No, I’m not going home yet. I just went to the Ulster-American Folk Park today, an outdoor, interactive museum in Omagh that explores immigration from the Northern Irish region to America.
My Czech friend Martin and I decided to make the trip to Omagh spontaneously and I’m so pleased that we did! A few of my ancestors emigrated from County Antrim to South Carolina in the 1740s, so it was incredible to learn a little about what their experience may have been like from the Folk Park’s exhibits and historical interpreters.
The museum includes replicas and original dwellings from Irish homesteads, churches, schools and shops as well as American frontier shops and homesteads. We visited Ireland first, including the actual homestead and cottage where Thomas Mellon, one of the founding benefactors of Carnegie-Mellon, was born. There were chickens, ducks and geese there, including chicks and ducklings, so it was of course one of my favorite parts of the Folk Park. Then we headed for the dockyard and a replica of a ship like that my ancestors would have traveled on, then America! It was fun to see the Irish stone walls and thatched cottages change to split rail fences and log cabins in America.
In a funny way, it felt like going home. I knew much more about the American side of immigration history, and the demonstration houses in “America” reminded me of those I’ve seen in Colonial Wiliamsburg and Historic Brattonsville, so “America” was very familiar to me. I’m sad to be leaving Belfast, but you know what? I like my home, and I’m glad John White and his family chose to leave Ulster for South Carolina. All the same, I’m equally glad that I’ll have the chance to return to Ulster on holiday, which my ancestors likely weren’t able to do.
This evening, Martin and I went to Fibber Magee’s, a city centre pub, for my last Belfast pint and some wonderful live music! The band played a combination of pop music and some of my favorite traditional Irish tunes, so it was truly a perfect last night in the city. Tomorrow I have some time in the morning to pack before I go to stay the night with family friends in Antrim. They’ll take me to the airport in the wee hours of Saturday morning, and I’ll be on my way from Ulster to America!
If I have a chance to blog before I leave, I certainly will. If not, I’ll share some more reflections once I’m back in the USA.