by Larry Kelly
The Kelly Clan held its 11th bi-annual Gathering in Westport, County Mayo on the weekend of May 15 – 17th. The event took place at the Castlecourt Hotel with festivities also at the Westport Plaza Hotel across the courtyard. It was a grand weekend with approximately 90 participants! After everyone was registered on Friday, an informal get-together was held at the Castlecourt enabling attendees to exchange personal information, family history, and just get to know one another. That was followed by a “preview” presentation by Aidan Kelly on the latest news about the Kelly DNA study . It gets more and more interesting! Aidan was followed by local historian Harry Hughes who gave an outstanding and well received talk covering all you would want to know about Crough Patrick, and that was more than attendees even thought they could possibly know! Very, very interesting and entertaining! All in all, the Friday presentations were a great start to the weekend. Dinner was held that night in the Plaza Hotel followed by some traditional Irish music in the bar. Saturday began with a mass celebrated by Reverend Celsius Kelly and then a welcoming session at the Castlecourt led by Uachtaran Mary Kelly — “Muintir Ui Chellaigh”. Mary Pat Kelly, the author of “Galway Bay” which told the story of her Kelly ancestors in County Galway during the famine times, was our first speaker of the day. She introduced her new novel., “Of Irish Blood”, which follows the very interesting life of her ancestor Nora Kelly at the turn of the 20th century, and Mary Pat regaled the attendees with personal stories of her own life history and life adventures. Our second speaker was Aidan Kelly, who came all the way from Australia to bring everyone up to date on the latest goings on in the world of DNA research, and specifically how it all relates to the DNA studies of members of the Kelly Clan. Over the past few years Aidan has become quite an expert and he shared that expertise with all in attendance. And he did it in a way that we could all easily follow. Absolutely a great job, Aidan!
Following Saturday’s morning presentations we all assembled for a bus tour of the Westport area arranged by Dr. Des Kelly and narrated by Des and Sean Kelly (we needed two buses), who each brought their historic expertise to our travels. Amongst the highlights was a visit to historic Westport House, which it turns out has its own bit of Kelly history, well explained by our tour guide. We also stopped at Crough Patrick for another highlight where we all got out to see John’ Behan’s sculpture, “Famine Ship”, which is Ireland’s National Famine Memorial put in place in 1997. The large scale piece vividly captures the loss of life and suffering in Ireland. Three masts rise above the ship like the crosses on Calvary and the semi-abstract rigging that connects the mass consists of flattened skeletal bodies creating a very emotional and powerful work of art. It was something to see! We then did some touring of the countryside, out to Mulranny for lunch, visited Gráinne Mhaol’s castle tower and a historic Abbey and Church before returning back to the hotel to get ready for the evening’s events. We all need a short rest after a busy day! The Gala Dinner on Saturday night was held in the Plaza Hotel preceded by an onsite book launch of Mary Pat Kelly’s new book. Count Robert O’Kelly, the son of Count Walter O’Kelly, the official leader of the Kelly Clan, was the Gala’s guest speaker and he provided some more Kelly history to the crowd. It was an honour and a great treat to have Count Robert in attendance. Following dinner we were then treated to some outstanding entertainment. Laoise Kelly, acclaimed Irish harper (and daughter of Dr. Des) played some lovely tunes with a Kelly association, and then joined with her friend, Marciana [Marcia] Howard, a singer, composer and musician from Australia, to do a couple of duets ending with a wonderful treatment of “Forever Young”. Des had then arranged for some traditional Irish musicians from Westport to play and after a few songs who should arrive on the scene but the Westport “Straw Boys” who added some dance, singing, a bit of audience participation, and some more fun to the evening. And amidst it all, there was even an ad-lib poem recital by Mary Corcoran, whose family own the Westport Hotel Group. Mary told a tale of a shy Irish lad who met a not-so shy Irish lass and the best lines of the poem were told in Irish leaving those non-speakers in the crowd guessing, but with a pretty good notion of what was said. A very fun evening and a fitful end to a great day
Following mass on Sunday morning at St. Mary’s Church in Westport, which was con-celebrated by Rev. Celsius, the General Assembly meeting concluded the weekend. A brief coverage of the previous meeting minutes, the financial report, a discussion of where the Clan is to go in the future, and then “Slan Abhaile” to all attendees, “Safe Journey” home. Special thanks to Des Kelly and his local committee for arranging such a grand weekend and to the Kelly Clan Council and anyone else who helped to make the weekend happen. For those reading this report, don’t miss the next Gathering in May 2017.