Traveling to the 'auld country' was a rare and almost spiritual experience. Feeling the wind of Ireland kiss my face, seeing my first stone wall circling a small field, feeling my heart throb to the beat of the bodhran...it was as they say so often - 'grand'.
I had grown up hearing tales from my father of one of his relatives who still had a burr in his speech, then learned tales of courage, escape, and struggle in a new land. I listened wide-eyed and with imagination soaring.....
This family line lived in Athlone,Westmeath, Ireland. They owned land and property (or was part of a family owning such land or property). One day the man was out riding his lands and happened upon a British soldiers (or in another family's version a groundskeeper) abusing one of the farmers. Stepping in to halt the beating, one thing led to another, and a fatal blow was struck. Knowing he would surely be punished severely for the act, he hurried home and arranged for himself and his three-year old son to be smuggled to America.
He settled in Virginia and commenced establishing a new life in a new land...
That small boy, the story goes, grew up to be JAMES ENNIS of VIRGINIA, Revolutionary War Hero, known as Captain James ENNIS (1735-1778), son of Sir John Ennis of County Westmeath,Ireland.
He enlisted in February of 1776 with the 9th Regiment of the Virginia Line of the Continental Army.
Captain James Ennis was captured by the British Army at the Battle of Germantown, contested on the outskirts of Philadelphia (Oct 4, 1777), and would die of smallpox the following year while a prisoner of war (perhaps on one of the era’s notorious ‘prison ships’ employed by the British).
Ennis is noted in M. Lee Minnis’ book, “THE FIRST VIRGINIA REGIMENT OF FOOT, 1775-1783″ as an officer of Colonel Charles Harrison’s First Regiment of Artillery in the Continental Army (page 240). (www.genforum.genealogy.com/ennis/messages/1445.html; family history; various researchers)
From this line came one Barbara Ennis who married William Terry, son of John and Esther Brown Terry of Botetourt Co., Va.
The traditions of the homeland stayed in place in surprising ways. In the 1930's one the direct Ennis line living in Northern Arkansas testified to her lineage. Her language was full of the rich heritage of an oral tradition when she said " these are the generations as I have been taught them..."
Their accuracy? Nearly 100 percent - not too unusual when one understands the role of oral history in ancient Irish society. So the story of the movement from Ireland may have more than a kernel of truth in it. After all, it is very important you get your generations in order. So, between the Ennis, the Riddle, the Ray, the Reed, the Kirkpatrick, the Boyd, and all the others....is it any wonder we are dancing? As my father showed me more than once, there is nothing like a barefoot kitchen jug. 'Tis grand!