It seemed fitting that I visit Uncle Vance in Northville, Mich., on St. Patrick's Day. His full name is Vance Daly Powell. My grandmother made certain she preserved her Irish maiden name of Daly when she named her youngest son and he in turn has passed it on to his son, Dr. Vance Daly Powell, Jr., and he to his son.
Touting the Daly name on four trips to Ireland has been beneficial for Uncle Vance, a former Detroit attorney, in tracing family roots, and I intend to mention it more than once on my upcoming trip there.
On March 1, Uncle Vance celebrated his 97th birthday anniversary and, as they say, he is as sharp as a tack. "It's frightening to be this old," Uncle Vance says, "because I don't feel like it and I still want to travel." He is gathering brochures about European river cruises.
Of course I want to follow such a remarkable longevity record. A year ago he underwent replacement of both knees and today walks at a good, steady gait. That's only one reason he truly wants to return to Ireland and Wales. In world travels, they are favorites, for heritage, history, and beauty.
Wales, which also is on my April itinerary, is the origin of the Powells. But I must not look for Powell in the telephone book, but Powys, which is the Welsh name, according to Uncle Vance. The word that has sifted through generations is that seven Powell brothers migrated from Wales to America. One was Capt. William Powell, who was captain of one of the ships that brought immigrants to Jamestown.
My house gifts to Uncle Vance on March 17 were a shamrock plant, soda bread, and yeast pretzels. The bread and pretzels were purchased from a bakery in Hudson, Mich. The bread was baked following the recipe used at the Adrian College president's dinner last October, when the menu focus was on international students, including those from Ireland.
The pretzels, some with cheese baked in, were chosen because Uncle Vance likes beer - not ordinary American bottled beer, mind you, but Irish pub beer. He is hoping to get to the new micro brewery at Belleville, Mich., where Vance Powell III just happens to be the brew master. I anticipate a lot of conversation in Irish pubs about the new no-smoking law throughout Ireland that goes into effect tomorrow. The only places where smoking will be permitted are prisons and mental hospitals, so I can look forward to pub food and drink sans smoke in my face.
We had a lovely afternoon looking at old pictures and recalling good times at the old Powell cottage at Gull Lake, near Battle Creek. I especially like stories about my grandmother, Florence Daly Powell. I have always felt that we would have been very close. She died suddenly when she was 59, so I never really got to know her.
When I suggested to Uncle Vance that I have wondered why we aren't Catholic, he had a quick response. The Dalys got to Ireland before the Catholics did, he said, referring to the Dalys' migration to Ireland from Scotland in 330, which he insists is the right year, though it certainly is ancient history.
Somewhere south of Dublin there's a crumbling stone Daly castle, and Daly families who farm nearby. I hope to find both with the help of Michael Forristal, who we have hired as a driver during the 10 days in Ireland, and hope, too, that my travel companions, Mary Ellen Say of Toledo and Rev. James K. Say of Tiffin, won't mind some back-road scouting.
I have never heard anyone utter a negative word about a trip to Ireland, but only outstanding memories they are eager to share. Chris Finnegan, who works at the beauty shop I patronize, has visited Ireland three times. He has loaned a fascinating coffee table book of pictures and sights to see, which only increases my appetite for the trip that begins Easter Sunday. Chris says to be sure to see Loch Gur, the Druid village, and the Bunratty Castle, and go to Durty Nellie's next to it. The Cliffs of Moher are truly spectacular, he added, and said we should check out the linen shop in Dingle between Waterford and Blarney. The list of must-see things goes on. The question may be whether there will be enough energy to take it all in. I will definitely have to double up on my vitamins.