From Argentina to Longford

Una and her mother Anne visiting the Iguaz� Falls on the Argentina-Brazil border.
Her Excellency Senora Silvia María Merega, Argentina’s Ambassador to Ireland, is expected to visit Abbeyshrule later this month, as the village hosts the Longford-Westmeath Argentina Society’s annual ‘asado’, or barbeque.

Her Excellency Senora Silvia María Merega, Argentina’s Ambassador to Ireland, is expected to visit Abbeyshrule later this month, as the village hosts the Longford-Westmeath Argentina Society’s annual ‘asado’, or barbeque.

There will be delicious Argentinian meat to try, and Argentinian wine to sample. An exhibition of tango dancing will be given, with music by Johnny Carroll to round off what promises to be an exciting night.

Founded in 1989, the Longford-Westmeath Argentina Society promotes the strong links which exist between Argentina and the midlands counties, where many people would have ancestors and relatives hailing from or living in the South American country.

Una Byrne was one of those who attended the society’s inaugural meeting. Una’s maternal grandfather, Bernard Gannon, was born in Suipacha in the province of Buenos Aires, but moved to Longford, where his uncle had left him a farm.

“He came back, got married and never went back,” Una explained to the Leader. “All my mother’s aunts and uncles on that side were in Argentina.

“Mum always had the interest in Spain, Spanish, and so on and she learned words from her father,” Una continued, explaining that she herself learned her ‘uno, dos, tres,’ just like her ‘haon, dó, trí’ as a child, which sparked her interest in the language and culture.

“[My mother] was my teacher in Spanish and I ended up being a Spanish teacher as well,” Una pointed out.

Una visited Argentina for the first time approximately thirty years ago, and she described her trip as “a whirlwind of meeting all these people”.

“I met six of my mother’s first cousins. They all spoke English”, she explained, laughing, “Some of them had that flat midlands accent, which fascinated me.”

Una later visited again during the 1990s, and spoke of both visits in glowing terms, fondly recalling the breath-taking sights she had taken in.

Returning to the subject of the association, Una pointed out that there is likely families in every country in Ireland with a link to Argentina, but the connections in Longford, Westmeath and Wexford were particularly strong.

Indeed, Una listed several Longford family names known to have Argentinian ancestors, including Belton, Brady, Bannon, Carthy, Casey, O’Connor, Doherty, Farrell, Geoghegan and McGoey, coming from a variety of areas from Granard to Ballymahon.

The biggest event in the association’s year, the asado promises to be an excellent night, and will continue the group’s work in strengthening and promoting the area’s ties to Argentina.

Tickets to the event are selling well, but there are still some available. If you’re interested in attending the event, or would like to find out more about Longford and Argentina, contact Una on 087 2938937.