,” Mrs. Whelan exclaimed.  “There’s the Doctor Mack’s sculpture!  Oh, he took such pride in that, he pruned those trees all the time.”

 

This is the site of “The Nestor House” as it appears now.  My grandfather lived in the original thatch-roofed cottage until the 1930s, when he moved into the farmhouse my Uncle Tom and Aunt Tessie had built.  Ruins of the old house remained for years, but the foundation was eventually bulldozed out, with the stones being used to build a wall in another field.  The land is now used by local farmers as a pasturage.

Today the site is utterly quiet, a perfectly peaceful Irish hillside.  But 100 years ago, the air would have been filled with the sounds of children playing.

 


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