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Kinsale man’s pilgrimage in ancestor’s footsteps

Thursday, 10th March, 2016 11:55am
Kinsale man’s pilgrimage  in ancestor’s footsteps

By Kieran O’Mahony

IT was a journey that Ristéard Mac Eochagáin didn’t quite make in 1601. 

But 413 years later, James Keoghan, a descendant of his, set out from his home at Currahoo near Kinsale on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, in memory of his illustrious ancestor. 

And he’s even written a book about his journey entitled  ‘Currahoo to Santiago: My Camino.’

After the Battle of Kinsale in 1601, Red Hugh O’Donnell set sail from Castletownshend for Spain to seek military assistance and through a quirk of history his senior gallowglass captain, Ristéard Mac Eochagáin was not to take part in this mission.

‘I’ve dedicated my pilgrimage to the Shrine of St James to the memory of my ancestors Captain Ristéard Mac Eochagáin and his son Brian, who but for a quirk of history would have reached Santiago de Compostela 413 years before me. Instead they died at the Siege of Dunboy in September 1602,’ James told The Southern Star.

A former first officer in the British and Irish merchant navy, James now works in the architect profession and this is his first venture into publishing.

The book is an absorbing and sometimes witty memoir of his journey, with engaging descriptions of places he passed through and a somewhat jaundiced account of fellow pilgrims he met along the way. 

James walked 816 kilometres as he followed the ancient pilgrim way from the Pyrenees in France to the north of Spain to the shrine of Saint James, while crossing high mountain passes in adverse weather, trekking through the endless solitude of the Meseta under a unforgiving Spanish sun. James also writes of a deep sense of humility and yet achievement on finally reaching Santiago de Compostela.

‘Curahoo to Santiago: My Camino’ was launched recently in the Lemon Leaf Café in Kinsale by Paul Whelan, an author from Midleton. 

Sean Corrigan from The Camino Society also gave a short presentation on the Irish connection with the Camino Santiago.

The paperback book retails at €15 and the hardback book is €25 and is on sale in bookstores in Kinsale, Bandon, Bantry, Skibbereen and Midleton, as well as being available online in digital form.