My family is proud to boast a long and rich history mothered by the Emerald Isle of Erin, which is Gaelic for Ireland. My family's clan was first called the O'Neills, and we inhabited the outskirts of a small village which now goes by the name of County Cork. We were minstrels, actors and musicians in the courts of our family's home for many generations. An interesting piece of recent history about my family is that we are closely related to the Kennedys on my father's side. My grandmother was one of the Davises, who in some way were related intimately to the Fitzgeralds, who were John F. Kennedy's mother's close family. And not too many people know this, but one of the young Kennedy ladies had the good fortune of marrying the famous Mr. Arnold Schwartzenagger.
I wish to go even farther back, though, to the era of the Medieval Renaissance on the Isle, when my family owned their own lands and estate, and the head of our family was known as one of the first rulers of Ireland. Our family's castle and lands remain standing to this day, but are inhabited by no one for failure to pay twenty million dollars in back taxes over the past three hundred years. So now our family's castle sits as a tourist attraction on the coast of Erin, as a reminder of the rich and time-honored beauty it has brought and will always bring to the Island.
Our family owes its debt of gratitude to one young man. The rule who was living in our family's castle at the time had two sons. At the time, having two sons meant that the ruler would have to entrust his lands and properties to one of them when he died. Since the ruler could not decide whom to entrust the castle to, he told them to have boat race around the shores of Roan Innish ("Isle of the Seals, a small island off the coast of Ireland). So it was determined that whoever was first to touch the shoreline on the other side of the island would inherit all of his father's wealth. Well, the race was long and hard, and the younger son grew so tired that he could not row one second longer even though he was so close to the shoreline. He grew frantic, and grabbed his sword and chopped his hand off, and threw it onto the shore. From this one man, our family gained its long and proud heritage on the Isle of the Four-Leaved Clover.
Our family remained on its lands and property until the Britons came to the Isle and began destroying the clans and villages one by one. My family, the O'Neills, remained as long as they could on the Isle, until the siege of Portmore. Portmore was the last remaining Celtic village and trade outpost on the coast of the Isle. After Portmore was captured, my family sailed in homemade boats to France, and changed their names to McNeill, meaning "Sons of God," believing that God was the only reason they were still alive. They remained in France for awhile until they intermarried and eventually became the McLaughlins, meaning "Sons of the Warrior," because of the many times they had battled against England and triumphed. My family then went back to Ireland in the 1700s to live until the 1800s, when they changed their name to "Laflin" as it remains today. In the early 1900s, my great grandparents finally migrated to Illinois in the U.S., and then to Cincinnati, Ohio, where my father grew up. And even now, though we're so far from the Island, we still strive to continue our proud family tradition.
Music is one of the biggest parts of our family's proud history. My family's history is one of musicians, actors and dancers, traits of which are still taught as tradition today. In my family, the women are the singers, or cantors, and the men are the "Dancers of Fire" at all the festivals. I changed things a little, however, and have been involved in both. The Celtic dancing is intricate and difficult, but it is traditional and very enjoyable. All Celtic dance steps are based on Dancing "Circles." The intricate circle designs you see today on necklaces and such are all based on dance steps. The steps are performed at festivals with large groups of people all connecting hands to form these intricate dance "Circles," all of which tell the story of a famous warrior or Druish god. The vocal music plays a huge part in Celtic history as well. Celtic vocal music sounds much like modern opera, using high pitched sounds and always telling a story or ballad. The art of music has been practiced by my family for many generations, and was developed by the earliest musicians on the Island known as minstrels or "Bards." The Bards were the storytellers. They were the ones called upon by the families of the Island to teach their children about the history of Erin through songs and music of old. Their music would tell of great heroes and warriors and Druish gods and goddesses, and would be sung of for generations. This music is passed down from family to family, and it's the reason why Irish families know so much of their heritage and why they are such good storytellers!
All Irish families are taught to be loyal to the Isle and love her always and think of her as the mother of all green things. Before the Britons came to the Isle, it was inhabited mostly by clans of Druids and farming villages, and was known as the "Forbidden Isle." Everyone in the known world wouldn't dare to go there because of the reputation of the Druids. Every evil spirit and mythical creature originated from this mysterious place, as well as all sorts of magic that people had never even heard of. Because of these very reasons, you may now see why Irish people are so superstitious, as well as hot headed. Irish people are often extremely clannish; they tend to be so loyal to the Island that they turn to violence! The Irish are a proud people, though, and will always be loyal to their families and friends, as well as to the Isle above all. I can only say that I'm so proud to be part of such a rich and strong traditional Irish family because, without this precious heritage, I wouldn't be who I am today.
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