Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Nirvana legend Kurt Cobain's roots traced to Co Tyrone

Kurt Cobain
Kurt Cobain
Courtney Love wants Armando Iannucci to direct the Kurt Cobain biopic

The rolling hills of Tyrone may not scream rock legend to the average person but one family’s journey into their ancestry has uncovered a little piece of musical history.

The roots of Kurt Cobain, lead singer of cult band Nirvana, have been traced back to the small village of Inishatieve near Pomeroy in the Red Hand county.

Fionnola O’Reilly was moved to delve into her family tree after an American relative hinted that there may be a connection to the famous rock singer dating back to the 1800s.

After nearly six years of ploughing through family records Fionnola and her sister Maeve Erwin confirmed that their long-lost cousin was indeed the legendary Nirvana frontman.

They discovered that Kurt’s ancestors Samuel and Letitia, whose surname was originally spelt Cobane, left their humble farm five generations ago bound for Canada before settling and working as shoemakers in the state of Washington in the US.

The wild and mountainous terrain of the village of Inishatieve is a world away from the mean streets of Aberdeen in Washington where Kurt, who married the controversial Courtney Love in 1992, grew up.

While Nirvana went on to have massive success with well-known hits, including Smells like Teen Spirit, the tragic singer developed a drug problem in his teens and committed suicide at the age of 27.

But the band, a former member of whom founded modern-day chart-toppers Foo Fighters, still has a cult following worldwide.

Fionnola’s niece Caoimhe Kelly, who is Kurt’s fifth cousin and still lives in the small Co Tyrone townland, was delighted when she found she was related to rock royalty.

“I am a big fan of Nirvana and thought it was really cool when I was told I’m Kurt’s cousin,” said the 18-year-old.

“I’ve told most of my friends. Some of them haven’t heard of him but most of them are impressed.

“I play the guitar and I’d love to be in a band. Someday I would love to be as good as Kurt was.”

Fionnola’s father Pat Kelly, who lives with his wife Eileen in Inishatieve, said the famous family tree discovery was of more interest to his children and grandchildren than himself.

“To be honest I didn’t know who Kurt Cobain was or who Nirvana were but my children were quick to tell me,” he said.

“There are some Cobanes living around us here in Tyrone and I think there are a few in Antrim, but this is the first time the link has been discovered and written down.”

Fionnola, who alongside her siblings presented her father with the completed family tree on his 70th birthday last month, said she is looking forward to bringing this history to life one day.

“I would love to see where Kurt was based during his lifetime so we will have to plan a trip to Aberdeen and Seattle sometime down the line for sure,” said Finnola.

“Maybe when my baby son is all grown up.”

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