Whidbey Island’s Celtic Secret

Whidbey Island lies off the coast of Washington State, about 30 miles north of Seattle. It is famous for sought-after Penn Cove mussels and home to the second oldest town in the state; Coupeville, which was founded in 1852. I recently paid a quick visit to this idyllic isle with a couple of friends and was lucky enough to be shown around by a local Whidbey Islander. She took us to Coupeville where we got piping hot coffee on the waterfront and ambled along the main street exploring cute little shops filled with antiques, art, wines, cheeses and all things lavender. whidbey island, seattle, washington, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney, photography, coupeville

whidbey island, seattle, washington, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney, photography, mosquito fleet

In the afternoon we took a drive around the island, past weather-worn cottages and rolling green prairie, stopping for a walk along the shore to watch beachcombers rummage through driftwood.

whidbey island, seattle, washington, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney, photography

whidbey island, seattle, washington, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney, photography

whidbey island, seattle, washington, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney, photography

whidbey island, seattle, washington, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney, photography

On the way back, our friend stopped by a small cemetery near Coupeville. She led us through the gravestones to a small blockhouse, built in 1855 by early pioneers to defend themselves in case of attack.whidbey island, seattle, washington, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney, photography

whidbey island, seattle, washington, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney, photography

Blockhouse interior

And there, right beside the blockhouse, was an aged and yellowed gravestone written in Irish using old Gaelic type.

whidbey island, seattle, washington, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney, photography

The year after Coupeville was founded, two brothers from Ireland, Sam and Thomas Maylor, staked claims near Oak Harbor to the north of Whidbey Island. Sam’s wife Mary, also from Ireland, lived on Whidbey Island with her husband until her death in 1861. Sam travelled back to Ireland with their three children and had the headstone specially inscribed over there; then sailed back across the ocean and had it erected on her grave. The front is in English, it reads simply “Mary, we love one another still.”

whidbey island, seattle, washington, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney, photography

xxx Ailsa

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About ailsapm

Hi there! I’m Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney. I’ve lived in many places, and travelled to many more. I had a lot of fun getting there and being there, wherever there happened to be at the time. I climbed a castle wall in Czesky Krumlov, abseiled down cliffs to go caving in the west of Ireland, slept on the beach in Paros, got chased by a swarm of bees in Vourvourou (ok that wasn’t fun, but it was exciting), learned flower arranging in Tokyo, found myself in the middle of a riot in Seoul, learned to snowboard in Salzburg, got lost in a labyrinth in Budapest and had my ice cream stolen by a gull in Cornwall. And I’m just getting started. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far, I’d love you to follow my travelogue - wheresmybackpack.com - and remember, anyone who tries to tell you it’s a small world hasn’t tried to see it all.
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23 Responses to Whidbey Island’s Celtic Secret

  1. livingeuropa says:

    Interesting find 🙂

  2. Know-All says:

    loved the post and the photos!

  3. A very touching inscription on Mary’s headstone – thanks for sharing

  4. Steve Hanley says:

    Visited Whidbey Island many years ago and it was the highlight of our stay in and around Seattle. Thanks for sharing this with us. Marvelous photographs.

  5. I’m sure you were happy to find that headstone inscribed in Gaelic type! I love it! 🙂

  6. dadirri7 says:

    a moving memorial for Mary!

  7. Connie says:

    My one and only visit to the Seattle area included a casual day trip on Whidbey Island. Our special find of the day was a cannon in Fort Casey State Park which was marked Watervliet Arsenal 1903. That arsenal is located where I live in upstate NY and is still in operation. My grandfather and uncle worked there. What a treat to travel across country and make a discovery with a home town connection! The whole island was a pleasant place to relax and spend the day. Your visit sounded intriguing, and I will be sure to go to Whidbey Island again on another visit to Seattle.

  8. markd60 says:

    I don’t think I could live without my wife.
    Good post

  9. poppytump says:

    Lovely little bit of history there Ailsa .. imagine travelling so far for that headstone.
    Oh … that driftwood …. did you haul some home Lol
    I see Pat has been there very recently too http://imissmetoo.me/ isn’t it great all these blog connections we can share !

  10. stuffeyefind says:

    Whidbey is awesome! I would go there a lot to hang out. It was on my way to a hot dog place I liked.

  11. atkokosplace says:

    Looks like my kind of day. Your photographs and story telling are wonderful!

  12. John says:

    A great story and photos. Thanks for posting! I love that era.

  13. wow, never been on Whidbey, didn’t realize how big it is. looks like farms back east. love the gravestone, did you find out what it says on the Gaelic side?? just curious…seemed like a lot, maybe married to sam, and born in liverpool?? that’s all I could make out in english. 🙂

  14. Heyjude says:

    What an interesting place and as you probably know I really enjoy a wander around a churchyard – http://wp.me/pL2aa-qz – the Gaelic headstone is a great find! The island itself looks like a mix of Canada and Ireland. Whidbey Island is now on my list for when we visit Seattle.
    Cheers,
    Jude xx

  15. Lucid Gypsy says:

    What a wonderful bit of history and connection.

  16. Liana says:

    what a gem is your post today…sparkling in my mind…the words and the pictures both

  17. Cool Deb says:

    I love the blockhouse photo. Protection? Wow. Thanks for giving us a soul of Seattle glimpse.

  18. I just drove through Coupeville last weekend on my way to the San Juans. You do the island beautiful justice. And the inscription on the grave raised quite the emotion in me. Love is never lost.

  19. pommepal says:

    Very interesting outing Ailsa, great photos, I enjoyed following you around.
    Have you seen the new “Blog event listings page” WP have started? Your travel theme would be ideal for you to submit.
    http://dailypost.wordpress.com/blog-events-listing/

  20. How fabulously romantic to love someone so deeply. Enjoyed the photos, Ailsa.

  21. Beautiful pics! We live in Washington state and have never visited Whidbey Island. We will be sure to now after viewing your stunning photos!

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