Cleveland residents describe trip to Ireland
By Kathy Chaffin
CLEVELAND ó The 22 residents who traveled from this western Rowan town to Killyleagh, Northern Ireland, earlier this year were greeted with open arms.
“We now know where southern hospitality originated,” Town Commissioner Dr. John I. Steele Jr. told fellow board members Monday night. “It was a delightful experience. We were very pleased.”
Commissioner Mary Frank “Frankie” Fleming-Adkins said she was touched by the kindness and generosity of the people in Killyleagh. When she asked where she could buy a church cookbook, one woman brought her five of her own.
“I could go on and on about how kind they were,” she said.
The kindness has continued in the weeks since then, Fleming-Adkins said, explaining that one member of the traveling group had received a handknitted baby blanket from a new Killyleagh friend after the birth of a grandchild.
“They are not rich people by any means,” she said. “They’re just struggling like everybody else.”
Fleming-Adkins talked about how much the people in Northern Ireland love America and have a strong interest in the upcoming presidential election.
“What about Obama?” she said they wanted to know. “What about Hillary?”
Fleming-Adkins said they seemed to have been very touched by the tragedy of 9/11, the day terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 in New York City and Washington, D.C.
They also like American music, she said, especially bluegrass.
Steele said bluegrass was the music of choice at an Irish pub the group visited on the trip. Someone at the pub gave Cleveland resident JoAnn Hall a fiddle, he said, “and she played and did it well.”
An 82-year-old Irishman stood up at one point, he said, “and all of a sudden, we heard this absolutely gorgeous tenor.” When Steele asked him to sing “Danny Boy,” however, he said the man said he didn’t know it.
“I said, ‘What?’ ” Steele recalled. “He said, ‘Give me a copy of it, and I’ll go home and learn it.’ ”
One of the single men on the trip, Chris Hutchinson, was a real hit with the Irish women, he said, adding that they especially enjoyed listening to his southern accent.
Fleming-Adkins and Steele represented the Cleveland Town Board of Commissioners at a formal twinning ceremony with Killyleagh town officials at Hamilton-Rowan Castle, the oldest continuously-inhabited castle in Northern Ireland.
“We also agreed that it was probably one of the coldest,” Steele said, “but it was great.”
About 250 people attended the ceremony, he said.
The 15 members of the Third Creek Presbyterian Church in the group performed three concerts during their visit, one at Down Patrick Cathedral in County Down, where St. Patrick was buried.
The choir, which included the voices of Fleming-Adkins and Steele, sang traditional hymns as well as spirituals and gospel songs, contemporary Christian music and American secular songs.
The 22 people in the western Rowan group stayed in the homes of Killyleagh residents. Steele said officials of the Northern Ireland town and some of its residents plan a similar trip to Cleveland in the fall of 2010.
The ancestral roots of many Cleveland residents can be traced to County Down. “We really are an extension of them,” Steele said. “We really are, so they will be very interested in seeing what it’s like here.”
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249 or email@example.com.