By Peter McDermott
Anne Rodda’s surname is English, courtesy of her late husband Jim’s Cornwall roots. She herself is German and Danish on her father’s side, but it’s to mother’s Irish heritage that she has always returned time and again.
It helped that after the Roddas had raised their four children, she embarked on a career as a genealogist. Then, two years ago, she took the ultimate step of relocating from Little Falls, N.J., to Tuam, Co. Galway.
“Jim and I visited here many times over a period of about 10 years, and we both loved the place and couldn't really say why in particular. We just felt comfortable here,” she recalled. “We loved all of Ireland, traveled about to all the counties of the Republic on different trips, but always included a week or two here in Tuam.”
Said Rodda, who grew up in Brooklyn in the 1940s and 1950s: “I came here first because my grandmother was from Kilbannon and I was curious. I then kept coming back because we had developed friendships, [and] found some of my cousins, and we seemed to have a connection to the place.”
Rodda, who had obtained a B.A. and a Master’s degree over the years, decided after she was widowed to study for a D. Litt. with an emphasis on Irish studies at Drew University.
“I had finished the course work, two years’ worth, and started the dissertation when I began to think it was time for me to move somewhere else,” she recalled, “and the idea of Ireland kept coming back as I thought about the choices open to me.
“It seemed like a good idea to go to a place that was different enough for starting a new life, and yet where I felt as if I belonged,” said Rodda, who stays with her daughter in New Jersey during her trips back to this side of Atlantic.
Rodda said of Tuam: “The people are friendly. There is an energy: people bustling about with things to do, but always having a minute to stop and chat if you meet in a shop or on the street. It has a small-town feeling but not dull -- busy enough as the center of things in this part of County Galway, and near enough to Galway City to spend a day there.
“And Tuam is in easy reach of so many beautiful spots in the countryside and all along the glorious West Coast of Ireland,” she said. “I think it's important to live in a town where you have roots. There is that feeling of a link to the past, and of course as a genealogist and historian I couldn't be in a better place. Being on the committee of the Old Tuam Society has been a great way to be with friends who share those interests.”
Now, Rodda and the committee are organizing "The Irish-American Link: People, Places and Culture” for the weekend of July 13-15. “This conference is expanding that circle [of friends] and it's always nice to be part of a constructive venture,” she said.