Meet the Kavanaghs in Kinvara

On November 11, 2013 by Oren and Cassie
kinvara-kavanagh-farm

The Kavanagh Farm

There are barely any street signs on the country roads of Ireland. Homes don’t have regular addresses like most Americans are accustomed to reading. When you ask for directions to someone’s farm, you’ll get something like this: “Go two streets, turn right at the sign for ‘new potatoes’ and after about one mile, look for another red sign in the driveway.”

Despite the absent Yellow Pages addresses, what I love the most about Ireland, besides the magnificent landscape and ancient castle ruins, is the people that you are lucky enough to meet along the way in the country’s small towns. Some of these families have owned and worked the land for hundreds of years. They are as much a part of Ireland as Guinness and potatoes.

THE TREASURE OF KINVARA

In the small town of Kinvara, near Galway city on the west coast of Ireland, we met one of those families. Today, Willie Kavanagh is 88 years old. Although he admits he doesn’t do much walking these days, you’d never guess his age. Maybe it’s his personality or maybe it’s his work ethnic. I think it’s probably both.

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Willie and me at Sexton’s Pub

On a stormy Saturday morning, Oren and I followed the “New Potatoes” sign to the entrance to the Kavanagh’s farm, Mountscribe. You can tell Willie’s home has been in their family for hundreds of years. The home has a thatched roof, which isn’t a very common site in the country.

They own about 300 acres. While Willie and his wife, Beanie, are now retired, respectfully so, the farm is currently run by their son, Patrick. It is still a tradition in Ireland to pass the farm on to the next generation. And we may have an idea who’d like to be next in line because Willie’s grandson, Martin, was ready to meet us at the farm and give us a tour.

THE FUTURE OF THE FARM

At only 10 years old, Martin conducts himself in a way that mirrors an 18-year-old. He helps his dad out on the farm and has way more responsibility than the average 10-year-old in the United States. With three dogs following our every step, he showed us around the property. We learned about the crops they grow, such as carrots and barley. We visited some of their farm animals: chickens, geese, cows and even a new calf that was born the day before.

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Martin and the latest crop

There’s a sense of pride that comes with working the land for hundreds of year, and it is well deserved. As any farmer will tell you, it is not an easy career. One year can be drastically different from the next. But the Kavanagh family has lived up to the challenge with great success. Moments after Martin finished giving us our tour, he excused himself and went to work on the farm.

KINVARA’S PERFECT PINT

And now, even though Willie is retired, he does still keep “office hours.” Members of their family also own a bar, Sexton’s Pub, on Main Street in Kinvara. Sexton’s is a real-life Cheers, where everybody knows your name. The same cast of characters come every night to swap stories and share pints. The first night, we were strangers; the second night, we were family. And that’s where you’ll find Willie from 4:00-6:30pm everyday, making sure everything is still running smoothly. After a day of sight-seeing, it was the perfect place for a perfectly poured pint!

Check out our Galway and Kinvara gallery.

-C.K.

Editor’s note: A big thanks goes to Bill Kavanagh (state-side), who helped us coordinate meeting his family in Ireland. It was an experience we’ll never forget!

4 Responses to “Meet the Kavanaghs in Kinvara”

  • Oren/Cassie – think yourself lucky … toilets weren’t even a common sight when I stayed in Kinvara for our annual six weeks’ summer holidays in the 60s and 70s, let alone street signs!! It was good to read your blog … Willie is my uncle. I have unbelievable memories of the farm and summers spent in Mount Scribe … water from barrels from the thatched roof for washing, from local wells for drinking, and oil lamps to read by at night. Fresh air, acres of freedom, incredible home baking on an open fire using turf and what looked like pots and cauldrons that were family heirlooms, days “working” in the fields, your own stretch of Galway Bay to swim in at the back of the house, lots of cousins to play with, fishing, shooting, and a forerunner of Frisbees … throwing dried cow pats to each other … and people say there’s no such thing as the “good old days”! Glad you enjoyed yourself … Irish hospitality is second to none!

    • Tony, we couldn’t agree more! We got just the slightest taste of the “good old days,” and it was awesome! We saw some amazing places in Ireland and met some amazing people – Kinvara was absolutely at the top of that list. It may be a while before we get back to Sexton’s for a pint, but we’ll be back!

  • what a wonderful surprise to stumble across my lovely uncle Willie and aunty Beanie on the internet!!!!..and young Martin is well taught by his dad to keep it all going…you have certainly found treasure in the homestead of our family …my cousin Tony has furnished you with a superb, comprehensive list of our fabulous childhood memories …a few more to add..the aroma of the curing meats from the rafters in the living room/kitchen and the old milk churn my sisters loved so much to make the butter!!!..one of my sweetest memories is collecting eggs with my grandma Catherine Kavanagh and a lasting memory of a poppy field, blazing with colour against such a karst landscape…geraniums were in abundance in summer and to this day I have them around my own home to keep the memory alive….we really were blessed as children and the next generation of our family has it all to savour…thank you for your appreciation of a treasured culture and family….

    • I promise you two things Dierdre. 1) We are absolutely returning to Ireland. And 2) When we return to Ireland, we are absolutely visiting your family in Kinvara again. Your family embodies true Irish hospitality. A warm home and loving friendship to ward off the cold and rain. Your family is exactly what makes Ireland so special!

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