Farewell, Kathleen O'Hagan and Padua House of Armagh.

Padua House B&B - Cathedral Street, Armagh
On my first visit to Armagh - in fact, my first visit to Northern Ireland - my traveling companions and I searched a travel guide for B&Bs.  It was 1998.  Northern Ireland was  an occupied country with British troops, rifled up with combat gear stationed on the streets and in the alley ways.

On the road to the North from the Republic, we paged through a guidebook entitled Bed and Breakfast Ireland by Elsie Dillard and Susan Causin.  The book mentioned only four B&Bs in Armagh.  One B&B stood out - Padua House on Cathedral Road.  The text began...

Guests are made to feel like part of the family at Padua House.  Mr and Mrs O'Hagan are a friendly, welcoming couple who thoroughly enjoy their visitors.  The family lounge is shared with guests, who are encouraged to join the owners after a busy day's touring.  A hot drink is almost always available.

I had an older version of the guide. Mr O'Hagan had passed away by the time we visited.  But the authors could not have been more accurate about Mrs. O'Hagan.  Staying with her was like staying as an invited guest in someone's home.  There was no sterility or formality, just casual, genuine warmth.  We were invited to have tea and treats when we arrived well after dark in April of 1998.

During the course of that stay, Kathleen and I chatted about both being widows.  Her sympathy for my widowhood at such a young age was so strong.  We talked endlessly about the Troubles in the North, and I was able to get a first hand interview with someone who had lived through the worst of it.  We talked about coincidences and how people are brought together.  We talked about the Trinity and the meaning of 3's and how the number 3 surfaces in our lives to remind us of God's presence.

The address of Padua House was "63" Cathedral Street.  We discovered together that the "6" (the sum of two 3s) and the 3 = three 3s ... same as the Trinity.  Kathleen reminded me that 7 was God's number, reserved only for him.  A reminder of his divinity.   

I believe Padua House was a thin place, and that Kathleen O'Hagan was a subtle messenger in my life.

I wrote and entire blog post about Padua House and Kathleen  - Armagh: Twin Symbols of Conflict and Unity - where I detail coincidences and synchronicity that led me to the house and shaped my experience of Armagh and the North.  Two years later I returned to Ireland with a new husband.  We stayed at Padua House with Kathleen and her hospitality was just as rich as in 1998.

Dan and I always hoped we would return to Padua House and see Kathleen again.  She had this motherly magnetism.  I wanted to tell her about my writing and how it was coming along, how the kids were grown and the grandchildren arriving.  I wanted to ask her about the shift in the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants since occupation ended.  I wanted to chat with her about more thin places in the North.  Unfortunately, a meeting with Kathleen and a return to Padua House will never happen.

Yesterday, I received a comment on the blog post about Armagh that mentioned Kathleen.  A local Armagh resident who knew Kathleen mentioned that she has passed away earlier this year.

I looked up her obituary online and found two conflicting dates of death - March 7th and July 3rd.  Evidently one of the posts transposed the numbers - 3/7  or 7/3.  Kathleen's special numbers.

Rest in Peace, dear friend.

Related Posts - Armagh: Twin Symbols of Conflict and Unity


Two Great Books on County Mayo - by Michael Mullen

My good friend Michael Mullen has published his second book on County Mayo.  Well known as a writer of Children's Literature with books such as Mangus the Lollipop Man and Sea Wolves from the North (Wolfhound Press), Michael is also a great historian and story weaver who knows as much about his native County Mayo as any living person.

The Road Taken; a Guide to the Roads and Scenery of Mayo by Michael Mullen was published by Nonsuch Publishing in 2008.  In this book, Mullen takes the reader on a journey through the Mayo landscape- from it rugged cliffs, it tortured sea, it craggy mountains, placid lakes, rolling farmland and thriving villages, Mullen describes the landscape mentioning details most visitors would miss.  While describing the landscape, Mullen weaves into his commentary, the history of Mayo and the stories of the people in the West of Ireland.  This is wonderful travel guide for those who want to learn of Mayo's geological, anthropological and spiritual history.  Every major town or region in County Mayo is covered in this book that also includes 101 photographs.

The book reads like a geographic guide that goes in a wheel pattern with Castlebar (Mullen's hometown) as the hub of the wheel.  Most of the roads are seldom taken by travelers that come through Mayo, yet have some of the most breathtaking and interesting sites along the way.  For the traveler who wants to explore Mayo, or have a reference about the Mayo landscape, this book is will go beyond expectations.

Mayo - The Waters and the Wild published by Cottage Publications in 2004 is written by Michael and complemented with illustrations by Castlebar artist, John Peter McHugh.  Images of McHugh's watercolors complete the mystical tone set by Mullen's writing.  The book features the "wild" side of Mayo, or parts of Mayo connected to lakes and rivers.  Some of the sites covered are Croagh Patrick,  Ballintuber Abbey, Ballycroy, Delphi, Ballina, Lough Mask, Newport, Castlebar (the Mall), Kildavnet Castle, Achill Island, Doolough and Clew Bay.

Mullen covers the history of each site with a flare for story telling.  History never sounded so interesting.  For the traveler who may be going to Mayo, this book is invaluable as an easy to read historical perspective of prominent sites.  For natives of Mayo, or lovers of that part of the West of Ireland, Mayo - the Waters and the Wild is an important addition to a collection of books on Ireland.