Wild West Irish Tours, the creation of Michael Regan-Waugh and Trish O’Donnell-Jenkins, was founded on St. Patrick’s Day, 2011. Within only two years, the Embassy of Ireland in Washington DC, honored and selected Wild West Irish Tours to launch Ireland’s national initiative, “The Gathering 2013.” World-renowned Irish singer Cathy Jordan of the Irish traditional band, Dervish was invited by WWIT to launch this incredibly successful world Gathering. Both Ms. Jordan and Michael and Trish were presented with the honor of “Cathy Jordan/Wild West Irish Tours Day” in Fairfax County, the largest county in Virginia, by the Honorable Michael R. Frey, Supervisor. Mr. Frey had experienced a Wild West Irish Tour the previous year. The Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce Vice President, Christine Crawford, was also on a Wild West Irish Tour and said she had a “fabulous experience that far exceeded my expectations…it was a chance of a lifetime to experience Ireland as our ancestors knew it…thank you so much.” Wild West Irish Tours had had to add tours or has sold out all tours since 2012.
This “over-night success” did not come overnight. Michael, the grandson of Irish immigrants, has been living, working and providing tours in Ireland since 1992. Michael was born in the Bronx, New York, and after a 22=year career in the United States Coast Guard, moved to Sligo, Ireland. Being very familiar with the landscape and with the guidance of friends and family, Michael set out to find the historical places and the people behind the story. With the help of Irish folklorist and author, Joe McGowan, Michael had access to the hidden places and people of the west of Ireland. You can read about Michael’s experience here in the Travel section of the Tampa Bay Times. This was the beginning of what would eventually become Wild West Irish Tours.
Trish O’Donnell-Jenkins, who is from the Washington DC area, also has strong Irish roots. Trish’s career path started with a Master’s degree in Psychology at George Mason University and she has spent many years in the IT field. Trish and Michael met in 2006 and within a year, initiated a Travel Award/Scholarship Program at Lord Fairfax Community College in the Shenandoah Valley. These awards were incentives for students to earn a trip to Ireland. Eventually, Michael and Trish brought groups of students and faculty to Ireland, where they would meet the likes of novelist Joe McGowan, novelist and playwright Dermot Healy, and poet Leland Bardwell, enjoying a full experience in Ireland. The groups were kept to eight people at a time to ensure each student/faculty had a full immersion in Irish culture, history, and nature.
Honored by the Embassy
Presented with an award during The Gathering, a community-led initiative that encourages overseas visitors who are Irish-born, Irish-bred or Irish in spirit to join Irish people for family reunions and cultural, sporting and other events.
Left to Right: Kevin Conmy deputy chief of mission at the Embassy of Ireland, Michael Waugh Co-Founder of Wild West Irish Tours, Cathy Jordan Lead Vocalist of Dervish, Trish Jenkins Co-Founder of Wild West Irish Tours
Meeting with the Prime Minister (Taoiseach in Gaelic) Enda Kenny
Michael and Trish decided to make the tours “official” and cast a wide net to reach people all over the world who always dreamed of coming to Ireland. The formula of small groups of individuals interacting with local people in the West of Ireland, was an essential key in this “overnight success.” The Wild West Irish Tours approach is that travelers who take a tour, are in a way, not on a tour at all. They are among family and friends, and have access to the seldom seen and yes, iconic places of the Wild West of Ireland.
Wild West Irish Tours Panel of Tour Leaders and Contributors
Dessie McCallion has probably walked more miles in the hills of Donegal during his spare time than anyone else you could mention and has always taken an avid interest in the history and features he’s passed along the way. Retired after 30 years in the Irish Army, Dessie is a qualified Tour Guide for Wild West Irish Tours and operates Inishowen Heritage Tours, which allows him to show off many of The Wild West Atlantic and Causeway Coast hidden gems and to share its rich heritage and stunning scenery with visitors.
Originally from Tubbercurry Co. Sligo, Eddie O’Gorman is a teacher, a student of history, a tall ship sailor and a Spanish Armada enthusiast. Since 2007 he has lived at Streedagh Co. Sligo where three Spanish Armada shipwrecks of 1588 lie beneath the waves.
Eddie is chair of Grange and Armada Development Association (GADA) since 2014 and has
been involved with Celtic Fringe Festivals in various capacities from 2011 to present day.
Eddie tells the story of the Armada through the account of one of the few survivors, Captain Francisco De Cuéllar, who has left a thrilling record of his escape from the wrecking and his adventures in Ireland with Irish chieftains, O’Rourke and Mc Clancy.
Walk with Eddie in the footsteps of Captain De Cuéllar through the magical landscape of the Dartry Mountains in the shadow of fabled Benbulben.
Adrian O’Neill is a passionate and energetic historian and general tour guide who was born and bred in Sligo. He studied Archaeology and Classical Studies at the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) where he developed a strong interest in the broad spheres of early Greek and Roman history, society, mythology and architecture. In the last few years, he has devoted a great deal of time to local and national Irish folklore and history. He has four years of experience in public and private tour guiding in Sligo town for organisations such as Failte Ireland, Sea Trails and Wild West Irish Tours. He is the founder of the successful Sligo Heritage and History Club (over 12k members) which aims to recover and revive local and national history through storytelling, discussions, image recovery, online blogs and monthly events. The club has had several successful events which gathered top researchers, academics and local knowledge experts to discourse on various fruitful history topics.
Dr. Michael Roberts was born in Sligo. His home, which overlooked the Garavogue River, was at the edge of Sligo town within walking distance of all the major mythological and archaeological sites. He walked to all of them before he knew what they were or who put them there or why they did so. He passed a large fairy fort on his way to and from school every day of his young life. Maebh’s Carn and Carns Hill were in sight of his home and afforded places to roam and play as a boy. This sparked a lifelong interest in the mystery and myths of these sites that was fanned to flame by the conversations overheard in the everyday speech of family and friends. This flame still burns brightly. Michael invites you to take a spark and bring your own fire aflame. In many ways, the landscape of Sligo shaped his life, his values and belief systems. It informed him and formed a foundation to build a life on, now Michael shares the Myths and Legends he uncovered from the Northwest of Ireland in his first book The Cailleach.
Auriel Robinson is a qualified and professional Maritime Archaeologist who is passionate about Irish historical and archaeological heritage, land and seascapes and the natural environment. She worked for many years as an archaeologist in the field and underwater but also as a consultant and adviser to the Irish government on the protection of archaeological and historical monuments and underwater sites. Auriel promotes heritage awareness in Ireland through her walking tours. Auriel is founder of “SeaTrails” and has been recognized by National Geographic Travel Magazine. We are delighted to have Auriel onboard with Wild West Irish Tours!
Pius Murray is a native of Portumna, County Galway. He lives in Corofin, County Clare, on the southern edge of the Burren. He has a deep knowledge of the Burren and Inisheer(Aran Islands), which he is delighted to share with visitors. He has been walking in the Burren since 1990 and invites visitors to explore, on foot, its secret places and sacred sites, and immerse themselves in the spirituality of this stunning, unique karst landscape on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Pius is a retired Primary School Principal Teacher, who has been bringing his students on field trips to the Burren for 20 years.
He has completed a Celtic Spirituality Teacher Training Course, a Walking Guide Course and is a First Aider.
He is a founder member of Pilgrim Path Ireland and is a member of the Burren Ecotourism Network.