Hollyhock House – Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hilltop Temple

Hollyhock House © Kayte Deioma

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA

Hollyhock House
4800 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Hollyhock House, located in Barnsdall Art Park on top of Olive Hill in the Los Feliz/East Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles, is the first house that Frank Lloyd Wright designed in Los Angeles. The American Institute of Architects has recognized it as one of the most significant structures of the 20th century. It was the seventh building in Los Angeles to be declared a National Historic Landmark (2007).

The park is located on Hollywood Boulevard at Vermont, but you can’t see the Hollyhock House from the street, since it’s surrounded by trees. There is a parking lot next to Hollywood Blvd, with the entrance near the corner of Edgemont. You can also drive up through the parking lot and find spots along the loop road that circles the top of the hill.

The house is operated by the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. After being closed for several years for major renovations, the house is open for self-guided tours. The entrance is through the Visitor Center on the loop road, which is connected to the main house via a long pergola. There is no photography allowed inside. See the website for hours and admission.


The striking building was a commission from oil heiress, theatre aficionado and social activist Aline Barnsdall, who planned for the house to be part of an art and theatre colony.  It was like pulling teeth for her to get the design out of Wright, who was otherwise occupied building the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo during the entire construction time from 1919 to 1921.

He was trying to make an international comeback after multiple personal scandals in the US. Final features of the Hollyhock House were actually designed by another famous name in LA architecture, Rudolph Schindler, who Wright brought from Chicago to work on the project. Wright’s son, Lloyd Wright, also worked on the original construction, even before he later qualified as an architect. Barnsdall eventually fired Wright, but brought Schindler and Lloyd Wright back to finish the job.

Hollyhock House

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA

The hollyhock was Barnsdall’s favorite flower, and Wright’s design incorporates multiple variations of a geometric hollyhock motif on on textured concrete blocks called textile blocks and also in the stained-glass windows, carpets and furnishings. Exterior walls cantilevered slightly inward give a vague interpretation of a Mayan temple, leading some to call the architectural style Mayan Revival, but Wright called it California Romanza. Water flowed from a square pool in front of the house under the building into a moat around the fireplace and back out into a water feature in the courtyard. Like many of Wright’s concepts, that didn’t work out so well, having a tendency to flood the living room.

Hollyhock House © Kayte Deioma

The moat around the fireplace at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA

Nothing about the final design and construction of the 17-room house was very practical or comfortable, so Aline Barnsdall and her daughter never really lived in the house. With the cost overruns and the lack of a solid design for the theatre, she gave up on the arts colony idea and started work on donating the house to the City of LA before it was even finished. The City rejected the donation initially, but in 1927 the property was transferred with the condition that the California Art Club could lease the house for its headquarters for 15 years, and that Aline Barnsdall could stay in a smaller house on Olive Hill referred to as Residence B, which has since been demolished. She lived there until her death in 1946.

Hollyhock House © Kayte Deioma

The gallery at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA

To create exhibit space in the house, the California Art Club knocked out two en suite guest rooms on the south side of the building to create a gallery, and that space currently has an exhibit of the original designs, drawings and history of the house.

Hollyhock House © Kayte Deioma

The atrium and patio at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA

In the 1940s, Lloyd Wright was contracted to do some renovations and made some significant changes, including completely redoing the kitchen and turning the sun room into an open patio. He was brought back again in the 70’s to make further alterations. The current restoration of the first floor is predominantly back to the original 1921 Frank Lloyd Wright design, with the exception of Lloyd Wright’s 1940’s kitchen.

Here is a preview of the beautifully restored Hollyhock House and see some of the details that were uncovered, and some of the second floor spaces not open to the public.

An upstairs view at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA

One of the bedrooms at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA

The dining room at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA

The kitchen at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA

The living room at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA

The music room at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA

Inside the front door at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA

Hollyhock House © Kayte Deioma

Entrance to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA

Detail on the front door at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA

Hollyhock House © Kayte Deioma

A view of the Hollywood Sign from the walkway at the Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA




A Visit to John Kelly Chocolates in Hollywood

John Kelly Chocolates

Co-Owners John Kelson and Kelly Green at John Kelly Chocolates shop and factory in Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA

John Kelly Chocolates
1508 N. Sierra Bonita Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 851-3269
Hours: Mon-Fri 9 am – 5:30 pm, Sat 10 am – 5:30 pm

Santa Monica
1111 1/2 Montana Ave
Sana Monica, CA 90403
(310) 899-0900
Hours: Mon-Fri 10 am – 6 pm, Sat 10 am – 7 pm, Sun 12 – 5 pm

Also at:
(800) 609-4243 toll free
(323) 851-1789 fax

I am a chocoholic. I admit it.

But I’m just as picky about chocolate as I am about other kinds of food. I don’t like my chocolate bitter or waxy or too sugary. At the LA Chocolate Salon I find far more chocolates that I don’t like, compared to the ones I do. This is why I’m sometimes reluctant to do a tasting at a boutique chocolatier. It’s really hard to look at someone who has put a lot of effort and love into creating THEIR perfect version of chocolate and have to say “sorry, not my cup of tea.”

So I was very relieved when I accepted the offer to visit the John Kelly Chocolates factory in Hollywood, to discover that not only is it very much “my cup of tea,” it’s just about my new favorite thing. Co-Owners John Kelson and Kelly Green opened their Hollywood chocolate factory in 2005, supplying upscale outlets like Nieman Marcus and the Ritz Carlton hotels. The smell of chocolate brought passersby knocking on the door looking for the source of that heavenly scent, so in 2010 they opened a shop at the little factory just off Sunset Boulevard and in 2012, they opened another retail store in Santa Monica.

Kelson had a background in luxury sales and Green in marketing. Neither one was an expert in chocolate. They started with a recipe created by a friend that they really enjoyed. “We had the good fortune of having Vickie Delgado who knew chocolate and taught us, and we adjusted the recipe until we had something unique.” says Green.

Unlike the typical chocolate truffle, the offerings at John Kelly have their origins in fudge, but what they call fudge is much creamier and less sugary than any fudge I’ve ever tasted. The pieces or bars are coated in semi-sweet chocolate, which is also something you don’t usually find with fudge. You can get your 1 oz truffle fudge bites plain or with walnuts, as caramel nut clusters or peanut butter fudge. The 2 spicy dark chocolate bars come in the milder chipotle and ancho chile or the fiery habanero and jalapeno variety.

There are almost as many flavors of exotic salts that top the chocolates as there are filling, from Hawaiian Red Alaea sea salt to Himalayan pink salt. The dark chocolate with French grey sea salt won the sofi Gold Award from NASFT for Outstanding Chocolate in 2009 and it’s easy to taste why. Everything I tasted was wonderful, but the rich pure cacao goodness of this one just tastes like more.

Other favorites for me were both of the spicy varieties, the peanut butter/chocolate duo, the chocolate and caramel with Hawaiian red sea salt and the orange chocolate and…really each one was my favorite while I was eating it.

All the truffle fudge flavors are extremely rich and dense and just a small taste can be very satisfying, allowing a 1 oz piece to be enjoyed over a couple days – or an 8 oz bar all in one sitting if you’re not careful. In addition to the shareable 8 oz bar, a 3 lb party slab that serves 48-64 people can be ordered in any flavor.

At $3 for a one ounce piece, $3.50 for 2 oz, and $13 for a half pound bar, it’s not your supermarket candy bar, but it’s a relative bargain for luxury chocolate.

You can stop in either of the retail shops in Hollywood or Santa Monica or visit the Hollywood shop and factory on a Tourific Escapes tour.

If you’re like me and drool over everything chocolate, enjoy the photos from John Kelly Chocolates below.

A Vat of Gooey Chocolate

John Kelly Chocolates Factory in Hollywood - Photo © 2012 Kayte Deioma
Photo Credit: © Kayte Deioma
A vat of gooey, melty chocolate being mixed at John Kelly Chocolates in Hollywood, CA

Dipping Fudge Truffles

Dipping Fudge Truffles at John Kelly Chocolates - Photo © 2012 Kayte Deioma
Dipping Fudge Truffles at John Kelly Chocolates in Hollywood.
Photo Credit: © Kayte Deioma
Fudge Truffles being dipped in chocolate coating at John Kelly Chocolates in Hollywood, CA

Chocolate Line at John Kelly Chocolates

Chocolate line at John Kelly Chocolates - Photo © 2012 Kayte Deioma
Chocolate line at John Kelly Chocolates.
Photo Credit: © Kayte Deioma
Fudge truffles coming out of their chocolate coating bath.

Chocolate-Covered Truffle Fudge

Chocolate-covered truffle fudge - Photo © 2012 Kayte Deioma
Photo Credit: © Kayte Deioma
Chocolate-covered truffle fudge coming off the conveyor belt at John Kelly Chocolates in Hollywood, CA

Handmade Walnut Caramels

Making walnut caramel truffles at John Kelly Chocolates - Photo © 2012 Kayte Deioma, used with permission
Photo Credit: © Kayte Deioma
Making walnut caramels that will be covered in chocolate at John Kelly Chocolates in Hollywood, CA

Walnut Caramels at John Kelly Chocolates

Walnut Caramels at John Kelly Chocolates - Photo © 2012 Kayte Deioma
Photo Credit: © Kayte Deioma
Hand-made walnut caramels waiting to be covered in chocolate at John Kelly Chocolates in Hollywood, CA

A 3 Pound Bar of Chocolate

3 Pound Bar of Chocolate - Photo © 2012 Kayte Deioma

Photo Credit: © Kayte Deioma

The three-pound slab of chocolate coated truffle fudge at John Kelly Chocolates is designed to serve about 50 people or me and another 10 chocoholics.

Salting Chocolates

John Kelly Chocolate Factory - Photo © 2012 Kayte Deioma, used with permission
Photo Credit: © Kayte Deioma
Salting chocolates with French gray sea salt and Hawaiian red sea salt at John Kelly Chocolates in Hollywood, CA

Sampling the Chocolates

A Tour Group at John Kelly Chocolates - Photo © 2012 Kayte Deioma
Photo Credit: © Kayte Deioma
Tour group members get samples of chocolates to taste at John Kelly Chocolates in Hollywood, CA

Golden Wrappers

Golden Wrapping at John Kelly Chocolates - Photo © 2012 Kayte Deioma
Photo Credit: © Kayte Deioma
Like Willie Wonka, John Kelly Chocolates wraps some of their precious cargo in golden wrappers.

Tourific Escapes at John Kelly Chocolates

Tourific Escapes Tour at John Kelly Chocolates - Photo © 2012 Kayte Deioma
Photo Credit: © Kayte Deioma
Tourific Escapes has a couple different tours that stop at John Kelly Chocolates.








Ballycastle Ballad

Story and photos by Kayte Deioma

Some travel writers make a career out of developing an intimate knowledge of a single destination. Others are known for never visiting the same place twice. As much as I love a new adventure, some places keep calling me to return.

It’s not always just the places that draw me back to favorite destinations. It’s the people. Many of my international relatives and friends are now on Facebook, so I at least get a peek into their lives. But it doesn’t compare to sharing life stories over a cup of tea, and there are plenty of hold outs who just don’t do social media.

Ballycastle © KayteDeioma.com

Ballycastle, Moyle, UK

The decision for me to revisit Ireland was made for me.  I bought a few raffle tickets from Passports with Purpose, an annual fundraiser created by travel bloggers, and won a nine-day tour of Ireland. Clearly my Irish family and friends were going to get company.

An Irish Tale Takes Its Time in the Telling.

Irish heritage was not emphasized or talked about particularly in our half-Italian household. However, it was there in subtle ways I didn’t realize, like the habit my mother and grandmother had of bursting into song or poetry at the drop of a hat. I just thought they were eccentric, until I visited Ireland, where it’s common practice.

My great-grandmother, Margaret McCaughan, came to the US with her sister Catherine in 1900 from the beachfront town of Ballycastle at the upper tip of Northern Ireland. My grandmother was pen pals with her Irish cousin Patricia for many years, but never had the chance to meet her.

Ballycastle Beach with Fair Head

Ballycastle Beach with Fair Head

I met her cousin Pat when I traveled to Ballycastle in 1998 with my mother, brother and sister. You could say we were some of those annoying Americans who “found” our Irish relatives, but that branch of the family was never really lost; and they were happy to see us.

Pat still had the letters and photos my grandmother had written to her, as well as the ones from my great grandmother. My great-grandma’s Irish lilt reached through time to describe the ocean crossing and the two sisters arriving in New York City to New Year’s Eve fireworks at the turn of the last millennium.

Crossing the River

Declan driving my mother and her cousin Pat crossing the river that their grandparents used to cross on stilts to go to school.

We met Pat’s daughter Patricia and son Hugh, and her son Declan, who gave us a grand tour of “the Rock,” the ruins of the old stone homestead high on a hill where my great-grandmother grew up. To get to the hill Declan drove us across a small river in a giant tractor. “My grandfather used to cross this river on stilts every day to go to school,” Pat told us, echoing a story I had heard my grandmother tell so many times about her own mother.

The Other McCaughans

A decade earlier, when my mother was researching the family tree, a friend traveling through Ballycastle brought back the McCaughan page from the phone book. Mom wrote to each of them to see which ones were descended from our common ancestors. In addition to hearing back from Patricia, she got a letter from 8-year-old Melanie Brown, whose mother was born Mary McCaughan. Melanie had moved to New Zealand by the time we visited, but we met Mary, her son Shane and some of her McCaughan siblings. Each one exclaimed when they met my mother – “You look just like Bridgid!”

We didn’t get to meet Bridgid, who had emigrated to England, but from photos, there really was an uncanny resemblance. I too seemed to evoke the familiar response when meeting new members of the clan, young or old. “You look like my sister (or aunt) Bridgid. It’s in the eyes.” The resemblance to Mary was pretty striking too.

Family Resemblance © KayteDeioma.com

My mother in the center, with Irish cousins Mary on the far left and Medbh next to her on the right, with my sisters Carol (left) and Mary (right) when Mary and Medbh visited the US.

When Mary, and later her daughter Melanie, visited me in LA, my friends also commented on the family resemblance. The strange thing is that our connection is so many generations back that we’re not quite sure where it is. McCaughans have been in Ballycastle so long that there are multiple branches who can’t trace their common history, but know from family tradition that they are somehow related.

One thing is sure, and that is that you can’t turn a corner or walk into a bar in the town of Ballycastle without running into a McCaughan from one branch of the family tree or another. I experienced this again when I visited Ballycastle on my own in 2004 and stayed with Mary and her partner Gerry. It was such a phenomenon that when I got back to LA, I wrote a song about it.

Every time I sang my song about Ballycastle, I fantasized about going back to sing the ballad at a Ballycastle bar.


I’m a little sad on this visit that cousins Pat and Mary are no longer around, having gone to join the fairies. Melanie and her Scottish husband Ruairidh have returned from New Zealand to live in Mary’s house with their four-year-old twins, Eddie and Jack.  At Melanie’s suggestion, I am here in time for the nearly 400-year-old Auld Lammas Fair, one of the oldest festivals in Northern Ireland.

Visiting during the Lammas Fair has the advantage that some of my relatives who don’t live in Ballycastle are in town for the Fair. Pat’s daughter Ursula, who lives in England most of the year, is in her summer house not far from Melanie.  A couple of other recently rediscovered relatives are staying with her – 89-year-old Auntie Jane and her daughter Lesley, also over from England.

I’m staying with Melanie and Ruairidh. I fall instantly in love with their red-headed offspring, who are not only great photo subjects, but brilliant conversationalists at four. They willingly participate in all my sing-alongs and adventures. Like any true Irishmen, they already know a song for every occasion.

The twin pirates who stole my heart digging for buried treasure on Ballycastle Beach.

The twin pirates who stole my heart digging for buried treasure on Ballycastle Beach.

Ballycastle Ballad – Take 1

Melanie and Ruairidh are both musicians who sit in on local “trad” music sessions whenever they can. Informed in advance of my goal of singing my Ballycastle Ballad in a Ballycastle bar, Melanie has big plans for my first night in town. It’s Thursday, the most promising session for the week at O’Connor’s Bar. Unlike some instrumental-only sessions, at this one singing is encouraged.

O'Connor's Bar in Ballycastle

O’Connor’s Bar in Ballycastle, home of Thursday night ‘Trad’

As we step in the door of the pub, Melanie greets a woman at the bar who turns out to be another member of the McCaughan clan. About a dozen musicians are sitting around a wooden table in the front of the bar covered with twice as many half-empty glasses. The room has been expanded and remodeled since the last time I was here, but I recognize some of the faces from photos I shot at this session back in 2004. They seem frozen in time, barely aged.

Melanie settles in with her fiddle, joining the strains of jigs and reels. I add my voice to the numerous choruses of the Belle of Belfast and enjoy a hot whiskey to warm up my vocal chords.  The crowd is larger than usual due to the Auld Lammas Fair. There’s a roar of chatter behind the music.

O'Connor's Bar

The Thursday night ‘Trad’ Session at O’Connor’s Bar in Ballycastle, Northern Ireland

I’ve been on the road since the day before, but the music is uplifting and even in my bleary-eyed state, I’m just where I want to be. After about an hour, I’m feeling pretty mellow when Mel stands up and makes introductions, passing me the microphone. The conversation level is still pretty high, but I can hear people shushing each other as I start to sing.

My ancestors came from a small beach town
‘Tween the Northern Ireland glens,
Just a stone’s throw from Scotland
Where the Irish and Scottish brogues blend.

Ballycastle, your blood runs though my veins.
Though a hundred years may have come and gone,
you’ll recognize me once again.
Ballycastle, the land of my roots and my dreams
Though a hundred years may have come and gone,
you’ll always be home to me…

I appreciate being in this place, in this moment with my roots planting me in this soil and connecting me to these people. I can feel the emotion in the room relating to my words, and my story. Even if this turns out to be my only opportunity to sing my song publicly in Ballycastle, I have fulfilled my dream of letting the people of Ballycastle know how strongly I feel that connection.

New Family Connections

The next day I meet cousins Ursula, Jane, Lesley and Patricia over lunch at a little cafe called Thyme and Co. I learn that Jane, now 89, was separated from her Irish family (including her sister Pat) as a child, left to be raised by relatives in England when her mother couldn’t afford to maintain all her children. She exchanged years of letters with her mother,  but was never able to return to Ballycastle and her siblings. Her daughter Lesley reestablished the family ties a couple years ago and brought her mother back to visit.

As we wander the nearby shops after lunch, Patricia and her Auntie Jane discover they share a love of shoes and handbags.

Shopping in Ballycastle

Patricia and Aunt Jane discover their common love of handbags.

A sliver of a boutique called K.Co, has just a few racks of colorful dresses, skirts and slacks and a wall of fun hats. As Jane explores the handbags and Patricia tries on the perfect skirt, a young woman comes up to me. “I heard you sing at O’Connor’s last night,” she says. “It was lovely. It made my mum cry.” Which, of course, makes my heart sing.

Ballycastle Ballad – Take 2

I have another opportunity to make that connection Friday night at the House of McDonnell, also known as Wee Tom’s. As we’re introduced, Wee Tom remarks spontaneously that I remind him of Ursula (the other side of the family).

Kayte and Mel at Wee Tom's

Kayte and Melanie at Wee Tom’s. Family resemblance?

Mel and Ruairidh add their violin and flute to the guitar, accordion, bodhran and another fiddler gathered around a tiny table in the narrow main room.

Ruoridh and Mel trading melodies on flute and fiddle at Wee Tom's House of McDonnell in Ballycastle

Ruairidh and Mel trading melodies on flute and fiddle at Wee Tom’s House of McDonnell in Ballycastle

I chat at the bar with Paul, who occasionally joins in on “bones.” After a while, I once again have a chance to share my Ballycastle ballad.

When I go to Ballycastle,
Any stranger there can see,
The eyes of a McCaughan
That my great-grandma passed on to me…

As I finish the song, another McCaughan who happens to be in the bar comes over to say hello.  Of course, there had to be one.

We’re about to head off for the night when my new friend Paul comes over to say goodbye. He references my sung sentiment…”Glad to have you home.” And I’m happy to be home.


On Saturday, Melanie and I take the boys on their first visit (my second) to the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge just up the coast. The 66-foot bridge is suspended almost 100 feet above a steep expanse of water to what is basically a big rock outcropping known as Carrick Island. The boys make the long trek down the trail to the bridge in the sprinkling rain with barely a complaint. The plank and rope bridge has been stabilized since my first visit, so it no longer sways wildly. That makes it much easier to cross with a four-year-old, but not as gleefully trepidatious as before.  It doesn’t faze the boys in the least.

Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge

Ready to cross Carrick-A-Rede rope Bridge with Mel and the boys.

On the walk back, we see a rainbow over the sea, and I sing my song about My Friend Rainbow.  Eddie then sings his own version where the sun and rainbow come out to play in the rain.  Of the fraternal twins, Jack is more the adventurer. Eddie is more contemplative. But they both have their poetic side; they’re half  Irish after all.

Girls Day Out – Glenshesk and Ballintoy

On Sunday Ursula invites me to join her and Auntie Jane on a driving tour of Glenshesk, the local glen where the family farm is located. Cousin Declan has been having some health issues, and Ursula tells me he’s not up to having visitors at the moment, so we don’t actually stop at the farm, but drive up to the top of the glen to admire the view back down toward the town.

We stop at the ruins of Bonamargy Friary. The roof of the building is long gone, but we explore the stone walls and small graveyard that remain. The abbey is also Hole 3 of the local golf course. We pause to admire the golfers in action. Auntie Jane’s infectious grin and her jokes about golf bums remind me of my own mischievous Irish grandmother.

Auntie Jane and Ursula at Bonamargy Friary in Ballycastle

Auntie Jane and Ursula at Bonamargy Friary in Ballycastle

By mid-afternoon we’re getting peckish. In order to avoid the weekend chaos of pre-fair crowds in Ballycastle, Ursula suggests we head to Ballintoy Harbour for a late lunch. A few miles west of Ballycastle, the tiny harbor is just below the village of Ballintoy, with a population of less than 200 people. The cafe in the harbor is bustling on a Sunday afternoon, but we manage to find a table to enjoy a hot bowl of vegetable soup with some good Irish wheaten bread. After a stroll along the stone jetty, Ursula and Auntie Jane settle on a bench with take-away cups of hot tea to watch the kayakers and enjoy the scenery.

Ballintoy Harbor

Ballintoy Harbor looking toward Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge

I head off down the rocky coastal trail a bit to explore the caves, stone arches and craggy landscape. As much as the trail draws me, I don’t want to leave Auntie Jane and Ursula sitting too long on the cool summer afternoon, so we head back to town.

The Auld Lammas Fair

Unlike many festivals, celebrated on weekends so people are off work, the Lammas Fair has taken place on the last Monday and Tuesday in August since it began as a trade market almost 400 years ago. As the big day dawns ,we all walk down the hill from home into the throngs at the center of town and meet up with Gerry, the dear man who was with cousin Mary until the end. They visited me in Long Beach; I stayed with them in 2004 (when we faced the local Garda together after I took an unauthorized photo); and it was Gerry’s smiling face that greeted me at the Belfast airport when I arrived.

The Auld Lammas Fair

The Auld Lammas Fair, Ballycastle, Northern Ireland

Gerry has been telling me since I got here how the Lammas Fair has turned all plastic and kitsch. I see what he means as we pass rows of vendors selling plastic toys made in China. There are still hand-knit Irish sweaters and a few artisanal foods and crafts, as well as antiques and collectibles, but mostly a lot of cheap imports.

Selfie at the Lammas Fair

Selfie with the clan at the Lammas Fair horse trading area

In a far corner, near the Ballycastle Livestock Mart, horse trading still goes on. Yellow signs command “No Trading Permitted on Street” and “No Tethering of Horses on Street.” A poster on a giant police tractor implores: “Let’s Stop Rural Crime Together!” as police officers in Kevlar vests chat with passers-by.

Horse Traders at the Lammas Fair

Horse traders at the Auld Lammas Fair in Ballycastle

Vendors of “home-made burgers” are everywhere, but Irish specialties are harder to come by. That is, except for the traditional Lammas Fair novelties, Yellowman and dulse.  Yellowman is a neon yellow hard toffee broken into chunks with a hammer.  Dulse is a dried seaweed snack – an acquired taste I haven’t acquired.  The odd combination of flavors, usually sold side by side, seems to be everywhere. We skip the snacks and opt for a pub lunch to rest our feet.

Dulse, Popcorn and Yellowman

Dulse, Popcorn and Yellowman, specialties of the Auld Lammas Fair in Ballycastle

Rather than a central entertainment stage, every block of the Lammas Fair has a booth where someone is singing, hawking their CDs and hoping to land wedding gigs. There are more performers singing American-style country music, pop songs or lounge music than traditional Irish tunes. I find the Irish music I’m looking for played by small groups of children and teens scattered with their instruments along a stone wall on Quay Road near the carnival rides – a bit of local tradition carved out among the Mylar unicorns, bejeweled cowboy hats, Greek pastries and Native American dream catchers.

Musicians at the Lammas Fair

Musicians at the Lammas Fair

The Lammas Fair is popular with Irish travelers, the home-grown gypsies who live a nomadic life criss-crossing the country. Some of them work the carnival or trade livestock. The young women come out for the festivities dressed for clubbing mid-afternoon. They’re not sure about me, walking around with two cameras and a long lens. Looks of distrust turn into smiles when I ask them to pose for a picture. They didn’t come out dressed like this not to be noticed.

Decked Out for the Lammas Fair

Decked Out for the Lammas Fair

After dark we run into another McCaughan I haven’t met before, Melanie’s teenage nephew Connor,  who came in with some friends from a few towns away.

Family Reunion

My final evening in town we gather for an impromptu family reunion at Ursula’s house. Melanie, Ruairidh, the boys and I join Ursula, Lesley and Auntie Jane, Patricia and her husband, Patricia’s brother Hugh and his wife, and I am thrilled to see that Declan is well enough to join us.  He was such  a gracious tour guide on my other two visits that it would have felt incomplete not to have seen him. “I never thought I’d see you here again this lifetime!” he greets me with a twinkle.

Extended McCaughans

The extended McCaughan clan poring over the family tree online

We spend some time catching up over a traditional dinner of bangers and mash. Then Lesley pulls out her laptop so I can show her the family tree website that my mother and sister created. There, among all the historic photos of interesting-looking ancestors that my sister painstakingly scanned, are photos that I took on my first visit to Ireland in 1998 of my mother and their mother, Pat, poring over old photos and letters together.  Full circle.

Before we break up the party, there is one last thing I need to do – sing my Ballycastle Ballad for the cousins who inspired it.

…If you go to Ballycastle
And step into any bar,
You’ll find a McCaughan,
And you’ll know just where you are.

In Ballycastle, the land of my roots and my dreams
Though a hundred years may have come and gone,
you’ll always be home to me…

Thanks to all the McCaughan clan who make me feel so welcome in my ancestral home.  You have to love a family that doesn’t mind a tribute song that ends up in a bar.

Stay tuned for tales from my 9-day tour of the Republic.

Search for flights to Ireland.